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Chapter 4

CHAPTER IV.
THE SIEGE OF ALBRACCA.

AT the very time when Charlemagne was holding his plenary court
and his great tournament, his kingdom was invaded by a mighty monarch,
who was moreover so valiant and strong in battle that no one could
stand against him. He was named Gradasso, and his kingdom was called
Sericane. Now, as it often happens to the greatest and the richest
to long for what they cannot have, and thus to lose what they
already possess, this king could not rest content without Durindana,
the sword of Orlando, and Bayard, the horse of Rinaldo. To obtain
these he determined to war upon France, and for this purpose put in
array a mighty army.
He took his way through Spain, and, after defeating Marsilius, the
king of that country, in several battles, was rapidly advancing on
France. Charlemagne, though Marsilius was a Saracen, and had been
his enemy, yet felt it needful to succor him in this extremity from
a consideration of common danger, and, with the consent of his
peers, despatched Rinaldo with a strong body of soldiers against
Gradasso.
There was much fighting, with doubtful results, and Gradasso was
steadily advancing into France. But, impatient to achieve his objects,
he challenged Rinaldo to single combat, to be fought on foot, and upon
these conditions: If Rinaldo conquered, Gradasso agreed to give up all
his prisoners and return to his own country; but if Gradasso won the
day, he was to have Bayard.
The challenge was accepted, and would have been fought had it not
been for the arts of Malagigi, who just then returned from
Angelica's kingdom with set purpose to win Rinaldo to look with
favor upon the fair princess who was dying for love of him. Malagigi
drew Rinaldo away from the army, by putting on the semblance of
Gradasso, and, after a short contest, pretending to fly before him, by
which means Rinaldo was induced to follow him into a boat, in which he
was borne away, and entangled in various adventures, as we have
already related.
The army, left under the command of Ricciardetto, Rinaldo's brother,
was soon joined by Charlemagne and all his peerage, but experienced
a disastrous rout, and the Emperor and many of his paladins were taken
prisoners. Gradasso, however, did not abuse his victory; he took
Charles by the hand, seated him by his side, and told him he warred
only for honor. He renounced all conquests, on condition that the
Emperor should deliver to him Bayard and Durindana, both of them the
property of his vassals, the former of which, as he maintained, was
already forfeited to him by Rinaldo's failure to meet him as agreed.
To these terms Charlemagne readily acceded.
Bayard, after the departure of his master, had been taken in
charge by Ricciardetto, and sent back to Paris, where Astolpho was
in command, in the absence of Charlemagne. Astolpho received with
great indignation the message despatched for Bayard, and replied by
a herald that "he would not surrender the horse of his kinsman
Rinaldo, without a contest. If Gradasso wanted the steed, he might
come and take him, and that he, Astolpho, was ready to meet him in the
field."
Gradasso was only amused at this answer, for Astolpho's fame as a
successful warrior was not high, and Gradasso willingly renewed with
him the bargain which he had made with Rinaldo. On these conditions
the battle was fought. The enchanted lance, in the hands of
Astolpho, performed a new wonder; and Gradasso, the terrible Gradasso,
was unhorsed.
He kept his word, set free his prisoners, and put his army on the
march to return to his own country, renewing his oath, however, not to
rest till he had taken from Rinaldo his horse, and from Orlando his
sword, or lost his life in the attempt.
Charlemagne, full of gratitude to Astolpho, would have kept him near
his person and loaded him with honors, but Astolpho preferred to
seek Rinaldo, with the view of restoring to him his horse, and
departed from Paris with that design.

Our story now returns to Orlando, whom we left fascinated with the
sight of the sleeping beauty, who, however, escaped him while
engaged in the combat with Ferrau. Having long sought her in vain
through the recesses of the wood, he resolved to follow her to her
father's court. Leaving, therefore, the camp of Charlemagne, he
travelled long in the direction of the East, making inquiry
everywhere, if, perchance, he might get tidings of the fugitive. After
many adventures, he arrived one day at a place where many roads
crossed, and, meeting there a courier, he asked him for news. The
courier replied, that he had been despatched by Angelica to solicit
the aid of Sacripant, king of Circassia, in favor of her father
Galafron, who was besieged in his city, Albracca, by Agrican, king
of Tartary. This Agrican had been an unsuccessful suitor to the
damsel, whom he now pursued with arms. Orlando thus learned that he
was within a day's journey of Albracca; and feeling now secure of
Angelica, he proceeded with all speed to her city.
Thus journeying he arrived at a bridge, under which flowed a foaming
river. Here a damsel met him with a goblet, and informed him that it
was the usage of this bridge to present the traveller with a cup.
Orlando accepted the offered cup and drank its contents. He had no
sooner done so than his brain reeled, and he became unconscious of the
object of his journey, and of everything else. Under the influence
of this fascination he followed the damsel into a magnificent and
marvellous palace. Here he found himself in company with many knights,
unknown to him and to each other, though if it had not been for the
Cup of Oblivion of which they all had partaken, they would have
found themselves brothers in arms.

Astolpho, proceeding on his way to seek Rinaldo, splendidly
dressed and equipped, as was his wont, arrived in Circassia, and found
there a great army encamped under the command of Sacripant, the king
of that country, who was leading it to the defence of Galafron, the
father of Angelica. Sacripant, much struck by the appearance of
Astolpho and his horse, accosted him courteously, and tried to
enlist him in his service; but Astolpho, proud of his late
victories, scornfully declined his offers, and pursued his way. King
Sacripant was too much attracted by his appearance to part with him so
easily, and, having laid aside his kingly ornaments, set out in
pursuit of him.
Astolpho next day encountered on his way a stranger knight, named
Sir Florismart, Lord of the Sylvan Tower, one of the bravest and
best of knights, having as his guide a damsel, young, fair, and
virtuous, to whom he was tenderly attached, whose name was
Flordelis. Astolpho, as he approached, defied the knight, bidding
him yield the lady, or prepare to maintain his right by arms,
Florismart accepted the contest, and the knights encountered,
Florismart was unhorsed and his steed fell dead, while Bayard
sustained no injury by the shock.
Florismart was so overwhelmed with despair at his own disgrace and
the sight of the damsel's distress, that he drew his sword and was
about to plunge it into his own bosom. But Astolpho held his hand,
told him that he contended only for glory, and was contented to
leave him the lady.
While Florismart and Flordelis were vowing eternal gratitude, king
Sacripant arrived, and coveting the damsel of the one champion as much
as the horse and arms of the other, defied them to the joust. Astolpho
met the challenger, whom he instantly overthrew, and presented his
courser to Florismart, leaving the king to return to his army on foot.
The friends pursued their route, and erelong Flordelis discovered,
by signs which were known to her, that they were approaching the
waters of Oblivion, and advised them to turn back, or to change
their course. This the knights would not hear of, and, continuing
their march, they soon arrived at the bridge where Orlando had been
taken prisoner.
The damsel of the bridge appeared as before with the enchanted
cup, but Astolpho, forewarned, rejected it with scorn. She dashed it
to the ground, and a fire blazed up which rendered the bridge
unapproachable. At the same moment the two knights were assailed by
sundry warriors, known and unknown, who, having no recollection of
anything, joined blindly in defence of their prison-house. Among these
was Orlando, at sight of whom Astolpho, with all his confidence not
daring to encounter him, turned and fled, owing his escape to the
strength and fleetness of Bayard.
Florismart, meanwhile, overlaid by fearful odds, was compelled to
yield to necessity, and comply with the usage of the fairy. He drank
of the cup, and remained prisoner with the rest. Flordelis, deprived
of her two friends, retired from the scene, and devoted herself to
untiring efforts to effect her lover's deliverance. Astolpho pursued
his way to Albracca, which Agrican was about to besiege. He was kindly
welcomed by Angelica, and enrolled among her defenders. Impatient to
distinguish himself, he one night sallied forth alone, arrived in
Agrican's camp, and unhorsed his warriors right and left by means of
the enchanted lance. But he was soon surrounded and overmatched, and
made prisoner to Agrican.
Relief was, however, at hand; for as the citizens and soldiers
were one day leaning over their walls, they descried a cloud of
dust, from which horsemen were seen to prick forth, as it rolled on
towards the camp of the besiegers. This turned out to be the army of
Sacripant, which immediately attacked that of Agrican, with the view
of cutting a passage through his camp to the besieged city. But
Agrican, mounted upon Bayard, taken from Astolpho, but not armed
with the lance of gold, the virtues of which were unknown to him,
performed wonders, and rallied his scattered troops, which had given
way to the sudden and unexpected assault. Sacripant, on the other
hand, encouraged his men by the most desperate acts of valor, having
as an additional incentive to his courage the sight of Angelica, who
showed herself upon the city walls.
There she witnessed a single combat between the two leaders, Agrican
and Sacripant. In this, at length, her defender appeared to be
overmatched, when the Circassians broke the ring, and separated the
combatants, who were borne asunder in the rush. Sacripant, severely
wounded, profited by the confusion, and escaped into Albracca, where
he was kindly received and carefully tended by Angelica.
The battle continuing, the Circassians were at last put to flight,
and, being intercepted between the enemy's lines and the town,
sought for refuge under the walls. Angelica ordered the drawbridge
to be let down, and the gates thrown open to the fugitives. With these
Agrican, not distinguished in the crowd, entered the place, driving
both Circassians and Cathayans before him, and the portcullis being
dropped, he was shut in.
For a time the terror which he inspired put to flight all
opposers, but when at last it came to be known that few or none of his
followers had effected an entrance with him, the fugitives rallied and
surrounded him on all sides. While he was thus apparently reduced to
the last extremities, he was saved by the very circumstance which
threatened him with destruction. The soldiers of Angelica, closing
upon him from all sides, deserted their defences; and his own
besieging army entered the city in a part where the wall was broken
down.
In this way was Agrican rescued, the city taken, and the inhabitants
put to the sword. Angelica, however, with some of the knights who were
her defenders, among whom was Sacripant, saved herself in the citadel,
which was planted upon a rock.
The fortress was impregnable, but it was scantily victualled, and
ill provided with other necessaries. Under these circumstances,
Angelica announced to those blockaded with her in the citadel her
intention to go in quest of assistance, and, having plighted her
promise of a speedy return, she set out, with the enchanted ring
upon her finger. Mounted upon her palfrey, the damsel passed through
the enemy's lines, and by sunrise was many miles clear of their
encampment.
It so happened that her road led her near the fatal bridge of
Oblivion, and, as she approached it, she met a damsel weeping
bitterly. It was Flordelis, whose lover, Florismart, as we have
related, had met the fate of Orlando and many more, and fallen a
victim to the enchantress of the cup. She related her adventures to
Angelica, and conjured her to lend what aid she might to rescue her
lord and his companions. Angelica, accordingly, watching her
opportunity and aided by her ring, slipped into the castle unseen,
when the door was opened to admit a new victim. Here she speedily
disenchanted Orlando and the rest by a touch of her talisman. But
Florismart was not there. He had been given up to Falerina, a more
powerful enchantress, and was still in durance. Angelica conjured
the rescued captives to assist her in the recovery of her kingdom, and
all departed together for Albracca.
The arrival of Orlando, with his companions, nine in all, and
among the bravest knights of France, changed at once the fortunes of
the war. Wherever the great paladin came, pennon and standard fell
before him. Agrican in vain attempted to rally his troops. Orlando
kept constantly in his front, forcing him to attend to nobody else.
The Tartar king at length bethought him of a stratagem. He turned
his horse, and made a show of flying in despair. Orlando dashed
after him as he desired, and Agrican fled till he reached a green
place in a wood, where there was a fountain.
The place was beautiful, and the Tartar dismounted to refresh
himself at the fountain, but without taking off his helmet, or
laying aside any of his armor. Orlando was quickly at his back, crying
out, "So bold, and yet a fugitive! How could you fly from a single
arm, and think to escape?"
The Tartar king had leaped on his saddle the moment he saw his
enemy, and when the paladin had done speaking, he said, in a mild
voice, "Without doubt you are the best knight I ever encountered,
and fain would I leave you untouched for your own sake, if you would
cease to hinder me from rallying my people. I pretended to fly, in
order to bring you out of the field. If you insist upon fighting, I
must needs fight and slay you, but I call the sun in the heavens to
witness I would rather not. I should be very sorry for your death."
The Count Orlando felt pity for so much gallantry, and he said, "The
nobler you show yourself, the more it grieves me to think that, in
dying without a knowledge of the true faith, you will be lost in the
other world. Let me advise you to save body and soul at once.
Receptive baptism, and go your way in peace."
Agrican replied: "I suspect you to be the paladin Orlando. If you
are, I would not lose this opportunity of fighting with you to be king
of Paradise. Talk to me no more about your things of another world for
you will preach in vain. Each of us for himself, and let the sword
be umpire."
The Saracen drew his sword, boldly advancing upon Orlando, and a
combat began, so obstinate and so long, each warrior being a miracle
of prowess, that the story says it lasted from noon till night.
Orlando then, seeing the stars come out, was the first to propose a
respite.
"What are we to do," said he, "now that daylight has left us?"
Agrican answered readily enough, "Let us repose in this meadow,
and renew the combat at dawn."
The repose was taken accordingly. Each tied up his horse, and
reclined himself on the grass, not far from the other, just as if they
had been friends, Orlando by the fountain, Agrican beneath a pine.
It was a beautiful clear night, and, as they talked together before
addressing themselves to sleep, the champion of Christendom, looking
up at the firmament, said, "That is a fine piece of workmanship,
that starry spectacle; God made it all, that moon of silver, and those
stars of gold, and the light of day, and the sun,- all for the sake of
human kind."
"You wish, I see, to talk of matters of faith," said the Tartar.
"Now I may as well tell you at once, that I have no sort of skill in
such matters, nor learning of any kind. I never could learn anything
when I was a boy. I hated it so that I broke the man's head who was
commissioned to teach me; and it produced such an effect on others,
that nobody ever afterwards dared so much as show me a book. My
boyhood was therefore passed, as it should be, in horsemanship and
hunting, and learning to fight. What is the good of a gentle, man's
poring all day over a book? Prowess to the knight, and preaching to
the clergyman, that is my motto."
"I acknowledge," returned Orlando, "that arms are the first
consideration of a gentleman; but not at all that he does himself
dishonor by knowledge. On the contrary, knowledge is as great an
embellishment of the rest of his attainments, as the flowers are to
the meadow before us; and as to the knowledge of his Maker, the man
that is without it is no better than a stock or a stone or a brute
beast. Neither without study can he reach anything of a due sense of
the depth and divineness of the contemplation."
"Learned or not learned," said Agrican, "you might show yourself
better bred than by endeavoring to make me talk on a subject on
which you have me at a disadvantage. If you choose to sleep, I wish
you good night; but if you prefer talking, I recommend you to talk
of fighting or of fair ladies. And, by the way, pray tell me, are
you not that Orlando who makes such a noise in the world? And what
is it, pray, that brings you into these parts? Were you ever in
love? I suppose you must have been; for to be a knight, and never to
have been in love, would be like being a man without a heart in his
breast."
The Count replied: "Orlando I am, and in love I am. Love has made me
abandon everything, and brought me into these distant regions, and, to
tell you all in one word, my heart is in the hands of the daughter
of King Galafron. You have come against him with fire and sword, to
get possession of his castles and his dominions; and I have come to
help him, for no object in the world but to please his daughter and
win her beautiful hand. I care for nothing else in existence."
Now when the Tartar king, Agrican, heard his antagonist speak in
this manner, and knew him to be indeed Orlando, and to be in love with
Angelica, his face changed color for grief and jealousy, though it
could not be seen for the darkness. His heart began beating with
such violence that he felt as if he should have died. "Well," said
he to Orlando, "we are to fight when it is daylight, and one or
other is to be left here, dead on the ground. I have a proposal to
make to you,- nay, an entreaty. My love is so excessive for the same
lady, that I beg of you to leave her to me. I will owe you my
thanks, and give up the siege and put an end to the war. I cannot bear
that any one should love her, and that I should live to see it. Why,
therefore, should either of us perish? Give her up. Not a soul shall
know it."
"I never yet," answered Orlando, "made a promise which I did not
keep, and nevertheless I own to you that, were I to make a promise
like that, and even swear to keep it, I should not. You might as
well ask me to tear away the limbs from my body, and the eyes out of
my head. I could as well live without breath itself as cease loving
Angelica."
Agrican had hardly patience to let him finish speaking, ere he leapt
furiously on horseback, though it was midnight. "Quit her," said he,
"or die!"
Orlando seeing the infidel getting up, and not being sure that he
would not add treachery to fierceness, had been hardly less quick in
mounting for the combat. "Never," exclaimed he; "I never could have
quitted her if I would, and now I would not if I could. You must
seek her by other means than these."
Fiercely dashed their horses together, in the night-time, on the
green mead. Despiteful and terrible were the blows they gave and
took by the moonlight. Agrican fought in a rage, Orlando was cooler.
And now the struggle had lasted more than five hours, and day began to
dawn, when the Tartar king, furious to find so much trouble given him,
dealt his enemy a blow sharp and violent beyond conception. It cut the
shield in two as if it had been made of wood, and, though blood
could not be drawn from Orlando, because he was fated, it shook and
bruised him as if it had started every joint in his body.
His body only, however, not a particle of his soul. So dreadful
was the blow which the paladin gave in return, that not only shield,
but every bit of mail on the body of Agrican was broken in pieces, and
three of his ribs cut asunder.
The Tartar, roaring like a lion, raised his sword with still greater
vehemence than before, and dealt a blow on the paladin's helmet,
such as he had never yet received from mortal man. For a moment it
took away his senses. His sight failed, his ears tinkled, his
frightened horse turned about to fly; and he was falling from the
saddle, when the very action of falling threw his head upwards, and
thus recalled his recollection.
"What a shame is this!" thought he; "how shall I ever again dare
to face Angelica! I have been fighting, hour after hour, with this
man, and he is but one, and I call myself Orlando! If the combat
last any longer, I will bury myself in a monastery, and never look
on sword again."
Orlando muttered with his lips closed and his teeth ground together;
and you might have thought that fire instead of breath came out of his
nose and mouth. He raised his sword Durindana with both his hands, and
sent it down so tremendously on Agrican's shoulder, that it cut
through breastplate down to the very haunch, nay, crushed the
saddle-bow, though it was made of bone and iron, and felled man and
horse to the earth. Agrican turned as white as ashes, and felt death
upon him. He called Orlando to come close to him, with a gentle voice,
and said, as well as he could: "I believe on Him who died on the
cross. Baptize me, I pray thee, with the fountain, before my senses
are gone. I have lived an evil life, but need not be rebellious to God
in death also. May He who came to save all the rest of the world, save
me!" And he shed tears, that great king, though he had been so lofty
and fierce.
Orlando dismounted quickly, with his own face in tears. He
gathered the king tenderly in his arms, and took and laid him by the
fountain, on a marble rim that it had, and then he wept in concert
with him heartily, and asked his pardon, and so baptized him in the
water of the fountain, and knelt and prayed to God for him with joined
hands.
He then paused and looked at him; and when he perceived his
countenance changed, and that his whole person was cold, he left him
there on the marble rim of the fountain, all armed as he was, with the
sword by his side, and the crown upon his head.

Thomas Bulfinch

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