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Chapter 10

CHAPTER X.
THE ORC.

WE left the charming Angelica at the moment when, in her flight from
her contending lovers, Sacripant and Rinaldo, she met an aged
hermit. We have seen that her request to the hermit was to furnish her
the means of gaining the sea-coast, eager to avoid Rinaldo, whom she
hated, by leaving France and Europe itself. The pretended hermit,
who was no other than a vile magician, knowing well that it would
not be agreeable to his false gods to aid Angelica in this
undertaking, feigned to comply with her desire. He supplied her a
horse, into which he had by his arts caused a subtle devil to enter,
and having mounted Angelica on the animal, directed her what course to
take to reach the sea.
Angelica rode on her way without suspicion, but when arrived at
the shore, the demon urged the animal headlong into the water.
Angelica in vain attempted to turn him back to the land; he
continued his course till, as night approached, he landed with his
burden on a sandy headland.
Angelica, finding herself alone, abandoned in this frightful
solitude, remained without movement, as if stupefied, with hands
joined and eyes turned towards heaven, till at last, pouring forth a
torrent of tears, she exclaimed: "Cruel fortune, have you not yet
exhausted your rage against me! To what new miseries do you doom me?
Alas! then, finish your work. Deliver me a prey to some ferocious
beast, or by whatever fate you choose bring me to an end. I will be
thankful to you for terminating my life and my misery." At last,
exhausted by her sorrows, she fell asleep, and sunk prostrate on the
sand.
Before recounting what next befell, we must declare what place it
was upon which the unhappy lady was now thrown. In the sea that washes
the coast of Ireland there is an island called Ebuda, whose
inhabitants, once numerous, had been wasted by the anger of Proteus
till there were now but few left. This deity was incensed by some
neglect of the usual honors which he had in old times received from
the inhabitants of the land, and, to execute his vengeance, had sent a
horrid sea-monster, called an Orc, to devour them. Such were the
terrors of his ravages, that the whole people of the isle had shut
themselves up in the principal town, and relied on their walls alone
to protect them. In this distress they applied to the Oracle for
advice, and were directed to appease the wrath of the sea-monster by
offering to him the fairest virgin that the country could produce.
Now it so happened that the very day when this dreadful oracle was
announced, and when the fatal mandate had gone forth to seek among the
fairest maidens of the land one to be offered to the monster, some
sailors, landing on the beach where Angelica was, beheld that beauty
as she lay asleep.
O blind Chance! whose power in human affairs is but too great, canst
thou then abandon to the teeth of a horrible monster those charms
which different sovereigns took arms against one another to possess?
Alas, the lovely Angelica is destined to be the victim of those
cruel islanders.
Still asleep, she was bound by the Ebudians, and it was not until
she was carried on board the vessel that she came to a knowledge of
her situation. The wind filled the sails and wafted the ship swiftly
to the port, where all that beheld her agreed that she was
unquestionably the victim selected by Proteus himself to be his
prey. Who can tell the screams, the mortal anguish of this unhappy
maiden, the reproaches she addressed even to the heavens themselves,
when the dreadful information of her cruel fate was made known to her?
I cannot; let me rather turn to a happier part of my story.
Rogero left the palace of Logestilla, careering on his flying
courser far above the tops of the mountains, and borne westward by the
Hippogriff, which he guided with ease, by means of the bridle that
Melissa had given him. Anxious as he was to recover Bradamante, he
could not fail to be delighted at the view his rapid flight
presented of so many vast regions and populous countries as he
passed over in his career. At last he approached the shores of
England, and perceived an immense army in all the splendor of military
pomp, as if about to go forth flushed with hopes of victory. He caused
the Hippogriff to alight not far from the scene, and found himself
immediately surrounded by admiring spectators, knights and soldiers,
who could not enough indulge their curiosity and wonder. Rogero
learned, in reply to his questions, that the fine array of troops
before him was the army destined to go to the aid of the French
Emperor, in compliance with the request presented by the illustrious
Rinaldo, as ambassador of King Charles, his uncle.
By this time the curiosity of the English chevaliers was partly
gratified in beholding the Hippogriff at rest, and Rogero, to renew
their surprise and delight, remounted the animal, and, clapping
spurs to his sides, made him launch into the air with the rapidity
of a meteor, and directed his flight still westwardly, till he came
within sight of the coasts of Ireland. Here he descried what seemed to
be a fair damsel, alone, fast chained to a rock which projected into
the sea. What was his astonishment when, drawing nigh, he beheld the
beautiful princess Angelica. That day she had been led forth and bound
to the rock, there to wait till the sea-monster should come to
devour her. Rogero exclaimed as he came near, "What cruel hands,
what barbarous soul, what fatal chance can have loaded thee with those
chains?" Angelica replied by a torrent of tears, at first her only
response; then, in a trembling voice, she disclosed to him the
horrible destiny for which she was there exposed. While she spoke, a
terrible roaring was heard far off on the sea. The huge monster soon
came in sight, part of his body appearing above the waves, and part
concealed. Angelica, half dead with fear, abandoned herself to
despair.
Rogero, lance in rest, spurred his Hippogriff toward the Orc, and
gave him a thrust. The horrible monster was like nothing that nature
produces. It was but one mass of tossing and twisting body, with
nothing of the animal but head, eyes, and mouth, the last furnished
with tusks like those of the wild boar. Rogero's lance had struck
him between the eyes; but rock and iron are not more impenetrable than
were his scales. The knight, seeing the fruitlessness of the first
blow, prepared to give a second. The animal, beholding upon the
water the shadow of the great wings of the Hippogriff, abandoned his
prey, and turned to seize what seemed nearer. Rogero took the
opportunity, and dealt him furious blows on various parts of his body,
taking care to keep clear of his murderous teeth; but the scales
resisted every attack. The Orc beat the water with his tail till he
raised a foam which enveloped Rogero and his steed, so that the knight
hardly knew whether he was in the water or the air. He began to fear
that the wings of the Hippogriff would be so drenched with water
that they would cease to sustain him. At that moment Rogero
bethought him of the magic shield which hung at his saddle-bow; but
the fear that Angelica would also be blinded by its glare, discouraged
him from employing, it. Then he remembered the ring which Melissa
had given him, the power of which he had so lately proved. He hastened
to Angelica, and placed it on her finger. Then, uncovering the
buckler, he turned its bright disk full in the face of the
detestable Orc. The effect was instantaneous. The monster, deprived of
sense and motion, rolled over on the sea, and lay floating on his
back. Rogero would fain have tried the effect of his lance on the
now exposed parts, but Angelica implored him to lose no time in
delivering her from her chains, before the monster should revive.
Rogero, moved with her entreaties, hastened to do so, and, having
unbound her, made her mount behind him on the Hippogriff. The
animal, spurning the earth, shot up into the air, and rapidly sped his
way through it. Rogero, to give time to the princess to rest after her
cruel agitations, soon sought the earth again, alighting on the
shore of Brittany. Near the shore a thick wood presented itself, which
resounded with the songs of birds. In the midst, a fountain of
transparent water bathed the turf of a little meadow. A gentle hill
rose near by. Rogero, making the Hippogriff alight in the meadow,
dismounted, and took Angelica from the horse.
When the first tumults of emotion had subsided, Angelica, casting
her eyes downward, beheld the precious ring upon her finger, whose
virtues she was well acquainted with, for it was the very ring which
the Saracen Brunello had robbed her of. She drew it from her finger
and placed it in her mouth, and, quicker than we can tell it,
disappeared from the sight of the paladin.
Rogero looked around him on all sides, like one frantic, but soon
remembered the ring which he had so lately placed on her finger.
Struck with the ingratitude which could thus recompense his
services, he exclaimed: "Thankless beauty, is this then the reward you
make me? Do you prefer to rob me of my ring rather than receive it
as a gift? Willingly would I have given it to you, had you but asked
it." Thus he said, searching on all sides, with arms extended, like
a blind man, hoping to recover by the touch what was lost to sight;
but he sought in vain. The cruel beauty was already far away.
Though sensible of her obligations to her deliverer, her first
necessity was for clothing, food, and repose. She soon reached a
shepherd's hut, where, entering unseen, she found what sufficed for
her present relief. An old herdsman inhabited the hut, whose charge
consisted of a drove of mares. When recruited by repose, Angelica
selected one of the mares from the flock, and, mounting the animal,
felt the desire revive in her mind of returning to her home in the
East, and for that purpose would gladly have accepted the protection
of Orlando or of Sacripant across those wide regions which divided her
from her own country. In hopes of meeting with one or the other of
them, she pursued her way.
Meanwhile, Rogero, despairing of seeing Angelica again, returned
to the tree where he had left his winged horse, but had the
mortification to find that the animal had broken his bridle and
escaped. This loss, added to his previous disappointment,
overwhelmed him with vexation. Sadly he gathered up his arms, threw
his buckler over his shoulders, and, taking the first path that
offered, soon found himself within the verge of a dense and
wide-spread forest.
He had proceeded for some distance when he heard a noise on his
right, and, listening attentively, distinguished the clash of arms. He
made his way toward the place whence the sound proceeded, and found
two warriors engaged in mortal combat. One of them was a knight of a
noble and manly bearing, the other a fierce giant. The knight appeared
to exert consummate address in defending himself against the massive
club of the giant, evading his strokes, or parrying them with sword or
shield. Rogero stood spectator of the combat, for he did not allow
himself to interfere in it, though a secret sentiment inclined him
strongly to take part with the knight. At length he saw with grief the
massive club fall directly on the head of the knight, who yielded to
the blow, and fell prostrate. The giant sprang forward to despatch
him, and for that purpose unlaced his helmet, when Rogero, with
dismay, recognized the face of Bradamante. He cried aloud, "Hold,
miscreant!" and sprang forward with drawn sword. Whereupon the
giant, as if he cared not to enter upon another combat, lifted
Bradamante on his shoulders, and ran with her into the forest.
Rogero plunged after him, but the long legs of the giant carried him
forward so fast that the paladin could hardly keep him in sight. At
length they issued from the wood, and Rogero perceived before him a
rich palace, built of marble, and adorned with sculptures executed
by a master hand. Into this edifice, through a golden door, the
giant passed, and Rogero followed; but, on looking round, saw
nowhere either the giant or Bradamante. He ran from room to room,
calling aloud on his cowardly foe to turn and meet him: but got no
response, nor caught another glimpse of the giant or his prey. In
his vain pursuit he met, without knowing them, Ferrau, Florismart,
King Gradasso, Orlando, and many others, all of whom had been
entrapped like himself into this enchanted castle. It was a new
stratagem of the magician Atlantes to draw Rogero into his power,
and to secure also those who might by any chance endanger his
safety. What Rogero had taken for Bradamante was a mere phantom.
That charming lady was far away, full of anxiety for her Rogero, whose
coming she had long expected.
The Emperor had committed to her charge the city and garrison of
Marseilles, and she held the post against the infidels with valor
and discretion. One day Melissa suddenly presented herself before her.
Anticipating her questions, she said, "Fear not for Rogero; he
lives, and is as ever true to you; but he has lost his liberty. The
fell enchanter has again succeeded in making him a prisoner. If you
would deliver him, mount your horse and follow me." She told her in
what manner Atlantes had deceived Rogero, in deluding his eyes with
the phantom of herself in peril. "Such," she continued, "will be his
arts in your own case, if you penetrate the forest and approach that
castle. You will think you behold Rogero, when, in fact, you see
only the enchanter himself. Be not deceived, plunge your sword into
his body, and trust me when I tell you that, in slaying him, you
will restore not only Rogero, but with him many of the bravest knights
of France, whom the wizard's arts have withdrawn from the camp of
their sovereign."
Bradamante promptly armed herself, and mounted her horse. Melissa
led her by forced journeys, by field and forest, beguiling the way
with conversation on the theme which interested her hearer most.
When at last they reached the forest, she repeated once more her
instructions, and then took her leave for fear the enchanter might
espy her, and be put on his guard.
Bradamante rode on about two miles when suddenly she beheld
Rogero, as it appeared to her, hard pressed by two fierce giants.
While she hesitated, she heard his voice calling on her for help. At
once the cautions of Melissa lost their weight. A sudden doubt of
the faith and truth of her kind monitress flashed across her mind.
"Shall I not believe my own eyes and ears?" she said, and rushed
forward to his defence. Rogero fled, pursued by the giants, and
Bradamante followed, passing with them through the castle gate. When
there, Bradamante was undeceived, for neither giant nor knight was
to be seen. She found herself a prisoner, but had not the
consolation of knowing that she shared the imprisonment of her
beloved. She saw various forms of men and women, but could recognize
none of them; and their lot was the same with respect to her. Each
viewed the others under some illusion of the fancy, wearing the
semblance of giants, dwarfs, or even four-footed animals, so that
there was no companionship or communication between them.

Thomas Bulfinch

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