Sir John and his retainers drew their swords and spurred forward; but the horses recoiled from the flashing swords of Wallace and his companion.
“Dismount,” Sir John shouted, setting the example; “cut them both down; one is as bad as the other. Ten pounds to the man who slays the young Forbes.”
Wallace cut down two of the retainers as they advanced against them, and Archie badly wounded a third. Then they began to retreat down the street; but by this time the sound of the fray had called together many soldiers who were wandering in the streets; and these, informed by Sir John’s shouts of “Down with Wallace! Slay! Slay!” that the dreaded Scotch leader was before them, also drew and joined in the fight. As they came running up from both sides, Wallace and Archie could retreat no further, but with their backs against the wall kept their foes at bay in a semicircle by the sweep of their swords.
The fight continued by two or three minutes, when a sudden shout was heard, and William Orr, with eight young fellows, fell upon the English soldiers with their pikes. The latter, astonished at this sudden onslaught, and several of their number being killed before they had time to turn and defend themselves, fell back for a moment, and Wallace and Archie joined their allies, and began to retreat, forming a line of pikes across the narrow street. Wallace, Archie, William Orr, and three of the stoutest of the band were sufficient for the line, and the other five shot between them. So hard and fast flew their arrows that several of the English soldiers were slain, and the others drew back from the assault.
Andrew Macpherson’s sudden attack at the gate overpowered the guard, and for a while he held possession of it, and following Archie’s instructions, slew a horse drawing a cart laden with flour in the act of entering. Then the guard rallied, and, joined by other soldiers who had run up, made a fierce attack upon him; but his line of pikes drawn up across the gate defied their efforts to break through. Wallace and his party were within fifty yards of the gate when reinforcements from the castle arrived. Sir John Kerr, furious at the prospect of his enemies again escaping him, headed them in their furious rush. Wallace stepped forward beyond the line and met him. With a great sweep of his mighty sword he beat down Sir John’s guard, and the blade descending clove helmet and skull, and the knight fell dead in his tracks.
“That is one for you, Archie,” Wallace said, as he cut down a man-at-arms.
In vain did the English try to break through the line of pikes. When they arrived within twenty yards of the gate, Wallace gave the order, and the party turning burst through the English who were attacking its defenders and united with them.
“Fall back!” Wallace shouted, “and form without the gates. Your leader and I will cover the retreat.”
Passing between the cart and the posts of the gates, the whole party fell back. Once through, Wallace and Archie made a stand, and even the bravest of the English did not venture to pass the narrow portals, where but one could issue at a time.