Cluny pursued his way with a quiet and depressed mien until he was fairly out of sight of the gates. Then he lifted his petticoats to a height which would have shocked his sister Janet, to give free play to his limbs, and at the top of his speed dashed down the road toward Lanark. He found his two companions waiting at the appointed spot, but he did not pause a moment.
“Are you mad, Cluny?” they shouted.
And indeed the wild figure, with its tucked up garments, tearing at full speed along the road, would have been deemed that of a mad girl by any who had met it.
“Come on!” he shouted. “Come on, it is for life or death!” and without further word he kept on at full speed. It was some time before his companions overtook him, for they were at first too convulsed by laughter at Cluny’s extraordinary appearance to be able to run. But presently, sobered by the conviction that something of extreme importance must have happened, they too started at their best speed, and presently came up with Cluny, upon whose pace the mile he had already run told heavily.
“For the sake of goodness, Cluny, go slower,” one of them panted out as they came to him. “We have nine miles yet to run, and if we go on like this we shall break down in another half mile, and have to walk the rest.”
Cluny himself, with all his anxiety to get on, was beginning to feel the same, and he slackened his pace to a slinging trot, which in little over an hour brought them to the wood.
Chapter VI The Barns of Ayr
Archie was anxiously awaiting the arrival of his messenger, for the three lads were met two miles out by another who had been placed on watch, and had come on ahead at full speed with the news of their approach. The report brought in by Jock Farrell of the words that he had overheard in the barn prepared for the meeting, had been reported by Archie to Wallace. Sir John Grahame and the other gentlemen with him all agreed that they were strange, and his friends had strongly urged their leader not to proceed to the meeting. Wallace, however, persisted in his resolution to do so, unless he received stronger proofs than those afforded by the few words dropped by the governor and his officer, which might really have no evil meaning whatever. He could not throw doubt upon the fair intentions of King Edward’s representative, for it might well be said that it was the grossest insult to the English to judge them as guilty of the intention of a foul act of treachery upon such slight foundation as this. “It would be a shame indeed,” he said, “were I, the Warden of Scotland, to shrink from appearing at a council upon such excuse as this.” The utmost that Archie could obtain from him was that he would delay his departure in the morning until the latest moment, in order to see if any further news came from Ayr.
The meeting was to be held at ten o’clock, and until a little before nine he would not set out. He was in the act of mounting his horse when Cluny Campbell arrived.