MACDUFF sailed southward, little knowing the
dreadful things that were happening at home, little dreaming that his brave
wife was dead, and his castle a ruin.
storms and dangers he sailed, until at last he landed safely in England and
went to seek Prince Malcolm at the court of Edward the Confessor.
Malcolm received Macduff very kindly, for he was glad
to have news of his own land. Macduff told the Prince of all the sorrows and
griefs of Scotland, and begged him to come to fight for the crown.
'Do not mistrust me,' he said. 'Your father found me
ever faithful. In spite of the many hardships which I have borne, to you
also I have been faithful, and am, and shall be, all my life. If you come to
claim the throne, nearly all the lords will support you, and the common
people, I know, will joyfully shed their blood for you.'
When Malcolm heard these words he was very glad in his
heart, lie longed to go back to Scotland to claim his crown and throne. But
still he was not sure if Macduff was to be trusted. He feared that he had
been sent by Macbeth to persuade him to come to Scotland so that he might be
betrayed and killed. So Malcolm was silent, wondering if he should go or
not, turning it over and over in his mind, while Macduff still urged, and
persuaded. 'I am truly grieved,' said Malcolm at last, 'to hear of the
misery which has come upon Scotland. I love my people and I would like to
make them happy, but I am not fit to rule. I am a bad man. I am the most
greedy creature upon earth, and if I were King I should try in so many ways
to get money and lands that I should put to death the greater part of the
Scottish nobles, for pretended faults, in order to take their goods and
possessions for myself. So it were well for you that I should not come to be
your King. I am ashamed to own it, but I am a thief and a robber.'
All this Malcolm said to try Macduff/
Macduff, when he heard it, was very sad, but he
answered, 'What you tell me grieves me deeply, but when you are King, you
will have great wealth; when you are King you will have no lack of gold and
silver, or of precious stones, or jewels, or whatever else you may desire.
Be brave then. Do your best, come to be our King, and forget your greed and
'But,' said Malcolm, 'that is not all.
I am deceitful, I love nothing so much as to betray and deceive. No man can
trust my word. I make promises, but I never keep them. I am not fit to be a
King.' Then Macduff was silent, too sad to speak. After a minute or two he
cried out, 'Oh unhappy and miserable Scotsmen, alas for us! To be subject to
you, our liege lord by right—never! You confess yourself a thief, false,
cunning, faithless. What other kind of badness seems to be left but that you
should call yourself a traitor. A traitor you are. You shall never be lord
over me. Neither shall I be subject to Macbeth. I will rather choose
banishment,' and bursting into tears Macduff sobbed aloud. Then looking
northward he stretched out his hands. 'Scotland, farewell for ever!' he
cried, and turned to go.
But as Macduff, with downcast
head, went slowly away, Malcolm sprang after him, and catching him by the
sleeve, cried, 'Be of good comfort, Macduff, I have none of these
wickednesses. I only said these things to prove whether you were faithful or
faithless. Wicked people have so often come to try to betray me into the
hands of Macbeth, that I wished to make sure that you were true to me. Now I
know that you hate falseness and cunning, even as I do. Forgive me, dear
friend. Let us go to Scotland together. You shall not be an exile. No! you
shall be first in the kingdom after the King.'
Macduff, who had been weeping for sorrow, wept for joy, and falling upon his
knees clasped Malcolm's feet and kissed them. 'If what you say is true, my
lord,' he cried, 'you bring me back from death to life. Oh hasten, hasten,
my lord, I implore you to free your people who wait and long for you!'
If you would keep good men and true from harm,
Men who have fought
without one helping arm,
Men on whose necks foes, for three lustres
Help them, in pity for the love of God.
Stay not to think, but
up, and fell the foe;
Lighten the burden of thy people's woe.
thy sword, thy trusty weapons take,
For strong thy limbs and firm thy
A Scot the heir of a long royal race,
Good hap advance
thee to thy father's place.'
Malcolm and Macduff talked
long, making plans. At last it was agreed that Macduff should return to
Scotland at once, and there secretly gather the people together and make
known to them that their true King, Malcolm Canmore, was coming.
As soon as Macduff had gone, Malcolm went to King Edward and told him that
he meant to return to Scotland to fight for the crown. And Edward, who had
always been kind to Malcolm, gave him leave to take with him any of the
English nobles and soldiers who cared to go to help him to win the crown. So
Malcolm, taking with him the Earl of Siward and ten thousand English
soldiers, set out for Scotland.
It was soon seen that
Macduff had spoken the truth, for nearly all the Scottish nobles joined
Malcolm, and the common people flocked to his standard in hundreds. But
Macbeth did not believe that he could be either defeated or killed, for he
remembered what the Weird Sisters had said about Birnam wood coming to
Dunsinane. So he shut himself up in his strong castle on Dunsinane hill, and
felt quite safe.
Without fighting any great battle,
Malcolm marched through Scotland until he came to Birnam wood. There he lay
encamped, intending next day to attack the castle of Dunsinane where he knew
Macbeth to be.
In the morning the army arose rested and
refreshed. Before the march to Dunsinane began, Malcolm ordered every
soldier to cut down a bough of whatever tree was near to him and to carry it
in his hand. 'In this way,' he said, 'our army will be hidden by the green
branches, and Macbeth will be unable to tell what numbers are coming against
So each mail down as large a branch as he could
carry, and held it before him as he marched.
A few hours
later Macbeth stood on his castle-wall looking out towards Birnam wood.
Suddenly his face grew pale and he trembled in fear. What was this coming
slowly and surely onward? Trees walking? Birnam wood had come to Dunsinane
hill. Then all was lost.
Macbeth was really brave, and now
that he felt that his last fight had come, he meant to fight it well. So,
calling all his soldiers about him, he marched out to meet the enemy.
In the thickest of the fight Macduff and Macbeth met. 'Traitor,' cried
Macbeth, lifting his two-handed sword high.
'I am no
traitor, but am true to my lawful King,' cried Macduff, as he sprang aside
to avoid the blow. A minute later Macbeth lay dead upon the ground, slain by
Macduff's sharp sword.
So died Macbeth. He had reigned for
seventeen years. At first he had been a good and wise King, doing much for
the happiness of his people, but in the end he had proved himself a tyrant,
and was hated and despised as tyrants ever are. He was killed in 1057 A.D.