“Kinmont Willie” Summary


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A band of Englishmen under Salkelde have taken Kinmont Willie captive in Scotland during a time of truce and carried him to Carlisle where he is to be hanged on Hairibee. Willie protests in vain to Lord Scroope in Carlisle Castle that his capture was unlawful.  Word is brought to Buccleuch in Branksome Ha’ and he is furious about the breaking of the truce.  He exclaims that if Scotland and England had been at war he would have totally destroyed Carlisle Castle but that, since the two countries are at peace, he will simply free Kinmont Willie. He assembles forty men, all of them Scotts except Sir Gilbert Elliot of Stobbs. The narrator now identifies himself as belongng to this group of riders. They cross the Debatable Land and enter England and, when Salkelde challenges them, Dickie of Dryhope runs him through with his spear. The River Eden is in spate but they cross it safely on horseback and then leave their horses behind and approach the castle stealthily on foot in a storm of wind and rain. They set the ladders they have brought with them against the wall and Buccleuch is the first up and surprises a watchman. Abandoning secrecy, they blow their trumpets and cause consternation among the English in the castle and then force their way to the inner prison where Willie is held. They ask Willie if he is asleep or awake on this morning when he is to be hanged and he bids them give his greetings to his wife and children. Red Rowan, the strongest man in Teviotdale, picks him up, chains and all, and Willie calls out a farewell to Scroope before he is carried shoulder high down the ladder.  The Scots, pursued by a thousand Englishmen, manage to rejoin their horses and swim them across the flooded River Eden. Scroope finds it hardly believable that they have been able to cross and the English do not attempt the water. Buccleuch tosses a glove at Scroope as a challenge, inviting him to pay him a visit in Scotland in return for Buccleuch’s visit to England.