Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/190

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[1306 A.D.-
Robert the Bruce.

Cuthbert found everything as bad as could be. Henry de Percy lay in Bruce's own house of Turnberry, with a garrison of three hundred; English troops swarmed in all parts of the land, and, worst of all, the people were, some indifferent, others ill-disposed, to the cause of Bruce. So Cuthbert lit no fire.

Somebody else did, though, for it was the season of "muirburn," as they still call it in Scotland, when farmers burn the heather and gorse on their pastures. A chance blaze near Turnberry at the appointed hour deceived King Robert, who at once commanded his men to launch the galleys, and they rowed all night, steering for the fire. Landing before daybreak near Turnberry, they were met by the faithful Cuthbert, for he too had seen the light, and, distracted with fear lest thereby the King should be lured to his undoing, lay on the shore to warn him of his danger.

A council of war was held. Matters were, in truth, at a critical pass. Edward de Brus vowed he had had enough sea-faring, and, come what might, he would risk his fortune on land. Three hundred hungry desperadoes need little persuasion to action. It was still dark, and all was silent in the hamlet surrounding the castle. Bruce led his men along the causeway he knew so well. Not a scabbard rattled; the Highlanders, shod in deerskin brogues, moved as noiselessly as wildcats. Some of Percy's men lay outside the castle, in the cottages, but none stirred till, with a wild war-cry, the Bruce was upon them. The Englishmen were cut down as they struggled