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Chapter XIII The Castle of Dunstaffnage
 Bruce's party were now more than ever straitened for provisions, since they had to depend almost entirely upon such fish as they might catch, as it was dangerous to stray far away in pursuit of deer. Archie, however, with his bow and arrows ventured several times to go hunting in order to relieve the sad condition of the ladies, and succeeded two or three times in bringing a deer home with him.  
He had one day ventured much further away than usual. He had not succeeded in finding a stag, and the ladies had for more than a week subsisted entirely on fish. He therefore determined to continue the search, however long, until he found one. He had crossed several wooded hills, and was, he knew, leagues away from the point where he had left his party, when, suddenly emerging from a wood, he came upon a road just at the moment when a party some twenty strong of wild clansmen were traversing it. On a palfrey in their centre was a young lady whom they were apparently escorting. They were but twenty yards away when he emerged from the wood, and on seeing him they drew their claymores and rushed upon him. Perceiving that flight from these swift footed mountaineers would be impossible, Archie threw down his bow and arrows, and, drawing his sword, placed his back against a tree, and prepared to defend himself until the last.
Parrying the blows of the first two who arrived he stretched them dead upon the ground, and was then at once attacked by the whole of the party together. Two more of his assailants fell by his sword; but he must have been soon overpowered and slain, when the young lady, whose cries to her followers to cease had been unheeded in the din of the conflict, spurred her palfrey forward and broke into the ring gathered round Archie.
The clansmen drew back a pace, and Archie lowered his sword.
"Desist," she cried to the former in a tone of command, "or my uncle Alexander will make you rue the day when you disobeyed my orders. I will answer for this young knight. And now, sir," she said, turning to Archie, "do you surrender your sword to me, and yield yourself up a prisoner. Further resistance would be madness; you have done too much harm already. I promise you your life if you will make no further resistance."
"Then, lady," Archie replied, handing his sword to her, "I willingly yield myself your prisoner, and thank you for saving my life from the hands of your savage followers."
The young lady touched the hilt of his sword, and motioned him to replace it in its scabbard.
"You must accompany me," she said, "to the abode of my uncle Alexander MacDougall. I would," she continued, as, with Archie walking beside her palfrey, while the Highlanders, with sullen looks, kept close behind, muttering angrily to themselves at having been cheated by the young lady of their vengeance upon the man who had slain four of their number, "that I could set you at liberty, but my authority over my uncle's clansmen does not extend so far; and did I bid them let you go free they would assuredly disobey me. You are, as I can see by your attire, one of the Bruce's followers, for no other knight could be found wandering alone through these woods."
"Yes, lady," Archie said, "I am Sir Archibald Forbes, one of the few followers of the King of Scotland."
The lady gave a sudden start when Archie mentioned his name, and for some little time did not speak again.
"I would," she said at last in a low voice, "that you had been any other, seeing that Alexander MacDougall has a double cause of enmity against you—firstly, as being a follower of Bruce, who slew his kinsman Comyn, and who has done but lately great harm to himself and his clansmen; secondly, as having dispossessed Allan Kerr, who is also his relative, of his lands and castle. My uncle is a man of violent passions, and"—she hesitated.
"And he may not, you think," Archie went on, "respect your promise for my life. If that be so, lady—and from what I have heard of Alexander MacDougall it is like enough—I beg you to give me back my surrender, for I would rather die here, sword in hand, than be put to death in cold blood in the castle of Dunstaffnage."
"No," the lady said, "that cannot be. Think you I could see you butchered before mine eyes after having once surrendered yourself to me? No, sir. I beseech you act not so rashly—that were certain death; and I trust that my uncle, hostile as he may be against you, will not inflict such dishonour upon me as to break the pledge I have given for your safety."
Archie thought from what he had heard of the MacDougall that his chance was a very slight one. Still, as the young ever cling to hope, and as he would assuredly be slain by the clansmen, he thought it better to take the chance, small as it was, and so continued his march by the side of his captor's palfrey.
After two hours' journey they neared the castle of Alexander of Lorne. Archie could not repress a thrill of apprehension as he looked at the grim fortress and thought of the character of its lord; but his bearing showed no fear, as, conversing with the young lady, he approached the entrance. The gate was thrown open, and Alexander of Lorne himself issued out with a number of retainers.
"Ah! Marjory!" he said, "I am glad to see your bonny face at Dunstaffnage. It is three months since you left us, and the time has gone slowly; the very dogs have been pining for your voice. But who have we here?" he exclaimed, as his eye fell upon Archie.
"It is a wandering knight, uncle," Marjory said lightly, "whom I captured in the forest on my way hither. He fought valiantly against Murdoch and your followers, but at last he surrendered to me on my giving him my pledge that his life should be safe, and that he should be treated honourably. Such a pledge I am sure, uncle," she spoke earnestly now, "you will respect."
Alexander MacDougall's brow was as black as night, and he spoke in Gaelic with his followers.
"What!" he said angrily to the girl; "he has killed four of my men, and is doubtless one of Bruce's party who slipped through my fingers the other day and killed so many of my kinsmen and vassals. You have taken too much upon yourself, Marjory. It is not by you that he has been made captive, but by my men, and you had no power to give such promise as you have made. Who is this young springall?"
"I am Sir Archibald Forbes," Archie said proudly—"a name which may have reached you even here."
"Archibald Forbes!" exclaimed MacDougall furiously. "What! the enemy and despoiler of the Kerrs! Had you a hundred lives you should die. Didst know this, Marjory?" he said furiously to the girl. "Didst know who this young adventurer was when you asked his life of me?"
"I did, uncle," the girl said fearlessly. "I did not know his name when he surrendered to me, and afterwards, when he told me, what could I do? I had given my promise, and I renewed it; and I trust, dear uncle, that you will respect and not bring dishonour upon it."
"Dishonour!" MacDougall said savagely; "the girl has lost her senses. I tell you he should die if every woman in Scotland had given her promise for his life. Away with him!" he said to his retainers; "take him to the chamber at the top of the tower; I will give him till tomorrow to prepare for death, for by all the saints I swear he shall hang at daybreak. As to you, girl, go to your chamber, and let me not see your face again till this matter is concluded. Methinks a madness must have fallen upon you that you should thus venture to lift your voice for a Forbes."
The girl burst into tears as Archie was led away. His guards took him to the upper chamber in a turret, a little room of some seven feet in diameter, and there, having deprived him of his arms, they left him, barring and bolting the massive oaken door behind them.
Archie had no hope whatever that Alexander MacDougall would change his mind, and felt certain that the following dawn would be his last. Of escape there was no possibility; the door was solid and massive, the window a mere narrow loophole for archers, two or three inches wide; and even had he time to enlarge the opening he would be no nearer freedom, for the moat lay full eighty feet below.
"I would I had died sword in hand!" he said bitterly; "then it would have been over in a moment."
Then he thought of the girl to whom he had surrendered his sword.
"It was a sweet face and a bright one," he said; "a fairer and brighter I never saw. It is strange that I should meet her now only when I am about to die." Then he thought of the agony which his mother would feel at the news of his death and at the extinction of their race. Sadly he paced up and down his narrow cell till night fell. None took the trouble to bring him food—considering, doubtless, that he might well fast till morning. When it became dark he lay down on the hard stone, and, with his arm under his head was soon asleep—his last determination being that if possible he would snatch a sword or dagger from the hand of those who came to take him to execution, and so die fighting; or if that were impossible, he would try to burst from them and to end his life by a leap from the turret.
He was awakened by a slight noise at the door, and sprang to his feet instantly, believing that day was at hand and his hour had come. To his surprise a voice, speaking scarcely above a whisper, said:
"Hush! my son, make no noise; I am here as a friend." Then the door closed, and Archie's visitor produced a lighted lantern from the folds of his garments, and Archie saw that a priest stood before him.
"I thank you, father," he said gratefully; "you have doubtless come to shrive me, and I would gladly listen to your ministrations. I would fain intrust you, too, with a message to my mother if you will take it for me; and I would fain also that you told the Lady Marjory that she must not grieve for my death, or feel that she is in any way dishonoured by it, seeing that she strove to her utmost to keep her promise, and is in no way to blame that her uncle has overriden her."
"You can even give her your message yourself, sir knight," the priest said, "seeing that the wilful girl has herself accompanied me hither."
Thus saying, he stepped aside, and Archie perceived, standing behind the priest, a figure who, being in deep shadow, he had not hitherto seen. She came timidly forward, and Archie, bending on one knee, took the hand she held out and kissed it.
"Lady," he said, "you have heard my message; blame not yourself, I beseech you, for my death. Remember that after all you have lengthened my life and not shortened it, seeing that but for your interference I must have been slain as I stood, by your followers. It was kind and good of you thus to come to bi............
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