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BRUCE THE OUTLAW
 FROM the woods of the Dee and the Don, Bruce and his little band wandered to the wilds of the west
The fish and game that they caught were their chief food, for the people feared the English king too
much to feed his enemies. Often they were hungry; always they were in danger.
At length they came to the country of Lorn, but John MacDougall, Lord of Lorn, was uncle of the Red
Comyn, and with 1000 men came out to slay the Bruce and those with him.
At a place still called Dalry—the King's Field—there was a fierce fight. Bruce lost
several of his men, and the Black Douglas was wounded. Fearing that his little army would be cut in
pieces, Bruce made them retreat through a narrow pass, "between a loch side and a brae." He himself
came last of all, and all those of the enemy who tried to force their way through the pass in
pursuit fell before his sword.
 Three brothers named Macindrosser, or "sons of the doorkeeper," swore they would slay the Bruce.
One of them snatched at his bridle rein, but Bruce shore his arm off by the shoulder and he bled to
death. The second gripped him by the leg. Rising in his stirrups, Bruce drove his spurs into his
horse's sides, and the horse, rearing upwards, dashed down the man with its hoofs. As he tried to
rise, down swept the Bruce's sword and cleft his head in two. The third leaped up behind Bruce on
his horse, and grasped him so tightly by his mantle that the king could not swing his long sword.
But from behind him, with a grasp of iron, and muscles all a-strain, Bruce dragged the man, and with
one great blow of his battle-axe dashed out his brains.
The dead man's hand still clung to the Bruce's mantle with so firm a clasp that Bruce had to undo
the great brooch that fastened it, and leave it to be a possession of the MacDougalls of Lorn even
to this day.
After the defeat of Dalry, Bruce's followers grew very down-hearted. But always he would cheer them
and keep them from despair.
"Think how many men have been in far harder straits than we," he said, "and yet God
 helped them through. Let us bravely withstand our foes, and prefer death to a coward's life."
Then he would tell them stories of the heroes of old, and of all the hard things they had to do and
to endure before victory was theirs.
But although men were able to hold out through their wanderings in lonely places, often without
food, always without a right house to sleep in, it was more than women could do. Winter was coming
on; the autumn nights were long and chill; the woods no longer gave much shelter, and the bitter
sleet showers drenched them through. Their strength gave in, and Bruce was forced to say good-bye to
his wife and little daughter, and send them and the other ladies to his castle of Kildrummie in
Aberdeenshire. His youngest brother, Nigel, went with them, and the parting was a sad one between
Bruce and those that he loved so dearly. As he watched his wife ride off on his own horse that he
had given to her, he little thought that it would be nine long years before they met again.
From England, meantime, a great army, led by the Prince of Wales and many of his new-made knights,
They were a gallant company. Their armour was magnificent. Their clothing was of the
 finest silk. The prince's pennons were of beaten gold. Lest the wild Scots should give him too
little sport, he took his falcons with him, and amused himself by hawking, netting partridges,
playing dice, and jesting with his court fool. A lion was a part of his escort.
Nigel Bruce, with the ladies under his care, safely reached Kildrummie. It was a strong castle, and
they had plenty of provisions, so that when the prince and his great army came to besiege it, Nigel
was not afraid.
Again and again the besiegers were driven back. But one of the garrison of the castle was a base
traitor. Into their store of grain he threw a red-hot ploughshare, and with a rush and a roar, and
with blinding clouds of smoke, the flames blazed up. The garrison ran to the battlements to escape
being burned alive, but the fire was too fierce for the English to take the castle, and the Scots
defended it gallantly. But now they had two foes to fight. Outside were the English; inside was
starvation. The greedy flames had devoured their stores. At day-break next morning tire Scots were
forced to surrender.
Before the siege the queen, Princess Marjory, the Bruce's sisters, and some others had sought refuge
in a monastery at Tain. They were now
 given up to the English, and taken to England to drag out the weary days in "cages," like those in
which the Countess of Buchan was imprisoned.
Sir Nigel Bruce, a handsome, gallant boy, was taken, with several other knights, to Berwick. There
he was hanged, drawn, and beheaded.
Later on, two of the Bruce's other brothers, Thomas and Alexander, while on their way to Carrick,
were taken prisoners, and put to death at Carlisle in the same cruel way as' their young brother.
When the Bruce had parted from his wife and little girl, he and his followers, on foot, and not 200
in all, kept to the hills in the west. From hunger and cold and wet they suffered sadly, and at
length it was decided to make for the Mull of Kintyre, away to the south.
HE READ TO THEM AN OLD ROMANCE.
Sir Niall Campbell, whose country it was, was sent on before them to get boats and food, and to meet
them at the Firth of Clyde.
Meantime Bruce and the rest of his company came by Loch Lomond, where good hiding was to be had in
the thick woods of fir and hazel and birch, where the bracken grows feet high. But on the shores of
the loch no boat was to be found. Round and round the loch side they searched in vain, until at last
Douglas came on
 a little water-logged boat sunk near the shore. Speedily it was brought to land and baled out, but
it was so small that only three men could go in it at a time. Some of the hardy men of the hills
swam across, their arms and clothes tied in bundles on their heads, and in a day and a night the
others were ferried over. It was winter weather, the men were tired and hungry, and the boat could
not have been oversafe. But the king made light of all discomforts, and cheered up those with whom
he crossed by reading to them an old romance of a brave knight called Ferambras, and of the trials
Next day the Earl of Lennox, whose lands lay at the other side of the loch, heard that poachers were
out after the deer in his woods, and went off to catch them. Soon he heard the sound of a horn, and
at once he knew that it was the King of Scotland who gave that ringing call. He hastened through the
woods to where the Bruce had slain a deer, and when they met he wept for joy, while Bruce—
"For pity wept again
That never of meeting was so fain."
When the Bruce and his hungry followers had had more and better food spread before them than they
had seen for many a day, they, and
 Lennox with them, went on to the shores of Clyde. They found Niall Campbell awaiting them with a
little fleet of boats, well stocked with food.
Great strong fists that had been well used to hold spears now held oars. Well and steadily the men
rowed across the cold grey water, past the isle of Arran, to Kintyre in the western sea.
The Earl of Lennox, with his little galley, let the others be well on their way before he started.
He had not long left the land when, behind him, he saw the galleys of the Bruce's enemy, John of
Lorn, coming in hot pursuit. Quickly they gained on him, and Lennox threw one piece of his luggage
overboard after another to lighten his boat. The greedy men of Lorn could not bear to see such
plunder drift past without stopping to pick it up.
Each time they stopped meant a gain for Lennox, and speedily the lightened boat cut through the
water until the galleys of the enemy were only specks, far away.
Angus, Lord of-Kintyre, gave Bruce and his followers a kind welcome, and for three days they stayed
with him at his castle of Dunaverty, on a steep cliff above the sea.
It was lucky for Bruce that on the third day
 he left Kintyre for Rachrin (now Rathlin), a bleak and wind-swept little island on the Irish coast.
For, while his boats were still fighting their way westward, through rough seas and stormy weather,
Lorn's galleys had come to Kintyre, and very soon an English army was besieging Dunaverty.
At Rachrin news came to the Bruce of the taking of Kildrummie, the imprisonment of his wife and
little daughter, and the execution of his brave young brother.
It was a dreary winter for the hunted king. All Scotland swarmed with his enemies. His brothers and
some of his truest friends had been slain. His wife, child, and sisters were in captivity. He and
his handful of true men had to shelter in the poorest of huts, amongst the wild Irish people, who
were then almost savages, and from whom they could only get food of the roughest.
It was at this time, when despair must have been very near him, that a story that you must know well
is told of Robert the Bruce.
One day he sat in the wretched little cabin of turf that was then his home, wondering if it would
not be best, after all, to give up his fight for Scotlail that seemed to pass from one
 failure to another, and to go with the Douglas and his other friends to fight against the Saracens.
He might then, he thought, win forgiveness from his Church for the murder of Comyn. Just then he
noticed a spider dangling down on its silvery thread. This spider was trying to swing itself across
from one cobwebbed rafter to another, but each time it tried, it failed. Six times did Bruce count
"Six times," thought he, "and six times have I also been defeated. If the little spider has the
patience to try again, then why should not I?"
Eagerly he watched it dangling, and once again it tried. The seventh attempt swung it to the place
where it wished to be, and it went happily on with its work, little knowing that it had settled the
fate of a kingdom.
A seventh time Bruce also tried, and victory from that time was his.
And that is why people who live north of the Tweed will always try to prevent you from killing a
Meantime the Black Douglas grew weary of a winter spent in doing nothing on an Irish island, while
there was plenty of fighting to be had in his own Scottish land.
"Let us cross to Arran," he said to another knight, Sir Robert Boyd. " nstead of idly living
 on food brought us by the poor people of Rachrin, we will go to Brodick Castle and see what our
swords will gain for us there."
They got leave from the king, crossed to Kintyre, and at nightfall rowed past the land and on to
Day had not dawned when they reached the island and drew their boat ashore. Under one of those banks
where hazels and silver birches and heather and bog myrtle come so near the shore that on stormy
days they are lashed with the salt sea spray, they hid the boat. They were wet and weary and hungry,
but through the night they tramped on, till they came to Brodick Castle, under the shadow of Goat
The English knight who kept the castle had with him many guests. On the evening of the night before
three boats, laden with stores, clothing, wines, and food for the castle, arrived in Brodick Bay.
From their hiding-place Douglas and his men watched the sailors and some of the garrison unlading
these boats and toiling up to the castle laden with stores. Then, from the trees, there burst a
little band of fierce fighting men.
"A Douglas! a Douglas!" they cried, and those who did not fall before their swords fled in
confusion, leaving behind them so handsome a store
 of arms, food, wines, and clothing, that the Scots had enough to enable them to hold out for many a
week against the English garrison.
News of the Douglas's successful raid was sent to Rachrin, and ten days later the Bruce and the rest
of his men arrived in thirty-three small galleys.
He asked a woman of the island if she had seen any armed strangers, and she led him to a wooded
"Here I saw the men you ask after," said she. Bruce blew on his horn three blasts that echoed up the
"That is the king!" cried Douglas, "I know his blast of old!"
Joyfully they hastened to greet the Bruce.
"And blithely welcomed them the king,
That joyful was of their meeting."
In Arran, with its hills and moors, and deep wooded glens and corries, Bruce might for long have
withstood his enemies.
But five-and-twenty miles across the sea, to the south-east, lay the Bruce's own land of Carrick. On
clear days, from the Arran hills, he could trace each outline of the coast, and even see the blue
smoke rising up from the chimneys at Turnberry, the castle that, in spite of the King of England, he
called his own.
 When birds were singing in the bushes, and the blackthorns were in bloom, the Bruce sent to Carrick
a spy, one Cuthbert.
"If the people of Carrick are my friends," said the Bruce, "then on the day I now fix make a fire on
Turnberry Nook, that we may know that it is safe for us to cross over."
But when Cuthbert got to his king's own land he found that no man dared own Robert the Bruce as his
Turnberry Castle was held by an English knight, Sir Henry Percy, with 300 men, and the poor people
so feared him that they dared do nothing to displease him.
"I can light no fire," thought Cuthbert, and sadly waited for a chance of returning to Arran. But
chance did for the Bruce what Cuthbert left undone.
How it happened, no one knows, but on the night that Bruce and his men eagerly looked. across the
sea to Turnberry for a red blaze rushing skywards, there was a mistake made such as was made in
Scotland 500 years later, when the "False Alarm" showed all Europe the stuff of which Scotsmen are
The Bruce's heart must have beat fast when he saw the red glare. No time was lost in starting their
boats, and all night they rowed.
 It was still dark when they landed, and were met by Cuthbert with woe on his face.
"There are only enemies here, Sir King," he said. "The fire was never kindled by me."
Then the king held a council with his knights.
"What is best for us to do?" he asked.
Up spoke his brother Edward, as strong a man as the Bruce himself, and one who was ever more rash.
"I have had enough of the sea!" said Edward Bruce. "Come good, come ill, I take my adventure here."
To this the Bruce agreed.
In the hamlet round the castle, all was dark and silent. In the darkness the Scots were able to slip
noiselessly upon the sleeping English, who only knew that death was upon them when fierce hands were
on their throats and swords at their hearts.
In the castle Sir Henry Percy heard the cries of dying men and the din of fighting. But he and his
garrison dared not come out to face what seemed to them, in the blackness of night, an enormous
With Percy's horses, and much other rich spoil of silver, arms, and clothing, Bruce and his men
hastened deeper into the wilds of Carrick, to find fastnesses in the wooded hills.