Archie had been mounted on the march from the camp, and his horse being now brought, he started with Bruce, young Nigel and the ladies saluting him cordially.
“I trust,” the former said, “that Wallace will succeed in converting my brother. I am envious of you, Sir Archie. Here are you, many years younger than I am, and yet you have won a name throughout Scotland as one of her champions; while I am eating my heart out, with my brother, at the court of Edward.”
“I trust it may be so, Sir Nigel,” Archie answered. “If Sir Robert will but join our cause, heart and soul, the battle is as good as won.”
The journey passed without adventure until they arrived within two miles of Lanark, where Archie found Wallace was now staying. On the road Bruce had had much conversation with Archie, and learned the details of many adventures of which before he had only heard vaguely by report. He was much struck by the lad’s modesty and loyal patriotism.
“If ever I come to my kingdom, Sir Archie,” he said, “you shall be one of my most trusted knights and counsellors; and I am well assured that any advice you may give will be ever what you think to be right and for the good of the country, without self seeking or in the interest of any; and that is more than I could look for in most counsellors. And now methinks that as we are drawing near to Lanark, it will be well that I waited here in this wood, under the guard of your followers, while you ride forward and inform Wallace that I am here. I care not to show myself in Lanark, for busy tongues would soon take the news to Edward; and as I know not what may come of our interview, it were well that it should not be known to all men.”
Archie agreed, and rode into the town.
“Why, where have you been, truant?” Sir William exclaimed as Archie entered the room in the governor’s house which had been set apart for the use of Wallace since the expulsion of the English. “Sir Robert Gordon has been here several times, and tells me that they have seen nought of you; and although I have made many inquiries I have been able to obtain no news, save that you and your band have disappeared. I even sent to Glen Cairn, thinking that you might have been repairing the damages which the fire, lighted by the Kerrs, did to your hold; but I found not only that you were not there yourself, but that none of your band had returned thither. This made it more mysterious; for had you alone disappeared I should have supposed that you had been following up some love adventure, though, indeed, you have never told me that your heart was in any way touched.”
Archie laughed. “There will be time enough for that, Sir William, ten years hence; but in truth I have been on an adventure on my own account.”
“So, in sober earnest, I expected, Archie, and feared that your enterprise might lead you into some serious scrape since I deemed that it must have been well nigh a desperate one or you would not have hidden it from my knowledge.”