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Chapter IX The Battle of Stirling Bridge
 Upon rejoining his force Sir William Wallace called the few knights and gentlemen who were with him together, and said to them:  
"Methinks, gentlemen, that the woes of this contest should not fall upon one side only. Every one of you here are outlawed, and if you are taken by the English will be executed or thrown in prison for life, and your lands and all belonging to you forfeited. It is time that those who fight upon the other side should learn that they too run some risk. Besides leading his vassals in the field against us, Sir John Kerr twice in arms has attacked me, and done his best to slay me or deliver me over to the English. He fell yesterday by my hand at Stirling, and I hereby declare forfeit the land which he held in the county of Lanark, part of which he wrongfully took from Sir William Forbes, and his own fief adjoining. Other broad lands he owns in Ayrshire, but these I will not now touch; but the lands in Lanark, both his own fief and that of the Forbeses, I, as Warden of Scotland, hereby declare forfeit and confiscated, and bestow them upon my good friend, Sir Archie Forbes. Sir John Grahame, do you proceed tomorrow with five hundred men and take possession of the hold of the Kerrs. Sir Allan Kerr is still at Stirling, and will not be there to defend it. Like enough the vassals will make no resistance, but will gladly accept the change of masters. The Kerrs have the reputation of being hard lords, and their vassals cannot like being forced to fight against the cause of their country. The hired men-at-arms may resist, but you will know how to make short work of these. I ask you to go rather than Sir Archibald Forbes, because I would not that it were said that he took the Kerr's hold on his private quarrel. When you have captured it he shall take a hundred picked men as a garrison. The place is strong.
"Your new possessions, Archie, will, as you know, be held on doubtful tenure. If we conquer, and Scotland is freed, I doubt in no way that the king, whoever he may be, will confirm my grant. If the English win, your land is lost, be it an acre or a county. And now let me be the first to congratulate you on having won by your sword and your patriotism the lands of your father, and on having repaid upon your family's enemies the measure which they meted to you. But you will still have to beware of the Kerrs. They are a powerful family, being connected by marriage with the Comyns of Badenoch, and other noble houses. Their lands in Ayr are as extensive as those in Lanark, even with your father's lands added to their own. However, if Scotland win the day the good work that you have done should well outweigh all the influence which they might bring to bear against you.
"And now, Archie, I can, for a time, release you. Ere long Edward's army will be pouring across the Border, and then I shall need every good Scotchman's sword. Till then you had best retire to your new estates, and spend the time in preparing your vassals to follow you in the field, and in putting one or other of your castles in the best state of defence you may. Methinks that the Kerr's hold may more easily be made to withstand a lengthened siege than Glen Cairn, seeing that the latter is commanded by the hill beside it. Kerr's castle, too, is much larger and more strongly fortified. I need no thanks," he continued, as Archie was about to express his warm gratitude; "it is the Warden of Scotland who rewards your services to the country; but Sir William Wallace will not forget how you have twice stood beside him against overwhelming odds, and how yesterday, in Stirling, it was your watchful care and thoughtful precaution which alone saved his life."
Archie's friends all congratulated him warmly, and the next morning, with his own band, he started for Glen Cairn. Here the news that he was once more their lawful chief caused the greatest delight. It was evening when he reached the village, and soon great bonfires blazed in the street, and as the news spread burned up from many an outlying farm. Before night all the vassals of the estate came in, and Glen Cairn and the village was a scene of great enthusiasm.
Much as Archie regretted that he could not establish himself in the hold of his father, he felt that Wallace's suggestion was the right one. Glen Cairn was a mere shell, and could in no case be made capable of a prolonged resistance by a powerful force. Whereas, the castle of the Kerrs was very strong. It was a disappointment to his retainers when they heard that he could not at once return among them; but they saw the force of his reasons, and he promised that if Scotland was freed and peace restored, he would again make Glen Cairn habitable, and pass some of his time there.
"In the meantime," he said, "I shall be but eight miles from you, and the estate will be all one. But now I hope that for the next three months every man among you will aid me—some by personal labour, some by sending horses and carts—in the work of strengthening to the utmost my new castle of Aberfilly, which I wish to make so strong that it will long resist an attack. Should Scotland be permanently conquered, which may God forfend, it could not, of course, be held; but should we have temporary reverses we might well hold out until our party again gather head."
Every man on the estate promised his aid to an extent far beyond that which Archie, as their feudal superior, had a right to demand from them. They had had a hard time under the Kerrs, who had raised all rents, and greatly increased their feudal services. They were sure of good treatment should the Forbeses make good their position as their lords, and were ready to make any sacrifices to aid them to do so.
Next morning a messenger arrived from Sir John Grahame, saying that he had, during the night, stormed Aberfilly, and that with scarce an exception all the vassals of the Kerrs—when upon his arrival on the previous day they had learned of his purpose in coming, and of the disposition which Wallace had made of the estate—had accepted the change with delight, and had joined him in the assault upon the castle, which was defended only by thirty men-at-arms. These had all been killed, and Sir John invited Archie to ride over at once and take possession. This he did, and found that the vassals of the estate were all gathered at the castle to welcome him. He was introduced to them by Sir John Grahame, and they received Archie with shouts of enthusiasm, and all swore obedience to him as their feudal lord. Archie promised them to be a kind and lenient chief, to abate any unfair burdens which had been laid upon them, and to respect all their rights.
"But," he said, "just at first I must ask for sacrifices from you. This castle is strong, but it must be made much stronger, and must be capable of standing a continued siege in case temporary reverses should enable the English to endeavour to retake it for their friend, Sir Allan Kerr. My vassals at Glen Cairn have promised an aid far beyond that which I can command, and I trust that you also will extend your time of feudal service, and promise you a relaxation in future years equivalent to the time you may now give."
The demand was readily assented to, for the tenants of Aberfilly were no less delighted than those of Glen Cairn to escape from the rule of the Kerrs. Archie, accompanied by Sir John Grahame, now made an inspection of the walls of his new hold. It stood just where the counties of Linlithgow and Edinburgh join that of Lanark. It was built on an island on a tributary of the Clyde. The stream was but a small one, and the island had been artificially made, so that the stream formed a moat on either side of it, the castle occupying a knoll of ground which rose somewhat abruptly from the surrounding country. The moat was but twelve feet wide, and Archie and Sir John decided that this should be widened to fifty feet and deepened to ten, and that a dam should be built just below the castle to keep back the stream and fill the moat. The walls should everywhere be raised ten feet, several strong additional flanking towers added, and a work built beyond the moat to guard the head of the drawbridge. With such additions Aberfilly would be able to stand a long siege by any force which might assail it.
Timber, stones, and rough labour there were in abundance, and Wallace had insisted upon Archie's taking from the treasures which had been captured from the enemy, a sum of money which would be ample to hire skilled masons from Lanark, and to pay for the cement, iron, and other necessaries which would be beyond the resources of the estate. These matters in train, Archie rode to Lanark and fetched his proud and rejoicing mother from Sir Robert Gordon's to Aberfilly. She was accompanied by Sandy Graham and Elspie: the former Archie appointed majordomo, and to be in command of the garrison whenever he should be absent.
The vassals were as good as their word. For three months the work of digging, quarrying, cutting, and squaring timber and building went on without intermission. There were upon the estates fully three hundred ablebodied men, and the work progressed rapidly. When, therefore, Archie received a message from Wallace to join him near Stirling, he felt that he could leave Aberfilly without any fear of a successful attack being made upon it in his absence.
There was need, indeed, for all the Scotch, capable of bearing arms, to gather round Wallace. Under the Earl of Surrey, the high treasurer Cressingham, and other leaders, an army of 50,000 foot and 1000 horse were advancing from Berwick, while 8000 foot and 300 horse under Earl Percy advanced from Carlisle. Wallace was besieging the castle of Dundee when he heard of their approach, and leaving the people of Dundee to carry on the siege under the command of Sir Alexander Scrymgeour, he himself marched to defend the only bridge by which Edward could cross the Forth, near Stirling.
Thus far Surrey had experienced no resistance, and at the head of so large and well appointed a force he might well feel sure of success. A large proportion of his army consisted of veterans inured to service in wars at home, in Wales, and with the French, while the mail clad knights and men-at-arms looked with absolute contempt upon the gathering which was opposed to them. This consisted solely of popular levies of men who had left their homes and taken up arms for the freedom of their country. They were rudely armed and hastily trained. Of all the feudal nobles of Scotland who should have led them, but one, Sir Andrew Moray, was present. Their commander was still little more than a youth, who, great as was his individual valour and prowess, had had no experience in the art of war on a large scale; while the English were led by a general whose fame was known throughout Europe.
The Scots took up their station upon the high ground north of the Forth, protected from observation by the precipitous hill immediately behind Cambuskenneth Abbey and known as the Abbey Craig. In a bend of the river, opposite the Abbey Craig, stood the bridge by which the English army were preparing to cross. Archie stood beside Wallace on the top of the craig, looking at the English array.
"It is a fair sight," he said; "the great camp, with its pavilions, its banners, and pennons, lying there in the valley, with the old castle rising on the lofty rock behind them. It is a pity that such a sight should bode evil to Scotland."
"Yes," Wallace said; "I would that the camp lay where it is, but that the pennons and banners were those of Scotland's nobles, and that the royal lions floated over Surrey's tent. Truly that were a sight which would glad a............
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