After the burial of the Knight and the Lady, Sir Guyon gave the little baby into the care of the Palmer, and, lading himself with the heavy armour of the dead Sir Mordant, the two started again on their journey. But when they came to the place where Sir Guyon had left his steed, with its golden saddle and costly trappings, they found, to their surprise and vexation, that it had quite disappeared. They were obliged, therefore, to go forward on foot.
By-and-by they came to a famous old Castle, built on a rock near the sea. In this castle lived three sisters, who were so different in character that they could never agree. The eldest and the youngest were always quarrelling, and they were both as disagreeable as possible to the middle sister. Elissa, the eldest, was very harsh and stern; she always looked discontented, and she despised every kind of pleasure or merriment. It was useless ever to attempt to make her smile; she was always frowning and scolding in a way not at all becoming to any gentle lady.
Perissa, the youngest sister, was just as bad in the other direction; she cared for nothing but amusement, and was so full of laughter and play that she forgot all rules of right and reason, and became quite thoughtless and silly. She spent all her time in eating, and drinking, and dressing herself up in fine clothes.
These two sisters showed the evil of two extremes but the middle sister, Medina, or "Golden Mean," as
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Built on a rocke adjoyning to the seas.''
she was sometimes called, was the type of moderation, and all that was right and proper. She was sweet, and gracious, and womanly; not harsh and stern, like Elissa, nor yet heedless and silly, like Perissa. She dressed richly, but quietly, and her clothes suited her well: they were different alike from Elissa's stinginess and Perissa's extravagance.
When Medina saw Sir Guyon approaching the castle, she met him on the threshold, and led him in like an honoured guest. But her sisters were very angry when they heard of his arrival. There were two other visitors at the castle just then, and they also were very angry. Sir Hudibras was a friend of the eldest sister. He was very savage and sullen, slowwitted, but big and strong. Sans-loy, or Lawless, was the friend of the youngest sister. He was the same Lawless who had been so cruel to poor Una, and he was just as bold and unruly now as he had been then, and he never cared what wrong he did to any one.
These two hated each other, and were always quarrelling, but when they heard of the coming of the stranger knight, they both flew to attack him. On the way, however, they began fighting with each other, and, hearing the noise, Sir Guyon ran to try to stop them, whereupon they both turned upon him. The two sisters stood by, and encouraged them to go on fighting; but Medina ran in amongst them, and entreated them to stop. Her gentle words at last appeased their anger, and they laid down their weapons, and consented to make friends.
Then Medina invited them all to a feast, which
she had prepared in honour of Sir Guyon. Elissa and Perissa came very unwillingly, though they attempted to hide their grudging and envy under a pretence of cheerfulness. One sister thought the entertainment provided far too much, and the other sister thought it far too little. Elissa would scarcely speak or eat anything, while Perissa chattered and ate far more than was right or proper.
After the feast, Medina begged Sir Guyon to tell them the story of his adventures, and to say on what quest he was now bound.
Then Sir Guyon told them all about the court of the Faerie Queene, Gloriana, and how he had sworn service to her, and promised to go out into the world to fight every kind of evil. The task he had now in hand was to find out the wicked enchantress, Acrasia, and to destroy her dwelling, for she had done more bad deeds than could be told, and, among them, had brought about the deaths of the father and mother of the poor little baby he had taken under his care.
By the time Sir Guyon's tale was finished the night was far spent, and all the guests in the castle betook themselves to rest.