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Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 980 pages of information about The Age of Fable.

ORLANDO MAD

Orlando, on the loss of Angelica, laid aside his crest and arms, and arrayed himself in a suit of black armor expressive of his despair.  In this guise he carried such slaughter among the ranks of the infidels that both armies were astonished at the achievements of the stranger knight.  Mandricardo, who had been absent from the battle, heard the report of these achievements and determined to test for himself the valor of the knight so extolled.  He it was who broke in upon the conference of Zerbino and Isabella, and their benefactor Orlando, as they stood occupied in mutual felicitations, after the happy reunion of the lovers by the prowess of the paladin.

Mandricardo, after contemplating the group for a moment, addressed himself to Orlando in these words:  “Thou must be the man I seek.  For ten days and more I have been on thy track.  The fame of thy exploits has brought me hither, that I may measure my strength with thine.  Thy crest and shield prove thee the same who spread such slaughter among our troops.  But these marks are superfluous, and if I saw thee among a hundred I should know thee by thy martial bearing to be the man I seek.”

“I respect thy courage,” said Orlando; “such a design could not have sprung up in any but a brave and generous soul.  If the desire to see me has brought thee hither, I would, if it were possible, show thee my inmost soul.  I will remove my visor, that you may satisfy your curiosity; but when you have done so I hope that you will also try and see if my valor corresponds to my appearance.”  “Come on,” said the Saracen, “my first wish was to see and know thee; I will not gratify my second.”

Orlando, observing Mandricardo was surprised to see no sword at his side, nor mace at his saddle-bow.  “And what weapon hast thou,” said he, “if thy lance fail thee?”

“Do not concern yourself about that,” said Mandricardo; “I have made many good knights give ground with no other weapon than you see.  Know that I have sworn an oath never to bear a sword until I win back that famous Durindana that Orlando, the paladin, carries.  That sword belongs to the suit of armor which I wear; that only is wanting.  Without doubt it was stolen, but how it got into the hands of Orlando I know not.  But I will make him pay dearly for it when I find him I seek him the more anxiously that I may avenge with his blood the death of King Agrican, my father, whom he treacherously slew.  I am sure he must have done it by treachery, for it was not in his power to subdue in fair fight such a warrior as my father.”

“Thou liest,” cried Orlando; “and all who say so lie.  I am Orlando, whom you seek; yes, I am he who slew your father honorably.  Hold, here is the sword:  you shall have it if your courage avails to merit it.  Though it belongs to me by right, I will not use it in this dispute.  See, I hang it on this tree; you shall be master of it, if you bereave me of life; not else.”

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