Then her anger at the selfishness of Aurelius rose again, and she bade him begone.
"Madam," he said, "it is impossible to move the rocks."
With that word he turned away, and went home to his own house. There his brother Austin found him in a trance, for Aurelius wished Dorigen's jewel more than he wished anything else on earth, and the thought that he could not get it made him so sad that he became dazed. Austin carried him to bed, and tried to soothe him in his grief and vexation.
The jewel that Aurelius wished to get from Dorigen was no common one. It had been given to her at her birth. It was clear as crystal, but far more rare, and it shone in the daylight like the sun. When Dorigen was a little child her mother told her of this wonderful stone. She told her that it would bring her joy and peace and the love of all who were good and true, if she kept it bright and pure; but that, if she ever gave it away, she would lose her youth and her beauty, and would be hidden away from all her friends and left alone in the world.
Dorigen shuddered at the thought of parting with her jewel. She did not know how her mother's words could come to pass, if she did give it away, nor by what magic power she could be so lost that no one who loved her could find her again. But she was sure that what her mother had said must be true.
And that was why Dorigen was so angry with Aurelius. She knew that he must have heard what sorrow she would suffer if she gave him her jewel, for all the court knew the story of the wonderful stone.
Not long after this, Arviragus came home. He had won more honor than before, and was now the very flower of chivalry. I cannot tell you how great the joy was, with which he greeted Dorigen, nor how soon she forgot her fears of the sea and the grisly rocks.
For two years, while they lived a joyful life together, Aurelius lay in bed unable to rise, with no one to take care of him except his brother Austin. This brother mourned over Aurelius in secret and wept at his unhappy fate, till one day he remembered a book of magic that he had seen when he was a student in Orleans. In that book he had read of the strange ways in which Magicians can make things seem what they are not. His heart leapt up. He said to himself, "My brother shall be cured. I am sure I have heard of stranger things than that the rocks should seem to vanish. Once I heard of a Magician who made every one believe that a great brown barge was rowing up and down a sheet of water inside the hall of a castle! If he could do that, then surely we shall be able to find a Magician who will make those black rocks seem to vanish. Then Dorigen will have to keep her promise and give Aurelius her wonderful jewel."
Austin then ran to his brother's room and told him about the book of magic at Orleans. No sooner had Aurelius heard him than he leapt out of bed. In less time than one would think possible he was ready to start on the long ride to Orleans.
When they came near the city they met a Magician. They knew him to be a Magician because of the strange look in his eyes, and because of his curious dress. When they rode up to him he bowed before them and wished them "Good day." Then he began to tell them why they had come to Orleans. Aurelius wondered how it was that this stranger knew so much about him and his errand. He thought he must be a very wise man indeed, and leaping from his horse in surprise and joy, he went home with the Magician to his house. His brother went too.
The house was the finest that Aurelius had ever seen. When he entered the study he looked in wonder at the rows of books that lined the walls, and at the quaint pictures and the strange old armor.
In one corner a curious light burned. It was not like the light of a lamp or of a candle, but cold and blue. Above it hung a map of the stars, and other strange drawings. Below the light stood a table, and on it lay a great book which was chained to the wall.
Austin saw Aurelius look at this book. He whispered to him, "It is the same book from which I read long ago."
This corner with its blue light made Aurelius frightened. A shudder passed over him when he saw the Magician cross over into the circle of the light and wave his wand.
In a moment Aurelius forgot all about the Magician and his own fear, for he and his brother saw before them the edge of a forest with a park stretching from the trees far, far away.
The sun shone, and the branches waved a little in the breeze. In the park the brothers saw herds of deer. Beautiful animals they were, with the highest antlers deer ever had. At first the deer fed in peace and safety. Then archers, clad in green, came to the edge of the forest. They glided out and in among the trees to see where they could best take aim with their arrows. When the archers had let their arrows fly, hounds broke out from behind them, and soon there was not one living deer of all the herd left in sight.
In a moment a calm river flowed where the park had been. In the shallow water at the river's edge tall herons stood. They watched for the little fishes that swam in the river. Again, into this quiet place a hunter came. He had no arrows. He had no dogs. But on his wrist he had an iron bracelet to which one end of a chain was fastened. The other end of the chain was round a hawk's foot, and the hawk sat on his master's wrist. When the hunter came near the river he loosed the chain from the bird's foot. The hawk flew over the river and swooped down among the herons. In a moment they had all vanished.
Aurelius had scarcely time to sigh, when the river itself was gone, and a plain lay where it had been. There he saw the knights of King Arthur's Table jousting. Beautiful ladies sat and watched the struggle, and one more fair than all held the prizes the knights might win.
Then the figures of the knights began to grow dim and uncertain. The plain changed into a great hall where knights and ladies danced. Everything was bright and sparkling. Mirrors lined the walls, and their cut edges flashed back the light that fell on them. As Aurelius watched the dance, he started. There, before him, more beautiful than ever, was Dorigen. His heart gave a great leap, for, as he watched her, he saw that she no longer wore her jewel. In his delight he swayed to the music of the dance. Clap! clap! went the Magician's hands, and all was gone.
The great room that had seemed so splendid to Aurelius when he entered it, looked cold and plain now when he returned to it from fairyland.
The Magician called his servant and asked for supper. Then he led the brothers away and feasted them royally.
After supper the three men began to talk about what the Magician should get from Aurelius if he made the rocks vanish. The Magician said, "I cannot take less than a thousand pounds, and I am not sure if I can do it for that!" Aurelius was too delighted to bargain about what the cost would be. He said gladly: "What is a thousand pounds? I would give thee the whole round world, if I were lord of it. The bargain is made. Thou shalt be paid in full. But do not delay. Let us start to-morrow morning without fail."
"Thou mayest count on me to-morrow," said the Magician.
They went to bed, and Aurelius slept soundly and well; because of the hope he had that the Magician would make the rocks vanish.
Next morning they rose early. It was Christmas time, and the air was cold and frosty as they rode away. The very sunlight was pale, and the trees were bare. When they reached home the neighbors gathered round and wished them a Merry Christmas. "Noel, Noel," they said, but they would not have done so had they known what sorrow the riders brought to their beautiful lady Dorigen.
For many days the Magician worked with his maps and figures. Aurelius waited impatiently. There was nothing for him to do except to make the Magician as comfortable as he could, and to show him as much kindness as possible.
One morning Aurelius looked from his window towards the sea. He saw the Magician standing on the shore. As Aurelius gazed out to sea, the rocks vanished from north to south. His heart stood still. Then he rushed out and away to the edge of the cliffs for fear some rocks might still lie close to the land. But no, there was not one.
He went to meet the Magician and fell at his feet with the words, "Thanks to thee, my lord, thanks to thee, my cares are gone!"
After he had thanked the Wise Man, he hurried away to meet Dorigen. When he saw her he trembled. She was so pure and beautiful. His heart sank. Then he looked out to sea and saw the smooth surface of the water, and he grew selfish again.
Dorigen came quietly on. She had not noticed that the rocks had vanished, for Arviragus was safe on land, and she did not fear the sea any more. She had almost forgotten Aurelius and his selfish, greedy words. It was more than two years since she had seen him, and she had not heard of him since then.
She started back when he greeted her. Before she had time to speak he said, "My lady, give me thy jewel."
He saw Dorigen's face grow cold and angry, and said, "Think well lest thou break thy word, for, madam, thou knowest well what thou didst say. In yonder garden in the month of May thou didst promise to give me thy jewel when I should move the rocks. I speak to save thine honor. I have done as thou didst command me. Go thou and see if thou wilt, but well I know the rocks are vanished."
He left her then. She stood still, white and sick. She had never dreamt that such a trap as this could close on her.
"Alas," she said, "that such a thing could happen! I never thought a thing so strange and unheard-of could come to pass!"
Home she went in sadness and dismay. She was so weak with fear that she could scarcely walk. She had to suffer her sorrow alone for three days, for Arviragus was away, and she would tell no one but him. Her ladies saw her distress, but they could not comfort her. To herself she moaned, "Alas, O Fortune, I lay the blame on thee; thou hast so bound me in thy chain, that I see no help nor escape save only in death."
Arviragus came home on the third day after the rocks had vanished. He came at night, so he noticed nothing strange about the shore. Though every one was talking of the curious thing that had happened, no one liked to tell him. They knew he would not like to hear of it. He would think his country was bewitched.
Arviragus looked for Dorigen in the hall. When he could not see her there, he hurried to her room, to make sure that she was safe and well. As he sprang up the broad staircase, the sheath of his sword and the spurs at his heels clanked harshly on the stone steps.
Dorigen heard him, but, instead of going to meet him, she buried her head deeper in her cushions and wept. Arviragus crossed the room to where she sat, and knelt before her. He drew her hands from her eyes and said, "Dorigen, what is it? Why dost thou weep like this, my beloved?"
For a little time Dorigen's tears only fell the faster, then she said brokenly: "Alas, that ever I was born! I have said it! Arviragus! I have promised!"
"What hast thou promised, my wife?"
Then Dorigen told Arviragus all that had happened; told him that she had promised to give her jewel to Aurelius when he would take all the rocks away.
Arviragus leapt up and went to the window. The moon had burst through a cloud, and everything was bright and clear. He looked away north, as Dorigen had so often looked to watch for his coming. In the moonlight Arviragus saw the sea lie smooth and cold. His eyes swept the skyline. It seemed as as if all the rocks had sunk into his heart, it was so heavy.
He turned towards Dorigen, and saw how great was her sorrow.
Then he said very gently: "Is there aught else than this, that thou shouldst weep, Dorigen?"
"Nay, nay, this is indeed too much already," she sighed.
"Dear wife," he said, "something as wonderful as the sinking of the rocks may happen to save us yet. God grant it! But whether or not, thou must keep thy troth. I had rather that my great love for thee caused me to die, than that thou shouldest break thy promise. Truth is the highest thing that man may keep."
Then his courage broke down, and he began to sob and weep along with Dorigen.
Next morning he was strong and brave again. He said to Dorigen, "I will bear up under this great sorrow."
He bade her farewell, and she set out with only a maid and a squire to follow her.
Arviragus could not bear to see Dorigen as she went down from the castle, so he hid himself in an inner room. But some one saw her go out. It was Aurelius. For three days he had watched the castle gate to see what she did, and where she went. He came forward and said, "Whither goest thou?"
Dorigen was almost mad with misery, but she said bravely, "To thee, to keep my troth, and give my jewel to thee, as my husband bids me. Alas! alas!"
Aurelius was full of wonder when he heard this. He began to be sorry for Dorigen, and for Arviragus the worthy knight, who would rather lose his wife than have her break her word. He could be cruel no longer.
"Madam," he said, "say to thy lord Arviragus that since I see his great honor and thy sad distress, I had rather bear my own sorrow than drive thee away from him and all thy friends. I give thee back thy promise. I shall never trouble thee more. Farewell, farewell! thou truest woman and best that I have ever seen."
Down on her knees, on the roadway, fell Dorigen to thank Aurelius. Her blessing followed him as he turned and left her.
But how can I tell of Dorigen's return? She seemed to be treading on air. When she reached the room where her husband sat with his head sunk on his arms, she paused. She had not known the greatness of his love till then. He looked old and forlorn after the night of sorrow.
She spoke, and he raised his eyes to gaze on her, as if she had been a lady in a dream. But when she told him all, when he knew that she was there herself, and for always, he could not speak for joy.
Aurelius wished he had never been born when he thought of the thousand pounds of pure gold that he owed to the Magician.
He said to himself, "What shall I do? I am undone! I must sell my house and be a beggar. I will not stay here and make my friends ashamed of me, unless I can get the Magician to give me time. I will ask him to let me pay him part of my debt year by year till all is paid. If he will, my gratitude will know no bounds, and I will pay him every penny I owe."
With a sore heart he went to his coffer and took out five hundred pounds of gold. These he took to the Wise Man, and begged him to grant him time to pay the rest.
"Master," said he, "I can say truly, I never yet failed to keep a promise. My debt shall be paid to thee, even if I go begging in rags. But if thou wilt be so gracious as to allow me two years, or three, in which to pay the, rest, I will rejoice. If not, I must sell my house; there is no other way."
When the Magician heard this he said, "Have not I kept my promise to thee?"
"Yes, certainly, well and truly!"
"Hast thou not thy jewel?"
"No, no," said Aurelius, and sighed deeply.
"Tell me, if thou mayest, what is the cause of this?"
"Arviragus in his honor had rather die in sorrow and distress than that his wife should break her word. Dorigen would rather die than lose her husband and wander alone on the earth. She did not mean to give me her promise. She thought the rocks would never move. I pitied them so much that I gave her back her promise as freely as she brought her jewel to me. That is the whole story!"
The Magician answered, "Dear brother, you have each behaved nobly. Thou art a squire, he is a knight, but by God's grace I can do a noble deed as well as another. Sir, thou art free from thy debt to me, as free as if thou hadst this moment crept out of the ground, and hadst never known me till now. For, sir, I will not take a penny from thee for all my skill, nor for all my work. It is enough! Farewell! Good day to thee!"
Whereupon the Magician bowed once and again, mounted his horse, and rode away.
Dorigen and Arviragus were walking on the cliffs as the Magician parted from Aurelius. They noticed the two men, and when the horseman rode away they saw a strange white mist rise from the sea and follow the rider.
Dorigen caught her husband's arm, for there, there, out at sea, and close by the cliffs, were the rocks, grisly and black and fearsome as before. The sunlight fell on her jewel, and it shone more brightly than of old, nor did its light ever grow dim in all the happy years that followed.
Emelia the Radiant lived in a great castle in Athens.
Hippolyta, Emelia's sister, had once been queen of the Warrior Women, and had led her armies to battle. But Emelia had never fought in these battles. When she was still a child, Duke Theseus of Athens had fought with Hippolyta and conquered her. Instead of sending his royal captive to prison, Theseus married her, and took her home to Athens with him. When he took her there, he took Emelia with her. He was very kind to them both, and the castle in Athens was a happy home for Hippolyta and her little sister.
As Emelia grew up she became most beautiful. She was more graceful than a lily on its stem, and the flush on her cheeks was more delicate than the hue of the rose-petals in the old Greek castle garden. Her golden hair fell in heavy masses round her face, and lay in a great plait down her back. It caught all the light that fell on it, and sent it out again to make glad the hearts of those who looked on her. So men called her Emelia the Radiant, and all who met her smiled for joy at the sight of so beautiful a maid.
One May morning Emelia went into the castle garden to bathe her face in the early dew. Everything was dim and gray in the twilight. She looked up at the great dungeon tower which overshadowed the garden, and thought of the two young princes who were prisoners there. Duke Theseus had brought them from Thebes. He was very proud of them, and would not give them up, although the people of their land offered to give him gold and jewels for their ransom. The princes were cousins, and were the last of the royal line of Thebes. In the stillness Emelia murmured their names to herself, "Palamon and Arcite, Palamon and Arcite. How miserable they must be in their narrow cell!" she thought. Then she sighed that life should be so sad for them while it was so bright for her!
As she roamed up and down and gathered roses white and red to make a garland for her hair, the sun broke through the mist and shone into the garden. Once more she raised her eyes to the tower. This time she did not look at it, but at the sunlit clouds beyond. The light from the east fell on her. Her hair shone like gold, and her face was radiant with happiness.
Palamon at that moment came to the narrow iron-barred window through which alone he and his cousin could see the sky and the fields and the city. He saw the morning light fall on the fair buildings of Athens, and on the plains and hills beyond. Then a glad song which burst from Emelia's happy heart floated up to him. He looked down. Before him stood the maiden bathed in sunlight.
She seemed to him the very Spirit of Beauty. He thought of all the joy and life and freedom that he could never have. He started back from the window and cried aloud.
His cousin Arcite sprang from his couch and said, "My cousin, what aileth thee? I pray thee that thou bear our imprisonment in patience. Sad it is in truth, but we must abide it. We can do nought else."
But Palamon said: "Thou art mistaken. Prison walls drew not that cry from me. An arrow hath entered my heart through mine eye, and I am wounded. What life can give is bound up for me in the fairness of a maiden who roams in yonder garden. Be she Spirit or woman I know not! But this I know, was never woman nor Spirit half so fair before."
"Spirit of Beauty," he cried, "if thou choosest to take the form of a radiant woman here before me in this garden, pity my wretchedness! Save us from this prison, and if that may not be, have pity on our country and help our fallen friends."
Arcite pressed forward and leant over Palamon's shoulder. The window was only a narrow slit, and the wall through which it was cut was thick, so it was not easy for Arcite to see into the garden. At last he caught a glimpse of Emelia.
"Oh, how lovely she is!" he said. "I shall die of my wish to serve her. Most beautiful of maidens she is, truly."
When Palamon heard this, he turned on Arcite, looked coldly at him and asked, "Sayest thou so in earnest or in jest?"
"Nay, truly in earnest, my cousin; I have little will to jest!"
Palamon looked fiercely at him and said, "Little honor to thee then! Hast thou forgotten thine oath of truest brotherhood to me, and mine to thee? Hast thou forgotten thy promise to help me in all I do? How, then, canst thou dream of claiming to love my lady? This thou shalt not do, false Arcite! I loved her first, and told thee, and thou must help me to win her if ever we escape. Thine honor demands this of thee. Otherwise thou art no true knight."
But Arcite drew himself up scornfully and said, "Rather it is thou that art false! A moment ago thou didst not know whether she were maiden or Spirit! I loved her first for what she is, and told thee as my brother! But even if thou hadst loved her first, could I, because of that, refuse to love the fairest of maidens? Besides, why should we strive? Thou knowest too well that thou shalt never win her smile, nor yet shall I! These prison walls so thick and black leave no hope for us. We fight as did the fabled dogs for the bone. They fought all day, yet neither won. There came a kite while they raged, and carried off the bone. Love thou the maid if thou wilt. I shall love her till I die."
The prison had been narrow and bare and cold before, but now it seemed ten times more dismal. The world from which it shut them in was so much more sweet because of the maiden who dwelt there, and the friendship for each other which had cheered them through many evil days was broken.
But Emelia the Radiant sang her gay songs and stepped lightly among the flowers, with never another thought of the weary eyes that watched her.
One day the greatest friend that Duke Theseus of Athens had, came to see him. This friend had known Arcite in Thebes, and had loved the handsome boy. He begged Theseus to forgive him, and to let him go free. Theseus was glad to find something he could do to please his dear friend, so one morning he took him with him to the prison where Palamon and Arcite were. The attendants could scarcely follow, for the royal robes filled all the dingy little space! A streak of light from the window fell on the Duke's mantle and his jewels. They looked strangely bright in that dark room beside the faded clothes of the two young prisoners.
Arcite and the friend of Theseus greeted each other joyously, and the heart of Arcite beat wildly with hope, but when he heard the words of Theseus the Duke it sank like lead.
"Arcite," said he, "by the desire of my friend, I grant to thee thy freedom. I grant it on one condition only. Thou must wander away far beyond my kingdom. If ever thou art seen for one moment on any furthest corner of my land, that moment shall be thy last. By the sword thou shalt die."
Homeward to Thebes sped Arcite with a sad heart.
"Woe is me for the day that I was born!" he moaned; "woe is me that ever I knew the friend of Theseus! Had he not known me, I might even now be gazing on the maiden I serve, from the window in the Duke's tower. Ah, Palamon, thou art the victor now! Day by day thou gazest on her, and kind fortune may grant to thee thy freedom and her favor while I am banished for ever! Ah, why do we complain against our fortune? We know that we seek happiness, but know not the road thither! Think how I dreamt and longed for freedom, and thought that if I were only out of prison my joy would be perfect. Behold, my freedom is my banishment, and my hope my undoing!"
As for Palamon, when he saw that Arcite was gone, he made the great tower walls re-echo with his howls of misery. The very fetters on his ankles were wet with his salt tears.
"Alas," he groaned, "Arcite, my cousin, thou hast borne off the prize in this strife of ours! Thou walkest now at liberty in Thebes. Little thou thinkest of me and of my sorrow! Strong thou art, and wise. Doubtless thou art even now gathering together the people of Thebes to invade this land and win the sister of the Duke for thy wife, while I die here in this prison like a caged lion. The prison walls heed my weeping and my wailing not at all."
He could not even rejoice in the sight of Emelia when she walked in the garden, so fearful was he lest Arcite should win her.
Meanwhile Arcite passed his days in Thebes in grief. He wandered about alone, and wailed and made moan to himself. He cared not to eat, and sleep forsook him. His spirits were so feeble that the sound of music brought fresh tears to his eyes. He grew gaunt and thin, and his voice was hollow with sadness.
At last, when he was nearly dazed with sorrow, he dreamt one night that a beautiful winged boy with golden curls stood before him. "Go thou to Athens," said the boy; "the end of all thy sorrow awaits thee there!"
Arcite started up wide awake and said, "I will to Athens, to my lady. It were good even to die in her presence."
He caught up a mirror. He had not cared to look in one for many months, but now that he meant to return to his lady, he wished to see if he looked strong and young as ever. At first he was shocked to see how great a change had passed over his face. Then he thought, "If I do not say who I am, I may live unknown in Athens for years. Then I shall see my lady day by day."
Quickly he called to him a squire, and told him all his will, and bound him to keep his name a secret and to answer no questions about himself or his master. Then Arcite sent his squire to find clothes such as the laborers in Athens wore. When he returned, Arcite and he put on the clothes and set out by the straight road to Athens.
In Athens no one took any notice of the two poor men.
Before they came to the castle the squire left his master and found a house to live in, where he could do Arcite's bidding at any time. But Arcite hurried on to the courtyard gate. There he waited till the master of the servants who waited on Emelia came out. Then he said to him, "Take me, I pray thee, into thy service. Drudge I will and draw water, yea, and in all thou dost command I will obey."
The master of the servants asked Arcite what was his name. "Philostrate, my lord," said Arcite, and as "Philostrate" he entered that part of the castle where Emelia's home was.
He could hew wood and carry water well, but he was not long left to do such rough work. The master of the house saw that whatever he trusted to Philostrate's care was rightly done, so he gave him less humble work to do, and made him a page in the house of Emelia. The lords and ladies of the castle began to notice what a gentle and kind page this Philostrate was. They spoke to Theseus about him, and said that he deserved to have a higher place that he might show his goodness and courage in knightly deeds. To please them, Theseus made him one of his own squires.
Seven years passed away, and Palamon was still in prison. This year, however, in the May-time, a friend of his, who heard where he was, helped him to escape. During the short night he fled as fast as he could, but when the early dawn began to break he strode tremblingly to a grove of trees, that he might hide there all day. When the darkness fell once more he meant to go on again to Thebes, there to gather his old armies to make war on Theseus. He wished either to win Emelia or to die. He cared little for his life if he might not spend it with her.
As Palamon lay beside a bush in the grove, he watched the sunbeams drying up the dew drops on the leaves and flowers near him, and listened to the joyous song of a lark that poured forth its welcome to the morning.
The same lark that Palamon heard awakened Arcite. He was now the chief knight in the Duke's house, and served him with honor in peace and war. He sprang up and looked out on the fresh green fields. Everything called to him to come out. He loosed his horse from the stall and galloped over hill and dale. He came to the edge of a grove, and tied up his steed to a tree. Then he wandered down a woodland path to gather honeysuckle and hawthorn to weave a garland for himself. Little he thought of the snare into which he was walking. As he roamed he sang—
"O May, of every month the queen, With thy sweet flowers and forests green, Right welcome be thou, fair fresh May."
The grove was the one in which Palamon lay beside a pool of water. When he heard the song of Arcite, cold fear took hold on him. He did not know that it was Arcite who sang, but he knew that the horse must belong to a knight of the court, and he crouched down to the ground lest he should be seen and taken back to prison.
Soon Arcite's joyous mood passed away, and he grew sorrowful. He sighed and threw himself down not far from the spot where Palamon lay.
"Alas, alas!" said Arcite, "for the royal blood of Thebes! Alas that I should humbly serve my mortal enemy! Alas that I dare not claim my noble name, but must be known, forsooth, as Philostrate, a name worth not a straw! Of all our princely house not one is left save only me and Palamon, whom Theseus slays in prison. Even I, free though I am, am helpless to win Emelia. What am I to her but an humble squire?"
Palamon was so angry when he heard this, that he forgot his own danger. He started out from his hiding-place and faced Arcite.
"False Arcite," he cried, "now art thou caught indeed! Thou hast deceived Duke Theseus and hast falsely changed thy name, hast thou? Then surely I or thou must die. I will suffer no man to love my lady, save myself alone. For I am Palamon, thy mortal foe. I have no weapon in this place, for only last night did I escape from prison. Yet I fear thee not. Thou shalt die, or thou shalt cease to love my lady. Choose as thou wilt!"
Then Arcite rose up in his wrath and drew his sword. He said, "Were it not that thou art ill and mad with grief, and that thou hast no weapon here, thou shouldest never step from where thou standest. I deny the bond thou claimest! Fool! how can I help thee to win the lady I fain would wed myself? But because thou art a worthy knight and a gentle, and art ready to fight for thy lady, accept my promise. To-morrow I will not fail to wait for thee here without the knowledge of any other. Also I will bring armor and weapons for thee and me, and thou shalt choose of them what thou wilt, ere I arm myself! Food and drink will I bring to thee this night into the grove. If so be that thou slay me here to-morrow, then indeed thou mayest win thy lady if thou canst!"
Then Palamon answered, "Let it be so."
Next morning Arcite rode to the wood alone. He met Palamon on the woodland path where the flowers he had gathered the day before lay withered on the ground. No word nor greeting passed between them, but each helped to arm the other in silence. As the buckles were tightened and the armor slipped into its place, the color came and went in the faces of the two princes. They deemed that this would be the last of all fights to one of them.
When they were ready they fenced together for a little, and then the real fight began. So fierce was it that the men seemed like wild animals in their rage. Palamon sprang at Arcite like a strong lion, and Arcite glanced aside and darted at him again like a cruel tiger. In the midst of this they heard a sound of the galloping of horses that brought the royal hunters to the spot. In a moment the sword of Theseus flashed between the fighters, and his voice thundered out, "Ho! no more, on pain of death. Who are ye who dare to fight here alone, with none to see justice done?"
The princes turned and saw Theseus, Duke of Athens. Behind him rode Hippolyta with her sister, Emelia the Radiant, and many knights and ladies.
Palamon answered the Duke's question swiftly, before Arcite had time to speak. "Sire, what need of words? Both of us deserve death. Two wretches are we, burdened with our lives. As thou art a just judge, give to us neither mercy nor refuge, but slay us both. Thou knowrest not that this knight, Philostrate, is thy mortal foe, whom thou hast banished. He is Arcite, who hath deceived thee for that he loveth Emelia. And I too love her. I too am thy mortal foe, for I am Palamon, and I have broken from my prison. Slay us then, here before fair Emelia."
"That is easily granted," said Theseus. "Ye judge yourselves. Ye shall die."
Then the queen began to weep, and Emelia too. They were sad to think that these two princes should die so young, and all for the service they wished to do to the queen's sister.
The other ladies of the court begged the Duke to forgive the fighters. "Have mercy, sire," they urged, "on us women, and save the princes!"
At first Theseus was too angry to listen to them, but soon he thought that he would have done as the princes had done, if he had been in their place, so he said, "Arcite and Palamon, ye could both have lived in peace and safety in Thebes, yet love has brought you here to Athens into my power, who am your deadly foe. Here then for the sake of Hippolyta, my queen, and of Emelia the Radiant, our dear sister, I forgive you both. Promise never to make war on my land, but to yield me your friendship evermore." Joyfully the princes promised this, and thanked the Duke for his grace.
Then Theseus said, "Both of you are noble. Either might wed Emelia the Radiant, but she cannot wed you both. Therefore I appoint a tournament in this place a year hence. Come here then, ye Princes of Thebes, each of you, with a hundred knights of the bravest, and that one of you, who shall slay or capture the other, he shall wed Emelia."
Whose face could be brighter than was Palamon's when he heard those words, and who could step more lightly than did Arcite? Every one thanked the Duke for his kindness to the princes, while they rode off to Thebes with high hopes and light hearts.
When the day of the tournament came, great buildings stood in a circle on the plain beside the grove. Within them stretched an immense arena in which the knights must fight. Great marble gates opened on to the space at either side.
Palamon and Arcite found it easy to bring a hundred knights to Athens. So splendid were the preparations for the tournament that every one was eager to fight in it.
Emelia alone was sad as the day of the fighting came nearer. Her maidens heard her say, "Oh that I might not wed at all! I love the free life of the woods. I love to hunt, and to ride, and to roam. Why cannot Palamon and Arcite love each other as they used to do long ago, and leave me free?"
On the morning of the tournament Duke Theseus and his queen sat with Emelia on a high seat overlooking the lists. When the trumpet sounded, Arcite and his knights rode in through the western gate. His red banner shone bright against the white marble pillars. At the same moment Palamon entered from the east, and his white banner floated out against the blue sky.
Soon the heralds ceased galloping up and down, and the whole space was left to the warriors.
The trumpets sounded "Advance," and the fray began. Through the bright sunshine they fought, advancing here, and beaten back there, till at last Palamon was hurled from his horse and taken prisoner.
The trumpets sounded, and all stood still while Theseus called out, "Ho! no more. All is over. Arcite of Thebes khall wed Emelia." Then the people shouted till it seemed that the great marble gates would fall.
In the eagerness of the fight Emelia had begun to like the warriors who fought for her, and her liking grew ever stronger as they showed their worth. When Arcite rode towards her with glowing face she was proud of him, and leant forward to welcome him gladly.
But as he galloped, his horse started aside and he was thrown to the ground. He was too much hurt to rise. So he was lifted by his knights and carried to the palace. There he was cared for in every way, but nothing could save him.
Before he died, he called for Emelia and Palamon.
"No words can tell the sorrow I bear because I must leave thee, my lady! Alas, death tears me from thee! Farewell, my wife! farewell, my Emelia! Ah, take me softly in thine arms, and listen while I speak! For years I have had strife with my dear cousin Palamon. Yet now I say to thee, in all this world I never have met with one so worthy to be loved as Palamon, that hath served thee, and will serve thee, his life long. Ah, if ever thou dost wed, let it be Palamon!"
His voice began to fail. "Emelia!" he said, and died.
Emelia mourned sadly for her valiant knight. As for Palamon, all his old love for Arcite came back, and he wept for him as bitterly as he had bewailed his own sorrow in the dungeon.
When all the Greeks had ceased to mourn for Arcite, Palamon still grieved for the death of his friend, and for the strife that had been between them.
After two years Theseus sent one day for Palamon and Emelia. Palamon came to the court in his black robes of mourning; but Emelia was dressed in white, as she had been on the May morning in the garden years before. She had ceased to mourn for Arcite, and was Emelia the Radiant once more.
Palamon caught his breath. He had not seen her since they parted after Arcite's death.
Duke Theseus said, "Sister, I desire thee now to take the noble knight Palamon to be thy husband. Have pity on his long service, and accept him."
Then he said to Palamon, "It will not need much speech to gain thy consent! Come, take thy lady by the hand."
Then, in the presence of all the court, they were wed. When all was over, Emelia fled from the noise and tumult of the hall, and beckoned to Palamon to follow. Out at the great hall doors she led him, and down the pathway to the garden beneath the tower. When he joined her, she pointed to the dungeon window, and told him of the day when she had looked at the prison in the morning mist, and murmured to herself the names of the captive princes, "Palamon and Arcite, Palamon and Arcite."
But it was not till many years of joyous life had passed over their home that Palamon told Emelia that he had seen her first on that very morning when she had thought so sadly of his misery.
Once upon a time there lived a fair young girl whose name was Griselda. Her home was in an Italian village. There she dwelt in a lowly cottage with her father, Janicola. He was too old and weak to work for her, or even for himself.
All round the village lay the fruitful fields and vineyards of the plain, and on the slopes near grew olive-trees laden with fruit. Far in the distance rose the snow-capped mountains of the North.
Even in so rich a land it was not easy for this young Griselda to make her father's life as pleasant as she would have wished it to be. She lived plainly and barely. She was busy all day long. Now she was herding a few sheep on the broken ground near the village, and spinning as she watched her flock. Again she fetched the water from the well or gathered roots and herbs from which to make drugs.
Griselda was not unhappy though her life was hard, because she was so glad that she could serve her father and show her love to him, forgetting about herself and her own wishes.
One day as she sat watching her sheep her eyes fell on the white towers of a castle that stood not far from the village where she lived. It was the castle of the Marquis Walter, who was lord of all that land. Griselda looked kindly at the white towers. She thought that their master was the best and greatest man in the world. She knew that he was kind also, and courteous. When she saw him ride towards her, her face lighted up, and she rose to courtesy to him. She hoped he would draw up his horse beside her, and greet her, and ask for her father Janicola.
This morning, as she looked at the castle, she saw a company of men hurrying along the road that led to its gate. Farmers were there in dull and homely clothes, and knights in armor that flashed back the sunlight, and lords in gay colors that glanced and gleamed among the olive-trees under the blue Italian sky.
Griselda knew why they were going to Lord Walter, and she wondered what they would do and say when they reached him. She could not go after them, for her sheep would have wandered away if she had left them.
When the men that Griselda had watched reached the courtyard gate, they met Lord Walter. He was on horseback ready for the hunt. The foremost of the company prayed him to grant them a little time that they might tell him why they had come.
Lord Walter threw the reins to a squire, and led his people into the great hall of the castle. There he seated himself in state to listen to their grievance whatever it might be.
Then the same man who had spoken before said to him:
"Noble Marquis, thy generous kindness in times past giveth us courage to come before thee. Truly, sire, thou and all thou dost art so dear to us that, save in one thing, we cannot wish for better fortune than to live under thy government. One thing alone disturbs the peace of thy faithful people. Though thou art young and strong, yet age creeps on! Time flies and waits for no man. Death threatens young and old alike. We pray thee, sire, that thou wilt wed, for if swift death should lay thee low ere a son be born to thee, then alack for us and for our children! In the power of a stranger then would lie our fair lands and even our lives. Grant us this boon, noble Marquis, and, if thou wilt, we will choose for thee a wife. Noble shall she be, and good, so that thou shalt have honor and gladness in thy wedding."
Then the Marquis said:
"My people, loyal and true, ye ask of me that which I thought not to grant, for the free life of the forest and the hunt pleaseth me well. Yet will I do this thing that ye desire. Only to me myself must fall the choice of her whom I will wed. On you I lay this command that, be she who she may, yet shall ye honor her as if she were an Emperor's daughter through all her life. Nor shall ye raise one word against the maiden of my choice. Unless ye agree to this, I will not wed!"
Gladly the people promised. But ere they left the Marquis, they begged him to fix a day for the marriage lest he should put off too long. The Marquis granted their request, and farmers, knights, and lords trooped joyfully home.
When the morning of the day that was fixed for the wedding came, the castle of the Marquis was gaily decorated. Flags floated out from the towers, and garlands trailed over the doorway and the gate. Within in the great hall a royal feast was spread, and there lay royal robes and gems.
In the courtyard and on the terraces lords and ladies stood in groups. Wonder and doubt were on every face. The wedding-feast was prepared, the guests were come, but there was no bride.
A trumpet sounded "to horse," and all was hurry and noise. Then Lord Walter rode out through the castle gate. He was followed by bearers, who carried the beautiful robes and gems that had lain in the hall.
They rode out by the same road along which Griselda had watched the people go to ask the Marquis to wed, many months before. Now she saw the bridal train ride down from the castle. "Ah," she said, "they ride this way to fetch the bride. I shall work more busily than ever to-day that I may be free to stand and watch Lord Walter's fair bride as the riders return with her to the castle!"
Then she went to the well to fetch water. When she came back she found Lord Walter at her father's door. In the narrow lane beside the cottage stood lords and ladies, while their horses impatiently pawed the ground.
Quickly Griselda set her pitcher in a trough near the cottage door, and knelt before the Marquis to hear his will.
"Where is thy father?" Lord Walter asked.
"Close at hand, my Lord," said Griselda, and went to bring him without delay.
"My faithful servant," said Lord Walter to the old man, "grant me thy daughter for my wife!"
Janicola knew not what to say for surprise. At last he answered, "My will is thine! Do as thou wilt, my own dear Lord!"
"Then must I ask Griselda if she will be my wife; but stay thou by us. Thou shalt hear her answer."
Griselda was amazed. She did not know what the meaning of Lord Walter's visit was, and when she stood before him her face was full of fear. Her wonder was very great when she heard him say:
"Griselda, I am come for thee. Thee only will I wed. Thy father also is willing. But ere thou tell me whether or no thou wilt be my bride, listen to the demand I make. Art thou ready to obey me in everything, and to let me do to thee evil or good as I will without so much as turning to me a frowning face?"
This seemed a strange request to Grisdda, but she loved and trusted Lord Walter so truly that she said:
"Lord, I am not worthy of this honor. Verily in all things thy will shall be mine. Life is sweet, but I will die rather than displease thee."
"Enough, Griselda!" he said.
Then Lord Walter turned to the courtiers and the people of the village who had gathered round:
"Behold my wife! Let all show their love to me by the honor and love they bear to her."
The ladies of the court were commanded to take off Griselda's old clothes and to array her in the costly robes they had brought with them. They did not like to touch the poor soiled clothes she wore, nor to move about in the little cottage with their sweeping gowns; but the gentleness of Griselda made it pleasant to help her. They caught up Griselda's royal robes with great clasps of gold set with gems, and put a crown on her beautiful hair.
She came out and stood in the low doorway, where she had so often stood before. But now the people scarcely knew her: she looked so fair in her new robes and with the love-light shining in her eyes.
Lord Walter did not wait till he reached the castle. He was married to Griselda at her father's cottage door. The villagers gathered round and gazed at the simple wedding. They saw Lord Walter put a great ring on Griselda's finger, and lift her on to a milk-white steed. Then they led her with joy towards the castle. Wedding-bells rang out gladly across the plain, and ever as the wedding-party drew near to the white towers with their floating flags, happy bands of people came to meet and welcome Griselda.
Very soon the fame of Lord Walter's beautiful wife spread through the land. Nor was it only for her beauty that men praised her. Gracious she was and wise, able to rule her home, and to bend fiery spirits to her will.
From all the countryside men came to her in trouble. Every one rejoiced in the good fortune that had come to their land, and some even called her an angel from heaven come to right all wrong.
After some time a daughter was born to Griselda. Then she thought she was the happiest woman in the world. She thought of the care that she would give her child as she grew up, and of Lord Walter's delight in his little daughter when the time should come that she could talk and ride with him.
But before the baby was a year old, all Griselda's dreams were broken. Lord Walter said to himself, "It is easy for Griselda to keep her promise when I ask of her nothing that is not just and right. How can I trust her until I know that she will obey me in everything? I wonder whether she would be patient still if I hurt our little daughter."
These thoughts came back to his mind so often that at last he resolved to try Griselda's patience by taking away her baby from her.
One evening Griselda was playing with her little child. The baby laughed in her arms and looked sweeter than ever. At that moment the curtain at the doorway was drawn aside and Lord Walter came into the room. His face was sad and drawn, and as Griselda looked up at him she feared that some great blow had fallen on him, or that some enemy had entered the country.
Lord Walter said to her:
"Griselda, thou hast not forgotten the day on which I brought thee from thy father's lowly cottage to this my castle. Although thou art most dear to me, thou art not dear to my nobles. They say that it is hard that they should serve one so lowly born as thou. Since thy daughter was born they have said this more and more, I doubt not. As thou knowest, my will is to live with my people in joy and peace. Therefore must I do to my child not as I wish myself, but as my nobles wish. Show then to me the obedience that thou didst promise to show when thou wert wed in the village street."
As Griselda heard these words she made no moan. Neither did she let the pain that caught at her heart be seen in her face. When she could speak, she said:
"Lord, we are thine! My child is thine. I also am thine. With thine own thou mayest ever do as pleaseth thee best."
The Marquis was full of joy because of the patience and humbleness of Griselda; but he appeared to be sad, and left her with a troubled face.
Soon after this, Griselda started as she heard a heavy footstep on the stairway. Then an evil-looking man walked into the quiet room.
"Madam," he said, "I must obey my lord's will. He bids me take this child. Thou knowest we must obey, although we may complain and mourn."
Then the soldier took the child so roughly that it seemed as if he would kill it before her. Griselda said:
"Pray, sir, do thou suffer me to kiss my child ere it die." He gave it back to her. Gently she gathered it in her arms. She blessed it, and lulled it, and kissed it. Then she said in her sweet voice: "Farewell, my child, I shall see thee never again. The blessing of Him who died on a cross of wood for us, rest on thee. To Him I give thy soul, my little one! To-night thou must die because of me."
To the rough soldier she said:
"Take again the child and obey my Lord. But if it please my Lord, then of thy kindness bury thou the little body where no cruel bird nor beast can harm it!"
But in silence the soldier carried away the child.
Then Lord Walter looked to see if Griselda would fret or be less kind to him. He watched, but could see no change in her. She was as busy and loving and cheerful as ever. Neither in earnest nor in play did she name her child.
After four years a son was born to Griselda. The people were very glad because there was now an heir to rule the land at the death of Lord Walter. Griselda too was happy, though her heart longed for the little maid who might have been playing with her brother.
When the boy was two years old, Lord Walter began to wish once more to try the patience of Griselda.
This time he said to her:
"Wife, I have told thee before how ill the people bear our marriage. Now that a son is born they are more wrathful than before. My heart is weary with the thought of their complaints. They say, 'When Lord Walter is gone, the grandson of Janicola shall rule us!' Therefore I shall do with my son as I did with his sister. Be patient, I pray thee."
"Thou art my Lord," said Griselda. "My will and my freedom lie in my father's cottage with the poor soiled clothes I left there on the day thou didst bring me hither. Could I know thy will before thou didst tell it to me, it would be done, though it were death to do it. Life cannot compare with thy love."
Lord Walter looked down to the ground. He could not look at his wife lest he should not have heart to do as he wished.
Again the rude soldier came to Griselda. He was even harsher than before, and carried off the child without a kind word to the patient mother.
When the little boy was gone, the people said very bitter things about Lord Walter. The love they had given him before was turned into hatred because he had treated his beautiful wife so unkindly, and because he had murdered his children.
Though Lord Walter saw this, he wished to try his wife once more. He knew that he could send away his wife and marry another if he got a letter from the Pope to say that he might. He sent a messenger to Rome, where the Pope lived. This messenger was told to bring back a letter, not from the Pope, but as like one of his as possible.
The letter came. It said that because of the anger of Lord Walter's people at the lowly birth of his wife Griselda, the Marquis might send her away and marry another.
The news of the letter spread throughout the land. Every one believed that it had really come from the Pope.
Griselda's heart was very sore when she heard of this letter. But she went on quietly with each day's work. She did not even speak of the letter to her husband.
At last Lord Walter spoke before all his court, and with no knightly gentleness.
"Griselda," he said, "there is no freedom in the life of one who rules. I may not act after my own wish as any laborer on my land may do. As thou knowest, my people hate thy presence, and demand of me that I wed another. The Pope's letter thou hast heard. Return then, swiftly and without complaint, to thy father's cottage, for already my bride cometh hither."
"My Lord, it is no new thought to me, that I am unworthy to be thy servant—far more unworthy to be thy wife. In this great house of which thou didst make me queen, I have not acted as mistress, but only as lowly handmaid to thee. For these years of thy kindness, I thank thee. Gladly do I go to my father's house. There he tended me when I was but a child. Now I will stay with him till death enters the cottage door. To thee and to thy bride be joy. To her I willingly yield the place where I have been so happy. Since thou, who once wert all my joy, wilt have me go, I go!"
Lord Walter turned away in sadness. He could scarcely speak for pity, but he held to his purpose.
Then Griselda drew her wedding-ring from her finger, and laid it down. Beside it she put the gems that Lord Walter had given her. Her beautiful robes she laid aside. In the simplest gown she could find, and with head and feet all bare, Griselda went down through the olive trees towards her father's house.
Many of Lord Walter's people followed her, weeping and bewailing the fickleness of fortune. Griselda did not turn to them, nor speak, nor weep. She quietly went on her way.
When the tidings reached her father, he wished that he had never been born, so sad was he in the sorrow of his beautiful daughter. He hastened out to meet her, and wrapped her tenderly in her old cloak, and led her home with tears.
Griselda spoke no word of complaint, nor did she speak of her former happiness. Once more she tended the sheep on the common. Once more she carried water from the well. Once more she thought first of her father.
After some weeks Lord Walter sent for Griselda. She went to the castle and greeted him humbly as of old. She showed no grudge because of his unkindness.
"Griselda," he said, "thou knowest, as doth no other, how all this castle should be ordered for my pleasure. Stay thou then, and have all in readiness for the fair young bride whom I shall wed to-morrow. It is my will that she be welcomed royally."
"My whole desire is to serve thee, my Lord. Neither weal nor woe shall ever make me cease to love thee with all my heart."
At once Griselda took control of all who worked in the castle. Of them all she was the neatest and the quickest. Soon every room in the tower was sweet and clean. The great hall was decked for the wedding-feast, and the table glittered with silver.
Early next morning many horsemen came to the castle. Among them was a beautiful girl dressed in a shimmering white robe. Near her rode a charming boy younger than the maiden. Round them were many nobles, and a guard of soldiers, who had brought them to Lord Walter's court.
The people crowded round the gates. So charmed were they with the fair young maid, that some of them forgot their love for Griselda, and were ready to welcome the bride whose coming caused her so much sorrow.
Still Griselda moved about the castle in her old worn clothes. She went to the gate to welcome the bride. Then she received the guests and greeted each of them according to his degree.
The stranger nobles wondered who Griselda could be. She was so wise and gentle, and yet so meanly dressed.
Before the feast began, Lord Walter called Griselda to him. Then he asked her, "What dost thou think of my wife? Is she beautiful?"
"Never have I seen a fairer," said Griselda. "Joy be with you both evermore! But oh! I beg of thee, torment not this child as thou didst me. She has been tenderly cared for. She could not bear what I have borne."
When Lord Walter saw her great patience, and thought of the pain he had caused her, his heart went out to her in great pity, and he cried, "It is enough, Griselda; fear no more, nor be thou longer sad. I have tried thy faith and thy sweetness, as faith and sweetness have never before been tried."
His arms were around her, and he kissed her. Griselda looked at him in wonder. She could not understand.
"Griselda," he said, "thou art my wife. I have no other. This is thy daughter; her brother is my heir. Thine are they both. Take them again, and dream not that thou art bereft of thy children."
When Griselda heard all this she fainted away in her great joy. When she woke again she called her children to her. Timidly they came, but soon they were caught close to her breast. While she fondled them, and kissed them, her hot tears of joy fell on their fair faces, and on their hair. Then she looked at Lord Walter, and said, "Death cannot harm me now, since thou lovest me still." Then she turned back to the children.
"Oh tender, oh dear, oh little ones, my children! Your sorrowful mother thought that cruel dogs or other fearsome beasts had torn you! but God has kept you safe."
Once again the ladies of the court dressed Griselda in royal robes. Once again they set a golden crown upon her head. Once again the wedding-ring slipped into its own place on her finger.
Ere she entered the hall of feasting again, swift messengers had brought her old father, Janicola, to the castle, never to leave it again.
Then Griselda sat with her children beside her husband. To her feet came lords and nobles, peasants and farmers, eager to kiss her hand and to show the joy they felt in her return.
Never had the walls of the castle reechoed the laughter of so glad a people. All day long till the stars shone in the cool clear sky the feasting went on.
For Griselda this was the first of many happy days, happier than she had known before.
In her home sounded the gay voices of happy children as they played with, and cared for, the old grandfather whom their mother loved so dearly. And ever as she moved about the castle she met the eyes of Lord Walter, that told her again and yet again that he trusted her utterly.
THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
By JOHN BUNYAN
ADAPTED BY MARY MACGREGOR
As I slept I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold, I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face away from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the book, and read therein, and as he read, he wept and trembled. His fear was so great that he brake out with a mournful cry, saying, "What shall I do?"
In this plight therefore he went home, and did all he could to hide his distress from his wife and children. But he could not be silent long, because his trouble increased. Wherefore at length he began to talk to his wife and children thus: "O my dear wife," said he, "and you my children, I am in despair by reason of a burden that lieth heavy on me. Moreover I am for certain told that this our city will be burned with fire from heaven, when both myself, with thee, my wife, and you, my sweet babes, shall be ruined, except some way of escape can be found." At this his wife and children were sore amazed, not because they believed that what he had said to them was true, but because they thought he must be ill to talk in so strange a way. Therefore, as it was evening, and they hoped sleep might soothe him, with all haste they got him to bed. But the night was as troublesome to him as the day, wherefore instead of sleeping he spent it in sighs and tears.
So when the morning was come, they asked him how he did. He told them, "Worse and worse," and began to talk to them again in the same strange manner, but they began to be careless of his words. They also thought to drive away his fancies by harsh and rough behavior to him. Sometimes they would mock, sometimes they would scold, and sometimes they would quite neglect him. Wherefore he began to stay in his room to pray for and pity them, and also to comfort his own misery. He would also walk alone in the fields, sometimes reading and sometimes praying, and thus for some days he spent his time.
Now I saw in my dream that when he was walking in the fields, he was reading his book and greatly distressed in mind. And as he read, he burst out crying, "What shall I do to be saved?" I saw also that he looked this way and that way, as if he would run. Yet he stood still, because, as I saw, he could not tell which way to go. I looked then, and saw a man, named Evangelist, coming to him, who asked, "Wherefore dost thou cry?"
He answered, "Sir, I see by the book in my hand that I am condemned to die, and after that to be judged. And I find I am not willing to die, nor able to be judged."
Then said Evangelist, "Why not willing to die, since in this life you are so unhappy?"
The man answered, "Because I fear this burden will sink me lower than the grave, and the thought of that makes me cry."
Then said Evangelist, "If this be thy fear, why standest thou still?"
He answered, "Because I know not whither to go."
So Evangelist gave him a parchment roll, and there was written within, "Fly from the wrath to come." The man therefore read it, and looking upon Evangelist very carefully, said, "Whither must I fly!"
Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger over a very wide field, "Do you see yonder Wicket-gate?"
The man said, "No."
"Well," said the other, "do you see yonder shining light?"
He said, "I think I do."
Then said Evangelist, "Keep that light in thine eye, and go up directly thereto, so shalt thou see the gate. When thou knockest, it shall be told thee what thou shalt do."
So I saw in my dream that the man began to run. Now he had not run far from his own door when his wife and children, seeing it, began to cry after him to return. But the man put his fingers in his ears, and ran on, crying, "Life, life, eternal life!" So he looked not behind him, but fled towards the middle of the plain. The neighbors also came out to see him run. And as he ran some mocked, others threatened, and some cried after him to return. Among those that did so were two that were resolved to fetch him back by force. The name of the one was Obstinate, and the name of the other was Pliable. Now by this time the man was got a good distance from them, but they had made up their minds to follow him, which they did, and in a little time overtook him.
Then said the man, "Neighbors, wherefore are you come?"
They said, "To persuade you to go back with us."
But he said, "That can by no means be. You dwell in the City of Destruction, the place where I was born. Be content, good neighbors, and go along with me."
"What!" said Obstinate, "and leave our friends and our comforts behind us!"
"Yes," said Christian, for that was his name.
"What do you seek, since you leave all the world to find it?" said Obstinate.
"I seek a treasure that never fades away. It is laid up in heaven and is safe there," said Christian. "Read it so, if you will, in my book."
"Tush!" said Obstinate, "away with your book. Will you go back with us or no?"
"No, not I," said the other, "because I have just set out."
"Come then, Neighbor Pliable, let us turn again and go home without him."
Then said Pliable, "If what the good Christian says is true, the things he looks after are better than ours. My heart makes me wish to go with him. But, my good Christian, do you know the way you are going?"
"I am directed by a man, whose name is Evangelist, to speed me to a little gate that is before us, where we shall be told about the way."
"Come then, good neighbor," said Pliable, "let us be going." Then they went both together.
"And I will go back to my place," said Obstinate. "I will be no companion of such mistaken and foolish fellows."
Now I saw in my dream that when Obstinate was gone back, Christian and Pliable went talking over the plain. "I will tell you what my book says of the country to which we are going, and of the people we shall meet there," said Christian.
"But do you think the words of your book are certainly true?" said Pliable.
"Yes," said Christian, "for it was written by Him who cannot lie."
"Well," said Pliable, "tell me about this country."
"In this country," said Christian, "we shall live for ever. There are crowns of glory to be given us, and garments that will make us shine like the sun."
"This is excellent," said Pliable; "and what else?"
"There shall be no more crying nor sorrow, for He that is the Owner of the place will wipe all tears from our eyes," said Christian.
"And what companions shall we have there?" asked Pliable.
"There we shall be with those that will dazzle your eyes to look on. There also you shall meet with thousands and tens of thousands that have gone before us to that place. None of of them are hurtful, but loving and holy. In a word, there shall we see some with their golden crowns, there we shall see maidens with golden harps, there we shall see men that here were cut in pieces, burnt in flames, eaten by beasts, and drowned in the seas, all for the love they bare to the Lord of this place. Now they are all well, and clothed with beautiful garments."
And as Pliable heard of the excellence of the country and of the company to which they were going, he said, "Well, my good companion, glad I am to hear of these things. Come on, let us go with more speed."
"I cannot go as fast as I would by reason of this burden that is on my back," said Christian.
Now I saw in my dream that just as they ended their talk, they drew nigh to a bog that was in the midst of the plain, and they being heedless did both fall suddenly into it. The name of this bog was the Slough of Despond. Here therefore they struggled for a time, being grievously covered with dirt. And Christian, because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire. Then said Pliable, "Ah, Neighbor Christian, where are you now?"
"Truly," said Christian, "I do not know."
At this Pliable began to be offended, and said angrily, "Is this the happiness you have told me of all this while? If I get out again with my life, you shall possess the wonderful country alone."
And with that he gave a desperate struggle or two, and got out of the mire on that side of the bog which was next to his own house. So away he went, and Christian saw him no more. Wherefore Christian was left to tumble in the Slough of Despond alone. But still he tried to struggle to that side of the Slough that was further from his own house, and next to the Wicket-gate. But he could not get out because of the burden that was upon his back.
And I beheld in my dream that a man came to him, whose name was Help, and asked him what he did there. "Sir," said Christian, "I was bid to go this way by a man called Evangelist, who directed me also to yonder gate, and as I was going thither I fell in here."
"Why did you not look for the steps?" said Help.
"I was so full of fear," answered Christian, "that I fled the next way and fell in."
Then said Help, "Give me thy hand." So Christian gave him his hand, and he drew him out and set him upon sound ground, and bid him go on his way.
Now in my dream I stepped up to the man that plucked Christian out, and said:
"Sir, wherefore, since over this place is the way from the City of Destruction to the Wicket-gate, is it that this Slough is not mended, that poor travelers might go over in more safety?"
And he said to me, "This place cannot be mended, yet it is not the pleasure of the King that it should remain so bad. His laborers also have for more than sixteen hundred years been employed on this patch of ground, in the hope that it might perhaps be mended. There has been swallowed up here twenty thousand cartloads of the best material in the attempt to mend the place. But it is the Slough of Despond still; and still will be so, when they have done all they can. It is true that there are some good and strong steps even through the very midst of this mire. But men through the dizziness of their head miss the steps and so tumble into the mire, but the ground is good when they have once got in at the gate."
Then I saw in my dream that by this time Pliable was got home to his house. So his neighbors came to visit him, and some of them called him wise man for coming back, and some called him fool for going with Christian. Others again did mock at his cowardliness, saying, "Surely since you began to go, you need not have been so base as to have given out for a few difficulties." So Pliable sat like a coward among them.
Now as Christian was walking alone, he espied one afar off, come crossing over the field to meet him. The gentleman's name was Mr. Worldly Wiseman. He dwelt in a very great town, close by the one from which Christian came. This man, then, meeting with Christian, began thus to enter into some talk with him: "How now, good fellow, whither are you going in this burdened manner?"
"A burdened manner indeed," said Christian. "I am going, sir, to yonder Wicket-gate before me, for there, I am told, I shall be put into a way to be rid of my heavy burden."
"Hast thou a wife and children?" asked Mr. Worldly Wiseman.
"Yes, but I am so laden with this burden that I cannot take that pleasure in them as formerly."
"Will you hearken to me if I give thee counsel?"
"If it be good, I will, for I stand in need of good counsel."
"I would advise thee, then, that thou with all speed get thyself rid of thy burden, for thou wilt never be contented till then."
"That is what I seek for, even to be rid of this heavy burden, but get it off myself I cannot, nor is there any man living in our country who can take it off my shoulders. Therefore I am going this way, as I told you, that I may be rid of my burden."
"Who bid thee go this way to be rid of thy burden?"
"A man that appeared to me a very great and honorable person. His name, as I remember, is Evangelist."
"He has given thee foolish counsel. There is not a more dangerous and troublesome way in the world than is that unto which he hath directed thee. Thou hast met with some danger already, for I see the mud of the Slough of Despond is upon thee. Hear me, I am older than thou. Thou art likely to meet with, in the way which thou goest, painfulness, hunger, nakedness, sword, lions, dragons, darkness, and death."
"Why, sir, this burden upon my back is more terrible to me than all these things."
"But why wilt thou seek for ease this way, seeing so many dangers attend it? Hadst thou but patience to listen, I could direct thee how to get what thou desirest, without the danger that thou in this way wilt run thyself into."
"Sir, I pray that thou wilt tell me this secret."
"Why, in yonder village there dwells a gentleman, who is very wise, and who has skill to help men off with burdens like thine from their shoulders. To him thou mayest go to be helped at once. His house is not quite a mile from this place, and if thou dost not desire to go back to the City of Destruction, as indeed I would not wish thee, thou mayest send for thy wife and children to come to thee to this village. There are houses now standing empty, one of which thou mayest have without great cost. Food is there also, cheap and good, and what will make thy life the more happy is, that thou shalt live beside honest neighbors, in respect and comfort."
Now the Christian puzzled, but he thought, "If what Mr. Worldly Wiseman says is true, my wisest plan is to take his advice."
"Sir," said Christian, "which is my way to this honest man's house?"
"Do you see yonder high hill?"
"Yes, very well."
"By that hill you must go, and the first house you come to is his."
So Christian turned out of his way to go to the house for help. But behold, when he was now close to the hill, it seemed so steep, and also that side of it that was next the wayside did hang so much over, that Christian was afraid to venture farther, lest the hill should fall on his head. Wherefore he stood still, and knew not what to do. Also his burden now seemed heavier to him than while he was in his way. There came also flashes of fire out of the hill, that made Christian afraid that he should be burned. Here therefore he did quake for fear. And now he began to be sorry that he had taken Mr. Worldly Wiseman's counsel. Then he saw Evangelist coming to meet him, at the sight also of whom he began to blush for shame. So Evangelist drew nearer and nearer, and coming up to him, he looked upon him with a severe and dreadful countenance.
"What dost thou here, Christian?" said he. At which words Christian knew not what to answer, wherefore at first he stood speechless before him. Then said Evangelist, "Art not thou the man I found crying without the walls of the City of Destruction?"
"Yes," said Christian, "I am the man."
"Did I not direct thee the way to the little Wicket-gate?"
"Yes," said Christian.
"How is it, then, that thou art so quickly turned out of the way?"
"I met with a gentleman as soon as I had got over the Slough of Despond, who told me that in yonder village I might find a man who could take off my burden."
"What was he like?"
"He looked like a gentleman, and talked much to me, and got me at last to believe his words. So I came hither, but when I beheld this hill and how it hangs over the way, I suddenly stood still lest it should fall on my head."
"What said that gentleman to you?"
"Why, he asked me whither I was going, and if I had a wife and children, and he bid me make speed to get rid of my burden. And I said, 'I am going to yonder gate to be told how I may get rid of it.'
"So he said he would show me a better and a shorter way, and not so full of difficulties as the way that you directed me. But when I came to this place, I stopped for fear of danger, and now I know not what to do!" So Christian stood trembling before Evangelist.
Then said Evangelist, "Give heed to the things I shall tell thee. Mr. Worldly Wiseman sought to turn thee out of the way and to bring thee into danger. In yonder village has no man ever yet got rid of his burden, nor is he ever likely to lose it there. Therefore, Mr. Worldly Wiseman and his friend are deceivers, and cannot help thee."
After this there came words and fire out of the mountain under which Christian stood. Now Christian looked for nothing but death, and began to cry out, saying he would he had never met Mr. Worldly Wiseman or that he had never listened to him. Then he turned to Evangelist and said, "Sir, what do you think? Is there any hope? May I now go back and go up to the Wicket-gate? Or shall I be sent back from the gate ashamed? I am sorry I have listened to this man's counsel, but may my sins be forgiven?"
Evangelist said to him, "Thy sin is very great. Thou hast left the good way and walked in forbidden paths. Yet will the man at the gate receive thee, for he has good will for men. Only," said he, "take heed that thou turn not aside again."
Then did Christian prepare to go back. And Evangelist, after he had kissed him, gave him one smile, and bid him Godspeed. So Christian went on with haste, neither spake he to any man by the way. Even if any one spoke to him, he would not venture an answer. He walked like one that was all the while treading on forbidden ground, and could by no means think himself safe, till again he had got into the way which he had left to follow Mr. Worldly Wiseman's counsel. So in process of time Christian got up to the gate. Now over the gate there was written, "Knock, and it shall be opened unto you." He knocked therefore more than once or twice. At last there came a grave person to the gate, named Good-will. He asked who was there, and whence he came, and what he desired.
"I am a sinner," said Christian; "I come from the City of Destruction, but am going to Mount Zion. I am told that by this gate is the way thither, and I would know if you are willing to let me in."
"I am willing with all my heart," said Good-will, and he opened the gate. So when Christian was stepping in, the other gave him a pull.
"Why do you do that?" said Christian.
Then Good-will told him, "A little distance from this gate a strong castle has been built, of which Beelzebub is the captain. And he and those that are with him shoot arrows at those that come up to this gate, hoping they may die before they enter in."
So when Christian had come in, Good-will asked him who had directed him to the gate.
"Evangelist bid me come here and knock, as I did. And he said that you, sir, would tell me what I must do."
Then Good-will said, "Come a little way with me, good Christian, and I will teach thee about the way thou must go. Look before thee; dost thou see this narrow way? That is the way thou must go, and it is as straight as a rule can make it. This is the way thou must go."
"But," said Christian, "are there no turnings, nor windings, by which a stranger may lose his way?"
"Yes, there are many ways join this, but they are crooked and wide. Thou mayest know the right from the wrong way, for the right way is always strait and narrow."
Then I saw in my dream that Christian asked him if he could not help him off with his burden that was upon his back. For as yet he had not got rid of it, nor could he get it off without help. But Good-will said, "Thou must be content to bear it, until thou comest to a place where stands a Cross, for there it will fall from thy back of itself."
Then Christian began to get ready to continue his journey. So Good-will told him that when he had gone some distance from the gate, he would come to the house of the Interpreter, at whose door he should knock, and he would show him wonderful things. Then Christian took leave of his friend, and he again bid him Godspeed. Now Christian went on till he came to the house of the Interpreter, where he knocked over and over. At last one came to the door and asked who was there.
"Sir," said Christian, "I am a traveler who was told by Good-will to call here. I would therefore speak with the master of the house." So he called for the master of the house, who, after a little time, came to Christian and asked what he would have.
"Sir," said Christian, "I am a man that has come from the City of Destruction, and I am going to Mount Zion. I was told by the man that stands at the Wicket-gate that if I called here you would show me things that would help me on my journey."
Then said the Interpreter, "Come in, and I will show thee what will help thee." So he commanded his man to light the candle, and bid Christian follow him. Then he took him into a private room, and bid his man open a door. And Christian saw the picture of a very grave person hung up against the wall. He had eyes lifted up to heaven, the best of books in his hand, and a crown of gold did hang over his head.
Then said Christian, "What means this?"
"The man whose picture this is," answered the Interpreter, "is one of a thousand. He is the only man who may be thy guide in all difficult places thou mayest meet with in the way. Wherefore be very careful to remember whom thou hast seen."
Then the Interpreter led him into a very large parlor that was full of dust, because it was never swept, and after he had looked at it for a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep. Now when he began to sweep, the dust began to fly about, so that Christian was almost choked. Then said the Interpreter to a damsel that stood near, "Bring hither the water and sprinkle the room." And when this was done the room was swept and cleansed.
Then said Christian, "What does this mean?"
The Interpreter answered, "This parlor is like the heart of an evil man. The dust is his sin, and the damsel that sprinkles the water is the Gospel."
I saw moreover in my dream, that the Interpreter took Christian by the hand and led him into a little room, where sat two little children, each one in his chair. The name of the eldest was Passion, and the name of the other Patience. Passion seemed to be very discontented, but Patience was very quiet.
Then Christian asked, "What is the reason of the discontent of Passion?"
The Interpreter answered, "The governor of the children would have them wait for their new toys, till the beginning of next year, but Passion wishes to have them all now, while Patience, is willing to wait." Then the Interpreter took Christian to a place where there was a fire burning against a wall, and one standing near it, always casting much water upon it to quench it, yet did the fire burn higher and hotter. But afterwards the Interpreter took him to the back of the wall, where he saw a man with a vessel of oil in his hand, and he poured the oil continually, but secretly, into the fire.
"What does this mean?" asked Christian.
The Interpreter answered, "The fire is a picture of the grace God puts into the heart. He that casts water on it to put it out is the Evil One. And the man who pours oil on the fire to keep it alight is Christ."
I saw also that the Interpreter took Christian again by the hand and led him into a place, where was builded a stately palace, beautiful to behold, at the sight of which Christian was greatly delighted. He saw also upon the top of the palace certain persons walking, and they were clothed all in gold.
Then said Christian, "May we go in here?" So the Interpreter took him and led him toward the door of the palace. Now before they came up to the door, they passed a man, sitting at a table, with a book and his inkhorn before him, to take down the name of any who should enter. And, behold, at the door stood a great company of men, who wished to go in, but did not dare to enter, for within the doorway stood many men in armor to guard it. Now, these men in armor were determined to do any who would enter as much harm and mischief as they could. Christian was amazed. At last, when every man started back for fear of the armed men, Christian saw a man with a very strong face come up to the man that sat at the table, saying:
"Set down my name, sir."
And when this was done, Christian saw the strong man draw his sword and put an helmet on his head, and rush toward the door upon the armed men. The armed men fought with great strength, but the man with the strong face was not at all discouraged, but fought most fiercely. So after he had received and given many wounds to those that tried to keep him out, he cut his way through them all, and pressed forward into the palace. Then there was a pleasant voice heard from those that walked upon the top of the palace, saying:
"Come in, come in; Eternal glory thou shalt win."
So he went in and was clothed in such garments as they.
"Now," said Christian, "let me go."
And the Interpreter said, "Hast thou understood these things?"
"Yes," said Christian, and he began to get ready to go on his journey.
Then said the Interpreter, "God be always with thee, good Christian, to guide thee in the way that leads to Mount Zion."
Now I saw in my dream that the highway up which Christian was to go was fenced on either side with a wall. Up this way therefore, did Christian run, but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back. He ran thus till he came to a steeper place, and upon that place stood a Cross, and a little below, a Sepulcher. So I saw in my dream that just as Christian came up to the Cross his burden fell from off his back, and began to tumble till it came to the mouth of the Sepulcher, where it fell in and I saw it no more. Then was Christian glad and happy, and he stood for a while to look and wonder, for it was surprising to him to see that the Cross should make him lose his burden. Now as he stood looking, behold three Shining Ones came to him and greeted him.
The first said to him, "Thy sins be forgiven thee." The second took away all his rags and clothed him in new raiment. The third set a mark on his forehead and gave him a roll with a seal on it, which he should give in at the Celestial Gate. So they went their way.
Then Christian gave three leaps for joy and went on singing. I saw then in my dream that as he walked he saw two men come tumbling over the wall into the narrow way.
"Gentlemen, where do you come from and whither do you go?" said Christian.
They told him, "We were born in a land called Vainglory, and we are going to Mount Zion."
"Why came you not in at the gate?" said Christian.
They said that to go to the gate was too far, so they had taken a short cut and climbed over the wall.
"But," said Christian, "will the Lord of the City to which we are going be pleased that you should come into the way over the wall?"
But the men said he need not trouble his head about that, for what they did had been done many times before. It had been a custom for more than a thousand years. And besides, said they, "If we get into the way, what does it matter how we get in? You came in by the Wicket-gate, and are in the way, and we came tumbling over the wall and are in the way, so now we are all in the same condition."
"But," said Christian, "I walk by the Rule of my Master, and you walk just as you like best."
Then said they, "We see not how thou art different to us, except by the coat thou wearest, and that, we suppose, was given thee by some of thy neighbors, to hide thy rags."
"Well," said Christian, "the Lord of the City to which I go gave me this coat the day that he took away from me my rags. He will surely know me, since I have His coat on my back. I have also a mark in my forehead, which you may not have noticed, and this was given to me by one of my Lord's friends, on the day my burden fell off my shoulders. I will tell you too, that I had a roll given me, to comfort me by reading, as I go on the way. I am also to give in the roll at the Celestial Gate. All these things I think you are without, because you came not in at the gate."
To these things they gave him no answer, only they looked at each other and laughed. I beheld then, that they all went on without talking much together, till they came to the foot of the hill Difficulty, at the bottom of which was a spring. The narrow way lay right up the hill, but there were also two other ways here. One turned to the left hand and the other to the right at the bottom of the hill. Christian now went to the spring and drank to refresh himself, and then began to go up the narrow path that led to the top of the hill. The other two also came to the foot of the hill. But when they saw that the hill was steep and high, they made up their minds to go in the other paths that lay round the side of the hill. So one took the way that was called Danger, which led him into a great wood, and the other took the way called Destruction, which led him into a wide field, full of dark mountains, where he stumbled and fell and rose no more. I looked then to Christian to see him go up the hill, and then I saw that he had begun to clamber upon his hands and his knees, because of the steepness of the place. Now about midway to the top of the hill was a pleasant arbor, made by the Lord of the hill for the refreshing of weary travelers. When Christian got there he sat down to rest, then he pulled out his roll and read in it to comfort himself, and he began again to look at the garment that was given to him at the Cross. Thus he at last fell into a slumber, and then into a sound sleep, which kept him in that place, until it was almost night, and in his sleep his roll fell out of his hand. Now, as he was sleeping, there came one to him and awaked him. Then Christian suddenly started up and sped on his way till he came to the top of the hill.
When he was got to the top of the hill, there came two men running to meet him. The name of the one was Timorous, and the other Mistrust.
"Sirs," said Christian, "what is the matter? You run the wrong way."
Timorous answered that they were going to the City of Zion and had got up that difficult place. "But," said he, "the farther we go, the more danger we meet with, wherefore we turned and are going back again."
"Yes," said Mistrust; "for just before us lie a couple of lions in the way, whether sleeping or waking we know not, but we thought if we came within reach, they would pull us in pieces."
Then said Christian, "You make me afraid, but yet I will go forward." So Mistrust and Timorous ran down the hill, and Christian went on his way. And as he went he thought again of what he heard from the men. Then he felt for his roll, that he might read and be comforted, but he felt and found it not.
Now was Christian in great distress and knew not what to do. At last he bethought himself that he had slept in the arbor that was on the side of the hill, and then he went back to look for his roll. But all the way he went back, who can tell the sorrow of Christian's heart? Sometimes he sighed, sometimes he wept, and often he chid himself for being so foolish as to fall asleep. Thus therefore he went back, carefully looking on this side and on that all the way as he went. For he hoped to find the roll that had been his comfort so many times in his journey. He went back till he came again within sight of the arbor where he had sat and slept, but that sight renewed his sorrow again, by reminding him how eagerly he had slept there. And as he went towards the arbor, he sighed over his sleepiness, saying, "Oh, foolish man that I was, why did I sleep in the daytime? oh, that I had not slept."
Now, by the time he was come to the arbor again, for a while he sat down and wept, but, at last, looking sorrowfully down under the settle, he espied his roll, which with trembling haste he caught up. But who can tell how joyful Christian was when he had got his roll again, or with what joy and tears he began to go up the hill again. And, oh, how nimbly did he go up! Yet before he reached the top the sun went down. Now Christian remembered the story that Mistrust and Timorous had told him, how they were frightened with the sight of the lions. And he said to himself, "If these beasts meet me in the dark, how shall I escape being by them torn in pieces?"