ROBERT THE BRUCE—THE KING TRIES AGAIN
At last the winter passed. In the spring Bruce sailed
over to the island of Arran, bringing with him thirty-three
boats and three hundred men. He was within sight of
Scotland, yet he did not dare to land on the mainland, for
he knew not how great an army of English soldiers might
be there ready to fight with him. So first he sent a
messenger over. It was agreed that if this messenger
found that the English were not in great force, or if he
found many friends willing to help Bruce, he was, upon a
certain day, to light a beacon fire on a hill near Turnberry,
Bruce’s own castle. King Robert would then embark at
once and sail over to Scotland.
The day arrived, and as the hours went by, Bruce
waited upon the Arran shore, hoping and longing. Minute
after minute passed, but no light appeared. At last about
noon a little column of smoke shot up growing denser
each minute, till at length the fire blazed forth so that
Bruce had no doubt but that it was the signal for which
All was in readiness in the hope that the signal would
come. Now with a cheer the men sprang into the boats
and pushed off. Eagerly they bent to the oars, and when
night fell they were well on their way across the channel,
steering still by the beacon light, for they had no other
compass or guide.
THE KING TRIES AGAIN 145
But on the shore of Scotland, Bruce’s messenger
anxiously awaited his master’s coming. He hoped
against hope that the King would not come, for the fire
had not been lit by him, and the whole country was full
of English soldiers. There was no chance of success.
The boats drew near. They touched the shore. Full
of new hope, Bruce sprang to land only to be met by his
trembling servant, who begged him to fly. ‘ The English
leader, Lord Percy, is in possession of your castle. He
has a strong garrison there. Besides that, the whole
country is full of English soldiers,’ he said.
‘ Traitor, why then did you light the fire?’ cried
‘ Oh, sire,’ replied the man, ‘ as God sees me, the fire
was never lit by me. Indeed, until the night came I
knew nothing of it. As soon as I saw it, I hastened here
to warn you, for I knew that you would start, thinking
the signal to be mine.’
Angry and disappointed, Bruce turned to his brother
Edward. ‘ What shall we do ? ‘ he asked. ‘ Must we go
‘Nay, here I am, and here do I stay,’ replied bold
‘1 say you verily
There shall no peril, that may be,
Drive me eftsoons to the sea.
Mine adventure here take will I,
Whether it be easeful or angry.’
‘ Brother,’ said the King, ‘ let it be as you say. It is
good to take what God sends to us, disease or ease, pain
Then, in the darkness of the night, the Scots attacked
the English and defeated them. Lord Percy, hearing a
great noise, and not knowing how strong the Scottish
146 SCOTLAND S STORY
army might be, did not dare to fight. He shut himself
up in the castle until he found an opportunity to leave it
and flee to England.
The tide had begun to turn.
But the King had yet many adventures to pass
through, many misfortunes to endure. To tell all the
stories of these adventures would take too long, so I can
only tell a few. Perhaps, when you are older, you will
read a book called The Bruce which was written by a
man named Barbour, who lived soon after the time of
Bruce. There you will find all the stories.
Bruce was now much in need of more soldiers, so he
sent two of his brothers to bring men from Ireland.
There they gathered seven hundred, and set sail once more
for Scotland. But, as they landed, they were attacked
and utterly defeated by a Scottish chieftain who was
fighting for the English. Many were slain, many were
drowned in the sea, and the rest were taken prisoner.
Among these were Bruce‘s two brothers, whom Edward
at once put to death. Thus, within the space of a few
months, the King had lost three brothers, besides many
He had lost, too, the help of the Irish soldiers. Again
his little army was scattered, again he was hunted from
place to place, his enemies trying to take him in many
ways, by force or by treachery.
Among Bruce’s own men there was an ugly one-eyed
villain. Bruce had been warned against this man, but
still he trusted him and believed him to be faithful. But
the man was greedy, and when the English offered him
money if he would kill Bruce, he consented to do it.
So this wicked man waited until he could find Bruce
alone, that he might the more easily kill him.
One morning, as Bruce walked in the woods, accom-
THE KING TRIES AGAIN 147
panied only by a little page, he met the one-eyed villain
with his two sons. One was armed with a sword and
spear, the other with a sword and battle-axe, and the
man himself held a drawn sword in his hand.
King Robert had not expected to meet with any
enemies, so he wore no armour and carried no weapon
except his sword, without which he never went anywhere.
His little page had a bow and one arrow. Now, when
the King saw these three men coming towards him with
fierce looks and in their hands drawn swords, he knew
that what he had been told was true, and that the one-
eyed villain was a traitor.
‘What weapon have you there?’ he asked, turning
quickly to the page.
‘ A bow and one arrow, sire,’ said the boy.
‘Then give them to me,’ said the King, ‘and stand
back a little and watch. If I get the better of these
traitors, I will give you weapons enough in return. If I
am killed, then run as fast as you can to save yourself,
and tell my men what has happened to me.’
The boy did as he was told, although he would have
liked to fight for his master and shoot the arrow himself.
While Bruce had been speaking, the three men had
been coming nearer and nearer. Now they were quite
close. ‘Stop,’ cried the King, ‘move not another step
if you value your lives.’
‘ Sire,’ replied the old man, ‘ why do you greet me
with such words? Surely you know that I love you.
Who should be nearer to you than I ? ‘
‘ Traitor,’ replied the King, ‘ you have sold my life for
English gold. Come one step nearer and you shall die.’
As he spoke the King fitted his arrow to the bow and
took aim at the one-eyed man. Seeing the King stand
there so fierce and bold, the man hesitated. Then he
thought of the English gold which had been promised
to him. ‘ After all,’ he said to himself, ‘ it is but one man
to three. Surely we can conquer him.’ So he made a
step forward. That moment the bow string twanged and
the man fell dead, pierced through his single eye, for
Bruce was a splendid archer and never missed his aim.
With yells of anger, the two sons sprang upon the
King. But quick as lightning, he threw away his bow,
and drew his sword.
One son raised his battle-axe, but as he did so his foot
slipped. He missed his aim, and before he could recover
himself he fell dead, pierced through the heart by the
King’s mighty sword. The spear of the second son was
levelled at Bruce, but with one great blow he cut the
wooden shaft of it in two, and with a second struck the
villain’s head from his shoulders.
The fight had lasted but a few minutes. When it
was over, the King put up his sword, looking sadly at the
three dead men. ‘They might have been gallant and
faithful soldiers,’ he said with a sigh, ‘ had they not been
so greedy of gold.’
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