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Stories of Charlemagne by  Alfred J. Church


 

 

MORE DEEDS OF MAWGIS

[65]

W
HEN Reynaud had accomplished the delivering of his brother Richard, he sent the greater part of his company back to Montalban, but he himself remained with the rest, being minded to do some great thing against King Charles. And this he did, for making his way into the camp with his comrades, he came to the King's tent. Cutting the cords, so that the whole tent fell to the ground, he laid hands on the golden Eagle that was on the great pole in the middle, a thing so costly that no man could tell the price thereof. In this Mawgis helped him.

But this adventure had nearly turned out to the great disadvantage of the brothers and Mawgis. For Mawgis was not content with the taking of the Eagle, but would have slain the King. He made his way into the inner [66] part of the tent where the King lay, and said to him, "Sir King, you have troubled us over long, slaying my father and doing us all manner of mischief. And now you shall die." So saying, he thrust at the King with his spear; but the King turned about, and the spear was thrust into the bed two feet and more. Then was King Charles sore afraid, and cried out for Roland. When Mawgis heard this he looked round, and lo! Reynaud and the brethren were gone.

When he found himself to be alone, then, for all that he was as stout a warrior as ever bare arms, he was not a little troubled, and turned to flee. But many of the King's knights pursued him, and hindered him from escaping, and at the last Oliver overthrew him, casting him down from his horse to the ground, so that he was fain to yield himself prisoner. And Oliver took him to the King's tent.

When the King saw him, he was very glad, and said, "Now, you false thief, you shall pay for all the villainies that you have done." "Sir King," answered Mawgis, "you have me in your power and you can work your will upon me. Nevertheless, I will counsel you for the best. Make peace, and you shall have the best knights in all the world to serve you. But if [67] you slay me, you shall get from the deed no profit but much harm."

The King said to his Barons: "Now cause that they make a gallows, so that I may hang this Mawgis or ever we sup." "Sir," said the Duke Naymes, "I advise you to wait till the morrow. Your enemies will mock you, saying that you durst not do this man to death in day-light for fear of them." But the King answered, "I should be shamed, indeed, if this fellow should escape."

When Mawgis heard these words, he said to the King, "If this is what you fear, I will give you my word that I will not go away without taking leave of you in due form." "But who will be your surety?" said the King. Then Mawgis looking round, saw the twelve Peers, and he said to Oliver, "Sir, when I yielded myself to you, you promised to be surety for me to the King." Then he turned him to Roland, and made the like request and so with all the Twelve. And the Peers consented to his request, and stood surety for him.

Then Mawgis said to the King, "I am hungry, give me some meat." "Can you eat," said the King, "being in such a plight?" But the Duke Naymes said: "The man that has eaten is better prepared for all things." "So [68] be it," said the King; "but where shall the fellow sit?" "He should best sit by you," said Roland. "You say well," answered the King, "for indeed I cannot trust him to be elsewhere."

After supper the King commanded that the Twelve Peers should watch Mawgis through the night. Nor was he even then content, for he called for irons, and bound the man's hands and his feet. And the key of the irons he kept. "Now," said he, "you shall not escape me, you false thief." "Think you so?" said Mawgis. "Nevertheless, I shall be at Montalban to-morrow before prime." And the King was so wroth, that he would have slain the man forthwith, only the Peers hindered him.

This done, they sat down to play at the tables, and at chess, and at other games. After a while they all felt a great desire to sleep. Whereupon Mawgis began to work upon them with his magic. First he made their sleep to be stronger by far, so that the King and the Peers and the whole company were altogether mastered by it. Then with another charm he loosed the collar from his neck and the fetters from his legs. Then seeing that the King had fallen with his head awry, he took a pillow and set it under him. Also he took [69] from him his sword Joyous, and from Roland his sword Durendal, and the sword which Oliver carried, Hautclere by name. Also he took much treasure out of the King's treasury. When he had so done, he took a herb that he had, and rubbed the King's nose and lips with it, and said, "Wake, Sir King, I said that I should not go without taking leave. Now, therefore, farewell," and he vanished out of the place.

When the King came to himself, he was so angry as never man was before. He would have woke the Peers, but could not, so fast asleep were they. Then he bethought him of a certain herb that he had brought from over-seas. This he rubbed on the nose and mouth and eyes of the Peers, and they awoke forth-with. Said the Duke Naymes, "Where now is Mawgis?" "He is gone," answered the King, "and by your fault, for ye hindered me when I would have hanged him." "Did you see him depart?" said Oliver to Roland, "No, by St. Denis," answered Roland. But the King said, "I saw him go with my own eyes." "Then you should have warned us," said Roland, and as he spake he put his hand to his side and missed his good sword Durendal. And when the Peers found that their swords [70] were gone they were fairly distraught with anger.

The next day the King said to his Barons: "Go now to Reynaud, and tell him that if he will give back to me my golden Eagle and my crown, and my sword Joyous, then I will grant him a truce for two years. Ogier shall take this message, and the Duke Naymes and Turpin the Archbishop."

So these mounted their horses and rode to Montalban. When they were come to the gate, they called the porter and said to him, "We be knights of the King, and would fain speak with Sir Reynaud." So the porter told the thing to the brethren.

Richard went to the gate and saluted them courteously, and brought them into the castle, where they were honourably received by Reynaud and the Lady Clare, Alard also and Guichard helping. Then Ogier delivered his message, and Reynaud said, "Tarry here, my lords, this night, and we will give you an answer in the morning." To this they consented. So a great feast was prepared, and they sat down and were right royally entertained.

The next day the Duke Naymes said to Reynaud, "What answer do you make to the [71] King?" Reynaud answered, "I will do as he desires."

When Ogier the Dane heard this, he was glad, and thought within himself, "Now will the King be greatly pleased. Maybe there shall be not a truce only, but peace. If I can move Reynaud to come back with us to the King, the two may well be reconciled." So he told his thought to Reynaud and Reynaud consented to it.

The next day they set out. Ogier and the Duke Naymes went on with all speed they might use to the King's camp; but Reynaud and Alard followed slowly with Turpin and another.

In the meanwhile a certain spy, having knowledge of the whole matter, made haste to tell it to the King, and this he did before that Ogier and the Duke were come to the camp. When the King heard it, he said to Oliver: "Take with you two hundred knights, and ride with all haste to the river of Besancon, where, if you use diligence, you will find Reynaud and Alard. Lay hold of them and bring them hither to me."

So Oliver rode with his knights, and when he was come to the river, he found Reynaud on foot and Bayard his horse so far from him that [72] he could not mount him; so he was taken unawares. Then he turned to Turpin and that other in great anger, saying, "Villains, you have betrayed me." "Sir," answered Turpin, "I swear to you that I am innocent in this matter."

Reynaud said to Oliver, "Remember you how I helped you at Vancouleurs when you were borne to the ground, giving you again your horse and helping you to mount." "I remember it well," answered Oliver. "No man shall harm you if I can hinder him. Nevertheless I must take you to the King." So they set out to go to the camp.

But the Duke Naymes and Ogier and Oliver and all the Peers made entreaty to the King, that he would make peace with the brethren. But he hardened his heart against them. "You waste your breath," he said, "I will do the thing that I choose, though you all shall say me nay;" and turning to Reynaud he said, "You shall not cheat me as did that false thief Mawgis, for I will cut you into pieces and burn the pieces with fire." "Sir," answered Reynaud, "you shall not do so, God being my helper."

The King, being thus defied, turned him to Ogier, and said, "Ogier, will you take the part [73] of my mortal enemy?" "That will not I," answered Ogier; "nevertheless I will defend my honour against all men, even against the King."

Then said Reynaud, "Sir, you have said that I am a traitor. Now know that I am no traitor, neither is there a traitor in all my house and kindred. And if any man say ought against me or my kinsmen, then will I fight with him, man to man." The King answered, "I will prove my accusation against you by force of arms." Then Reynaud said again. "Sir, you speak as a King should speak. I give you my gage that I am as true a man as any that lives in the world." "I will take your gage," answered the King, "If so be you can find sureties." Then Ogier and Turpin and the Duke Naymes and another stood sureties for him.

Reynaud said to the King, "Are you content with these sureties." "That I am," answered the King. Then Reynaud would know with whom he should fight. "With me," said the King. But when Roland heard this, he said, "It must not be so, Sire; I will fight in your place." And so it was ordered. Then Reynaud, being mounted on Bayard, with the Duke Naymes and Ogier and other Peers, returned to Montalban.


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