Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/373

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1328 A.D.]
Campaign of Weardale.

fair battle on the plain; or, if they preferred it, that the English should cross without opposition, and fight on the south side. Both proposals were declined. The Scots sent back a message to say that as they had come without leave of the King of England and his lords, so now they intended to choose their own time to return. It is said that on hearing this taunt, John of Hainault and some English knights were eager to cross the stream and attack the Scots without parley, but that the jealousy about precedence prevented anything being done. It was decided therefore that the position of the Scots was impregnable, and preparations were made for starving them out.

For two or three days the two armies lay facing each other; but the tedium was relieved by sundry dashing deeds of arms. One morning, a thousand English archers, supported by a body of men-at-arms, were sent out to harass the Scots by a flank attack. Douglas, observing the movement, placed a body of cavalry in ambush under his youngest brother, Archibald, and the young Earl of Mar. Then, with a cloak thrown over his armour, he rode to and fro between the advancing archers and the Scottish flank, luring them gradually towards the ambuscade. An English squire, Robert of Ogle, recognising Douglas, galloped forward to warn the archers of their danger. But it was too late: Douglas gave the signal: the concealed horsemen swept down, scattering the sharpshooters along the hillside, cutting some down, spearing others, and driving the rest across the river. Sir William Erskine, having