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The Faery Queen and Her Knights: Stories Retold from Edmund Spenser written by an English classical scholar Alfred John Church. This book is one of many works by him. It has already Published in 1909 Now republish in ebook format. We believe this work is culturally important in its original archival form. While we strive to adequately clean and digitally enhance the original work, there are occasionally instances where imperfections such as blurred or missing pages, poor pictures or errant marks may have been introduced due to either the quality of the original work. Despite these occasional imperfections, we have brought it back into print as part of our ongoing global book preservation commitment, providing customers with access to the best possible historical reprints. We appreciate your understanding of these occasional imperfections, and sincerely hope you enjoy reading this book.
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The Faery Queen and Her Knights
Stories Retold from Edmund Spenser
Alfred John Church
CHAPTER I. THE RED-CROSS KNIGHT
CHAPTER II. ARCHIMAGE AND DUESSA
CHAPTER III. THE FORTUNES OF UNA
CHAPTER IV. OF WHAT BEFELL AT THE HOUSE OF PRIDE
CHAPTER V. HOW THE RED-CROSS KNIGHT LEAVES THE CASTLE OF PRIDE
CHAPTER VI. THE LADY UNA AND THE SATYRS
CHAPTER VII. OF THE GIANT ORGOGLIO
CHAPTER VIII. OF THE DEEDS OF PRINCE ARTHUR
CHAPTER IX. OF THE HOUSE OF HOLINESS
CHAPTER X. OF THE SLAYING OF THE DRAGON
CHAPTER XI. OF SIR GUYON AND THE LADY MEDINA
CHAPTER XII. HOW SIR GUYON CAME INTO GREAT PERIL
CHAPTER XIII. OF TWO PAGAN KNIGHTS
CHAPTER XIV. OF QUEEN ACRASIA
CHAPTER XV. BRITOMART
CHAPTER XVI. OF MERLIN’S MAGIC MIRROR
CHAPTER XVII. HOW BRITOMART TOOK TO ARMS
CHAPTER XVIII. SIR SCUDAMORE AND AMORET
CHAPTER XIX. OF SIR PARIDELL AND OTHERS
CHAPTER XX. THE STORY OF CANACÉ AND THE THREE BROTHERS
CHAPTER XXI. THE STORY OF FLORIMELL
CHAPTER XXII. OF THE FALSE FLORIMELL
CHAPTER XXIII. SIR SATYRANE’S TOURNAMENT
CHAPTER XXIV. OF FLORIMELL’S GIRDLE
CHAPTER XXV. OF BRITOMART AND ARTEGALL
CHAPTER XXVI. OF THE FORTUNES OF AMORET
CHAPTER XXVII. OF SIR ARTEGALL AND THE KNIGHT SANGLIER
CHAPTER XXVIII. OF OTHER ADVENTURES OF SIR ARTEGALL
CHAPTER XXIX. SIR ARTEGALL DOES JUSTICE
CHAPTER XXX. RADIGUND
CHAPTER XXXI. HOW SIR ARTEGALL WAS DELIVERED
CHAPTER XXXII. OF THE KNAVE MALENGIN
CHAPTER XXXIII. OF THE LADY BELGÉ
CHAPTER XXXIV. OF SIR ARTEGALL AND GRANTORTO
CHAPTER XXXV. OF SIR CALIDORE AND THE LADY BRIANA
CHAPTER XXXVI. OF THE VALOUR OF TRISTRAM
CHAPTER XXXVII. SIR CALEPINE AND THE LADY SERENA
CHAPTER XXXVIII. OF SIR CALIDORE AND PASTORELLA
CHAPTER XXXIX. THE END OF SIR CALIDORE’S QUEST
The Slaying of the Dragon.
Once upon a time there might have been seen a gentle Knight, riding across the plain. He was clad in armour of proof, and on his arm he carried a silver shield. A shield it was that brave men had carried before him, for there were great dints upon it, which were as a witness of great fights that had been fought. Now the Knight himself had never yet been in battle; but he seemed as one who could bear himself bravely, so well did he sit upon his horse, and so stout of limb he was. On his breast he wore a cross, red as blood, in token that he was vowed to serve the Lord Christ, who had died for him; and on his shield was yet another cross, to be as it were a sign that this service should be a defence to him in all dangers. Somewhat sad of look he was, not as though he had fear in his heart, but rather as one upon whom had been laid the burden of a great task. And such, in truth, there was, for Queen Gloriana had sent him upon a great enterprise, and all his heart was full of the thought of how he should best accomplish it. And the task was this—to slay the Great Dragon.
Beside the Knight a lady was riding on an ass as white as snow. Very fair she was; but she hid her fairness under a veil, which was brought low over her face. She was clad also in a garment of black; and she, too, was somewhat sad of look, nor, indeed, without cause. She came of a royal stock, being descended from ancient kings and queens, who had held wide sway in their land until this same Dragon had driven out their ancient house and had cruelly wasted all their realm. The third of this company was a Dwarf, who lagged behind, wearied, it may be, with the weight of the bag in which he bore this fair lady’s gear.
While the three, to wit the Knight, and the Lady, and the Dwarf, passed on, the sky was suddenly covered with clouds, and there began to fall a great storm of rain, so that they were fain to seek some shelter. Gladly, then, did they espy a wood hard by that promised, so thickly grown it was, a shelter from the rain. Tall were the trees and spreading wide with shady branches, so that neither sun by day nor star by night could pierce through. And all about were paths and ways, worn as by the treading of many feet, which seemed to lead to the abodes of men—a fairer place of shelter, as it seemed, there scarce could be. So they passed along, the birds singing sweetly the while; overhead were trees of many kinds, trees of the forest and of the orchard, the cedar and the oak, and the elm with the vine clinging to its stem, the yew for bows, and the birch for arrows, and the fruitful olive. So fair was the place, and so full of delights, that the travellers took no heed of the way by which they went. So it came to pass that they strayed from the path by which they first entered the wood, nor could they win to it again when once they had left it, so many were the ways and so like the one to the other. After a time, when they had taken counsel together, it seemed best to choose the way which seemed most trodden by the feet of travellers, as being the likeliest to lead to a certain end. When they had followed this awhile, they came to a great cave, deep in the very thicket of the wood. Here the Knight sprang from his horse, and gave to the Dwarf his spear, thinking that he should not need it. But his sword he kept.
Then said the Lady Una, for that was her name: “Be not overbold, Sir Knight; there may be mischief here of which you know nothing, peril which gives no sign of itself, even as a fire which burns without smoke; hold back, I pray you, till you have made some trial of the place.”
The Knight made reply: “Fair lady, it were a shame to fall back for fear of a shadow. The cave, doubtless, is dark, but where there is courage there is not wanting a light for the feet.”
Then said the Lady again: “Nay, nay, Sir Knight; I know this place by repute, though I thought not of it before. This wood in which we are lost is the Wood of Wandering; this cave which you see before you is the Den of Error, a monster, hateful both to God and man. Beware, therefore, beware!” And the Dwarf cried out aloud in his fear: “Fly, Sir Knight, fly, this is no place for mortal man.”
But the Knight would not be persuaded. He stepped into the cave, and the light of day, shining from without on his armour, showed him dimly the monster that was within. Hideous it was to behold, half a serpent and half a woman, and all as foul as ever creature was, upon the earth or under it. All the length of the cave she lay, her tail wound in many coils; and in every coil there was a deadly sting. And all round her was a brood of young ones. Many different shapes they had, but hideous all. And as soon as the light from the Knight’s armour glimmered through the darkness, they fled for shelter to the mouth of their dam.
The monster, wakened from her sleep, curled her tail about her head, and rushed to the cavern’s mouth, but, seeing one armed from top to toe in shining mail, would have turned again. But the Knight leaped at her, fierce as a lion leaps upon his prey, and barred her backward way with his sword. First she darted at him her great tail, and threatened him with the deadly sting that lay in it; but he, not one whit dismayed, aimed at her head a mighty blow. Her head it wounded not, but glanced on to the neck with force so great that for a while the great beast was stunned. Then, coming to herself, she raised her body high from the ground, and leaped upon the Knight’s shield, and wrapped his body round with huge folds.
Then Una, seeing in how sore plight he was, cried out: “Now show, Sir Knight, what you are. Put out all your force, and, above all things, back your force with faith, and be not faint. Strangle this monster, or surely she will strangle you!”
Greatly was his heart stirred within him with grief and anger, and, knitting all his strength together, he gripped the creature by the throat so mightily that she was constrained to loosen the bonds which she had cast about him. And yet, it had well-nigh cost him dear to come so close to the monster, so foul she was. And of this foulness the worst was this, that she caused to come forth out of her mouth, as in a flood, the brood which had taken shelter therein at the first. Serpents they were, like to their dam, small indeed, but full of venom, and they swarmed over him, twining themselves about his arms and legs, so that he could not strike a blow nor even move. So, in some still eventide, a shepherd, sitting to watch his flock, is suddenly assailed by a cloud of gnats; feeble creatures they are, and slight their sting, but they suffer him not to rest. The Red-Cross Knight was in a strait more dire, for these evil creatures had power to do him a more grievous harm. But he thought to himself, “Shall I be vanquished in this fashion?” He was somewhat moved by the danger wherein he stood, but more ashamed that he should be overcome in so foul a fashion. So, resolved in his heart that he would put all his strength into a stroke, either to win or to lose, he gathered himself together, and struck the monster with a blow so fierce that he shore the head from the body, and she fell dead upon the ground.
Then said the Lady Una: “Well, indeed, have you carried yourself, Sir Knight. Surely you were born under a lucky star, seeing that you have overcome so terrible a foe. You are worthy of these arms wherewith you are clad. So is your first adventure brought to a good result. God grant that you have many such in the time to come, and that they may be brought to as happy an ending.”
Then the Knight sprang upon his horse, and the Lady Una mounted again her ass, and the Dwarf followed as before. And now they kept with steadfast purpose to the one way which they saw to be most trodden, turning neither to the right nor to the left, how fair soever the path might seem. So at last they came to the outskirts of the Wandering Wood, and journeyed once more across the plain.
So the two, the Knight and the Lady, rode on, the Dwarf following as before. After a while they chanced to meet an old man by the road. He was clothed in black and barefooted, and he had a long white beard, and a book was hanging from his belt. A very wise old man he seemed, sober and even somewhat sad, and as he went along he seemed to be praying; and now and again he would beat upon his breast, saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” He made a humble reverence to the Knight, and the Knight in his courtesy made his salute, and said: “Sir, do you know of any adventure that a Christian man may undertake?”
“My son,” said the old man, “how should one who lives in his cell and tells his beads and does penance for his sins know aught of wars and enterprises by which glory may be won? Nevertheless, I can tell of a very evil man who dwells in these forests and wastes all the country-side.”
“Ah!” cried the Knight, “it is for such an adventure, the setting right of wrong, that I seek. Bring me to this villain’s dwelling and I will reward you well.”
“Willingly,” said the old man, “will I guide you thither, but the way is long and painful.”
“And surely,” said the Lady Una, “you are wearied with your late encounter. I take it that he who lacks rest lacks strength, however stout of limb he be. Take your rest then with the sun, and begin your new work with the new day.”
“This is wise counsel, Sir Knight,” said the old man, “and wise counsel ever wins the day. The day is far spent; come, then, and take such poor entertainment as my home can give.”
With this the Knight was well content. So they followed the old man to his dwelling. It was a lowly hermitage, in a valley, close to the forest, with a chapel hard by, and by this chapel a brook crystal clear. Humble was their fare, but the rest after the day’s toil made it sweet enough, as also did the old man’s talk, for he discoursed of many things and many men, saints and popes, and the great deeds which they had done. Then, as the night drew on and sleep began to fall upon their eyes, he showed them the places where they should lodge for the night.
Now this old man, who seemed so pious and good, with his long white beard, and his prayers, and his beating of his breast, was really a wicked magician. So soon as he had taken his guests to their lodgings, he went to his study, where he kept his books of charms with other contrivances of his art, and taking one of these books from the shelf on which it stood, opened it, and began to mutter some dreadful words which it were a great sin for anyone to write or read. With these he brought up from their dwelling-place in the lower parts of the earth a very legion of evil spirits. To these he gave a part of his evil work to do, and some of this work he kept to himself; and the work was this: To cheat the hearts of those whom he wished to deceive with false dreams and visions. What these were, it is best not to tell: let it be enough to say that they wrought such doubts concerning the Lady Una in the heart of the Red-Cross Knight that, as soon as the morning dawned, he rose from his bed, and clothed himself with all haste, and crying for the Dwarf that he should bring him his horse, rode away as fast as the beast could carry him.
He had not ridden many miles before there met him a paynim knight. A tall warrior and a strong he was, armed from top to toe, and carrying a great shield on which were written in scarlet letters the words “Sans Foy,” which, being interpreted, mean “Without Faith.” With him there rode a fair lady, clad also in scarlet, with ornaments of gold and necklaces of coral, and on her head a Persian cap set round with crowns of gold. Her horse also had gay trappings, and her bridle was set with bells of gold, which tinkled bravely as she rode. So soon as she saw the Red-Cross Knight she said to her companion, “See now, here comes your enemy; make ready.”
No sooner had she spoken, but he stuck spurs in his horse, and rode at the Red-Cross Knight. Nor did the knight hold back from the fray, for he also put his spear in rest and charged. So the two met fully and fairly, with so fierce a shock that the two horses stood, as it were, struck to stone, and the riders were borne backwards in their saddles, holding each of them in his hand his broken spear. Then the Saracen drew his sword from the scabbard, and addressed himself again to the fray. So did the Christian also; blow for blow did they deal one to the other, till the sparks flew from their shields, and when they chanced to strike home, the blood flowed forth and dyed the earth under their feet. After a while cried the Saracen: “Now curse upon that Cross which keeps your body from harm! You had been dead long since but for that magic power. For all that, I bid you now beware, and keep safe your head if it may be.”
So saying, he dealt a blow so fierce that it shore away half the Christian’s crest, yet glancing down upon the shield harmed him no more. Yet was it not struck in vain, for it roused him of the Red Cross to such rage that he made a more than like reply. Full on the Saracen’s helmet he dealt his stroke. Right through the steel it passed, and cleft the head, so that the Saracen fell a dead man from his horse.
When the lady saw her champion fall, not a moment did she stay to see how it had fared with him, either to tend his wounds, or to weep for his death, but fled away as fast as her horse could carry her. Then the Red-Cross Knight, crying to the Dwarf that he should pick up the dead man’s shield to be a memorial of the fight, rode after her, and overtaking her, bade her halt: “You have no cause to fear, fair lady,” he said.
The Red Cross Knight and Sansfoy.
Then she, turning back, cried aloud: “Fair Sir, have mercy on an unhappy woman!”
Much was he moved to see her humbleness, for she was beautiful to look on, and richly clad, as one of noble birth might be. “Lady,” said he, “be of good heart. It pitieth me to see you in such distress; tell me now who you are, and whence you come, and who was this your champion?”
“Sir,” she answered, weeping the while, “I have suffered much from evil fortune. I was the only daughter of an emperor, who had wide dominion over the land of the West, setting his throne where flows the famous stream of Tiber. Being such, I was betrothed in my early youth to the only son and heir of a most wise and mighty king. Never surely was prince so fair and faithful as he, never one so gentle and debonair. But alas! Ere the day appointed for our marriage came, my lord fell into the hands of cruel enemies, and was most foully slain. When this ill news came to me, I said to myself: ‘Now will I at least do due honour to the dear body of him whom I loved.’ So I set forth from my father’s house upon this quest. Long did I wander over the world, a virgin widow, nor did I find that for which I sought. At last I chanced to meet this Saracen, who now lies dead upon the plain. He constrained me to go with him, and would fain have won me for his wife, but I ever said him nay. And now he lies dead. An evil man he was, one of an evil brotherhood of three—Sansloy, the eldest; Sansjoy, the youngest; and this Sansfoy, of middle age between the two.”
“Be contented, fair lady,” answered the Knight; “you have done well. You have found a new friend and lost an old foe. Friend, be he ever so new, is better, I trow, than foe, new or old.”
So the two rode on, he making merry with gay talk, as became a courteous knight, and she, with much modest show of bashfulness. After a while they came in their journey to two fair trees, which spread their branches across the road. Lovely trees they seemed, and fair was the shade which they cast. Yet was the place held in ill-repute of all the country-side; never did shepherd sit beneath them to rest or play upon his oaten pipe, for all men held it to be unlucky ground. But of this the good Knight knew nothing, so, the sun being now high in heaven, and of so fierce a heat that a man might scarcely abide it, he dismounted and bade the lady do likewise, so that they might rest awhile, and anon, in the cool of the evening, might pursue their journey. So the two sat them down and talked.
Now the Knight, being in a merry mood, said to himself: “Surely, this is the fairest of women; it is meet that she should be crowned.” So saying, he plucked a branch which he would have shaped into a garland for the lady’s head. Then, lo! From the place where the branch had been plucked came trickling drops of blood, and there issued forth a lamentable voice which said: “Stranger! Tear not in this cruel fashion the tender human limbs which are covered by the bark of this tree. Fly also from the place, fly, lest haply the same fate should come upon you as came upon me in this place, both on me and on the dear lady also who was my love.”
Much was the Knight astonished to hear such words, and for a while he stood speechless. Then he said: “What ghost is this from the world below, what wandering spirit that talks in this strange fashion?”
Then there came this answer: “No ghost am I from the nether world, nor wandering spirit of the air. I was a man, Fradubio by name, as now I am a tree, being charmed by the arts of a wicked witch. But I am yet a man, for I feel the winter cold and the summer heat in these branches, even as a man might feel.”
Then said the Knight: “Tell me now, Fradubio, be you tree or man, how you came to suffer in this fashion. It is good for a man to tell his trouble; he who hides it in his heart makes his griefs to be twice as great.”
Then did Fradubio tell his tale, “Know, stranger, that I suffer this trouble through the arts of a false sorceress, Duessa by name; nor I only, for she has brought many knights into a like evil case. In my youth, which indeed is not long passed, I loved a fair lady, whom you may see, not indeed in the fashion of a lady, but as yonder tree which joins its branches with these. Once upon a time, when I was riding abroad with her, I chanced to meet a knight, who also had a fair lady for a companion. A fair lady I called her, and so she seemed, but she was in truth this same false witch Duessa. Said the strange Knight: ‘I do declare that this lady is the fairest dame in all the world, and this I will make good with my sword and spear against all the world.’ For the witch had cast her spells over him and deceived him. And when I put forth the same challenge for my own lady, we fell to fighting, and he fared so ill, that he fell by my hand.
“So now there were two fair ladies, for so it seemed, Fraelissa, who was fair in truth, and Duessa, who by her wicked arts had made herself so to seem. And I knew not to which I should give the prize of beauty, for it seemed the due of each. But while I doubted, this wicked witch raised by evil arts such a mist as made Fraelissa’s face to lose all its fairness. Which when she had accomplished, she cried: ‘See now how this false dame has lost her beauty, for indeed it was but borrowed. Many has she deceived in time past, even as now she has deceived you.’ When I heard this, I would fain have killed the fair lady that had been my true love. But this the false Duessa, feigning compassion, would not suffer. Only with her magic arts she changed her into that tree which you see yonder.
“Now you must know that for every witch, be she as crafty as she may, there is one day in every year when she is constrained to take her true shape. And on this day I chanced to see Duessa as she was in truth, old and foul of hue, fouler than one had thought woman could be. Nor did she fail to perceive that I had discovered the truth, though indeed I sought to bear myself as before, having it in my mind secretly to escape, and fly from her company. So she practised upon me the same wicked arts that she had used with my Fraelissa, changing me into the semblance of a tree. And here we stand, banished from the company of men, and wasting weary days and nights.”
“But,” said the Knight, “how long shall this endure? What is the appointed end of your sufferings?”
“We must here abide till we shall be bathed in a living well,” Fradubio made answer.
“Can I find this same well?” asked the Knight.
“That shall be as the Fates may decree,” said Fradubio.
All this Duessa—who called herself Fidessa—heard, and knew it for truth. She well-nigh fainted for fear; but the time for the discovering of her falseness was not yet.
While the Red-Cross Knight was thus faring, the Lady Una was not a little troubled that she should have been so left by her champion. Never did she cease to search for him, wandering the while over plain, and forest, and mountain, and not one whit afraid, however desolate they were.
On a certain day she lighted off the ass, on which she was wont to ride, and laid herself down to rest in a solitary place, under the shadow of a tree; she took the covering from her head, and laid aside her black cloak; her faithful beast grazed hard by, for there was much grass in the place. As she lay, there rushed out of the wood with which the meadow was circled about a furious lion. Wild he was with hunger, and was hunting for prey. And when he saw the royal maid, he ran greedily at her with open mouth, as if he would have devoured her; but when he came near, and saw what manner of maid she was, all his rage departed from him. He kissed her weary feet, and licked with his tongue her lily hands, crouching down before her as if to show himself her servant. At the first sight of the beast the Lady Una was not a little afraid, but when she saw how gently he bore himself, she sighed and said: “See now, how this lion, who is the king of the forest, forgets his hunger and his rage in pity of my sad state, while he who was my champion leaves me to wander alone.” So she spake till she could speak no more for very tears, and the lion meanwhile stood looking upon her. Then—for the lady was of a brave spirit—she shut up her sorrows in her heart, and mounted on her steed again, and set out once more upon her quest. It was a long and weary way which she went, through divers places, where there were no inhabitants, and still the lion went with her, ready to guard her against all dangers. While she slept, he watched over her, and when she awaked he awaited her command, watching her eyes so that he might discern her pleasure.
After long journeying, in which they saw no sign of the presence of man, they came to a place which, from the wearing of the grass, seemed to be trodden by human feet. And in no long time the lady espied a woman, who was following the path with slow steps, and carrying on her head a pitcher of water. The lady cried to her, “Tell me now, my friend, whether there may be any dwelling near to hand, where I may rest awhile?” But the woman answered her never a word, seeming as if she could neither understand nor speak. But when, turning her eyes, she saw the lion by the lady’s side, she threw down her pitcher, and fled as fast as her feet could carry her. Not once did she look behind her, but fled as if for her life till she came to the house where she dwelt with her mother, a blind woman. Not a word did she say, but her fear was plain to see, and the old woman perceived that there was some great danger at hand, so when they two had shut the door they hid themselves in the darkest corner of the cottage.
In a short space of time came Una and her lion to the door. Thereat the lady knocked, but when no one answered, and the time was passing, the lion in his impatience rent the wicket-gate with his claws and let her in. No further hurt did he, and when Una had with much gentle speech allayed the women’s fear, they laid themselves down to sleep.
But when the night was far spent, there came one to the door demanding entrance, and when this was not speedily given him, using many oaths and curses. He was a sturdy thief, by name Kirkrapine, that is to say, Robber of Churches, and this indeed was his trade. He was wont to steal away the ornaments of churches, and to strip off from the images of the saints the vestments with which they were clad, and to purloin the robes of the priests, and to break open the boxes in which were put the alms for the poor. No small share of the plunder did he bring to the house where Una lay that night, for he was the lover of the old woman’s daughter, and he could never give her enough of gold and jewels and precious things. But whether the old woman knew of the matter none can tell, though it might have seemed that such doings were not to her mind, seeing that she told her beads and prayed both by day and by night; nine hundred Paternosters would she say daily, and of Ave Marias twice as many. Thrice in the week, also, did she sit in ashes; thrice three times she fasted from all food and drink, and she wore sackcloth nearest to her skin.
Now when this same Kirkrapine found that, for all his cursing, he could not win an entrance, for, indeed, though the women heard him, they were hindered from rising by fear of the lion, he let fly furiously at the door and brake it down, and would have entered. But as he was about to cross the threshold, the beast, thinking that his lady was in danger, sprang at him, and brought him to the ground, and so tore him that he died, which, having done, the lion came back to his place by the lady’s side, and watched her as before.
When the day broke, the Lady Una rose from her place, and went forth from the cottage, and journeyed onwards still seeking the Knight, and the lion went with her. The old woman also and her daughter, so soon as the house was clear of its guests, rose up. But when they found Kirkrapine lying dead before the door, great was their grief and greater still their anger.
“This,” they cried, “the savage beast has done,” and they followed with all the speed they might use, and so overtook her. Harm her they might not, for they feared the lion, and when they had cursed her loud and long they turned back to go to their own house.
As they went they met a knight, fully clad in armour. But yet he was no knight but only the wizard Archimage, who had taken upon himself, by help of his wicked arts, the semblance of the Red-Cross Knight. The false knight asked them whether they had seen a lady journeying alone.
“Yea,” the old woman answered, “such I have seen; an evil woman she is, and much harm hath she wrought.” And she told a piteous tale of the things which she had suffered. This done, she showed him the way by which he must go, if he would overtake the lady, and he, having thanked her with due courtesy, rode on. Nor was it long before he overtook the Lady Una, for she, having but an ass for her steed, travelled slowly. When she saw him, and noted the Red Cross on his shield and the like emblem on his breast, she said to herself: “Now God be thanked, I see my true champion again,” and she rode to meet him, and greeted him with friendly words, saying: “Where have you been these weary days, my lord? I have fared ill without your company,” and she told him of all the troubles and dangers through which she had passed.
On the other hand, the false knight spoke her fair: “For this cause I left you, dearest lady, that I might seek an adventure of which Archimage told me, and how I might deal with a felon who had done great harm to many gallant knights. And, indeed, I did deal with him, so that he shall hurt such knights no more. I pray you, fair lady, to pardon me that I left you awhile, even for such cause, and to take me once more as your faithful servant and champion.”
The Lady Una and the Lion.
So the two rode on together. They had not travelled many miles when they saw coming to them, riding at the full speed of his horse a knight fully armed. When he came near they saw that he was a man of very fierce aspect, and that he carried on his shield the name Sansloy. Fierce as he was of look, he grew fiercer yet when he perceived the false knight’s shield, how it had the badge of the Red Cross. Not a word did he speak, but he laid his spear in rest and rode fiercely forward.
Sorely dismayed was Archimage, and loath to meet the stranger in battle, for, indeed, he was not used to bearing arms. Yet could he not hold back for very shame. The Lady Una also looked at him that he should bear himself bravely. But it fared ill with him, and, indeed, it would have fared worse but that his steed, being no less timorous than himself, held back in the onset, so that the shock of their meeting was the less fierce. Nevertheless, he was thrown to the ground, where he lay helpless and without defence.
The strange knight leapt lightly from his horse, and made as though he would have slain his adversary. “Ha!” he cried, “so he that slew the brave knight Sansfoy, my brother, has come by his deserts. Sansfoy he slew, and by Sansloy he shall be slain!”
Then he began to unlace the man’s helmet as he lay upon the ground, but the Lady Una cried, “Oh, Sir Knight, hold your hand; is it not enough that you have vanquished him? He lies there at your mercy. Therefore have mercy upon him. Verily there is not in the whole world a truer knight than he.” But the stranger had no mind to hold his hand, for, indeed, he had no compassion within his heart. But when he had ended the unlacing of the helmet, and was now ready to strike, he saw the hoary head and wrinkled face of Archimage, and cried: “What is this that I see, Archimage, luckless sire? By what ill-fortune have you come across me in this fashion? Is the fault with me or with you, that I should have dealt with a friend as though he were an enemy?”
So he spake, but not a word did the wizard answer. He lay in a swoon, and the shadow of death was on his face. And now the Lady Una had come and was looking into the old man’s face. Sore dismayed she was and sore vexed; for he whom she had taken for her champion was a deceiver; nor could she divine how she might escape from the hand of this paynim knight. And now she had to bear yet another grief. For when Sansloy laid a rude hand upon her and bade her descend from her steed, and caught away her veil that he might look upon her face, the lion, not enduring to see his mistress so handled and treated, sprang at the knight, but alas! what was he to withstand a knight clad in armour of proof, with spear and sword? Soon did Sansloy thrust him through with the iron point, so that the faithful beast fell dead upon the ground, and the lady was left helpless and without defence.
The Red-Cross Knight rode on with the false Fidessa, not knowing that she was indeed the witch Duessa, who had changed the unhappy Fradubio into a tree. After a while they came to a road which was manifestly much frequented of men, and following this beheld before them a very stately palace. “Come,” said Duessa, “let us seek shelter here, for I am weary with my journeying and the day is far spent.”
It was, indeed, a very noble house, cunningly built of bricks laid artfully together without mortar. It had very lofty walls, but they were as slight as they were high, overlaid with shining gold, with many towers rising from them, and goodly galleries disposed among them, and spacious windows. No one could blame the skill of the architect that had planned it, or of the builders that had raised it up, so fair it was to look upon; yet it was passing strange that it had been built in a place so ill chosen, to wit, upon a sandy hill, so that the foundations were ever slipping away from it; and when the winds blew upon it it was shaken most perilously, and the lower parts, for all that they were painted so as to make a very brave show, were ruinous and old.
They passed by the porter, whose name was Malvenu, which being interpreted is “Ill come,” without challenge, and so came into the hall. This was right richly arrayed with arras and cloth-of-gold, and was filled from end to end with a great crowd of people of all sorts and degrees, waiting, all of them, for a sight of the lady of the house. These also they passed, as being guests to whom special honour was due, and so were brought into the presence of the lady, where she sat with as fair and richly-clad a company of knights and dames about her as ever was seen upon the earth. High on a throne, splendid in royal robes and ornaments of gold and jewels costly beyond all count, sat the lady. Fair she was, so fair that throne and robes and gold and gems were as nothing in comparison with her beauty. Under her feet was a great dragon, and in her hand she held a shining mirror of brass, and her name was Lucifera. She was, indeed, the Queen of Pride, and all her brave show was a false seeming, and her kingdom a kingdom of unrighteousness.
The Knight, not knowing what the lady truly was, and false Duessa, to whom all these things were well pleasing, being introduced by a certain usher of the court, Vanity by name, bowed themselves low before the throne. And the Knight said, “Lady, we are come to see your royal state, and to prove the report of your great majesty which has gone through all the world.” “I thank you,” said the lady, but in a disdainful way, for she did not so much as cast her eyes upon them, nor did she bid them rise. On the other hand, the knights and ladies set themselves with much heartiness to entertain the new-comers. The knights were right glad to welcome among them a companion so fair and so stalwart, and to the dames the false Duessa was well known. Nevertheless the Knight was but ill pleased that the Lady Lucifera should show such scant courtesy to a stranger. “She is overproud,” he thought to himself, “and there is too much of vain show in these her surroundings.”
While he was thus thinking, the lady rose suddenly from her place, and said that she would ride abroad, and bade call for her coach. A stately coach it was, like to that which, as it was said of old, Queen Juno rode with six peacocks, spreading out great starry tails, for horses. Six steeds had this Queen also, but they were but ill matched, and on each of them did ride one of the six counsellors who advised her in affairs of state, and the six were Idleness, and Gluttony, and Lust, and Avarice, and Envy, and Anger. The false Duessa followed close after the Lady Lucifera, for she was of a kindred spirit, but the Knight, though he knew not all the truth, yet held aloof from the rout, not liking their company. When they had tarried awhile in the fields, breathing the fresh air of the country-side, they turned back to the palace. There they found a Saracen knight newly come, who carried on his shield the name Sansjoy. He was ill-favoured and ill-conditioned, as one who bore a grudge against his fellows. But when he saw how the page of the Red-Cross Knight carried a shield on which was written the name of Sansfoy, then was he filled with fury, and sprang upon the lad and wrenched it from him, which the Red-Cross Knight perceiving, being ill content so to lose the trophy which he had won in fair fight, ran at the Saracen, and recovered that which was his own. Already had they drawn their swords to fight out their quarrel hand to hand, when the Queen Lucifera interposed her high command: “Sirs,” she said, “I command you on pain of my high displeasure to forbear. To-morrow, if you will, you shall prove in fair fight to whom this shield, for which I perceive you contend, in right belongs. Meanwhile I bid you be at peace.”
“I beg your pardon, noble Queen,” said the Saracen, “for that I have thus broken the peace of your court; in truth I could not refrain myself when I saw this false knight possessing the shield of the brave Sansfoy, whom he slew not in fair fight, but by magic arts, ay, and not possessing it only, but that he might do it dishonour, commanding that it should be publicly borne.” So spake Sansjoy, but the Red-Cross Knight said nothing; he was a man of deeds, not of words. Only he threw his gauntlet on the ground, to be a pledge that he would meet his adversary in the field.
Then, for evening was now come, all sat down to the banquet. Right royally did they feast, for Gluttony was steward that night, and ordered their meat and drink; and when they had feasted to the full, they betook themselves to their beds, and Sloth was their chamberlain. But before she slept Duessa made Sansjoy aware that she was no friend to the Red-Cross Knight.
It is ever the way with noble hearts, that they cannot rest till they have fully accomplished that which they purpose to do. So all night long the Red-Cross Knight considered with himself how he should most wisely bear himself in the morrow’s fight, and so considering he waited till the morning light should shine upon the earth. So soon therefore as the sun appeared in the sky he rose from his bed, and arrayed himself in his armour, making ready for his combat with the Saracen. This done, he descended into the castle hall, where there was already gathered a great crowd of men, who had come to see what the issue of the day should be. There were musicians making melody on harps and viols, and bards who were ready to celebrate in song the strength and valour of him who should win the victory. After him by no great space of time came the Saracen, clad in chain armour. Fierce was his look, as though he would strike fear into his adversary, but the Knight was of a temper which no looks could dismay. Then the pages brought in two cups of wine from Greece, and mingled therein spices from farthest India, for such was the custom of the place. It was to kindle the champions’ courage forsooth, but neither Christian nor Saracen, I take it, had need of such encouragement. And as they drank they sware a solemn oath that they would duly observe the laws of honourable war.
This done, the Queen Lucifera came with a great train of knights and ladies, and took her seat upon the throne which had been set for her with a great canopy over it. Before her was an open space, railed in on every side, that none should be near either to help or to hinder the champions. Over against the Queen was set another throne, of less account and dignity. On this was set false Duessa. And on a tree hard by was hung the shield of Sansfoy, and a laurel crown which should be the conqueror’s meed.
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