| Stories of Roland Told to the Children|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Ten illustrated stories from the song of Roland, simply but effectively told, relating how Roland and Oliver died, of Charlemagne's vengeance on Marsil the Saracen and of the punishment of the traitor Ganelon. The treatment is romantic, the style picturesque. Ages 8-10 |
ROLAND SOUNDS HIS HORN
 Alone, King Margaris fled, weary and wounded, until he
reached King Marsil, and fell panting at his feet.
"Ride! ride! Sire," he cried, "thy army is shattered, thy
knights to the last man lie dead upon the field; but thou
wilt find the Franks in evil plight. Full half of them also
The rest are sore wounded and weary. Their armour is broken,
their swords and spears are shattered. They have naught
wherewith to defend themselves. To avenge the death of thy
knights were now easy. Ride! oh, ride!"
In terrible wrath and sorrow King Marsil gathered a new
army. In twenty columns through the valleys they came
marching. The sun shone upon the gems and goldwork
 of their
helmets, upon lances and pennons, upon buckler and
embroidered surcoat. Seven thousand trumpets sounded to the
charge, and the wind carried the clamour afar.
"Oliver, my comrade," said Roland, when he heard it,
"Oliver, my brother, the traitor Ganelon hath sworn our
death. Here his treachery is plainly to be seen. But the
Emperor will bring upon him a terrible vengeance. As for us,
we must fight again a battle fierce and keen. I will strike
with my trusty Durindal and thou with thy Hauteclere bright.
We have already carried them with honour in many battles.
With them we have won many a victory. No man may say scorn
And so once again the Franks made ready for battle.
But King Marsil was a wily foe. "Hearken, my barons all," he
cried, "Roland is a prince of wondrous strength. Two battles
are not enough to vanquish him. He shall have three. Half of
ye shall go forward now, and
 half remain with me until the
Franks are utterly exhausted. Then shall ye attack them.
Then shall we see the day when the might of Charlemagne
shall fall and France shall perish in shame."
So King Marsil stayed upon the hill-side while half of his
knights marched upon the Franks with battle-cry and
"Oh Heaven, what cometh now!" cried the Franks as they heard
the sound. "Woe, woe, that ever we saw Ganelon the felon."
Then spoke the brave Archbishop to them. "Now it is
that we shall die. But it is better to die sword in hand
than in slothful ease. Now is the day when ye shall receive
great honour. Now is the day that ye shall win your crown of
flowers. The gates of paradise are glorious, but therein no
coward shall enter."
"We will not fail to enter," cried the Franks. "It is true
that we are but few, but we are bold and staunch," and
striking their golden spurs into their chargers' flanks,
they rode to meet the foe.
 Once more the noise and dust of battle rose. Once more the
plain was strewn with dead, and the green grass was
crimson-dyed, and scattered wide were jewels and gold,
splintered weapons, and shattered armour.
Fearful was the slaughter, mighty the deeds of valour done,
until at last the heathen broke and fled amain. After them
in hot pursuit rode the Franks. Their bright swords flashed
and fell again and again, and all the way was marked with
At length the heathen cries of despair reached even to where
King Marsil stayed upon the hill-side. "Marsil, oh our King!
ride, ride, we have need of thee!" they cried.
Even to the King's feet the Franks pursued the fleeing foe,
slaying them before his face.
Then Marsil, mounting upon his horse, led his last knights
against the fearful foe.
 The Franks were nigh exhausted, but still three hundred
swords flashed in the sunlight, three hundred hearts still
beat with hope and courage.
As Roland watched Oliver ever in the thickest of the fight,
dealing blow upon blow unceasingly, his heart swelled anew
with love for him. "Oh, my comrade leal and true," he cried,
"alas! this day shall end our love. Alas! this day we shall
part on earth for ever."
Oliver heard him and through the press of fighting he urged
his horse to Roland's side. "Friend," he said, "keep near to
me. So it please God we shall at least die together."
On went the fight, fiercer and fiercer yet, till but sixty
weary Franks were left. Then, sadly gazing upon the stricken
field, Roland turned to Oliver. "Behold! our bravest lie
dead," he cried. "Well may France weep, for she is shorn of
all her most valiant knights. Oh my Emperor, my friend,
alas, why wert thou not here? Oliver, my brother, how
we speed him now our mournful news?"
"I know not," said Oliver sadly, "rather come death now than
any craven deed."
"I will sound upon my horn," said Roland, all his pride
broken and gone. "I will sound upon my horn. Charlemagne
will hear it and the Franks will return to our aid."
"Shame would that be," cried Oliver. "Our kin would blush
for us and be dishonoured all their days. When I prayed of
thee thou wouldst not sound thy horn, and now it is not I
who will consent to it. Sound upon thy horn! No! there is no
courage, no wisdom in that now. Had the Emperor been
here we had been saved. But now it is too late, for all is
lost. Nay," he cried in rising wrath, "if ever I see again
my fair sister Aude, I swear to thee thou shalt never hold
her in thine arms. Never shall she be bride of thine." For
Roland loved Oliver's beautiful sister Aude and was loved by
her, and when Roland would return to France she had promised
to be his bride.
 "Ah, Oliver, why dost thou speak to me with so much anger
and hate," cried Roland sadly.
"Because it is thy fault that so many Franks lie dead this
day," answered Oliver. "It is thy folly that hath slain
them. Hadst thou done as I prayed thee our master
Charlemagne had been here. This battle had been fought and
won. Marsil had been taken and slain. Thy madness it is,
Roland, that hath wrought our fate. Henceforward we can
serve Charlemagne never more. And now here endeth our loyal
friendship. Oh, bitter the parting this night shall see."
With terrible grief in his heart, stricken dumb with misery
and pain, Roland gazed upon his friend. But Archbishop
Turpin had heard the strife between the two, and setting
spurs to his horse he rode swiftly towards them. "Sir
Roland, and you, Sir Oliver," he cried, "I pray you strive
not thus. See! we all must die, and thy horn, Roland, can
avail nothing now. Great Karl is too far and would return
 Yet it were well to sound it. For the Emperor when
he hears it will come to avenge our fall, and the heathen
will not return joyously to their homes. When the Franks
come, they will alight from their horses, they will find our
bodies, and will bury them with mourning and with tears, so
we shall rest in hallowed graves, and the beasts of the
field shall not tear our bones asunder."
"It is well said," cried Roland.
Then to his lips he laid his horn, and taking a deep breath
he blew mightily upon it. With all the strength left in his
weary body he blew.
With all the strength left in his weary body he blew
Full, and clear and high the horn sounded. From mountain
peak to mountain peak the note was echoed, till to the camp
of Charlemagne, full thirty leagues away, it came.
Then as he heard it, sweet and faint, borne upon the summer
wind, the Emperor drew rein, and bent his ear to listen,
"Our men give battle; it is the horn of Roland," he cried.
 "Nay," laughed Ganelon scornfully, "nay, Sire, had any man
but thou said it I had deemed he lied."
So slowly and sad at heart, with many a backward glance, the
Emperor rode on.
Again Roland put his horn to his mouth. He was weary now and
faint. Blood was upon his pale lips, the blue veins in his
temples stood out like cords. Very mournfully he blew upon
his horn, but the sound of it was carried far, very far,
although it was so feeble and so low.
Again to the soft, sweet note Charlemagne bent his ear. Duke
Naimes, too, and all the Frankish knights, paused at the
sound. "It is the horn of Roland," cried the Emperor, "and
very surely had there been no battle, he had not sounded
"There is no battle," said Ganelon in fretful tones. "Thou
art grown old and fearful. Thou talkest as a frightened
child. Well thou knowest the pride of Roland, this strong,
bold, great and boastful Roland, that God hath suffered so
long upon His earth.
 For one hare Roland would sound his
horn all day long. Doubtless now he laughs among his Peers.
And beside, who would dare to attack Roland? Who so bold? Of
a truth there is none. Ride on, Sire, ride on. Why halt? Our
fair land is still very far in front."
So again, yet more unwillingly, the Emperor rode on.
Crimson stained were the lips of Roland. His cheeks were
sunken and white, yet once again he raised his horn. Faintly
now, in sadness and in anguish, once again he blew. The
soft, sweet notes took on a tone so pitiful, they wrung the
very heart of Charlemagne, where, full thirty leagues afar,
he onward rode.
"That horn is very long of breath," he sighed, looking
"It is Roland," cried Duke Naimes. "It is Roland who suffers
yonder. On my soul, I swear, there is battle. Some one hath
betrayed him. If I mistake not, it is he who now deceives
thee. Arm, Sire, arm! Sound
 the trumpets of war. Long enough
hast thou hearkened to the plaint of Roland."
Quickly the Emperor gave command. Quickly the army turned
about, and came marching backward. The evening sunshine fell
upon their pennons of crimson, gold and blue, it gleamed
upon helmet and corslet, upon lance and shield. Fiercely
rode the knights. "Oh, if we but reach Roland before he
die," they cried, "oh, what blows we will strike for him."
Alas! alas! they are late, too late!
The evening darkened, night came, yet on they rode.
Through all the night they rode, and when at length the
rising sun gleamed like flame upon helmet, and hauberk and
flowing pennon, they still pressed onward.
Foremost the Emperor rode, sunk in sad thought, his fingers
twisted in his long white beard which flowed over his
cuirass, his eyes filled with tears. Behind him galloped his
knights, strong men though they were, every one of them with
a sob in his throat, a
 prayer in his heart, for Roland,
Roland the brave and fearless.
One knight only had anger in his heart. That knight was
Ganelon. And he by order of the Emperor had been given over
to the keeping of the kitchen knaves. Calling the chief
among them, "Guard me well this felon," said Charlemagne,
"guard him as a traitor, who hath sold all mine house to
Then the chief scullion and a hundred of his fellows
surrounded Ganelon. They plucked him by the hair and
buffeted him, each man giving him four sounding blows.
Around his neck they then fastened a heavy chain, and
leading him as one might lead a dancing bear, they set him
upon a common baggage-horse. Thus they kept him until the
time should come that Charlemagne would ask again for the
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