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270
A BOOK OF MYTHS

plateful of food such as this must, of a surety, make his dear mother strong and well once more. Not for a moment did Roland hesitate. Even as a tiny sparrow darts into a lion's cage and picks up a scrap almost out of the monarch's hungry jaws, so acted Roland. A plateful of food stood beside the King. At this Roland sprang, seized it with both hands, and joyfully ran off with his prey. When the serving men would have caught him, Charlemagne, laughing, bade them desist.

"A hungry one this," he said, "and very bold."

So the meal went on, and when Roland had fed his mother with some pieces of the rich food and had seen her gradually revive, yet another thought came to his baby mind.

"My father gave her wine," he thought. "They were drinking wine in that great hall. It will make her white cheeks red again."

Thus he ran back, as fast as his legs could carry him, and Charlemagne smiled yet more when he saw the beautiful child, who knew no fear, return to the place where he had thieved. Right up to the King's chair he came, solemnly measured with his eye the cups of wine that the great company quaffed, saw that the cup of Charlemagne was the most beautiful and the fullest of the purple-red wine, stretched out a daring little hand, grasped the cup, and prepared to go off again, like a marauding bright-eyed bird. Then the King seized in his own hand the hand that held the cup.

"No! no! bold thief," he said, "I cannot have