When the wedding festivities of Marinell and Florimell were over, Sir Artegall left the Castle of the Strand, to follow his first quest; and the only person
who went with him to help him was his servant Talus, the Iron Man.
As he passed along the sea-shore he chanced to come where two comely squires were having an angry quarrel. They were brothers, but were just now stirred up by some matter of debate. Two good-looking damsels stood beside them, trying by every means to soothe their ire--now by fair words, but words did little good--now by threats, but threats only made them angrier. Before them stood a strong coffer, fast bound on every side with iron bands, but seeming to have received much injury either by being wrecked upon the shore, or by being carried far from foreign lands. It appeared as if it were for this coffer the squires were fighting; and though the ladies kept interfering to prevent their furious encounter, yet they were firmly resolved to try their rights by dint of sword. Thus they both stood ready to meet in cruel combat when Sir Artegall, happily arriving, stopped for awhile their greedy bickering till he had inquired the cause of their dispute. To whom the elder made this answer:--
"You must know, sir, we are two brothers, to whom our father, Milesio by name, equally bequeathed his land, two islands, which you see there before you, not far off in the sea. Of these the one appears but like a little mount, of small size, yet it was as great and wide, not many years ago, as that other island, which is now so much larger.
"But the course of time, which destroys everything, and this devouring sea, which spares nothing, have washed away the greater part of my land, and thrown
it up to my brother's share, so his is increased but mine is lessened. Before which time I loved, as it happened, the maid over there, called Philtera the Fair, with whom I should have received a goodly dower, and to whom I was to have been married.
"At that time my younger brother, Amidas, loved the other damsel--Lucy--to whom but little dower was allotted. Her virtue was the dowry that delighted--and what better dowry can a lady possess? But now when Philtera saw my lands decay, and my former livelihood fail, she left me, and went over to my brother, who, taking her from me, completely deserted his own love.
"Lucy, seeing herself forsaken, in despair flung herself into the sea, thinking to take away her grief by death. But see how her purpose was foiled! Whilst beaten to and fro amidst the billows, hovering between life and death, she chanced unawares to light upon this coffer, which offered to her, in her danger, hope of life.
"The wretched maiden, who had formerly desired death, now that she had had a taste of it began to repent that she had been so foolish, and caught hold of the sea-beaten chest, which after long tossing in the rough waves, at last rested on my island. Here I, wandering by chance on the shore, espied her, and with some difficulty helped to save her from the jaws of death, which threatened to swallow her up. In recompense for this she then bestowed on me those goods which fortune had given her, together with herself, a free gift--both goodly portions, but herself the better of the two.
"In this coffer which she brought with her we
found great treasure, which we took as our own, and so considered it. But this other damsel, Philtera, my brother's wife, pretends now that the treasure belongs
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to herself, that she transported the same by sea, to bring it to her newly made husband, but suffered shipwreck by the way. Whether it be so or not.
[paragraph continues] I cannot say. But whether it indeed be so or not, this I do say, that whatsoever good or ill Providence or fortune throws to me, not purposely wronging any one else, I hold as my own, and will so hold it still. And though Amidas first won away my land, and then my love (though now that matters little), yet he shall not also make prey of my good luck, but I will defend it as long as ever I can."
Bracidas, the elder brother, having thus spoken, the younger one followed on.
"It is quite true what my brother here has declared to you about the land; but the dispute between us is not for that, but for this treasure, thrown upon his shore, which I can prove, as shall appear by trial, to belong to this lady, to whom I am married. It is well known by good marks and perfect witnesses, and therefore it ought to be rendered to her without denial."
When they had thus ended, the Knight spoke:--
"Truly it would be easy to reconcile your strife, if you would submit it to some just man."
"Unto yourself!" they both cried. "We give you our word to abide the judgment you pronounce to us."
"Then in token that you will accept my verdict, let each lay down his sword under my foot," said Sir Artegall, "and then you shall hear my sentence."
So each of them laid down his sword out of his hand.
Then Artegall spoke thus to the younger brother:--
"Now tell me, Amidas, if you can, by what good right do you withhold to-day that part of your brother's land which the sea has plucked away from him, and laid on your share?"
"What other right," quoth Amidas, "would you deem valid, except that the sea laid it to my share?"
"Your right is good," said Sir Artegall, "and so I judge it. That which the sea sent unto you should be your own."
Then, turning to the elder brother, he spoke thus:--
"Now, Bracidas, let this likewise be plain: your brother's treasure, which has strayed from him, being well known to be the dowry of his wife--by what right do you claim this to be your own?"
"What other right," quoth Bracidas, "would you deem valid, except that the sea has thrown it unto me?"
"Your right is good," said Sir Artegall, "and so I judge it. That which the sea sent unto you should be your own; for equal things have equal rights. What the mighty sea has once possessed and quite plucked from its owner's hands--whether by the rage of the unresting waves, or tempest, or shipwreck--it may dispose of by its imperial might to whomever it chooses, as a thing left at random. So in the first place, Amidas, the land was declared to be yours; and so, in like manner, Bracidas, the treasure is yours by right"
When Sir Artegall had thus pronounced sentence, both Amidas and Philtera were displeased, but Bracidas and Lucy were very glad, and immediately took possession of the treasure, in accordance with the judgment.
So their discord was appeased by this sentence, and each one had his right; and Sir Artegall, having stopped their contention, went on his way.