ADVENTURES OF WILLIAM SHORT NOSE 273
are easier made than kept. When the feast was over William pressed King Louis to prepare an army at once, so that no time might be lost in giving battle to the Infidels, but the King would bind himself to nothing. ' We will speak of it again,' said he; 'I will tell you to-morrow whether I will go or not.'
At this answer William grew red with rage, and holding out a wand he said to the King: ' I give you back your fief. I will take nothing from you, and henceforth will neither be your friend nor your vassal.'
' Keep your fief,' said Ernaut to his brother,' and leave the King to do as he will. I will help you and my brothers also, and between us twenty thousand men shall march to the Aliscans, and deal death to any Infidels we shall find there.'
' You speak weak words,' cried Aimeri; ' he is Seneschal of France, and also her Standard Bearer; he has a right to our help, and if that fails a right to vengeance.' And Alix approved of his saying, and the Queen likewise.
The King saw that none was on his side and from fear of Aimeri and of his sons he dared refuse no longer. ' Count William, for love of you I will call together my army, and a hundred thousand men shall obey your commands. But I myself will not go with you, for my kingdom needs me badly.'
' Remain, Sire,' answered William, ' I myself will lead the host.' And the King sent out his messengers, and soon a vast army was gathered under the walls of Laon.
It was on one of these days when the Count stood in the great hall that there entered from the kitchen a young man whom he had never seen before. The youth, whose name was Eainouart, was tall; strong as a wild boar, and swift as a deer. The scullions and grooms had played off jests upon him during the night, but had since repented them sorely, for he had caught the leaders up in his arms and broken their heads against the walls. The 18