Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/223

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1313 A.D.]

Campaigns of Edward II.


his men to pull countrymen's frocks over their armour, to fill sacks with grass and place them on the backs of their horses. They were told then to lead them in full view of the castle, as if on their way to the fair. Douglas calculated on the English commander, whom he knew to be short of provender, not allowing a train of well-filled sacks to pass unmolested.

Things turned out exactly as he expected. The constable of the castle, Sir John de Wanton, led a party to capture the convoy, but just as he overtook them, the supposed rustics threw off their frocks, flung the sacks to the ground, leapt into the saddles, and there was Sir John, face to face with a compact little body of well-armed cavalry. At the same moment, Douglas led out his ambush, and the English, taken in front and rear, were overpowered and nearly all slain. De Wanton fell, and his men, thus left without a leader, surrendered to Douglas, who razed the castle, but spared the lives of the garrison. Of Sir John de Wanton, Barbour, who calls him de Webetoun, mentions a romantic circumstance. It seems that he loved a lady, who would consent to wed him only on the condition that he should prove himself "ane gud bacheler" by defending for a whole year—

"The aventurous castell of Douglass,
That to kep sa peralous was."

A letter to that effect from the lady was found on the knight's body.

The national cause, which had been greatly