As Sir Calidore followed the chase of the Blatant Beast he came upon a group of shepherds piping to their flocks. In reply to his questions they answered they had never seen the creature, and if there were any such they prayed heaven to keep him far from them. Then one of them, seeing that Calidore was travel-worn and weary, offered him such simple food and drink as they had with them, and the Knight, who was courteous to all men alike, both the lowly and the high-born, accepted their gentle offer.
As he sat amongst these rustics he saw seated on a little hillock, higher than all the rest, a beautiful maiden,
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Higher than all the rest, and round about
Environ'd with a girland, goodly graced
Of lovely lasses.''
wearing a crown of flowers tied with silken ribbons. She was surrounded by the other shepherdesses, as with a lovely garland, but her beauty far excelled theirs, and all united in singing the praises and carolling the name of the "fairest Pastorella." Not one of all the shepherds but honoured her, and many also loved her, but most of all the shepherd Coridon. Yet neither for him nor for any one else did she care a whit; her lot was humble, but her mind was high above it.
As Sir Calidore gazed at her and marked her rare demeanour, which seemed to him far to excel the rank of a shepherd, and to be worthy of a Prince's paragon, all unawares he was caught in the toils of love, from which no skill of his own could deliver him. So there he sat still, with no desire to move, although his quest had gone far before him. He stayed until the flying day was far spent, and the dews of night warned the shepherds to hasten home with their flocks.
Then came to them an aged sire, with silver beard and locks, and carrying a shepherd's crook. He was always supposed to be the father of Pastorella, and she indeed thought it herself. But he was not so, having found her by chance in the open field as an infant. He took her home, and cherished her as his own child, for he had none other, and in course of time she came to be accounted so.
Melibee, for so the good old man was called, seeing Calidore left all alone and night at hand, invited him to his simple home, which, although only a mud cottage, with everything very humble, was yet better to lodge in than the open fields. The Knight full gladly agreed, this being his heart's own wish, and went home with
[paragraph continues] Melibee. There he was made heartily welcome by the honest shepherd and his aged wife, and after the frugal supper, which they ate with much contentment, Sir Calidore listened half-entranced while Melibee discoursed on all the joys of a pastoral life. So tempting was the picture he painted that Calidore resolved to lay aside for awhile his toilsome quest and the pursuit of glory, and take a little rest in this peaceful spot. If he were allowed to share the cabin and the scanty fare he promised to reward Melibee well, but the good old man refused the offered gift of gold.
"If you really wish to try this simple sort of life that shepherds lead," he said, "make it your own, and learn our rustic ways for yourself."
So Sir Calidore dwelt there that night, and many days after, as long as it pleased him, daily beholding the fair Pastorella, and all the while growing more deeply in love with her. He tried to please her by all the kindly courtesies he could invent, but she, who had never been accustomed to such strange fashions, fit for kings and queens, nor had ever seen such knightly service, paid small heed to them, and cared more for the shepherds' rustic civility than for anything he did.
Sir Calidore, seeing this, thought it best to change the manner of his appearance. Doffing his bright armour, he dressed himself in shepherd's attire, taking in his hand a crook instead of a steel-headed spear. Clad thus, he went every day to the fields with Pastorella, and kept her flocks diligently, watching to drive away the ravenous wolf, so that she could sport and play as it pleased her.
Coridon, who for a long time had loved her, and hoped to gain her love, was greatly troubled, and very jealous of this stranger. He often complained scowlingly of Pastorella to all the other shepherds, and whenever he came near Calidore, would frown and bite his lips, and was ready to devour his own heart with jealousy. The Knight, on the other hand, was utterly free from malice or grudging, never showing any sign of rancour, and often taking an opportunity to praise Coridon to Pastorella. But the maiden, if ever she had cared for her uncouth admirer, certainly did so no longer now that she had seen Calidore.
Once when Calidore was asked to lead the dance with Pastorella, in his courtesy he took Coridon, and set him in his place; and when Pastorella gave him her own flowery garland, he soon took it off and put it on the head of Coridon.
Another time Coridon challenged Calidore to a wrestling match, thinking he would surely avenge his grudge, and easily put his foe to shame, for he was well practised in this game. But he greatly mistook Calidore, for the Knight was strong and mightily tough in sinew, and with one fall he almost broke Coridon's neck. Then Pastorella gave the oaken crown to Calidore as his due right, but he who excelled in courtesy gave it to Coridon, saying he had won it well.
Thus did that gentle Knight bear himself amidst that rustic throng, so that even they who were his rivals could not malign him, but must needs praise him; for courtesy breeds goodwill and favour even amongst the rudest. So it surely wrought with this fair maiden,
and in her mind sowed the seeds of perfect love, which at last, after long trial, brought forth the fruit of joy and happiness
But whatever Sir Calidore did to please Pastorella, Coridon immediately strove to emulate; and if the Knight succeeded in winning favour, he was frozen with jealousy.
One day, as they all three went together to the greenwood to gather strawberries, a dangerous adventure befell them. A tiger rose up out of the wood and rushed with greedy jaws at Pastorella. Hearing her cry for help, Coridon ran in haste to rescue her; but when he saw the fiend he fled away just as fast in cowardly fear, holding his own life dearer than his friend. But Calidore, quickly coming to her aid when he saw the beast ready to rend his dear lady, ran at him enraged, instead of being afraid. He had no weapon but his shepherd's crook, but with that he struck the monster so sternly that he fell stunned to the ground, and then, before he could recover, Sir Calidore cut off his head, and laid it at the feet of the terrified maiden.
From that day forth Pastorella grew more and more fond of the Knight, but Coridon she despised, because of his cowardice. Then for a long time Sir Calidore dwelt happily among these shepherd folk, forgetting his former quest, so full of toil and pain, and rejoicing in the happy peace of rustic bliss.
But at last malicious fortune, which envies the long prosperity of lovers, blew up a bitter storm of adversity.