Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/225

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1313 A.D.]
Campaigns of Edward II.

two to one, allowed them to decamp unmolested, and reach Strathbogie, where the sick King rested for some days. Thence, as he began to get stronger, they moved him to his old quarters at Inverurie, preferring the risk of being attacked in the plains to the certainty of starvation in the hills.

Buchan, with Sir David de Brechin and Sir John de Moubray, lay at Old Meldrum. On Christmas Eve, 1307, de Brechin beat up Bruce's quarters at Inverurie at daybreak, slaying some of the outposts and driving the rest into the village. The news of this brush with the enemy acted like a tonic on the sick King, who declared it did him more good than all the drugs they had been giving him—not, perhaps, an extravagant statement, if account be taken of the state of chirurgery in the fourteenth century.

For several months after this we hear no more of either Bruce or Buchan. It is quite likely that Buchan's inactivity was the result of the growing popularity of Bruce and the idea of independence. Failing some such reason, it seems amazing that such a favourable chance of capturing or crushing the King of Scots was allowed to slip. Barbour, whose faithfulness in recording numbers has already been noticed, puts Bruce's force at no more than 700, and great must have been the difficulty of supporting even so small a number, had the country been generally hostile. Whatever may have been his excuse, Buchan was to pay a heavy price for his want of vigour. The King of Scots, by this time convalescent, surprised him at Old Meldrum on May 22, 1308, routed his men, and then proceeded to lay waste his lands