In those times wrestling, which is only practised now by country clowns, was a favourite sport even in the courts of princes, and before fair ladies and princesses. To this wrestling-match therefore Celia and Rosalind went. They found that it was likely to prove a very tragical sight; for a large and powerful man, who had long been practised in the art of wrestling, and had slain many men in contests of this kind, was just going to wrestle with a very young man, who, from his extreme youth and inexperience in the art, the beholders all thought would certainly be killed.
When the duke saw Celia and Rosalind, he said, “How now, daughter and niece, are you crept hither to see the wrestling? You will take little delight in it, there is such odds in the men: in pity to this young roan, I would wish to persuade him from wrestling. Speak to him, ladies, and see if you can move him.”
The ladies were well pleased to perform this humane office, and first Celia entreated the young stranger that he would desist from the attempt; and then Rosalind spoke so kindly to him, and with such feeling consideration for the danger he was about to undergo, that instead of being persuaded by her gentle words to forego his purpose, all his thoughts were bent to distinguish himself by his courage in this lovely lady’s eyes. He refused the request of Celia and Rosalind in such graceful and modest words, that they felt still more concern for him; he concluded his refusal with saying, “I am sorry to deny such fair and excellent ladies any thing. But let your fair eyes and gentle wishes go with me to my trial, wherein if I be conquered, there is one shamed that was never gracious; if I am killed, there is one dead that is willing to die: I shall do my friends no wrong, for I have none to lament me; the world no injury, for in it I have nothing; for I only fill up a place in the world which may be better supplied when I have made it empty.”
And now the wrestling-match began. Celia wished the young stranger might not be hurt; but Rosalind felt most for him. The friendless state which he said he was in, and that he wished to die, made Rosalind think that he was like herself unfortunate; and she pitied him so much, and so deep an interest she took in his danger while he was wrestling, that she might almost be said at that moment to have fallen in love with him.
The kindness shewn this unknown youth by these fair and noble ladies gave him courage and strength, so that he performed wonders; and in the end completely conquered his antagonist, who was so much hurt, that for a while he was unable to speak or move.
The duke Frederick was much pleased with the courage and skill shewn by this young stranger; and desired to know his name and parentage, meaning to take him under his protection.
The stranger said his name was Orlando, and that he was the youngest son of sir Rowland de Boys.