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III


It is said that one day, while he was very down-hearted, he saw a spider trying to spin a web between two beams of his hut. The little creature tried to throw a thread from one beam to another, but failed. Not discouraged, it tried four times more without success.


"Five times has the spider failed, " said Bruce. "That is just the number of times the English have defeated me. If the spider has courage to try again, I also will try to free Scotland !"


He watched the spider. It rested for a while as if to gain strength, and then threw its slender thread toward the beam. This time it succeeded.


"I thank God!" exclaimed Bruce. "The spider has taught me a lesson. No more will I be discouraged."


About this time Edward I died and his son, Edward II, succeeded to the throne of England . For about two years the new king paid little attention to Scotland .


Meantime Bruce captured nearly all the Scotch castles that were held by the English, and the nobles and chiefs throughout the country acknowledged him as their king.


At last Edward II marched into Scotland at the head of a hundred thousand men. Bruce met him at Bannockburn on June 24, 1314 , with thirty thousand soldiers.


Before the battle began Bruce rode along the front of his army to encourage his men. Suddenly an English knight, Henry de Bohun, galloped across the field and tried to strike him down with a spear. Bruce saw his danger in time and with a quick stroke of his battle-axe cleft the knight's skull.


The Scotch army shouted again and again at this feat of their commander, and they went into the battle feeling sure that the victory would be theirs. They rushed upon the English with fury and although outnumbered three to one, completely defeated them. Thousands of the English were slain and a great number captured.


In spite of this terrible blow Edward never gave up his claim to the Scottish crown. But his son Edward III, in 1328, recognized Scotland 's independence and acknowledged Bruce as her king.


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