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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202 THE BATTLE OF RONCEVALLES
of the Franks were broken, and their shields were for the most part split in two, but three hundred naked swords still were left to deal blows at the shining hel­mets of the Infidels. ' Help ! help ! 0 King !' cried the Saracens, and Marsile heard, and answered, ' Better die than flee before these Franks. Let no one think of him­self, but all press round Roland. If Roland dies, Charles is conquered. If Roland lives, all is over for us !' But Roland, with Oliver at his side, swept a clear space with Durendal, and none might come near him ; the Archbishop kept his enemies at bay with his lance. Four times the Franks endured the shock of the onset, but at the fifth they were borne down by numbers, and now only sixty remained upon the ground.
Then Roland turned to Oliver and said, ' Fair sir and dearest friend, well may we pity France who will hence­forth be widowed of such brave warriors. 0 Charles, my King, why do you not come to us ? Oliver, tell me, how can we let him know what straits we are in ?' ' There is no way,' said Oliver, ' and death rather than dishonour.'
' I will sound my horn,' said Roland, ' and Charles will hear, and come back through the defiles. I know that the Franks will retrace their steps and come to our aid.'
' That would be a shameful thing for them,' replied Oliver ; ' all our kinsfolk would blush for us for ever, and we should likewise blush for ourselves. When I begged you to do it you would not, and now the time is past.'
' The battle is sore,' said Roland, ' I shall sound the horn, and Charles will hear it.'
' You refused to do it while yet there was time,' answered Oliver. ' If the Emperor had come then, so many of our best warriors would not be lying dead be­fore us. It is not his fault that he is not here. But if you sound the horn now, I will never give you my sister, the fair Aude, for your wife.'
' Why do you bear such malice ?' said Roland.
' It is your fault,' answered Oliver. ' Courage and
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