Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/298

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Robert the Bruce.

[1314 A.D.-

the Liffey, whence they marched to Naas, and so to Cullen, on the borders of Tipperary. Ultimately they penetrated as far as Limerick, wasting and burning all as they went. It is in the neighbourhood of this town that Barbour lays the scene of the other incident above referred to. The troops had fallen in, ready to start on their homeward march, and were awaiting the King's command to move, when the wail of a woman in pain was heard. King Robert asked what it meant, and was informed that it was an Irish washerwoman among the campfollowers, who had been seized with the pains of childbirth, and whom it would be necessary to leave behind. Touched with pity, the King caused the whole army to remain still, while a tent was unpacked and pitched for the poor woman's reception; "for," said he,

"Certis I trow thar is na man
That he will rew ne[1] a woman than.
This was ane full gret curtasy,
That sic ane king and sa michty
Gert his men duell[2] on this maner
Bot for ane full pouer lavender."[3]

Well may one pause at this point to ask if this is the same Robert, King of Scots, who showed himself so wary and so much averse to unnecessary bloodshed in the winning of his own realm. For what goal can he be straining in roaming so far from his proper sphere? what strategy is he pursuing, in

  1. Who will not pity.
  2. Made his men wait.
  3. For a poor washerwoman.