196 THE BATTLE OF RONCEVALLES
marched slowly and with great difficulty; fifteen miles away you could hear the sound of their tramping. But when they caught sight of Gascony, of France, where they had left their homes and their wives, there was not a man among them who did not weep for happiness. Charles alone shed tears of sorrow, for he thought of his nephew in the passes of Spain. ' Ganelon has betrayed us,' said he to Duke Naimes,' and he has betrayed Roland too. It was he who caused him to stay behind with the rear-guard, and if I lose him — 0 God ! I shall never find such another.'
The nephew of Marsile had craved a boon, that he and eleven of his comrades should measure themselves against the Twelve Peers of France, and that none but himself should strike the first blow at Roland. The noblest subjects of Marsile flocked at his call, and a gay show they made when ready for battle, and mounted on horses as eager for the fray as themselves. So great was the noise that the sound reached even to the French camp. ' I think, comrade, that it will not be long before we fight with the Saracens,' said Oliver.
'May it be as you say,' answered Roland; 'it is our duty to make a stand here for the King, as one should be ready to suffer all pains for one's liege lord. For him one must endure heat and cold, hunger and thirst, and strike hard blowrs with all one's might, and take heed that no evil song can be made on us after wre are dead. The right is on the side of the Christians. Look to yourselves, for you will never see a bad example from me.'