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The Fulfilling Of The Prophecy







For a long while Bradamante waited quietly in Marseilles, thinking that

every day Roger would come to her, but as time passed and he gave no

sign she grew heart-sick and impatient. Some evil must surely have

befallen him, she whispered to herself, yet where to seek him she did

not know.



At length one morning, when hope had almost left her, the enchantress

Melissa stood by her side and smiled at her.



'Have no fear for Roger,' said Melissa; 'he is safe, and counts the

hours to your meeting. But once more he has been taken captive by

Atlantes, who ensnared him by putting on your form and face, and

entering his palace, whither Roger followed eagerly. Never look so cast

down, Bradamante, but listen to my counsel and abide by it, and all will

be well.'



Then Bradamante sprang up, grasping tightly her sword and shield.



'Whatever you tell me to do, I will do it,' cried she; and Melissa went

on:



'This time Atlantes will change his shape for that of Roger, that you

also may fall a victim to his wiles. Beware lest you be deceived, or

instead of saving Roger you will find yourself also a prisoner in the

castle. Harden your heart, and slay him as he stands before you, and

Roger shall be free for evermore.'



So spoke Melissa not once, but many times, before they drew near the

castle, where she bade farewell to Bradamante, dreading that the wizard

should see her and take fright. The maiden rode on till she reached an

open space, where two fierce giants were pressing Roger sore and

well-nigh overcoming him. In a moment all the words of Melissa were

forgotten, or rather she deemed that jealousy or revenge had prompted

her words. And, as these thoughts ran swiftly through her, a cry for

help sounded in her ears. Slay Roger? Melissa must have indeed been mad

when she gave her this counsel, and, spurring her horse, she galloped

after the wounded knight, who, pursued by his foes, was riding at full

speed to the castle.



When they were all four inside the courtyard, the gate swung to and

Bradamante was a prisoner.



Now it was written in the magic book carried by Astolfo, the knight who

had been changed by Alcina into a myrtle tree and restored by Melissa,

that if a stone on the threshold were raised, the whole palace would

vanish into smoke as the other castle had done before. Though he knew it

not, Melissa stood by his side as he rode through the wood, many weeks

after Bradamante had entered the castle, and whispered to him that the

time had come to prove the truth of the prophecy. First blowing a blast

with the horn which affrighted all that dwelt within the walls, with a

mighty heave he raised the magic stone. In an instant the earth rocked,

and he was thrown flat upon the ground, while with a roar the castle

crumbled into dust. The knights and ladies imprisoned therein ran forth

in fear, and it was not until the ill-fated place was left far behind

that they stopped to look about them.



It was then that Roger and Bradamante beheld each other once more, and

in the joy of meeting forgot the pains they had endured since they had

parted. But one promise Bradamante asked of Roger before she would be

his wife. 'I cannot wed an infidel,' said she. 'You must become a

Christian first.'



'Right willingly,' answered Roger, and it was agreed between them that

they should set out at once for a fair abbey, so that the rite might be

delayed no longer.



Thus they talked; but not yet were they to be united. On their way a

distressed damsel met them on the road imploring help, which both knight

and lady readily granted. But, alas! in seeking to give the aid prayed

of them they strayed unwittingly down various roads, and it was long

before fortune again brought them together. For hardly had Roger brought

to an end his adventure than he learned that his liege lord, Agramante

king of Africa, was hard pressed by Charlemagne the emperor, and needed

his vassal to fight by his side. So Roger turned his face to the west,

first bidding his squire ride back to Bradamante and tell her that, once

the war was finished, nothing further should delay his baptism.



The war went ill with Agramante, and many a time Roger was sore wounded

and like to die. Far away, in the house of her father among the

mountains, tales came now and then to Bradamante of Roger's doings in

the fight. Bitterly her soul chafed at not being by his side to help and

tend him; but, if she could not fight against him, far less could she

fight in the ranks of the infidels. Thus, weary at heart, she waited and

sat still, or wandered about the forests, hoping to meet someone who

could bring her tidings of Roger.



For long no one came through the thick dark woods, and Bradamante was

almost sick with despair, when a Gascon knight rode by.



'Are you from the war, brave sir?' asked she, springing up from the bank

where she had cast herself, and going eagerly to meet him. 'Are you from

the war, and have you news from one Roger?'



'Alas! madam,' he answered, 'but a month since he was sore wounded in

fight with one Mandricado, and has since lain in his bed, tended by the

lady Marfisa, who wears a breast-plate as easily as she does a woman's

gown. Had it not been for her skill, Roger would long have been buried,

and when he is able to bear arms again doubtless he will offer his hand

to the damsel in marriage. At least, so say all in camp. But the sun is

low and time presses. I must begone.'



He went on his way, and when he was out of sight Bradamante turned and

loosed her horse from the tree to which she had tied him and rode back

to the castle. Without a word she mounted the stairs to the tower where

she dwelt, and, throwing herself on her bed, gave vent to the torrents

of jealousy which possessed her soul. Then, rising up, she bade her

maidens weave her with all speed a sad-coloured mantle, and when it was

ready she took the lance of gold belonging to Astolfo, which had (though

she knew it not) the gift of unhorsing every warrior whom it touched,

and, going to the courtyard, led out and saddled her horse.



Alone, without even a squire to help her, Bradamante began her journey

to Arles, where the army of Agramante lay encamped. On the road thither

she met with many an adventure, but by the aid of the golden lance

always bore down her foe. After one of these fights she fell in with the

Lady Flordelice, who was herself riding to Arles in the hope of gaining

news of her husband, now a prisoner in the hands of the Moors. By her

Bradamante sent a message challenging Roger to come forth to meet her in

single combat.



'And if he asks my name say it is unknown to you,' she added, 'but that

the stranger knight had bidden you take this horse, and prayed that he

might bestride it in battle.'



Flordelice was careful to fulfil the trust laid upon her, and no sooner

was she within the gates of Arles than she sought out Roger and

delivered him the message and the horse. The young man, perplexed at the

defiance of the nameless knight, sought counsel of his father, who bade

him accept the challenge and prepare for battle without delay. While he

was making ready other knights were not slow to seize the chance of

giving the haughty Christian a lesson, and went out to fight in the

plain beyond the walls. But a single touch of the magic lance was enough

to unhorse them all, and one by one Bradamante sent them to their lord.



'Tell him I await a better man than you,' said she.



'And what is his name?' asked Ferrau of Spain when he rode before her,

having craved permission to try his strength against the stranger.



'Roger,' answered she, and, as her vizor was raised, Ferrau could not

but see the red that flushed her face, though he feigned to notice

nothing.



'He shall come to you,' replied Ferrau, 'but first you must cross swords

with me,' and, spurring his horse, he rode to share the fate of the

rest.



Right glad was Roger to hear that the peerless knight Ferrau had been

borne down like those who had gone before him, and that it was he and no

other whom the victor wished to fight. But the courtiers of King

Agramante now thronged around Ferrau, asking if perchance he had seen

the face of his foe, and knew it for having beheld it elsewhere.



'Yes, I saw it,' said Ferrau, 'and it bore something of the semblance of

Rinaldo. But since we know that it cannot be, and that the young Ricardo

has neither the strength nor the skill to unhorse so many well-proved

knights, it can be none other than their sister Bradamante. Truly she is

mightier even than Rinaldo or her cousin Roland the Wrathful.'



At that Roger started, and his cheeks reddened even as those of

Bradamante had done. He stood silent and awkward under the eyes of the

whole court, for he feared to meet Bradamante and to read in her face

that during the long months of his absence her love had given place to

anger.



While Roger waited, uncertain whether to accept or refuse the challenge

of Bradamante, Marfisa buckled on her coat of mail, and rode out in his

stead to meet the foe. Bradamante felt in her heart who the knight was

with the plume of blue and shining golden corselet, and hate burned in

her soul as fiercely as in the breast of the other.



Thrice the magic lance stretched Marfisa on the ground, and thrice she

rose and sought to avenge herself by a sword-thrust. At this point a

body of knights, with Roger in their midst, arrived upon the field,

while a band of pagan warriors approached from the opposite side. Blows

were soon struck, and Bradamante, caring nothing for her own life,

galloped wildly about seeking to catch sight of Roger.



The silver eagle on a blue shield was hard to find, but Bradamante found

it at last, and crying, 'Traitor, defend yourself!' dashed wildly at

him. Yet, in spite of herself, the arm which had been strong before was

strangely weak now, and Roger could, with one thrust, have borne her off

her horse, but instead his lance remained in air; she might slay him if

so she chose; she had the right, but every hair of her head was safe

from him.



So the day that began so badly ended happily for them all. Roger renewed

his vow and became a Christian, but once more declared that by all the

laws of honour and chivalry he could not desert Agramante in his dire

straits. Fate again divided him from Bradamante, and sent him to join

the army of Agramante, which had been worsted in many battles. The king

had broken a truce with Charlemagne, and was trying to collect men and

ships in Africa, and Roger felt that he was bound in honour to go to his

aid. He put off in a small barque, but a violent tempest drove them up

and down all night, and cast Roger at dawn upon a barren shore. But, so

exhausted was he by his fight with the waves, that even yet he must have

died from hunger and cold had not a hermit who dwelt in a cave close by

come to his help. Here Roger rested till his strength came back to him,

and before he bade farewell to the hermit he had been baptized a

Christian.



No sooner was Roger healed from the hurts given him by the winds and

waves, than he watched eagerly for a passing boat that might take him

back to France. He waited and watched for long, but at length a ship put

into the island, having on board both Rinaldo and Roland. Right welcome

did they make Roger, whom both knew to be the flower of infidel

chivalry, and when they heard that, Agramante being slain in battle,

Roger was free to swear fealty to the emperor, and had besides been

baptized a Christian, Rinaldo at once promised him the hand of his

sister Bradamante.



And now it may well be thought that the time had come for the prophecy

of Melissa to be fulfilled, and for Roger and Bradamante to receive the

marriage blessing. But their happiness was to be delayed still further,

for the old duke Aymon declared that he had chosen a husband for his

daughter in the son of Constantine, emperor of the East, and not all the

tears and prayers of Bradamante and Rinaldo would move him one whit. By

the help of her brother, Bradamante contrived once more to see Roger,

who bade her take heart, as he would himself go to Constantinople and

fight the upstart prince and dethrone his father, then he would seize

the crown for himself, and Bradamante should be empress after all. At

these words Bradamante plucked up her courage and they embraced and

parted.



After Roger had set forth the days hung heavily at duke Aymon's court,

till one night, as Bradamante was lying awake, wondering if the vision

of Melissa would ever come to pass, she saw suddenly a way out of her

distresses. So the next morning she rose early, and fastening on her

armour, left her father's castle for Charlemagne's camp. Craving speedy

audience of the emperor, she besought him as a boon that he would order

proclamation to be made that no man should be given her for husband till

he had first overcome her in battle. To this Charlemagne consented,

although duke Aymon, who had followed his daughter, prayed the emperor

to refuse her this grace, and the old man, waxing very wroth at his

defeat, shut up the damsel in a strong tower between Perpignan and

Carcassonne.



* * * * *



While these things were taking place at home, Roger had reached the

shores of Constantinople, and learned that the emperor of the East was

engaged in a fight with the Bulgars, and that his army was encamped in a

field near Belgrade. Thither Roger rode with all the speed he might, and

finding that the king of the Bulgars had just been slain by the hand of

Leo, son of Constantine, he offered to be the leader of the army, and

soon put the Greeks to flight. Indeed, such were his mighty deeds, that

Leo himself, rival (though he knew it not) of Roger, could not fail to

wonder at them. When the battle was over, the Bulgarian army begged him

to be their king, so sure were they that victory would follow his

banner; but he declined, for the secret reason that he purposed to

follow the prince, and slay him in single combat.



But instead of killing each other these two brave knights ended in

becoming friends and brothers, for Leo delivered Roger from prison,

where he had unjustly been thrown by the sister of Constantine, and they

both journeyed together to France, to enter the lists for the hand of

Bradamante.



Although they travelled with all the speed they might, they only arrived

at the appointed place outside Paris on the day of the combat, when

Bradamante was arming herself for the struggle. The prince knew well by

this time that it was hopeless for him to think of winning for himself

the love that had so long been given to another, and he prayed Roger to

do him the grace to wear his arms and to bear his name in the tourney.

It cost Roger somewhat to lay aside the arms and the name that had stood

him for many a year in such good stead, but he owed the prince too much

to say him nay, although to bid farewell to Bradamante when he had won

the prize in fair fight would be bitter indeed.



* * * * *



With a double-headed eagle on Leo's crimson shield, and Leo's velvet

surcoat over his coat of mail, Roger did obeisance to the emperor and

then walked into the lists. He had chosen to give battle on foot, since

Bradamante was riding his horse Frontino.



All day long the combat lasted, and, as Bradamante had been unable to

bear down her foe, she was proclaimed vanquished. But of what value was

the victory to him, seeing that he had gained the reward for another?

So, hastily stripping off the armour belonging to the Greek prince, he

left the tent unseen, and, catching sight of Frontino grazing quietly

among some trees, sprang quickly on his back and plunged into the

forest.



'Let death come soon,' he said to himself, 'since life is worthless.'



Meanwhile the court in Paris rang with the name of Leo the prince, and

duke Aymon informed his daughter that the marriage feast need no longer

be postponed. But to this Bradamante turned a deaf ear.



'I will wed none but Roger,' she cried, and though her parents taunted

her with her broken vow, and threatened her with the wrath of the

emperor, she would give no other answer.



'I can always die,' she thought to herself.



The court was all confusion and perplexity; the emperor loved

Bradamante, but he did not wish to offend either her powerful father or

the still more powerful Constantine. The test had been proposed by

Bradamante herself, and how could he give permission that she should

break her plighted word?



It was Melissa who once more set this tangle straight. She appeared to

Leo, who was standing idly at his tent door, and told him that Roger was

dying in the depths of the forest. The prince, who had grieved sorely

for the loss of his friend, heard eagerly her tale, and consented gladly

to go with her to seek him.



The Roger whom they found at last was very different from the Roger who

had entered the lists but three days agone. His face was pale, his hair

was damp, his clothes hung loosely on his body. Leo's heart smote him as

he gazed, and, sinking on his knees beside Roger, he pulled his hands

gently down from his face.



It was not long before he had drawn out from the young knight the secret

which Roger had hidden so carefully when he had thought that honour and

gratitude demanded it. Leo listened in amaze and took shame to himself

that he had never guessed it sooner.



'Oh, Roger,' he cried, when at length the tale was ended, 'sooner would

I give up a thousand Bradamantes and all I possess in the world than

lose a friend so noble and generous as you. So rise quickly and let us

hasten back to where Bradamante awaits us.'



And so the prophecy was fulfilled in the end, and everyone was made

happy. Yes, even duke Aymon and his wife Beatrice; for before the

wedding rejoicings were begun an embassy arrived from the Bulgarian

people, begging leave from the emperor Charlemagne to offer their crown

to his vassal Roger. And nobody grudged Roger and Bradamante their

happiness, for they had waited so long for it, and worked so hard for

it.





Next: The Knight Of The Sun

Previous: The Ring Of Bradamante



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