“I would fain return to my boat,” Archie said, “as I want to be at work on the repairs; but if that be the rule I must needs submit to it.”
The drawbridge was now lowered. The soldiers at once stepped on to it. The four pretended fishermen had set down their baskets, and now raised them on their shoulders again. One of them apparently found it a difficult task, for it was not until Archie and his comrades were half across the drawbridge that he raised it from the ground. As he did so he stumbled and fell, the basket and its contents rolling on to the ground.
“You must wait until the morning,” the warder called; “you are too late to enter now.”
The man lay for a moment where he had fallen, which was half on the drawbridge, half on the ground beyond it. “Now, then,” the warder called sharply, “make haste; I am going to raise the drawbridge.”
The man rose to his feet with a shout just as the drawbridge began to rise. He had not been idle as he lay. As he fell he had drawn from underneath his fisherman’s frock a stout chain with a hook at one end and a large ring at the other. This he had passed round one of the chains by which the drawbridge was raised, then under the beam on which it rested when down, and had fastened the hook in the ring.
Surprised at the shout, the warder worked the windlass with extra speed, but he had scarcely given a turn when he found a sudden resistance. The chain which the fisherman had fixed round the end prevented the bridge from rising. As the man had shouted, Archie and his three comrades were entering the gate. Simultaneously they emptied their baskets before them. Concealed among the fish were four logs of wood; two were three feet long, the full depth of the baskets, two were short wedge shaped pieces. Before the soldiers in front had time even to turn round, the two long pieces were placed upright in the grooves down which the portcullis would fall, while the two wedge shaped pieces were thrust into the jamb of the gate so as to prevent it from closing. Then the four men drew long swords hidden beneath their garments and fell upon the soldiers.
So vigilant was the watch in the castle of Dunottar that the instant the cry of alarm rose almost simultaneously from the warder above and the soldiers at the gate, the portcullis came thundering down. It was caught, however, by the two upright blocks of wood, and remained suspended three feet above the sill. The armed guards at the gate instantly fell upon Archie and his companions, while others endeavoured in vain to close the gates. Scarcely had the swords clashed when the man who had chained down the drawbridge joined Archie, and the five with their heavy broadswords kept at bay the soldiers who pressed upon them; but for only a minute or two did they have to bear the brunt of the attack unsupported, for William Orr and the five men who had been loitering near the moat dashed across the bridge, and passing under the portcullis joined the little band.