“It might have led to some blows, Sir William, but happily it did not turn out so. Knowing the importance you attached to the adhesion of the cause of Scotland of Robert the Bruce, I determined to fetch him hither to see you; and he is now waiting with my band for your coming, in a wood some two miles from the town.”
“Are you jesting with me?” Wallace exclaimed. “Is the Bruce really waiting to see me? Why, this would be well nigh a miracle.”
“It is a fact, Sir William; and if you will cause your horse to be brought to the door I will tell you on the road how it has come about.”
In another five minutes Sir William and his young follower were on their way, and the former heard how Archie had entrapped Robert Bruce while riding to Crossraguel Abbey.
“It was well done, indeed,” the Scottish leader exclaimed; “and it may well prove, Archie, that you have done more towards freeing Scotland by this adventure of yours than we have by all our months of marching and fighting.”
“Ah! Sir William, but had it not been for our marching and fighting Bruce would never have wavered in his allegiance to Edward. It was only because he begins to think that our cause may be a winning one that he decides to join it.”
The meeting between Wallace and Bruce was a cordial one. Each admired the splendid proportions and great strength of the other, for it is probable that in all Europe there were no two more doughty champions; although, indeed, Wallace was far the superior in personal strength while Bruce was famous through Europe for his skill in knightly exercise.
Archie withdrew to a distance while the leaders conversed. He could see that their talk was animated as they strode together up and down among the trees, Wallace being the principal speaker. At the end of half an hour they stopped, and Wallace ordered the horses to be brought, and then called Archie to them.
“Sir Robert has decided to throw in his lot with us,” he said, “and will at once call out his father’s vassals of Carrick and Annandale. Seeing that his father is at Edward’s court, it may be that many will not obey the summons. Still we must hope that, for the love of Scotland and their young lord, many will follow him. He will write to the pope to ask him to absolve him for the breach of his oath of homage to Edward; but as such oaths lie but lightly on men’s minds in our days, and have been taken and broken by King Edward himself, as well as by Sir William Douglas and other knights who are now in the field with me, he will not wait for the pope’s reply, but will at once take the field. And, indeed, there is need for haste, seeing that Percy and Clifford have already crossed the Border with an English army and are marching north through Annandale towards Ayr.”
“Goodbye, my captor,” Bruce said to Archie as he mounted his horse; “whatever may come of this strife, remember that you will always find a faithful friend in Robert Bruce.”