KING MARSIL'S COUNCIL
 For seven long years the great King Charlemagne had been
fighting in Spain against the Saracens. From shore to shore
he had conquered the land. Everywhere the heathen people had
bowed before him, owning him as their master and Christ as
their God. Only the fair city of Saragossa, sitting safe
among its hills, was yet unconquered. But Charlemagne had
taken the not far distant Cordres, and he now was making
ready to march against Saragossa.
King Marsil knew not how to save his city from the
conqueror. So one day he seated himself upon his marble
throne, and called his wise men together. The throne was set
under the shade of his great orchard trees, for there, when
the summer sun was hot, he held his court.
 "My lords," he said, "great Karl of France besets our town.
No host have I strong enough to meet him in the field, none
that may guard our walls against him. I pray you, my lords,
give me counsel. How shall we guard us, that shame and death
come not upon us?"
Then all the wise men were silent, for well they knew the
power and might of Charlemagne, and they wist not what to
At last Blancandrin spoke. A knight of great valour was he,
and of all the heathen lords he was the wisest and most
prudent. And when he spoke, all men listened.
"Send a message to this proud and haughty Karl," he said.
"Promise him great friendship, give him rich presents of
lions, bears and dogs; seven hundred camels ye shall send
unto him, a thousand falcons. Give him four hundred mules
laden with gold and silver; give him as much as fifty
waggons may hold, so that he may have gold and to spare with
which to pay his soldiers. But say to him, 'Too long hast
 thou been far from France. Return, return to thy fair city
of Aix, and there at the feast of Holy Michael will I come
to thee and be thy man, and be baptized, and learn of thy
gentle Christ.' Charlemagne will ask hostages of thee. Well,
give them—ten—twenty—whatever he may ask of thee. We
will give our sons. See! I will be the first, I will
give my son. And if he perish it is better so than that we
should all be driven from our land to die in beggary and
Then Blancandrin was silent, and all the heathen lords cried
aloud, "It is well spoken."
"Yea," Blancandrin went on, "by my long beard I swear, then
shalt thou see the Franks quickly return to their own land,
each man to his home. St. Michael's Day will dawn.
Charlemagne will hold a great feast awaiting thee. But the
days will pass and thou wilt not come. Then, for the Emperor
is terrible and his wrath fierce, he will slay our sons whom
he holds as hostages for thee. Better so, I say, than that
 should lose fair Spain and live in slavery and woe."
"Yea, so say we all!" cried the heathen lords.
"So be it," said King Marsil; "let it be done as Blancandrin
Then one by one the King called ten of his greatest lords
about him. "Go ye with Blancandrin," he said. "Take olive
branches in your hands in token of peace and lowliness. Say
to the great Karl that for the sake of his gentle Christ he
shall show pity upon me, and give me peace. Say that ere a
month has gone I will follow after you. Then will I kneel to
him, and put my hands in his, and swear to be his true and
faithful vassal. Then shall he sprinkle me with the water of
Holy Christ, and I shall be his for evermore."
All this King Marsil said with treachery in his heart, for
well he knew that he would do none of these things.
"It is well," said Blancandrin, "the peace is sure."
Then mounted upon white mules, with
 saddles of silver and
harness of gold, with olive branches in their hands and
followed by a great train of slaves carrying rich presents,
Blancandrin and the ten messengers set out to seek the court
of the great Christian King, Charlemagne.