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The Idle Lake

In the course of their journey, Sir Guyon and the Palmer came at last to the shores of a great lake. The water of this lake was thick and sluggish, unmoved by any wind or tide. In the midst of it floated an island, a lovely plot of fertile land, set like a little nest among the wide waves. The island was full of dainty herbs and flowers, beautiful trees with spreading branches, and with birds singing sweetly on every branch. But

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everything there--the flowers, the trees, and the singing birds--only served to tempt weak-minded people to be slothful and lazy. Lying on the soft grass in some shady dell, they forgot there was any such thing as work or duty, and cared for nothing but to sleep away the time in idle dreams.

Up to the present, Sir Guyon had only had to face adventures of a stern and painful kind, but now he was to be put to quite a different test. Would he fall a prey to the sloth and luxury of this island, or would he remain faithful to his knightly duty?

When Sir Guyon and his companion, Conscience, came to the shore of the lake, they saw, floating near, a little gondola, all decked with boughs. In the gondola sat a beautiful lady, amusing herself by singing and laughing loudly. She came at once when Guyon called, and offered to ferry him across the lake; but when the Knight was in the boat, she refused to let the Palmer get in, and neither money nor entreaties would induce her to take the old man with them. Sir Guyon was very unwilling to leave his guide behind, but he could not go back, for the boat, obeying the lady's wish, shot away more swiftly than a swallow flies. It needed no oar nor pilot to guide it, nor any sails to carry it with the wind; it knew how to go exactly where its owner wanted, and could save itself both from rocks and shoals.

The name of the lady in the gondola was Phædria; she was one of the servants of the wicked enchantress, Acrasia, whom Sir Guyon was now on his way to attack. She hoped that the beautiful island would entrap the

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''But whenas Guyon of that land had sight,<BR>
He wist himself amisse, and angry said;<BR>
'Ah Dame! perdy ye have not doen me right,<BR>
Thus to mislead mee, whiles I you obaid:<BR>
Mee little needed from my right way to have straid.'''
Click to enlarge

''But whenas Guyon of that land had sight,
He wist himself amisse, and angry said;
'Ah Dame! perdy ye have not doen me right,
Thus to mislead mee, whiles I you obaid:
Mee little needed from my right way to have straid.'''


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Knight, and make him delay his journey and forget his purpose.

On the way, as was her custom, she began joking and laughing loudly, thinking this would amuse her guest. Sir Guyon was so kind and courteous that he was quite ready to join in any real merriment; but when he saw his companion grow noisier and sillier every moment, he began to despise her and did not care to share her foolish attempts at fun. But she went on still in the same manner till at last they reached the island.

When Sir Guyon saw this land, he knew he was out of his way, and was very angry.

"Lady," he said, "you have not done right to me, to mislead me like this, when I trusted you. There was no need for me to have strayed from my right way."

"Fair sir," she said, "do not be angry. He who travels on the sea cannot command his way, nor order wind and weather at his pleasure. The sea is wide, and it is easy to stray on it; the wind is uncertain. But here you may rest awhile in safety, till the season serves to attempt a new passage. Better be safe in port than on a rough sea," she ended laughingly.

Sir Guyon was not at all pleased, but he checked his anger and stepped on shore. Phædria at once began to show off all the delights of the island, which grew in beauty wherever she went. The flowers sprang freshly, the trees burst into bud and early blossom, and a whole chorus of birds broke into song. And the lady, more sweetly than any bird on bough, would often sing with them, surpassing, as she easily could,

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their native music with her skilful art. She strove, by every device in her power, so to charm Sir Guyon that he would forget all deeds of daring and his knightly duty.

But Sir Guyon was wise, and took care not to be carried away by these delights, though he would not seem so rude as to despise anything that a gentle lady did to give him pleasure. He spoke many times of his desire to leave, but she kept on making excuses to delay his journey.

Now it happened that Phædria had already allured to the island another knight. This was Cymocles, whose name means the Anger of the Sea. He was the brother of Pyrocles (the Anger of the Fire), whom you may remember Sir Guyon had already fought and conquered. Cymocles had been sunk in a heavy sleep when Sir Guyon arrived, but when he woke up and discovered the new-comer, he flew at once into a furious rage, and rushed to attack him.

Sir Guyon, of course, was quite ready to defend himself, and Cymocles soon found that he had never before met such a powerful foe. The fight between them was so terrible that Phædria, overcome with pity and dismay, rushed forward, and implored them, for her sake, to stop. She blamed herself as the cause of all the mischief, and entreated them not to disgrace the name of knighthood by strife and cruelty, but to make peace and be friends.

So great is the power of gentle words to a brave and generous heart, that at her speech their rage began to relent. When all was over, Sir Guyon again begged

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the lady to let him depart, and to give him passage to the opposite shore. She was now quite as glad as he was for him to go, for she saw that all her folly and vain delights were powerless to tempt him from his duty, and she did not want her selfish ease and pleasure to be troubled with terror and the clash of arms. So she bade him get into the little boat again, and soon conveyed him swiftly to the farther strand.

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