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The House of Guile

Thus for a long while Sir Artegall continued obediently serving proud Radigund, however much it galled his noble heart to obey the dictates of a tyrannous woman. Having chosen his lot, he could not now change.

As the days went by, the Amazon Queen began to have a great liking for her strange captive, but for a long time she kept this carefully concealed, for her pride would not allow her to own to such a feeling for her lowly vassal. At last, when she could bear it no longer, she sent for her trusted maid, Clarinda, and told her to. devise some means by which to discover whether there were any chance of Sir Artegall's loving her, if she gave him his liberty. Clarinda promised to do her best, and tried by all the means in her power to win favour with the Knight, but the more she saw of him the better she liked him herself, so she ended by being false both to her mistress and to Sir Artegall. To the Queen she pretended that Sir

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[paragraph continues] Artegall was very stern and obstinate, and scorned all her offers of kindness and gentler treatment; and to the Knight she declared that she had earnestly besought Radigund to grant him freedom, but the Queen would by no means be persuaded, and had ordered instead that he should be more harshly treated and laden with iron chains. This command, however, Clarinda said she would not carry out, because of her own regard for the Knight, and she further promised that if she found favour in his sight she would devise some means of setting him free

Sir Artegall, glad to gain his liberty, answered her civilly, but determined in his heart that nothing should make him forsake his own true love, Britomart; and deceitful Clarinda had not the least intention of freeing him from bondage, but considered rather how she might keep him more securely. Therefore every day she unkindly told her mistress that the Knight spurned her offers of goodwill, and Sir Artegall she told that the Queen refused him his freedom. Yet in order to win his affection, she showed him this much friendship, that his scanty fare was improved, and his work lessened.

Thus for a long while Sir Artegall remained there in thraldom.

Britomart, meanwhile, waited and longed for news of her absent lord, and when the utmost date assigned for his return had passed, a thousand fears assailed her doubting mind. Sometimes she feared lest a terrible misfortune had befallen him; sometimes lest his false foe had entrapped him in a snare; at other times a

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jealous fear troubled her that perhaps Sir Artegall had forgotten her, and found some other lady whom he loved better. Yet she was loath to think so ill of him as this. One moment she blamed herself; another, condemned him as faithless and untrue; then, trying to cheat her grief, she pretended she had reckoned the time wrong, and began to count it all over a different way.

When months went on, and still he never came back, she thought of sending some one to seek him, but could find no one so fitting to do this as her own self.

One day, unable to rest quietly in any place, she came to a window opening to the west, which was the way Sir Artegall had gone. There, looking forth, she felt many vain fancies disquiet her, and sent her winged thoughts swifter than wind to carry her heart's message to her love. As she looked long, she spied some one coming hastily towards her. Then she knew well before she saw him plainly, that it was some one sent from Sir Artegall; and as he drew near, she found it was his servant, Talus. Filled with hope and dread she ran to meet him, exclaiming--

"And where is he, thy lord, and how far hence? Tell me at once. And has he lost or won?"

Then Talus told the whole story of Sir Artegall's captivity.

Britomart listened bravely to the end, and then a sudden fit of wrath and grief seized her. Without waiting to make any answer, she got ready at once, donned her armour, and mounting her steed, bade Talus guide her on.

So she rode forth to seek her Knight; sadly she

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rode, speaking no word good or bad, and looking neither to the right or left. Her heart burned with

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rage to punish the pride of that woman who had pent her lord in a base prison, and had tarnished his great honour with such infamous disgrace.

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Thus riding, she chanced to meet towards evening a knight strolling on the plain as if to refresh himself. He seemed well on in years, and inclined rather to peace than to needless trouble, his raiment and his modest bearing both showing that he meant no evil. Coming near, he began to salute Britomart in the most courteous fashion. Though the Princess would rather have remained mute than joined in commonplace conversation, yet sooner than despise such kindness she set her own wishes aside, and so returned his greeting in due form. Then the other began to chat further about things in general, and asked many questions, to which she gave careless answer. For she had little desire to talk about anything, or to hear about anything, however delightful; her mind was wholly possessed by one thought, and there was no place for any other.

When the stranger observed this, he no longer forced her to talk unwillingly, but begged her to favour him, since the skies were growing dark and wet, by lodging with him that night, unless good cause forbade it. Britomart, seeing night was at hand, was glad to yield to his kind request, and went with him without any objection.

His dwelling was not far away, and soon arriving, they were received in the most gracious and befitting manner, for their host gave them excellent good cheer, and talked of pleasant things to entertain them. Thus the evening passed well, till the time came for rest. Then Britomart was brought to her bower, where attendants waited to help her to undress. But she would not for anything take off her armour, although her host warmly besought her; for she had vowed, she said, not

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to lay aside this warrior garb till she had wrought revenge on a mortal foe for a recent wrong; which she would surely perform, let weal or woe betide her.

When their host perceived this, he grew very discontented, for he was afraid lest he should now miss his purpose; but taking leave of her, he departed.

Britomart remained all night restless and comfortless, with deeply grieved heart, not allowing the least twinkle of sleep to refresh her. In sorrowful thoughts she wore away the weary hours, now walking softly about, now sitting still, upright. Neither did Talus let sleep close his eyelids, but kept continual guard, lying in much discomfort outside her door, like a spaniel, watching carefully lest any one should by treachery betray his lady.

Just at cock-crow Britomart heard a strange noise in the hall below, and suddenly the bed, on which she might have been lying, by a false trap was let to fall down into a lower room; then immediately the floor was raised again, so that no one could spy the trap.

At the sight of this, Britomart was sorely dismayed, plainly perceiving the treason which was intended; yet she did not stir, in case of more, but courageously kept her place, waiting what would follow.

It was not long before she heard the sound of armed men coming towards her chamber, at which dreadful peril she quickly caught her sword, and bound her shield about her. As she did so, there came to her door two knights, all armed ready to fight, and after them a rascally mob, rudely equipped with weapons.

As soon as Talus spied them he started up from

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where he lay on the ground, and caught his thresher ready in his hand. They immediately let drive at him, and pressed round in riotous array, but as soon as he began to lay about with his iron flail, they turned and fled, both the armed knights and the unarmed crowd. Talus pursued them wherever he could spy them in the dark, then returning to Britomart, told her the story of the fray, and all the treason that was intended.

Though greatly enraged, and inwardly burning to be avenged for such an infamous deed, Britomart was compelled to wait for daylight. She therefore remained in her chamber, but kept wary heed, in case of any further treachery.

The cause of this evil behaviour was unknown to Britomart, but this is how it was.

The master of the house was called Dolon (Guile), a subtle and wicked man; in his youth he had been a knight, and borne arms, but gained little good and less honour by that warlike kind of life; for he was not in the least valorous, but with sly shifts and wiles got the better of all noble and daring knights, and brought many to shame by treachery.

He had three sons, all three like their father treacherous, and full of fraud and guile. The eldest, named Guizor, had, through his own guilty cunning, been slain by Artegall, and to avenge him, Dolon, with his other two sons, had lately devised many vile plots. He imagined by several tokens that his present guest was Artegall, but chiefly on account of the Iron Man who was always accustomed to remain with Artegall. Dolon, therefore, meant surely to have slain the Knight, but by

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the grace of heaven and her own good heed, Britomart was preserved from the traitor.

The next morning, as soon as it was dawn, she came forth from the hateful chamber, fully intending to punish the villain and all his family. But coming down to seek them where they dwelt, she could not see father, nor sons, nor any one. She sought in each room, but found them all empty; every one had fled in fear, but whither neither she nor Talus knew.

She saw it was in vain to stay there longer, so took her steed, and lightly mounting, started again on her former way. She had not ridden the distance of an arrow's flight before she saw in front of her the two false brethren on the perilous Bridge, where Sir Artegall had fought with the Saracen. The passage was narrow, like a ploughed ridge, so that if two met, one must needs fall over the edge.

There they thought to wreak their wrath on her, and began to reproach her bitterly, accusing her of murdering Guizor by cunning. Britomart did not know what they meant, but she went forward without pausing till she came to the perilous Bridge. There Talus wanted to prepare the way for her, and scare off the two villains, but her eyes sparkled with anger at the suggestion. Not staying to consider which way to take, she put spurs to her fiery steed, and making her way between them, she drove one brother at the point of her spear to the end of the Bridge, and hurled the other brother over the side of it into the river.

Thus the Warrior Princess slew the two wicked sons of Goodman Guile.

Next: The Battle of Queen Radigund and Britomart