As Sir Artegall travelled on his way he saw far off a crowd of many people, to whom he hastened, in order to discover the cause of such a large assembly. When he came near he saw a strange sight-a troop of women clad in warlike fashion, with weapons in their hands, as if ready to fight; and in the midst of them he saw a Knight, with both hands pinioned behind him, and round about his neck a halter tight, ready prepared for the gallows. His head was bare and his face covered, so that it was not easy to distinguish him. He went along with a heavy heart, grieved to the soul, and groaning inwardly that he should die so base a death at the hands of women. But they, like merciless tyrants, rejoiced at his misery, and reviled him, and sorely reproached him with bitter taunts and terms of disgrace.
When Artegall, arriving at the place, asked what cause had brought the man to destruction, the women swarmed eagerly around him, meaning to lay their cruel hands on him, and to do him some unexpected mischief. But he was soon aware of their evil mind, and drawing back defeated their intention. He was ashamed to disgrace himself by fighting with women, so he sent Talus to punish them for their rash folly. With a few strokes of his iron flail the latter speedily dispersed their troop, and sent them home to tell a piteous tale of their vain prowess turned to their own injury.
The wretched man doomed to death they left behind them, glad to be quit of them. Talus soon
set him at liberty, and released him from his horror at
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such a shameful death, unfitting a knight, which he dreaded more than loss of life; and uncovering his
face, he brought him to his master, who then knew him at once.
"Sir Terpin!" cried Artegall. "Hapless man, what are you doing here? Have you lost yourself and your senses? Or have you, who can boast of subduing men, yielded to the oppression of women? Or what other deadly misfortune has fallen on you, that you have run so foolishly far astray as to lead yourself to your own destruction?"
The man was so confused, partly with shame, partly with dismay, that he stood lost in astonishment, and could find little to say in excuse.
"You may justly term me hapless, who am brought to this shame, and am to-day made the scorn of knighthood," was his only answer. "But who can escape Fate? The work of Heaven's will surpasses human thought."
"True," said Sir Artegall, "but faulty men often attribute their own folly to Fate, and lay on Heaven the guilt of their own crimes. But tell me, Sir Terpin--and do not let your misery daunt you--how you fell into this state."
"Since you needs will know my shame," said the Knight, "and all the ill which has lately chanced to me, I will briefly relate it, and do not turn my misfortune to my blame.
"Being desirous, as all knights are, to try deeds of arms through hard adventures, and to hunt after fame and honour, I heard a report which flew far abroad that a proud Amazon lately bade defiance to all brave knights, and wrought them all the villainy her malice
could devise, putting some to shame, and doing many of them to death.
"The cause of her hate is for the sake of a Knight called Bellodant the Bold, whom a short time ago she liked greatly, and tried in every way to attract; but finding nothing of any avail, her love turned to hatred, and for his sake she vowed to do all the ill she could to other knights,--which vow she now fulfils.
"For all those knights whom by force or guile she subdues she treats shamefully. First she despoils them of their armour, and clothes them in women's garments; then with threats she compels them to work to earn their food--to spin, to card, to sew, to wash, to wring. She gives them nothing to eat but bread and water, or some such feeble food, to disable them from attempting revenge.
"But if with manly disdain any of them withstand her insolent commands, she causes them to be immediately hanged on that gibbet over there, in which condition I stood just now; for being conquered by her in fight, and put to the base service of her band, I chose rather to die than to live that shameful life, unworthy of a knight."
"What is the name of that Amazon?" asked Artegall. "And where, and how far hence does she live?"
"Her name is called Radigund," replied Sir Terpin, "a princess of great power, and greater pride, Queen of the Amazons, well tried in arms and sundry battles, which she has achieved with great success, and which have won her much glory and fame."
"Now, by my faith," said Sir Artegall, "I will not rest till I have tested her power, and avenged the shame that she shows to knights. Therefore, Sir Terpin, throw from you those squalid clothes, the pattern of despair, and go with me, that you may see and know how Fortune will repair your ruined name and knighthood, whose praise she would tarnish."
Sir Terpin joyfully threw off his iron fetters, and eagerly prepared to guide the way to the dwelling of the Amazon, which was not more than a mile or two distant--a goodly and a mighty city, called after her own name Radigone.
On their arrival they were immediately espied by the watchman, who warned all the city of the appearance of three warlike persons, of whom one seemed like a Knight fully armed, and the other two likely to prove dangerous. The people ran at once to put on their armour, swarming in a cluster like bees, and before long their Queen herself, looking half like a man, came forth into the crowd, and began to set them in array.
And now the Knights, being arrived near, beat upon the gates to enter in; threatening the porter, who scorned them for being so few, to tear him to pieces if they won the city. When Radigund beard them her heart was torn with rage. She bade her people to unbar the gates at once, and to make way for the knights with well-prepared weapons.
As soon as the gates were set open the Knights pressed forward to make an entrance, but midway they were met by a sharp shower of arrows, which stopped them. Then all the mob attacked them savagely.
heaping strokes so fast on every side, and with such a hail of arrows, that the Knights could not withstand them. But Radigund herself, when she espied Sir Terpin freed from her cruel doom, was suddenly seized with a fit of fury, and flying at him like a lioness, smote him so fiercely that he fell to the ground. Then she leaped to him, and placed her foot on his neck.
When Sir Artegall saw the Knight's peril, he sprang at once to his rescue, and assailed Radigund with such vigour that he drove her back. For a moment she was stunned, but as soon as she collected her senses she turned on Sir Artegall, half-mad with revengeful anger and pride, for she had never suffered such a rebuff. But before they could meet in fight her maidens flocked round her so fast that they parted them, in spite of their valour, and kept them far asunder. But amongst the others the fight lasted till the evening.
And all the while the great Iron Man sorely vexed the Amazons with his strange weapon, to which they had never been accustomed in war. He chased and outran them, and broke their bows, and spoilt their shooting, so that not one of them all dared to go near him. They scattered like sheep before a wolf, and fled before him through all the fields and valleys.
But when the daylight grew dim with the shadows of night, Radigund, with the sound of a trumpet, caused her people to cease fighting, and gathering them to the gate of the city, made them all enter, and had the weak and wounded conveyed in, before she would retreat herself.
When the field was thus empty and all things quiet, Sir Artegall, weary with toil and travel, caused his pavilion to be richly prepared in full view of the city gate. He himself, together with Sir Terpin, rested here in safety all that night; but Talus was accustomed, in times of jeopardy, to keep a nightly watch for fear of treachery.
Radigund, full of heart-gnawing grief for the rebuke she had met that day, could take no rest nor relief, but tossed about in her mind in what way she could revenge her disgrace. Then she resolved to try her fortune in single fight herself, rather than see her people destroyed, as she had seen that day.
She called to her a trusty maid, named Clarinda, whom she thought fittest for the business, and said to her--
"Go, damsel, quickly; get ready to do the message which I shall tell you, Go you to the stranger Knight who yesterday drove us to such distress; tell him that to-morrow I will fight with him, and try in a fair field which is the mightier.
"But these conditions you must propound to him--that if I vanquish him he shall obey my law, and ever be bound to do my bidding And so will I, if he vanquish me, whatever he shall like to do or say. Go straight, and take with you as witness six of your companions of the highest rank; and carry with you wine and rich delicacies, and bid him eat: henceforth he shall often sit hungry."
The damsel instantly obeyed, and putting all in readiness went forth to the town gate, where, sounding a trumpet loudly from the wall, she sent warning to the warrior Knights. Then Talus, issuing from the tent,
took his way fearlessly to the wall, to know what that sounding of the trumpet meant, whereupon the damsel called to him, and explained that she wished to parley with his lord.
Then he conducted them at once to his master, who gave them a cordial greeting, and to whom they told their message, word for word. Sir Artegall, gladly accepting it, entertained them with fitting courtesy, and gave them rich and handsome gifts. So they turned their steps homeward again, but Artegall went back to rest, that he might be fresher against the next day's fight.