Page:A book of myths.djvu/324

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268
A BOOK OF MYTHS

forward with horror to a day when the mighty Charlemagne might, by the power of the sword, thrust upon them the worship of the crucified Christ. Ere Charlemagne had returned to his own land, Marsile held a council with his peers. To believe that the great conqueror would rest content with Saragossa still unconquered were too nuch to hope for. Surely he would return to force his religion upon them. What, then, was it best to do? A very wily emir was Blancandrin, brave in war, and wise in counsel, and on his advice Marsile sent ambassadors to Charlemagne to ask of him upon what conditions he would be allowed to retain his kingdom in peace and to continue to worship the gods of his fathers. Mounted on white mules, with silver saddles, and with reins of gold, and bearing olive branches in their hands, Blancandrin and the ten messengers sent by Marsile arrived at Cordova, where Charlemagne rested with his army. Fifteen thousand tried veterans were with him there, and his "Douzeperes"—his Twelve Peers—who were to him what the Knights of the Round Table were to King Arthur of Britain. He held his court in an orchard, and under a great pine tree from which the wild honeysuckle hung like a fragrant canopy, the mighty king and emperor sat on a throne of gold.

The messengers of Marsile saw a man of much more than ordinary stature and with the commanding presence of one who might indeed conquer kingdoms, but his sword was laid aside and he watched contentedly the contests between the older of his knights who played