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Wallace, The Hero Of Scotland
by [?]

On a summer’s day, many centuries ago, a young gentleman of Scotland was fishing in the river Irvine, near Ayr, attended by a boy who carried his fishing-basket. The young man was handsome of face, tall of figure, and strongly built, while his skill as an angler was attested by the number of trout which lay in the boy’s basket. While he was thus engaged several English soldiers, from the garrison of Ayr, came up to the angler, and with the insolence with which these invaders were then in the habit of treating the Scotch, insisted on taking the basket and its contents from the boy.

“You ask too much,” said Wallace, quietly. “You are welcome to a part of the fish, but you cannot have them all.”

“That we will,” answered the soldiers.

“That you will not,” retorted the youth. “I have other business than to play fisherman for your benefit.”

The soldiers insisted, and attempted to take the basket. The angler came to the aid of his attendant. Words were followed by blows. The soldiers laid hands on their weapons. The youth had no weapon but his fishing-rod. But with the butt end of this he struck the foremost Englishman so hard a blow under his ear that he stretched him dead upon the ground. Seizing the man’s sword, which had fallen from his hand, he attacked the others with such skill and fury that they were put to flight, and the bold angler was enabled to take his fish safely home.

The name of the courageous youth was William Wallace. He was the son of a private gentleman, called Wallace of Ellerslie, who had brought up his boy to the handling of warlike weapons, until he had grown an adept in their use; and also to a hatred of the English, which was redoubled by the insolence of the soldiers with whom Edward I. of England had garrisoned the country. Like all high-spirited Scotchmen, the young man viewed with indignation the conduct of the conquerors of his country, and expressed the intensity of his feeling in the tragical manner above described.

Wallace’s life was in imminent danger from his exploit. The affair was reported to the English governor of Ayr, who sought him diligently, and would have put him to death had he been captured. But he took to the hills and woods, and lay concealed in their recesses until the deed was forgotten, being supplied by his friends with the necessaries of life. As it was not safe to return to Ayr after his period of seclusion, he made his way to another part of the country, where his bitter hostility to the English soon led him into other encounters with them, in which his strength, skill, and courage usually brought him off victorious. So many were the affairs in which he was engaged, and so great his daring and success, that the people began to talk of him as the champion of Scotland, while the English grew to fear this indomitable young swordsman.

At length came an adventure which brought matters to a crisis. Young Wallace had married a lady of Lanark, and had taken up his residence in that town with his wife. The place had an English garrison, and one day, as Wallace walked in the market-place in a rich green dress, with a handsome dagger by his side, an Englishman accosted him insultingly, saying that no Scotchman had the right to wear such finery or to carry so showy a weapon.

He had tried his insolence on the wrong man. A quarrel quickly followed, and, as on similar occasions before, Wallace killed the Englishman. It was an unwise act, inspired by his hasty temper and fiery indignation. His peril was great. He hastened to his house, which was quickly attacked by soldiers of the garrison. While they were seeking to break in at the front, Wallace escaped at the rear, and made his way to a rocky glen, called the Cortland-crags, near the town, where he found a secure hiding-place among its thick-growing trees and bushes.