The arm of Wallace is not shrunk, that he could not defend himself, did he think that violence were necessary. Hear my determination, once and forever!" added he. "I acknowledge no authority in Scotland but the laws. The present regent and his abthanes outrage them in every ordinance, and I should indeed be a traitor to my country did I submit to such men's behests.
In vain he urged to Monteith the outlawry which would await him should the infuriated abthanes discover that he had given shelter to the man whom they had chosen to suppose a traitor, and denounce as one.
At such a moment, when the one voice they were disclaiming all participation in the insurgent proceedings at Stirling, another messenger arrived from Lord Lennox, to conjure him, if he would avoid open violence or secret treachery, to march his victorious troops immediately to that city, and seize the assembled abthanes at once as traitors to their country.
"Resume the regency," added he; "which you only know how to conduct; and crush a treason which, increasing hourly, now walks openly in the day, threatening all that is virtuous, or faithful to you." Abthanes, which means the great lords, was a title of pre-eminence given to the higher order of chiefs.
Edwin overturned this plan by telling him that in the moment the abthanes repledged their secret faith to England, they sent orders into Ayrshire to watch the movements of Wallace's relations, and to prevent their either hearing of or marching to the assistance of their wronged kinsman.
On the revolted abthanes having betrayed Wallace and his country to England, the joy and ambition of the countess knew no bounds; and hoping to eventually persuade Edward to adjudge to her the crown, she made it apparent to the English king how useful would be her services to Scotland; while with a plenary though secret mission, she took her course through her native land, to discover who were inimical to the foreign interest, and who, likely to promote her own; after this circuit, she fixed her mimic court at Stirling, and living there in real magnificence, exercised the functions of a vice-queen.
Comforted with these tidings, Wallace declared his intentions of visiting his suffering friend as soon as he could establish any principle in the minds of his followers to induce them to bear, even for a little time, with the insolence of the abthanes.
"We come, Sir William Wallace, by the command of the regent, and the assembled abthanes of Scotland, to take these brave troops, which have performed such good service to their country, from the power of a man who, we have every reason to believe, means to turn their arms against the liberties of the realm.