Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/299

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
1317 A.D.]
243
England and Ireland Invaded.

allowing an enemy so powerful to occupy all the ground between him and his base of operations? Above all—if, as cannot be doubted, he loved his own people who had suffered so sorely in his cause—if he had any concern for the future of the kingdom it had cost so much to win—how could he suffer himself to be severed for so long from all communication with Scotland, and from all intelligence of how things were faring at home? To answer these questions, one is reduced to almost sheer conjecture. Perhaps it was the bare necessity of subsistence that had led the invading army further and further in search of supplies with the illusory prospect of winning the support of native tribes in the south and west. Some picture is traced in the sorrowful annals of these times of the straits to which the Scots were reduced in that famine-stricken land. Many of them were starved to death, and the survivors were reduced to living on the flesh of their horses.[1] The Irish annalists mention with horror that the natives who marched with the Scots did not scruple to eat meat in Lent, and were punished next year for that deadly offence by being reduced, first to eat human flesh, and then to die of starvation.

If the Kings of Scotland and Ireland had been led so far afield in the expectation of a general rising in their favour under the native chiefs, the illusion was very completely dispelled. To the Irish Celts the de Brus seemed as much Norman as de Burgh or de Bermingham—more so in fact, for the de Burghs at least had acquired by marriage a

  1. Fordun, cxxxii.