In the reign of the renowned Arthur, King of Great Britain, there lived in Gascony, a sovereign, whose name was Ladon, married to the beautiful Lidamia, daughter to an Emperor of Germany, and grand-niece to King Arthur. This Princess, who was accounted the fairest of her sex, had hardly completed her third lustre; whilst her royal consort was in his hundredth year. So disproportionate a difference of ages, which might have startled a vulgar husband, did not in the least terrify the bold Ladon. He knew that Lidamia, trained up from her infancy in all the virtues which render the fair sex as great an object of man's admiration, as nature has calculated them to captivate the heart, would never swerve from those principles; and therefore thought himself perfectly secure, and that the Emperor's daughter would prove no less dutiful than she was handsome. Among the young gentlemen or esquires who had been brought up at the court of Gascony, the most remarkable was Claris, son to a Duke, vassal to King Ladon. He was nearly of the same age with the Queen; and at that time of life the "Heyday of the blood is
upon the judgment." The Queen's exquisite beauty made the strongest impressions on the youthful page, who, in her presence, was so disconcerted, as not to be able to go through the duties of his office, which was to wait as decker and carver to their Majesties. This appeared in several instances, which, though trifling in themselves, are accounted very significant in love affairs. At times, setting a dish on the table, he would spill the contents; at others, he would cut his fingers instead of the meat he had to carve; for, whilst his eyes were revetted on the mistress of his heart, the amorous youth could mind nothing else. The King thought him very awkward and unhandy. The Queen proved a better judge, and laid his absence of mind to a far different cause than want of dexterity. But she was too virtuous, and too attentive to what a wife, and above all, a Princess owes to the world and herself, to boast of her sagacity in this instance: yet Lidamia was a woman, Claris graceful and handsome; two excellent reasons for even a Queen not to be displeased at the discovery.
Meanwhile Claris, whose passion daily increased, grew every day more unfit for his employment; till at last, weighed down by the conflict of love and honour, he fell dangerously ill. Nature, the strength of his constitution, and above all, perhaps, his unconquerable pugnance to physic and physicians, restored health to his body; but nothing could afford relief to his disturbed mind. As he recovered his strength apace, the King said to him one day, "My good varlet, 1
thou seemest calculated for something better than carving and waiting; so inactive a life is irksome to thy youth. Thou hadst better hie thee to England; King Arthur's court is the best school for valour and chivalry: my Queen will give thee letters to that great Prince our kinsman, and, coming with such a recommendation, thou canst not fail of being well received, and wilt be taught the art of war, more becoming thy age and high birth, than carving a joint or decking a table." The Queen, with great complacency, said, "That she rejoiced at the opportunity of serving the young man, by recommending him strongly to the notice and patronage of her royal uncle." This assurance, and the manner in which it was given, removed all the objections which the enamored Claris might have urged against undertaking a voyage that would put such distance between him and the person he adored. But considering that honour on his part, and the Queen's unshaken virtue were obstacles not to be removed; then reflecting on Lidamia's advice, and pleasingly recollecting the affability and unspeakable sweetness with which she had expressed herself, he prudently resolved to set out for England for a few days. On the eve of his departure, Laris, the Queen's brother, declared he would bear him company. A conformity of tempers and inclinations had long established a mutual friendship between the young Prince and Claris, who was of the same age, and proud of an intimacy with Laris; not because he was of so elevated a rank, but because he was Lidamia's brother. The King, who was consulted in this matter, gave a ready assent, and before they left the court they were knighted by Ladon. The Queen, with great affection, recommended her brother to the care of Claris. The latter, unable to refrain from tears, replied, "Most gracious Queen! as long as I have a drop of blood in my veins, be assured that I shall shed it with pleasure in defence of his Highness. My life is yours, and I shall be happy to lay it down in the service of so near a relation to your Majesty." He could say no more; his voice failed him, and he could hardly muster strength enough to retire. The two young Knights set out at last with only a few attendants in their train.
On their way, they met with several hazardous adventures; but we shall only mention their principal atchievements. As they were passing by a strong castle, a dwarf, with great politeness, invited them in his master's name to walk in, and take some refreshment. They got on the draw-bridge; but they had hardly reached the castle when the bridge was pulled up after them, and they were instantly beset by the master and all his servants. Their valour made amends for the imprudence they had been guilty of. They killed most of their opponents and dispersed the rest. The master, brought down by Claris from his horse, begged his life; which the generous Knight was about to grant; when a damsel of exquisite beauty addressed him in these words, "Most noble and valourous Knight! do not spare the caitiff; but rather punish him at once for his numberless crimes. It has been his constant practice to decoy every passenger; attack them, as he has done you and your brave companion, then put them to death, or keep them confined in horrid and gloomy dungeons. Thus is it that he hath used my dear Yvain, one of the most worthy and bravest Knights of the Round-table; come and break his chains; but first dispatch the traitor, or at least let him take Yvain's place."
Claris, complying with the latter part of her request, had the tyrant loaded with irons, and ordered him to be carried to the black hole, where he had confined the brave Yvain. The latter, greatly rejoiced at this unexpected turn of fortune, which restored him to liberty and love; for, as the less sagacious reader has already found out, the damsel was the Lady Paramount of Yvain's thoughts. After an abundance of thanks and compliments had passed between the happy pair and their deliverers, they all sat down quietly to supper; thinking themselves now in perfect safety. But they were soon roused to arms by the approach of the dwarf, followed by a troop of banditti, who were in league with the blood thirsty Baron, and to whom the trusty pygmy had given the alarm, as soon as he saw that victory declared against his master. Yvain, who, by his experience and his great deeds of arms, was enabled to direct and execute, ordered the necessary precautions to be taken, and to let the enemy enter the castle, and then attack them unawares. The villians fell a victim to their imprudence. Seeing they were not opposed, they rushed on heedlessly; but were so timely and vigorously assailed, that, notwithstanding their great superiority in point of number, they were all slain to a man. The master, who from his dungeon heard the outcries of his dying friends, and the victorious shouts of the conquerors, broke his chains; to run if possible to their assistance. Then, with a superior exertion of his bodily strength, wrenching the door from its hinges, he sallied out, and reached the field of battle, where he met with the fate of his accomplices. Yvain dined, and remained there the whole day. After having given the best instructions to his deliverers, both concerning the road they were to take, and how to behave at the court of King Arthur, he set out with the lady for a distant province, the name of which is not recorded by the author.
Our young Knights were crossing that part of the country, now called the Marches of Poitou. Claris, ever intent on the contemplation of Lidamia's dear image, was roused from his pleasing revery by the appearance of a horseman making towards the two friends. As he approached, they were struck with the costliness of his armour, and the magnificence of the horse's trappings. The man himself, however, did not seem to become all this finery; for he had hardly strength enough to keep in the saddle; whilst the sadness and dejection visible in his countenance, betrayed some inward grief that laid heavy on his mind. They accosted the stranger with all imaginable civility, proffering their services to help him on the road.—"Alas! gentlemen, replied he, with a heart-renting sigh, I have no further hope of peace and happiness on this side of the grave; all I hold dear and precious in this world, my fair damsel, has been estranged from me in the most treacherous manner. My name is Carados, and, though I say it, is no disgrace to my fellow worthies of the Round-table. I am now in my way to the court of King Arthur, to beg the assistance of that Prince and his noble Knights, it is amongst them only that I can hope to find an avenger." "You need not go so far, answered, unanimously, Claris and Laris, we may be perhaps, by our discretion, worthy of your confidence: and, as to redressing your grievances, we are ready to encounter, nay, to court danger undismayed." "Gentle Knights, rejoined the afflicted Carados, your appearance and courage inspire me with esteem for you, and confidence in your word; I shall therefore briefly relate to you my disastrous adventure.
"I was on the eve of being married to a most beautiful and virtuous maiden, when Ladas, Lord of Rochelles, and my neighbor, envious of my happiness, and resolved to thwart it, sent me a challenge, by which he offered to dispute with me the possession of so valuable a treasure. I might have refused to meet him, nor would it have been derogatory to the laws of chivalry, since he was hardly known even by sight to the fair damsel; nor had he in any wise asserted his pretended right before I had been solemnly betrothed to her. Yet I was so enraptured with her beauties, that I could not bear the thought of any one presuming to lift up his eyes to the idol of my heart's worship: so that, trusting to the little fame I have acquired by a few feats of arms, and well spoken of by my too partial friends, I obeyed the proud Lord's summons. Punctual to the time, I arrived on the spot before my antagonist made his appearance. But I should inform you (though you may think my rashness deserving of censure) that, in the heat of passion, I had sent word back to my rival, that I was ready to fight single against himself and two more; against six, if he would allow me a second, or against him and eight more, with two Knights beside myself. The terms were agreed to by him, but without specifying which he preferred: this I overlooked, thinking that he would meet me with two of his friends only, the first proposal being a sufficient mark of my contempt for him: upon this supposition, I brought no one with me to the appointed place. Ladas came at last, but better accompanied than I expected; for, having taken advantage of the last condition which I had mentioned, he had put himself at the head of eight of his vassal Knights. Had I the least assistance at hand, I would have attacked them, regardless of their number; but being alone, what could I expect but death? and, what was still worse, to expire with the torturing certitude, that he should be happy in her love. I therefore declined the combat, as not being prepared for it. My adored fair one was put into the hands of the Barons, who were to have been witness of the contest; and Ladas declared, that unless within forty days I should come accompanied as I had proposed, the fair prize should be assigned over to him. King Arthur is gone into Britanny; his valorous Knights, my brethren, have no doubt followed our brave and worthy leader; so that I have every reason to fear that I shall return too late, and thus lose the only woman that can make life desirable."
"Sir Knight, said Claris to him, your courage got certainly the better of your prudence; but we have engaged to serve you, and if the assistance of two young Knights, whom six adversaries cannot intimidate, proves acceptable, you need but speak; we are ready to follow you."
This bold offer, and the resolute manner in which Claris had spoke, revived the exhausted spirits of Carados, who, with joy and gratitude, closed with their proposals, and the three heroes galloped away towards Rochelles, where they immediately challenged Ladas to fulfill his promise. All the Knights of this and the adjacent countries, assembled on the appointed day, to see the issue of so important an event. The Barons to whose charge the Lady had been committed, brought her to the field of battle, where Ladas had the cowardice to appear at the head of eight Knights. But the very sight of his lovely mistress, had roused a lion within the breast of Carados; whilst indignation at Ladas's unmanliness, stimulated the undaunted courage of the two young Knights. They engaged; but, as if it had not been enough for the treacherous Ladas to have the advantage of three to one in the field, he had given particular directions to his followers to point their lances to the breasts of the horses, contrary to the express law of true chivalry. The three brave Knights had already dismounted three of their adversaries; but their own horses being now killed under them, they were obliged to fight on foot against the six that remained on horse-back. Enraged at so much perfidy, they hearkened to nothing but the loud calls of a just resentment; and, seizing the reins, to the manifest danger of being crushed to death, they endeavored to make their opponents quit the saddle, or to stab them through the openings of their armour. Carados was beside himself, and, in spite of so many obstacles, endeavoured to cut his way to his detested rival. One would have thought that he fought for death, and would have welcomed it, if he could have rendered it fatal to the treacherous Ladas. At last, fortune favoured the just cause; the Lord of Rochelles, forced from his horse, fell at the feet of Carados, who held his pointed sword to the throat of the prostrate truant. Meanwhile, the other champions did not dare advance to his rescue, seeing the menacing posture of the victor, lest he should put their master to instant death. Thus forsaken and conquered, Ladas was obliged to beg for life, which the noble Carados did not think worth taking. Having called to the Barons to witness his victory, he ran to his betrothed to take her back from them. The lively apprehension of her lover's danger had deprived her of motion, and almost of life, nor did she come to herself for a long time. At last, opening her lovely eyes, she cast on Carados a look of fondness inexpressible. The first use she made of her speech, was to ask, with all the anxiety of love, whether he was wounded. On his giving her the most positive assurances that he was not, she sprung from him, and ran towards the place where the two other Knights stood, surrounded by a number of brave warriors, who, astonished at their youth, beauty, and above all, their behaviour on so memorable a day, were lavishing their encomiums on so much bravery and conduct. The mistress of Carados broke through the valiant croud, and after having thanked the two Knights in the warmest terms her gratitude could suggest; she gave each of them a salute. The whole assembly echoed their applause at so well-deserved a favour.—Happy days of innocence, when a modest kiss, granted by the fair, was accounted an adequate reward for the noblest deeds! our present Knights would not be quite so moderate. After having been entertained some days with the greatest magnificence, and received the highest honours, Claris and his royal companion set out in their way to Britanny, where King Arthur was at that time.
The road they were to follow, led through the forest of Brosseliande, where Merlin was spell-bound by the enchantments of the fairy Viviana. Her pupil Morgana, who was likewise a fairy, had fixed herself in this forest. We read in the history of the Round Table, that Morgana was sister to King Arthur, and had spent some years at his court, where she had been for a time its greatest ornament, by the attractive charms of her youth and beauty. But at last, age having impaired her charms, she had recourse to art. That of the toilet, common to all her sex, was the first she tried; yet even this soon grew insufficient; and Morgana, convinced by experience, that no human artifice can controul the irresistible power of time, nor clog its fleeting wings, was reduced to the necesssity of employing the charms of her potent incantations. It is by such means only, that a woman of Morgana's years can flatter herself to attract the notice of the other sex: and, as the secret is lost, the old matrons of the present age, if they are not fairies, should retire in time, nor think rouge and cosmetics a sufficient spell to charm and seduce mankind, or hide the natural defects of threescore. Morgana made several conquests, and of course, many enemies amongst the damsels who found themselves forsaken by their disloyal Knights. The fairy gave proofs of her partial preference to the great Lancelot of the Lake, which Genievre, Arthur's beauteous consort, bore very impatiently. At last, whether she took a dislike to the court, or the court to her, she thought proper to retire to the forest we speak of; where, at her command, her invisible agents erected an enchanted palace. She was followed in her delicious retreats by young and beautiful Varlets, Esquires, and as many Knights as preferred the inglorious, but delightful pleasures that awaited them with Morgana, to the honourable toils of knight-errantry. The fairy was also constantly attended by spirits, and other familiars, who gave her an exact account of what passed within a certain distance from her palace, and assisted her in inveigling every traveller whom she best thought worth her notice.
Claris, and Lidamia's brother were ensnared, as many hundreds had been before them. They were at three miles distance from Morgana's retreat, when two beautiful kids, skipping before, seemed to invite them to follow their track through a most luxuriant grove. They had not gone above an hundred yards in that enchanting road, before they met with a company of hunters and huntresses, with whom they readily mixed, in order to follow the sport. As they drew nearer to the palace, a troop of dancing shepherds and shepherdesses joined their company, 'till our Knights came to the very gate; and, as it was opened, curiosity enticed them to examine the inside of a dwelling, which, from the outward appearance, promised so ample a gratification to their senses. They were not mistaken; every object they met with was equally surprising and new: 'till at last, entering the house, they were led through a range of anti-chambers, each surpassed by the next in point of elegance and splendour, to Morgana's apartment, which was hung with a pink lustring, richly fringed with gauze and artificial flowers. The fairy in a light, and attitude best calculated to set off her borrowed charms, was reclined on a couch. She negligently raised her head, and welcomed her new guests. "Princes, said she to them, by my skill in divination, I know who you are, and I am proud to see you within these walls, where you may assure yourselves of a reception equal to your rank and deserts—then, turning to her attendants, reach here two arm chairs for my noble guests—be seated, brave Sirs! But heavens! stay you awhile: armed at all points as you are now, you will tear the furniture to rags—Come, ye nymphs, unarm these gentle Knights: free their delicate limbs from these heavy and troublesome accoutrements."—The nymphs obeyed, and the fairy continued her address to the Knights:—"I flatter myself you will favour me with your company at supper. You will meet with a better fare than you could look for in some bye inns, supposing you should even find such an accommodation."—Who could refuse so polite an invitation?—"Now, gentlemen, resumed Morgana, if you have been told by some slanderer that I am a witch, I hope that you harbour no prejudice against me, and that I shall not frighten you. I freely acknowledge that I know more than the generality of women do, but all my dealings are as fair as myself; and you may see that I am not unseemly: true it is, that I love young people, they entertain and please me; but I am very far from intending them any harm; so far indeed, that I shall readily superintend your education: I shall put you in the way of thriving in the world, and I dare say you will, with my advice, get to the rugged temple of glory, through a path equally easy and pleasing. But that you may not think that I speak upon a mere guess, I shall convince you that I am no stranger to your qualities and persons. In you, Claris, I see one of the greatest Lords in Gascony or Aquitaine; and you, Laris, are brother to the fair Lidamia, Ladon's royal consort. You see that I know ye both. Come, Claris, give me your hand, and let us go to supper."
The cheer was abundant and delicate, and our two Knights rested on the best beds they had met with since their departure from the kingdom of Ladon. The next day Morgana improved upon them, by her engaging manner and civility. She resolved to take upon herself the training up of Claris, and the German Prince was committed to the trust of the most faithful of her attendants, called Madoina. "My dear, said the fairy to her, I commit Prince Laris to your care: shew him all the beauties of this place, so as to entice his curiosity, and make him wish to stay with us; but beware you do not fatigue him by too much exercise, that I may walk
with him in my turn."
Whatever care the fairy took to please and entertain them, the young Princes were sensible of their disagreeable situation. A cage, for being gilt over and enriched with most costly jewels, does not change its nature; and captivity, whatever the appearance may be, is always grievous to a generous mind. Claris, whom nothing could estrange from his fidelity to Queen Lidamia, but lent an unwilling ear to the cajoling of Arthur's sister. He nevertheless dissembled, and his youth favoured the cheat. Laris acted the same part with his tutoress Madoina. It was in vain for Morgana to expostulate with them in the most endearing language—"Lovely youth; said she, what can entice ye to repair to my brother's court? Is it merely to seek after adventures? I have it in my power to satisfy you within these very walls, where, without danger, you may gain the glorious trophies of knight-errantry! At your command, by my skill in the magic art, which I mean to render subservient to your wishes, I shall raise the most frightful dragons for you to destroy; giants who will fall under your conquering swords, and whole armies that will by you be routed; by these means your eyes will be used to such horrid sights, and when real monsters come in your way, you shall be prepared to meet them undismayed." Our Knights were not to be deluded by her artful reasonings; yet, in order to keep themselves in exercise, they consented to the mock fights. But when they had an opportunity of holding a secret conversation together, the manner how to break out of their prison was the favourite theme. Yet they looked upon their deliverance as morally impossible. The palace was encompassed with the strongest walls, and of such a height that their towering tops seemed to be "cloud capt." Nor was there a door, gate, or wicket to be seen. Twenty times they had walked round, and minutely examined the place; but all in vain: till Laris bethought himself of a stratagem which had the desired success.
The Prince doubled his care and assiduity with his fair tutoress, and, improving one of those extatic moments, when prudence being thrown off her guard, a mistress can refuse nothing to a lover, he begged Madoina to give a proof of the sincerity of her love, by telling him how it was possible to get out of the enchanted palace. The nymph hesitated for some time, till unable to contain the mighty secret, she satisfied his curiosity. They were at the furthest end of the garden, when, shewing him a ring fastened to the wall, "Look here, said she, in this ring you have the master-key of the garden. You need but pull it to you, and the towering wall will instantly disappear." Laris, seemingly out of joke, tried the experiment, and saw the wall give way. The high road now appeared before him, and he might have effected his escape that very instant, had he not thought it more advisable to dissemble his intentions for a few days. He replaced the ring, and, arm-in-arm, with his dear Madoina, returned to the palace. Having imparted his discovery to Claris, they jointly begged the fairy to order a tournament for the next day, in which, by tilting with fantastical opponents, they might learn to encounter real ones. Their suit was readily granted, and Morgana appointed a day for that purpose. Meanwhile the Knights begged that their horses and armours might be returned, and that leave be granted them to ride about the park in order to be the better prepared. This was complied with, and the ladies followed them in carriages ready for the occasion. The young heroes, having clapped spurs to their steeds, were soon at the end of the garden. Having reached the spot where liberty awaited them, Laris pulled the mysterious ring, and the road lying open before them, they followed it so long, and with so much speed, that they soon found themselves out of sight of the enchanted castle, and the power of its wicked mistress.
At last, having crossed the forest and travelled on a few days, they arrived at the place where Arthur kept his court. They were welcomed in a very flattering manner; for Yvain and Carados, whom they had delivered, had not been sparing of their encomiums, and had prepared their royal master to receive them as they deserved. Here they tarried for near a year. Was there a perilous adventure to undertake, a public robber, or disloyal giant to destroy, our two Knights were ever ready to appear in the field of honour, and share in the glory as they had done in the dangers attending such noble atchievements. They were so inseparable, that each would have thought himself successful but by halves, had he conquered alone, and their intimacy was not less admired than their heroic behaviour in every perilous occasion. Amongst the ancient Knights, the greatest friendship and unanimity was ever religiously preserved by those who were, what was then termed, brethren in arms
; but, besides this noble motive, our two Knights were bound to each other by a conformity of age, temper, and inclinations; and Claris above all loved Laris as being the brother of the beauteous Lidamia.
Their return to the court of Ladon, was celebrated by a grand joust and tournament, given in compliment to them, by the old Monarch. Claris, as usual, distinguished himself; but had the misfortune of being wounded; and his friend Laris ordered him to be conveyed to his own apartment in the palace. The Queen went to visit him, apparently out of mere civility; but she was guided by another impulse, which human frailty cannot withstand: namely, the love she secretly entertained for the handsome youth; a sentiment, which her unshaken virtue had hitherto forced her to conceal. One day, her Majesty being alone with the wounded Knight, and having made the accustomed enquiries concerning his health; the latter, who thought the opportunity favourable to a declaration of his love, answered, "that his outward wound gave him no sort of uneasiness; but there is one, added he, which is far more dangerous, and will never be healed. Never! no! never shall I get cured of it, as I dare not ask for relief; and if I dared, it would be refused." Lidamia begged a clearer explanation. This he gave, by entering into a detail of the progress which love had made in his heart since he had been blessed for the first time with the sight of her; of his efforts to stifle the growing flame, by tearing himself from the court of Ladon; and finally, of what he had suffered during so insupportable an absence.
Although this declaration was by no means disagreeable to the Queen; yet she thought it became her dignity to shew an apparent resentment at so much boldness. "Claris, said Lidamia, I had hitherto esteemed and respected you as the bravest of our Knights, and I valued in you my brother's friend. I did not expect that such sentiments should ever be repaid with this insulting behaviour, equally affronting to me and my royal consort. Since you have been so bold and indiscrete as to mention to me your criminal inclination, it behoves me never to visit you again; nay, and to desire you never to appear in my presence."
So severe a rebuke was more than Claris could bear; he fell motionless, and remained so long in that condition, that he was thought to have breathed out his last. Those who came into his room, after the Queen's departure, gave out the report, and the palace instantly resounded with the most lamentable accents. Matrons, maidens, knights, varlets, all paid to his memory the tribute of their grief. The alarm soon reached Lidamia's brother; he flew to his apartment, and embracing the cold body of Claris, bathed it with the tears of mourning friendship. But, having applied his hand to the Knight's breast, he felt the pulsation of his heart. This fortunate discovery, which filled Laris with joy, was soon improved to recall Claris to his senses. Considering that his wound, being but slight, could not alone have produced so alarming an effect; Laris was led to suspect that some inward, and very affecting grief, was the hidden cause that had brought his friend to death's door; he even tacitly accused his sister of having greatly contributed to this accident, and hastened to her apartments to know how far his suspicions were well founded. The Queen was disconcerted at his approach, and blushed very significantly: but, as truth and sincerity were the leading qualities of her noble mind, she frankly owned all that had passed in Claris's apartment. Laris blamed her much for so ill-timed a piece of severity; declaring, that he had long been acquainted with his friend's inclination, which, as it was no less honourable, than he knew it to be sincere, he had never thought of opposing it; but, on the contrary, approved of his sentiments, and fostered his hopes. He begged and entreated his sister; nay, required, as a proof of her friendship for him, that she would come to Claris, and not only to sooth him with good words, but even to complete his recovery, by permitting him to salute her lips. She at first strenuously remonstrated against so improper a step, which militated, she said, against her duty towards her Lord and herself. "It is not, added the Queen, that I would refuse such a favour, were my heart at my disposal; for I readily confess, that there is not a subject in this kingdom, for whom I have a greater regard than I entertain for Claris."—"Well then, my lovely sister, pledge me your word, that if you survive the old King, you will give the preference to Claris. Meanwhile come with me to his apartment, and grant him that favour, which, being urged by me, cannot be degrading, and which I consider as the only means of preserving the life of the bravest Champion of Chivalry, and your brother's dearest friend. We shall then set out for England if you should think it expedient; nor shall we return till you desire it."
Laris's reasons were well urged; but would have perhaps availed little, had they not been enforced by the powerful advocate that pleaded his friend's cause in Lidamia's gentle breast. She followed her brother to his apartment; but when she saw Claris pale and wan, ready to fall a victim to her barbarity, instead of the promised salute, she more than once kissed the fainting Claris. This revived the nearly expiring Knight, who, casting on the Queen a look expressive of all his heart-felt gratitude, exclaimed with the accent of rapture and ecstasy, "Oh, beautiful sovereign of my heart! this alone could recall your despairing Knight to life and happiness; so saying, he threw his arms round her neck and returned a hundredfold the embraces he had received." At last, disengaging herself, "My brother, said she, has insisted upon my giving you this first proof of my friendship; nay, since it is too late to dissemble, I shall call it my love. I have the more readily consented, as I firmly rely on your honour, and trust that you will, in compliance to a necessity urged by virtue and decorum, fulfil the promise he has given in your name, of leaving this kingdom as soon as your health will enable you to support the fatigue of a voyage." "Alas! replied Claris, it is but too plain that, when Laris entered into this engagement, he did not consult the inclination of his friend. But, my most gracious Queen, it is enough that you have signified your pleasure; and, were it to cost me my life, your royal commands shall be obeyed."
A few days after the two Knights set out with a numerous retinue, and twenty-four horses given them as a present by King Ladon. Night coming on, our travellers pitched their tents in a most beautiful plain, where, after a plentiful supper, they retired to rest. Towards midnight three ladies passed by this place in their way to Ladon's palace, in search of the two young Knights. The principal among them, and the only one whose name it is necessary to mention, was Madoina, who imprudently complying with the entreaties of Laris, her pupil, had favoured the escape of the two heroes from Morgana's enchanted castle. Their flight had greatly irritated Arthur's sister, who justly suspected her nymph Madoina of having betrayed a secret, which the royal fairy had imparted to no one of her attendants beside this her favourite. Madoina had some very personal reasons to be sorry for what she had done; but in vain did she endeavor to deprecate Morgana's resentment; the fairy would not listen to her tears and apologizes, which, though ever so sincere, could not bring back to her arms, her beloved Claris. She, however, took no further revenge on her repenting nymph than turning her out of the castle, with the strictest injunction never to approach it again. Madoina was followed in her exile by two of her companions. During her long servitude with Morgana, the former had acquired knowledge and skill enough in the black-art to be a very expert fairy, though of an inferior class. She took up her residence in a tower that stood on the skirts of the forest of Brosseliande; and, by her art, had transformed it into a tolerable copy of Morgana's palace. The gardens she encompassed round with magic walls, nearly similar to those which we have already described. As for the means of opening and shutting it up, they were exactly the same: but, in order to prevent any escape in future, she placed a most frightful giant, and all the horrid monsters she could raise, on the outside, near the spot where it might be attempted. When once she had settled every thing to her fancy, her next care was to sally forth in search of her dear Laris, in full confidence that, if she could once more get him within her power, he would never be able to leave her more. The intelligence which she had lately received from her airy spies, had directed her wandering steps to the place where the Knights were encamped, and her joy at being so near her beloved Laris, cannot well be expressed. By reciting a few magic words, she plunged the Princes and their attendants into a lethargical sleep, and, making a proper use of the favourable opportunity, commanded some of her nimblest spirits to seize on Laris, and convey him safe to her palace, where she soon followed.
The spell, in which Madoina had bound the whole camp, being broke, Claris and his retinue awoke and prepared for their instant departure; but let our readers imagine their surprize and terror, when, after several hours spent in a fruitless search, they found no trace of the German Prince. Claris was thrown by this accident into a situation little short of despair. He had not only lost a friend; but in him Lidamia's brother, and for whose safety he had pledged himself to the beautiful Queen. In vain the Knights who accompanied him did all they could to sooth and comfort him; he was deaf to all their remonstrances, and nothing could assuage his grief. At last it was resolved that the small party should disperse, and each take to a different road in quest of the Prince, who they thought was not far enough yet not to be overtaken; especially as their number was sufficient to divide between them the several roads. They parted, each in hopes of being the happy man who should first come up with Laris; they however met with no success, and a few of them only having found their way to the court of King Arthur, gave the alarming intelligence. The Prince of Germany had secured the friendship, and deserved the esteem of the Twelve Worthies, who, all to a man, resolved to go in search of him; but, as they did not know exactly which way he was gone; this expedition only served to procure to those brave Knights the opportunity of displaying their wonted courage in some private adventures; nor was their chief purpose answered, till an odd circumstance happened which we are about to relate; but first we beg leave to carry our readers back to Madoina's palace, where she arrived an hour after Laris had been conveyed there by her ethereal agents.
Lidamia's brother coming to himself, nearly at the same instant as his fellow-travellers were so anxious on his account, was strangely amazed, instead of the tent which he had entered that very night, to see himself placed on a most elegant bed in a room neatly furnished, the windows of which were closely shut up and barred in and out. His wonder gave way to a sensation more disagreeable, when the first object that struck him was Madoina sitting by his bed-side. Conscious of the wrong he had done to the fair sorceress, he gave himself up for lost, and expected the worst treatment; when Morgana's late waiting woman, assuming the most tender and passionate air, addressed him in the following words: "Thou art once more, gentle Knight, not in Morgana's, but offended Madoina's power. Thy destiny is in my hands, and I might take a severe revenge by embittering every hour of thy life. Thou hast imposed on my weak fond heart; but I am easily pacified; tarry with me for some time: let thy love for glory rest awhile, and enjoy the sweets of this retreat. Thou wilt be here equally happy, if not more so than thou wast at Morgana's. I shall only be more cautious, and keep thee in safer custody: and, lest thou shouldst offer to make thy escape, learn that my power is at least equal to that of my former mistress." Laris stood mute, and for some time could not recover the use of his speech, so thunderstruck was he at every thing he saw and heard. "I leave you to your meditations, continued Madoina, I shall retire for awhile; but remember, that you are now in the power of a woman, who loves, though she ought to hate you. Ponder well on the consequence, and take your resolves accordingly."
Laris, left to himself, considering where he was, and that no way was left for him to escape, thought that the only method of freeing himself from this new slavery was to have recourse to the very same means he had employed to get out of Morgana's power; fondly imagining that Madoina, though already taught by experience, might still be made his dupe. He therefore welcomed her at her return, in a manner that proved highly satisfactory; and, although she was neither young nor handsome, his own youthful vigour, and the hopes of regaining his liberty, made of our hero a perfect Hercules; so that the fairy congratulated herself for having ensnared once more her dear Laris; whilst, relying on the precautions she had taken, she flattered herself to keep him long in bondage. Madoina gave him all the freedom he could wish for in his prison; such as walking about the gardens, &c. but in vain did he endeavor to get from her the method of breaking the spell that held him fast. She stood upon her guard, and warned by her own experience, she suffered none of her female attendants to come near him, lest they should be seduced by his persuasive eloquence. Meanwhile the giant beat his rounds night and day, and the monsters protected the enchanted place from any outward attack. The Prince of Germany was now sensible that all his cunning would prove ineffectual to impose once more on Madoina's weakness, and looked upon himself as for ever sequestered from the world and his friends. An unforseen event however, which took place about this time, and which we have hinted at before, gave some relief to the melancholy that began to assail him, and impair both his beauty and constitution.
Among the Knights of the Round-table, who went in quest of Laris, the Seneschal Queux, as famous for his mischance and laughable adventures, as the others were justly celebrated for their deeds of arms, was one of the foremost, as he used to be upon all occasions, though oftener guided by a spirit of fanfaronade
, than any principle of real valour. He was the first who made the discovery of Madoina's palace, and his mishap in this place surpassed, if possible, his former miscarriages. The crossing of Brosseliande forest had detained him above two days, and Morgana's sprites had not thought him worthy of being introduced to her fairyship. At last, after having fasted the whole day, he reached the outward wall of Madoina's castle, fatigued and almost starved; for he had nothing left of the provisions he had taken with him, except a few scraps, which he now got together, and swallowed down with the most voracious appetite. Having washed down his dry and uncomfortable meal with a glass or two of wine, which had likewise been spared on the preceding evening; he spied some moss gathered at the foot of the wall, and, having made his horse fast at a little distance from him, he laid down, and composed himself to rest on the bed which nature seemed to have provided for his wearied limbs. The reader must be informed that this very moss made part of the giant's provision for his own litter. He had carefully gathered it in the morning, and laid it there, till, at day close, he should come for it. Queux had hardly tasted the sweets of balmy sleep, when the giant came to take up his bed. He first spied the horse, and conveyed him into the park. Then casting his glaring eyes on the moss, he perceived the diminutive Knight, who, having been awakened by the heavy footstep of the earth-quaking giant, had buried himself deep into the moss. The monster, laying on him another load, took the whole on his shoulders, and carried it off. Having got on the other side of the wall, and, with his usual care, made the door fast, he walked up to a summer-house, where Madoina, with some of her attendants, was waiting till the sun had sunk beneath the horizon, to bathe in a chrystalline pool that stood behind the place where she sat. The giant entered, with all the brutality of such a monster, and, casting down his load altogether on the floor, "Here, madam, says he, with a voice that shook the whole room, see what is in here; methinks it speaks, for it squeaks and complains." 2
The bundle was untied, and Madoina at first sight knew the disastrous Knight, though armed cap-à-pee. She had seen him before at Arthur's court, when she was one of Morgana's attendants. She desired him to give her an account of his adventures, which greatly diverted her; and straightways leading him to Laris's apartment, "No doubt, my Lord, said she, you know this worthy Knight: let him recount to you in what manner, and by what strange accident he comes to be our guest: Besides I mean that he should stay some days for your entertainment." She left Queux in the room, and Laris was pleased for some time in his company. So true it is, that when there is no other at hand, we cherish a man, whom at the court and in the face of the world, we would think it our duty to load with contempt; but captivity reconciles a man to all sorts of company. The chief object, however, which Laris proposed to himself, by putting up with the impertinence of the Seneschal, was to try if, by consulting with him, they could not agree upon some method of effecting their escape. But Queux was not the man to answer such hazardous purpose. He could boast much, but dared little. Laris's delivery was to be the work of a real and loyal Knight.
Claris, after a long and fruitless search, bethought himself at last of Morgana's palace; supposing that by some unfortunate encounter, he had once more fallen into the hands of the wanton fairy. In order to find out whether his suspicions were well founded, he rode all round the forest of Brosseliande, and observed a palace similar to that of Morgana; and, upon this discovery, he laid a scheme, which in the end proved successful. He placed himself in such a manner as to see every thing without being observed. The Giant, whose duty it was to take care that every thing was as safe without as within the palace, came out of it at the close of the day. Claris rushed from his lurking-place, and, couching his lance, galloped up to the Giant; the latter, grinning a gastly smile, expressed his contempt in these words, spoken in a rough thundering voice: "Who art thou, saucy child?"—"Look here, replied Claris, shewing his lance, this is the bauble I have been used to from my cradle." So saying, he made a furious push at the monster, who endeavored in vain to put by the thrust with his sabre. He was wounded, and fell to the ground. Claris alighted instantly, and was preparing to cut off the Giant's head, when he earnestly begged his life; promising to disclose a secret of the highest importance. This he did, by acquainting Claris with the captivity of the Prince of Germany. At this piece of intelligence, Claris broke into a flood of tears, and only begged of the Giant, as a reward for having spared his life, to be admitted a companion in Laris's confinement.—"Hark ye, Sir Knight, said the monster, we Giants are not so hardened, but what we can relish as well as you the sweets of friendship, and be actuated by gratitude. You shall be convinced of it if you will trust to my honour." Claris nodded assent, and he suffered himself to be bundled up as Queux had been before, and in that condition was carried safe into the apartment of Laris. Let two such friends, if any such there are in this corrupted age, take the pen from our weak hands, and trace, if possible, the affecting scene that passed at this unforeseen meeting, between these sworn brothers. Locked in each other's arms, they would have died for joy at their happy reunion, had not the Giant engaged to complete their happiness by seeing them out of the enchanted castle. The circumstance was the more favourable, as Madoina was from home. He first instructed them what course they were to take, in order to tame the monsters that kept watch at a certain distance from the wall, and then let them out of the garden gate which no one could open but his mistress, her two favourite women, and himself. From thence, after a few days journey, they got safe to the court of King Arthur, where they had engaged to return; but they had not been there long before some very important news arrived which required their immediate departure to Gascony.
Ladon was no more, and his royal widow, who succeeded to his crown, was defenceless and destitute at a very dangerous crisis. Savary, King of Spain, in love with Lidamia, and perhaps more so with her rich dowry, had entered her dominions in an hostile manner at the head of a numerous and well-disciplined army. His intention was to force the Queen to a political marriage with him. The invasion was so unexpected that Lidamia had but just time to write to King Arthur for his assistance. Laris and Claris took their leave, and the British Monarch, who knew how to reward military valour, because he was himself a model of that courage which he cherished in others; granted them a body of a thousand Knights, at the head of whom were the following worthies, Gauvain, Lucan, Sacremour, Agravain, Yvain, and Galheret. This brave troop set forward, and arrived in Gascony. A few days later, and this kingdom had passed with its beauteous Queen into the hands of the ambitious and cruel Savary. Lidamia was shut up and besieged in the last fortress that acknowledged her sway. All the rest had sworn allegiance to the conqueror. The perfidious Spaniards soon experienced that a handful of British warriors, with justice and honour on their side, ever was a match for whole armies of mercenaries fighting for plunder, and in open defiance of all laws. The enemy was soon obliged to raise the siege, and evacuate their new conquest; whilst the Queen was set at liberty to the great joy of her subjects, who dreaded nothing so much as a foreign yoke.
Claris, who did not think he had done enough, since so many brave men had an equal share with him in delivering Lidamia, thought it not proper to appear before his Sovereign till he had done her some more essential service. He withdrew himself in the night, and, accompanied by Laris and a few chosen hands, he set out in pursuit of the Spaniards, whom they suddenly attacked and totally defeated. Their treacherous King fell by the hand of Claris, who, pursuing his victory, crossed the Pyrenees, penetrated into the province of Navarre, and made an easy conquest of it. Thus triumphant, and having some personal service to boast of, Claris and Lidamia's brother returned to court, where they were received by the Queen in the most affectionate manner. She soon after rewarded with her hand the modest and faithful Claris. The British Knights, having stayed a few days to be present at the royal nuptials, and take their share of the manly entertainments of those times, returned to England. As for Laris, he remained some months longer with his beloved brother, whose blissful union with Lidamia, would have compleated his own happiness, had not this very circumstance re-kindled in his breast a passion which he had kept a secret, even from Claris himself; though it had taken its first rise when they were together on the most intimate and confidential terms at the court of King Arthur.
The fair object of the Prince's love, whose name his timidity alone had forced him to conceal, was worthy so noble a suitor. She was sister to the brave Yvain, the honour of the Round-table, as she was one of the most accomplished of her sex. Laris drew now and then a painful comparison between his situation, and that of his sister and Claris. They had attained the summit of all worldly happiness; he was yet to seek for it, without any certainty of success. Those reflections preyed upon him; he grew thoughtful and melancholy. This sudden alteration could not escape the anxious and clear-sighted eye of friendship. The King and Queen were alarmed, and enquired into the cause with so much tenderness and solicitude, that Laris could not stand out any longer, and at last disclosed the mighty secret. Claris and his royal consort were happy in the thoughts that the disease was not incurable, and the former declared his intention of going over to England in person, to solicit for his brother the hand of the beautiful Marina, from those who had a right to dispose of it, namely, Arthur her royal uncle, and Yvain her brother. Lidamia approved of this resolution; but insisted upon going along with them. This was objected to, as it would have been imprudent to abandon her new conquests: but, casting an eye brimful of tears, on her beloved Claris, she seemed to reproach him with leaving her behind, when he was going to encounter perhaps new dangers by land and by sea. The King was not proof against so powerful an attack: he kissed off the starting tear, and granted her request. After having committed the reins of government into the hands of wise and able ministers, he left the kingdom, entrusting its defence to some worthy Knights, whom he invested with the necessary powers, subject nevertheless to the controul of the civil laws, the only bulwark of public liberty.
Thus, in time of yore, Kings and Queens used to travel without any ceremony, nor anxiety for their persons or possessions; as they ever took care to enslave nothing of their subjects, but their hearts and affections. It is true that by these means they were exposed to many accidents out of their own territories; but, if they ran the same hazards with other men, they enjoyed those sweets, the lot of private life, of which few Monarchs have any notion.
Our travellers met with several adventures, numberless of which are recorded in the manuscript from which this extract is taken; but, as the recital would be tedious and uninteresting, we shall only select the following:
"One day as the royal cavalcade passed by a castle, the weather being fair, and the Queen gracefully riding on a white hackney, her Majesty began to sing with all her usual taste and chearfulness. The Lord Castellain pricked up his ear at the enchanting sounds, and ran up to the window to see from whence issued so melodious a voice. The Queen's beauty completely turned his brains, and, mistaking her for quite a different sort of a woman, he sent an invitation to our travellers to tarry with him all night. It was accepted, and the drawbridge let down to introduce the company. During the supper, their host, intoxicated with wine, and mad with love; for, having now Lidamia near him, and having heard once more her melting strains, he took it into his head that, with a little management, he could bring her to consent to his passion, as he supposed her to be a strolling beauty, who had already shewn her complaisance to her male companions. He laid his plan accordingly, and having given to understand to the two Knights, that it was contrary to the custom of his family, as it palpably was so to the laws of decency, for gentlemen to sleep on the same side of the house with women; that he had for that purpose added another wing to his castle for the use of men only, as the ladies always slept in rooms adjacent to those of his sister, and her female servants. The ingenious Lord hugging himself in this excellent conceit, thought the day, or rather the night, must be his, especially as the two gentlemen seemed to join with him in opinion; but, suspecting some design, they were resolved to stand on their guard. Accordingly, as the servants were lighting them up to the mens quarter, they observed that, by means of a long gallery which reached from one wing to the other, they could easily get near the womens apartment. Instead, therefore, of taking off their armour, they sat quietly, till they thought that, if the master of the house had any sinister views, the time was come when he would go about to perpetrate his villainy. They soon had occasion to thank their stars for having inspired them with so prudent a caution. They advanced on tip-toe, and soon heard the screams of a woman calling loudly for assistance. They made towards the room from whence the noise came, and, bursting open the door, were convinced that their perfidious host had attempted to offer violence to Lidamia, whose strength was nearly exhausted. They fell on the wretch, and beat him so heartily, that his cries brought all the servants up, who, seeing their master in jeopardy, and unmindful of the laws of chivalry, which they cared little for, assailed altogether the two Knights, who fought like lions, and soon ended the tragedy by slaying the master and several of his men. After this exploit, in which they were assisted by the Knight Carados, who, by the luckiest chance happening to come by, hearing the noise, and observing that the draw-bridge was down, got admittance into the castle. He flew to the scene of action, where, discovering two Knights fighting to such disadvantage, he readily sided with them; but thought himself completely rewarded when, after the victory, he saw the persons whose part he had so generously espoused, were the very preservers to whom he owed both his life and happiness.
The next day Lidamia, and the two brothers resumed their journey, and crossed the tremendous forest of Brosseliande, without meeting with any accident. They at last came to a wide river; a boat stood on their side of the water to convey them to the opposite shore. On the stern of the boat was written the following caution, "Whoever is neither guilty of treason or dissimulation, may safely embark, and the boat will waft him over without the help of any visible agents; but will not stir, if the passenger has any reason to reproach himself with any such crime." Our royal travellers got easily on board; they were true and loyal Knights, and Lidamia was a virtuous Queen: so that they crossed the water in perfect safety, till they arrived within a few yards from the shore, when Lidamia, in the fulness of her joy, and by an impulse of female vanity, exclaimed, "Dearest Claris, the triumph of my virtue and untainted chastity, is now complete; if I have any thing to reproach myself with, it is the kiss which I gave thee whilst Ladon was yet alive. Now thou art my second husband; I love thee, and am faithful to the marriage vow. How could I be otherwise to thee, whom I adore! When married to a man who never found his way to my heart, I never, no not even in thought, swerved from"—The Queen had gone thus far, when the boat reached the shore; but when she prepared to land, it recoiled, and she fell into the water, being repulsed by an invisible hand. This accident, however, was attended with no farther consequence than her being well soaked, the Knights having soon taken her out of the water. Lidamia was copiously rallied for the punishment inflicted on her vanity, by her pretending to have loved no other man during the life of her late Lord; when, even then, her heart was full of Claris alone. They continued their journey in high spirits, and arrived safe in England.
The Queen of Gascony was received at court with all the distinction her superior merit and her kindred to King Arthur could entitle her to. Her royal uncle would have given a magnificent entertainment to his niece; but the intelligence they received at their arrival was too alarming for them to think on pleasure, when Laris's happiness was at stake. Marina was not at court, which she had left a few months before to return to her own country. Talla, King of Denmark, deadly smitten with her charms, had seized the opportunity of her being upon a visit at her father's, King Urianus, to ask her in marriage; threatening, in case of a denial, to invade the territories of Marina's father, and force him to do that, which was now asked as a favour. This imperious way of sueing for Marina's hand, greatly indisposed the old King, who, being a companion of the Round-table, had learned in England, that passive obedience to a tyrant's will is base and unmanly
. He therefore returned an answer, which, being couched in terms expressive of the highest indignation at Talla's boldness, and of the contempt in which he was held by Urianus and his daughter, so enraged the irrascible Dane, that he put himself at the head of a numerous army, and laid siege to the capital of Urianus's kingdom, which was of no great extent. The news further added, that Marina's father and herself had retired to the fortress, and abandoned the town to the enemy, who seemed determined to stay before it until he had starved the King into a compliance; having experienced already to their cost, the impossibility of taking it by storm. The dangers to which his fair mistress was exposed, had such an effect on Laris, that he fainted away, and was taken up for dead. Claris, greatly alarmed, begged his royal consort to try the same means of recalling her brother to life, which had proved so successful to himself when he was in a similar case. Lidamia consented, and embracing her brother most tenderly, whispered in his ear:
Revived by his sister's tender caresses, but more so by the sweet sounding name of Marina, Laris recovered from his trance, and fixing his languishing eyes on Lidamia, said to her:
Nevertheless, sensible how degrading it would be for a Knight of his high renown to indulge a womanish grief, and sit sobbing and weeping whilst his mistress was in the most imminent danger; Lidamia's brother resolved to set out the very next day to go to the rescue of Marina and her father Urianus. The Prince was joined by Claris, the brave Yvain, whose own quarrel it was, he being son to Urianus, and by the experienced Gauvain, kinsman to Yvain, and son to King Loth.
These four heroes, each at the head of a resolute band, were well calculated to strike terror and to put to flight the perfidious Talla, and his banditti; but the enchanters who favoured the latter, as being engaged in a bad cause, found means to disperse this little army, and thus counteract the projects of the invincible Knights and their brave followers.
The whole company were now within a few miles of the kingdom of Urianus, when, one morning, they observed at a little distance from the high road, a kind of funeral procession, with a hearse supported between two black horses or mules, for they could not well make the difference. It was preceded and followed by a numerous train of mourners, amongst whom a lady appeared, mounted on a black steed. She was wrapped up in sable veils and cloaths, and cried out in the most lamentable voice, "Bemoan, ye people of Orcania! bemoan the death of your good king Loth; pray for his soul, and unite together in wishing health and prosperity to the brave and virtuous Gauvain, his worthy son and successor." Hearing this, Gauvain took leave of his friends, and went round to join the funeral procession, which seemed rather in a hurry. He galloped after it, and thus lost sight of his companions, who went on their way. About noon day an elderly man passed them, he seemed to be in the utmost confusion, and, as if in dread of being overtaken by his pursuers. His body was pierced thro' with an arrow, and the blood that trickled from the wound marked his way. Yvain looked up, and thought that the man's features bore a strong resemblance to those of his father Urianus. He screamed out, and galloping after him, was instantly out of sight. Towards evening, as Claris stood before his tent to breathe the fresh air, he thought he saw Lidamia, dishevelled and out of breath, rushing by him on horseback, and screaming as she went, "Claris, my dear Claris, assist me!" Instantly two horsemen appeared, sword in hand, running full speed after the Queen of Gascony. This was too much for Claris to bear; he mounted his steed and galloped after the supposed ravishers, till he got a great way up the forest. Laris informed of the circumstance, instantly galloped to aid him in rescuing his sister from the hands of the designing ruffians; but he had hardly advanced a few yards in the forest, when an invisible hand let fly an arrow, and shot the Prince's horse under him. He was soon on his feet again; but what was his rage and disappointment? In the person who tendered him a helping hand, Laris saw his persecuting demon, the fairy Madoina. He loaded her with reproaches couched in the bitterest terms, and would have avoided her, but alas! she was too powerful for him. With the help of her sprites and some corporeal assistants, she had him bound in order to be conveyed to her castle. They were on the way, and near to the enchanted place, when luckily Claris met him, and for the third time saved Laris from captivity. The King of Saxony was that instant returning from his pursuit after the two horsemen, whom he had seen following Lidamia, in the threatening manner above described, and had come up with the hindmost, who luckily proved to be no fantastical, but a real and palpable being, a pupil in the magic art to the detestable sorceress Madoina. Claris was about to plunge his sword deep into the traitor's heart; but he, in order to save his life, revealed to Claris the secret means made use of to separate the four Knights from their disconsolate followers; adding, that Madoina had declared to him, that the principal object she had in view, was to get Laris once more into her power.
This information determined Claris to return to his camp. It was in his way thither that he met Madoina's attendants, whom he easily dispersed and restored, as we have said before, his friend and brother to a freedom which he was on the point of losing, perhaps, for ever. Having reached the beaten road, they rested till the next day in the first hut they came to, and next morning, to their inexpressible joy, met with two other Knights, who, after a long and tedious race, had at last been convinced that they were led on by a mere illusion, and running after two empty shadows instead of their beloved parents.
They arrived in a few days in sight of Tulla's camp, and their little troop being ranged in good order, Claris and the Prince of Germany made their way through the enemy, slaying all that opposed them, and entered the town; whilst Yvain and Gauvain, with the other detachment, staid without the gates, till the besieged could sally forth, and give them an opportunity of entering the town also. Meanwhile Laris was nearly fainting with the loss of blood, occasioned by a wound which he had received in forcing the lines. Marina, who had joined her father to go and welcome their brave deliverers, was greatly disconcerted, as much through the love she entertained for Laris, and her joy at meeting him, as through her anxiety for the state of his health. These various sensations had such a violent and sudden effect on her tender and delicate frame, that she was obliged to be immediately put to bed. Our Knights were apprised of the alarming circumstance; but Claris, who had always his favourite prescription ready for the cure of persons afflicted with a love-disease, conducted Laris, whose wound upon examining had proved very trifling, and led him to Marina's bed-side; desiring him to apply to her rosy lips the never failing topic, which, as he had foreseen, proved most efficacious. Marina from that very instant recovered, and was able to attend the company next morning at breakfast. This first introduction gave the lovers an opportunity of disclosing to each other the state of their minds. They interchanged mutual vows of constancy, and promised to ratify them at the altar as soon as Urianus should be set at liberty.
In order to open the way for their friends, as agreed upon, Claris and Laris, at the head of a few chosen men, made a vigorous sally, penetrating as far as Talla's tent, who narrowly escaped being taken; whilst the two other Knights, falling on the enemy's rear, spread consternation and slaughter among the Danes, and, having effected a junction with their friends, entered the town in triumph, loaded with the spoils of the enemy, and followed by a long train of prisoners. Notwithstanding their loss, the Danes did not seem disposed to raise the siege: but a few days after, King Arthur appearing at the head of his army, the very sight of the British troops inspired the friends of Urianus with confidence, and made the Danes think on a retreat which, however, had not the desired success, as very few of the besiegers, with Talla their King, could reach the shipping and effect their escape. The circumstance of the Danish King having escaped unhurt, was more than the rash and amorous Laris could easily brooke. He thought his glory incomplete if his rival was suffered to live, and longed to lay Tulla's head at the feet of Marina. He therefore pursued the fugitive Danes as far as their ships; but his youthful ardour was severely checked, for the enemy seeing that he was accompanied only by a few attendants, surrounded him on all sides, and, though he fought bravely, took him prisoner and put him on board the fleet, which sailing before the wind, arrived safe in Denmark, where the Danish King ordered Laris to be shut up in a dark dungeon. Yet in this forlorn condition Laris seem'd less affected with his captivity, the end of which he could hardly hope for, than by the misfortune of being at such a distance from his adored Marina.
The daughter of Urianus was a prey to all the horrors of solicitude and despair. No tidings could be heard of Laris, nor was he to be found among the dead. King Arthur could hardly persuade her to follow him to England, where the good King was confident that the friendly care of his Queen Genievre, and of Lidamia who remained at the British Court, would solace and comfort the afflicted Marina; whilst his Knight companions should go in quest of her beloved Laris. The British Worthies, who all entertained the greatest friendship for Lidamia's brother, willingly undertook a task so agreeable to their inclination. They parted and went different ways to seek after the missing Prince. Claris, Gauvain, Yvain and Carados were the most successful, for, as they crossed a forest, the name of which is not mentioned in the manuscript, they passed by Merlin's cave which, it is well known, was to be found by mere chance only. A venerable Sire with hoary hair and beard, sat musing at the entrance of the cave. He held in his hand a black and white wand; his head was covered with a high pointed cap, and his garment consisted of a long sable robe covered with stars. The Knights, paying due respect to his age, noble appearance, and grave deportment, bowed to him as they passed. This act of civility was not lost upon him. The sage, calling them all distinctly by their names, addressed them in these words: "Wise Gauvain, valiant King Carados, most noble Yvain, and thou brave and gentle Claris, stop awhile and listen to me; I am Merlin, the avowed protector of the most illustrious Knights of the round-table, and in you I see the brightest ornaments of that noble and most ancient order. I know what brings you this way, and what your intentions are: be it my care to furnish you with the necessary instructions to insure your success." At these words, impell'd by a just sentiment of veneration and gratitude, the Knights alighted, and, on their knees, received the necessary directions from the reverend Sage, of whom they took the most affectionate leave, humbly entreating a continuance of his protection to themselves and their companions.
Merlin had informed them that Talla had confined Laris in a tower of a castle, the usual residence of the Danish King. They arrived in the neighbourhood of the place, dressed like Pilgrims in white garments, &c. holding their Pilgrim's staves in their hands; but they had concealed each a poniard under his cloaths: having assumed this disguise in order only to avoid being suspected. Talla, at their humble request to be received in the castle, ordered them to be admitted; not from any motive of liberal hospitality; his savage heart was not opened to the refined feelings of humanity; he only meant to make game of the four travellers. He treated them at supper for the base purpose of insulting them in the most cruel and scurrilous manner. They patiently put up with his abuse, as long as he expressed it only by words; but when, in a threatening manner, and preparing to execute his menaces, he told them, that if they could not pay for their supper with money, they must expect to be cudgelled for his diversion; they rose altogether and sheathed their daggers in his barbarous heart, laying also dead at their feet those of his servants who would have assisted him in his brutal intentions. They then made themselves masters of the castle, set Laris free, and, having soon secured a powerful party, they caused Lidamia's brother to be elected and crowned King of Denmark. Claris and Gauvain set out for England to ask Marina in marriage for the new King, whom the Danes ever after revered as their Monarch, and loved as a benevolent father, who completed their happiness by chusing so worthy and peerless a consort. All these adventures being brought to a happy conclusion, Claris and Lidamia returned into Gascony, to the inexpressible joy of their loving subjects; Gauvain remained with Arthur, and Yvain retired to the kingdom of his father Urianus. Thus we see that success ever attended the Knights of the Round-table, under Merlin's immediate protection, and, in the end, defeated the inveterate malice of those, who, like the despicable Morgana and her discarded waiting-maid, would attempt to shake those valiant sons of honour from their unwearied attachment to their moral and religious duties.