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    Chapter 18

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    Chapter 18
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    CHAPTER XVIII.
    THE BATTLE OF RONCESVALLES.

    AFTER the expulsion of the Saracens from France, Charlemagne led his
    army into Spain, to punish Marsilius, the king of that country, for
    having sided with the African Saracens in the late war. Charlemagne
    succeeded in all his attempts, and compelled Marsilius to submit,
    and pay tribute to France, Our readers will remember Gano, otherwise
    called Gan, or Ganelon, whom we mentioned in one of our early chapters
    as an old courtier of Charlemagne, and a deadly enemy of Orlando,
    Rinaldo, and all their friends. He had great influence over Charles,
    from equality of age and long intimacy; and he was not without good
    qualities: he was brave and sagacious, but envious, false, and
    treacherous. Gan prevailed on Charles to send him as ambassador to
    Marsilius, to arrange the tribute. He embraced Orlando over and over
    again at taking leave, using such pains to seem loving and sincere,
    that his hypocrisy was manifest to every one but the old monarch. He
    fastened with equal tenderness on Oliver, who smiled contemptuously in
    his face, and thought to himself, "You may make as many fair
    speeches as you choose but you lie." All the other paladins who were
    present thought the same, and they said as much to the Emperor,
    adding, that Gan should on no account be sent ambassador to the
    Spaniards. But Charles was infatuated.
    Gan was received with great honor by Marsilius. The king, attended
    by his lords, came fifteen miles out of Saragossa to meet him, and
    then conducted him into the city with acclamations. There was
    nothing for several days but balls, games, and exhibitions of
    chivalry, the ladies throwing flowers on the heads of the French
    knights, and the people shouting, "France! Mountjoy and St. Denis!"
    After the ceremonies of the first reception, the king and the
    ambassador began to understand one another. One day they sat
    together in a garden on the border of a fountain. The water was so
    clear and smooth it reflected every object around, and the spot was
    encircled with fruit-trees which quivered with the fresh air. As
    they sat and talked, as if without restraint, Gan, without looking the
    king in the face, was enabled to see the expression of his countenance
    in the water, and governed his speech accordingly. Marsilius was
    equally adroit, and watched the face of Gan while he addressed him.
    Marsilius began by lamenting, not as to the ambassador, but as to
    the friend, the injuries which Charles had done him by invading his
    dominions, charging him with wishing to take his kingdom from him, and
    give it to Orlando; till at length he plainly uttered his belief that,
    if that ambitious paladin were but dead, good men would get their
    rights.
    Gan heaved a sigh, as if he was unwillingly compelled to allow the
    force of what the king said; but, unable to contain himself long, he
    lifted up his face, radiant with triumphant wickedness, and exclaimed:
    "Every word you utter is truth; die he must, and die also must Oliver,
    who struck me that foul blow at court. Is it treachery to punish
    affronts like these? I have planned everything,- I have settled
    everything already with their besotted master. Orlando will come to
    your borders,- to Roncesvalles,- for the purpose of receiving the
    tribute. Charles will await him at the foot of the mountains.
    Orlando will bring but a small band with him: you, when you meet
    him, will have secretly your whole army at your back. You surround
    him, and who receives tribute then?"
    The new Judas had scarcely uttered these words when his exultation
    was interrupted by a change in the face of nature. The sky was
    suddenly overcast, there was thunder and lightning, a laurel was split
    in two from head to foot, and the Carob-tree under which Gan was
    sitting, which is said to be the species of tree on which Judas
    Iscariot hung himself, dropped one of its pods on his head.
    Marsilius, as well as Gan, was appalled at this omen; but on
    assembling his soothsayers they came to the conclusion that the
    laurel-tree turned the omen against the Emperor, the successor of
    the Caesars, though one of them renewed the consternation of Gan by
    saying that he did not understand the meaning of the tree of Judas,
    and intimating that perhaps the ambassador could explain it. Gan
    relieved his vexation by anger; the habit of wickedness prevailed over
    all other considerations; and the king prepared to march to
    Roncesvalles at the head of all his forces.
    Gan wrote to Charlemagne to say how humbly and submissively
    Marsilius was coming to pay the tribute into the hands of Orlando, and
    how handsome it would be of the Emperor to meet him halfway, and so be
    ready to receive him after the payment at his camp. He added a
    brilliant account of the tribute, and the accompanying presents. The
    good Emperor wrote in turn to say how pleased he was with the
    ambassador's diligence, and that matters were arranged precisely as he
    wished. His court, however, had its suspicions still, though they
    little thought Gan's object in bringing Charles into the
    neighborhood of Roncesvalles was to deliver him into the hands of
    Marsilius, after Orlando should have been destroyed by him.
    Orlando, however, did as his lord and sovereign desired. He went
    to Roncesvalles, accompanied by a moderate train of warriors, not
    dreaming of the atrocity that awaited him. Gan, meanwhile, had
    hastened back to France, in order to show himself free and easy in the
    presence of Charles, and secure the success of his plot; while
    Marsilius, to make assurance doubly sure, brought into the passes of
    Roncesvalles no less than three armies, which were successively to
    fall on the paladin in case of the worst, and so extinguish him with
    numbers. He had also, by Gan's advice, brought heaps of wine and
    good cheer to be set before his victims in the first instance; "for
    that," said the traitor, "will render the onset the more effective,
    the feasters being unarmed. One thing, however, I must not forget,"
    added he; "my son Baldwin is sure to be with Orlando; you must take
    care of his life for my sake."
    "I give him this vesture off my own body," said the king. "let him
    wear it in the battle, and have no fear. My soldiers shall be directed
    not to touch him."
    Gan went away rejoicing to France. He embraced the sovereign and the
    court all round with the air of a man who had brought them nothing but
    blessings, and the old king wept for very tenderness and delight.
    "Something is going on wrong, and looks very black," thought
    Malagigi, the good wizard; "Rinaldo is not here, and it is
    indispensably necessary that he should be. I must find out where he
    is, and Ricciardetto too, and send for them with all speed."
    Malagigi called up by his art a wise, terrible, and cruel spirit,
    named Ashtaroth. "Tell me, and tell me truly, of Rinaldo," said
    Malagigi to the spirit. The demon looked hard at the paladin, and said
    nothing. His aspect was clouded and violent.
    The enchanter, with an aspect still cloudier, bade Ashtaroth lay
    down that look; and made signs as if he would resort to angrier
    compulsion; and the devil, alarmed, loosened his tongue, and said,
    "You have not told me what you desire to know of Rinaldo."
    "I desire to know what he has been doing, and where he is."
    "He has been conquering and baptizing the world, east and west,"
    said the demon, "and is now in Egypt with Ricciardetto."
    "And what has Gan been plotting with Marsilius?" inquired
    Malagigi; "and what is to come of it?"
    "I know not," said the devil. "I was not attending to Gan at the
    time, and we fallen spirits know not the future. All I discern is that
    by the signs and comets in the heavens something dreadful is about
    to happen,- something very strange, treacherous, and bloody;- and that
    Gan has a seat ready prepared for him in hell."
    "Within three days," cried the enchanter, loudly, "bring Rinaldo and
    Ricciardetto into the pass of Roncesvalles. Do it, and I hereby
    undertake to summon thee no more."
    "Suppose they will not trust themselves with me?" said the spirit.
    "Enter Rinaldo's horse, and bring him, whether he trust thee or
    not."
    "It shall be done," returned the demon.
    There was an earthquake, and Ashtaroth disappeared.

    Marsilius now made his first movement towards the destruction of
    Orlando, by sending before him his vassal, King Blanchardin, with
    his presents of wines and other luxuries. The temperate but
    courteous hero took them in good part, and distributed them as the
    traitor wished; and then Blanchardin, on pretence of going forward
    to salute Charlemagne, returned, and put himself at the head of the
    second army, which was the post assigned him by his liege-lord. King
    Falseron, whose son Orlando had slain in battle, headed the first
    army, and King Balugante the third. Marsilius made a speech to them,
    in which he let them into his design, and concluded by recommending to
    their good-will the son of his friend Gan, whom they would know by the
    vest he had sent him, and who was the only soul amongst the Christians
    they were to spare.
    This son of Gan, meanwhile, and several of the paladins, who
    distrusted the misbelievers, and were anxious at all events to be with
    Orlando, had joined the hero in the fated valley; so that the little
    Christian host, considering the tremendous valor of their lord and his
    friends, were not to be sold for nothing. Rinaldo, alas! the second
    thunderbolt of Christendom, was destined not to be there in time to
    meet the issue. The paladins in vain begged Orlando to be on his guard
    against treachery, and sent for a more numerous body of men. The great
    heart of the Champion of the Faith was unwilling to harbor suspicion
    as long as he could help it. He refused to summon aid which might be
    superfluous; neither would he do anything but what his liege-lord
    had directed. And yet he could not wholly repress a misgiving. A
    shadow had fallen on his heart, great and cheerful as it was. The
    anticipations of his friends disturbed him, in spite of the face
    with which he met them. Perhaps by a certain foresight he felt his
    death approaching; but he felt bound not to encourage the
    impression. Besides, time pressed; the moment of the looked-for
    tribute was at hand, and little combinations of circumstances
    determine often the greatest events.
    King Marsilius was to arrive early next day with the tribute, and
    Oliver, with the morning sun, rode forth to reconnoitre, and see if he
    could discover the peaceful pomp of the Spanish court in the distance.
    He rode up the nearest height, and from the top of it beheld the first
    army of Marsilius already forming in the passes. "O devil Gan," he
    exclaimed, "this then is the consummation of thy labors!" Oliver put
    spurs to his horse, and galloped back down the mountain to Orlando.
    "Well," cried the hero, "what news?"
    "Bad news," said his cousin, "such as you would not hear of
    yesterday. Marsilius is here in arms, and all the world is with him."
    The paladins pressed round Orlando, and entreated him to sound his
    horn, in token that he needed help. His only answer was to mount his
    horse, and ride up the mountain with Sansonetto.
    As soon, however, as he cast forth his eyes, and beheld what was
    round about him, he turned in sorrow, and looked down into
    Roncesvalles, and said, "O miserable valley! the blood shed in thee
    this day will color thy name forever."
    Orlando's little camp were furious against the Saracens. They
    armed themselves with the greatest impatience. There was nothing but
    lacing of helmets and mounting of horses, while good Archbishop Turpin
    went from rank to rank exhorting and encouraging the warriors of
    Christ. Orlando and his captains withdrew for a moment to
    consultation. He fairly groaned for sorrow, and at first had not a
    word to say; so wretched he felt at having brought his people to die
    in Roncesvalles. Then he said: "If it had entered into my heart to
    conceive the king of Spain to be such a villain, never would you
    have seen this day. He has exchanged with me a thousand courtesies and
    good words; and I thought that the worse enemies we had been before,
    the better friends we had become now. I fancied every human being
    capable of this kind of virtue on a good opportunity, saving,
    indeed, such base-hearted wretches as can never forgive their very
    forgivers; and of these I did not suppose him to be one. Let us die,
    if die we must, like honest and gallant men, so that it shall be
    said of us, it was only our bodies that died. The reason why I did not
    sound the horn was partly because I thought it did not become us,
    and partly because our liege-lord could hardly save us, even if he
    heard it." And with these words Orlando sprang to his horse, crying,
    "Away, against the Saracens!" But he had no sooner turned his face,
    than he wept bitterly, and said, "O Holy Virgin, think not of me,
    the sinner Orlando, but have pity on these thy servants!"
    And now, with a mighty dust, and an infinite sound of horns and
    tambours which came filling the valley, the first army of the infidels
    made its appearance, horses neighing, and a thousand pennons flying in
    the air. King Falseron led them on, saying to his officers: "Let
    nobody dare to lay a finger on Orlando. He belongs to myself. The
    revenge of my son's death is mine. I will cut the man down that
    comes between us."
    "Now, friends," said Orlando, "every man for himself, and St.
    Michael for us all! There is not one here that is not a perfect
    knight," And he might well say it, for the flower of all France was
    there, except Rinaldo and Ricciardetto,- every man a picked man, all
    friends and constant companions of Orlando.
    So the captains of the little troop and of the great army sat
    looking at one another, and singling one another out as the latter
    came on, and then the knights put spear in rest, and ran for a while
    two and two in succession, one against the other.
    Astolpho was the first to move. He ran against Arlotto of Soria, and
    thrust his antagonist's body out of the saddle, and his soul into
    the other world. Oliver encountered Malprimo, and, though he
    received a thrust which hurt him, sent his lance right through the
    heart of Malprimo.
    Falseron was daunted at this blow. "Truly," thought he, "this is a
    marvel." Oliver did not press on among the Saracens, his wound was too
    painful; but Orlando now put himself and his whole band in motion, and
    you may guess what an uproar ensued. The sound of the rattling of
    blows and helmets was as if the forge of Vulcan had been thrown
    open. Falseron beheld Orlando coming so furiously, that he thought him
    a Lucifer who had burst his chain, and was quite of another mind
    than when he purposed to have him all to himself. On the contrary,
    he recommended himself to his gods, and turned away, meaning to wait
    for a more auspicious season of revenge. But Orlando hailed him,
    with a terrible voice, saying, "O thou traitor! was this the end to
    which old quarrels were made up?" Then he dashed at Falseron with a
    fury so swift, and at the same time with a mastery of his lance so
    marvellous, that, though he plunged it in the man's body so as
    instantly to kill him, and then withdrew it, the body did not move
    in the saddle. The hero himself, as he rushed onwards, was fain to see
    the end of a stroke so perfect, and turning his horse back, touched
    the carcass with his sword, and it fell on the instant!
    When the infidels beheld their leader dead, such fear fell upon them
    that they were for leaving the field to the paladins, but they were
    unable. Marsilius had drawn the rest of his forces round the valley
    like a net, so that their shoulders were turned in vain. Orlando
    rode into the thick of them, and wherever he went thunderbolts fell
    upon helmets. Oliver was again in the fray, with Walter and Baldwin,
    Avino and Avolio, while Archbishop Turpin had changed his crosier
    for a lance, and chased a new flock before him to the mountains.
    Yet what could be done against foes without number? Marsilius
    constantly pours them in. The paladins are as units to thousands.
    Why tarry the horses of Rinaldo and Ricciardetto?
    The horses did not tarry, but fate had been quicker than
    enchantment. Ashtaroth had presented himself to Rinaldo in Egypt, and,
    after telling his errand, he and Foul-mouth, his servant, entered
    the horses of Rinaldo and Ricciardetto, which began to neigh, and
    snort, and leap with the fiends within them, till off they flew
    through the air over the pyramids and across the desert, and reached
    Spain and the scene of action just as Marsilius brought up his third
    army. The two paladins on their horses dropped right into the midst of
    the Saracens, and began making such havoc among them that Marsilius,
    who overlooked the fight from a mountain, thought his soldiers had
    turned against one another. Orlando beheld it, and guessed it could be
    no other but his cousins, and pressed to meet them. Oliver coming up
    at the same moment, the rapture of the whole party is not to be
    expressed. After a few hasty words of explanation they were forced
    to turn again upon the enemy, whose numbers seemed perfectly without
    limit.
    Orlando, making a bloody passage towards Marsilius, struck a youth
    on the head, whose helmet was so strong as to resist the blow, but
    at the same time flew off. Orlando prepared to strike a second blow,
    when the youth exclaimed, "Hold! you loved my father; I am Bujaforte!"
    The paladin had never seen Bujaforte, but he saw the likeness to the
    good old man, his father, and he dropped his sword. "O Bujaforte,"
    said he, "I loved him indeed; but what does his son do here fighting
    against his friends?"
    Bujaforte could not at once speak for weeping. At length he said: "I
    am forced to be here by my lord and master, Marsilius; and I have made
    a show of fighting, but have not hurt a single Christian. Treachery is
    on every side of you, Baldwin himself has a vest given him by
    Marsilius, that everybody may know the son of his friend Gan, and do
    him no harm."
    "Put your helmet on again," said Orlando, "and behave just as you
    have done. Never will your father's friend be an enemy to the son."
    The hero then turned in fury to look for Baldwin, who was
    hastening towards him, at that moment, with friendliness in his looks.
    "'Tis strange," said Baldwin, "I have done my duty as well as I
    could, yet nobody will come against me. I have slain right and left,
    and cannot comprehend what it is that makes the stoutest infidels
    avoid me."
    "Take off your vest," said Orlando, contemptuously, "and you will
    soon discover the secret, if you wish to know it. Your father has sold
    us to Marsilius, all but his honorable son."
    "If my father," said Baldwin, impetuously tearing off the vest, "has
    been such a villain, and I escape dying, I will plunge this sword
    through his heart. But I am no traitor, Orlando, and you do me wrong
    to say it. Think not I can live with dishonor."
    Baldwin spurred off into the fight, not waiting to hear another word
    from Orlando, who was very sorry for what he had said, for he
    perceived that the youth was in despair.
    And now the fight raged beyond all it had done before; twenty pagans
    went down for one paladin, but still the paladins fell. Sansonetto was
    beaten to earth by the club of Grandonio, Walter d'Amulion had his
    shoulder broken, Berlinghieri and Ottone were slain, and at last
    Astolpho fell, in revenge of whose death Orlando turned the spot where
    he died into a lake of Saracen blood. The luckless Bujaforte met
    Rinaldo, and, before he could explain how he seemed to be fighting
    on the Saracen side, received such a blow upon the head that he
    fell, unable to utter a word. Orlando, cutting his way to a spot where
    there was a great struggle and uproar, found the poor youth Baldwin,
    the son of Gan, with two spears in his breast. "I am no traitor
    now," said Baldwin, and those were the last words he said. Orlando was
    bitterly sorry to have been the cause of his death, and tears streamed
    from his eyes. At length down went Oliver himself, He had become
    blinded with his own blood, and smitten Orlando without knowing him.
    "How now, cousin," cried Orlando, "have you too gone over to the
    enemy?" "O my lord and master," cried the other, "I ask your pardon. I
    can see nothing; I am dying. Some traitor has stabbed me in the
    back. If you love me, lead my horse into the thick of them, so that
    I may not die unavenged."
    "I shall die myself before long," said Orlando, "out of very toil
    and grief; so we will go together."
    Orlando led his cousin's horse where the press was thickest, and
    dreadful was the strength of the dying man and his tired companion.
    They made a street through which they passed out of the battle, and
    Orlando led his cousin away to his tent, and said, "Wait a little till
    I return, for I will go and sound the horn on the hill yonder."
    "'Tis of no use," said Oliver, "my spirit is fast going, and desires
    to be with its Lord and Saviour."
    He would have said more, but his words came from him imperfectly,
    like those of a man in a dream, and so he expired.
    When Orlando saw him dead, he felt as if he was alone on the
    earth, and he was quite willing to leave it; only he wished that
    King Charles, at the foot of the mountains, should know how the case
    stood before he went. So he took up the horn and blew it three
    times, with such force that the blood burst out of his nose and mouth.
    Turpin says that at the third blast the horn broke in two.
    In spite of all the noise of the battle, the sound of the horn broke
    over it like a voice out of the other world. They say that birds
    fell dead at it, and that the whole Saracen army drew back in
    terror. Charlemagne was sitting in the midst of his court when the
    sound reached him; and Gan was there. The Emperor was the first to
    hear it.
    "Do you hear that?" said be to his nobles. "Did you hear the horn as
    I heard it?"
    Upon this they all listened, and Gan felt his heart misgive him. The
    horn sounded a second time.
    "What is the meaning of this?" said Charles.
    "Orlando is hunting," observed Gan, "and the stag is killed."
    But when the horn sounded yet a third time, and the blast was one of
    so dreadful a vehemence, everybody looked at the other, and then
    they all looked at Gan in fury. Charles rose from his seat.
    "This is no hunting of the stag," said he. "The sound goes to my
    very heart. O Gan! O Gan! Not for thee do I blush, but for myself. O
    foul and monstrous villain! Take him, gentlemen, and keep him in close
    prison. Would to God I had not lived to see this day!"
    But it was no time for words. They put the traitor in prison, and
    then Charles with all his court took his way to Roncesvalles, grieving
    and praying.
    It was afternoon when the horn sounded, and half an hour after it
    when the Emperor set out; and meantime Orlando had returned to the
    fight that he might do his duty, however hopeless, as long as he could
    sit his horse. At length he found his end approaching, for toil and
    fever, and rode all alone to a fountain where he had before quenched
    his thirst. His horse was wearier than he, and no sooner had his
    master alighted than the beast, kneeling down as if to take leave, and
    to say, "I have brought you to a place of rest," fell dead at his
    feet. Orlando cast water on him from the fountain, not wishing to
    believe him dead; but when he found it to no purpose, he grieved for
    him as if he had been a human being, and addressed him by name with
    tears, and asked forgiveness if he had ever done him wrong. They say
    that the horse, at these words, opened his eyes a little, and looked
    kindly at his master, and then stirred never more. They say also
    that Orlando then, summoning all his strength, smote a rock near him
    with his beautiful sword Durindana, thinking to shiver the steel in
    pieces, and so prevent its falling into the hands of the enemy; but
    though the rock split like a slate, and a great cleft remained ever
    after to astonish the eyes of pilgrims, the sword remained uninjured.
    And now Rinaldo and Ricciardetto came up, with Turpin, having driven
    back the Saracens, and told Orlando that the battle was won. Then
    Orlando knelt before Turpin, and begged remission of his sins, and
    Turpin gave him absolution. Orlando fixed his eyes on the hilt of
    his sword as on a crucifix, and embraced it, and he raised his eyes
    and appeared like a creature seraphical and transfigured, and,
    bowing his head, he breathed out his pure soul.
    And now King Charles and his nobles came up. The Emperor, at sight
    of the dead Orlando, threw himself, as if he had been a reckless
    youth, from his horse, and embraced and kissed the body, and said:
    "I bless thee, Orlando; I bless thy whole life, and all that thou
    wast, and all that thou ever didst, and the father that begat thee;
    and I ask pardon of thee for believing those who brought thee to thine
    end. They shall have their reward, O thou beloved one! But indeed it
    is thou that livest, and I who am worse than dead."
    Horrible to the Emperor's eyes was the sight of the field of
    Roncesvalles. The Saracens indeed had fled, conquered; but all his
    paladins but two were left on it dead, and the whole valley looked
    like a great slaughter-house, trampled into blood and dirt, and
    reeking to the heat. Charles trembled to his heart's core for wonder
    and agony. After gazing dumbly on the place, he cursed it with a
    solemn curse, and wished that never grass might grow in it again,
    nor seed of any kind, neither within it nor on any of its mountains
    around, but the anger of Heaven abide over it forever.
    Charles and his warriors went after the Saracens into Spain. They
    took and fired Saragossa, and Marsilius was hung to the carob-tree
    under which he had planned his villainy with Gan; and Gan was hung and
    drawn and quartered in Roncesvalles, amidst the execrations of the
    country.

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