« AnteriorContinuar »
cookery. They made thin shoes, or rather sandals, in as coarse a way, cutting them out of the raw hides of the cattle, and fitting them to their ankles.
As such forces needed to carry nothing with them, either for provisions or ammunition, the Scots moved with amazing speed from mountain to mountain, and from glen to glen, pillaging and destroying the country wherever they came. In the meanwhile, the young King of England (Edward III.) pursued them with a much larger army; but as it was encumbered by the necessity of carrying provisions in large quantities, and by the slow motions of men in heavy armour, they could not come up with the Scots, although they saw every day the smoke of the houses and villages which they were burning. The King of England was extremely angry; for although only a boy of sixteen years old, he longed to fight the Scots, and to chastise them for the mischief they were doing to his country; and at length he grew so impatient, that he offered a large reward to any one who would show him where the Scots were.
At length, after the English host had suffered severe hardships, from want of provisions, and fatiguing journeys through fords and swamps and morasses, a gentleman named Rokeby came into the camp and claimed the reward which the king had offered. He told the king that he had been made prisoner by the Scots, and that they had said they should be as glad to see the English king as he to see them. Accordingly, Rokeby guided the English army to the place where the Scots lay encamped.
But the English king was no nearer to the battle which he desired; for Douglas and Randolph, knowing the force and numbers of the English army, had taken up their camp on a steep hill, at the bottom of which ran a deep river called the Wear, having a channel filled with large stones, so that there was no possibility for the English to attack the Scots without crossing the water, and then climbing up the steep hill in the very face of their enemy; a risk which was too great to be attempted.
Then he sent a message of defiance to the Scottish generals, inviting them either to draw back their forces, and allow him freedom to cross the river, and time to place his army in order of battle on the other side, that they might fight fairly, or offering, if they liked it better, to permit them to cross over to his side without opposition, that they might join battle on a fair field. Douglas and Randolph did nothing but laugh at his message. They said that when they fought, it should be at their own pleasure, and not because the King of England chose to ask for a battle. They reminded him insultingly how they had been in his country for many days, burning, taking spoil, and doing what they thought fit. If the king was displeased with this, they said, he must find his way across the river to fight them the best way he could.
The English king, determined not to quit sight of the Scots, encamped on the opposite side of the river to watch their motions, thinking that want of provisions would oblige them to quit their strong position on the mountains. But the Scots once more showed Edward their dexterity in marching, by leaving their encampment, and taking up another post, even stronger and more difficult to approach than the first which they had occupied. King Edward followed, and again encamped opposite to his dexterous and troublesome enemies, desirous to bring them to a battle, when he might hope to gain an easy victory, having more than double the number of the Scottish army, all troops of the very best quality.
While the armies lay thus opposed to each other, Douglas resolved to give the young King of England a lesson in the art of war. At the dead of night he left the Scottish camp with a small body of chosen horse, not above two hundred, well armed. He crossed the river in deep silence, and came to the English camp, which was but carelessly guarded. Seeing this, Douglas rode passed the English sentinels as if he had been an officer of the English army, saying—“Ha! St George, you keep bad watch here.” In those days, you must know, the English used to swear by St George as the Scots did by St Andrew. Presently after, Douglas heard an English soldier, who lay stretched by the fire, say to his comrade, “I cannot tell what is to happen to us in this place ; but for my part, I have a great fear of the Black Douglas playing us some trick.”
6 You shall have cause to say so,” said Douglas to himself.
When he had thus got into the midst of the English camp without being discovered, he drew his sword and cut asunder the ropes of a tent, calling out his usual war-cry, “ Douglas, Douglas ! English thieves, you are all dead men !” His followers immediately began to cut down and overturn the tents, cutting and stabbing the English soldiers as they endeavoured to get to arms.
Douglas forced his way to the pavilion of the king himself, and very nearly carried that young prince prisoner out of the middle of his great army. Edward's chaplain, however, and many of his household, stood to arms bravely in his defence, while the young king escaped by creeping away beneath the canvas of his tent. The chaplain and several of the king's officers were slain ; but the whole camp was now alarmed and in arms, so that Douglas was forced to retreat, which he did by bursting through the English at the side of the camp opposite to that by which he had entered. Being separated from his men in the confusion, he was in great danger of being slain by an Englishman who encountered him with a great club. This man he killed, but with considerable difficulty; and then blowing his horn to collect his soldiers,
who soon gathered round him, he returned to the Scottish camp, having sustained very little loss.
Edward, much mortified at the insult which he had received, became still more desirous of chastising those audacious adversaries, and one of them at least was not unwilling to afford him an opportunity of revenge. This was Thomas Randolph, Earl of Murray. He asked Douglas, when he returned to the Scottish camp, 66 what he had done?”
66 We have drawn some blood.”
66 Ah!” said the Earl, “ had we all gone together, we should have discom.fited them.”
" It might well have been so,” said Douglas, “ but the risk would have been too great."
" Then we will fight them in open battle,” said Randolph ;“ for if we remain here, we shall in time be famished for want of provisions." “Not so,” replied Douglas; “ we will deal with
; this great army of the English as the fox did with the fisherman in the fable.”
66 And how was that ? said the Earl of Murray.
Hereupon Douglas told him this story :
"A fisherman," he said, “ had made a hut by a river-side, that he might follow his occupation of fishing Now one night he had gone out to look after his nets, leaving a small fire in his hut; and when he came back, behold, there was a fox in the cabin, taking the liberty to eat one of the finest salmon he had taken. 'Ho, Mr Robber!' said the