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English horse seemed entirely to encompass the small handful of Scottish infantry. “So please you,” said Douglas to the king, “my heart will not suffer me to stand idle and see Randolph perish–I must go to his assistance.” He rode off accordingly; but long before they had reached the place of combat, they saw the English horses galloping off, many with empty saddles.
“Halt!” cried Douglas to his men, “Randolph has gained the day; since we were not soon enough to help him in the battle, do not let us lessen his glory by approaching the field.” Now that was nobly done, especially as Douglas and Randolph were always contending which should rise highest in the good opinion of the king and the nation.
The van of the English army now came in sight, and a number of their bravest knights drew near to see what the Scots were doing. They saw King Robert dressed in his armour, and distinguished by a gold crown, which he wore over his helmet. He was not mounted on his great warhorse, because he did not expect to fight that evening. But he rode a little pony up and down the ranks of his army, putting his men in order ; and carried in his hand a sort of battle-axe made of steel. When the king saw the English horsemen draw
he advanced a little before his own men, that he might look at them more nearly.
There was a knight among the English, called Sir Henry de Bohun, who thought this would be a good opportunity to gain great fame to himself, and put an end to the war, by killing King Robert. The king being poorly mounted, and having no lance, Bohun galloped on him suddenly and furiously, thinking, with his long spear, and his tall, powerful horse, easily to bear him down to the ground. King Robert saw him, and permitted him to come very near; then suddenly turned his pony a little to one side, so that Sir Henry missed him with the lance-point, and was in the act of being carried past him by the career of his horse. But as he passed, King Robert rose up in his stirrups, and struck Sir Henry on the head with his battle-axe so terrible a blow, that it broke to pieces his iron helmet as if it had been a nutshell, and hurled him from his saddle. He was dead before he reached the ground. This gallant action was blamed by the Scottish leaders, who thought Bruce ought not to have exposed himself to so much danger when the safety of the whole army depended on him. The king only kept looking at his weapon, which was injured by the force of the blow, and said, “I have broken my good battle-axe."
The next morning, being the 24th of June, at break of day the battle began in terrible earnest. The English, as they advanced, saw the Scots getting into line. The Abbot of Inchaffray walked through their ranks barefooted, and exhorted them to fight for their freedom. They kneeled down as he passed, and prayed to Heaven for victory. King Edward, who saw this, cried out, They kneel down !—they are asking forgiveness !” “Yes,' said an English baron; “but they ask it from God, not from us—these men will conquer, or die upon the field.”
The English king ordered his men to begin the battle. The archers then bent their bows, and began to shoot so closely together, that the arrows fell like flakes of snow on a Christmas day. They killed many of the Scots, and might, as at Falkirk and other places, have decided the victory ; but Bruce, as I told you before, was prepared for them. He had in readiness a body of men-at-arms, well mounted, who rode at full gallop among the archers; and as they had no weapons save their bows and arrows, which they could not use when they were attacked hand to hand, they were cut down in great numbers by the Scottish horsemen, and thrown into total confusion. The fine English cavalry then advanced to support their archers, and to attack the Scottish line. But coming over the ground which was dug full of pits, the horses fell into these holes, and the riders lay tumbling about, without any means of defence, and unable to rise from the weight of their armour. The Englishmen began to fall into general disorder; and the Scottish king, bringing up more of his forces, attacked and pressed them still more closely.
On a sudden, while the battle was obstinately maintained on both sides, an event happened which decided the victory. The servants and attendants in the Scottish camp had, as I told you, been sent behind the army to a place called afterwards the Gillie's (or servant's) Hill. But when they saw that their masters were likely to gain the day, they rushed from their place of concealment with such weapons as they could get, that they might have their share in the victory, and in the spoil. The English, seeing them come suddenly over the hill, mistook this disorderly rabble for another army coming to sustain the Scots, and losing heart, began to shift, every man for himself. King Edward left the field as fast as he could ride. A valiant knight, Sir Giles de Argentine, much renowned in the wars of Palestine, attended the king until he got him out of the press of the combat. But he would retreat no farther. 66 It is not my custom," he said, “ to fly.” With that he took leave of the king, set spurs to his horse, and calling out his war-cry of “ Argentine! Argentine!” he rushed into the thickest of the Scottish ranks, and was killed.
Edward fled first to Stirling Castle, and entreated admittance; but the governor reminded him that he was obliged to surrender the castle the next day. So Edward was fain to fly through the Torwood, closely pursued by Douglas with a body of cavalry. He did not even give King Edward time to alight from horseback even for an instant, but followed him as far as Dunbar, where the English had still a friend in the governor, Patrick, Earl of March. The Earl received Edward in his forlorn condition, and furnished him with a fishing-skiff, or small ship, in which he escaped to
England, having entirely lost his fine army, great number of his bravest nobles.
The English never before or afterwards, whether in France or Scotland, lost so dreadful a battle as that of Bannockburn, nor did the Scots ever gain one of the same importance. Many of the best and bravest of the English nobility and gentry, as I have said, lay dead on the field ; a great many more were made prisoners ; and the whole of Edward's immense army was dispersed or destroyed.
The English, after this great defeat, were no longer in a condition to support their pretensions to be masters of Scotland, or to continue, as they had done for nearly twenty years, to send armies into that country to overcome it. On the contrary, they became for a time scarce able to defend their own frontiers against King Robert and his soldiers.
100.-PLEASURES OF COUNTRY LIFE.
Let me live harmlessly, and near the brink
Of Trent or Avon have a dwelling-place, Where I may see my quill or cork down sink
With eager bite of perch, or bleak, or dace, And on the world and my Creator think; Whilst some men strive ill-gotten goods