|The Story of Roland|
|by James Baldwin|
|Here are related the daring feats and great exploits of Roland, worthiest of the barons of France in the time of Charlemagne, and those of Oliver and Reinold and Ogier the Dane, all heroes who were his companions in arms and who rivalled him in the number and greatness of their exploits. The story is culled from the works of song-writers and poets of five centuries and in as many languages. Ages 11-14 |
HOW ROLAND LOST HIS HELMET
 ROLAND did not know how long he had been confined in
the wizard's castle. It might have been a few days, it
might have been many months. The whole affair was to
him but a dim remembrance, a vague and shadowy dream.
When he found himself free to go where he pleased, he
turned his horse's head toward the east, and hurried
forward, hoping within a short time to join the hosts
of Charlemagne. He had not gone far, however, when he
was overtaken by two knights, who, like himself, had
just escaped from the prison-towers of Atlantes, and
were on their way back to the scene of war. They were
Sacripant the Circassian king, and Ferrau the
dark-browed Moor. But the eyes of the three knights had
been so blinded by the wizard's enchantments, that they
did not know each other.
"Who are you?" cried Ferrau, riding furiously down upon
Roland. "Turn back, or take another road!"
Roland grew very angry at the words and the tone of the
Moor; and, turning himself about, he answered,
beastly fellow, were it not that thy head is bare, I
would soon teach thee who has the best right to this
road. Turn back thyself, or else ride on in peace."
"Trouble not thyself on account of my bare head," said
Ferrau. "I am well able to take care of it, as I will
show thee if thou move not out of my way!"
"Friend," said Roland to Sacripant, who had just ridden
up, "I pray thee lend this fellow thy helmet. I would
fain teach him something of knightly courtesy."
"Dost thou take me for a fool?" asked Sacripant. "Whose
head would then be bare? Lend him thine
own helmet, or hush this pother."
Then Ferrau, fairly boiling with rage, cried out,
"Fools are ye both! As if I might not help myself to a
helmet if I wished. But I have sworn to go bareheaded
until I win the matchless casque of Roland. No other
helmet shall ever touch my head."
"I warrant," said our hero, smiling, "that, wert thou
to meet the knight of whom thou speakest, thy very
knees would quake with fear, and thou wouldst not only
forego the helmet, but wouldst gladly buy thy life with
thy other arms."
Then Ferrau began to boast that he had often before had
Roland on the hip, and that it would be mere child's
play to win the helmet from that much over-rated hero.
"Thou brutish braggart," cried Roland, no longer able
to hold himself, "know that I am he of whom thou
speakest! Now see if thou hast the might to take the
helmet from me." And with these words he lifted the
 fair casque from his head, and hung it upon a branch of
a spreading beech, and at the same time he drew the
dread blade Durandal, and called upon Ferrau to defend
Long and fiercely did the two heroes fight. Their
swords flashed hither and thither like the lightning's
play. Their shields were bruised and dinted in many a
place, and yet neither seemed to get the better of the
other. Sacripant, who was now more eager than ever to
return to his own country,
stopped not to see the issue of the combat, but rode
onward, little caring which of the knights should be
Now, it happened that the Princess Angelica had taken
the same road; and as she came near to the scene of
combat, and heard the clashing of the swords, and the
ringing of the shields, she felt curious to know who it
was that fought thus furiously.
The thick undergrowth of shrubs and the leafy branches
of the great beech hid her from the sight of the busy
combatants; and, without any fear of being seen, she
paused, and watched the conflict with great interest.
She saw the glittering helmet hanging from the bough
above her, and she understood at once what the fighting
was about. She did not want the fierce Moor to win that
casque: he should not have it, even though he should be
the victor. So, while the two knights were blinded by
their angry strife, she quietly took the helmet down,
turned her palfrey about, and galloped away toward
 It was long ere either of the knights noticed the loss
of the prize. Ferrau was the first to turn his eyes
toward the spot where it had hung.
"Ah, silly blockheads we are!" he cried, "to fight
thus blindly, while the knave who rode hither with us
carries the rich prize away."
When Roland saw that the casque was really gone, he
agreed with Ferrau in thinking that it had been stolen
by Sacripant; and the two who, had just been the
bitterest of foes, now ceased their fighting, and
spurred onward in pursuit of the supposed thief. By and
by they came to a place where the road forked, and here
they were at a loss to know what to do; for they saw
the prints of horses' hoofs going either way. At length
Roland took the road which turned to the right, hoping
to overtake the thief in the valley below, while Ferrau
kept the path which led nearer the slope of the
mountain. All day long did Roland urge his steed
forward; but no traces did he find of the Circassian
chief, nor did he for many a month recover the gleaming
helmet that he so highly prized.
As Ferrau rode leisurely along the pathway which he had
chosen, he came to a pleasant grove, where a spring of
water gurgled up among rocks and flowers. He stopped a
moment to enjoy the pleasant shade; and, as his eyes
glanced upward, he was amazed to see the coveted helmet
hanging on a branch above the spring. With a hoarse cry
of delight he sprang forward, and seized it in his
hands; and, as he did so, he caught a
 glimpse of the
fair princess fleeing, like a frightened deer, through
the forest. Well pleased was the fierce Ferrau. The
matchless helmet of Roland was at last his own. What
cared he now for the success of the Pagan arms in
France. He turned his horse about, and with his swarthy
head incased in the long-wished-for casque, he rode
back leisurely, toward Spain.
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