“It were a bad bargain, sir,” Archie said gravely; “and one that I trust will never be carried out. The Comyns are even now the most powerful nobles in Scotland, and with Carrick and Annandale in addition to their own broad lands, would be masters of Scotland, let who would be called her king. Did he displease them, they could, with their vassals and connections, place a stronger army in the field than that which the king could raise; and could at any moment, did he anger them, call in the English to his aid, and so again lay Scotland under the English yoke.”
“I will think of it, Sir Archie. There is much in what you say, and I sorely doubt the Comyns. Henceforth do not fear to give me your advice freely. You possessed the confidence of Wallace, and have shown yourself worthy of it. Should I ever free Scotland and win me a kingdom, believe me you will not find Robert Bruce ungrateful. I will give orders tomorrow for the horses to be privately sent forward, so that at any hour we can ride if the moment seem propitious; meanwhile I pray you to move from the hostelry in the city, where your messenger told me you were staying, to one close at hand, in order that I may instantly communicate with you in case of need. I cannot ask you to take up your abode here, for there are many Scotchmen among my companions who might know your face, or who, not knowing, might make inquiry of me as to your family; but among the crowd of strangers who on some business or other at the court throng the inns of the city of Westminster, one figure more or less would excite neither question nor comment.”
That afternoon Archie took up his abode at Westminster. A week later one of Bruce’s retainers came in just as Archie was about to retire to bed, and said that the Earl of Carrick wished immediately to see Master Forbes. Sir Archie had retained his own name while dropping the title. He at once crossed, to Bruce’s lodging.
“We must mount at once!” the earl exclaimed as he entered. “What think you? I have but now received word from a friend, who is a member of the council, to say that this afternoon a messenger arrived from the false Comyn with a letter to the king, containing a copy of the bond between us. Whether the coward feared the consequences, or whether he has all along acted in treachery with the view of bringing me into disgrace, and so ridding himself of a rival, I know not; but the result is the same, he has disclosed our plans to Edward. A council was hastily called, and it has but just separated. It is to meet again in the morning, and the king himself will be present. I am to be summoned before it, being, as it is supposed, in ignorance of the betrayal of my plans. It was well for me that Edward himself had pressing engagements, and was unable to be present at the council. Had he been, prompt steps would have been taken, and I should by this time be lying a prisoner in the Tower. Even now I may be arrested at any moment. Have you aught for which you wish to return to your inn?”