ADVENTURES OF WILLIAM SHORT NOSE 269
give it to those who enrol themselves under your banner. I myself will don breastplate and shield, and will fight in the front rank of your army.'
Aimeri smiled and sighed as he listened to her words, and his son shed tears.
William answered nothing, but remained standing in the middle of the hall, his eyes fixed on his sister sitting on her throne, with a small golden crown upon her head, and on her husband King Louis.
' This, then, 0 King, is the reward of all I have done! When Charlemagne your father died, and all the Barons of the Empire met at Paris, you would have lost your crown if I had not forced them to place it upon your head.'
' That is true,' answered the King, ' and in remembrance of your services I will to-day bestow on you a fief.'
'Yes,' cried Blanchefleur, 'and no doubt will deprive me of one. A nice agreement, truly! Woe to him who dares carry it out.'
'Be silent, woman without shame!' said William. ' Every word you speak proclaims the depth of your baseness ! You pass your days wrapped in rich clothing, eating costly food, and drinking rare wines, and little you care that we endure heat and cold, hunger and thirst, and surfer wounds and death so that your life may be easy.' Then he bounded forwards and tore off the crown, and, drawing his sword, would have cut off her head had not Ermengarde wrenched the weapon from his hands. Before he could seize it again the Queen darted away and took refuge in her chamber, where she fell fainting on the floor.
It was her daughter Alix, the fair and the wise, who raised her up and brought her back to consciousness; then heard with shame the tale she had to tell. 'How could you speak so to my uncle, the best man that ever wore a sword ? ' asked Alix. ' It was he who made you