William gave a sigh of relief as he shoved out of the school with his classmates and headed out to walk in the town a bit before he started for home. He smelled someone selling meat pies and his stomach growled so he bought one from the vendor. It was piping hot and tasted wonderful. William sat on the corner of the street to eat it as he watched the people walk through the town. There were the gentry of Dundee and the sea folk who came into the port with things to sell and trade, or to stay in the inns and get the latest news from the taverns. William himself often visited the taverns to listen to the talk going around. See if he could hear anything about his father. He was considering doing that very thing that afternoon, when he happened to see a group of lads about his age coming down the street a little farther away but heading in his direction. He knew who the leader of the group was immediately, for he had seen him many times before. It was young Selby, son of the man Selby who was the English governor of Dundee.
“What’s he doing out today?” William wondered out loud to himself watching him with narrowed eyes.
Selby was walking up to a young lad who looked to be about twelve years old and shoved him slightly in the arm. He said something to him that William couldn’t hear and then he and his fellows laughed raucously as the young lad tried to walk away from them. Selby grabbed his arm and shook him hard until the lad lost his footing and sat down hard on the cobbled street. William’s blood began to boil as he witnessed the treatment of the poor young lad. Once Selby had tired of bothering the lad, he moved on down the street with his cronies. As the group passed William, Selby caused himself to brush against the young Scotsman with his shoulder. He walked a few paces then turned back and raised his nose at him.
“Oh, forgive me, did I run into you?” he asked disdainfully. “I’m surprised I didn’t see you. In that fine green outfit of yours.” He sneered at William and his friends sniggered.
William looked him in the eyes. “It’s nothing to me. People run into others all the time in the market. I saw ye mistreating that lad over there just now. Why do ye feel ye need to exercise rudeness? Is it just because ye’re really a coward and afraid to fight real battles?”
Young Selby twisted his lip disdainfully at William and crossed his arms in front of him. “So you’re a bold one, are you?” He looked William over and spotted the dagger at his belt. “That’s a fine dagger you carry. It’s far too fine, like that tunic. Yes, far too fine for a lowly Scot like you. It would look better in my belt.” He reached out for it, but William took a step back.
“I willna let ye have it,” William said. “It is my best one. I use it for my work and to cut my meat at supper.”
“How quaint,” Selby said with a sneer. “But I will teach you to deny me something that I ask for.” He drew his sword from his belt. “How about you fight me and we’ll see who wins?”
“Fair enough,” William said and drew his long dagger, falling into a crouch.
Selby’s friends laughed, thinking that their companion would soon have the Scotsman begging for mercy. But they hadn’t yet met with William Wallace.
As soon as Selby struck out with his sword, William leapt to the side and caught the blade on his far shorter dagger. Selby struck out at him again and had the same effect. He started to get angry then and swung around harder at the Scotsman. William blocked and dodged expertly, not letting Selby’s sword touch him.
“You are far better then I thought,” Selby growled as he tried to get past William’s defenses. “But no Scot can win against an Englishman. I’ll have you soon enough and then I’ll take you to my father and he’ll decide what to do with you.”
“I’d love to see you try,” William told him with a careless laugh and struck out, cutting Selby across the arm. The young Englishman gasped in annoyance and turned his flashing eyes to William.
“Why, you little...!” he said dangerously and drove his sword at William in hopes of stabbing him through the middle.
William leapt to one side and blocked the blow with his dagger. Because of the smaller size of his blade, though, it glanced off with the force of Selby’s blow and William’s dagger plunged into Selby’s chest.
The Englishman dropped his sword and staggered to the ground. William just stood there with his mouth hanging open, not believing what he had just done. Selby’s friends looked at him in amazement then one of them finally got his voice back and shouted at the top of his lungs for the English solders who were milling around the street.
Time to go! William shouted to himself and forced his feet to move. He left his dagger sticking into Selby and took to his heels, running off through the town with the shouting Englishmen right on his heels.
William had the advantage of them though, because he knew these streets like the back of his hand and he barreled down an alley to get away from them. He knew his green tunic would attract too much attention out in the open and he wished he had not worn it.
He took another street and raced down the familiar cobbles when he saw a lady sweeping her stoop. She caught site of him and hailed him with her hand.
“Young William! Where are ye off to so fast?”
“I’m in trouble!” he told her breathlessly, looking around for Englishmen.
“Come in, I will hide you,” she told him and grabbed his arm, drawing him inside. “What happened?”
“I got into a fight with young Selby and I fear I killed him,” William said. “It all happened so fast, I didna know what happened.”
“Dinna fret, I will help ye, young William.” The old lady looked around. “I have no where to hide you where they will not find you, but perhaps I can disguise ye so that they will never expect anything.”
“What exactly did ye have in mind?” William asked as she bustled around.
She grabbed several things from a closet and came back over to William. “Get this on,” she told him, shoving a dress over his head.
“Ye’re going to make a lass out of me?” William asked indignantly as she tied a lacy scarf around his neck and clapped a bonnet over his head to conceal his messy mop of hair.
“Yes I am,” the lady told him firmly. “Now sit at the spinning wheel and spin the wool.”
“Sit!” She pushed William over to the spinning wheel and shoved him into the chair. “Do your best.”
As soon as William sat down and took up the wool to spin, there was a knock on the door and it was shoved rudely in as several Englishmen marched into the house. William looked up quickly, then turned back to his spinning.
“What mean ye by bursting in here?” the lady asked indignantly. “What is it ye want?”
“We’re sorry to bother you ma’am,” one of the men said stepping forward. “But we are looking for a young Scotsman. He has killed the governor’s son. Perhaps you have seen him. He was wearing a green jerkin, about sixteen years of age?”
“I have been working around the house all day,” the lady said.
“We have to check your house to make sure you are not hiding him,” said another Englishman.
“Go ahead,” the lady said cooly. “You’ll find no one here but me and the the girl spinning and my kitchen maid.”
“We’ll see about that for ourselves,” said the leader of the group and they went around the house, all the while William sat spinning as well as he could, trying not to attract any attention to himself.
The Englishmen came back before too long and one nodded to the lady. “Sorry for your inconvenience, ma’am. If you see him, please make sure you tell us.”
“I will,” the lady said and closed the door behind them.
When they were sure it was safe, William stood up and took the bonnet off his head and laughed. He couldn’t stop laughing and soon the lady started laughing along with him. William struggled out of the dress and handed the things back to the lady.
“Thank ye Lady Eliza,” he said. “I dinna ken how I can thank ye for this.”
“Dinna think anything of it, William,” she told him. “But I’m going to have to ask you to stay a little bit longer. It’s not going to be safe for you out in the town. There are sadly a few here who would give ye up for a few pieces of gold from Governor Selby. They are not all true like me. Stay until after dark and then you can leave when no one will be able to see you.”
“But my mother and my uncle will be worried,” William said. “I know how to move around town without being seen.”
“I willna allow it,” Lady Eliza said firmly. “Come join me for dinner. You are a young lad who can eat a lot, I trust.”
William had to smile. “All right,” he said, giving in. “I just dinna want to be a burden.”
“Ye’re no’ a burden, Will,” Eliza said and took his arm, drawing him into the kitchen.
They sat down at the table and the maid turned to smile at William.
“How are ye, Will?” she asked. “I havena seen ye for a while.”
“I’m fine, I suppose, except for the fact that I am now a criminal,” he said ruefully.
“I heard ye tell Lady Eliza,” she said. “Be careful, Will. Ye know the English give no quarter to those they are after weather they’re guilty or not.”
“I’ll be fine, Ishbel,” he said. “But I dinna ken what I’ll do now. I canna go back to town if I’m a wanted man.”
“You have family in other places,” Eliza told him softly. “You’ll have no other choice then to leave this part of the country.”
“I suppose ye’re right,” William said, suddenly hit by the enormity of it. “I guess I dinna have any other choice.”
Eliza put her hand on his shoulder and gave him a smile. “Dinna worry, William. You are a strong young lad. And ye’ll take anything they can throw at ye.”
Ishbel set out the food and they fell to. William found that despite his misadventure, he was very hungry and he ate heartily to Lady Eliza’s coaxing.
He stayed late into the night and spent most of his time pacing back and fourth anxiously. Finally, around midnight, Eliza gave in and told him he could probably go.
“Thank ye very much,” William told her, taking her hand in his. “I dinna ken how I can thank ye for all this. If ye hadna helped me, I would have been thrown into the tolbooth or worse.”
“It was nothing, William, as I told ye,” Eliza said and led him to her back door. “Go out this way just to be safe. I hope to see ye again, William, though I dinna think there’s much hope of it.”
William turned to her as she opened the door for him. “One day, ma’am, I will be back and hopefully, I will bring the news that Scotland is free.”
“Ah, freedom,” Eliza said with a sad look in her eyes. “I will be waiting that day right readily, William Wallace,” she told him.
William nodded and slipped out the door into the dark town. He had only been out in Dundee at night a few times on his personal adventures but he knew his way around just as well in the dark as he did in the light. He slipped silently through the deserted streets, hearing the loud talking and singing from the taverns where the sailors were enjoying their nights on shore. He was always on the lookout for English soldiers. He had always been wary of them for they were oppressing his country, but now he was avoiding them for his life. He was really overwhelmed with feelings right now. He had no idea what to think. He had never wanted to cause trouble like that. But now that he had, he began to feel as if he had taken the next step and it almost made him feel like he had accomplished something. He took a deep breath. Since he was already an outlaw, what could it hurt to go the whole way and start a campaign against the English? William smiled with that thought. His misfortune earlier that day might have turned to a bit of an advantage. He was soon out of the town and made his way to his uncle’s house on the Dee river. He stopped and took a deep breath. He was not looking forward to telling his family about what had happened.