THE BATTLE OF RONCEVALLES 181
with his beard white as snow. But his rest was short. Soon came the messengers of the Saracen King, and, descending from their mules, they bowed low before him.
It was Blancandrin who first spoke, showing with his hands the presents he had brought with him, and offering that the King would receive baptism, and do homage for his lands, if only the Emperor Charles would return with his army into France, 'for,' said Blancandrin, 'you have been too long in this country.'
When Blancandrin had spoken, the Emperor sat silent with his head bent, thinking of the words of the Saracen, for never was it his custom to be hasty in his speech. At length he looked up, and a proud look was on his face.
'You have said well,' he answered, 'yet King Marsile is my deadly enemy, and how do I know that I can put my trust in your offers ? '
'You will have hostages,' replied the Saracen, 'sons of the highest nobles, and my own son will be among them. And when you have gone back to your own palace, my master will follow you on the Feast of St. Michael, and will be made a Christian in the waters of Aix.'
'If he does this,' said Charles, 'his soul may still be saved,' and he bade hospitality to be shown to his guests.
Before sunrise next morning the Emperor left his bed, and heard Mass said and Matins sung. Then he seated himself under a pine, and called his Barons to council. Many there were whose names men still remember: Ogier the Dane, and Archbishop Turpin of Rheims, and the brave Count of Gascony, Count Roland, nephew of Charles, and his friend the valiant Oliver. Ganelon was there too, by whom the wrong was to be wrought. As soon as they were all seated, the Emperor spoke and told them afresh what the messengers had said. ' But Marsile makes one condition,' continued Charles, ' which is that I must return to France, where he will come to me as my vassal. Now, does he swear falsely, or can I trust his oath ?'