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    Chapter 14

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    Chapter 14
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    CHAPTER XIV.
    ZERBINO AND ISABELLA.

    ZERBINO'S pain at seeing the Tartar prince go off with the sword
    surpassed the anguish of his wound; but now the loss of blood so
    reduced his strength, that he could not move from where he fell.
    Isabella, not knowing whither to resort for help, could only bemoan
    him, and chide her cruel fate. Zerbino said, "If I could but leave
    thee, my best beloved, in some secure abode, it would not distress
    me to die; but to abandon thee so, without protection, is sad indeed."
    She replied, "Think not to leave me, dearest; our souls shall not be
    parted; this sword will give me the means to follow thee." Zerbino's
    last words implored her to banish such a thought, but live, and be
    true to his memory. Isabella promised, with many tears, to be faithful
    to him so long as life should last.
    When he ceased to breathe, Isabella's cries resounded through the
    forest, and reached the ears of a reverend hermit, who hastened to the
    spot. He soothed and calmed her, urging those consolations which the
    word of God supplies; and at last brought her to wish for nothing else
    but to devote herself for the rest of life wholly to religion.
    As she could not bear the thoughts of leaving her dead lord
    abandoned, the body was, by the good hermit's aid, placed upon the
    horse, and taken to the nearest inhabited place, where a chest was
    made for it, suitable to be carried with them on their way. The
    hermit's plan was to escort his charge to a monastery, not many
    days' journey distant, where Isabella resolved to spend the
    remainder of her life. Thus they travelled day after day, choosing the
    most retired ways, for the country was full of armed men. One day a
    cavalier met them, and barred their way. It was no other than
    Rodomont, king of Algiers, who had just left the camp of Agramant,
    full of indignation for a fancied wrong received from that leader.
    At sight of the lovely lady and her reverend attendant, with their
    horse laden with a burden draped with black, he asked the meaning of
    their journey. Isabella told him her affliction, and her resolution to
    renounce the world and devote herself to religion, and to the memory
    of the friend she had lost. Rodomont laughed scornfully at this, and
    told her that her project was absurd; that charms like hers were meant
    to be enjoyed, not buried, and that he himself would more than make
    amends for her dead lover. The monk, who promptly interposed to rebuke
    this impious talk, was commanded to hold his peace; and still
    persisting, was seized by the knight and hurled over the edge of the
    cliff, where he fell into the sea, and was drowned.
    Rodomont, when he had got rid of the hermit, again applied to the
    sad lady, heartless with affright, and, in the language used by
    lovers, said, "she was his very heart, his life, his light." Having
    laid aside all violence, he humbly sued that she would accompany him
    to his retreat, near by. It was a ruined chapel from which the monks
    had been driven by the disorders of the time, and which Rodomont had
    taken possession of. Isabella, who had no choice but to obey, followed
    him, meditating as she went what resource she could find to escape out
    of his power, and keep her vow to her dead husband, to be faithful
    to his memory as long as life should last. At length she said, "If, my
    lord, you will let me go and fulfil my vow, and my intention, as I
    have already declared it, I will bestow upon you what will be to you
    of more value than a hundred women's hearts. I know an herb, and I
    have seen it on our way, which, rightly prepared, affords a juice of
    such power, that the flesh, if laved with it, becomes impenetrable
    to sword or fire. This liquor I can make, and will, to-day, if you
    will accept my offer; and when you have seen its virtue, you will
    value it more than if all Europe were made your own."
    Rodomont, at hearing this, readily promised all that was asked, so
    eager was he to learn a secret that would make him as Achilles was
    of yore. Isabella, having collected such herbs as she thought
    proper, and boiled them, with certain mysterious signs and words, at
    length declared her labor done, and, as a test, offered to try its
    virtue on herself. She bathed her neck and bosom with the liquor,
    and then called on Rodomont to smite with all his force, and see
    whether his sword had power to harm. The pagan, who during the
    preparations had taken frequent draughts of wine, and scarce knew what
    he did, drew his sword at the word, and struck across her neck with
    all his might, and the fair head leapt sundered from the snowy neck
    and breast.
    Rude and unfeeling as he was, the pagan knight lamented bitterly
    this sad result. To honor her memory he resolved to do a work as
    unparalleled as her devotion. From all parts round he caused
    laborers to be brought, and had a tower built to enclose the chapel,
    within which the remains of Zerbino and Isabella were entombed. Across
    the stream which flowed near by he built a bridge, scarce two yards
    wide, and added neither parapet nor rail. On the top of the tower a
    sentry was placed, who, when any traveller approached the bridge, gave
    notice to his master. Rodomont thereupon sallied out, and defied the
    approaching knight to fight him upon the bridge, where any chance step
    a little aside would plunge the rider headlong in the stream. This
    bridge he vowed to keep until a thousand suits of armor should be
    won from conquered knights, wherewith to build a trophy to his
    victim and her lord.
    Within ten days the bridge was built, and the tower was in progress.
    In a short time many knights, either seeking the shortest route, or
    tempted by a desire of adventure, had made the attempt to pass the
    bridge. All, without exception, had lost either arms or life, or both;
    some falling before Rodomont's lance, others precipitated into the
    river. One day, as Rodomont stood urging his workmen, it chanted
    that Orlando in furious mood came thither, and approached the
    bridge. Rodomont halloed to him, "Halt, churl; presume not to set foot
    upon that bridge; it was not made for such as you!" Orlando took no
    notice, but pressed on. Just then a gentle damsel rode up. It was
    Flordelis, who was seeking her Florismart. She saw Orlando, and, in
    spite of his strange appearance, recognized him. Rodomont, not used to
    have his commands disobeyed, laid hands on the madman, and would
    have thrown him into the river, but to his astonishment found
    himself in the grip of one not so easily disposed of. "How can a
    fool have such strength?" he growled between his teeth. Flordelis
    stopped to see the issue, where each of these two puissant warriors
    strove to throw the other from the bridge. Orlando at last had
    strength enough to lift his foe with all his armor, and fling him over
    the side, but had not wit to clear himself from him, so both fell
    together. High flashed the wave as they together smote its surface.
    Here Orlando had the advantage; he was naked, and could swim like a
    fish. He soon reached the bank, and, careless of praise or blame,
    stopped not to see what came of the adventure. Rodomont, entangled
    with his armor, escaped with difficulty to the bank. Meantime,
    Flordelis passed the bridge unchallenged.
    After long wandering without success she returned to Paris, and
    there found the object of her search; for Florismart, after the fall
    of Albracca, had repaired thither. The joy of meeting was clouded to
    Florismart by the news which Flordelis brought of Orlando's wretched
    plight. The last she had seen of him was when he fell with Rodomont
    into the stream. Florismart, who loved Orlando like a brother,
    resolved to set out immediately, under guidance of the lady, to find
    him, and bring him where he might receive the treatment suited to
    his case. A few days brought them to the place where they found the
    Tartar king still guarding the bridge. The usual challenge and
    defiance was made, and the knights rode to encounter one another on
    the bridge. At the first encounter both horses were overthrown; and,
    having no space to regain their footing, fell with their riders into
    the water. Rodomont, who knew the soundings of the stream, soon
    recovered the land; but Florismart was carried downward by the
    current, and landed at last on a bank of mud where his horse could
    hardly find footing. Flordelis, who watched the battle from the
    bridge, seeing her lover in this piteous case, exclaimed aloud, "Ah!
    Rodomont, for love of her whom dead you honor, have pity on me, who
    love this knight, and slay him not. Let it suffice he yields his armor
    to the pile, and none more glorious will it bear than he." Her prayer,
    so well directed, touched the pagan's heart, though hard to move,
    and he lent his aid to help the knight to land. He kept him a
    prisoner, however, and added his armor to the pile. Flordelis, with
    a heavy heart, went her way.

    We must now return to Rogero, who, when we parted with him, was
    engaged in an adventure which arrested his progress to the monastery
    whither he was bound with the intention of receiving baptism, and thus
    qualifying himself to demand Bradamante as his bride. On his way he
    met with Mandricardo, and the quarrel was revived respecting the right
    to wear the badge of Hector. After a warm discussion, both parties
    agreed to submit the question to King Agramant, and for that purpose
    took their way to the Saracen camp. Here they met Gradasso, who had
    his controversy also with Mandricardo. This warrior claimed the
    sword of Orlando, denying the right of Mandricardo to possess it in
    virtue of his having found it abandoned by its owner. King Agramant
    strove in vain to reconcile these quarrels, and was forced at last
    to consent that the points in dispute should be settled by one combat,
    in which Mandricardo should meet one of the other champions, to whom
    should be committed the cause of both. Rogero was chosen by lot to
    maintain Gradasso's cause and his own. Great preparations were made
    for this signal contest. On the appointed day it was fought in the
    presence of Agramant, and of the whole army. Rogero won it; and
    Mandricardo, the conqueror of Hector's arms, the challenger of
    Orlando, and the slayer of Zerbino, lost his life. Gradasso received
    Durindana as his prize, which lost half its value in his eyes, since
    it was won by another's prowess, not his own.
    Rogero, though victorious, was severely wounded, and lay helpless
    many weeks in the camp of Agramant, while Bradamante, ignorant of
    the cause of his delay, expected him at Montalban. Thither he had
    promised to repair in fifteen days, or twenty at furthest, hoping to
    have obtained by that time an honorable discharge from his obligations
    to the Saracen commander. The twenty days were passed, and a month
    more, and still Rogero came not, nor did any tidings reach
    Bradamante accounting for his absence. At the end of that time, a
    wandering knight brought news of the famous combat, and of Rogero's
    wound. He added, what alarmed Bradamante still more, that Marphisa,
    a female warrior, young and fair, was in attendance on the wounded
    knight. He added, that the whole army expected that, as soon as
    Rogero's wounds were healed, the pair would be united in marriage.
    Bradamante, distressed by this news, though she believed it but in
    part, resolved to go immediately and see for herself. She mounted
    Rabican, the horse of Astolpho, which he had committed to her care,
    and took with her the lance of gold, though unaware of its wonderful
    powers. Thus accoutred, she left the castle, and took the road
    toward Paris and the camp of the Saracens.
    Marphisa, whose devotion to Rogero in his illness had so excited the
    jealousy of Bradamante, was the twin sister of Rogero. She, with
    him, had been taken in charge when an infant by Atlantes, the
    magician, but while yet a child she had been stolen away by an Arab
    tribe. Adopted by their chief, she had early learned horsemanship
    and skill in arms, and at this time had come to the camp of Agramant
    with no other view than to see and test for herself the prowess of the
    warriors of either camp, whose fame rang through the world. Arriving
    at the very moment of the late encounter, the name of Rogero, and some
    few facts of his story which she learned, were enough to suggest the
    idea that it was her brother whom she saw victorious in the single
    combat. Inquiry satisfied the two of their near kindred, and from that
    moment Marphisa devoted herself to the care of her new-found and
    much-loved brother.
    In those moments of seclusion Rogero informed his sister of what
    he had learned of their parentage from old Atlantes. Rogero, their
    father, a Christian knight, had won the heart of Galaciella,
    daughter of the Sultan of Africa, and sister of King Agramant,
    converted her to the Christian faith, and secretly married her. The
    Sultan, enraged at his daughter's marriage, drove her husband into
    exile, and caused her with her infant children, Rogero and Marphisa,
    to be placed in a boat and committed to the winds and waves, to
    perish; from which fate they were saved by Atlantes. On hearing
    this, Marphisa exclaimed, "How can you, brother, leave our parents
    unavenged so long, and even submit to serve the son of the tyrant
    who so wronged them?" Rogero replied, that it was but lately he had
    learned the full truth; that when he learned it he was already
    embarked with Agramant, from whom he had received knighthood, and that
    he only waited for a suitable opportunity when he might with honor
    desert his standard, and at the same time return to the faith of his
    fathers. Marphisa hailed this resolution with joy, and declared her
    intention to join with him in embracing the Christian faith.

    We left Bradamante when, mounted on Rabican and armed with
    Astolpho's lance, she rode forth, determined to learn the cause of
    Rogero's long absence. One day, as she rode, she met a damsel, of
    visage and of manners fair, but overcome with grief. It was Flordelis,
    who was seeking far and near a champion capable of liberating and
    avenging her lord. Flordelis marked the approaching warrior, and,
    judging from appearances, thought she had found the champion she
    sought. "Are you, Sir Knight," she said, "so daring and so kind as
    to take up my cause against a fierce and cruel warrior who has made
    prisoner of my lord, and forced me thus to be a wanderer and a
    suppliant?" Then she related the events which had happened at the
    bridge. Bradamante, to whom noble enterprises were always welcome,
    readily embraced this, and the rather as in her gloomy forebodings she
    felt as if Rogero was forever lost to her.
    Next day the two arrived at the bridge. The sentry descried them
    approaching, and gave notice to his lord, who thereupon donned his
    armor and went forth to meet them. Here as usual, he called on the
    advancing warrior to yield his horse and arms an oblation to the tomb.
    Bradamante replied, asking by what right he called on the innocent
    to do penance for his crime. "Your life and your armor," she added,
    "are the fittest offering to her tomb, and I, a woman, the fittest
    champion to take them." With that she couched her spear, spurred her
    horse, and ran to the encounter. King Rodomont came on with speed. The
    trampling sounded on the bridge like thunder. It took but a moment
    to decide the contest. The golden lance did its office, and that
    fierce Moor, so renowned in tourney, lay extended on the bridge.
    "Who is the loser now?" said Bradamante: but Rodomont, amazed that a
    woman's hand should have laid him low, could not or would not
    answer. Silent and sad, he raised himself, unbound his helm and
    mail, and flung them against the tomb; then, sullen and on foot,
    left the ground; but first gave orders to one of his squires to
    release all his prisoners. They had been sent off to Africa. Besides
    Florismart, there were Sansonnet and Oliver, who had ridden that way
    in quest of Orlando, and had both in turn been overthrown in the
    encounter.
    Bradamante after her victory resumed her route, and in due time
    reached the Christian camp, where she readily learned an explanation
    of the mystery which had caused her so much anxiety. Rogero and his
    fair and brave sister, Marphisa, were too illustrious by their station
    and exploits not to be the frequent topic of discourse even among
    their adversaries, and all that Bradamante was anxious to know reached
    her ear, almost without inquiry.
    We now return to Gradasso, who by Rogero's victory had been made
    possessor of Durindana. There now only remained to him to seek the
    horse of Rinaldo; and the challenge, given and accepted, was yet to be
    fought with that warrior, for it had been interrupted by the arts of
    Malagigi. Gradasso now sought another meeting with Rinaldo, and met
    with no reluctance on his part. As the combat was for the possession
    of Bayard, the knights dismounted and fought on foot. Long time the
    battle lasted. Rinaldo, knowing well the deadly stroke of Durindana,
    used all his art to parry or avoid its blow. Gradasso struck with
    might and main, but wellnigh all his strokes were spent in air, or
    if they smote, they fell obliquely and did little harm.
    Thus had they fought long, glancing at one another's eyes, and
    seeing naught else, when their attention was arrested perforce by a
    strange noise. They turned, and beheld the good Bayard attacked by a
    monstrous bird. Perhaps it was a bird, for such it seemed; but when or
    where such a bird was ever seen I have nowhere read, except in Turpin;
    and I am inclined to believe that it was not a bird, but a fiend,
    evoked from underground by Malagigi, and thither sent on purpose to
    interrupt the fight. Whether a fiend or a fowl, the monster flew right
    at Bayard, and clapped his wings in his face. Thereat the steed
    broke loose, and ran madly across the plain, pursued by the bird, till
    Bayard plunged into the wood, and was lost to sight.
    Rinaldo and Gradasso, seeing Bayard's escape, agreed to suspend
    their battle till they could recover the horse, the object of
    contention. Gradasso mounted his steed, and followed the foot-marks of
    Bayard into the forest. Rinaldo, never more vexed in spirit,
    remained at the spot, Gradasso having promised to return thither
    with the horse, if he found him. He did find him, after long search,
    for he had the good fortune to hear him neigh. Thus he became
    possessed of both the objects for which he had led an army from his
    own country, and invaded France. He did not forget his promise to
    bring Bayard back to the place where he had left Rinaldo; but, only
    muttering, "Now I have got him, he little knows me who expects me to
    give him up; if Rinaldo wants the horse, let him seek him in India, as
    I have sought him in France,"- he made the best of his way to Arles,
    where his vessels lay; and in possession of the two objects of his
    ambition, the horse and the sword, sailed away to his own country.

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