“My best thanks to you,” Wallace said to Archie. “You have indeed proved yourself a staunch and skilful swordsman, and Duncan’s opinion is well founded. Indeed I could wish for no stouter sword beside me in a fight; but what will you do now? If you think that you were not recognized you can return to your uncle; but if any there knew you, you must even then take to the woods with me.”
“I was recognized,” Archie said in a tone of satisfaction. “The armed knight whom you saw attack me was Sir John Kerr, the slayer of my father and the enemy of my house. Assuredly he will bring the news of my share in the fray to the ears of the governor.”
“I do not think that he will carry any news for some time,” Sir William replied; “for that blow you gave him on the head must have well nigh brought your quarrel to an end. It is a pity your arm had not a little more weight, for then, assuredly you would have slain him.”
“But the one with him was his son,” Archie said, “and would know me too; so that I shall not be safe for an hour at my uncle’s.”
“In that case, Sir Archie, you must needs go with me, there being no other way for it, and truly, now that it is proved a matter of necessity, I am glad that it has so chanced, since I see that your youth is indeed no drawback; and Sir John Grahame will agree with me that there is no better sword in my company.”
“Yes, indeed,” the young knight said. “I could scarce believe my eyes when I saw one so young bear himself so stoutly. Without his aid I could assuredly have made no way through the soldiers who barred our retreat; and truly his sword did more execution than mine, although I fought my best. If you will accept my friendship, young sir, henceforth we will be brothers in arms.” Colouring with pleasure, Archie grasped the hand which the young knight held out to him.
“That is well said, Sir John,” Wallace assented. “Hitherto you and I have been like brothers; henceforth there will be three of us, and I foresee that the only difficulty we shall have with this our youngest relation will be to curb his courage and ardour. Who knows,” he went on sadly, “but that save you two I am now alone in the world! My heart misgives me sorely as to the fate of Marion; and were it not for the sake of Scotland, to whom my life is sworn, I would that I had stopped and died outside her door before I entered and brought danger upon her head. Had I had time to reflect, methinks I would have done so; but I heard her call, I saw the open door, and without time for thought or reflection I leapt in.”
“You must not blame yourself, Sir William,” Grahame said, “for, indeed, there was no time for thought; nor will I that it should have been otherwise, even should harm, which I cannot believe, befall Mistress Marion. It is on you that the hopes of Scotland now rest. You have awakened her spirit and taught the lesson of resistance. Soon I hope that the fire now smouldering in the breast of every true Scotsman will burst into flame, and that Scotland will make a great effort for freedom; but were you to fall now, despair would seize on all and all hope of a general rising be at an end.”