| 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 |
THE RETURN OF CHARLEMAGNE
 Roland was dead and bright angels had already carried his
soul to heaven, when Charlemagne and all his host at last
rode into the valley of Roncesvalles. What a dreadful sight
was there! Not a path nor track, not a yard nor foot of
ground but was covered with slain Franks and heathen lying
side by side in death.
Charlemagne gazed upon the scene with grief and horror.
"Where art thou, Roland?" he called. "The archbishop, where
is he? Oliver, where art thou?" All the twelve peers he
called by name. But none answered. The wind moaned over the
field, fluttering here and there a fallen banner, but voice
to answer there was none.
Charlemagne, "what sorrow
 is mine that I was
not here ere this battle was fought!"
In and out of his long white beard his fingers twisted, and
tears of grief and anger stood in his eyes. Behind him, rank
upon rank, crowded his knights and barons full of wrath and
sorrow. Not one among them but had lost a son or brother, a
friend or comrade. For a time they stood dumb with grief and
Then spoke Duke Naimes. Wise in counsel, brave in battle was
he. "Look, Sire," he cried, "look where two leagues from us
the dust arises upon the great highway. There is gathered
the army of the heathen. Ride, Sire, ride and avenge our
And so it was, for those who had fled from the battle-field
were gathered together and were now crowding onward to
"Alas!" said Charlemagne, "they are already far away. Yet
they have taken from me the very flower of France, so for
 sake of right and honour I will do as thou desirest."
Then the Emperor called to him four of his chief barons.
"Rest here," he said, "guard the field, the valleys and the
hills. Leave the dead lying as they are, but watch well that
neither lion nor any other savage beast come nigh to them.
Neither shall any servant or squire touch them. I forbid ye
to let man lay hand upon them till we return."
"Sire, we will do thy will," answered the four.
Then, leaving a thousand knights to be with them,
Charlemagne sounded his war-trumpets, and the army set forth
upon the pursuit of the heathen. Furiously they rode and
fast, but already the foe was far. Anxiously the Emperor
looked to the sun as it slowly went down toward the west.
Night was at hand and the enemy still afar.
Then, alighting from his horse, Charlemagne kneeled upon the
green grass. "Oh Lord, I pray
Thee," he cried, "make the sun
 to stop. Say Thou to the night, 'wait.' Say Thou
to the day, 'remain.' " And as the Emperor prayed, his
guardian angel stooped down and whispered to him, "Ride
onward, Charlemagne! Light shall not fail thee. Thou hast
lost the flower of France. The Lord knoweth it right well.
But thou canst now avenge thee upon the wicked. Ride!"
Hearing these words, Charlemagne sprang once more to horse
and rode onward.
And truly a miracle was done for him. The sun stood
motionless in the sky, the heathen fled, the Franks pursued,
until in the Valley of Darkness they fell upon them and beat
them with great slaughter. The heathen still fled, but the
Franks surrounded them, closing every path, and in front
flowed the river Ebro wide and deep. Across it there was no
bridge, upon it no boat, no barge. Calling upon their gods
Tervagan and Apollin and upon Mahomet to save them, the
heathen threw themselves into the water. But there no safety
 Many, weighted with their heavy armour, sank
beneath the waves. Others, carried by the tide, were swept
away, and all were drowned, King Marsil alone fleeing
When Charlemagne saw that all his enemies were slain, he
leapt from his horse, and, kneeling upon the ground, gave
thanks to Heaven. And even as he rose from his knees the sun
went down and all the land was dim in twilight.
"Now is the hour of rest," said the Emperor. "It is too late
to return to Roncesvalles, for our steeds are weary and
exhausted. Take off their saddles and their bridles, and let
them refresh themselves upon the field."
"Sire, it is well said," replied the Franks.
So the knights, leaping from their horses, took saddle and
bridle from them, and let them wander free upon the green
meadows by the river side. Then, being very weary, the
Franks lay down upon the grass, all dressed as they were in
their armour, and with their swords girded to their sides,
 slept. So worn were they with battle and with grief,
that none that night kept watch, but all alike slept.
The Emperor too slept upon the ground among his knights and
barons. Like them he lay in his armour. And his good sword
Joyeuse was girt about him.
The night was clear and the moon shone brightly. And
Charlemagne, lying on the grass, thought bitterly of Roland
and of Oliver, and of all the twelve Peers of France who lay
dead upon the field of Roncesvalles. But at last, overcome
with grief and weariness, he fell asleep.
As the Emperor slept, he dreamed. He thought he saw the sky
grow black with thunder-clouds, then jagged lightning
flashed and flamed, hail fell and wild winds howled. Such a
storm the earth had never seen, and suddenly in all its fury
it burst upon his army. Their lances were wrapped in flame,
their shields of gold were melted, hauberks and helmets were
crushed to pieces. Then bears and wolves from out
forests sprang upon the dismayed knights, devouring them.
Monsters untold, serpents, fiery fiends, and more than
thirty thousand griffins, all rushed upon the Franks with
greedy, gaping jaws.
"Arm! Arm! Sire," they cried to him. And Charlemagne, in his
dream, struggled to reach his knights. But something, he
knew not what, held him bound and helpless. Then from out
the depths of the forest a lion rushed upon him. It was a
fierce, terrible, and proud beast. It seized upon the
Emperor, and together they struggled, he fighting with his
naked hands. Who would win, who would be beaten, none knew,
for the dream passed and the Emperor still slept.
Again Charlemagne dreamed. He stood, he thought, upon the
marble steps of his great palace of Aix holding a bear by a
double chain. Suddenly out of the forest there came thirty
other bears to the foot of the steps where Charlemagne stood.
They all had tongues and spoke like men. "Give
 him back to
us, Sire," they said, "he is our kinsman, and we must help
him. It is not right that thou shouldest keep him so long
Then from out the palace there came a hound. Bounding among
the savage beasts he threw himself upon the largest of them.
Over and over upon the grass they rolled, fighting terribly.
Who would be the victor, who the vanquished? Charlemagne
could not tell. The vision passed, and he slept till
As the first dim light of dawn crept across the sky,
Charlemagne awoke. Soon all the camp was astir, and before
the sun rose high the knights were riding back over the wide
roads to Roncesvalles.
When once again they reached the dreadful field, Charlemagne
wandered over all the plain until he came where Roland lay.
Then taking him in his arms he made great moan. "My friend,
my Roland, who shall now lead my army? My nephew, beautiful
and brave, my pride, my glory, all are gone. Alas the
alas!" Thus with tears and cries he mourned his loss.
Then said one, "Sire, grieve not overmuch. Command rather
that we search the plain and gather together all our men who
have been slain by the heathen. Then let us bury them with
chant, and song and solemn ceremony, as befits such heroes."
"Yea," said Charlemagne, "it is well said. Sound your
So the trumpets were sounded, and over all the field the
Franks searched, gathering their slain brothers and
With the army there were many bishops, abbots and
monks, and so with chant and hymn, with prayer and incense,
the Franks were laid to rest. With great honour they were
buried. Then, for they could do no more, their comrades left
Only the bodies of Roland, Oliver and Archbishop Turpin,
they did not lay in Spanish ground. In three white marble
coffins covered with silken cloths they were placed on
chariots, ready to be carried back to the fair land of
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