Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 75

“Yes, I shall go, but I shall perish as did your two former ambassadors. Sire, forget not that your sister is my wife, and that Baldwin, my son, will be a valiant champion if he lives. I leave to him my lands and fiefs. Sire, guard him well, for I shall see him no more.”

“Your heart is too tender,” said Charlemagne. “You must go, since such is my command.”

He Threatens Roland

Ganelon, in rage and anguish, glared round the council, and his face drew all eyes, so fiercely he looked at Roland.

“Madman,” said he, “all men know that I am thy stepfather, and for this cause thou hast sent me to Marsile, that I may perish! But if I return I will be revenged on thee.”

[Pg 129] “Madness and pride,” Roland retorted, “have no terrors for me; but this embassy demands a prudent man not an angry fool: if Charles consents, I will do his errand for thee.”

“Thou shalt not. Thou art not my vassal, to do my work, and Charles, my lord, has given me his commands. I go to Saragossa; but there will I find some way to vent my anger.”

Now Roland began to laugh, so wild did his stepfather’s threats seem, and the laughter stung Ganelon to madness. “I hate you,” he cried to Roland; “you have brought this unjust choice on me.” Then, turning to the emperor: “Mighty lord, behold me ready to fulfil your commands.”

But is Sent

“Fair Lord Ganelon,” spoke Charlemagne, “bear this message to Marsile. He must become my vassal and receive holy baptism. Half of Spain shall be his fief; the other half is for Count Roland. If Marsile does not accept these terms I will besiege Saragossa, capture the town, and lead Marsile prisoner to Aix, where he shall die in shame and torment. Take this letter, sealed with my seal, and deliver it into the king’s own right hand.”

Thereupon Charlemagne held out his right-hand glove to Ganelon, who would fain have refused it. So reluctant was he to grasp it that the glove fell to the ground. “Ah, God!” cried the Franks, “what an evil omen! What woes will come to us from this embassy!” “You shall hear full tidings,” quoth Ganelon. “Now, sire, dismiss me, for I have no time to lose.” Very solemnly Charlemagne raised his hand and made the sign of the Cross over Ganelon, and gave him his blessing, saying, “Go, for the honour of Jesus [Pg 130] Christ, and for your Emperor.” So Ganelon took his leave, and returned to his lodging, where he prepared for his journey, and bade farewell to the weeping retainers whom he left behind, though they begged to accompany him. “God forbid,” cried he, “that so many brave knights should die! Rather will I die alone. You, sirs, return to our fair France, greet well my wife, guard my son Baldwin, and defend his fief!”