Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/45

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15
Introduction.

"But then," it may be argued by persons unwilling to surrender a bit of favourite lore, " how comes it that spiders are treated with peculiar respect in Scotland, and, especially, that no one who claims consanguinity with Bruce will kill, or suffer one to be killed in his presence ? "

The answer to that is found in the folk-lore of many other countries. The Jews have a kindly regard for spiders, because it is reported that when David was flying from Saul in the wilderness of Kish, and, closely pressed, took refuge in a cave, a kindly spider straightway spun a web across the mouth, so that when the pursuers came up to it, they judged that no man had entered the cave that day, and they passed on their way. A story, precisely similar, is told of the flight of Mahomet from Mecca. Coming nearer home, we recognise the same venerable fable in Cornwall, where spiders are held sacred because it is believed that one of them wove its web over the infant Saviour, thus concealing him from the search commanded by Herod. Everywhere spiders seemed to have been regarded as "uncanny" in pre-scientific days ; and, according to universal human custom, an explanation was devised by connecting the insect with the most prominent national hero. With whose career could it more naturally be connected in Scotland than with that of Bruce, to whom Scotland owed her existence as a nation ? There is, in sooth, in his life, plenty of spirit-stirring exploit and heroic confidence amid seemingly hopeless conditions, without borrowing more from the domain of myth. It