178 THE BATTLE OF RONCEVALLES
bears and lions, and dogs to hunt them; seven hundred camels and four hundred mules, loaded with gold and silver, so that he shall have money to pay his soldiers. The messenger shall tell him that on the Feast of St. Michael you yourself will appear before him, and suffer yourself to be converted to the faith of Christ, and that you will be his man and do homage to him. If he asks for hostages, well! send ten or twenty, so as to gain his confidence; the sons of our wives. I myself will offer up my own son, even if it leads to his death. Better they should all die, than that we should lose our country and our lands, and be forced to beg till the end of our lives.' And the nobles answered, 'He has spoken well.'
King Marsile broke up his Council, and chose out those who were to go on the embassy. ' My Lords,' he said, 'you will start at once on your mission to King Charles, and be sure you take olive branches in your hands, and beg him to have pity on me. Tell him that before a month has passed over his head I will follow you with a thousand of my servants, to receive baptism and do him homage. If, besides, he asks for hostages, they shall be sent.' 'It is well,' said Blancandrin, 'the treaty is good.'
The Emperor Charles was happier than he had ever been in his life. He had taken Cordova, and thrown down the walls; his war machines had laid low the towers, and the rich city had been plundered, while every Saracen who refused to be baptized had been slain. Now he felt he might rest, and sought the cool of an orchard, where were already gathered his nephew Roland, with Oliver his comrade, Geoffrey of Anjou his standard bearer, and many other famous Knights. They lay about on white carpets doing what they best liked — some played games, chess or draughts, but these were mostly the old men who were glad to be still: the young ones fenced and tilted. Under a pine tree, close to a sweet-briar, a seat of massive gold was placed, and on it sat the Emperor of the fair country of France, a strong man,