Thomas Bulfinch (17961867). Age of Fable: Vol. IV: Legends of Charlemagne. 1913.
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, slapping 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. Rogeros 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 shepherds hut, where, entering unseen, she found what sufficed for her present relief. An old herdsman inhabited the hut, whose charges 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 widespread 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 herself 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 wizards 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.