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A TALE OF ENCHANTMENT.
THE first rays of the morning sun were brilliantly reflected by the polished arms of Ryno and Idallan, as they rode gaily forth in search of adventures. It was not their first similar excursion. As usual with errant knights, they had struck down many a dragon, vanquished many a giant, and rescued many a damsel from the clutches of wicked magicians. Delicate arms had clasped their knees in gratitude, tender bosoms had feverishly beat against their iron breastplates, ruby lips had pledged them in golden cups of the juice of the Syracusan grape, and yet their hearts remained cold and impenetrable as the pure steel of their armour. The delightful consciousness of freedom, strength, and youthful spirits, spoke in their every movement. Stately and beautiful they passed on their way, their sharp lances resting quietly upon their right stirrups, their swords peacefully clinking in their scabbards, and their hands carelessly holding their highly ornamented bridle reins.
Suddenly they heard female voices uttering distressing cries for help. The steeds snorted and pricked up their ears; the knights involuntarily drew a tighter reign, seized their lances, and applied the spur; and thus they darted forward with perfect indifference whether this new adventure should be crowned with wounds or kisses, blows or treasures, a martyr's chains or an hymeneal altar.
Their panting chargers soon bore them to a forest filled with oaks of a thousand years, whence had proceeded those outcries which were now subsiding to sobs so low as to be almost lost to the ear. At length a green meadow opened upon them through the wood, and there, enclosed by a circle of Moors, stood two powerless maidens of angelic beauty, bound to a tree. An old, meagre, yellow monster, in the rich dress of the east, appeared to be feasting himself with gazing upon their charms. He had just drawn a dagger from his girdle and was about to approach one of the maidens, when Ryno and Idallan burst upon them from the thicket with the suddenness of the lightning's flash, and the fury of the storm. Knighterrant like, without asking any questions, they nailed six of the Moors to the nearest oaks with their lances, and then, (as if Vulcan had sent his cyclops to the work,) their blows fell like hail upon the astonished Moors.
Courage, strength, knowledge of the use of arms, and the
consciousness of a good cause, enabled them quickly to overpower their venal opponents. Those, who were not killed by the sword or trampled down by the horses, threw away their weapons and fled. Only the horrid looking yellow old man kept his ground, and he was busily employed in drawing strange characters in the air with a black wand. "You lose your pains!" cried Idallan, laughing. "You must know, sir wizard, that our arms, tempered by the fairy Diamanta, fear no magic charm, and that only superior natural power can prevail against them."
"If you wish a proof of it," interposed Ryno, springing from his horse, "I am here ready for the trial, and you may call back your flying Moors to arm you."
Without answer, but with a glance that disclosed the hell within, the sorcerer strode with uplifted dagger towards his poor bound victim; but Ryno's ready weapon interrupted him in full career. With lifted head the fiend sank to the earth, which immediately opened and swallowed his hideous form; while a blue smoke, accompanied by fearful sounds, gnashing of the teeth and scornful laughter, issued from the spot where he had disappeared.
The knights hastened to the damsels, and by the aid of their bloody swords quickly severed the bands by which they were confined. Water brought from a neighbouring spring soon restored the fainting sufferers to consciousness, and with the first glances of their large blue eyes arose a new sun upon their deliverers. The charming girls cast a shuddering glance upon the field of slaughter, kneeled before the knights with their arms folded in thanksgiving, timidly murmured to them some words in an unknown language, and, after a short internal struggle, rushed into their preservers' arms. An ardent kiss
burned upon the lips of each of the enraptured heroes; but before they could recover from their delightful surprise, the maidens had escaped from their embraces. One bound of their little feet lifted them into the air,-a zephyr expanded their dresses into sails, and with glances of ineffable sweetness they rose high over the gigantic trees, and swept beyond the vision of their astonished beholders.
'By my knightly oath, it is not fair," said Ryno, after a long pause, "to leave us standing here alone."
'It is ungrateful," murmured Idallan.
Ryno. Say not that; for had all my heart's blood flowed upon this spot, the kiss impressed upon my lips would have been a sufficient reward.
Idallan.-I am wounded in the arm.
Ryno. And I in the heart, which is far more dangerous. Idallan.-What is now to be done?
Ryno.-Resume our travels. The heavenly forms moved towards the west, and happily no direction can be the wrong
one for us.
Idallan sighed, and they proceeded towards their horses. "Hold! what do I see?" cried Ryno.
"Where?" asked Idallan.
"A white veil, the earthly covering which the faries left behind them when they mounted into the air."
The two knights rushed towards the veil, and both caught hold of it at the same moment. "It belonged to the damsel saved by me, and is therefore mine!" exclaimed Idallan. Ryno.-I saw it first.
Idallan. My blood flowed in the strife by which we have obtained it!
Ryno.-It is mine, I will not yield it up.
Idallan.-Nor I, but with my life.
Both held the veil fast, and it was in imminent danger of being torn in pieces.
"Hold!" said Ryno. "Why should we senselessly destroy that which, uninjured, would make one of us happy. Let us calmly and peacefully determine our respective claims by an appeal to argument and reason.'
"I never will resign my claim," scornfully exclaimed Idallan. "If you persist in yours, the sword must decide."
Ryno. You are my brother in arms, and wounded; I will not fight with you!
Idallan-Has the struggle with the Moors already exhausted your stock of courage?
Ryno.-Idallan! Even this shall not provoke me!
Idallan in a rage reized the veil, which Ryno reluctantly released, to save it from destruction. He hung it upon a high branch, and placed himself before it with his sword drawn. “The veil is mine, if you are too cowardly to contend for it." The noble Ryno half drew his sword, but, recollecting himself, immediately returned it to its sheath, and was about to mount his horse.
"Do you slight me?" roared Idallan, running after him sword in hand. Ryno was compelled to turn and draw, and a furious battle commenced over the dead bodies of the Moors. The attack and defence were conducted on both sides with equal courage and skill, so that neither obtained any advantage
over the other. Sparks flew at every encounter of their weapons, the frightened birds flew screaming from the place, and the timid deer fled to the protection of the remotest thickets.
Under a natural arch of primeval granite, in the most secluded recess of a wild and savage mountain, was situated the deeply indented cave of the sorceress, Hiorba. The cavern was filled with sieves and cauldrons, mummies and bundles of herbs, hieroglyphics and mirrors, crystal globes and crocodiles, in mystical confusion. Two torches, held by skeleton hands, lighted the whole. In a circle of strange characters and human bones, lay the aged and despairing Hiorba, her face to the ground, frantically tearing the last remains of her silver hair with her withered hands. Two large black cats were caressingly and soothingly purring about her. Suddenly she appeared to be shaken by an electric shock. She arose with flashing eyes, stretched out her magic wand towards the largest of the mirrors, and murmured some words of unknown meaning. Strange confused images appeared upon the clear crystal. As she anxiously watched the figures her interest seemed to increase every moment, and every moment her joy became more plainly visible, until at length she gave a cry of ecstatic delight as Aliande and Daura, her charming foster-daughters, rushed breathlessly into the cave.
"Here we are, good mother," cried Daura, embracing her with ardour.
Escaped from death, from shame, and from the terrible Rasalkol !" cried Aliande, pressing the old woman's hand to her lips with filial love. "Saved by the noblest, bravest and handsomest youths—"
Silence, children!" said the sorceress, interrupting them. "My true mirror has already told me all, and more perhaps than you will be willing to confess."
Blushing and confused, the maidens cast their sparkling eyes upon the ground.
Quickly, ah too quickly, has love for your deliverers found its way to your young hearts. Faithfully until now have I guarded you against this dangerous passion; but the moment in which the traitor Rasalkol succeeded in abducting you from this protecting cavern, my power over you ceased. The reprobate's hellish plan of destroying both you and me has indeed failed; but you may yet one day wish that you had bled under his dagger :-for the sorrows of unrequited love cut more keenly into weak woman's heart than a thousand daggers."
"You do not know our knights," interposed Aliande in a scarcely audible murmur.
"I know them to be men. As the wolf resembles the hyena, and both of these the jackal, so also do the whole profligate sex resemble each other,-differing only in their outward appearance and capacity for seizing their prey. The inexperienced eyes of the harmless doe are easily fascinated by the beautiful stripes of the blood-thirsty tiger!"
Tears trickled down the maidens' cheeks, at this reproof. "I love you my children," continued Hiorba in a tenderer tone. You are the grand-children of my good niece, whom I buried on my hundredth birth day. Willingly would I have rendered you happy, which you can only be in an unmarried state; but you are in love, and all my warnings are spoken to the winds. For once, however, yield to a mother's anxiety : Let me prove the men of your choice."
"Has not their battle with Rasalkol and his Moors already proved them sufficiently?" asked Aliande.
"Their knightly courage,-but not their hearts."
"If all men were proved in advance," answered Daura, with a faint smile, "who would come unscathed from the furnace ?"
"Your questions contain a significant denial of my request," answered Hiorba. "Since you have seen these strangers I have no longer any influence over your hearts. Consider well my last warning.'
She again raised her wand to the mirror and the field of battle again presented itself. Aliande saw the fluttering veil, and the furious contention of the knights.
"For God's sake, Hiorba," shrieked the maidens; "help, protect, save!"
"See you those rough and savage men?" said Hiorba; "They do not know which has the best right to the flimsy web, and yet each knight is ready to murder his brother-inarms for its possession. You have here a specimen of what men call honour; and believe me, as their feet now recklessly trample upon the delicate wood-flower in their deadly struggle, so will the tyranny of their strength, their pride, and their sensuality, trample upon all your tenderest feelings and finally break your hearts."
"Why waste so many words," complained the maidens ; save, good mother, separate the frantic knights."
Shaking her head in token of disapprobation, Hiorba reluctantly took her wand and opened a cage which hung from the