ADVENTURES OF WILLIAM SHORT NOSE 275
the fatigue of war, the long fasts, and the longer watches ? Before a month had passed you would be dead by the roadside!'
'Put me to the proof,' said he, 'and if you will not have me I will go alone to the Aliscans, and fight barefoot. My only weapon will be an iron-bound staff, and I promise you it shall kill as many Saracens as the best sword among you all.'
' Come then,' answered the Count.
The next morning the army set forth, and Alix and the Queen Blanchefleur watched them go from the steps of the Palace. When Alix saw Rainouart stepping proudly along with his heavy staff on his shoulder her heart stirred, and she said to her mother, ' See, what a goodly young man! In the whole army there is not one like him ! Let me bid him farewell, for nevermore shall I see his match.'
' Peace! my daughter,' answered the Queen, ' I hope indeed that he may never more return to Laon.' But Alix took no heed of her mother's words, but signed to Rainouart to draw near. Then Alix put her arms round his neck, and said, ' Brother, you have been a long time at Court, and now you are going to fight under my uncle's banner. If ever I have given you pain, I ask your pardon.' After that she kissed him, and bade him go.
At Orleans William took leave of his father Count Aimeri and his mother Ermengarde, the noble Countess, who returned to their home at Narbonne, and also of his brothers, who promised to return to meet William under the walls of Orange, which they did faithfully. He himself led his army by a different road, and pressed on quickly till he came in sight of his native city. But little of it could he see, for a great smoke covered all the land, rising up from the burning towers which the Saracens had that morning set on fire. Enter the city they could not, for Gibourc and her ladies held it firm, and, armed with helmets and breastplates, flung stones upon the