During the time that Guyon stayed in the house of Mammon, the Palmer, whom the maid of the Idle Lake had refused to take in her boat, had found a passage in some other way. On his journey he came near the place where Guyon lay in a trance, and suddenly he heard a voice calling loud and clear, "Come hither, hither! Oh, come quickly!"
He hurried in the direction of the cry, which led him to the shady dell where Mammon had formerly counted his wealth. Here he found Guyon senseless on the ground, but watched over by a beautiful angel.
At first he was dismayed, but the angel bade him not be frightened, for that life and renewed vigour would soon come back to the Knight. He now handed him over to the charge of the Palmer, and bade him watch with care, for fresh evil was at hand.
Thus saving, the angel vanished, and the Palmer, turning to look at Guyon, was rejoiced to find a feeble glimmer of life in him, which he cherished tenderly.
At last there came that way two Pagan knights in shining armour, led by an old man, and with a light-footed page far in front, scattering mischief and enmity wherever he went. These were the two bad brothers, Pyrocles and Cymocles, the sons of Anger, guided by the false Archimago, while their servant, Atin (or Strife) stirred them up to quarrelling and vengeance.
When they came to the place where the Palmer sat watching over the sleeping body of the Knight, they
knew the latter at once, for they had both lately fought with him. They reviled the Palmer, and began
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heaping abuse on Sir Guyon, whom they thought dead, and declared that they would strip him of his armour,
which was much too good for such a worthless creature. The Palmer implored them not to do such a shameful and dishonourable deed, but his entreaties were in vain; one brother laid his hand on the shield, the other on the helmet, both fiercely eager to possess themselves of the spoil.
At this moment they saw coming towards them an armed knight of bold and lofty grace, whose squire bore after him an ebony spear and a covered shield. Well did the magician know him by his arms and bearing when he saw his prancing Libyan steed, and he cried to the brothers, "Rise quickly, and prepare yourselves for battle, for yonder comes the mightiest knight alive--Prince Arthur, the flower of grace and chivalry."
The brothers were so impressed that they started up and greedily prepared for battle. Pyrocles, who had lost his own weapons in the fight with Fury, snatched a sword from Archimago, although the latter warned him it was a magic sword, and would do no harm to Prince Arthur, for whom it had been made long ago, and who was its rightful owner. Pyrocles only laughed at the magician's warning, and having bound Guyon's shield to his wrist, he was ready for the fray.
By that time the stranger Knight had come near, and greeted them courteously. They returned no answer, but looked very disdainful, and then, turning to the Palmer, Prince Arthur noticed that at his feet lay an armed man, in whose dead face he read great nobility.
"Reverend sir," he said, "what great misfortune has befallen this Knight? Did he die a natural death, or did he fall by treason or by fight?"
"Not by one or the other," said the Palmer; "but his senses are drowned in sleep, and these cruel foes have taken advantage of it to revenge their spite and rob him of his armour; but you, fair sir, whose honourable look promises hope of help, may I beseech you to take pity on his sad plight, and by your power protect him?"
"Palmer," he said, "there is no knight so rude, I trust, as to do outrage to a sleeping spirit. Maybe, better reason will soften their rash revenge. Well, chosen words have a secret power in appeasing anger. If not, leave to me your Knight's last defence."
Then, turning to the brothers, he first tried what persuasion would do. He took for granted that their wrath was provoked by wrongs they had suffered, and did not challenge the right or justice of their actions; but, on behalf of the sleeping man, he entreated pardon for anything he might have done amiss.
To this gentle speech the brothers made rude and insulting answers, and Pyrocles, not waiting to set the Prince on guard, lifted high the magic sword, thinking to kill him. The faithful steel refused to harm its master, and swerved from the mark, but the blow was so furious it made man and horse reel. Prince Arthur was such a splendid rider that he did not fall from the saddle; but, full of anger, he cried fiercely--
"False traitor! you have broken the law of arms by striking a foe unchallenged, but you shall soon right bitterly taste the fruit of your treason, and feel the law which you have disgraced."
With that he levelled his spear at Pyrocles, and the two were soon engaged in a fiery battle. Cymocles rushed to his brother's aid, and they both fell on the Prince with terrific fury, so that he had hard work to defend himself. So mighty was his power that neither of his foes could stand against it; but whenever he smote at Pyrocles, the latter threw in front of him Guyon's shield, on which was portrayed the face of the Faerie Queene, and when he saw this, the Prince's hand relented, and he stayed the stroke, because of the love and loyalty he bore the picture. This often saved the Pagan knight from deadly harm, but at last Prince Arthur overcame and killed both him and his brother, while false Archimago and Strife fled fast away.
By this time Sir Guyon had awakened from his trance, and was much grieved when he found that his shield and sword had disappeared; but when he saw beside him his faithful companion, whom he had lost some days before, he was very glad. The Palmer was delighted to see him rise looking so well, and told him not to trouble about the loss of his weapons, for they would soon be restored to him. Then he told Guyon all that had happened, and how the strange Knight had fought for him with the two wicked brothers.
When he heard this, Sir Guyon was deeply touched, and felt all his heart fill with affection. Bowing to Prince Arthur with due reverence, as to the defender of his life, he said, "My lord, my liege, by whose most gracious aid I live this day and see my foes subdued, what reward would be sufficient to repay you for your great goodness, unless to be ever bound--"
But the Prince interrupted. "Fair sir, what need is there to reckon a good turn as a debt to be paid? Are not' all knights bound by oath to withstand the power of the oppressor? It is sufficient that I have done my duty properly."
So they both found that a good deed is made gracious by kindness and courtesy.