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IT was during the hostile period when the continued inroads of the borderers, whose course was marked with death and devastation, called for the utmost vigilance of the government, and rendered the fortifying and garrisoning of the northern castles an object of the greatest importance, that lord William, baron de Mowbray, received from his sovereign, queen Elizabeth, the commission of warden of the borders, appointed to controul and chastise the moss-troopers, whose ravages had risen to so alarming a height, as to attract the particular notice of those in power.
Placed in this dangerous but honourable situation, he conceived it his indispensable duty to execute the arduous employment entrusted to him with the greatest promptitude. Accordingly, with all alac
rity, he strengthened his residence by every means in his power; he erected a double wall, cut trenches, and surrounded the whole by a deep moat, over which a drawbridge led to a massy iron-cased gate, and huge portcullis; around the roof were erected battlements planted with cannon; and over these a garrison of three hundred men, selected from his vassals, and trained by himself to arms, were appointed to do duty.
The office upon which lord William had now entered accorded but ill with those dreams of family comfort in which he had hoped to pass the evening of his days; but light was his repugnance to the bloody business of the field of battle, when compared with the heart of his motherless daughter, the beauteous and gentle Rosalind, which sickened in her breast as she dwelt in imagination on the scenes of blood and rapine to which she must now unavoidably become a witness.
Lord William had scarcely completed his fortifications, ere he was called upon, by the voice of danger, to an exertion of the greatest fortitude.
The clouds of evening were just closing in the parting day, when the sentinel at the drawbridge dispatched one of his comrades to the baron, with information that a moss-trooper, sinking under fatigue and famine, was lying at the foot of the bridge, and imploring, in terms of the most vehement entreaty, to be permitted to see lord William, whose life, he said, was in imminent danger.
Every moss-trooper was of course the decided
enemy of a man placed in a situation like that in which lord William now stood-the prime foe, as it were, of their ravaging bands; and so strange did the information appear to him, that he hesitated for some moments how to reply to it.
Irwin, his first leader, thus addressed him"The instance of an enemy passing over to the side of his foe is by no means a singular one; it may be caused by his having deserted, for a length of time, from his own party, to whom he now fears to return, dreading the chastisement due to his crime; it is also possible that it may be occasioned by a prepossession for ours; and it is still more probable, that the hope of future reward and preferment have been his inducements to this step. Whatever the motive, a single individual is incapable of committing injury within our walls. Let him, so please your lordship, be searched, to prove whether he conceal about him any instrument of death, which it may be his desperate purpose to level at your person; and this done, let him be brought before you."
"But should he come merely as a spy upon our strength?" suggested the wary baron: this is a supposition which has escaped you."
"That will be easily discovered," replied the leader who had before spoken, " and if such he appears, we have chains and dungeons, to prevent his carrying back the information that may be required of him."
on hers and my lost father's murderer. Admit me to your ranks, and for iny own revenge I will be a lion in your cause, when opposed to the savage Allanrod. You know not whom you have to fear in Allanrod ; more of the demon than the man, there dwells within him: wild, ungoverned, cruel, and ferocious are his passions; dire is his enmity to England and its sovereign; but still more against your person, than the nation, or its queen, does his hatred appear to be directed; for from the moment that he learnt the commission to which you were appointed, he has been collecting forces to subdue your power. His strength is now all raised; I have watched him for the completion of my just revenge, and the present hour alone is yours, to save yourself from falling into his power, and mine, to execute my vengeance on him. He is now on his march towards your castle; his forces now move in divisions; within three miles of your abode, these divisions are to unite; and so great are their numbers, that fatal to you must be the event of the day, if you once suffer them to gain this union. The first division Allanrod heads himself. Do you march out boldly then, and attack it on its way. Entire victory must be yours, for small is the division he leads; and their chief being once cut off, his other forces will lose all spirit to attack your castle. Say 'ay,' good baron, and the blow that levels Allanrod shall be my own. I am no hypocrite, and I confess that it is not for England, but against Allanrod, I fight."