Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/338

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[1319 A.D.-
Robert the Bruce.

that the English foraging parties could bring in was one cow from Tranent, too lame for the owner to drive away. "The dearest beef I ever saw," dryly observed the Earl of Warenne.[1] An unfavourable wind kept the fleet from entering the Firth with supplies; the troops began to suffer from disease and famine; total starvation was not far off, and, after lying three days in Edinburgh and Leith, Edward was forced to order a retreat. Then was the moment for Bruce to strike in. Douglas was sent to hang on the rear guard of the dispirited host, and defeated the English light horse in a brisk encounter near Melrose. But he was not strong enough to prevent the invaders doing a vast amount of mischief. Holyrood and Melrose Abbeys were sacked; the prior of Melrose with another monk and two lay brethren were slain in defending their property, and the beautiful monastery of Dryburgh was burnt to the ground. All this was fair reprisal, no doubt, for similar senseless outrages committed by the Scots in their raids during the spring and summer.

Widespread as the desolation had been on both sides of the Border during these months, the year was not to close without further mischief. King Robert crossed the Solway with a large force on October 1st, and, after wasting the valley of the

  1. The Brus, cxxxiv., 73. "A sarcastical and ill-timed reflection," observes Hailes, with less than his usual urbanity. There is Edward's own authority confirming the accounts given by Barbour and Fordun of the extreme scarcity. On September 17th he wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, begging him to send money in haste, for "he had found neither man nor beast in the Lothians, and intended to winter on the Border for its safety" (Bain, iii., 144.)