BROIEFORT, THE BLACK ARABIAN
I. THE GIFT OF FORTUNE
WOULD rather have that horse than aught else that
now is or ever has been."
It must have been a rare
animal indeed to bring this exclamation from the mouth
of young Ogier the Dane, while he was fighting a
hand-to-hand duel with Brunamont, the giant king and
champion of the Moors. He knew that his life depended
upon the issue of that fight, and yet he could not
think of anything but his enemy's steed; and, as he
stood thrusting and parrying with his sword, he kept
repeating to himself:
"Ah! if Fortune and the good angels would only give me
And at last Fortune did favor him. Fierce Brunamont was
overthrown and left senseless upon the field, the
Moorish host was routed with great slaughter, and Ogier
secured the steed which he had coveted so much. And
when he mounted the handsome creature and rode between
the tents where flew the banners of
Charle-  magne, there
was not a prouder man in all Europe than he. His fellow
warriors cheered him for the gallant victory which he
had helped to win; but his mind was all on the horse.
He kept patting the animal on the neck and saying over
and over again:
"Now thanks to fairy Fortune, that has given me this
steed, whom I wished for more than anything else in the
broad world! So long as I live there shall nothing
persuade me to part with my good Broiefort—the
war-horse whom Fortune allowed me to win fairly at the
risk of my life."
It was a matter of common talk,—and therefore
true,—that Broiefort had been reared in Arabia, whence
all the best horses come. Save for his forehead, in
which there was a snow-white new moon, and his two fore
feet, which were also white, he was the color of
polished ebony. He was very strong, and his arching
neck and slender legs and shapely head were admired by
everybody that saw him. He was teachable, gentle, wise,
and brave, and it was not long until he loved Ogier as
well as Ogier loved him. For many years after the
famous battle with Brunamont, the flaxen-haired Dane
and the black Arabian were never separated for a day,
re-  marked that it was as rare to see Ogier
without Broiefort as to see a sword without its hilt.
There came a time, however, after both were beginning
to grow old, that there was a turn in the tide of their
good fortune. An accident, which had happened through
no fault of Ogier's, had caused Charlemagne to become
The faithful old warrior was banished from France, and
all the rich estates which had been his were forfeited.
He had no longer a penny, nor even so much land as he
could lie down upon.
But why should he despair? He still had Broiefort. On
the good horse's back he would ride out of France and
seek a home and fortune among strangers. He rode over
the Alps into Italy and told his story to Didier, the
king of the Lombards. Didier was glad to welcome so
famous a warrior: he would make him one of the foremost
men in his kingdom. And so Ogier put his hands into the
hands of the Lombard king and did him homage, and
received in return the command of two castles on the
II. THE BATTLE
BUT Charlemagne would not allow his former friend and
warrior-chief to rest in peace, even in
 the domains of
the Lombard king. No sooner did he hear that Didier had
befriended the exiled Dane than he sent a messenger
into Lombardy, demanding that Ogier should be returned
to France, chained like a greyhound.
"Never will I do so base a thing!" cried Didier.
"Sooner than desert the friend who has sworn fealty to
me, I will see all Lombardy overrun by my foes, my own
palace in ashes, and myself laid low with the thrusts
of Charlemagne's spears!"
The messenger returned to
France with this answer, and Didier and Ogier made
ready for war; for well they knew that Charlemagne was
not a man to be trifled with.
Early the next spring a mighty army, led by Charlemagne
himself, crossed the Alps for the purpose of
overrunning Lombardy and capturing the exiled Dane. A
bloody battle was fought on the plains of St.
Ajossa—such a battle as neither Lombard nor Frank had
ever seen before. For hours the conflict raged; and
everywhere Ogier and the steed Broiefort were in the
thickest of the fray. Never did man and horse fight
more bravely. The old knight's shield was pierced in
thirty places, his helmet was split in twain, he was
wounded with seven spears; and yet, even after
 he knew
that the day was lost, he kept on fighting like a
"Everywhere Ogier and his steed were in the thickest of the fray."
At last Ogier is unhorsed. Broiefort, maddened for the
moment, flees across the field, pursued by a hundred
soldiers. Flinging right and left with his heels, he
kills three squires and five horses, and puts a whole
company of Frenchmen to flight. Not a weapon can be
made to touch him. Men say that he has a charmed life.
Coming to the top of a little knoll, he turns his head
and looks back. He sees his master in the midst of the
mêlée, surrounded by enemies, with one knee on the
ground, fighting a losing fight. Shall he desert his
friend in his greatest need?
He wheels about and returns to the field, scattering
his three hundred pursuers before him. Ogier has begun
to lose hope. His sword is broken. The Frenchmen are
closing upon him. Suddenly he hears a neigh, and
looking up he sees Broiefort pressing toward him
through the crowd. In another moment he has swung
himself into the saddle, and knight and steed are
flying over the plain with—as truthful old stories tell
us—fifteen thousand men in hot pursuit. But who can
III. THE FLIGHT
 LATE in the evening, Ogier, wearied with the long ride
and overcome by the pain of his wounds, thought that it
would be safe for him to stop and rest. He dismounted
near a spring of water which gurgled out from beneath a
huge rock, and, after slaking his thirst, he bathed his
hot head in the stream, and washed the smoking sides
and mud-bespattered legs of his steed. Then, sitting on
the ground with his back resting against the rock, he
soon fell asleep; but Broiefort stood by him to watch.
Half an hour passed quietly, and then a faint sound was
heard far down the road. The horse pricked up his ears
and listened. Very soon he could distinguish quite
plainly the thump, thump of galloping hoofs coming
closer every moment, and he knew that it meant danger.
He whinnied to awaken his master; but Ogier slept on.
He came closer to him, and stamped his feet against the
rock; Ogier stirred a little, but did not waken.
Then he stamped still harder, and neighed shrilly three
times; but his master, dreaming of battle, did not hear
him. By this time their pursuers
 were in sight. Ten men—yes, a thousand men—with
lances poised and swords
drawn, ready to fall upon Ogier wherever they might
find him. were coming pell-mell along the highway!
Broiefort was desperate. He seized his master by the
collar, and lifting him to his feet shook him roughly.
Ogier awoke just in time. He vaulted quickly into the
saddle, while the lances of his foremost pursuers
almost grazed his armor. His faithful steed leaped
forward, and in a few moments he was safely out of
reach and out of hearing again.
For three whole days Broiefort carried his master
through mountain passes and forests, so closely pressed
that there was no time to stop anywhere for food or
rest. For three months the chase was kept up, although
the pursuers now and then lost track of the fugitives
long enough to allow Ogier to rest a night in some
out-of-the-way castle, where Broiefort was sure to be
regaled with a measure of oats. At last, after many
adventures, they reached one of Ogier's old strongholds
on the river Rhone, where—according to the
historian—they were besieged by Charlemagne with an
army of ten thousand warriors.
IV. THE SIEGE
 THERE were only three hundred men—vassals of Ogier—in
the castle, but the most of them were known to be
good and true, and the Dane felt that, for a time at
least, he was safe from any harm that the besiegers
could do him. Broiefort was given a warm stall, with
plenty of straw, in the cellar, and as there was a
great stole of provisions in the castle, the inmates
were all as comfortable as need be. Ogier knew that no
power on earth could batter down the walls of the
castle, for they were of Saracen work,—that is, the
mortar had been boiled in blood,—and hence they were
proof against every kind of weapon. All that the
garrison had to do, therefore, was to prevent the
besiegers from putting up scaling-ladders, and this
required only a little watchfulness.
At length, however, Charlemagne caused a wooden tower
to be built in front of the gate—a tower seven stories
high, on which a thousand knights and a hundred and
seventy archers could stand, and from which they hurled
missiles and shot countless arrows over the castle
 indeed, sad days began for Ogier. One by
one his men were picked off the walls by the
sharpshooters in the high tower; one by one his squires
and the faithfullest defenders of the castle met their
death. Finally, there was no one left alive but himself
and the horse Broiefort—two besieged by ten thousand.
But they had held out well; for, according to the old
song-writers, it was now seven years since Charlemagne
had begun the siege.
And now Ogier bethought him that if he could escape to
his native country, Denmark, his own kinsfolk might
befriend and shelter him. The chance was worthy of a
trial, at least. Very early one morning, therefore, he
went down to visit Broiefort in his stall. There was
not another handful of oats in the castle; not a grain
of corn, not a wisp of hay was to be found. Ogier
himself had not had a mouthful of food for two days. To
hold the place longer was to starve.
"Horse," said Ogier, stroking the creature's neck and
sides,—"horse, so good and brave and proud! You have
stood by me well. A firm friend you have been in many a
strait. I wonder if you will help me once again?"
Broiefort understood every word; he whinnied
 softly in
reply; he struck his foot upon the stone pavement as if
to say that he was ready to be going. Ogier brought out
his saddle, now so long unused, and the bridle with the
Broiefort leaped into the air for very gladness. And
when his master threw the rich trappings upon his back,
tightened the saddle-girths, and laid the reins over
his neck, he seemed beside himself with joy. Then Ogier
donned his own armor, buckled his good sword to his
side, and put his bright steel helmet upon his head.
Leading the horse across the courtyard, he opened the
castle gate quietly and peeped out. The besiegers were
all asleep in their tents; even the sentinels were
sprawled upon the ground, dreaming of their homes and
their loved ones in faraway Aquitaine.
Ogier let down the drawbridge very softly, and then,
mounting Broiefort, he rode out of the fortress which
had sheltered him so long. Good Broiefort seemed to
With eyes open very wide and ears alert to catch every
sound, he stepped so lightly that the most wakeful of
the besiegers did not hear him. The birds were singing
in the tree-tops as they passed through Charlemagne's
camp, but not a soldier
 was stirring. Once safely
outside the lines, Broiefort changed his whole manner.
Throwing up his head and pointing his ears forward, he
broke into a long, steady gallop—a gait which he could
keep up all day without tiring. And thus Ogier, safe
out of the reach of his foes, rode northward through
V. THE CAPTURE
ON the fifth day they had put so many miles between
themselves and the besiegers that the great Dane began
to feel himself safe. In another day they would cross
the Rhine, and then on to Denmark! At about noon they
stopped to rest by a spring which bubbled up from the
ground near the foot of a rocky hill. Ogier, very tired
from his long ride, and thankful that the worst of it
was over, lay down upon the grass and soon fell asleep.
Broiefort, not thinking that any watch was needed, now
that they were so far from their enemies, wandered here
and there, nipping the young clover that was just
beginning to blossom in the fields.
He was very hungry and the clover was very good, and
hence he did not notice a company of
 priests and
knights that came riding down the highway, or, if he
noticed them, he did not think of their harming his
master. He therefore kept on grazing, and neglected to
awaken Ogier and warn him of the possible danger. At
the head of the company was the archbishop of Rheims,
who had been making his usual rounds among the sick
people of the neighborhood, and was returning to his
palace. He was himself a warrior of no little note, and
therefore delighted always to have a retinue of knights
and squires around him.
One of these young men, seeing Ogier asleep upon the
ground, was so struck by his noble appearance that he
rode back quickly and told his master. The archbishop,
curious to know who it might be, spurred his horse and,
followed by his whole company, cantered down to the
The old man was astounded when he saw that it was
Ogier, for he had marched with the Dane in many a
campaign, and fought by his side in many a hard-won
He would have given a whole year's revenue if he had
not seen him, for it pained his heart to think that he
was obliged to make a prisoner of his old friend and
comrade and deliver him into the hands of the king.
But his oath of fealty to
 Charlemagne would not allow him to do otherwise. At his
command, therefore, one of his knights secured Ogier's
sword, another his shield, and another the good horse
Broiefort. Then twenty men with drawn swords stood
around the fugitive while the archbishop awakened him.
"My old-time friend, Ogier," he said, "awake and look
around you! You can see that it is useless for you to
resist; for here are forty men, most of them armed,
while you are unarmed and alone. Yield yourself, then,
as our prisoner!"
But Ogier was not the man to be taken so easily. He
sprang to his feet, and with a blow of his great fist
crushed the head of the knight who stood nearest to
him. Then he tore the saddle from the back of one of
the priest's pack-horses, and with it dealt furiously
about him until ten of his assailants were laid
sprawling in the dust, and the rude weapon was broken
in pieces in his hands. But the struggle was of no
avail, for other knights closing in upon him, he was
wounded sorely, and finally bound hand and foot with
strong ropes. He begged his captors that they would
kill him then and there, rather than give him up to
Charlemagne. They made no answer, however, but put him
astride of a mule,
 tied his feet together underneath,
and took him into Rheims, where the archbishop ordered
him to be placed in his own prison.
As for Broiefort, the gallant horse was taken to Meaux,
where he was made to draw a heavy two-wheeled cart
loaded with stones and bricks and mortar. For seven
years he toiled, half-fed, broken-spirited, hopeless.
His once beautiful coat became rough and ragged,
showing the outlines of every rib beneath; his mane,
unkempt and uncared for, was knotted in many a snarl;
his long tail, which had once been his pride, was
filled with burs and thorns; his breast and shoulders
were galled by the ill-fitting harness; his eyes lost
their fire, and his chin drooped with despair.
VI. THE PRISON
FOR seven years, also, Ogier languished in prison.
Charlemagne would have been glad to put him to death,
but he knew that every knight in France would cry out
against it. So long, however, as the good archbishop
lived, the brave Dane fared much better than his horse.
Every day he was given a gallon of wine to drink, and
two loaves of bread and the half of a pig to eat.
The ladies and squires and burgesses of Rheims came
often to his cell to visit him, and the archbishop
played chess with him almost every evening. His beard
became white as snow, but his arms remained as big and
as strong as ever, and he never lost hope.
By and by, however, sad changes came to France and to
Ogier. The archbishop was slain in that famous fight at
Roncesvalles, where all the flower of French chivalry
perished. The prison at Rheims passed into the hands of
other keepers. All of Ogier's old friends were dead,
and it was not long until Ogier himself seemed to be
Charlemagne was hard beset by his foes. A pagan king
named Brehus invaded France from the south, and
threatened to overrun the whole empire. Battle after
battle was fought, and the French, having no leaders,
were beaten every time. Everybody was in despair.
People began to compare the former glorious times with
the present. They thought of Roland and of Oliver, and
of Reinold, and of the brave archbishop of Rheims, who
used to lead them in battle—all dead, now. Then they
thought of Ogier, and wondered if he, too, was dead.
 "If we only had Ogier to lead us!" said some.
And the cry was echoed by many others: "If we only had
Ogier to lead us!"
"Ogier is not dead. He is still in the prison at
Rheims," said a young knight, a kinsman of the late
archbishop. "Let every brave Frenchman petition the
king to set him free!"
Thereupon, three hundred knights, all sons of counts,
dukes, or princes, marched in a body to Charlemagne's
tent, crying: "Ogier! Ogier! Give us Ogier the Dane for
The king was angry at first, but seeing that something
must be done, he said at last: "I know not whether
Ogier be alive or dead. If, however, he be still alive,
I will fetch him and make him your leader as you
He sent at once to Rheims to inquire if Ogier were
still in prison. Yes, the keeper thought that there was
some such man shut up in one of the lower dungeons. The
squires who had brought the king's message fancied that
they heard him in his dismal cell, fighting the snakes
and water-rats which had come into the place from the
They called to him, and he answered. Then ropes were
let down and he was drawn up into the daylight to which
he had been for a long time
 a stranger. He was given a
bountiful meal and clad in rich garments, such as he
had worn in former days, and then led into the presence
of the king.
VII. THE PARDON
 CHARLEMAGNE offered to pardon the Dane and to return to
him all the vast estates which had once been his, on
condition that he would lead the French host against
the pagan army under King Brehus. The old hero stood
up, as tall and as proud, and seemingly as strong as
ever, and answered that if he might wear his own armor
and ride the good war steed Broiefort, he would
undertake to drive every pagan out of France; otherwise
he could not go into battle, but would return to his
dungeon and leave the country to its fate.
Ogier's armor was quickly found, but nobody remembered
anything about his steed. The king offered his own
war-horse to the Dane, but when Ogier leaned his great
weight upon it the animal was crushed to the ground.
Several other steeds were tried, but all with the same
result. Finally, an old priest who had just arrived
from Meaux said that he believed that Broiefort himself
 still alive, and was used as a draft-horse by the
monks of the abbey. Ten squires were sent out at once
to bring the old horse to his master.
Ogier wept when he saw the sad plight of his once
beautiful war steed, and Broiefort would have done the
same had it been possible for horses to weep, so great
was his joy. As it was, the fire came back into his
eyes; he lifted his head with somewhat of the old-time
pride; he scratched his feet with delight; he fondled
his master with his jet-black nose, and whinnied
softly, as though he wanted to speak. Ogier put his arm
over him, and leaned with his whole weight. The horse
stood up bravely, and shrank not in the least beneath
him. Then the grooms washed the steed in warm spring
water, and combed and oiled his mane and tail, and
trimmed his fetlocks, and polished his hoofs, and
covered him with a richly embroidered cloth, and put
the golden bits in his mouth. You would not have known
him as the draft-horse that had hauled stones for the
abbot of Meaux—he was the Broiefort who fought in the
famous battle of St. Ajossa. Brave Ogier wept again,
but this time for joy, when he mounted the grand old
steed and rode forth to give battle to the pagan
There is no need to describe that last fierce fight
which ended in a hand-to-hand combat between Ogier and
King Brehus. In all his lifetime the gallant Dane had
never met so equal a foe; and had it not been for
Broiefort's aid he would not have come out of the fray
alive. The combat was a long one, and the fate of
France depended upon the issue. The sun had set, and
the twilight was deepening into darkness, and yet
neither of the combatants seemed able to gain any
advantage over his foe. At last the treacherous pagan,
by an overhanded sweep of his long sword, struck
Broiefort squarely on the neck.
The faithful horse, with a cry of anguish, fell dead to
the earth. Never had anything caused Ogier so great
grief. But his anger held down his sorrow, and nerved
him to desperation. He made one final terrible thrust
with his sword, and his pagan foe was stretched
lifeless by the side of the steed he loved so well.
Ogier took for his own the gray war-horse, Marchevallé,
which King Brehus had ridden in the battle. But nothing
could ever console him for the loss of his faithful
friend, Broiefort, the matchless black Arabian.