286 AD VENTURES OF WILLIAM SHOR T NOSE
shot, and he would have been slain had not his sons dashed to his rescue. Count William did miracles, and the Saracens were driven so far back that Rainouart feared that the battle would be ended before he had struck a blow.
Followed by his troop of cowards Rainouart made straight for the enemy, and before him they fell as corn before a sickle. ' Strike, soldiers,' shouted he ; ' strike and avenge the noble Vivian; woe to the King Desrame if he crosses my path.' And a messenger came and said to Desrame, ' It is Rainouart with the iron staff, the strongest man in the world.'
Rainouart and his cowards pressed on and on, and the Saracens fell back, step by step, till they reached the sea, where their ships were anchored.
Then Rainouart drove his staff in the sand, and by its help swung himself on board a small vessel, which happened to be the very one in which the nephews of William were imprisoned. He laid about him right and left with his staff, till lie had slain all the gaolers, and at last he came to a young man whose eyes were bandaged and his feet tied together. ' Who are you ?' asked Rainouart.
' I am Bertrand of France, nephew of William Short Nose. Four months ago I was taken captive by the Pagans, and if, as I think, they carry me into Arabia, then may God have pity upon my soul, for it is all over with my body.'
' Sir Count,' answered Rainouart, ' for love of William I will deliver you.'
Bertrand was set free and his companions also. Seizing the weapons of the dead Saracens, they scrambled on shore, and, while fighting for their lives, looked about for their uncle, whom they knew at last by the sweep of his sword, which kept a clean space round him. More than once Rainouart swept back fresh foes that were pressing forwards till the tide of battle carried him away and