WILLIAM WALLACE—THE TURNING OF A LOAF
‘ Engraven are thine immortal deeds
On ev‘ry heart o‘ this braid land.
‘ Rude time may monuments ding down,
An’ towers an’ wa‘s maun a‘ decay ;
Enduring, deathless, noble chief,
Thy name can never pass away.
‘ Gi’e pillared fame to common men,—
No need o’ cairns for ane like thee ;
In every cave, wood, hill, and glen,
Wallace remembered aye shall be.’
Nearly every lord in all broad Scotland bowed to
Edward, and owned him as his master. From every
castle the flag of England floated. Every battlement
was manned by English soldiers. Yet Edward was not
content, for the common people would not yield, and
Wallace was still free. Among the mountains and the
woods he lived with his faithful band of followers. Out
lawed and hunted, with a price upon his head, he still was
free. For he was so brave and skilful that he could not
be taken by fair means, and the people loved him and
would not betray him for all King Edward’s gold.
But at length, alas ! a man, called Sir John de
Menteith, was found who was wicked enough to consent
to betray Wallace for a large sum of money. Shame it is
to say this man was a Scotsman, and greater shame still,
he had been one of Wallaces trusted friends.
128 SCOTLAND’S STORY
Sir John laid his plans and waited. He had not long
to wait. One night Wallace lay down to sleep, attended
only by two of his men. One of them was Sir John
Menteith‘s nephew. Wallace and his other friend slept,
while Sir John‘s nephew kept watch. But he was in
league with his wicked uncle. As soon as Wallace was
fast asleep he stole his sword and dagger, and then crept
quietly away. Menteith and his soldiers were sitting at
supper, waiting for news of Wallace, when his nephew
arrived. He went to the table, and turned a loaf upside
down. It was the signal agreed upon. By that the
soldiers and Sir John knew that all was ready, and that
it was time to march out and take Wallace.
Ever after it was considered very rude to turn a loaf
upside down, if any one called Menteith happened to be at
table, because it seemed to mean, ‘ One of your family
betrayed Wallace, our hero, to his death.’ This of course
was taken as an insult, as it was something which every
honest man would wish to forget.
Wallace was sleeping soundly, when he was suddenly
awakened by the sound of armed men. He started up,
and felt for his sword. It was gone. Gone, too, his
dagger, and even his bow and arrows.
Seizing a stool, he defended himself as well as he
could, and succeeded in killing two men with it, before
the soldiers closed in upon him. He was so big and
strong that it took many of them to seize and bind him.
But at last they succeeded.
The false Menteith then swore to Wallace that his life
was safe, and that he would only be kept as an honourable
prisoner of war. And Wallace, knowing that Menteith
had been his friend, believed him. But Menteith lied.
By lonely ways they led Wallace southward, for they
dared not take him through towns and villages, lest the
THE TURNING OF A LOAF 129
people should rise and rescue him. On they went till
they crossed the Border. There, Wallace turned to take
a last long look at the hills of his dear land, which he was
never more to see.
On and on they went, right through England, and at
last they reached London. The fame of Wallace was
so great, and such crowds came to look upon him, that
it was difficult to pass through the streets. Men and
women pressed, and crushed, and almost trod on each
other, in order to catch a glimpse of him.
For a short time Wallace was kept prisoner. Then,
crowned in mockery with a wreath of laurel, he was led to
Westminster. There he was tried for treason, for having
invaded England, and for many other crimes.
He was no traitor, for he had never sworn to obey
Edward. He was a patriot and a hero. That he loved
his country was his only crime.
But Edward meant that his great enemy should die.
For as long as Wallace lived, and was free, he could
never hope really to conquer Scotland. So Wallace, the
brave, was condemned to die. Those were fierce, wild
times, and Edward‘s anger was cruel. His death was
made as horrible as possible, and his dead body was
treated with all dishonour. But the cruel triumph of
the Englishmen over his dead body could matter little to
Wallace. He had fought his fight, he had done his work,
and after his life of struggle and hardship he rested well.
‘ The manliest man, the starkest of persons
Living he was. He also stood in such right
We trust well God his deeds had in sight.’
The hatred between England and Scotland has long
ago died out The two countries are now united into
one kingdom, under one King. And every one knows
that it is best for Scotland and best for England that it
should be so.
Wallace in his life did his very best to prevent that
union. Yet both Englishmen and Scotsmen will ever
remember him as a hero, for they know that, in prevent
ing Edward from conquering Scotland, he did a good
work for the great empire to which we belong. If Scot
land had been joined to England in the days of Edward,
it would have been as a conquered country, and the union
could never have been true and friendly. When hun
dreds of years later the two countries did join, it was not
because one conquered the other, but because each of the
two free nations, living side by side, wished it Thus the
union became firm and unbreakable, and all Britons may
honour the name of Wallace for the part he had in
making it so.
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