The fickle and quarrelsome couple, Blandamour and Paridell, having been defeated by Britomart and Sir Scudamour, next fell in with a party of two knights and two masked ladies. They sent their squire to find out who these were, and he brought back word that they were two doughty knights of dreaded name, Cambell and Triamond, and the two ladies were their wives, Cambina and Candace. All four were very famous people, and the dearest friends possible. They had had many wonderful adventures of their own, about which perhaps you will read some day.
Blandamour, in his usual vainglorious spirit, would gladly have tested his strength against the knights, but he was still sore from the late unlucky fight with Britomart. However, he went up to them, and began to abuse and insult them, thinking in this way to will admiration from the ladies. Of course this enraged the two knights, who were both bent on punishing Blandamour for his base behaviour. But Cambina, wife of Cambell, soothed them with her mild words, so, for the present, they were reconciled.
The whole party rode on together, talking of daring deeds and strange adventures, and, among other things, of the great tournament to which they were then all bound
This tournament had been set on foot by Sir Satyrane, the same woodland knight who had formerly befriended Una, and who had met Britomart at the
castle of the churl Malbecco. Some time before, ranging abroad in search of adventure, he had come to the sea-coast, where he was horrified to find a vile monster, something like a hyena, feeding on the dead body of a milk-white palfrey. He knew the horse at once as the one on which Florimell was accustomed to ride, and, moreover, he found beside it her golden girdle. This girdle had fallen from her in flight, for Florimell had escaped in a small boat; but Sir Satyrane did not know this-he thought she had been killed by the savage brute. Filled with fury, he fell on the creature. He was unable to slay it, for it was protected by the magic spells of its mistress, a wicked witch; but he led it away captive for the time, though it afterwards escaped.
The golden girdle which Sir Satyrane found he kept as a sacred treasure, and wore for the sake of Florimell. But when she herself was lost and gone, many knights who also loved her dearly were jealous that Sir Satyrane alone should wear the ornament of the lost lady, and began to bear much spite against him. Therefore, to stop their envy, he caused a solemn feast, with public tourneying, to be proclaimed, to which every knight was to bring his lady. She who was found fairest of them all was to have the golden girdle as a reward, and she was to bestow it on the stoutest knight.
Now it happened after the flight of Florimell, that the wicked witch from whom she had escaped made up another person to represent her, in order to deceive people. This imitation maiden was most beautiful to
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And slew him cruelly ere any reskew came.''
see. The substance of which her body was made was purest snow frozen in a mass, and mixed with virgin wax, tinted with vermilion; her eyes shone like stars, her hair was yellow gold. Any one who saw her would surely say it was Florimell herself, or even fairer than Florimell, if such a thing could be.
But this false Florimell had a wicked and deceitful spirit, full of fawning guile, and she excelled in all manner of wily cunning.
In the course of her wandering, this creature, who was known by the name of the "Snowy Lady," came across Braggadochio, whom you may remember as the cowardly boaster that stole Sir Guyon's horse and armour. But as she rode along with Braggadochio the latter was attacked and beaten by another knight, who thought the lady was the real Florimell. He in turn was vanquished by Blandamour, who also imagined that she was the true Florimell, and was very proud of himself for getting possession of such a paragon. Though he was so false himself, and had deceived hundreds of others, he was no match for the "Snowy Lady " in cunning, and was completely taken in by her.
When Blandamour heard of the great tournament held by Sir Satyrane in honour of Florimell's golden girdle, he immediately determined to go there and claim the prize on behalf of its rightful owner, whom he then believed to be under his protection. Thus it came to pass that the false Florimell journeyed with Blandamour and the others to the tournament.
Not long after Cambell and Triamond, with their wives, Cambina and Candace, had joined the party,
they saw a man in bright armour, with spear in rest, riding towards them as though he meant to attack them. Paridell immediately prepared his own weapons, whereupon the other slackened his pace, and seemed to alter his intention, as if he meant nothing but peace and pleasure now that he had fallen by chance into their fellowship. Seeing this, they greeted him civilly, and he rode on with them.
This man was Braggadochio. When his eyes fell on the false Florimell, he remembered her as the lady who had been taken from him not long before. He therefore began to challenge her as his own prize, and threatened to seize her again by force.
Blandamour treated his words with much disdain, saying, "Sir Knight, since you claim this lady, you shall win her, as I have done, in fight. She shall be placed here, together with this hideous old hag, Até (Strife), that whoso wins her may have her by right. But Até shall go to the one that is beaten, and he shall always ride with her till he gets another lady."
That offer pleased all the company, so the false Florimell was brought forward with Até, at which every one began to laugh merrily. But Braggadochio now tried to back out of his challenge. He said he never thought to imperil his person in fight for a hideous old creature like that. If they had sought to match the lady with another one equally fair and radiant, he would then have spent his life to justify his right.
At this vain excuse they all began to smile, scorning his unmanly cowardice. The Snowy Lady reviled him loudly for refusing to venture battle for her sake when
It was offered in such knightly fashion, and Até secretly taunted him with the shame of such contempt. But nothing did he care for friend or foe, for in the base mind dwells neither friendship nor enmity.
But Cambell jestingly stopped them all, saying, "Brave knights and ladies, certainly you do wrong to stir up strife when most we need rest, so that we may keep ourselves fresh and strong against the coming tournament, when every one who wishes to fight may fight his fill. Postpone your challenge till that day, and then it shall be tried, if you will, which one shall have Até and which one still hold the lady."
They all agreed, and so, turning everything to sport and pleasantness, they passed merrily on their way, till at length, on the appointed day, they came to the place where the tournament was to be held.