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Chapter VIII The Council at Stirling
 Archie had been mounted on the march from the camp, and his horse being now brought, he started with Bruce, young Nigel and the ladies saluting him cordially.  
"I trust," the former said, "that Wallace will succeed in converting my brother. I am envious of you, Sir Archie. Here are you, many years younger than I am, and yet you have won a name throughout Scotland as one of her champions; while I am eating my heart out, with my brother, at the court of Edward."
"I trust it may be so, Sir Nigel," Archie answered. "If Sir Robert will but join our cause, heart and soul, the battle is as good as won."
The journey passed without adventure until they arrived within two miles of Lanark, where Archie found Wallace was now staying. On the road Bruce had had much conversation with Archie, and learned the details of many adventures of which before he had only heard vaguely by report. He was much struck by the lad's modesty and loyal patriotism.
"If ever I come to my kingdom, Sir Archie," he said, "you shall be one of my most trusted knights and counsellors; and I am well assured that any advice you may give will be ever what you think to be right and for the good of the country, without self seeking or in the interest of any; and that is more than I could look for in most counsellors. And now methinks that as we are drawing near to Lanark, it will be well that I waited here in this wood, under the guard of your followers, while you ride forward and inform Wallace that I am here. I care not to show myself in Lanark, for busy tongues would soon take the news to Edward; and as I know not what may come of our interview, it were well that it should not be known to all men."
Archie agreed, and rode into the town.
"Why, where have you been, truant?" Sir William exclaimed as Archie entered the room in the governor's house which had been set apart for the use of Wallace since the expulsion of the English. "Sir Robert Gordon has been here several times, and tells me that they have seen nought of you; and although I have made many inquiries I have been able to obtain no news, save that you and your band have disappeared. I even sent to Glen Cairn, thinking that you might have been repairing the damages which the fire, lighted by the Kerrs, did to your hold; but I found not only that you were not there yourself, but that none of your band had returned thither. This made it more mysterious; for had you alone disappeared I should have supposed that you had been following up some love adventure, though, indeed, you have never told me that your heart was in any way touched."
Archie laughed. "There will be time enough for that, Sir William, ten years hence; but in truth I have been on an adventure on my own account."
"So, in sober earnest, I expected, Archie, and feared that your enterprise might lead you into some serious scrape since I deemed that it must have been well nigh a desperate one or you would not have hidden it from my knowledge."
"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."
Wallace had, at Archie's request, brought six mounted men-at-arms with him from Lanark, and these now rode behind Bruce as his escort back to his castle of Turnberry. There was no time now for Archie and his band to take the rest they had looked for, for messengers were sent out to gather the bands together again, and as soon as a certain portion had arrived Wallace marched for the south. The English army was now in Annandale, near Lochmaben. They were far too strong to be openly attacked, but on the night following his arrival in their neighbourhood Wallace broke in upon them in the night. Surprised by this sudden and unexpected attack, the English fell into great confusion. Percy at once ordered the camp to be set on fire. By its light the English were able to see how small was the force of their assailants, and gathering together soon showed so formidable a front that Wallace called off his men, but not before a large number of the English had been killed. Many of their stores, as well as the tents, were destroyed by the conflagration. The English army now proceeded with slow marches towards Ayr. At Irvine the Scotch leaders had assembled their army—Douglas, Bruce, The Steward, Sir Richard Loudon, Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow, and others. Their forces were about equal to those of the English marching against them. Wallace was collecting troops further north, and Archie was of course with him.
"I fear," the lad said one day, "that we shall not be able to reach Irvine before the armies join battle."
"Sir William Douglas and Bruce are there, and as it lies in their country it were better to let them win the day without my meddling. But, Archie, I fear there will be no battle. News has reached me that messengers are riding to and fro between Percy's army and the Scots, and I fear me that these half hearted barons will make peace."
"Surely that cannot be! It were shame indeed to have taken up the sword, and to lay it down after scarce striking a blow."
"Methinks, Archie, that the word shame is not to be found in the vocabulary of the nobles of this unhappy land. But let us hope for the best; a few days will bring us the news."
The news when it came was of the worst. All the nobles, headed by Wishart, Douglas, and Bruce, with the exception only of Sir Andrew Moray of Bothwell, had made their submission, acknowledging their guilt of rebellion, and promising to make every reparation required by their sovereign lord. Percy, on his part, guaranteed their lives, lands, goods, and chattels, and that they should not be imprisoned or punished for what had taken place.
Sir William Douglas and Bruce were ordered to find guarantees for their good conduct; but Sir William Douglas, finding himself unable to fulfil his engagements, surrendered, and was thrown into prison in Berwick Castle, and there kept in irons until he died, his death being attributed, by contemporary historians, to poison.
The surrender of the leaders had little result upon the situation. The people had won their successes without their aid, and beyond the indignation excited by their conduct, the treaty of Irvine did nothing towards ensuring peace, and indeed heightened the confidence of the people in Wallace. The movement spread over the whole of Scotland. Skirmishes and unimportant actions took place in all quarters. The English were powerless outside the walls of the fortresses, and in Berwick and Roxburgh alone was the English power paramount. Most of the great nobles, including Comyn of Buchan, Comyn of Badenoch, and twenty-six other powerful Scottish lords, were at Edward's court, but many of their vassals and dependants were in the field with Wallace.
About this time it came to the ears of the Scotch leader that Sir Robert Cunninghame, a Scotch knight of good family, who had hitherto held aloof from any part in the war, had invited some twelve others resident in the counties round Stirling, to meet at his house in that city that they might talk over the circumstances of the times. All these had, like himself, been neutral, and as the object of the gathering was principally to discover whether some means could not be hit upon for calming down the disorders which prevailed, the English governor had willingly granted safe conducts to all.
"Archie," Sir William said, "I mean to be present at the interview. They are all Scotch gentlemen, and though but lukewarm in the cause of their country, there is no fear that any will be base enough to betray me; and surely if I can get speech with them I may rouse them to cast in their lot with us."
"It were a dangerous undertaking, Sir William, to trust yourself within the walls of Stirling," Archie said gravely. "Remember how many are the desperate passes into which your adventurous spirit has brought you, and your life is of too great a consequence to Scotland to be rashly hazarded."
"I would not do it for a less cause," Sir William said; "but the gain may be greater than the risk. So I shall go, Archie, your wise counsel notwiths............
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