How Britomart Came to the Castle of the Churl Malbecco
(see previous page for audio)
One night, as Britomart was riding on her way, a fearful storm came on, great blasts of wind and a pelting shower of hall. Seeing a Castle in front of her, she went up to it and earnestly begged to be let In. But the Castle belonged to a miserly churl called Malbecco who, because of his jealous and peevish disposition, refused to allow any strangers to enter his doors. He cared nothing what men said of him, good or bad; all his mind was set upon hoarding up heaps of ill-gotten gain. He was old and ugly, and lacking in all kindness and courtesy. Instead of opening his doors to all wandering knights, as was the custom of the time, he kept them close-barred, and even in the midst of the terrible tempest which was then raging, Britomart was flatly refused entrance. She was greatly displeased at this and determined when the time came to punish the churl for his discourtesy.
But, in order to escape the fury of the gale, she was compelled to seek some refuge near. Beside the Castle gate was a little shed meant for swine, but when she tried to enter, she found it already full of guests. Another party of knights had been refused admittance at the Castle and were forced to fly there for shelter. These would not at first allow Britomart to enter, whereupon she grew very angry and declared she would either lodge with them in a friendly fashion, or she would turn them all out of the shed whether they were willing or not, and then she challenged them to come forth and fight.
The knights would now have been willing to let her come in, but her boastful tone irritated them; one of them, Paridell by name, was especially annoyed and, hastily mounting his steed, he rode forth to fight with her. Their spears met with such fury that both man and horse were borne to the ground, and Paridell was so sorely bruised that he could scarcely arise to continue the combat on foot with swords as was then the custom.
But his companion, Sir Satyrane, stepped forward to prevent Britomart and Paridell from fighting further, and his wise speeches soon soothed their anger. When peace was restored, they agreed to join together to punish the unmannerly churl, who had acted so ungraciously in refusing them shelter from the tempest, and they went towards the gates to burn them down.
Malbecco, seeing that they were really resolved to set fire to the building, railed frantically and called to them from the castle wall, beseeching them humbly to have patience with him as being ignorant of his servants' rudeness and inattention to strangers. The knights were willing to accept his excuses, though they did not believe them, and they did not refuse to enter.
They were brought into a beautiful bower and served with everything needful, though their host secretly scowled at them and welcomed them more through fear than charity. They took off their wet garments and undid their heavy armour to dry themselves at the fire. Britomart, like the rest, was forced to disarray herself. When she lifted her helmet and her golden locks fell like a cloud of light to the ground, they were all amazed to find the valiant stranger was a beautiful maiden. They stood gazing at her, silent with astonishment, for they had never seen a fairer woman, but chiefly they marvelled at her chivalry and noble daring. They longed to know who she might be, yet no one questioned her, and everyone loved her on the spot.
Supper was then served and, when the meal was over, the Lady Hellenore, wife of Malbecco, invited all the knights to tell their name and kindred, and any deeds of arms they had done. They talked so long about their various strange adventures, and the daring feats and many dangers they had passed through, that old Malbecco grew quite impatient. He took no interest in conversation of this kind. At last, when the night was half spent, he persuaded them to go to rest, so they all retired to the rooms prepared for them.
The next day, as soon as the sun shone in the sky, Britomart rose up and set forth on her journey. Sir Satyrane went with her, but Paridell pretended to have been so much hurt by his fight with Britomart that he must stay behind at the Castle till his wounds were cured.