Scotland's Story Chapter XXXVIII. Robert The Bruce - The Taking of
ALL this time King Edward had not himself come to
Scotland. He had only sent his generals and soldiers, but now that things
seemed to be going badly with them, lie resolved, old and feeble though he
was, to come himself.
He was so ill that he could not walk nor ride, but had
to be carried in a litter. His spirit, however, was keen and fierce as ever,
and he longed to conquer Scotland before lie died. But that was riot to be,
and at a place called Burgh-on-Sands, within sight of the Scottish Border,
lie died. When lie felt that he was dying, when lie knew that his dearest
wish could never be fulfilled, that he would never conquer Scotland, never
be received as Scotland's King, he called his son Edward to him.
The Prince came, and knelt beside his dying father to
receive his last commands. 'My son,' said the great King, 'I die, but to you
I leave my unfinished task. Swear to inc before my lords and barons that you
will never give up this war until Scotland is conquered. Let my bones be
carried with the army, and never lay them to rest until you have subdued the
The Prince of Wales swore by the saints and by all
that he held holy, to do as his father wished. But he did not keep his
When his father was dead, the Prince sent his body
back to Westminster, where it was buried. He himself marched a little way
into Scotland, then growing tired of the hardships and discomforts of camp
life, he turned and went back to England, without having fought a single
But although Edward ii. and his army marched away from
Scotland, there were many English left there, and all the castles and strong
towns were theirs. These, King Hobbe, as Edward used scornfully to call
Bruce, had to conquer one by one, before he could call his kingdom his own.
For a time, however, little could be done, for Bruce
became very ill, and without their great leader the soldiers had no heart to
'He forebore both meat and drink, His men no
medicine could get That ever might to the King avail. His force gan
him wholly to fail, That he might neither ride nor go. Then wit ye
that his men were woe! For nane was in that company, That would have
been half so sorry, For to have seen his brother dead, Lying before
him in that stead, As they were for his sickness For all their
comfort in him was.'
Edward Bruce, the King's brave brother, did his best
to comfort the soldiers, but it was a sorrowful band that he led into the
mountains, carrying their King in a litter.
Bruce had gone through such terrible hardships, he had
suffered so much from cold, hunger, and weariness, that it was little wonder
that even he, strong though he was, had broken down No medicine seemed to do
him any good, but one day, hearing that his soldiers had been put to flight
by the English. lie rose from his bed, and in spite of all that his friends
could say to him, he mounted upon his horse, determined to lead his men to
avenge their defeat. He was so weak and ill that a soldier rode on either
side of him to support him. But his men were filled with gladness to see him
amongst them once more, and they fought with such new courage that they once
more won a victory. From that day King Robert became quite well again.
Fighting still went on, but many of the Scottish
nobles, who had before fought for Edward, now joined Bruce. Among these was
his own nephew, Thomas Randolph. During a battle, Randolph was taken
prisoner by Lord James Douglas and brought before the King. 'Nephew,' said
Bruce, 'you have for a time forgotten your obedience to your King. Now you
must return to it.
'I have done nothing of which I need be ashamed.'
replied Randolph proudly. 'You blame me. It is you who are to blame You have
chosen to defy the King of England, yet you will not meet him like a true
knight in the open field.'
'That may come,' replied Bruce calmly, 'and before
long perhaps. Meanwhile,' he added sternly, 'since you are so rude of
speech, it is fitting that your proud words should meet their just
punishment. You shall therefore go to prison until you learn to know better
my right and your duty.'
Randolph went quietly to prison, but he was not kept
long there, for he soon made up his mind to join his brave uncle and to
fight for Scotland. Robert then made his nephew Earl of Moray, and he became
one of his greatest friends and generals, second only to James Douglas.
Perth, at this time one of the strongest places in
Scotland, was in the hands of the English. It was surrounded by a moat. The
walls of Perth were high and thick, and there were stone turrets upon them
at short intervals. For six weeks King Robert besieged this town, but it was
so strong that, do what lie would, lie could not take it.
One night, however, the King crept unseen close up to
the walls. He carefully examined the moat, and discovered that there was one
place at which it would be possible to cross it. Then he went back to his
camp, and next morning the English within Perth rejoiced to see the Scottish
King and his army march away.
A week passed. There was no sign of the enemy. and the
English, feeling quite safe, kept no watch.
But one dark night, the King and his army came quietly
marching back again. Robert led his men to the shallow part of the moat. He
was the first to jump into the water and show the way across it. He wore all
his heavy armour, and in one hand he carried a ladder, in the other a spear.
With this he carefully felt his way, but at one part the water was so deep
that it reached his throat. At last, however, he landed safely on the other
side. Quickly, one after the other, his soldiers followed him over the moat.
They reached the wall, and setting their ladders against it clambered up.
Then with a wild war-cry they leaped over into the town.
A French knight happened to be in the Scottish army.
When this knight saw the King so full of bravery and courage, when he saw
that he was among the first to place the ladder against the wall, among the
first to leap into the town, he was filled with admiration. 'What shall we
say to our French knights,' he cried, 'who sit at home feasting and idle,
when so gallant a prince puts his life in danger for a wretched village!'
and dashing through the moat, he too joined the fight.
The English were so completely taken by surprise that
the battle was soon over. Every Scotsman who was found within the walls
fighting for the English, was put to death, but the English soldiers were
spared. Then Bruce broke down the wall and ruined the towers, for as he had
not enough soldiers to defend the towns and castles which he won from the
English, he thought it was better to destroy them, lest they should again
fall into the hands of the enemy.
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