After the Pagan brothers were conquered, and Prince Arthur had recovered his stolen sword and Guyon his lost shield, the two went on their way together, talking pleasantly as they journeyed along. When the sun was near setting they saw in the distance a goodly castle, placed near a river, in a pleasant valley. Thinking this place would do to spend the night in, they marched thither, but when they came near, and dismounted from their tired steeds, they found the gates barred and every fastening locked, as though for fear of foes. They thought this was done as an insult to them, to prevent their entrance, till the Squire blew his horn under the castle wall, which shook with the sound as if it would fall. Then a watchman quickly looked forth from the highest tower, and called loudly to the knights to ask what they required so rudely. They gently answered that they . wished to enter.
"Fly, fly, good knights!" he said; "fly fast away if you love your lives, as it is right you should. Fly fast, and save yourselves from instant death. You
may not enter here, though we would most willingly let you in if only we could. But a thousand enemies rage round us, who have held the castle in siege for seven years, and many good knights who have sought to save us have been slain."
As he spoke, a thousand villains, with horrible outcry, swarmed around them from the adjoining rocks and caves--vile wretches, ragged, rude, and hideous, all threatening death, and all armed in a curious manner, some with unwieldy clubs, some with long spears, some with rusty knives, some with staves heated in the fire. They looked like wild bulls, staring with hollow eyes, and with stiff hair standing on end.
They assailed the Knights fiercely, and made them recoil, but when Prince Arthur and Sir Guyon charged again their strength began to fail, and they were unable to withstand them, for the champions broke on them with such might that they were forced to fly like scattered sheep before the rush of a lion and a tiger. The Knights with their shining blades soon broke their rude ranks, and drove them into confusion, hewing and slashing at them; and now, when faced boldly, they found that they were nothing but idle shadows, for, though they seemed bodies, they had really no substance.
When they had dispersed this troublesome rabble, Prince Arthur and Guyon came again to the castle gate, and begged entrance, where they had been refused before. The report of their danger and conflict having reached the ears of the lady who dwelt there, she came out with a goodly train of squires and ladies to bid them welcome.
The lady's name was Alma. She was as beautiful as it was possible to be, in the very flower of her youth, yet full of goodness and modesty. She was clad in a robe of lily-white, reaching from her shoulders to the ground; the long, loose train, embroidered with gold and pearls, was carried by two fair damsels. Her yellow-golden hair was trimly arranged, and she wore no head-dress except a garland of sweet roses.
She entertained the Knights nobly, and, when they had rested a little, they begged her, as a great favour, to show them over her castle. This she consented to do.
First she led them up to the castle wall, which was so high that no foe could climb it, and yet was both beautiful and fit for defence. It was not built of brick, nor yet of stone, sand, nor mortar, but of clay. The pity was that such goodly workmanship could not last longer, for it must soon turn back to earth.
Two gates were placed in this building, the one (mouth) by which all passed in far excelling the other in workmanship. When it was locked, no one could pass through, and when it was opened no man could shut it. Within the barbican sat a porter (the tongue), day and night keeping watch and ward; nobody could go in or out of the gate without strict scrutiny. Utterers of secrets he debarred, babblers of folly, and those who told tales of wrong-doing; when cause required it, his alarm-bell might be heard far and wide, but never without occasion.
Round the porch on each side sat sixteen warders (the teeth), all in bright array; tall yeomen they
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Broke their rude tropes, and orders did confound,
Hewing and slashing at their idle shades;
For though they bodies seem, yet substance from them fades.''
seemed, of great strength, and were ranged ready for fight.
Alma then took the Knights over the rest of the castle, and showed them so many curious and beautiful things that their minds were filled with wonder, for they had never before seen so strange a sight. Presently she brought them back into a beautiful parlour (the heart), hung with rich tapestry, where sat a bevy of fair ladies (the feelings, tastes, &c.), amusing themselves in different ways. Some sang, some laughed, some played with straws, some sat idly at ease; but others could not bear to play--all amusement was annoyance to them. This one frowned, that one yawned, a third blushed for shame, another seemed envious or shy, while another gnawed a rush and looked sullen.
After that, Alma took her guests up to a stately turret (the head), in which two beacons (the eyes) gave light, and flamed continually, for they were most marvellously made of living fire, and set in silver sockets, covered with lids that could easily open and shut.
In this turret there were many rooms and places, but three chief ones, in which dwelt three honourable sages, who counselled fair Alma how to govern well. The first of these could foresee things to come; the second could best advise of things present; the third kept things past in memory, so that no time or occasion could arise which one or other of them could not deal with.
The first sat in the front of the house, so that nothing should hinder his coming to a conclusion
quickly; he made up his mind in advance, without listening to reason; he had a keen foresight, and an active brain that was never idle and never rested. His room held a collection of the oddest and queerest things ever seen or imagined. It was filled, too, with flies, that buzzed all about, confusing men's eyes and ears, with a sound like a swarm of bees. These were idle thoughts and fancies, dreams, visions, soothsayings, prophecies, &c., and all kinds of false tales and lies.
The second counsellor was a much older man. He spent all his time meditating over things that had really happened, and in studying law, art, science and philosophy, so that he had grown very wise indeed.
The third counsellor was a very, very aged man. His chamber seemed very ruinous and old, and was therefore at the back of the house, but the walls that upheld it were quite firm and strong. He was half blind, and looked feeble in body, but his mind was still vigorous. All things that had happened, however ancient they were, he faithfully recorded, so that nothing might be forgotten.
The names of Alma's three counsellors were Imagination, Judgment, and Memory.