While Prince Arthur and Sir Artegall were staying at the court of Queen Mercilla, there came one day two noble youths to implore aid for their mother, for their father was dead. A cruel tyrant, the son of a giant, had ravaged all her land, setting up an idol of' his own, and giving her dear children one by one to be devoured by a horrible monster. Prince Arthur, seeing that none of the other knights were eager for this adventure, boldly stepped forward, and begged the Queen to let him undertake it. She gladly granted permission, and the, following morning he started on his journey. In due course he reached the land which had been laid waste, fought with the tyrant, and overcame him, slew the vile monster, and restored the lady to her rightful possessions.
Sir Artegall, meanwhile, had started again on his first quest, which was to set free the Lady Irene and punish Grantorto. He fared forward through many perils, with Talus, as usual, his only attendant, till he came at length near the appointed place.
There, as he travelled, he met an old and solitary wayfarer, whom he knew at once as the attendant of Irene, when she came in sorrow to the court of the Faerie Queene to entreat protection. Saluting him by name, Sir Artegall inquired for news of his Lady, whether she were still alive, and if so why he had left her. To whom the aged knight replied that she lived and was well, but had been seized by treachery and imprisoned
by the tyrant Grantorto, who had often sought her life. And now he had fixed a day by which, if no champion appeared to do battle for her and prove her innocent of those crimes of which she was accused, she should surely suffer death.
Sir Artegall was much cast down to hear these sad tidings, and sorely grieved that it was owing to his own long delay in captivity that the misfortune had happened.
"Tell me, Sir Sergis," he said, "how long a space hath he lent her to provide a champion?"
"Ten days he has granted as a favour," was the answer; "for he knows well that before that date no one can have tidings to help her. For all the shores, far and wide, which border on the sea, he guards night and day, so that no one could land without an army. Already he considers her as good as dead."
"Now turn again," said Sir Artegall; "for if I live till those ten days are ended, be assured, Sir Knight, she shall have aid, though I spend my life for her."
So he went back at once with Sir Sergis.
Then as they rode together they saw in front of them a confused crowd of people, rudely chasing to and fro a hapless Knight, who was in much danger from their rough handling. Some distance away, standing helpless in the midst of the mob, they spied a lady, crying and holding up her hands to him for aid. Sir Artegall and Talus put to flight the rascally rout who were assailing the Knight, and then inquired of him the cause of his misadventure. He replied that his name was Burbon, and that he had been well known and far renowned till mischief had fallen on him and tarnished
his former fame. The lady was his own love, whom the tyrant Grantorto had tried to bribe from him with rich gifts and deceitful words, and now he had sent a troop of villains to snatch her away by open force. Burbon had for a long time vainly tried to rescue her, but was overcome by the multitude of his assailants.
"But why have you forsaken your own good shield?" said Artegall. "This is the greatest shame and deepest scorn that can happen to any knight, to lose the badge that should display his deeds."
"That I will explain to you, lest you blame me for it, and think it was done willingly, whereas it was a matter of necessity," said Sir Burbon, blushing half for shame. "It is true that I was at first dubbed knight by a good Knight--the Knight of the Red Cross, who, when he gave me arms to fight in battle, gave me a shield on which he traced his dear Redeemer's badge. That same I bore for a long time, and with it fought many battles, without wound or loss. With it I appalled Grantorto himself,--and oftentimes made him fall in field before me. But because many envied that shield, and cruel foes greatly increased, to stop all strife and troublous enmity I laid aside the battered scutcheon, and have lately gone without it, hoping thereby to obtain my Lady; nevertheless I cannot have her, for she is still detained from me by force, and is perverted from truth by bribery."
"Truly, Sir Knight," said Artegall, "it is a hard case of which you complain, yet not so hard as to abandon that which contains the blazon of your honour--that is, your warlike shield. All peril and all pain
should be accounted less than loss of fame. Die rather than do aught that yields dishonour."
"Not so," quoth Sir Burbon, "for when time serves I may again resume my former shield. To temporise is not to swerve from truth, when advantage or necessity compels it."
"Fie on such forgery!" said Artegall. "Under one hood to hide two faces! Knights should be true, and truth is one in all. Down with all dissembling!"
"Yet help me now for courtesy against these peasants who have oppressed me," said Burbon, "so that my lady may be freed from their hands."
Sir Artegall, although he blamed his wavering mind, agreed to aid him, and buckling himself at once to the fight, with the help of Talus and his iron flail soon dispersed the rabble.
But when they came to where the lady now stood alone, and Burbon ran forward to embrace her, she started back disdainfully, and would listen to nothing he said. The Knights rebuked her for being so fickle and wayward, and Sir Artegall's grave words so abashed her, that she hung down her head for shame, and stood speechless. Seeing this, Burbon made a second attempt, and she allowed him to place her on his steed without resistance. So he carried her off, seemingly neither well nor ill pleased.
Then Sir Artegall took his way to the sea-shore, to see if he could find any shipping to carry him over to the savage island where Grantorto held the Lady Irene captive. As good fortune fell, when they came to the coast they found a ship all ready to put to sea.
[paragraph continues] Wind and weather served them so well that in one day they reached the island, where they found great hosts of men in order of battle ready to repel them, who held possession of the ground and forbade them to land. Nevertheless they would not refrain from landing, but as they drew near, Talus jumped into the sea, and wading through the waves, gained the shore, and chased the enemy away. Then Artegall and the old Knight landed, and marched forward to a town which was in sight.
By this time those who first fled in fear had brought tidings to the tyrant, who summoned all his forces in alarm, and marched out to encounter the enemy. He had not gone far when he met them; he charged with all his might, but Talus set upon the tyrant's troops and bruised and battered them so pitilessly, that he killed many. No one was able to withstand him; he overthrew them, man and horse, so that they lay scattered all over the land, as thick as seed after the sower.
Then Sir Artegall, seeing his rage, bade him to stop, and made a sign of truce. Calling a herald, he sent him to the tyrant to tell him that he did not come thither for the sake of such slaughter, but to try the right of Irene's cause with him in single fight. When Grantorto heard this message, right glad was he thus to stop the slaughter, and he appointed the next morrow for the combat betwixt them twain.
The following morning was the dismal day appointed for Irene's death. The sorrowful maiden, to whom none had borne tidings of the arrival of Artegall to set her free, looked up with sad eyes and a heavy heart, believing her last hour to be near. Rising,
she dressed herself in squalid garments fit for such a day, and was brought forth to receive her doom.
But when she came to the place, and found there Sir Artegall in battle array, waiting for the foe, her heart was cheered, and it lent new life to her in the midst of deadly fear. Like a withered rose, dying of drought, which glows with fresh grace when a few drops of rain fall on her dainty face, so was Irene's countenance when she saw Sir Artegall in that array waiting for the tyrant.
At length, with proud and presumptuous bearing, Grantorto came into the field. He was armed in a coat of iron plate, and wore on his head a steel cap, rusty brown in colour, but sure and strong. He bore in his hand a great pole-axe, with which he was accustomed to fight, the blade of which was iron-studded, but not long. He was huge and hideous in stature, like a giant in height, surpassing most men in strength, and had moreover great skill in single fight. His face was ugly, and his expression stern enough to frighten one with the very sight of it; and when he grinned, it could scarcely be discerned whether he were a man or a monster.
As soon as he appeared within the lists he surveyed Artegall with a dreadful look, as if he would have daunted him with fear, and grinning in a grisly fashion flourished his deadly weapon. But the Knight of the Faerie Queene, who had often seen such a sight, was not in the least quelled by his ghastly countenance, but began straight to buckle himself to the fight, and cast his shield in front of him to be in readiness.
The trumpets sounded, and they rushed together with terrific force, each dealing huge and dangerous
strokes. But the tyrant thundered his blows with such violence that they rent their way through the iron walls of his enemy's armour. Artegall, seeing this, took wary heed to shun them, and often stooped his head to shield himself; but Grantorto wielded his iron axe so nimbly that he gave him many wounds. But lifting his arm to smite him mortally, the Knight spied his advantage, and slipping underneath, struck him right in the flank. Yet the tyrant's blow, as be had intended, kept on its course, and fell with such monstrous weight that it seemed as if nothing could protect Sir Artegall from death. But betwixt him and the blow he cast his shield, in which the pole-axe buried itself so deep that Grantorto could in no way wrest it back again. He tugged and strove, and dragged the Knight all about the place, but nevertheless he could not free the axe from the shield.
Artegall, perceiving this, let go of his shield, and attacking the tyrant with his sword Crysaor, swiftly cut off his head.
When the people round about saw this they all shouted for joy at his success, glad to be freed from the tyrant who had so long oppressed them. joyously running to the fair Lady Irene, they fell at her feet, doing homage to her as their true liege and princess, while the glory of her champion was sounded everywhere.
Then Sir Artegall led Irene with fitting majesty to the palace where the kings reigned, and established her peaceably therein, and restored her kingdom again to her. And all such persons as had helped the tyrant with open or secret aid he punished severely, so that in
a very short space not one was left who would have dared to disobey her. During the time he remained there all his study was how to deal true justice, and day
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and night he gave his anxious thoughts as to how he might reform the government.
Thus, having freed Irene from distress, he took his leave, and left her sorrowing at his departure.