Boldly she spoke: ’Soldiers, attend!
My father was the soldier’s friend,
Cheered him in camps, in marches led,
And with him in the battle bled.
Not from the valiant or the strong
Should exile’s daughter suffer wrong.’
Answered De Brent, most forward still
In every feat or good or ill:
’I shame me of the part I played;
And thou an outlaw’s child, poor maid!
An outlaw I by forest laws,
And merry Needwood knows the cause.
Poor Rose,—if Rose be living now,’—
He wiped his iron eye and brow,—
’Must bear such age, I think, as thou.—
Hear ye, my mates! I go to call
The Captain of our watch to hall:
There lies my halberd on the floor;
And he that steps my halberd o’er,
To do the maid injurious part,
My shaft shall quiver in his heart!
Beware loose speech, or jesting rough;
Ye all know John de Brent. Enough.’
Their Captain came, a gallant young,—
Of Tullibardine’s house he sprung,—
Nor wore he yet the spurs of knight;
Gay was his mien, his humor light
And, though by courtesy controlled,
Forward his speech, his bearing bold.
The high-born maiden ill could brook
The scanning of his curious look
And dauntless eye:—and yet, in sooth
Young Lewis was a generous youth;
But Ellen’s lovely face and mien
Ill suited to the garb and scene,
Might lightly bear construction strange,
And give loose fancy scope to range.
’Welcome to Stirling towers, fair maid!
Come ye to seek a champion’s aid,
On palfrey white, with harper hoar,
Like errant damosel of yore?
Does thy high quest a knight require,
Or may the venture suit a squire?’
Her dark eye flashed;—she paused and sighed:—
’O what have I to do with pride!—
Through scenes of sorrow, shame, and strife,
A suppliant for a father’s life,
I crave an audience of the King.
Behold, to back my suit, a ring,
The royal pledge of grateful claims,
Given by the Monarch to Fitz-James.’
The signet-ring young Lewis took
With deep respect and altered look,
And said: ’This ring our duties own;
And pardon, if to worth unknown,
In semblance mean obscurely veiled,
Lady, in aught my folly failed.
Soon as the day flings wide his gates,
The King shall know what suitor waits.
Please you meanwhile in fitting bower
Repose you till his waking hour.
Female attendance shall obey
Your hest, for service or array.
Permit I marshal you the way.’
But, ere she followed, with the grace
And open bounty of her race,
She bade her slender purse be shared
Among the soldiers of the guard.
The rest with thanks their guerdon took,
But Brent, with shy and awkward look,
On the reluctant maiden’s hold
Forced bluntly back the proffered gold:—
’Forgive a haughty English heart,
And O, forget its ruder part!