THE BOOK OF ROMANCE - online children's book

King Arthur, His Court and Knights in the Age of Chivalry, by Andrew Lang

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THE BATTLE OF RONCEVALLES 195
mule shall fall till his price is paid in blows received by the Infidels.' ' You speak well,' said Ganelon, ' and what you say is true.'
Then Roland turned to Charlemagne: ' Give me, 0 King, the bow which you hold in your hand. I will promise not to let it fall, as Ganelon did your glove.'
But the King sat silent, with his head bent, and tears ran down his cheeks. At last Naimes drew near and spoke to him, and among them all Charles had no more faithful friend. ' You have heard, sire, what Count Roland said. If he is to lead the rear-guard — and there is no man that can do it better — give him the bow that you have drawn, for which he asks.' So the King gave it to him, and Roland took it gladly. ' Fair nephew,' said the King, ' I wish to leave half of my army behind with you ; keep it close to you, it will be your safeguard.'
'No,' answered the Count; 'to accept the half of your army would be to shame my race. Leave me twenty thousand Franks, and you will pass the defiles in safety. While I live you need fear no man.' Quickly Count Roland girded on his armour, girded on his sword Duren-dal, the comrade of many fights, and mounted his horse Veillantif, whom all men knew. ' We will follow you to death,' cried the Franks as they saw him. But Roland answered them nothing. The first to come to his side was Oliver, his old companion, then Turpin the Arch­bishop, the Count Gautier, and many more, and after that they chose twenty thousand men, the best that Charles had with him. Some of them he sent, under Count Gautier, to drive the Unbelievers from the hill­top, and that same day they fought a fierce battle. And while Charles and his army entered the pass of Ronce-valles, Roland took up his ground and prepared for the fight, wdiich he knew must come shortly. And Ganelon, the traitor, knew it too.
High were the mountains, and dark the valleys; ter­rible were the defiles amidst the black rocks. The army
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