The Peregrine Knight. Part I
Part VI. In which the foster brother relates what happened after dinner that night.
Our eldest did the countess charge this night,
When empty stood our last barrel of meal,
That she should come and tell to you her plight;
That she should softly to your bedside steal
And bow her head, and as a suppliant kneel,
To beg you be her lord and be her shield.
This, she should ask, not only for her weal,
But for ours too. She answered, and would not yield,
“I’d liefer face our foe myself upon the field”
So she to him would not submission grant,
And though his hest he pressed upon her long,
Like stubborn heretic who never will recant
She, pale and trembling, in her will stood strong.
“Then I and all that unto you belong
Will fly from here as birds in wintertide,
Cold lady who your faithful friends now wrong,
And cowardice in cloak of modesty hides”
So spoke he flinging words like arrows far and wide.
Though she did turn her eyes away from us,
I saw by rushlight glassy teardrops fall
And make dark stain upon her pale dress.
She looked upon the hangings on the wall
Where her father bringing miscreants ‘neath his thrall,
Did stand with sword and sceptre in faded thread.
I spoke: “There’s one now sleeps within these walls,
Who can the black-earl challenge without dread;
Be glad! For I will speak unto the knight.” I said.
The knight replied “Go give to her my word
That I will be her knight, and will not fail
To make all who attack her taste my sword.
And of the truth of those adventure tales
With which I after meat did all regale,
Know, by my faith, true are the things I told.
But bear her tokens three, lest doubt assail,
And with these gifts, pray bid her heart be bold-
This jewel red, this shield of white, this ring of gold.’