Hero Tales

Page: 67

"Forget not the war cry of Charlemagne," said Oliver.

At these words the rocks and valleys rang with the cry, "Monjoie!
Monjoie!" And every warrior dashed forward to meet the foe.

Long and fierce was the fight, and terrible was the slaughter. With heart and strength the French knights struck. The Moors were slain by hundreds and by thousands. For a time victory seemed to be with the French. Many and valiant were the deeds achieved by Roland and Oliver and the archbishop and the peers that were with them. But at length Marsilius came down upon them with a fresh troop of seven thousand Moors. They hemmed the French heroes in on every side. Roland saw his knights falling one by one around him. All were slain save sixty men.

"Oliver, my fair dear comrade," said he, "behold how many brave vassals have fallen! The battle goes hard with us. If, now, we only knew how to send news to Charlemagne, he would return and succor us."

"It is too late," answered Oliver. "Better would we die than suffer shame."

Then said Roland, "I will sound my ivory horn. Mayhap Charlemagne, who is passing the gates of Spain, will hear it and return."

"Do no such thing," answered Oliver. "Great shame would be upon you and your kinsmen forever. You would not blow your horn when I advised it, and now you shall not do so because the day is lost."

Then the archbishop rode up, and said, "The day is indeed lost, and to blow the horn would now no more avail us. But, should the king hear it, he will come back through the passes. He will find us dead: his men will lift us in biers and carry us home to be buried in minsters, and we shall not be left as food for wolves and dogs."

"Thou sayest well," said Roland. And he placed the horn to his lips. High were the hills, deep and dark were the gorges, narrow were the ways among the mountains. Yet the sound of that horn was heard for thirty leagues. Charlemagne and Duke Namon heard it while yet they were between the gates.

"Hark!" said the king. "I hear Roland's horn. The felon Moors have attacked him: he is hard pressed in battle."

"You are foolishly mistaken," said Ganelon. "There is no battle. You are old, your beard is white, your head is flowery, you are growing childish. You love your silly nephew, Roland, too well. He is only hunting among the mountains. He would blow his horn all day for a single hare, and then he would boast before you of his valor. Ride on. Your own France is not far ahead."

But the king was not to be deceived. He ordered Ganelon to be seized and bound and given in charge of his cooks, who were to hold him a close prisoner. They bound him with a great chain, and laid him across the back of a sumter horse; they pulled his beard; they struck him with their fists; they beat him with sticks. Sorry indeed was the traitor's plight, but his punishment was just. As for Charlemagne, he turned and with all his host hastened back to the succor of Roland and the valiant rear-guard. High were the mountain walls, and darkly did they overhang the way; deep were the mountain gorges; swift and strong were the torrents; narrow and steep was the road. The trumpets sounded: anxiously and with haste the king and his horsemen retraced their steps.