Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/44

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In the following narrative it has not been thought desirable to load the pages with references in footnotes, except, generally, where the authority of such references is cited to refute accepted statements, or confirm doubtful ones in the early historians.[1] But great care has been taken to avoid the assertion of circumstances of which, even though they may have found their way into history books, there is no means of verifying. Some of these are notoriously suspect. Take, for example, the well-worn myth of Bruce and the spider. Probably it is the incident in Bruce's career most widely circulated and most popularly believed. The critic who expresses doubts of its veracity will be exposed to the charge of irreverence; if he professes disbelief, to that of rank blasphemy. Yet where is evidence to be found in support of it? Not in the writings of Barbour, Fordun, or Wyntoun, those most nearly contemporary with the Bruce and least likely to suppress a circumstance so picturesque, and illustrating so aptly the perseverance and patience of the national hero under desperate difficulties. No; nothing is heard of this adventure till long after Bruce and his comrades have passed away, and then it makes its appearance, in company with such trash as the miraculous appearance of the arm-bone of St. Fillan on the eve of Bannockburn, and worthy of just about as much consideration.

  1. In reference to Rymer's Fœdera it will be seen that I have not mentioned the volume or page. The reason is that as there are three or four editions of that great work, each with different pagination, it is easier to turn to quoted passages under the year of the event.