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ing messengers needed not to have great Carle pointed out to them.
The emperor heard the message of Marsile in silence, and dismissing the pagans for the night to a pavilion, called together in council his wisest barons, Duke Ogier, Archbishop Turpin, Gerier, Roland, Olivier, a thousand Franks, among them Ganelon, the step-father of Roland, and laid before them the message of Marsile.
“Rich gifts he offers me, but he demands that I return to France ; thither will he follow me, and at Aix will become a Christian and a vassal. A fair promise, but what is in his heart I cannot tell." After a moment's silence Roland stood forth.
Sire, have no faith in the words of Marsile. When have we found aught but treachery in the Saracen? For seven years I have been winning victories for you here in Spain. Once before you yielded to such a message as this, from this same Marsile, and lost, in consequence, the heads of your Counts Bazan and Bazile. War on as you have begun. Besiege his city! subdue Saragossa!”
Then strode forth the angry Ganelon. “My king, this young hot-head is a fool; hearken not unto him. Accept the offer of Marsile, and lose no more lives by the foolhardiness of one who cares more for his own glory than for human life.”
The voice of the others, among them Duke Naimes, Charlemagne's wisest counsellor and truest vassal, was with Ganelon. The emperor stroked his white beard. “My lords, whom shall we send to meet Marsile at Saragossa ?”
“I will go,” said Duke Naimes.
“Nay, I cannot spare you from my councils,” replied the king.
“I am here !” cried Roland.
“Not you! You are too hot-headed to venture into the court of the enemy!” cried his friend Olivier. “Let me go instead, sire !”
“ Nay!” cried the king. “Silence! Not one of the twelve peers sets his foot in the kingdom of the Moors."
“Then let my step-father go," suggested Roland. “No wiser man than he can be found.”
“Come forward,” said the king, as the Franks murmured assent, “and receive the staff and glove. The Franks have chosen you."
Ganelon rose, wrathful, casting off his fur robe. were gray, his face fierce, his form noble.
“ This is Roland's work. I shall hate him forever, and Olivier, and the twelve peers, because they love him. Ne'er shall I return; full well I know it. If e'er I do, it will be to wreak vengeance on my enemy."
“Go!” said the king. “You have said enough!”
As Ganelon went forward, full of rage, to receive the king's glove, it fell ere he touched it. “ A bad omen!” exclaimed the French.
shall hear of this !” said Ganelon. On his way to Saragossa with the legates of Marsile, Ganelon laid the impious plot that was to result in the destruction of Roland and the peers. It saved his life at Saragossa, where Marsile threatened to kill him on reading Charlemagne's message. He explained carefully to the Saracens how the rear guard, left at Roncesvalles under the command of Roland and the twelve peers, could be destroyed by the pagan forces before the knowledge of the battle could reach Charlemagne, and that, with these props of his kingdom gone, the king's power would be so diminished that Marsile could easily hold out against him. Then the traitor hastened back to Cordova, laden with rich gifts.
When Ganelon rode back, the emperor was preparing to return to sweet France. “ Barons,” said Carle, “whom shall I leave in charge of these deep defiles and narrow passes?"
“My step-son Roland is well able to take the command," said Ganelon ; "he your nephew, whom you prize most of all your knights."
Rage filled the hearts of both Roland and Carle ; but the word was spoken, and Roland must remain. With him remained the twelve peers, his friends, Olivier, his devoted
comrade, the gallant Archbishop Turpin, and twenty thousand valiant knights.
While Charlemagne's army toiled over the terrible gorges and high mountains into Gascony, the emperor, ever grieving over the untimely death his nephew might meet in the defiles of Spain, down came the pagans, who had been gathering on the high mountains and in the murky valleys, – emirs, sons of noble counts were they, brave as the followers of Charlemagne.
When Olivier descried the pagan horde he at once exclaimed, -
“ This is the work of Ganelon!”
“ Hush !” replied Roland. “ He is my step-father. Say no more."
Then Olivier, when from the hill he saw the one hundred thousand Saracens, their helmets bedecked with gold, their shields shining in the sun, besought his friend to sound his horn, the olifant, and summon the king to their aid.
“Never will I so disgrace myself !” exclaimed Roland. “ Never shall sweet France be so dishonored. One hundred thousand blows shall I give with my sword, my Durendal, and the Moors will fall and die!”
When Olivier found his pleading vain, he mounted his steed and rode with Roland to the front of the lines.
Long was the fight and terrible. If gallantry and strength sat with the twelve peers and their followers, they were with their opponents as well. No sooner had Roland, or Olivier, or Turpin, or Engelier cleft the body of a Moorish knight down to the saddle, than down fell a Christian, his helmet broken, his hauberk torn by the lance of his dreaded foe. The nephew of Marsile fell by the hand of Roland, who taunted him as he lay in death; Olivier struck down Marsile's brother. “A noble stroke!” cried Roland."
“A baron's stroke !” exclaimed the archbishop, as Samsun pierced the Almazour with his lance and he fell dead. Olivier spurred over the field, crushing the pagans and beating them down with his broken lance.
“ Comrade, where is thy sword, thy Halteclere ?” called Roland to his friend.
“Here, but I lack time to draw it," replied the doughty Olivier.
More than a thousand blows struck Turpin ; the pagans fell by hundreds and by thousands, and over the field lay scattered those who would nevermore see sweet France.
Meanwhile, in France, hail fell and rain ; the sky was vivid with lightning bolts. The earth shook, and the land
. lay in darkness at noonday. None understood the portent. Alas! it was Nature's grief at the death of Count Roland.
When Roland perceived that in spite of their mighty efforts the passes were still filled with heathen knights, and the French ranks were fast thinning, he said to Olivier, “What think you if we call the king?"
“Never !” exclaimed Olivier. “ Better death now than shame!”
“If I blow, Carle will hear it now and return. I shall blow my olifant,” cried Roland.
“When I begged you to blow it,” said Olivier, "you refused, when you could have saved the lives of all of us. You will show no valor if you blow it now.”
“Great is the strife,” said Roland. “I will blow that Carle may come.”
“Then,” said Olivier, “if I return to France, I pledge you my word my sister Aude shall never be your wife. Your rashness has been the cause of our destruction. Now you shall die here, and here ends our friendship."
Across the field the archbishop spurred to reconcile the friends. “ Carle will come too late to save our lives," said he, “but he will reach the field in time to preserve our mangled bodies and wreak vengeance on our foes.”
Roland put his horn to his lips and blew with such force that his temples burst and the crimson blood poured forth from his mouth. Three times he sounded his horn, and each time the sound brought anguish to the heart of Carle, who heard it, riding thirty leagues away. “ Our men make battle !” cried he; but this Ganelon hastened to deny, insisting that Roland was but hunting and blowing the horn, taking sport among the peers. But Duke Naimes exclaimed,
“Your nephew is in sore distress. He who would deceive you is a traitor. Haste ! Shout your war-cry, and let us return to the battle-field. You yourself hear plainly his call for help!”
Commanding Ganelon to be seized and given to the scullions of his house to be kept for punishment until his return, Carle ordered his men to arm and return to Roncesvalles, that they might, if possible, save the lives of the noble peers. All the army wept aloud as they thought of the doom of Roland. High were the mountains, deep the valleys, swift the rushing streams. The French rode on, answering the sound of the olifant; the emperor rode, filled with grief and rage; the barons spurred their horses, but in vain.
After Roland had sounded the horn he again grasped Durendal, and, mounted on his horse Veillantif, scoured the battle-field, cutting down the heathen. But still their troops pressed him, and when he saw the Ethiopian band led by the uncle of Marsile, he knew his doom had come. Olivier, riding forth to meet the accursed band, received his deathwound from the Kalif, but lived to cut his enemy down, and call Roland to him. Alas! sight had forsaken his eyes, and he sat on his steed he lifted his bright sword Halteclere, and struck Roland a fearful blow that clove his crest but did not touch his head. “Was the blow meant for me, my comrade? ” asked Roland softly. “Nay, I can see no more. God pity me! Pardon me, my friend !” and as the two embraced each other, Olivier fell dead.
Then, in the agony of his grief, Roland fainted, sitting firm in his saddle, and again recovering consciousness, became aware of the terrible losses of the French. Only himself, the archbishop, and the gallant Gaultier de l'Hum were left to defend the honor of the French. After Gaultier fell, Roland, unassisted save by Turpin, who fought transfixed by four spear shafts, put the enemy to fight. Feeling his death wounds, Roland besought Turpin to let him bring together the bodies of his fallen comrades that they might receive the blessing of the archbishop. Weak and trembling from loss of blood, Roland passed to and fro over the