Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/251

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1314 A.D.]

The Battle of Bannockburn.


regards the strength of the Scottish host. Barbour puts it at 30,000, but it is difficult to believe that Bruce had anything like that number under arms. Admitting, as nearly all authorities agree to do, that the English army bore to the Scottish the proportion of three to one, it seems reasonable to put the latter at 20,000 at most. Both hosts, no doubt, were followed by a huge swarm of "pitaille"—camp-followers and rascals of all sorts, who always gathered in the wake of mediæval war.

As St. John's day—June 24th—drew near, on which it had been appointed that the destinies of the two nations were to be decided, the King of Scots encamped with all his forces in the Torwood, between Falkirk of gloomy memories and Stirling of happier associations. In the presence of the overwhelming odds brought against him, it must have taxed even his stout spirit and well-proved courage to keep foreboding at bay, when he remembered the result of the last great trial of strength between the hosts of England and Scotland—the overthrow of Wallace at Falkirk. Every advantage gained since the death of the mighty Edward, the future of his country, and his own fate—all were to be put to the hazard of a contest between two vastly unequal armies. But his nerve never forsook him. There were other memories for the King besides those of Falkirk and Dunbar. Stirling Bridge, Loudon Hill, Glentrool—each had taught the same lesson, namely, that military skill in the choice and preparation of position might, and often did, prevail against superiority of numbers and