Archie, with his band, after detaching some of their number to fire the homesteads, had crept up unperceived in the darkness to the end of the drawbridge, and had noiselessly cut the two projecting beams upon which its end rested when it was lowered. He had intended to carry out this plan on the previous night, but when darkness set in not a breath of wind was stirring, and the night was so still that he deemed that the operation of sawing through the beams could not be effected without attracting the attention of the warders on the wall, and had therefore retreated far up in the recesses of the hills. The next night, however, was windy, and well suited to his purpose, and the work had been carried out without attracting the attention of the warders. When Kerr and his men-at-arms rode out, the whole weight of the drawbridge and of the horsemen crossing it was thrown entirely upon the chains, and these yielded to a strain far greater than they were calculated to support.
The instant the men-at-arms were precipitated into the moat, Archie and his companions, who had been lying down near its edge, leapt to their feet, and opened fire with their bows and arrows upon them. It was well for Sir John and his retainers that they had not stopped to buckle on their defensive armour. Had they done so every man must have been drowned in the deep waters. As it was, several were killed with the arrows, and two or three by the hoofs of the struggling horses. Sir John himself, with six of the eighteen men who had fallen into the moat, succeeded in climbing up the drawbridge and regaining the castle. A fire of arrows was at once opened from the walls, but Archie and his followers were already out of bowshot; and knowing that the fires would call in a few minutes to the spot a number of the Kerr s vassals more than sufficient to crush them without the assistance of those in the castle, they again made for the hills, well satisfied with the first blow they had struck at their enemies.
The rage of Sir John Kerr was beyond all expression. He had himself been twice struck by arrows, and the smart of his wounds added to his fury. By the light of the burning barns the garrison were enabled to see how small was the party which had made this audacious attack upon them; and this increased their wrath. Men were instantly set at work to raise the drawbridge from the moat, to repair the chains, and to replace the timbers upon which it rested; and a summons was despatched to the whole of the vassals to be at the castle in arms by daybreak.
Again the woods were searched without success, and the band then divided into five parties, each forty strong. They proceeded to explore the hills; but the Pentlands afforded numerous hiding places to those, like Archie and most of his band, well acquainted with the country; and after searching till nightfall the parties retired, worn out and disheartened, to the castle. That night three of the outlying