The night before the day appointed for the departure of the troops Astolpho mounted his winged horse, and directed his flight towards a mountain, whence the fierce South-wind issues, whose blast raises the sands of the Nubian desert, and whirls them onward in overwhelming clouds. The paladin, by the advice of St. John, had prepared himself with a leather bag, which he placed adroitly, with its mouth open, over the vent whence issues this terrible wind. At the first dawn of morning the wind rushed from its cavern to resume its daily course, and was caught in the bag, and securely tied up. Astolpho, delighted with his prize, returned to his army, placed himself at their head, and commenced his march. The Abyssinians traversed without danger or difficulty those vast fields of sand which separate their country from the kingdoms of Northern Africa, for the terrible South-wind, taken completely captive, had not force enough left to blow out a candle.
Senapus was distressed that he could not furnish any cavalry, for his country, rich in camels and elephants, was destitute of horses. This difficulty the saint had foreseen, and had taught Astolpho the means of remedying. He now put those means in operation. Having reached a place whence he beheld a vast plain and the sea, he chose from his troops those who appeared to be the best made and the most intelligent. These he caused to be arranged in squadrons at the foot of a lofty mountain which bordered the plain, and he himself mounted to the summit to carry into effect his great design. Here he found vast quantities of fragments of rock and pebbles. These he set rolling down the mountain’s side, and, wonderful to relate, as they rolled they grew in size, made themselves bodies, legs, necks, and long faces. Next they began to neigh, to curvet, to scamper on all sides over the plain. Some were bay, some roan, some dapple, some chestnut. The troops at the foot of the mountain exerted themselves to catch these new-created horses, which they easily did, for the miracle had been so considerate as to provide all the horses with bridles and saddles. Astolpho thus suddenly found himself supplied with an excellent corps of cavalry, not fewer (as Archbishop Turpin asserts) than eighty thousand strong. With these troops Astolpho reduced all the country to subjection, and at last arrived before the walls of Agramant’s capital city, Biserta, to which he laid siege.
We must now return to the camp of the Christians, which lay before Arles, to which city the Saracens had retired after being defeated in a night attack led on by Rinaldo. Agramant here received the tidings of the invasion of his country by a fresh enemy, the Abyssinians, and learned that Biserta was in danger of falling into their hands. He took counsel of his officers, and decided to send an embassy to Charles, proposing that the whole quarrel should be submitted to the combat of two warriors, one from each side, according to the issue of which it should be decided which party should pay tribute to the other, and the war should cease. Charlemagne, who had not heard of the favorable turn which affairs had taken in Africa, readily agreed to this proposal, and Rinaldo was selected on the part of the Christians to sustain the combat.