Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/300

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[1314-17 A.D.-
Robert the Bruce.

standing among the royal O'Conors of Connaught. All that Robert and Edward de Brus had any reason to expect, and all that they received from the moment they left Ulster, was temporary and precarious alliance with those septs who saw in them instruments whereby to carry on their private feuds.

In the month of March the English were in force at Kilkenny under Edmund Butler and Richard de Clare. Lord Hailes and others have commented on their inactivity, and blamed them for want of vigilance in allowing the Scots to escape from their wretched plight with impunity. But in truth the difficulties that pressed so hardly on the invaders lay with even greater weight on the defenders. The English had a far larger army to feed than the Scots, though the figure of 30,000 given in the Irish annals is probably far beyond their actual strength; doubtless scarcity of supplies was the chief cause of their allowing the dilapidated remains of Bruce's army to retrace their steps almost without resistance. Another and subsidiary reason was that Roger Mortimer was on his way back to Ireland as Viceroy, and the opening of the summer campaign was postponed till his arrival. He landed on April 7, 1317, but by that time the Scots were far on their way to Ulster.

In May the King of Scots returned to his own dominions, to find that Douglas and Walter the Steward had faithfully discharged their duty as guardians.