Bruce, whose whole course shows him to have been a man who acted with prudence and foresight, would have been nothing short of mad had he, just at the time when it was necessary to secure the goodwill of the whole of the Scotch nobles, chosen that moment to slay Comyn, with whom were connected, by blood or friendship, the larger half of the Scotch nobles. Still less, had he decided upon so suicidal a course, would he have selected a sanctuary as the scene of the deed. To slay his rival in such a place would be to excite against himself the horror and aversion of the whole people, and to enlist against him the immense authority and influence of the church. Therefore, unless we should conclude that Bruce — whose early career showed him to be a cool and calculating man, and whose future course was marked throughout with wisdom of the highest character — was suffering from an absolute aberration of intellect, we must accept the account by those who represent the meeting as accidental, and the slaying as the result of an outburst of passion provoked by Comyn’s treachery, as the correct one.
When Bruce saw Comyn approaching he bade his followers stop where they were and advanced towards Comyn, who was astonished at his presence.
“I would speak with you aside, John Comyn,” Bruce said; and the two withdrew into the church apart from the observation of others.
Then Bruce broke into a torrent of invective against Comyn for his gross act of treachery in betraying him by sending to Edward a copy of their agreement.
“You sought,” he said, “to send me to the scaffold, and so clear the way for yourself to the throne of Scotland.”
Comyn, finding that dissimulation was useless, replied as hotly. Those without could hear the voices of the angry men rise higher and higher; then there was a silence, and Bruce hurried out alone.
“What has happened?” Archie Forbes exclaimed.
“I fear that I have slain Comyn,” Bruce replied in an agitated voice.
“Then I will make sure,” Kirkpatrick, one of his retainers, said; and accompanied by Lindsay and another of his companions he ran in and completed the deed.
Scarcely was this done than Sir Robert Comyn, uncle of the earl, ran up, and seeing what had taken place, furiously attacked Bruce and his party. A fierce fray took place, and Robert Comyn and several of his friends were slain.
“The die is cast now,” Bruce said when the fray was over; “but I would give my right hand had I not slain Comyn in my passion; however, it is too late to hesitate now. Gather together, my friends, all your retainers, and let us hurry at once to attack the justiciaries.”
In a few minutes Kirkpatrick brought together those who had accompanied him and his companions to the town, and they at once moved against the courthouse. The news of Bruce’s arrival and of the fray with the Comyns had already reached the justiciaries, and with their retainers and friends they had made hasty preparations for defence; but seeing that Bruce’s followers outnumbered them, and that a defence might cost them their lives, they held parley and agreed to surrender upon Bruce promising to allow them to depart at once for England. Half an hour later the English had left Dumfries.