“I am but just in time I see, Sir Archie,” Bruce said, pointing to the breach in the wall; “a few hours more and methinks that I should have been too late.”
“We could have held out longer than that, sire,” Archie replied. “We have repulsed an attack this morning and burnt a causeway of faggots upon which they attempted to cross the moat; still, I am truly glad that you have arrived, and thank you with all my heart for coming so speedily to my rescue, for sooner or later the hold must have fallen; the great machines which they brought with them from Stirling proved too strong for the wall.”
“And how has the Lady Marjory borne her during the siege?” the king inquired.
“Right nobly,” Archie replied; “ever in good spirits and showing a brave face to the men; and one night when I made a sortie through my secret passage, and fell upon the English camp from the other side, having left the castle in her charge, she headed the garrison and issuing out, recaptured the outworks, and destroyed the machines by fire.”
“Bravely done,” the king said, “and just what I should expect from your wife. You did well to take my advice in that matter.”
“We shall never agree there, sire, for as you know I followed my own will and wed the bride I had fixed upon for myself.”
“Well, well, Sir Archie, as we are both satisfied we will e’en let it be; and now, I trust that you have still some supplies left, for to tell you the truth I am hungry as well as weary, and my men have marched fast and far.”
“There is an abundance,” Archie replied; “to last them all for a month, and right willingly is it at their service.”
The king remained a week at Aberfilly, his men aiding Archie’s retainers in repairing the gap in the dam and in rebuilding the wall; and as five hundred men working willingly and well can effect wonders, by the time Bruce rode away the castle was restored to its former appearance. Archie marched on the following day, and rejoined Douglas in Galloway.
Chapter XXII A Prisoner
After some consultation between the leaders, it was agreed to make an attempt to capture the castle of Knockbawn. It was known to possess a garrison of some sixty men only, and although strong, Archie and Sir James believed that it could be captured by assault. It was arranged that Archie should ride to reconnoitre it, and taking two mounted retainers he started, the force remaining in the forest some eight miles distant. The castle of Knockbawn stood on a rocky promontory, jutting a hundred and fifty yards into the sea. When he neared the neck of the point, which was but some twenty yards wide, Archie bade his followers fall back a short distance.
“I will ride,” he said, “close up to the castle walls. My armour is good, and I care not for arrow or crossbow bolt. It were best you fell back a little, for they may have horses and may sally out in pursuit. I am well mounted and fear not being overtaken, but it were best that you should have a good start.”