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then, on the 23d of August, amongst the elms of Smithfield, far away from those dear hills he had loved so well, Sir William Wallace suffered death according to the horrible form assigned to traitors. There were many of illustrious name who, having much to lose, had been faithless to their country, and had kept their own, but above them all, from the misty fables of his chroniclers, stands out grandly and sadly the historic William Wallace as the solitary real patriot of his time, and as the solitary victim for whom the vengeance of the great enemy he had defied was specially reserved. The last obstacle being now removed, King Edward set about adjusting the government of Scotland in earnest. John de Bretagne was appointed guardian, the offices of State were suitably filled, and, in short, the 'Justinian of England' was sparing no pains in setting all in order, and arranging wise laws for the happiness of his annexed province. He did not know what had been going on there. On St. Barnabas' Day, 1305, Robert Bruce, the grandson of the competitor for the crown, Lord of Annandale, and in his mother's right Earl of Carrick, and William Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrews, met in the Abbey of Cambuskenneth, and then and there entered into a bond of association, which was put in writing, signed and sealed. By this they solemnly pledged themselves to aid one another against their enemies by mutual co-operation; that neither of them should engage in any arduous undertaking without consulting the other; that each should inform the other of any impending danger which might come to his knowledge, and use his utmost endeavour to prevent the same. On this they took a solemn oath, under a penalty of 10,000 pounds to be levied from the party failing in the engagements, for the use of the Holy Wars. Robert Bruce appreciated the immense value of the assistance of the Church, for, besides the fact that the abbeys could produce from their estates about a third probably of the soldiers of the country, he had faith in those other armies who were to stand by him, whose citadels were by hundreds throughout the land, and who, daily pleading the 'sacrifice of salvation,' sought for the intervention of the Lord God of Hosts in the deliverance of unhappy Scotland. CHAPTER XVII.
ROBERT THE BRUCE.
'Thy soul is stained, and thou hast cast
Of winter mourneth through the years,
And thou shalt shed a thousand tears.'
ROBERT Bruce had one great rival in John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, commonly called the Red Comyn, whose father had married Marjory Baliol, the sister of King John. He had been an open enemy of the English, while Bruce, in the position almost of an Anglo-Norman baron, had been a welcome guest at the Court of England. In February 1306, however, all was not as it should have been; something may have oozed out about the secret alliance in the Abbey of Cambuskenneth, for one night, when the 'wine glittered in the bowl,' King Edward said so much that that same night the Earl of Gloucester sent to his friend the Earl of Carrick a sum of money and a pair of spurs. He took the hint, sent for a smith, and had his horses shod in the reverse of the usual manner, so that as the ground was white with snow their prints might look like those of horses on their way south, and before the winter morning had dawned he was galloping towards the Borders. He halted at Dumfries, and there met the Red Comyn. For the undisturbed discussion of their affairs they proceeded to the church of the Minorites. They had not talked long before they quarrelled. Bruce lost his temper, and drawing a dagger he stabbed Comyn, and laid him prostrate before the high altar. A moment more and Bruce was at the church-door, and, white and excited, he was calling for his horse. Lindsay and Kirkpatrick, two of his friends, who were waiting for him without, asked what was the matter. 'I doubt,' said Bruce, 'I have slain Comyn.' 'You doubt!' cried Kirkpatrick ferociously, ' I '11 mak sikar !'1 and, rushing into the church, he with his own hand despatched the already dying man.
The complicated horrors of his position in the eyes of Christendom as a sacrilegious murderer rushed simultaneously before the mind of Bruce. Yet, in the first agony of remorse and foreboding, he could scarcely have realized the long series of miseries,' the mishaps, flights, and dangers, hardships and weariness, hunger and thirst, watchings and fastings, nakedness and cold, snares and banishment,'2 which for years to come were to be his retribution.
The murder of Comyn has been truly called the one dark stain in a noble life. The moment immediately following the passionate murder was one of overwhelming anxiety and suspense. The Earl of Carrick must either die on a scaffold, or play a desperate game for a throne. On the decision he formed hung not only his own fate, but that of his country. Urged on by the wild language of his companions, his
1 The crest of the Kilpatricks or Kirkpatricks of Closeburn is a hand with a dagger erect in pale dropping blood, and their motto is, 'I mak sikar,' that is,. I make secure.
* Fordun, edit . Skene, vol. ii. p. 333.
choice was soon made; and, in the heat of the moment, they flew together to the place where the English justiciaries were holding their courts in Dumfries, and drove these bewildered functionaries with precipitation over the borders. These bold measures answered well; a panic spread amongst the English, who fled in numbers back to their own country. With a sense of confidence in such a leader, many of the Scots enlisted in his cause; and just six weeks after the slaughter of Comyn, on the 27th of March 1306, Robert Bruce was crowned King of Scotland in the Chapel Royal of Scone. The immemorial stone was at Westminster, and the robes of state were gone; but the Bishop of Glasgow supplied the latter deficiency with the best of his own wardrobe, and assisted by the Bishops of St. Andrews and Moray and the Abbot of Scone, he placed on the head of Robert the First the slight rim of gold which represented the hereditary Crown. Then he gave into the King's hand a banner of the armorial bearings of the Scottish sovereign, which had been hidden in his treasury from the greediness of Edward, and afterwards he did solemn homage, with the other lords spiritual, and the Earls of Lenox, Athole, and Errol. Two days later, the little court was surprised by the arrival of the Countess of Buchan, a lady of energy and independence, who insisted on placing the crown on Bruce's head with her own hands. This she claimed as the right of her brother, the Earl of Fife, and as he was engaged in the English interest, she, as representative of the family of Macduff, would take upon her to perform a duty which had been the special privilege of her ancestors since the days of Canmore. Accordingly she did so, Bruce being crowned again on Sunday the 29th of March. And, meanwhile, the news of all this had reached the banks of the Thames. It seemed that there was to be no peaceful old age for the now worn-out Edward I. There was no help for it but to summon up all the power and