When Duessa found that the Red Cross Knight had left the palace of Queen Lucifera, she immediately set out in search of him. It was not long before she found him where he sat wearily by the side of a fountain to rest himself. He had taken off all his armour, and his steed was cropping the grass close by. It was pleasant in the cool shade, and the soft wind blew refreshingly
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Duessa at first pretended to be angry with the Knight for leaving her so unkindly, but they were soon good friends again. They stayed for some time beside the fountain, where the green boughs sheltered them from the scorching heat.
But although it looked so lovely and tempting, the fountain near which they sat was an enchanted one. Whoever tasted its waters grew faint and feeble.
The Knight, not knowing this, stooped down to drink of the stream, which was as clear as crystal. Then
all his strength turned to weakness, his courage melted away, and a deadly chill crept over him.
At first he scarcely noticed the change, for he had grown careless both of himself and of his fame. But suddenly he heard a dreadful sound--a loud bellowing which echoed through the wood. The earth seemed to shake with terror, and all the trees trembled. The Knight, astounded, started up, and tried to seize his weapons. But before he could put on his armour, or get his shield, his monstrous enemy came stalking into sight.
It was a hideous Giant, great and horrible. The ground groaned under him. He was taller than three of the tallest men put together. His name was Orgoglio, or Pride, and his father's name was Ignorance. He was puffed up with arrogance and conceit, and because he was so big and strong he despised every one else. He leant upon a gnarled oak, which he had torn up by its roots from the earth; it also served him as a weapon to dismay his foemen.
When he saw the Knight he advanced to him with dreadful fury. The latter, quite helpless, all in vain tried to prepare for battle. Disarmed, disgraced, inwardly dismayed, and faint in every limb, he could scarcely wield even his useless blade. The Giant aimed such a merciless stroke at him, that if it had touched him it would have crushed him to powder. But the Knight leapt lightly to one side, and thus escaped the blow. So great, however, was the wind that the club made in whirling through the air that the Knight was overthrown, and lay on the ground stunned.
When Giant Pride saw his enemy lying helpless, he
lifted up his club to kill him, but Duessa called to him to stay his hand.
"O great Orgoglio," she cried, "spare him for my sake, and do not kill him. Now that he is vanquished make him your bond-slave, and, if you like, I will be your wife!"
Giant Pride was quite pleased with this arrangement, and, taking up the Red Cross Knight before he could awake from his swoon, he carried him hastily to his castle, and flung him, without pity, into a deep dungeon.
As for Duessa, from that day forth she was treated with the greatest honour. She was given gold and purple to wear, and a triple crown was placed upon her head, and every one had to obey her as if she were a queen. To make her more dreaded, Orgoglio gave her a hideous dragon to ride. This dragon had seven heads, with gleaming eyes, and its body seemed made of iron and brass. Everything good that came within its reach it swept away with a great long tail, and then trampled under foot.
All the people's hearts were filled with terror when they saw Duessa riding on her dragon.