Legends of Charlemagne , by Thomas Bulfinch

Chapter VII.

The Invasion of France, Continued.

MANDRICARDO, having completed his story now turned to Rogero, and proposed that arms should decide which of the two was most worthy to bear the symbol of the Trojan knight.

Rogero felt no other objection to this proposal than the scruple which arose on observing that his antagonist was without a sword. Mandricardo insisted that this need be no impediment, since his oath prevented him from using a sword until he should have achieved the conquest of Durindana.

This was no sooner said than a new antagonist started up in Gradasso, who now accompanied Mandricardo. Gradasso vindicated his prior right to Durindana, to obtain which he had embarked (as was related in the beginning) in that bold inroad upon France. A quarrel was thus kindled between the kings of Tartary and Sericane. While the dispute was raging, a knight arrived upon the ground, accompanied by a damsel, to whom Rogero related the cause of the strife. The knight was Florismart, and his companion Flordelis. Florismart succeeded in bringing the two champions to accord, by informing them that he could bring them to the presence of Orlando, the master of Durindana.

Gradasso and Mandricardo readily made truce, in order to accompany Florismart, nor would Rogero be left behind.

As they proceeded on their quest, they were met by a dwarf, who entreated their assistance in behalf of his lady, who had been carried off by an enchanter, mounted on a winged horse. However unwilling to leave the question of the sword undecided, it was not possible for the knights to resist this appeal. Two of their number, Gradasso and Rogero, therefore accompanied the dwarf, Mandricardo persisted in his search for Orlando, and, Florismart, with Flordelis, pursued their way to the camp of Charlemagne.

Atlantes, the enchanter, who had brought up Rogero, and cherished for him the warmest affection, knew by his art that his pupil was destined to be severed from him, and converted to the Christian faith through the influence of Bradamante, that royal maiden with whom chance had brought him acquainted. Thinking to thwart the will of Heaven in this respect, he now put forth all his arts to entrap Rogero into his power. By the aid of his subservient demons, he reared a castle on an inaccessible height, in the Pyrenean mountains, and, to make it a pleasant abode to his pupil, contrived to entrap and convey thither knights and damsels many a one, whom chance had brought into the vicinity of his castle. Here, in a sort of sensual paradise, they were but too willing to forget glory and duty, and to pass their time in indolent enjoyment.

It was by the enchanter that the dwarf had now been sent to tempt the knights into his power.

But we must now return to Rinaldo, whom we left interrupted in his combat with Rodomont. In search of his late antagonist, and intent on bringing their combat to a decision, he entered the forest of Arden, whither he suspected Rodomont had gone. While engaged on this quest, he was surprised by the vision of a beautiful child dancing naked, with three damsels as beautiful as himself. While he was lost in admiration at the sight, the child approached him, and, throwing at him handfuls of roses and lilies, struck him from his horse. He was no sooner down than he was seized by the dancers, by whom he was dragged about and scourged with flowers till he fell into a swoon. When he began to revive, one of the group approached him, and told him that his punishment was the consequence of his rebellion against that power before whom all things bend; that there was but one remedy to heal the wounds that had been inflicted, and that was to drink of the waters of Love. Then they left him.

Rinaldo, sore and faint, dragged himself toward a fountain which flowed near by, and, being parched with thirst, drank greedily and almost unconsciously of the water, which was sweet to the taste, but bitter at the heart. After repeated draughts he recovered his strength and recollection, and found himself in the same place where Angelica had formerly awakened him with a rain of flowers, and whence he had fled in contempt of her courtesy.

This remembrance of the scene was followed by the recognition of his crime; and, repenting bitterly his ingratitude, he leaped upon Bayard, with the intention of hastening to Angelica’s country, and soliciting his pardon at her feet.

Let us now retrace our steps, and revert to the time when the paladins, having learned from Dudon the summons of Charlemagne to return to France to repel the invaders, had all obeyed the command with the exception of Orlando, whose passion for Angelica still held him in attendance on her. Orlando, arriving before Albracca, found it closely beleaguered. He, however, made his way into the citadel, and related his adventures to Angelica, from the time of his departure up to his separation from Rinaldo and the rest, when they departed to the assistance of Charlemagne. Angelica, in return, described the distresses of the garrison, and the force of the besiegers; and in conclusion prayed Orlando to favor her escape from the pressing danger, and escort her into France. Orlando, who did not suspect that love for Rinaldo was her secret motive, joyfully agreed to the proposal, and the sally was resolved upon.

Leaving lights burning in the fortress, they departed at nightfall, and passed in safety through the enemy’s camp. After encountering numerous adventures, they reached the sea-side, and embarked on board a pinnace for France. The vessel arrived safely, and the travellers, disembarking in Provence, pursued their way by land. One day, heated and weary, they sought shelter from the sun in the forest of Arden, and chance directed Angelica to the fountain of Disdain, of whose waters she eagerly drank.

Issuing thence, the Count and damsel encountered a stranger knight. It was no other than Rinaldo, who was just on the point of setting off on a pilgrimage in search of Angelica, to implore her pardon for his insensibility, and urge his new-found passion. Surprise and delight at first deprived him of utterance, but soon recovering himself, he joyfully saluted her, claiming her as his, and exhorting her to put herself under his protection. His presumption was repelled by Angelica with disdain, and Orlando, enraged at the invasion of his rights, challenged him to decide their claims by arms.

Terrified at the combat which ensued, Angelica fled amain through the forest, and came out upon a plain covered with tents. This was the camp of Charlemagne, who led the army of reserve destined to support the troops which had advanced to oppose Marsilius. Charles, having heard the damsel’s tale, with difficulty separated the two cousins, and then consigned Angelica, as the cause of quarrel, to the care of Namo, Duke of Bavaria, promising that she should be his who should best deserve her in the impending battle.

But these plans and hopes were frustrated. The Christian army, beaten at all points, fled from the Saracens; and Angelica, indifferent to both her lovers, mounted a swift palfrey and plunged into the forest, rejoicing, in spite of her terror, at having regained her liberty. She stopped at last in a tufted grove, where a gentle zephyr blew, and whose young trees were watered by two clear runnels, which came and mingled their waters, making a pleasing murmur. Believing herself far from Rinaldo, and overcome by fatigue and the summer heat, she saw with delight a bank covered with flowers, so thick that they almost hid the green turf, inviting her to alight and rest. She dismounted from her palfrey, and turned him loose to recruit his strength with the tender grass which bordered the streamlets. Then, in a sheltered nook tapestried with moss and fenced in with roses and hawthorn-flowers, she yielded herself to grateful repose.

She had not slept long when she was awakened by the noise made by the approach of a horse. Starting up she saw an armed knight who had arrived at the bank of the stream. Not knowing whether he was to be feared or not, her heart beat with anxiety. She pressed aside the leaves to allow her to see who it was, but scarce dared to breathe for fear of betraying herself. Soon the knight threw himself on the flowery bank, and, leaning his head on his hand, fell into a profound reverie. Then arousing himself from his silence, be began to pour forth complaints, mingled with deep sighs. Rivers of tears flowed down his cheeks, and his breast seemed to labor with a hidden flame. “Ah, vain regrets!” he exclaimed; “cruel fortune! others triumph, while I endure hopeless misery! Better a thousand times to lose life, than wear a chain so disgraceful and so oppressive!”

Angelica by this time had recognized the stranger, and perceived that it was Sacripant, king of Circassia, one of the worthiest of her suitors. This prince had followed Angelica from his country, at the very gates of the day, to France, where he heard with dismay that she was under the guardianship of the Paladin Orlando, and that the Emperor had announced his decree to award her as the prize of valor to that one of his nephews who should best deserve her.

As Sacripant continued to lament, Angelica, who had always opposed the hardness of marble to his sighs, thought with herself that nothing forbade her employing his good offices in this unhappy crisis. Though firmly resolved never to accept him as a spouse, she yet felt the necessity of giving him a gleam of hope in reward for the service she required of him. All at once, like Diana, she stepped forth from the arbor. “May the gods preserve thee,” she said, “and put far from thee all hard thoughts of me!” Then she told him all that had befallen her since she parted with him at her father’s court, and how she had availed herself of Orlando’s protection to escape from the beleaguered city. At that moment the noise of horse and armor was heard as of one approaching; and Sacripant, furious at the interruption, resumed his helmet, mounted his horse, and placed his lance in rest. He saw a knight advancing, with scarf and plume of snowy whiteness. Sacripant regarded him with angry eyes, and, while he was yet some distance off, defied him to the combat. The other, not moved by his angry tone to make reply, put himself on his defence. Their horses, struck at the same moment with the spur, rushed upon one another with the impetuosity of a tempest, Their shields were pierced each with the other’s lance, and only the temper of their breastplates saved their lives. Both the horses recoiled with the violence of the shock; but the unknown knight’s recovered itself at the touch of the spur; the Saracen king’s fell dead, and bore down his master with him. The white knight, seeing his enemy in this condition, cared not to renew the combat, but, thinking he had done enough for glory, pursued his way through the forest and was a mile off before Sacripant had got free from his horse.

As a ploughman, stunned by a thunder-clap which has stricken dead the oxen at his plough, stands motionless, sadly contemplating his loss, so Sacripant stood confounded and overwhelmed with mortification at having Angelica a witness of his defeat. He groaned, he sighed, less from the pain of his bruises than for the shame of being reduced to such a state before her. The princess took pity on him, and consoled him as well as she could. “Banish your regrets, my lord,” she said, “this accident has happened solely in consequence of the feebleness of your horse, which had more need of rest and food than of such an encounter as this. Nor can your adversary gain any credit by it, since he has hurried away, not venturing a second trial.” While she thus consoled Sacripant they perceived a person approach, who seemed a courier, with bag and horn. As soon as he came up, he accosted Sacripant, and inquired if he had seen a knight pass that way, bearing a white shield and with a white plume to his helmet. “I have, indeed, seen too much of him,” said Sacripant, “it is he who has brought me to the ground; but at least I hope to learn from you who that knight is.” “That I can easily inform you,” said the man; “know then that, if you have been overthrown, you owe your fate to the high prowess of a lady as beautiful as she is brave. It is the fair and illustrious Bradamante who has won from you the honors of victory.”

At these words the courier rode on his way, leaving Sacripant more confounded and mortified than ever. In silence he mounted the horse of Angelica, taking the lady behind him on the croup, and rode away in search of a more secure asylum. Hardly had they ridden two miles when a new sound was heard in the forest, and they perceived a gallant and powerful horse, which, leaping the ravines and dashing aside the branches that opposed his passage, appeared before them, accoutred with a rich harness adorned with gold.

“If I may believe my eyes, which penetrate with difficulty the underwood,” said Angelica, “that horse that dashes so stoutly through the bushes is Bayard, and I marvel how he seems to know the need we have of him, mounted as we are both on one feeble animal.” Sacripant, dismounting from the palfrey, approached the fiery courser, and attempted to seize his bridle, but the disdainful animal, turning from him, launched at him a volley of kicks enough to have shattered a wall of marble. Bayard then approached Angelica with an air as gentle and loving as a faithful dog could his master, after a long separation. For he remembered how she had caressed him, and even fed him, in Albracca. She took his bridle in her left hand, while with her right she patted his neck. The beautiful animal, gifted with wonderful intelligence, seemed to submit entirely. Sacripant, seizing the moment to vault upon him, controlled his curvetings, and Angelica, quitting the croup of the palfrey, regained her seat.

But, turning his eyes toward a place where was heard a noise of arms, Sacripant beheld Rinaldo. That hero now loves Angelica more than his life, and she flies him as the timid crane the falcon.

The fountain of which Angelica had drunk produced such an effect on the beautiful queen, that, with distressed countenance and trembling voice, she conjured Sacripant not to wait the approach of Rinaldo, but to join her in flight.

“Am I, then,” said Sacripant, “of so little esteem with you that you doubt my power to defend you? Do you forget the battle of Albracca, and how, in your defence, I fought single-handed against Agrican and all his knights?”

Angelica made no reply, uncertain what to do; but already Rinaldo was too near to be escaped. He advanced menacingly to the Circassian king, for he recognized his horse.

“Vile thief,” he cried, “dismount from that horse, and prevent the punishment that is your due for daring to rob me of my property. Leave, also, the princess in my hands; for it would indeed be a sin to suffer so charming a lady and so gallant a charger to remain in such keeping.”

The king of Circassia, furious at being thus insulted, cried out, “Thou liest, villain, in giving me the name of thief, which better belongs to thyself than to me. It is true, the beauty of this lady and the perfection of this horse are unequalled; come on, then, and let us try which of us is most worthy to possess them.”

At these words the king of Circassia and Rinaldo attacked one another with all their force, one fighting on foot, the other on horseback. You need not, however, suppose that the Saracen king found any advantage in this; for a young page, unused to horsemanship, could not have failed more completely to manage Bayard than did this accomplished knight. The faithful animal loved his master too well to injure him, and refused his aid as well as his obedience to the hand of Sacripant, who could strike but ineffectual blows, the horse backing when he wished him to go forward, and dropping his head and arching his back, throwing out with his legs, so as almost to shake the knight out of the saddle. Sacripant, seeing that he could not manage him, watched his opportunity, rose on his saddle, and leapt lightly to the earth; then, relieved from the embarrassment of the horse, renewed the combat on more equal terms. Their skill to thrust and parry was equal; one rises, the other stoops; with one foot set firm, they turn and wind, to lay on strokes or to dodge them. At last Rinaldo, throwing himself on the Circassian, dealt him a blow so terrible that Fusberta, his good sword, cut in two the buckler of Sacripant, although it was made of bone, and covered with a thick plate of steel well tempered. The arm of the Saracen was deprived of its defence, and almost palsied with the stroke. Angelica, perceiving how victory was likely to incline, and shuddering at the thought of becoming the prize of Rinaldo, hesitated no longer. Turning her horse’s head, she fled with the utmost speed; and, in spite of the round pebbles which covered a steep descent, she plunged into a deep valley, trembling with the fear that Rinaldo was in pursuit. At the bottom of this valley she encountered an aged hermit, whose white beard flowed to his middle, and whose venerable appearance seemed to assure his piety.

This hermit, who appeared shrunk by age and fasting, travelled slowly, mounted upon a wretched ass. The princess, overcome with fear, conjured him to save her life, and to conduct her to some port of the sea, whence she might embark and quit France, never more to hear the odious name of Rinaldo.

The old hermit was something of a wizard. He comforted Angelica, and promised to protect her from all peril. Then he opened his scrip, and took from thence a book, and had read but a single page when a goblin, obedient to his incantations, appeared, under the form of a laboring man, and demanded his orders. He received them, transported himself to the place where the knights still maintained their conflict, and boldly stepped between the two.

“Tell me, I pray you,” he said, “what benefit will accrue to him who shall get the better in this contest? The object you are contending for is already disposed of; for the Paladin Orlando, without effort and without opposition, is now carrying away the princess Angelica to Paris. You had better pursue them promptly, for if they reach Paris, you will never see her again.”

At these words you might have seen those rival warriors confounded, stupefied, silently agreeing that they were affording their rival a fair opportunity to triumph over them. Rinaldo, approaching Bayard, breathes a sigh of shame and rage, and swears a terrible oath that, if he overtakes Orlando, he will tear his heart out. Then mounting Bayard and pressing his flanks with his spurs, he leaves the king of Circassia on foot in the forest.

Let it not appear strange that Rinaldo found Bayard obedient at last, after having so long prevented any one from even touching his bridle; for that fine animal had an intelligence almost human; he had fled from his master only to draw him on the track of Angelica, and enable him to recover her. He saw when the princess fled from the battle, and Rinaldo being then engaged in a fight on foot, Bayard found himself free to follow the traces of Angelica. Thus he had drawn his master after him, not permitting him to approach, and had brought him to the sight of the princess. But Bayard now, deceived like his master with the false intelligence of the goblin, submits to be mounted and to serve his master as usual, and Rinaldo, animated with rage, makes him fly toward Paris, more slowly than his wishes, though the speed of Bayard outstripped the winds. Full of impatience to encounter Orlando, he gave but a few hours that night to sleep. Early the next day he saw before him the great city, under the walls of which the Emperor Charles had collected the scattered remains of his army. Foreseeing that he would soon be attacked on all sides, the Emperor had caused the ancient fortifications to be repaired, and new ones to be built, surrounded by wide and deep ditches. The desire to hold the field against the enemy made him seize every means of procuring new allies. He hoped to receive from England aid sufficient to enable him to form a new camp, and as soon as Rinaldo rejoined him, he selected him to go as his ambassador into England, to plead for auxiliaries. Rinaldo was far from pleased with this commission, but he obeyed the Emperor’s commands, without giving himself time to devote a single day to the object nearest to his heart. He hastened to Calais, and lost not a moment in embarking for England, ardently desiring a hasty despatch of his commission, and a speedy return to France.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:32