The thistle aince it flourished fair,
And grew maist like a tree a',
They've stunted down its stately tap,
might look hie a'.
though its head lies in the dust,
The root is stout and steady;
The thistle is the warrior yet,
The rose its tocher'd leddy.
Then flourish, thistle, flourish fair,
Tho' ye 'ye
the crown no longer,
hae the skaith that cross ye yet,
Your jags grow aye the stronger.'
WALLACE was dead. After a struggle of fifteen years
Edward had triumphed, Scotland had reached her darkest hour, and English
tyranny made the life of Scotsmen a daily burden and misery. But not for
long. Scarcely six months after the death of Wallace, the Scottish people
had chosen and crowned a King who was utterly to break down the power of
John Baliol had a nephew called the Red Comyn. He now
claimed the throne. Robert the Bruce also claimed the throne, for the Bruces
had always thought that they had the better right, even when Edward of
England had chosen in favour of Baliol. So Bruce and Comyn hated each other,
and quarrelled bitterly. In those days great nobles quarrelled and fought
among themselves very often, and it was these quarrels that had helped
Edward many times to defeat the Scots. Bruce, as you know, was an English as
well as a Scottish noble, and at one time he had fought for Edward. But now
he made up his mind to fight for Scotland, and for Scotland only, and he
determined to make friends with the Red Comyn. This Robert was the grandson,
you must understand, of that Bruce who had been among the twelve who claimed
the throne after the death of the Maid of Norway.
One day as they were riding from Stirling together
Bruce began to talk to Comyn. 'We must no longer quarrel,' he said, 'we must
work together. Help me to get the crown, and I will give you all my land in
return. Or, if you wish to be King, give me your land and I will help you to
win the crown.'
'I do not want to be King,' replied Comyn, 'if you
will really give me your lands and possessions I will help you.'
So it was agreed between them. Then they wrote down
what they had agreed to do. Each signed and sealed the paper, and each kept
a copy of it.
Bruce then went back to the English court, for his
plans were not yet ready, and he did not wish Edward to find out what he was
doing. But the Red Comyn did not mean to help Bruce. He still hoped to win
the crown for himself. So, no sooner had Bruce gone back to England, than
Comyn sent the paper which they had written, with a letter to Edward.
When Edward had read the letter and the paper he was
very angry, but he wished to make quite sure of catching Bruce and all the
people who were helping him. So, although he was planning how he might seize
Bruce and his friends, and put them all to death, he was kind and pleasant
to them as usual, pretending that he knew nothing of what they meant to do.
But one of Bruce's friends discovered the King's plan
by accident. He dared not write a letter to warn Bruce lest it should fall
into King Edward's hands. So, instead of writing, he sent a pair of sharp
spurs and twelve silver pennies to Bruce.
Bruce was clever enough to understand what this
message meant. It meant, 'You are in danger. Mount upon your horse and ride
away as fast as you can. Here are spurs; here is money for the journey.'
That was how Bruce read this strange letter.
The snow lay thick upon the ground. Few people
travelled in the wintry weather, and Bruce knew it would be very easy to
trace which way lie had gone by his horse's hoof marks in the snow. So he
sent his horse, and those of two faithful servants, to a blacksmith, telling
him to take off all the shoes and put them on the wrong way round. In this
way the horses' hoof marks looked as if some one had been galloping towards,
and not away from London.
By midnight all was ready, and in the darkness three
men rode quietly out of the town. As soon as they were beyond the houses
they set spurs to their horses, and galloped swiftly northward. The night
was cold and clear, but as they rode, the snow again began to fall, so that
the hoof marks of the horses became more and more indistinct.
In the morning a breathless messenger came to King
Edward. 'My liege,' he cried, 'Robert the Bruce has fled in the night.'
Edward was furious at the escape of his enemy, and
sent horsemen in all directions in search of him. But it was in vain; no
trace of him was to be seen.
Meanwhile Bruce spared neither spurs nor money. So
fast did he ride that in five days he had reached the Border. Still oil
went, and presently he met one of Red Comyn's servants riding southward.
Robert the Bruce stopped him. 'Whither go you ? he
'To the King of England with letters from my master,'
replied the servant.
'Show them to me,' said Robert sternly. And the
servant, knowing Bruce to be a great lord, gave them to him.
Without more ado Robert the Bruce broke the seals and
read the letters. As he did so his face grew dark with anger. ' The foul
traitor,' he cried, crushing the letters in his hand. 'Where is your master,
villain?' he then demanded, turning to the servant.
He is at the convent of Dumfries, my lord,' replied
the man, trembling, for he saw how angry Bruce was.
Turning his horse,
Bruce rode towards Dumfries. His heart was hot with anger, for Red Comyn had
written to King Edward that if Robert the Bruce were not speedily slain
there would be great trouble in Scotland.
Robert the Bruce had a fierce, passionate temper, but
as lie rode, his anger cooled, and he made up his mind to reason with Red
Comyn and be calm.
In a quiet church, in the little town of Dumfries, the
two men met. As the fashion in those days was, they kissed each other, and
together they walked up the aisle, talking earnestly. But Bruce could not
long control his temper, and with bitter words he accused Red Comyn of
having betrayed him to the King of England.
'You lie,' cried Comyn.
The two men were now close to the altar steps; the
face of Christ looked down upon them, seeming to say, 'A new commandment I
give unto you, that ye love one another.' But Bruce, blind and speechless
with passion, drew his dagger, and struck at Red Comyn. He fell, and the
steps of the altar were stained with his blood.
Bruce had had no thought of murder. In the blind
passion of a moment, he had slain a man. He had slain him too in the church,
and before the holy altar. White and sick with horror, hardly seeing what he
did, he turned and groped his way to the door.
Outside, his friends were waiting for him, 'How fares
it with you?' they asked, seeing him look so white and wild.
Ill, ill,' replied Bruce, ' I doubt I have slain the
'You doubt?' cried one of his friends, called
Kirkpatrick. 'You leave such a weighty matter in doubt? I will mak' siccar,'
which means, ' I will make sure.' And going into the church, Kirkpatrick
stabbed the wounded man again and again, till he died.