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"The champion of true Justice, Artegall."
"Wise, warlike, personable, courteous, and kind."
ONE of the noblest heroes at the Court of the Faerie Queene was Artegall, the champion of Justice. After his marriage with Britomart, it may be remembered, he started on a hard adventure, which led him into much peril. This was to succour a distressed lady whom a strong tyrant unjustly kept captive, withholding from her the heritage which she claimed. The lady was called Irene (Peace), and the Tyrant, Grantorto (Great Wrong).
When Irene came to the Faerie Queene to beg redress, Queen Gloriana, whose delight it was to aid all poor suppliants, chose Artegall to restore right to her, because he seemed the best skilled in righteous learning.
Even from his cradle Artegall had been brought up to justice; for one day when he was a little child playing with his companions, he had been found by a great and wonderful lady called Astræa, who, while she dwelt here among earthly men, instructed them in the rules of justice. Seeing that the boy was noble and fit for her purpose, she persuaded him to go with her. She took him far away to a lonely cave, in which she brought him up, and taught him all the discipline of justice. She taught him, to weigh equally both right and wrong, and where severity was needed to measure it out according to the line of conscience. For want of mankind she caused him to practise this teaching on wild beasts which she found in the woods wrongfully oppressing others of their own kind. Thus she trained him, and thus she taught him to judge skilfully wrong and right till he reached the years of manhood, so that even wild beasts feared him, and men admired his over-ruling might. Nor was there any living person who dared withstand his behest, much less match him in fight. To make him more dreaded, Astræa gave Artegall a wonderful sword, called "Chrysaor," which excelled all other swords. It was made of most perfect metal, tempered with adamant, all garnished with gold upon the blade, whereby it took its name. It was no less powerful than famous, for there was no substance so firm and hard but it could pierce or cleave, nor any armour that
could guard off the stroke, for wherever it lighted, it cut completely through.
In course of time Astræa left this world, and went to live among the stars, from which she had first come. But she left behind her on earth her servant, an Iron Man, who always attended on her to execute her Judgments, and she bade him go with Artegall and do whatever he was told. The man's name was Talus; he was made of iron mould, immovable, irresistible, unchanging; he held in his hand an iron flail, with which he threshed out falsehood and unfolded the truth.
Talus, therefore, went with Sir Artegall on this new quest, to aid him, if he chanced to need aid, against the cruel tyrant who oppressed the Lady Irene and kept the crown from her. Nothing is more honourable to a knight, nor better becomes brave chivalry, than to defend the feeble in their right, and redress the wrongs of those who go astray. So the heroes of old won their greatest glory, and herein this noble Knight excelled, who now went forth to dare great perils for the sake of justice.
As Artegall and Talus went on their way they chanced to meet the servant of Florimell, who told the good news that his lady was safe and well, and engaged to be married to her own true knight, Marinell. Sir Artegall was very glad to hear this, and asked when the wedding was to take place, for if he had time he would like to be present to do honour to the occasion.
"The wedding will be within three days," said the man, "at the Castle of the Strand; at which time, if nothing hinders me, I shall be there to do her service,
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She caused him to make experience
Upon wyld beasts, which she in woods did find
With wrongfull powre oppressing others of their kind.''
as I am bound. But in my way, a little beyond here, dwells a cruel Saracen who keeps with strong hand the passage of a bridge. He has killed there many a knight-errant, wherefore all men, out of fear, shun the passage."
"What sort of person, and how far away, is he who does such harm to travellers?" asked Artegall.
"He is a man of great defence, expert in battle and in deeds of arms," was the answer; "and he is made much bolder by the wicked spells with which his daughter supports him. He has got large estates and goodly farms by oppression and extortion, with which he still holds them. His crimes increase daily, for he never lets any one pass that way over his Bridge, be he rich or poor, without paying him toll-money. His name is called Pollenté, because he is so strong and powerful; he: conquers every one,--some by his strength, and some also he circumvents by cunning. For it is his custom to fight on the bridge, which is very narrow, but exceedingly long, and in this bridge are fixed many trap-falls, through which, not noticing, the rider falls down. Underneath the bridge flows a swift and dangerously deep river, into which falls headlong, destitute of help, any one whom the Saracen overthrows. But the tyrant himself, because of his long practice, leaps forth into the flood, and there assails his foe, confused by his sudden fall, so that horse and main are both equally dismayed, and either drowned or treacherously slain. Then Pollenté robs them at will, and brings the spoil to his daughter, who dwells hard by. She takes everything that comes, and
fills her wicked coffers, which she has heaped so high by wrong-doing that she is richer than many a prince, and has purchased all the country lying near with her ill-gotten revenue. Her name is Munera.
"She is very beautiful and richly attired; her hands are made of gold, and her feet of silver. Many great lords have wished to marry her, but she is so proud that she despises them all."
"Now by my life, and with Heaven to guide me," said Sir Artegall, "no other way will I take this day but by that bridge where the Saracen abides; therefore lead me thither."