ROBERT THE BRUCE—THE TAKING OF PERTH
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, he resolved, old and feeble though he was, to come
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
he died. But that was not to be, and at a place called
Burgh-on-Sands, within sight of the Scottish Border, he
died. When he felt that he was dying, when he knew
that his dearest wish could never be fulfilled, that he
would never conquer Scotland, never be received as Scot-
land‘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
me 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 Scots.’
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 promise.
When his father was dead, the Prince sent his body
THE TAKING OF PERTH 159
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 EngHsh 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
For a time, however, little could be done, for Bruce
became very ill, and without their great leader the soldiers
had no heart to fight.
‘ 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, he rose from his bed, and in
160 SCOTLAND’S STORY
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
‘ 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
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
THE TAKING OF PERTH 161
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 he would, he
could not take it.
One night, however, the King crept unseen close up to
the walls. He carefully examined the moat, and dis-
covered 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.
162 SCOTLAND’S STORY
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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