The Hunted King
W HAT boy or girl has not heard the story of King Robert Bruce and the spider? I will tell you another story of the same brave and famous king.
He had fought a battle with his enemies, the English. His little army had been beaten and scattered. Many of his best friends had been killed or captured. The king himself was obliged to hide in the wild woods while his foes hunted for him with hounds.
For many days he wandered through rough and dangerous places. He waded rivers and climbed mountains. Sometimes two or three faithful friends were with him. Sometimes he was alone. Sometimes his enemies were very close upon him.
Late one evening he came to a little farmhouse in a lonely valley. He walked in without knocking. A woman was sitting alone by the fire.
"May a poor traveler find rest and shelter here for the night?" he asked.
The woman answered, "All travelers are welcome for the sake of one; and you are welcome."
"Who is that one?" asked the king.
"That is Robert the Bruce," said the woman. "He is the rightful lord of this country. He is now being hunted with hounds, but I hope soon to see him king over all Scotland."
"Since you love him so well," said the king, "I will tell you something. I am Robert the Bruce."
"You!" cried the woman in great surprise. "Are you the Bruce, and are you all alone?"
"My men have been scattered," said the king, "and therefore there is no one with me."
"That is not right," said the brave woman. "I have two sons who are gallant and trusty. They shall go with you and serve you."
So she called her two sons. They were tall and strong young men, and they gladly promised to go with the king and help him.
The king sat down by the fire, and the woman hurried to get things ready for supper. The two young men got down their bows and arrows, and all were busy making plans for the next day.
Suddenly a great noise was heard outside. They listened. They heard the tramping of horses and the voices of a number of men.
"The English! the English!" said the young men.
"Be brave, and defend your king with your lives," said their mother.
Then some one outside called loudly, "Have you seen King Robert the Bruce pass this way?"
"That is my brother Edward's voice," said the king. "These are friends, not enemies."
The door was thrown open and he saw a hundred brave men, all ready to give him aid. He forgot his hunger; he forgot his weariness. He began to ask about his enemies who had been hunting him.
"I saw two hundred of them in the village below us," said one of his officers. "They are resting there for the night and have no fear of danger from us. If you have a mind to make haste, we may surprise them."
"Then let us mount and ride," said the king.
The next minute they were off. They rushed suddenly into the village. They routed the king's enemies and scattered them.
And Robert the Bruce was never again obliged to hide in the woods or to run from savage hounds. Soon he became the real king and ruler of all Scotland.