266 ADVENTURES OF WILLIAM SHORT NOSE
the King and tell him who you are. And be not angry, I beseech you, for such are my orders.'
'Be quick, then, my friend,' said William, 'and do not neglect to tell the King that I am in great distress. This is the time to show his love for me; and if he truly does love me, let him come to meet me with the great Lords of his Court. If he does not come, I have no other hope.'
' I will tell him what yon say,' said Sanson, ' and if it rests with me you shall be content.'
Then Sanson went back to the King. ' It is William, the famous William !' he said, ' and he wishes you to go out to meet him.'
'Never!' answered Louis. 'Will he always be a thorn in my side ? Woe be to him who rejoices at his coming.'
So the King sat still, and on the steps of the Palace there gathered Knights and Nobles in goodly numbers, and hardly one but wore a mantle of ermine or marten, a helmet set with precious stones, a sword or a shield which had been given him by William himself. But now they were rich and he was poor, so they mocked at him.
'My lords,' said William, 'you do ill to treat me so. I have loved you all, and you bear the tokens of my love about you at this moment. If I can give you no more gifts, it is because I have lost all I have in the world at the Aliscans. My men are dead, and my nephews are prisoners in the hands of the Saracens. It is the Lady Gibourc who bade me come here, and it is she who asks for help through me. Have pity on us, and help us.' But without a word, they rose up and went into the Palace, and William knew what their love was worth.
The young men told Louis of the words that the Count had spoken, and the King rose and leaned out of the window. ' Sir William,' said he, ' go to the inn, and let them bathe your horse. You seem in a sorry plight, without a groom or esquire to help you.'