EDINBURGH castle stands upon a high, steep rock, up
which it is almost impossible to clamber. Randolph, Earl of Moray, who was
now fighting valiantly for the King, was very anxious to get possession of
this castle. But how to do it he did not know. At length a gentleman named
William Francis came to tell him that he knew of a way. Many years before
Francis had been a soldier in Edinburgh castle. He had loved a lady who
lived in the town, and because he was not allowed to visit her openly, he
had found a way by which be could clamber up and down the steep rock in
secret. He still remembered the path, and he offered to lead Randolph and
his men by it. It was a very dangerous plan, for only one could go at a
time, and should the sentry see them every man would certainly be killed.
Still, it was worth trying, and Randolph resolved to try.
So one dark, moonless night, a little band of thirty
brave men gathered at the foot of the castle hill. Francis led the way, and
one by one they followed him up the rocky path. It was a fearful climb and
besides being fully armed, they had to carry ladders with them, with which
to scale the walls. On and on they went in silence, gripping the rock with
hands and knees, clambering round boulders or up the face of cliffs, where
there was scarcely the smallest foothold. Not a word was spoken. If a stone
slipped or a twig crackled, their hearts seemed to stand still. On and on
they went, till hot and breathless, but unseen and unheard, they neared the
When they were almost at the top they heard the
watchmen going their rounds on the wail above. As they clanked along so
close above, each man pressed himself against the face of the rock, keeping
as still as possible, scarcely daring even to breathe.
Suddenly the guards stopped and looked over the wall.
One of them, thinking to have a jest with his comrades, picked up a loose
stone, and throwing it over the cliff, cried out, 'Aha, I see you well!'
For one horrible moment, Randolph believed himself to
be discovered, but not a man moved. The stone crashed down and down,
bounding from rock to rock, till it reached the bottom far below. Then all
was still again, and with a laugh the sentry moved on. He had had his jest,
he had frightened his companions for a moment. But he little knew how fast
he had made thirty hearts beat. Ile little knew that just below him thirty
men clung motionless to the rock, every moment expecting discovery and
As soon as the sentries moved away, the men began
their climb again, and a few minutes later the top was reached. The ladders
were quickly fixed, and the men sprang over the wall. Except for time
watchmen, the whole garrison were asleep, and before they had time to rise
and arm themselves, the castle was taken.
Thus in one way or another, castle after castle fell
into the hands of Bruce. From town after town the English were driven out,
until hardly one remained to them, except Stirling, and that was sore beset
by Edward Bruce.
At last the Governor of Stirling, seeing that he could
not bold out much longer, made a bargain with him. He promised to yield the
castle, if by midsummer the King of England did not come to his aid.
To this Edward Bruce agreed. But King Robert was angry
when he heard what bargain his brother had made. To fight a great battle
against the whole force of the English army was just what lie did not want
to do, and to give Edward of England nearly a year in which to make ready
seemed to Bruce, true knight though he was, to allow the enemy too great an
'Let Edward bring every man he has,' said Edward
Bruce, 'and we will fight them, ay even if they were more.'
'So be it, brother,' said King Robert. 'Since so we
must, we will manfully abide battle, and let us gather all who love us and
greatly care for the freedom of Scotland, to come and fight against Edward.'
Edward II. was a weak and changeable king, not wise
and brave as his father had been. How changeable he was, you may know from
the fact that he appointed six different governors for Scotland in one
year,—not that it was much use appointing governors at all over a country
which refused to acknowledge them.
Edward II. was weak, and he was easily led by
favourites. He often quarrelled with his barons and nobles, but now they and
their men gladly joined him against Scotland. Never, even in the gallant
days of Edward i., had such a knightly army poured over the Border. From all
his dominions Edward called his followers,—from France, from Wales, from
'Many a worthy man and wight,
And many an armour
And many a sturdy champing steed:
Arrayed well in
Many helmets and halbergeons,
Shields and spears and
And so many a comely knight
That it seemed that in the
They should vanquish the world all whole.
Why should I make so
long my tale?
The sun was bright and shining clear,
And armours that all burnished
So shone in the sun's beam
That all the land was in a flame.
Banners right fairly glowing,
And pennons to the wind were flowing.
On they marched through a deserted country, watched
only by sad-eyed women, who, as they saw the mighty host roll on, prayed and
trembled for their husbands and brothers and fathers who were gathered at
Stirling to oppose the foe.