ROBERT THE BRUCE—HOW THE SCOTS CARRIED THE
WAR INTO ENGLAND
For some years after Bannockburn, King Robert ruled
Scotland wisely and well. The war with England still
went on, but it was the Scots who won the battles.
At last King Robert became very ill. He could no
longer sit upon a horse or lead his soldiers to battle, but
he still thought, and planned, and ruled his kingdom,
living quietly in his castle near the river Clyde.
About this time Edward II. of England was dethroned,
and his son, Edward iii., was crowned instead. Robert the
Bruce, having sent a message to the new King, telling him
that he would invade England, gathered an army and sent
it across the Border. Randolph and Douglas commanded
this army, which was about twenty thousand strong.
The men wore little armour, and were mounted upon
rough ponies, so that they moved about from place to
place far more quickly than the heavy English horse.
The ponies were so swift and sure footed, that they
could go through valleys and among hills where the
English found it impossible to follow with their heavy
Besides his weapons, each man carried a bag of oat
meal and an iron girdle. A girdle is a flat, round piece of
iron, something like a frying pan without sides, upon
which scones and oatcakes are baked. Except their bags
180 SCOTLAND’S STORY
of oatmeal, the Scots carried no other provisions, for they
were always sure of finding cattle in the country through
which they passed. They used to kill these and cook
the flesh. But they carried neither pots nor pans. They
boiled the flesh in the skins, which they made into pots by
slinging them on crossed sticks, very much as gipsies sling
their big, black, round pots at the present day.
After a day‘s march, the ponies were turned loose to
graze. Bullocks were killed and skinned. Water and
beef were put into the bag-pots, fires were lit under them ;
every man brought out his girdle and oatmeal, and after
a supper of boiled beef and oatcakes, the men lay down
to sleep round the warm camp fires.
In this way, the Scots moved from place to place,
burning and destroying at will, and pursued by the
English, who tried in vain to come up with them. The
English could often see the smoke of the Scots’ fires as
they followed them over hill and dale, till, weary and
hungry, they encamped for the night, hoping next
morning to catch the Scots. Day by day this went on,
till the English army was well-nigh exhausted.
Sometimes during the march there would be a cry.
Those behind, thinking that at last the enemy was in
sight, would hurry forward with drawn swords in their
hands, ready to fight. But, after having run for a mile or
so over hill and valley, they would find that what had
aroused their hope was only a herd of deer or wild cattle,
which fled swiftly away before the army.
Wandering about in this manner, the English leaders
lost their way, and one day, just as the sun was setting,
they arrived at the river Tyne. This they crossed with
great difficulty, and lay down for the night on the bank.
The men had only a loaf of bread each to eat, and there
was nothing but water from the river to drink. They had
THE WAR CARRIED INTO ENGLAND 181
no hatchets to cut down wood, so they could make neither
fire nor light. Wet and hungry, they lay down to sleep,
wearing their armour, and holding their horses by the
bridle, lest they should stray during the night.
In the morning, some peasants passing, told them that
they were eleven leagues from the nearest town. Hearing
this, the King immediately sent messengers to the town
with a proclamation, saying that any one who wished to
earn some money, had only to bring provisions to the
The next day the messengers returned with what they
could get, which was not much. They were followed,
however, by many of the townspeople, who brought badly
baked bread, and poor, thin wine, for which they made
the soldiers pay very dearly. Even then, there was not
enough for every one, and the men would often quarrel
fiercely over a piece of meat or loaf of bread, snatching
it out of each others’ hands. To add to the discomfort, it
began to rain, and kept on raining for a whole week.
Hungry, cold, and wet, the soldiers began to grumble
bitterly. Still there was no sign of the Scots.
At last the King made a proclamation, that any one
who could find the Scots should have a hundred pounds
a year, and be made a knight Upon that, about fifteen
or sixteen gentlemen leaped upon their horses, and rode
off in different directions, eager to win the reward.
Four days later, a gentleman came galloping back to
the King. ‘ Sire,’ he cried, ‘ I bring you news of the
Scots. They are three leagues from this place, lodged in
a mountain, where they have been this week, waiting for
you. You may trust me, this is true. For I went so
near to them, that I was made prisoner, and taken before
their leaders. I told them where you were, and that you
were seeking them to give battle. The lords gave me my
182 SCOTLAND’S STORY
liberty, on condition that I rested not until I found you,
and told you that they were waiting, and as eager to meet
you in battle as you can be to meet them.’
As soon as the King heard this news, he ordered his
army to march forward. About noon next day they came
in sight of the Scots. But when they saw in what a
strong position the long-looked-for enemy lay, they were
very much disheartened.
The Scots were encamped upon a mountain, at the
foot of which flowed a strong, rapid river. The river
would be difficult and dangerous to cross. If the English
did cross, there was no room between the mountain and
the river for them to form into line. Seeing this, King
Edward sent his heralds to ask the Scots to come down
into the plain, and fight in the open.
Douglas and Randolph replied that they would do
no such thing. ‘ King Edward and his barons see,’ they
said, ‘ that we are in his kingdom. We burn and pillage
wherever we pass. If that is displeasing to the King, he
may come and amend it, for we will tarry here as long as
it pleases us.’
Seeing that the Scots would not come out of their
stronghold, King Edward resolved to starve them out.
For three days and nights, his army lay in front of the
Scots. But the Scots had plenty to eat, they had comfort
able huts and great fires, whereas the English lay opposite
in cold and hunger, without shelter or proper food.
But on the fourth morning, when the English King
looked towards the Scottish camp, behold it was empty.
Not a man was left. They had decamped secretly at
Immediately, Edward sent scouts on horseback to
search for them. About four o‘clock in the afternoon,
they came back with news. The Scots were encamped
THE WAR CARRIED INTO ENGLAND 183
upon another mountain, in a far stronger position than
So again the English marched forward, and took up a
position opposite the Scots.
That night the English camp was suddenly aroused by
the fierce war-cry, ‘ Douglas I Douglas ! Ye shall die, ye
thieves of England.’
It was Lord James Douglas with two hundred men,
who had silently left the Scottish camp, and, finding the
English keeping but careless watch, dashed suddenly upon
Three hundred Englishmen were killed, and the King
narrowly escaped. Douglas reached his tent, and cutting
the ropes, tried to carry off the King in the confusion-
But his servants stood bravely round their master, and
the camp being now thoroughly aroused, Douglas was
obliged to call his men together, and escape. After this,
the English kept a strong and careful watch, but the
Scots did not again attempt to surprise them.
For three weeks the English lay watching the Scots,
hoping to starve them out During this time the Scots
were not idle. Behind them was a marsh, and while the
English watched in front, they were busy making a road
through the marsh behind. One morning, behold, again
the Scottish camp was empty I
Two Scottish trumpeters alone remained. ‘ My lords,’
they said, coming to the English camp, ‘why do you
watch here ? You do but lose your time, for we swear
by our heads that the Scots are on their homeward march,
and are now four or five leagues off. They left us here
to tell you this.’
The English were very angry with this message, and
on going to the Scottish camp they found that what the
trumpeters told them was only too true. Not a Scot
184 SCOTLAND’S STORY
was to be seen. They had vanished in the night, but
they had left behind them many signs that they had
been by no means starving. In the deserted camp there
lay the dead bodies of many cattle, which the Scots had
killed because they could not take them away, as they
moved too slowly. There were hundreds of fires laid,
ready to light, under skin pots filled with meat and water.
There were thousands of pairs of worn-out shoes. These
shoes the Scots used to make out of the raw, rough hide
of the bullocks which they killed for food. They wore
them with the hairy side out, and from that were often
called ‘ the rough footed Scots,’ or ‘ red shanks.’
Besides these things, the English found a few prisoners
whom the Scots had taken, and whom they had now left
behind tied to trees. They also left a message saying that
if the King of England were displeased with what they
had done, he might follow them to Scotland and fight
But Edward had no wish to follow so wily a foe, and
he turned southward and disbanded his army.
Shortly afterwards a peace was made between the two
countries, and a treaty was signed at Northampton. By
this treaty the English King gave up all claim to Scotland,
and acknowledged Robert the Bruce to be the rightful
King. It was also arranged that Edward’s young sister
should marry Bruce’s son. And so at last the land
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