Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
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 cavalry.
Besides his weapons, each man carried a bag of oatmeal 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
 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 oat-cakes, 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
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
 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 army.
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
 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
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 comfortable 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 midnight.
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
 upon another mountain, in a far stronger position than the last.
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! Douglas! Ye shall die, ye thieves of
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 them.
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!
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
 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 them there.
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 had rest.