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The Story of the Knight and the Lady

After leaving the Red Cross Knight, Guyon and the Black Palmer (or Conscience) travelled for some distance, fighting and winning many battles as they went, which brought much honour to the Knight.

But the chief adventure in Sir Guyon's life began in this way:

One day, passing through a forest, they heard sounds of bitter weeping and lamentation.

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"If I cannot be revenged for all my misery," cried a voice, "at least nothing can prevent my dying, Come then, come soon, come, sweetest death! But, thou, my babe, who hast seen thy father's fall, long mayest thou live, and thrive better than thy unhappy parents. Live to bear witness that thy mother died for no fault of her own."

When Sir Guyon heard these piteous words, he dismounted, and rushed into the thicket, where he found a beautiful lady dying on the ground. In her arms there was a lovely baby, and the dead body of an armed knight lay close beside them.

Horrified at the sight, Sir Guyon did all he could to restore the lady to life, but she begged him to leave her alone to die in peace; her sorrows, she said, were more than she could bear, and therefore she had tried to kill herself.

"Dear lady," said Sir Guyon, "all that I wish is to comfort you, and to bring you some relief, therefore tell me the cause of your misfortune."

"Listen, then," she answered. "This dead man, the gentlest, bravest knight that ever lived, was my husband, the good Sir Mordant. One day he rode forth, as is the custom of knights, to seek adventures, and it chanced most unhappily he came to the place where the wicked Acrasia lives-Acrasia, the false enchantress, who has brought ruin on so many knights. Her dwelling is within a wandering island, in Perilous Gulf. Fair sir, if ever you travel there, shun the hateful place! I will tell you the name--it is called the Bower of Bliss. Acrasia's one aim in life is

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[paragraph continues] Pleasure. In the Bower of Bliss nothing is thought of but eating and drinking, and every kind of luxury and extravagance. All those who come within it forget everything good and noble, and care for nothing but to amuse themselves. When my dear knight never returned to me, I set forth in search of him, and here I found him, a captive to the spells of Acrasia. At first he did not even know me; but by-and-by, with great care, I brought him back to a better state of mind, and persuaded him to leave the Bower of Bliss. But the wicked enchantress, angry at losing one of her victims, gave him a parting cup of poison, and stooping to drink at this well, he suddenly fell dead. When I saw this--" Here the lady's own words failed, and, lying down as if to sleep, quiet death put an end to all her sorrow.

Sir Guyon felt such grief at what had happened that he could scarcely keep from weeping. Turning to the Palmer, he said: "Behold here this image of human life, when raging passion like a fierce tyrant robs reason of its proper sway. The strong it weakens, and the weak it fills with fury; the strong (like this Knight) fall soonest through excess of pleasure; the weak (like this Lady) through excess of grief. But Temperance with a golden rule can measure out a medium between the two, neither to be overcome by pleasure, nor to give way to despair. Thrice happy man who can tread evenly between them! But, since this wretched lady did wrong through grief, and not from wickedness, it is not for us to judge her. Let us give her an honourable burial. Death comes to all,

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the good and the bad alike, and, after death, each must answer for his own deeds. But both alike should have a fitting burial."

So Sir Guyon and the Black Palmer dug a grave under the cypress-trees, and here they tenderly placed the dead bodies of the Knight and the Lady, and bade them sleep in everlasting peace. And before they left the spot, Sir Guyon swore a solemn vow that he would avenge the hapless little orphan child for the death of his parents.

Next: The Three Sisters