282 ADVENTURES OF WILLIAM SHORT NOSE
' Let me aid you,' said Bainouart, and catching it up he whirled it round his head, throwing it lightly from hand to hand. ' We are wasting time,' he went on. ' I fear lest the Pagans should fly before we come up with them. If I only have the chance to make them feel the weight of my staff, I shall soon sweep the battlefield clean.' And William embraced him for these words, and ordered the trumpets to be sounded and the army to march.
From her window Gibourc watched them go. She saw the Knights, each with his following, stream out into the plain, their banners floating on the wind, their helmets shining in the sun, their shields glittering with gold. She heard their horses neigh with delight, as they snuffed up the air, and she prayed God to bless all this noble host.
After two days' march they came within sight of the Aliscans, but for five miles round the country was covered by the Pagan army. William perceived that some of his men quailed at the number of the foe, so he turned and spoke to his soldiers. ' My good Lords,' he said, ' a fearful battle awaits us, and we must not give way an inch. If any man feels afraid, let him go back to his own land. This is no place for cowards.'
The cowards heard joyfully, and without shame took the road by which they had come. They spurred their horses and thought themselves safe, but they rejoiced too soon.
At the mouth of a bridge Bainouart met them, and he took them for Pagans who were flying for their lives. But when he saw that they were part of the Christian host he raised his staff and barred their passage. ' Where are you going ? ' asked he. ' To France, for rest,' answered the cowards ; ' the Count has dismissed us, and when we reach our homes we shall bathe ourselves and have good cheer, and see to the rebuilding of our castles, which have fallen into ill-repair during the wars. With