Archie was now nearly three-and-twenty, and his frame had fully borne out the promise of his youth. He was over the average height, but appeared shorter from the extreme breadth of his shoulders; his arms were long and sinewy, and his personal strength immense.
From the time of his first taking possession of Aberfilly he had kept a party of men steadily engaged in excavating a passage from the castle towards a wood a mile distant. The ground was soft and offered but few obstacles, but the tunnel throughout its whole length had to be supported by massive timbers. Wood, however, was abundant, and the passage had by this time been completed. Whenever, from the length of the tunnel, the workmen began to suffer from want of air, ventilation was obtained by running a small shaft up to the surface; in this was placed a square wooden tube of six inches in diameter, round which the earth was again filled in — a few rapidly growing plants and bushes being planted round the orifice to prevent its being noticed by any passerby.
Chapter XI Robert The Bruce
At the last great invasion by Edward, Archie did not take the field, seeing that Comyn, in despair of opposing so vast a host, did not call out the levies. Upon the approach of the English army under the Prince of Wales he called the whole of his tenants into the castle. Great stores of provisions had already been collected. The women and children were sent away up into the hills, where provisions had also been garnered, and the old men and boys accompanied them. As the Prince of Wales passed north, bands from his army spreading over the country destroyed every house in the district. Archie was summoned to surrender, but refused to do so; and the prince, being on his way to join his father on the Forth, after himself surveying the hold, and judging it far too strong to be carried without a prolonged siege, marched forward, promising on his return to destroy it. Soon afterwards Archie received a message that Wallace had returned. He at once took with him fifty men, and leaving the castle in charge of Sandy Graham, with the rest of his vassals, two hundred and fifty in number, he rejoined his former leader. Many others gathered round Wallace’s standard; and throughout Edward’s march to the north and his return to the Forth Wallace hung upon his flanks, cutting off and slaying great numbers of the marauders, and striking blows at detached bands wherever these were in numbers not too formidable to be coped with.