The Ring Of Bradamante
When Bradamante had freed Roger and his companions from the enchanted
castle, she thought that henceforth they would never more be parted. But
she forgot that she had to deal with a wizard, and that wizards are not
On a little plain beneath the mountain the winged horse was grazing, and
when the knights and ladies came gaily down the path Bradamante left the
rest and went up to take it by the bridle. Atlantes, however, had laid
other plans, and had thrown a spell over the horse, so that directly
Bradamante was close to it the creature moved away to a little distance.
At this the knights, thinking to help her, gave chase, but the horse led
them up and down the mountain, over rocks and through streams, till one
by one they dropped behind, and in front there remained only Roger.
As it had been taught by Atlantes, the horse stood still, while Roger,
with a cry of delight, seized the bridle and jumped upon its back. With
a bound it sprang into the air, and, though Roger tried to guide it
downwards to the earth, it was all in vain, for so the enchanter had
willed it. Below stood Bradamante gazing up; her joy turned quickly to
despair, and when the traces of Roger had vanished she rode sadly away,
taking with her the horse Roger had left behind.
Meanwhile Roger was flying through the air swifter than an arrow or the
lightning. Since he could not make the horse swerve an hair's breadth to
the right or left, he ceased his useless efforts, and let himself be
carried this way or that. Suddenly he felt that, instead of going
forward they were gradually dropping down, down, down; and soon the
horse stopped on a lovely island.
Where the island might be Roger did not know, nor could he tell how long
he had been on his journey thither. In truth, he was content to feel
himself on solid ground once more, and to smell sweet flowers and eat
delicious fruits, for how could he guess that this also was devised by
Atlantes--that these sights and sounds might lull his senses, and keep
him safe from war? Atlantes was a great wizard and wise beyond most, but
he had never learned that it was a better thing to die in battle than to
live only for pleasure.
On reaching the ground Roger was careful to hold fast the bridle, having
no mind that the horse should fly up into the air and leave him helpless
on the island. Then, looking round, he saw a strong myrtle, and he tied
the reins tightly to it, so that he himself could roam about as he
At length he grew tired of wandering and returned to the place where he
had left his horse, which he found champing and struggling to shake
itself free. As he drew near a voice cried in melancholy tones:
'If, as I think, you are a knight, and bound by the rules of chivalry,
release me, I pray you, from this monster, who only adds to the pains
which I myself endure.'
Startled at the sound, Roger looked around, but nought could he see save
the myrtle to which the horse was fastened.
'I crave your pardon,' answered he, 'for having unwittingly done you
wrong; but tell me who you are, and what has caused your present
'I am Astolfo, peer of France,' replied the tree, 'and I was enchanted
by the fairy Alcina, who thus rids herself of her friends and her
servants when they have ceased to please her. Even this island is not
hers by right, but was stolen from her sister Logistilla, who is as wise
and kind as Alcina is wicked. But so beautiful is Alcina, that none can
withstand her if once she looks on them, therefore fly while you may and
ask counsel of Logistilla if there is aught that you would know.'
'Oh, tell me, good tree, how I can escape without crossing the path of
the cruel Alcina?' cried Roger.
'There _is_ a way,' answered the tree, 'but it is rough to the feet, and
beset by fierce and ill-tongued men, placed there by the fairy. He who
would quit Alcina's isle needs open eyes and deaf ears.'
'I will have both,' said Roger.
But, alas! he boasted overmuch, as young men are wont to do. He was
indeed in no wise affrighted at the strange shapes that met him and
sought to bar his progress. Some had heads of apes and feet of goats;
some rode eagles or bestrode cranes; while the captain of all was
mounted on a tortoise. They swarmed on him like a crowd of flies, and
Roger was so sore bested that he gave no thought to his magic shield,
which perchance might have saved him.
For into the _melee_ came two maidens of such wondrous beauty that Roger
dropped his lance and stood without defence to gaze his fill. Two
snow-white unicorns bore them from the city gates, and, at their coming,
the noisy rabble vanished as if they had never been. Then the ladies
stretched out their hands, and prayed the knight to follow them into the
'We have need of your brave heart and mighty arm,' they said, 'to
vanquish a giantess who guards a bridge which none can pass'; and well
they knew that, if Roger was to be ensnared by them, it must be by slow
degrees, for not all at once would he drop into the idle life of the
dwellers on the island.
So, nothing loth, Roger gladly did their behest, and went forth to meet
The fight did not last long, and soon the monstrous creature lay
stretched on the ground at Roger's feet; but her life was spared at the
request of the damsels, and at their bidding he followed them over the
bridge and up a hill. On the top was a large meadow full of flowers, in
which maidens were playing at ball or singing sweet songs on the lute,
while others were dancing.
In their midst was a damsel so fair that the rest, even the guides of
Roger, looked swarthy beside her, and she came forth from among them,
and held out her hand for him to kiss.
Vain it were to seek to tell Alcina's charms, but even as his eyes fell
on her Roger felt that everything said by Astolfo in her despite was
false. Even Bradamante was forgotten, as if she had never lived at all;
yet for this Roger was hardly to blame, for how should he stand against
* * * * *
It was here that Melissa, clad in the form of Atlantes, found him after
many months had gone by, during which Bradamante had sought him vainly.
At last fate brought Melissa again across her path, and from her the
forsaken damsel learnt who it was that kept him from her.
'Be comforted,' said Melissa, when she beheld Bradamante's tears. 'You
yourself have the ring which can free him from those evil spells, and
bring him back to your side. So lend it me, I pray, and by to-morrow's
dawn I will be with him.'
Roger was lying on a bed of soft moss, when Atlantes, for so he took her
to be, stood before him.
He lifted his head lazily, and smiled, but the face of his old master
was grave as he said sternly:
'And is it _you_, Roger, whom I find thus, your hair curled and scented,
your neck circled with jewelled chains? Was it for this you passed your
boyhood in waging war against fierce beasts, fearing neither hunger nor
thirst as you tracked them to their lair? But, as I loved you once, I
will give you a chance to shake off this shameful life, and to become
once more worthy of Bradamante. Take this ring, and when next Alcina
comes this way mark well the change that is wrought in the queen of this
With shame and repentance burning at his heart, Roger slowly drew the
ring upon his finger; and by its virtue he beheld not Atlantes but
'Yes, it is I,' she said, 'and it is Bradamante who sent me hither, to
save you by means of the ring which she took from the hand of Brunello.
It will break the strongest spells that wizard ever wove, and open wide
the eyes that have been longest blinded.'
With that she vanished, and Roger rose and followed the path which led
to the palace.
On the marble steps he saw, as he went, a troop of ladies standing.
Their clothes were rich and made of shining stuffs, and well became
their golden hair or curly raven locks; but who was she in their midst
whose form was unknown to him? Her back was bowed with age, and scarce a
hair remained upon her head, while all her skin was shrivelled and
yellow. Roger gazed in horror, expecting, as he looked, the lean body to
crumble into dust before him. Yet something, what he knew not, seemed
not wholly strange in that pale and shrunken figure--something that, in
spite of all, spoke to him of Alcina. A thrill of horror ran through
him, but he remembered in time the counsel of Melissa, and, trembling
though he was, he greeted her with fair words.
Dreading lest he should again fall under the fairy's enchantments, Roger
never parted from the ring, and kept guard over himself, lest perchance
Alcina should guess what was passing within him. To gain possession of
his armour, long laid aside, he feigned a wish to prove if his life of
idleness had unfitted him to bear the weight of it, or if his chest had
grown too broad for the clasps of his breast-plate to meet. Then,
laughing still, he strolled carelessly to the stables, calling back as
he went that perhaps his horse might have become as fat and lazy as
himself. But when he reached the stables he passed by the winged steed
which had borne him to the island, for he bethought himself once more of
Melissa's words: 'Beware of the hippogryph,' she had said, 'you will
never wed Bradamante if you mount that.' So he left the great creature
flapping its wings with longing to soar once more into the sky, and led
out a strong black horse. Vaulting on his back, he touched him with his
spurs, and dashed through the guards at the gate before Alcina knew that
her captive had won his freedom.
When the fairy found that the knight did not return, she sent a
messenger for tidings of him, and so great was her wrath when she
learned that he had passed the gate, and was far on the road to her
sister, the good Logistilla, that she ordered all the guards to be put
to death. Then she commanded her ships to be got ready, and put to sea
herself, thinking by that means she might bring him back. But all was
vain, and at last she was forced to believe that Roger had shaken off
her yoke for ever.
Next: The Fulfilling Of The Prophecy
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