Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/312

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[1316 A.D.-
Robert the Bruce.

feudal basis, before professional seniority was established as the measure of responsibility. Douglas and Moray both served King Robert nobly and well, but it was perhaps owing to the King's tact in adjusting the orbits of two such stars in one small firmament that they never came into collision.

The King directed March to conceal his men at Duns, where Douglas and Moray were sent to meet him. From Duns they marched together to Berwick, duly provided with scaling-ladders, climbed the wall with Spalding's assistance, and obtained easy possession of the town, though the castle remained in the hands of the garrison. A party of Scots was told off for purposes of plunder, the rest being kept under arms with their officers. But this proved too great a trial for the discipline of these wild soldiers. They broke away, and soon almost the whole force was scattered through the streets collecting booty.

Their disobedience nearly brought about their ruin. At daylight (it was on March 28, 1318) the governor of the castle, perceiving the state of affairs, how Douglas and Moray had been left with a mere handful of men, ordered an immediate sortie. The Scottish chiefs were only saved from capture, and their troops from slaughter in detail, by the activity and presence of mind shown by a young knight, Sir William de Keith of Galston, who rode through the town recalling the soldiers to their standards. He succeeded in bringing them to a sense of their position; the English were driven back; but the castle continued to hold out for no less than sixteen weeks,