190 THE BATTLE OF RONCEVALLES
' Noble Ganelon,' said Marsile, ' I acted foolishly towards you just now, when, in my anger, I sought to strike you. Let me offer you the mantle of marten fur in amends. It has just arrived from a far country, and is worth five hundred pounds in gold.' ' I accept it gladly,' replied Ganelon as the King hung the cloak round his neck, 'and may you be rewarded in as splendid a gift!'
'Ganelon,' continued the King, 'I wish you to be my friend, though it will not be wise to show you openly my good will. Tell me about Charlemagne, and whether what I have heard of him is really the truth. They say he is very old, nearly two hundred years, and that he has wandered from one country to another and been in the thick of every fight, and has made the most powerful Kings beggars. When will he grow tired of all these wars ? It is time that he rested himself at Aix.'
' No,' said Ganelon, ' those who told you that Charlemagne was like that did not speak truly. My tongue could never tell of his goodness and his honour towards all men. Who could ever paint what Charlemagne is ? I would rather die than leave his service.'
' What you say is wonderful,' replied Marsile, ' but after all he has done, will repose never seem sweet to him ?'
'Not while his nephew Eoland lives,' said Ganelon. ' There is not such a fighter under heaven, and his comrade Oliver is famous also for his prowess. The twelve peers whom the Emperor so dearly loves, with twenty thousand picked men from the van of the army—truly Charlemagne may rest in peace, and fear no man.'
' Fair Lord,' answered Marsile, ' my subjects are the finest you can see, and at any moment I can summon four hundred thousand men to give battle to Charlemagne.'
' You will not conquer him this time,' said Ganelon, 'and in a fight thousands of your soldiers would be killed. Hear my counsel. Send Charles yet more gold and