Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/258

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[1314 A.D.
Robert the Bruce.

the minds of superstitious soldiers cannot be overestimated, happening as it did on the eve of a pitched battle, for which a whole year had been spent in preparation. It is easy to believe that, as Barbour describes, Bruce's barons hotly remonstrated with him for having risked so much and imperilled a life of such supreme value; but it is equally easy to imagine to what pitch of confidence and enthusiasm the Scottish soldiers were raised, by this display of personal courage and feat of arms, enacted on that bright summer noon, in plain view of the English and Scottish troops. It is said that King Robert met the reproaches of his barons by observing that it was indeed a pity he had broken his good battle-axe.

While Gloucester menaced the front of the Scottish position, he detached 300 English men-at-arms under Sir Robert de Clifford,[1] to circle round the left of their line and, by keeping the low ground near the Forth, to establish communications with the garrison of Stirling. Bruce, with the true instinct of a soldier, had foreseen some such movement, and had given strict orders to Randolph to be on his guard to intercept it. The exact position occupied by Randolph on this day has been the subject of much uncertainty. It would seem more natural that the duty of watching the approach to Stirling by the carse should have been entrusted to Douglas and the Steward, commanding the left divi-

  1. Hailes endorses Barbour's figure of 800, but Sir Thomas Gray, whose father rode with de Clifford, mentions only 300. Scalacronica, 141.