THE BATTLE OF RONCEVALLES 207
and loud. If Marsile and his host fled before them, others not less valiant remained behind, and Roland knew that the hour of his doom was come. And in valour, Oliver was no whit behind him, but flung himself into the thickest of the battle. It was the Caliph who gave Oliver his death blow. ' Charles made a mistake when he left you to guard these defiles,' said he, ' but your life will pay for many that you have slain.' But Oliver was not dead yet, and the taunt of the Caliph stung his blood. With all the strength he had left, he swung his sword Hauteclair on high, and it came down upon the Caliph's helmet with a crash, cleaving it clean through. 'Ah, pagan,' said he, 'you will never boast now of the prizes you have taken in battle.' Then ' Roland! Roland !' he cried, and Roland came. When he saw Oliver before him, livid and bleeding, he swayed on his horse as if he should faint. Oliver's sight was weak and troubled from loss of blood, and not hearing Roland's voice he mNook him for an enemy, and struck him a hard blow on his helmet. This blow restored Roland to his senses, and he sat upright. ' My friend,' said he, ' why have you done this ? I am Roland, who loves you well, and never did I think you could lift your hand against me.'
'I hear you,' answered Oliver, 'I hear you speak, but I cannot see you. If I have struck you, forgive me, for I knew it not.'
' I forgive you from my heart,' said Roland, and they embraced each other for the last time.
The agony of death was falling upon Oliver; his sight had failed, his hearing was fast failing too. Slowly he dismounted from his horse and laid himself painfully on the ground, making, in a loud voice, the confession of his sins. Then he prayed God to bless Charlemagne, fair France, and Roland his friend, and after that his soul left him. And Roland returned and found him dead, and wept for him bitterly. At last he stood up