Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/164

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[1304 A.D.-
Robert the Bruce.

de Brus and put certain questions to him. Afterwards, Edward, having drunk more wine than was good for him, let out to some of his lords that he meant to put the Earl of Carrick to death. Next, the Earl of Gloucester employed a messenger to deliver to his friend and cousin de Brus, twelve pence and a pair of spurs, which de Brus rightly interpreted into a hint to fly. Other versions of the tale describe how, snow having fallen, de Brus caused his farrier to shoe his horses with the wrong ends of the shoes foremost, a somewhat shallow artifice to delude his pursuers, and started for Scotland, accompanied only by his secretary and a groom. When about to cross the Western Marches, he noticed a foot-passenger of suspicious appearance, whom he stopped and caused to be searched. He was found to be the bearer of letters from John Comyn to King Edward, urging the death or instant imprisonment of the Earl of Carrick. The unlucky messenger was beheaded on the spot; de Brus pressed forward and arrived at his castle of Lochmaben on the seventh day out of London.

It is futile to attempt to sift the true from the false in this story. It is likely enough that Comyn, who must have been aware of de Brus's pretensions, would do his best to bring them to nought, seeing that, if the crown of Scotland were to be disposed of, he himself had the better claim. But there exists one piece of evidence to show that de Brus stood high in Edward's favour up to the very eve of his crime, namely, that on February 8, 1306, the King directed that the scutage, due by de Brus on