Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/272

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Robert the Bruce.

[1314 A.D.

By this time King Robert had moved up his reserve into the first line, taking the place vacated by Randolph in closing towards Edward de Brus. The whole ground from Parkmill to the north-west corner of Halbert's Bog, about half a mile square, was crowded with English, rapidly falling into disorder. Wounded chargers plunged madly down among them from the mêlée in front, while the pressure of the advancing columns behind increased every moment. Once more the Scottish archers came into play, this time with murderous effect, and the slaughter on this part of the field was terrific. The splendid English array was getting into hopeless confusion—hopeless, because their immense numbers made it impossible to restore order among them. Men jammed into one mass of living, dead, and dying, cannot obey orders, be they never so clearly delivered. At this critical moment there occurred a circumstance, probably unpremeditated, which decided the fortunes of the day. The camp-followers had been watching the struggle from the security of Gillies' Hill. They had seen the Scottish columns repel Gloucester's cavalry, had heard their victorious cheers, and could discern the tumult in the English ranks. Far from yielding a foot, the divisions of Edward de Brus and Randolph had rather advanced, and the King had led his reserve into the thick of the fighting. Assuredly the field was won, and the moment for plunder had arrived. The rascals sprang to their feet and, waving flags extemporised out of blankets and tent-poles, rushed down the hillside with loud cheers. The English