Up winding stairs to seek that one lit place
He followed on this candle-bearing guide,
And through a door he saw a care-filled face –
A lady sitting sad the fire beside,
Her dress worn thin, but mended well with pride.
Twelve men about a table sat, who were
Most like to him who led the knight inside,
Red haired and thin, their doublets edged with fur.
And sad their eyes as well, though looked they not like her.
As he came near they rose most courteously,
Then meekly spake the maid with eyes downcast
“I pray you, wandering knight, come sit by me
And at our table take a poor repast.”
He said, “With you I’ll gladly break my fast.”
Then came her maidens nine, on them to wait,
But to herself she took her portion last
And served the greatest portion to his plate
And looked not on his face as though he were too great.
“My sister, I’ll the meat and drink divide”
On seeing how she favoured him he said,
“Not so” she answered soft, but he replied
“But by my faith I will” and broke the bread
Among them all, and she no longer pled,
Nor one more word to him did speak.
Her hair it was as black as jet, and red
As whatever is reddest was her cheek
And every graceful move she made was soft and meek.