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“ That from ye now have taken land,
J. Pinkerton, London, 1790.
Note XX. A hunted wanderer on the wild.-P. 81. This is not metaphorical. The echoes of Scotland did actually
A very curious and romantic tale is told by Barbour upon this subject, which may be abridged as follows:
When Bruce had again got footing in Scotland in the spring of 1306, he continued to be in a very weak and precarious condition, gaining, indeed, occasional advantages, but obliged to fly before his enemies whenever they assembled in force. Upon one occasion, while he was lying with a small party in the wilds of Cumnock, in Ayrshire, Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, with his inveterate foe John of Lorn, came against him suddenly with eight hundred Highlanders, besides a large body of men-at-arms. They brought with them a slough-dog, or blood-hound, which, some say, had been once a favourite with the Bruce bimself, and therefore was least likely to lose the trace. Bruce, whose force was under four hundred
continued to make head against the cavalry, till the men of Lorn had nearly cut off his retreat. Perceiving the danger of his situation, he acted as the celebrated and ill-requited Mina is said to have done in similar circumstances. He divided his force into three parts, appointed a place of rendezvous, and commanded them to retreat by different routes. But when John of Lorn arrived at the spot where they divided, he caused the hound to be put upon the trace, which immediately directed him to the pursuit of that party which Bruce headed. This, therefore, Lorn pursued with his whole force, paying no attention to the others. The king again subdivided his small body into three parts, and with the same result, for the pursuers attached themselves exclusively to that which he led in person. He then caused his followers to disperse, and retained only his foster-brother in his company. The slough-dog followed the trace, and, neglecting
the others, attached himself and his attendants to pursuit of the king. Lorn became convinced that his enemy was nearly in his power, and detached five of his most active attendants to follow him, and interrupt his flight. They did so with all the agility of mountaineers. " What aid wilt thou make ?" said Bruce to his single attendant, when he saw the five men gain ground on him. “ The best I can,” replied his foster-brother. “ Then,” said Bruce, “ here I make my stand.” The five pursuers came up fast. The king took three to himself, leaving the other two to his foster-brother. He slew the first who en. countered him ; but observing his foster-brother hard pressed, he sprung to his assistance and dispatched one of his assailants. Leaving him to deal with the survivor, he returned upon the other two, both of whom he slew before his foster-brother had dispatched his single antagonist. When this hard encounter was over, with a courtesy, which in the whole work marks Bruce's character, he thanked his foster-brother for his aid. “ It likes you to say so," answered his follower ; “ but you yourself slew four of the five.” “ True,” said the king, “ but only because I had better opportunity than you. They were not apprehensive of me when they saw me encounter three, so I had a moment's time to spring to thy aid, and to return equally unexpectedly upon my own opponents.”
In the meanwhile Lorn's party approached rapidly, and the king and his foster-brother betook themselves to a neighbouring wood. Here they sat down, for Bruce was exhausted by fatigue, until the cry of the slough-hound came so near, that his foster-brother entreated Brace to provide for his safety by retreating farther. “ I have heard,” answered the king, “ that whosoever will wade a bow-shot length down a running stream, shall make the slough-hound lose scent.-Let us try the experiment; for were yon devilish hound silenced, I should care little for the rest.”
Lorn in the meanwhile advanced, and found the bodies of his slain vassals, over whom he made his moan, and threatened the most deadly vengeance. Then he followed the hound to the side of the brook, down which the king had waded a great way. Here the hound was at fault, and John of Lorn, after long attempting in vain to recover Bruce's trace, relinquished the pursuit.
“ Others,” says Barbour, “ affirm, that upon this occasion the king's life was saved by an excellent archer who accompa. nied him, and who perceiving they would be finally taken by means of the blood-hound, hid himself in a thicket, and shot him with an arrow. In which way,” adds the metrical biographer, “ this escape happened I am uncertain, but at that brook the king escaped from his pursuers."
66 When the chasers rallied were,
And said, “ He is greatly to prise,
BARBOUR's Bruce, p. 188.
The English historians agree with Barbour as to the mode in which the English pursued Bruce and his followers, and the dexterity with which he evaded them. The following is the testimony of Harding, a great enemy to the Scottish nation :
“ The King Edward with host him sought full sore,
The King Edward with hornes and houndes him sought,