ADAM DE KILCONCHAR, the Earl of Carrick, died, and the Countess, his widow, reigned in his stead. She was still in the bloom of her youth and beauty. A ward of the king' she was in some respects a waiter on his providence ; but while she waited, she did not sit down and mourn the sad fate of the widowhood which had befallen her. She loved the chase, and, with her squires and her damsels about her, she was wont to pursue, with native ardour, the red deer in his haunts. As thus one day she was engaged she encountered a stranger who chanced to be passing through the district. Lordly of mien and noble of aspect, his appearance begat admiration in the breast of the fair lady, and she sent to inquire his name. He was the young Lord of Annandale and Cleveland. His birth and status being unexceptional, the Countess invited him to her castle. He respectfully declined, knowing how dangerous it was to interfere, even in semblance, with a ward of the sovereign. But the lady was not to be cheated out of his friendship by his regard of the proprieties, and riding up to him, she seized hold of the bridle of his horse and led him away, a not unwilling captive to her home at Turnberry. Here, in that strong fortress by the sea, she entertained him hospitably for fifteen days.
What man could resist such attention ? Not the Lord of Annandale. At the end of that period he sought her hand, or she his, and without as much as saying " by your leave" to the king, they were, united in the holy bonds of wedlock. The sovereign was furious when he heard what had been done. He seized the Castle and the far-stretching lands behind it and on either hand; and it was not without the intercession of powerful friends, or without a heavy pecuniary consideration, that he received the young couple back into the royal favour. In right of his wife the young nobleman became Earl of Carrick, and took up his residence in Turnberry. Here, it is believed by many, though Lochmaben lays claim to the same distinction, the first son of the union was born, Robert Bruce, the hero of the Scottish independence, which was consummated on the field of Bannockburn. In his earlier days, Bruce resided frequently and for long periods on the Ayrshire coast. The same scenes which his youthful eyes beheld lie stretched out to-day as when he left them. The castle has mouldered away into ruins, blown upon and beat upon by the storms and by the rains of the long centuries. The rigour of the Scottish climate and the hand of time have, between them, robbed Turnberry of its architectural glories and its boasted strength ; but the sea rolls in front of it unchangeable and unchanged, the peaks of Arran rise up in the distance as clear or as storm-covered, Ailsa Craig heaves its massive head as grimly, the sea birds scream and dive and soar as restlessly, and the rocks and sands of the undulating coast melt away in the distance is picturesquely as they did when the boy of many hopes, with his chequered yet glorious career all before him, played with his brothers on the drawbridge bespanning the moat or waded in the pools left by the receding tides.
Robert the Bruce was crowned King of Scotland at Scone in 1306. A short time thereafter his little army was broken and routed, and he himself was a fugitive. His friends were treated with the rigour of a rigorous monarch. Some were driven from the country, some sought seclusion in flight; their lands were forfeited, their homes confiscated. Turnberry was in the hands of the English soldiery, and its lord was in hiding in the wilds of Rathlin. Here he matured his plans. Two trusty followers of his, Sir James Douglas and Sir Robert Boyd, in pursuance of designs for the reconquest of Scotland, descended with a body of soldiers on the Island of Arran and captured the Castle of Brodick; and thither, in the early spring of 1307, went Bruce himself with three hundred men, furnished chiefly by Christina of the Isles. The King was about to resume his connection with his early home and the country which he had roamed in his boyhood.
Bruce sent a messenger across the Firth of Clyde to ascertain what the English were doing and what the hopes of a successful rising among those whom he knew to be true to him, and the people of the western shires generally. If fortune and hope still lowered, the courier was to return ; if, on the contrary, his subjects were but waiting on the advent of their King to lead them anew to the battle, the messenger was to light a fire on the coast, and, in response to the signal, the King was to embark and join his friends on the mainland. The courier, robed is a wandering minstrel, went hither and thither over the westland. Everywhere he found, co-mingled, oppression and depression. The country was in the hands of the foe, and there seemed no hope of breaking the iron ring by which the land was fettered. Sympathizers there were plenty, and tried friends who were willing once more to follow the fortunes of their liege-lord; but even they despaired of success and would have bidden the Bruce wait.
Providence works by means which do not commend themselves often to mankind; and it was chance, if there is such a thing at all in the working out of the destinies of the world, that decided what the King was to do. From Arran's shores he watched long, and longingly, for the smoke of the beacon by day, and for its glare on the southern sky by night. He wearied of inaction, but prudent as he was brave, he delayed his embarkation until he should see the kindling of the fire. Watching as was his wont, be espied, one day about noon, a faint wreath of smoke curl up into the heavens. It expanded, it grew denser, it broadened out, so that there could be no mistake about it. Bruce was a man of faith, and he saw in the column of smoke the signal for him to sail ; so with three hundred men he set forth for the conquest of Scotland. What a poor little fleet it was! But it carried with it as true a band of patriot warriors as ever embarked in the cause of freedom. Night came down on them ere they reached the shores of Carrick, but against the dark background of the murky sky gleamed and shone the, glare of the beacon. By its light they steered; and the small craft keeping in close company, they landed at a spot not far from the Castle of Turnberry. The messenger whom Bruce bad sent to glean tidings of the condition of the country met his master on the beach, and basted to tell him that there was no hope. Why, then, asked Bruce, did you light the bonfire? The courier-minstrel told him that he had lighted no bonfire, and that he knew not who had. In a superstitious age it was not difficult for the knight-errants to credit the assumption that the blaze was mysterious, and the result of agency extraneous to man. In all probability it was nothing more than a prosaic whin-burning; but this was too matter-of-fact an explanation to suit the high-souled, spirit-inspired warriors. They took the signal is an invitation to go on to their work, and to their work they went.
Before Bruce was the Castle of Turnberry. It stood up against the night, and he knew every tower and angle and point about it. He knew how strong it was, and how strongly held, and that without the regular munitions of war it could not be reduced. Time for siege there was none. Its gates were shut, and behind them slumbered the fiery Percy and a chosen body of his followers, but by far the greater part of the garrison slept outside its walls, in adjacent houses and hamlets, on the rock on which the castle stood, and on the plains receding from the shore. Upon these Bruce directed his first vengeance. In the dead of the night he led his three hundred men to the assault. The silence, hardly broken by the rolling waves, gave way to the shouts of the assailants and the cries of the attacked. No quarter was expected, none was given; and ere the sun lighted up the morning the English soldiery, save those within the castle itself, had been slain. Percy heard the shouts and the cries, and he knew what they meant. He was uncertain, however, of the. strength of the Scots, and, instead of lowering the drawbridge and trusting to the aid of his men, he remained where he was behind the heavy mantled walls and within the moat of Turnberry.
For a few days Bruce remained on the spot in the expectation that the country would flock to his standard. Instead of doing so, however, the country held aloof. The memories of the English severity wore too fresh in recollection not to beget reciprocal fears for the future. Only forty men joined the attenuated ranks of the monarch's force, and these were furnished by a lady friend of his own, whose name unfortunately has not been handed down. There were Southern troops at Ayr and elsewhere at no very great distance, and hearing that reprisal was intended, and fearing to be caught in an ambuscade, Bruce left the coast and marched across the country as far as the hills above the village of Dailly. Here he encamped. Carrick side lay largely beneath his eye. He could sweep from one eminence or another all the paths and the passes; and, in the event of the advance of the enemy in greater force than he could hope to cope with, he was in a position to make good his retreat to stronger fastnesses and wilds even more sequestered. His brother Edward was in command of a portion of his force stationed in Galloway, and he, too, was encamped amid the strengths of the hills and the passes. Bruce knew that the English would not leave him long unmolested, and he was ever on the watch.
Sir Ingram Bell, with a strong following, was despatched from the Lothians by Amyer de Valence to bring about his downfall. This warrior knew better than to assail the king in open fight, so he resorted to less honourable tactics. By bribery he obtained the connivance of a treacherous relative of the Bruce, who undertook, with his two sons, to rid the country of its monarch. It was the custom of the king to retire to a thicket daily, where he spent some time in cogitation and in anxious consideration of his future. This was known to the traitor, whose aims fortunately were equally well known to Bruce. When, therefore, with no friend near him save his page, and with no arms save a small sword, which he wore by his side, he saw the would-be assassins approaching, he ordered them to stand off. The father protested that, being a relative of Bruce, he had a right to be near his person, and, despite the warning, came on, followed closely by his sons, all three heavily armed. The page boy carried a bow. This the king took from him, and, drawing the string to its utmost stretch, he despatched the arrow so true and so straight that it struck the father right in the eye, penetrating to his brain and causing instant death. The sons made haste to avenge their father's downfall. Bearing hatchet and spear, they rushed to the encounter. Bruce never turned his back on such trifling odds as two to one. He met them dareful, and with his small sword despatched them one after another. When word of the feat reached the English, they were amazed at the intrepidity of the Bruce, as well they might.
Desertion set in, and the little army of the hero was reduced to not more than sixty men. This the Gallovidians heard, and, being then at enmity with the king, they raised a band of two hundred men, and despatched them with the intention of accomplishing the utter annihilation of the small band of patriots. Bruce was told of the fate intended for him, and, retreating from his elevated position on the hills above Dailly, he found a shelter in a morass not far distant. Then he commanded his followers to secrete themselves, and, attended by two sergeants, he went to reconnoitre. He paused a while to listen, and, hearing nothing to excite his suspicion, he made careful examination of the ground, and discovered, to his delight, that the point at which he had conducted his followers into the morass was the only spot by which the morass itself could be reached. It was a narrow pathway, and could not be forced in strength by any advancing force. As he stood surveying the situation his quick ear detected, from far away, coming up on the night wind, the baying of a sleuth-hound. He knew the " questioning" and reason told him that the dog was being employed to track him down in his position of solitude. The sound came nearer and nearer until there was no ground of doubt left. Bruce had been unwilling to disturb his men as they slumbered, but now that danger threatened, he despatched the two sergeants to call his followers to the fray. They made haste to obey his command, and left him standing alone by the passage leading into the morass. The moon was shining and as it lit up the scene the king distinctly descried the dark moving mass of men opposite, the blood-hound in leash leading them straight to the spot where he stood. The odds were tremendous but Bruce resolved to face them and to keep the passage alone until succour should come. The spot on which he stood could only be reached by wading through a stream which ran close to the swamp, and ere the foe could come to close quarters with him they had to wade the burn, which not more than two could do abreast, and then ascend the bank which kept the running water in its channel. The Gallovidians shot their arrows at the mail-clad warrior, who stood immovable with his long sword in his hand, but he only drew down his visor, and waited.
The encounter which followed reads like a romance. On came the men of Galloway, striving who should be foremost to reach that solitary man. He who first jumped into the ford went down before the fell swoop of the long blade. Another followed, a horseman, and he fared no better. Round swung the sword, and the rider fell in his blood from the saddle. The horse stumbled in the rivulet and lay still, but Bruce, determined that the foe should not even have the advantage of such a stepping-stone, pricked it with the point of his sword, and it sprang to its feet, only to drop dead a few paces off. But the distance was quite sufficient.
The water again ran clear, and the bank was still an obstacle that could not be negotiated, save by favour of the Bruce. On again came the Gallovidians, but as they came they were met by the same keen blade and the same strong arm that had overcome their fellows. One, by one, five of their number went down to rise no more; and still the passage was kept. The enemy drew back for a moment, but those in the rear pressed on and compelled the men in front to make the fatal attempt. Disaster waited on all who jumped into the stream. The sword blade was as keen, the nerve of the warrior as true, the arm as tireless is ever, and man after man went, down in the water. Fourteen times, according to Barbour, was the blade fleshed that night ere hurrying up to their leader's aid, came the followers of Bruce from the morass. Hearing them approach, the Gallovidians made haste to flee; and when the men who shared his perils came upon the scene it was to find their heroic leader seated upon the ground, sword in hand, and beneath him the stream dammed with the bodies of those whom he had slain.
Bruce got him great renown as the first fruits of his single-handed triumph, and with the renown came an acceleration of strength. The men of the western shires flocked to his standard, and he was soon at the head of a very considerable force. It was not such, however, as to enable him to compete with the English troops. They held the towns and the castles; they had command of the sources of supply; and the Scottish nobles and gentlemen who would gladly have, espoused the cause of their own gallant sovereign were held in cheek by fear of what the future, might have in store for them. Bruce only retained the services of four hundred followers, including those who followed in the train of James of Douglas, and with these he crossed the country to the more remote regions of the mountainous district of Cumnock parish. Here again he was pursued. Amyer de Valence was marching to meet him, and eight hundred soldiers at his back. In conjunction with the Southern leader was John of Lorn and a party of Highlanders. John of Lorn had in his possession a blood-hound which had once been the property of the Bruce. It had changed ownership, but not its affection, and the Highland cateran was able to assure Amyer de Valence that if once it were put on the track of its old master nothing would prevent it from running down the prey. This was good news for de Valence, and he availed himself of the services of the Highland cateran and the dog. He instructed John of Lorn to seek the western side of the hills whereon the monarch was encamped, while he himself, with his English soldiers, was to advance straight from the eastward. Bruce, he surmised, would not accept the offer of battle; if he did, the English force was vastly superior in numbers and in military skill and discipline, and be reckoned confidently on victory. In the event of the Scots retreating, there was John of Lorn, the Highlanders, and the sleuthhound, to depend on.
The Southern force advanced from the east in the light of day Bruce saw them coming across the plain, cavalry and infantry, all in panoply of war; and he resolved to offer them battle. But finding that John of Lorn and his Highlanders were in his rear and that his little band was likely to be cut to pieces he divided his men into three divisions and instructed thern how to escape. At the head of little more than a hundred followers he himself retired towards the hill forming the high tableland which separates Ayrshire from Galloway. The blood-hound was put upon their track and with unerring instinct, picked up the trail of his old master and went after him, followed by the Highlanders. There was danger in the baying of that dog and in the tenacity with which it tracked he royal fugitives across the hills and the heathery moorland. Bruce knew there was. He divided anew his immediate, followers into three divisions and kept up the flight. The dog came to the spot where the trails parted, but not for a moment was he at fault; on the contrary, the scent getting fresher he strained the harder on the leash. Bruce saw that the Highlanders were gaining on him. He was heavily armed, and his speed was not equal to that of the pursuing mountaineers. The bark of the tireless sleuth-hound rang out sharper and clearer. For once the heart of the monarch seemed for a moment to fail him, and, spent with fleeing, he was almost ready to sit down on the heath and give up the unequal flight. His men urged him on and he continued to strain every nerve to escape.
By this time he had been hasting across a broken country for hours, and had reached the vicinity of Loch Doon. He was amid a scene of mountainous grandeur, surrounded on all sides by steep rugged hills heaving their giant masses far above him, and reflecting, in the seeming eternity of steadfast immobility, a strange contrast to the changing lot of the country on whose bosom their foundations were deep-implanted. Down from the glens and from the mountain sides poured the rills to feed the loch of Doon. As Bruce was crossing one of these it flashed upon his mind that the running water might be instrumental in throwing his pursuers off the scent. He jumped into the stream and, wading for a distance in its bed, took once gain to the solid ground, and continued his flight. The dog came to the water; he ran hither and thither about banks; he snuffed around but the scent was gone. For the first time he was at fault. The Highlanders took him up the stream and down again a considerable distance in each direction, but Bruce had counted on this and had not left its bed until he had accomplished the object he had in view. By this time all his followers had left him save his foster-brother, each going off at a different point and in a different direction in the hope of taking the persistent bloodhound astray. His immediate pursuers had dwindled away to five. Seeing this, Bruce did not hesitate to reveal himself; and finding their adversary calmly awaiting their approach the Highlanders made the more haste to effect his capture. His foster-brother stood by his side. On came the pursuers sword in hand and without waiting for a breathing space, began. the attack. Three of them set upon Bruce and two upon his foster- brother. The blade which had done such good service not long before at the ford of the streamlet in Carrick, did not fail him. At the first blow Bruce laid one of his assailants dead at his feet. The other two drew back for a moment, and the king taking advantage of this momentary respite, sprang to the aid of his foster-brother and speedily relieved him of one of his assailants. Turning again to face his own opponents, who were not lacking in courage, he laid about him with such effect that in a few moments both were despatched. His foster-brother had done as much by his antagonist. But the victory was hardly declared when John of Lorn came in sight at the head of his Highlanders, and the fugitives had again to resume the attempt at escape. The ruse which had proved effectual before was again equally successful in throwing the dog off the scent, and the Highlanders, when they had gazed in amaze at the five dead bodies of their comrades, had no heart to continue the search. Bruce was in the shelter of a deep forest, and their he hid with his foster-brother until immediate danger had passed. After a brief rest he resumed his flight. Danger was ever attendant on him. From one adventure he passed to another; and thus it came about that ere he was well clear of the wood he encountered a new trouble.
This presented itself in the guise of three men armed with swords and axes, who joined themselves to the company of the fugitives. Bruce had good reason to be suspicious of all men whom he knew not, and he asked of them whither they were, going. One of them replied deceitfully that they were in search of the king in order that they might join his arms and fight under his standard. If that were so, he told them they were to go with him and he would soon show them him whom they sought. Something in the words and in the noble tearing of the Bruce, indicated to the strangers in whose company they were; and their self-conscious looks of guiltiness convinced the king that they meditated treason. He was quick to act. He ordered them to proceed in front of him. This they at first refused to do, but the orders were so imperative that they had no alternative save to obey. When night fell they reached a ruined farm-house and here they resolved to rest. The strangers, who professed themselves hurt at the suspicion which Bruce manifested towards them, insisted on his joining them at supper. This he agreed to do. A fire was lit, meat-which was obtained on the moor-was cooked, and the whole party ate in harmony until the cravings of the inner man were satisfied. Then they laid themselves down on the floor to sleep.
Bruce, who retained his suspicions, bade his foster-brother remain awake and keep an eye on their associates; but fearful lest unwilling sleep should seal the eyes of his friend, he himself lay awake watching the others without their being able to watch him. His deep breathing and regular respirations were not, long in convincing the strangers that the king slumbered. Of his foster-brother there could be no doubt; he was unquestionably asleep. As Bruce watched he perceived the associates whispering together, and he saw them get their weapons ready and prepare to spring on himself and his companion. Starting to his feet, he gave his foster-brother a push so as to arouse him to a sense of his danger, but so overcome was he with sleep that he did not realize, ere it was too late for him, the imminence of the danger. The conspirators rushed forward simultaneously, and as the king's foster-brother was rising, one of them drove his stout spear into his body and wounded him so sore that in a few minutes he succumbed. Meanwhile Bruce had drawn that terrible sword of his. With his back to the wall he had no fear of any ordinary three men. He dealt his blows in stunning succession; and in a few minutes he himself was the only living occupant of the room.
The death of his foster-brother affected him deeply, but he had no other alternative to leaving him where he lay. Not many miles stretched between him and his open foes; and the experience he had just undergone convinced him that treachery might still exist in a district which he had a right to expect would have been true to one of its own sons. So by the light of the moon he resumed his weary way across the country, nor halted until he reached the banks of the Cree, near Newton-Stewart, where he met with James of Douglas, Edward Bruce, and about one, hundred and fifty men. He had travelled upwards of forty miles, through a hilly and difficult country to traverse. He had climbed height after height, shoulder after shoulder; he had waded deep in the swamps and the moss-hags; he had pursued his way along the uneven bed of a rivulet; he had fought two desperate battles, almost single-handed, against serious odds. he had left the advance guard of John of Lorn, in their long sleep on the heath, and the assassins in the ruined farm-house; he had done a day's work that might well have wearied him out-yet no sooner had he met his friends on the banks of the Cree than he led an attack upon a Company of English soldiers near Newton-Stewart, slaying the greater part of them and putting the remainder to flight.
He did not remain long out of Ayrshire. Within a few days he returned to Carrick, whose long stretches of woodland, whose hills and riversides afforded ample protection to one who knew them so well as he. It was not for nothing that in his earlier years he had hunted by the Stinchar and the Girvan, and pursued the red deer up the glens and the steeps of the bailiary ; and now that he was encountering desperate odds, and had set his life and his kingdom upon the enterprise in which he had embarked, he came back to the countryside which knew him best, and to the scenes with which he was most familiar. Still, personal danger was ever attendant on him. He had not long returned ere he had to pit himself against three foemen, But he was not quite alone. He had gone out to hunt, and with him were two powerful dogs. Separated from his followers, he was crossing the country, when three men were seen rapidly approaching him, fully armed, and bending their bows. He could not afford to despise the flight of their shafts, for he had not his armour. He resorted to other tactics. Bidding them halt, he taunted them with cowardice, He was alone, he said, with no weapon save his sword, while they were three in number, and fully armed. Would they then fear an encounter, with such powerful odds on their side? They would not, they replied ; and dropping their bows, they drew their swords and came on. Bruce smote the foremost to the ground ere he could raise guard to defend himself. One of his faithful hunting companions, seeing him assailed, sprang upon another, and seized him by the throat; and while he was thus held in the fangs of the dog the monarch slew him. The third, taking, warning by the fate of his companions, made off; but the dogs speedily followed, and pulled him down as he sought the recesses of a wood. Following up, Bruce killed the third as he had done the others; and then, winding his horn, he called his, followers about him, and hunted no more that day.
All Ayrshire rang with the exploits of the fugitive Sovereign ; and, as the natural result, the force which he commanded grew rapidly in strength. Carrick was the first district to respond to his appeal ; Kyle followed, and then Cuninghame. His success galled the English Sovereign, and Sir Philip de Mowbray was despatched to Kyle with a thousand men to quell the insurrection. Bruce heard he was coming and, with the of arresting his progress, he despatched Sir James Douglas to meet him by the way. This Sir James effectually did. he lay in ambush in a narrow pass distant a few miles from Kilmarnock, the exact spot is unknown, and when the English were crossing a ford, the Scots descended on them like an avalanche, putting the invaders to flight, and forcing De, Mowbray himself to make good his escape. The English army was completely broken up; and the remnant made their way back to Bothwell to spread the fame of the growing power and influence of the Scottish Sovereign.
If the Scottish struggle for independence was not to attain formidable dimensions it must be crushed at all hazards, and this the Earl of Pembroke determined to accomplish. With a chivalry worthy of the best days of heroic warfare he sent Bruce a messenger conveying a challenge to meet him in fair fight on the plains. Bruce had only six hundred men, yet he did not hesitate for a moment to take up the guage of battle. He fixed the date for the 10th of May, and the scene of conflict in the vicinity of Loudoun Hill. Like a wary general, he went in person to the chosen spot and made a careful survey of the ground. He had only six hundred men and these he had to oppose to three thousand choice troops. The problem that presented itself to him was how to minimise the force of the English attack by making it impossible for the enemy to launch his whole available force against him at one time. The highway ran through a morass in which Bruce elected to take up his position. He had walls erected, running at sharp angles to the road, yet so wide apart that five hundred cavalry could advance between them all abreast ; and at the head of two of these walls he awaited the attack. The southern troops came all gay in the full panoply of war, their standards flying, their drums beating, and the clear blast of their trumpets sounding out defiance. The small array of the Scots excited no feeling save that of derision in the breasts of the English, though their apparent fighting strength was considerably magnified by the presence of a large body of camp followers.
When the morning of the 10th of May broke, the English were speedily under arms. The sun shone on their accoutrements, and they presented a formidable appearance to the Scots quietly waiting the attack in the swamp. They were marshalled in two divisions. Bruce addressed his followers. The foe that was advancing, he said, intended to reduce them to slavery, or to slay them. It was their duty therefore, to meet them hardily. Though the English were more numerous, they could not attack them in full force, owing to the nature of the improvised passages through which they had to advance, and inasmuch as they could not do more than oppose man to man, the issue rested upon the heroic exertions of those who should display their prowess. His words were received with loud shouts and an expression of determination to stand by duty and by the cause of Scotland "Then go we forth," responded the King "where He that made of nothing all things lead us, and save us, and help us to our right." While the Scottish leader was thus exhorting his men, Amyer de Valence, who was in command of the English troops, was encouraging his followers to the fray. He kindled their enthusiasm by urging them on to displays of valour and pointing out the glorious result that would follow the defeat and capture of Bruce.
The English advanced their cavalry. When they came within easy distance of the Scots the command was given to charge. The yoemen put spurs to their horses ; they bent their heads so as to avoid the flight of the Scottish arrows ; on their left arm hung their shields, on their right lay at rest their long spears. On they came right gallantly. The Scots met them straight, and a hand-to-hand conflict ensued. Bruce fought in the van, and with him his brother Edward and Sir James Douglas. The King himself performed prodigies of valour. Where the fray was hottest he was the foremost; where danger threatened, his strong arm was ever ready. He encouraged his men the while with word and deed alike. The Scots launched their spears at the horses of the enemy. Many of these came to the ground others careering broke the ranks of the English. The Scots pressed the more hardly when they saw the foe begin to waver. With cheer and battle cry they redoubled their efforts, nor did they stay their hand until the force engaged with them was compelled to retreat. Sir Amyer do Valence had still as many more to take their place; but the tumultuous rout once begun it was impossible to arrest. The feeling of panic spread, and soon from the field of glory the Scots emerged victorious, driving the numerically superior force in disastrous flight over the plain.
Bruce followed up his advantage by laying siege to the Castle of Ayr. It was powerfully held, and there was no hope of reducing it save by starving the garrison out. The attempt failed. Edward, fretting under the rising of the Scots, sent north a strong relieving force, and the Scottish Monarch was compelled to carry on the war of independence elsewhere, and with brighter hopes of success.
In the course of his wandering in the country the Sovereign suffered from an eruptive disease of the nature of leprosy the result of his herculean exertions, and the miserable fare on which he had often to subsist. There was a well in Prestwick parish, which, report said, was a veritable pool of Bethesda for the suffering. To this he resorted. Its healing waters had the desired effect. The King was cured of his, ailment. and, in gratitude to the healer, he caused to be erected by the well a charitable institution for the treatment of others similarly affected. This hospital he richly endowed. It is not within our province to follow the Bruce further. With the battle of Loudoun hill he passed out of Ayrshire to other and greater triumphs, triumphs that were ultimately, and after many vicissitudes, crowned on the field of Bannockburn.