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Chapter 11

CHAPTER XI.
ASTOLPHO'S ADVENTURES CONTINUED, AND ISABELLA'S BEGUN.

WHEN Astolpho escaped from the cruel Alcina, after a short abode
in the realm of the virtuous Logestilla, he desired to return to his
native country. Logestilla lent him the best vessel of her fleet to
convey him to the mainland. She gave him at parting a wonderful
book, which taught the secret of overcoming all manner of
enchantments, and begged him to carry it always with him, out of
regard for her. She also gave him another gift, which surpassed
everything of the kind that mortal workmanship can frame; yet it was
nothing in appearance but a simple horn.
Astolpho, protected by these gifts, thanked the good fairy, took
leave of her, and set out on his return to France. His voyage was
prosperous, and on reaching the desired port he took leave of the
faithful mariners, and continued his journey by land. As he
proceeded over mountains and through valleys, he often met with
bands of robbers, wild beasts, and venomous serpents, but he had
only to sound his horn to put them all to flight.
Having landed in France, and traversed many provinces on his way
to the army, he one day, in crossing a forest, arrived beside a
fountain, and alighted to drink. While he stooped at the fountain, a
young rustic sprang from the copse, mounted Rabican, and rode away. It
was a new trick of the enchanter Atlantes. Astolpho, hearing the
noise, turned his head just in time to see his loss; and, starting up,
pursued the thief, who, on his part, did not press the horse to his
full speed, but just kept in sight of his pursuer till they both
issued from the forest; and then Rabican and his rider took shelter in
a castle which stood near. Astolpho followed, and penetrated without
difficulty within the court-yard of the castle, where he looked around
for the rider and his horse, but could see no trace of either, nor any
person of whom he could make inquiry. Suspecting that enchantment
was employed to embarrass him, he bethought him of his book, and on
consulting it discovered that his suspicions were well founded. He
also learned what course to pursue. He was directed to raise the stone
which served as a threshold, under which a spirit lay pent, who
would willingly escape, and leave the castle free of access.
Astolpho applied his strength to lift aside the stone. Thereupon the
magician put his arts in force. The castle was full of prisoners,
and the magician caused that to all of them Astolpho should appear
in some false guise,- to some a wild beast, to others a giant, to
others a bird of prey. Thus all assailed him, and would quickly have
made an end of him, if he had not bethought him of his horn. No sooner
had he blown a blast than, at the horrid alarm, fled the cavaliers and
the necromancer with them, like a flock of pigeons at the sound of the
fowler's gun. Astolpho then renewed his efforts on the stone, and
turned it over. The under face was all inscribed with magical
characters, which the knight defaced, as directed by his book; and
no sooner had he done so, than the castle, with its walls and turrets,
vanished into smoke.
The knights and ladies set at liberty were, besides Rogero and
Bradamante, Orlando, Gradasso, Florismart, and many more. At the sound
of the horn they fled, one and all, men and steeds, except Rabican,
which Astolpho secured, in spite of his terror. As soon as the sound
had ceased, Rogero recognized Bradamante, whom he had daily met during
their imprisonment, but had been prevented from knowing by the
enchanter's arts. No words can tell the delight with which they
recognized each other, and recounted mutually all that had happened to
each since they were parted. Rogero took advantage of the
opportunity to press his suit, and found Bradamante as propitious as
he could wish, were it not for a single obstacle, the difference of
their faiths. "If he would obtain her in marriage," she said, "he must
in due form demand her of her father, Duke Aymon, and must abandon his
false prophet, and become a Christian." The latter step was one
which Rogero had for some time intended taking, for reasons of his
own. He therefore gladly accepted the terms, and proposed that they
should at once repair to the abbey of Vallombrosa, whose towers were
visible at no great distance. Thither they turned their horses' heads,
and we will leave them to find their way without our company.
I know not if my readers recollect that, at the moment when Rogero
had just delivered Angelica from the voracious Orc, that scornful
beauty placed her ring in her mouth, and vanished out of sight. At the
same time the Hippogriff shook off his bridle, soared, away, and
flew to rejoin his former master, very naturally returning to his
accustomed stable. Here Astolpho found him, to his very great delight.
He knew the animal's powers, having seen Rogero ride him, and he
longed to fly abroad over all the earth, and see various nations and
peoples from his airy course. He had heard Logestilla's directions how
to guide the animal, and saw her fit a bridle to his head. He
therefore was able, out of all the bridles he found in the stable,
to select one suitable, and, placing Rabican's saddle on the
Hippogriff's back, nothing seemed to prevent his immediate
departure. Yet before he went, he bethought him of placing Rabican
in hands where he would be safe, and whence he might recover him in
time of need. While he stood deliberating where he should find a
messenger, he saw Bradamante approach. That fair warrior had been
parted from Rogero on their way to the abbey of Vallombrosa, by an
inopportune adventure which had called the knight away. She was now
returning to Montalban, having arranged with Rogero to join her there.
To Bradamante, therefore, his fair cousin, Astolpho committed Rabican,
and also the lance of gold, which would only be an encumbrance in
his aerial excursion. Bradamante took charge of both; and Astolpho,
bidding her farewell, soared in air.

Among those delivered by Astolpho from the magician's castle was
Orlando. Following the guide of chance, the paladin found himself at
the close of day in a forest, and stopped at the foot of a mountain.
Surprised to discern a light which came from a cleft in the rock, he
approached, guided by the ray, and discovered a narrow passage in
the mountain-side, which led into a deep grotto.
Orlando fastened his horse, and then, putting aside the bushes
that resisted his passage, stepped down from rock to rock till he
reached a sort of cavern. Entering it, he perceived a lady, young
and handsome, as well as he could discover through the signs of
distress which agitated her countenance. Her only companion was an old
woman, who seemed to be regarded by her young partner with terror
and indignation; The courteous paladin saluted the women respectfully,
and begged to know by whose barbarity they had been subjected to
such imprisonment.
The younger lady replied, in a voice often broken with sobs:-
"Though I know well that my recital will subject me to worse
treatment by the barbarious man who keeps me here, to whom this
woman will not fail to report it, yet I will not hide from you the
facts. Ah! why should I fear his rage? If he should take my life, I
know not what better boon than death I can ask.
"My name is Isabella. I am the daughter of the king of Galicia, or
rather I should say misfortune and grief are my parents. Young,
rich, modest, and of tranquil temper, all things appeared to combine
to render my lot happy. Alas! I see myself to-day poor, humbled,
miserable, and destined perhaps to yet further afflictions. It is a
year since, my father having given notice that he would open the lists
for a tournament at Bayonne, a great number of chevaliers from all
quarters came together at our court. Among these, Zerbino, son of
the king of Scotland, victorious in all combats, eclipsed by his
beauty and his valor all the rest. Before departing from the court
of Galicia he testified the wish to espouse me, and I consented that
he should demand my hand of the king, my father. But I was a
Mahometan, and Zerbino a Christian, and my father refused his consent.
The prince, called home by his father to take command of the forces
destined to the assistance of the French Emperor, prevailed on me to
be married to him secretly, and to follow him to Scotland. He caused a
galley to be prepared to receive me, and placed in command of it the
chevalier Oderic, a Biscayan, famous for his exploits both by land and
sea. On the day appointed, Oderic brought his vessel to a sea-side
resort of my father's, where I embarked. Some of my domestics
accompanied me, and thus I departed from my native land.
"Sailing with a fair wind, after some hours we were assailed by a
violent tempest. It was to no purpose that we took in all sail; we
were driven before the wind directly upon the rocky shore. Seeing no
other hopes of safety, Oderic placed me in a boat, followed himself
with a few of his men, and made for land. We reached it through
infinite peril, and I no sooner felt the firm land beneath my feet,
than I knelt down and poured out heart-felt thanks to the Providence
that had preserved me.
"The shore where we landed appeared to be uninhabited. We saw no
dwelling to shelter us, no road to lead us to a more hospitable
spot. A high mountain rose before us, whose base stretched into the
sea. It was here the infamous Oderic, in spite of my tears and
entreaties, sold me to a band of pirates, who fancied I might be an
acceptable present to their prince, the Sultan of Morocco. This cavern
is their den, and here they keep me under the guard of this woman,
until it shall suit their convenience to carry me away."
Isabella had hardly finished her recital, when a troop of armed
men began to enter the cavern. Seeing the prince Orlando, one said
to the rest, "What bird is this we have caught, without even setting a
snare for him?" Then addressing Orlando, "It was truly civil in you,
friend, to come hither with that handsome coat of armor and vest,
the very things I want." "You shall pay for them, then," said Orlando;
and, seizing a half-burnt brand from the fire, he hurled it at him,
striking his head, and stretching him lifeless on the floor.
There was a massy table in the middle of the cavern, used for the
pirates' repasts. Orlando lifted it and hurled it at the robbers as
they stood clustered in a group towards the entrance. Half the gang
were laid prostrate, with broken heads and limbs; the rest got away as
nimbly as they could.
Leaving the den and its inmates to their fate, Orlando, taking
Isabella under his protection, pursued his way, for some days, without
meeting with any adventure.
One day they saw a band of men advancing, who seemed to be
guarding a prisoner, bound hand and foot, as if being carried to
execution. The prisoner was a youthful cavalier, of a noble and
ingenuous appearance. The band bore the ensigns of Count Anselm,
head of the treacherous house of Maganza. Orlando desired Isabella
to wait, while he rode forward to inquire the meaning of this array.
Approaching, he demanded of the leader who his prisoner was, and of
what crime he had been guilty. The man replied, that the prisoner
was a murderer, by whose hand Pinabel, the son of Count Anselm, had
been treacherously slain. At these words, the prisoner exclaimed, "I
am no murderer, nor have I been in any way the cause of the young
man's death." Orlando, knowing the cruel and ferocious character of
the chiefs of the house of Maganza, needed no more to satisfy him that
the youth was the victim of injustice. He commanded the leader of
the troop to release his victim, and, receiving an insolent reply,
dashed him to the earth with a stroke of his lance; then, by a few
vigorous blows, dispersed the band, leaving deadly marks on those
who were slowest to quit the field.
Orlando then hastened to unbind the prisoner, and to assist him to
reclothe himself in his armor, which the false Magencian had dared
to assume. He then led him to Isabella, who now approached the scene
of action. How can we picture the joy, the astonishment, with which
Isabella recognized in him Zerbino, her husband, and the prince
discovered her whom he had believed overwhelmed in the waves! They
embraced one another, and wept for joy. Orlando, sharing in their
happiness, congratulated himself in having been the instrument of
it. The princess recounted to Zerbino what the illustrious paladin had
done for her, and the prince threw himself at Orlando's feet, and
thanked him as having twice preserved his life.
While these exchanges of congratulation and thankfulness were
going on, a sound in the underwood attracted their attention, and
caused the two knights to brace their helmets and stand on their
guard. What the cause of the interruption was, we shall record in
another chapter.

Thomas Bulfinch

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