This conversation sank deeply into Archie’s mind; day and night he thought of nothing but the lost freedom of Scotland, and vowed that even the hope of regaining his father’s lands should be secondary to that of freeing his country. All sorts of wild dreams did the boy turn over in his mind; he was no longer gay and light hearted, but walked about moody and thoughtful. He redoubled his assiduity in the practice of arms; and sometimes when fighting with Sandy, he would think that he had an English man-at-arms before him, and would strike so hotly and fiercely that Sandy had the greatest difficulty in parrying his blows, and was forced to shout lustily to recall him from the clouds. He no longer played at ball with the village lads; but, taking the elder of them aside, he swore them to secrecy, and then formed them into a band, which he called the Scottish Avengers. With them he would retire into valleys far away from the village, where none would mark what they were doing, and there they practised with club and stake instead of broadsword and pike, defended narrow passes against an imaginary enemy, and, divided into two parties, did battle with each other.
The lads entered into the new diversion with spirit. Among the lower class throughout Scotland the feeling of indignation at the manner in which their nobles had sold their country to England was deep and passionate. They knew the woes which English domination had brought upon Wales and Ireland; and though as yet without a leader, and at present hopeless of a successful rising, every true Scotchman was looking forward to the time when an attempt might be made to throw off the English yoke.
Therefore the lads of Glen Cairn entered heart and soul into the projects of their “young chief,” for so they regarded Archie, and strove their best to acquire some of the knowledge of the use of sword and pike which he possessed. The younger lads were not permitted to know what was going on — none younger than Archie himself being admitted into the band, while some of the elders were youths approaching man’s estate. Even to his mother Archie did not breathe a word of what he was doing, for he feared that she might forbid his proceedings. The good lady was often surprised at the cuts and bruises with which he returned home; but he always turned off her questions by muttering something about rough play or a heavy fall, and so for some months the existence of the Scottish Avengers remained unsuspected.
Chapter II Leaving Home
One day when “the Avengers” were engaged in mimic battle in a glen some two miles from the village they were startled with a loud shout of “How now, what is this uproar?” Bows were lowered and hedge stakes dropped; on the hillside stood Red Roy, the henchman of Sir John Kerr, with another of the retainers. They had been crossing the hills, and had been attracted by the sound of shouting. All the lads were aware of the necessity for Archie’s avoiding the notice of the Kerrs, and Andrew Macpherson, one of the eldest of the lads, at once stepped forward: “We are playing,” he said, “at fighting Picts against Scots.”