A Book of Myths
Page: 133“Thou hast done well, Ganelon,” said the king. “I give thanks to my God and to thee. Thou shalt be well rewarded.”
The order then was speedily given for a return to France, and for ten miles the great army marched before they halted and encamped for the night. But when Charlemagne slept, instead of dreams of peace he had two dreams which disturbed him greatly. In the first, Ganelon roughly seized the imperial spear of tough ash-wood and it broke into splinters in his hand. In the next, Charlemagne saw himself attacked by a leopard and a bear, which tore off his right arm, and as a greyhound darted to his aid he awoke, and rose from his couch heavy at heart because of those dreams of evil omen.
In the morning he held a council and reminded his knights of the dangers of the lonely pass of Roncesvalles. It was a small oval plain, shut in all round, save on the south where the river found its outlet, by precipitous mountain ridges densely covered with beech woods. Mountains ran sheer up to the sky above it, precipices rushed sheer down below, and the path that crossed the crest of the Pyrenees and led to it was so narrow that it must be traversed in single file. The [Pg 276] dangers for the rearguard naturally seemed to Charlemagne to be the greatest, and to his Douzeperes he turned, as before, for counsel.
“Who, then, shall command the rearguard?” he asked. And quickly Ganelon answered, “Who but Roland? Ever would he seek the post where danger lies.”
And Charlemagne, feeling he owed much to Ganelon, gave way to his counsel, though with heavy forebodings in his heart. Then all the other Douzeperes, save Ganelon, said that for love of Roland they would go with him and see him safely through the dangers of the way. Loudly they vaunted his bravery: