ADVENTURES OF WILLIAM SHORT NOSE 285
William one has to bear pains without end, and at the last to die suffering. Come with us, if you are a wise man.'
'Ask someone else,' said Rainouart; 'Count William has given me the command of the army, and it is to him that I have to render account. Do you think I shall let you run away like hares ? By Saint-Denis ! not another step shall you stir !' And, swinging his staff round his head, he laid about him. Struck dumb with terror at the sight of their comrades falling rapidly round them they had no mind to go on, and cried with one voice, ' Sir Rainouart, we will return and fight with you in the Aliscans ; you shall lead us whither you will.' So they turned their horses' heads and rode the way they had come, and Rainouart followed, keeping guard over them with his staff. When they reached the army he went straight to William, and begged that he might have the command of them. ' I will change them into a troop of lions,' said he.
Harsh words and gibes greeted the cowards, but Rainouart soon forced the mockers to silence. ' Leave my men alone !' he cried, ' or by the faith I owe to Gibourc I will make you. I am a King's son, and the time has come to show you what manner of man I am. I have idled long, but I will idle no longer. I am of the blood royal, and the saying is true that good blood cannot lie.'
' How well he speaks !' whispered the Franks to each other, for they dared not let their voices be heard.
Now the battle was to begin, for the two armies were drawn up in fighting array, and Rainouart took his place at the head of his cowards opposite the Saracens, from which race he sprang.
The charge was sounded, and the two armies met with a shock, and many a man fell from his horse and was trampled under foot. ' Karbonne ! Narbonne !' shouted Aimeri, advancing within reach of a crossbow