Wallace made no reply, but strode silently forward. A short distance farther they came to the spot where three of Wallace’s followers were holding horses, for he had on his entry into Lanark, been accompanied by another of his party, who had been slain at the commencement of the fray. Wallace bade Archie mount the spare horse, and they then rode to Cart Lane Craigs, scarce a word being spoken on their journey.
Wallace’s headquarters were upon a narrow shelf of rock on the face of a steep and craggy hill. It was well chosen against surprise, and could be held against sudden attack even by a large force, since both behind and in front the face of the hill was too steep to be climbed, and the only approach was by a steep and winding path which two men could hold against a host. The ledge was some 50 feet long by 12 wide. At the back a natural depression in the crags had been deepened so as to form a shallow cave just deep enough to afford a defense against the weather; here a pile of heather served as a bed for Wallace, Grahame, and one or two others of the leaders of his company, and here Wallace told Archie that his place was to be. On the ledge without were some low arbours of heather in which lay ten of Wallace’s bravest companions; the rest of his band were scattered among the surrounding hills, or in the woods, and a bugle note repeated from place to place would call all together in a short space of time.
Of stores and provisions there was no lack, these having been obtained in very large quantities from the convoys of supplies and the castles that had been captured. Money, too, was not wanting, considerable amounts having fallen into their hands, and the peasantry through all the country round were glad in every way to assist the band, whom they regarded as their champions.
Archie sat down by Sir John Grahame, who gave him particulars regarding the strength of the various bands, their position, the rules which had been laid down by Wallace for their order, the system of signals and other particulars; while Wallace paced restlessly up and down the narrow shelf, a prey to the keenest anxiety. Towards nightfall two of the men were despatched towards Lanark to endeavour to find out what had taken place there; but in an hour they returned with a woman, whom both Sir William and Archie recognized as one of the female attendants of Marion. A single glance sufficed to tell her tale. Her face was swollen with crying, and wore a look of horror as well as of grief.
“She is dead!” Wallace exclaimed in a low voice.
“Alas!” the woman sobbed, “that I should have to tell it. Yes, my dear mistress is dead; she was slain by the orders of the governor himself, for having aided your escape.”
A groan burst from Wallace, a cry of horror and indignation from his followers. The former turned, and without a word strode away and threw himself upon the heather. The others, heart struck at the cruel blow which had befallen their chief, and burning with indignation and rage, could only utter oaths of vengeance and curses on the English tyrants.