What Britomart Saw in the Enchanted Chamber
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As darkness fell, Britomart heard the sound of a shrill trumpet, the sign of an approaching battle or a victory gained. This did not in the least daunt her courage but rather strengthened it, while she expected each moment to see some foe appear.
Then arose a hideous storm of wind, with thunder and lightning, and an earthquake as if it would shake the foundations of the world. This was followed by a horrible smell of smoke and sulphur, which filled the whole place. Yet still the brave Princess was not afraid, but remained steadfast.
Suddenly a whirlwind swept through the house, banging every door and bursting open the iron wicket. Then stepped forth a grave-looking person, in costly raiment, and bearing in his hand a branch of laurel. Advancing to the middle of the room, he stood still, as if he had something to say, and beckoned with his hand to call for silence. After making various other signs, as if he were explaining some play that was going on, he softly retired, and then his name could be seen written on his robe in golden letters: "Ease."
Britomart, still standing, saw all this and marvelled what his strange intention could be.
Then through the iron wicket came a joyous band — minstrels and poets playing and singing the sweetest music — and after them followed a number of strange figures in curious disguise, marching all in order like a procession.
The first was Fancy, like a lovely boy. His garment was neither silk nor stuff, but painted plumes, such as wild Indians deck themselves with. He seemed as vain and light as these same plumes, for he walked along as if he were dancing, bearing in his hand a great fan, which he waved to and fro. At his side marched Desire. His dress was extravagant, and his embroidered cap was all awry. He carried in his two hands some sparks, which he kept so busily blowing that they soon burst into flame.
Next after these came Doubt, in a faded cloak and hood, with wide sleeves. He glanced sideways out of his mistrustful eyes and trod carefully, as if thorns lay in his path; he supported his feeble steps with a broken reed, which bent whenever he leant hard on it. With Doubt walked Danger, clothed in a ragged bear's skin, which made him more dreadful, though his own face was grisly enough and needed nothing to make it more so. In one hand was a net, in the other a rusty blade — Mischief and Mischance. With the one he threatened his foes, with the other he entrapped his friends.
After Danger walked Fear; he was all armed from top to toe, yet even then did not think himself safe. He was afraid of every shadow, and when he spied his own arms glittering or heard them clashing, he fled fast away. His face was pale as ashes, and he kept his eyes fixed on Danger, against whom he always bent a brazen shield which he held in his right hand.
Side by side with Fear marched Hope, a handsome maid, with a cheerful expression and lovely to see. She was lightly arrayed in silken samite, and her fair locks were woven up with gold. She always smiled, and in her hand she held a little phial of dew, from which she sprinkled favours on anyone she chose. She showed a great liking to many people, but true love to few.
After them, Dissembling and Suspicion marched together, though they were not in the least alike, for Dissembling was gentle and mild, courteous to all, and seemingly gracious, well adorned, and handsome. But all her good points were painted or stolen; her deeds were forged, her words false. In her hand she always twined two clues of silk.
Suspicion was ugly, ill-favoured, and grim, forever looking askance under his sullen eyebrows. While Dissembling constantly smiled at him, he scowled back at her, showing his nature by his countenance. His rolling eyes never rested in one place, but wandered all round for fear of hidden mischief; he held a screen of latticework in front of his face, through which he kept peering.
Next him came Grief and Fury, fit companions — Grief clad in sable, hanging his dull head, carrying a pair of pincers, with which he pinched people to the heart; Fury all in rags, tossing in her right hand a firebrand. Then followed Displeasure, looking heavy and sullen, and Pleasure, cheerful, fresh, and full of gladness. Displeasure had an angry wasp in a bottle, and Pleasure a honey-laden bee.
After these six couples came a beautiful lady, led by two villains, Spite and Cruelty. She looked pale as death and very ill, but in spite of this was most lovely and graceful. Her feeble feet could scarcely carry her, but the two wretches held her up and kept urging her forward.
Then the Tyrant of the Castle appeared — the winged figure of Love, whom Britomart had already seen in the first room as a golden image. He rode on a ravenous lion and had unbound his eyes so that he might gloat over the distress of the lovely lady, which seemed to please him greatly. He looked round him with stern disdain, and, surveying his goodly company, marshalled them in order. Then he shook the darts that he carried in his right hand and clashed his rainbow-coloured wings, so that every one was terrified.
Behind him came his three chief attendants, Reproach, Repentance, and Shame, and after them flocked a rude, confused crowd, who owned him as master — Strife and Anger, Care and Unthriftiness, Loss of Time and Sorrow, fickle Change, false Disloyalty, Rioting, Poverty, and, lastly, Death-with-Infamy.
All these and many other evil followers passed in disguise before Britomart and, having thrice marched round the enchanted chamber, returned to the inner room whence they had come.
Next: A Wicked Enchanter