ALEXANDER III.—HOW THE KING RODE HOMEWARD
THROUGH THE DARK NIGHT
Alexander was a good King, and after he had tamed
the Ravens, he spent his time making good laws. He
travelled all over his kingdom to see that justice was done
even to the very poor. He reigned for thirty-seven years,
and towards the end of his reign he had many sorrows.
His wife died, his two sons died, and his daughter, who
had married the King of Norway, also died. She left a
little daughter called Margaret, and this little girl was the
heir to the throne.
In those days it was very unusual for a Queen to rule,
so, sad as he was, Alexander gathered all his nobles
together, and made them swear to receive the little
Princess Margaret as their Queen when he died.
Alexander felt it very necessary to do this, for the
King of England, now called Edward I., had again tried
to make him own him as overlord. But Alexander had
again refused. ‘ To homage for my kingdom of Scotland
no one has any right save God alone, nor do I hold it of
any but God,’ he said ‘ I do homage to you only for the
lands which I hold in England.’
So for the time the King of England had to be
content, but Alexander felt very sure that when he was
gone, and there was only a little girl to withstand him,
the King of England would try once again to make him-
THE KINGS RIDE
self master of Scotland. So he charged all the knights
and barons to be true to their Queen and their country.
Not long after this, Alexander had been to Edinburgh
to a great banquet, and after it was over he started to ride
back to his castle at Dunfermline. The night was dark,
and his lords prayed him not to go, as a wise man called
Thomas the Rhymer had foretold that there would be a
great storm. But Alexander was determined to go, and
he started off in the darkness.
He reached the river Forth in safety, and there the
ferryman begged him not to cross, as the night was dark
and the water deep. Still Alexander insisted on going.
‘ Then will I go too,’ said the man ; ‘ it would ill become
me if I were not willing to die with thy father’s son.’
The river was safely crossed. On again through the
darkness went the King and his little band of followers.
The road led by the riverside. The cliffs were high and
steep and the night so dark that they could not see the
narrow path, and they had to trust to their horses.
But on they went, the King riding first, quickly and
fearlessly. Suddenly his horse stumbled. There was a
cry in the darkness ; the sound of a heavy fall ; then
‘My lord King,’ cried a frightened attendant, ‘what
has happened ? ’
There was no answer, except the sound of the waves,
and the cry of wild birds. Far below, on the rocks of the
seashore, the King lay dead.
Morning dawned clear and calm, and the people
laughed at Thomas the Rhymer. ‘ Where is your
storm ? ‘ they asked, pointing to the blue sky and bright
sunshine. But even as they spoke a messenger came
with the news, ‘ The King is dead.’
‘ There,’ said Thomas, ‘ that is the storm of which I
100 SCOTLAND’S STORY
spoke. Never did tempest bring more ill luck to
There was great sorrow at the death of Alexander, for
he had been a good King, and his people loved him.
‘ Scotland lamented him full sore,
For under him all his people were
In honour, quiet, and in peace.
Therefore called Peaceable King he was.
He lovèd all men that were virtuous,
He loathèd and chastisèd all vanities,
Justice he gave and equity
To each man as should be.
‘To lords and knights and squires
That were pleasant of manners,
He was leal, liberal, and loving
And all virtuous in governing.
‘ When Alexander our King was dead,
That Scotland led in love and le,
Away was wealth of ale and bread,
Of wine and wax, of game and glee.
‘ Our gold was changèd into lead—
Christ born into virginity,
Succour Scotland and remedy
Which placèd is in perplexity.’
It is more than six hundred years since King
Alexander died, but the place is still called the King’s
Crag, and there is a monument there to mark the spot.
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