Gateway to the Classics: Stories of Charlemagne by Alfred J. Church
Stories of Charlemagne by  Alfred J. Church

How Mawgis Became a Hermit

R eynaud entertained the Barons that night in Royal fashion. The next day, after they had heard mass, he was minded to set forth, and he said to his brothers and Mawgis, "Tarry here and keep this castle." "Nay," said Alard, "we will come with you. Maybe you will have need of help." Alard has spoken well," said Ogier the Dane. Then said Reynaud to Mawgis, "You at the least will tarry here." "That will I do, fair cousin," answered Mawgis, "and be sure that Montalban shall suffer no harm through me."

Reynaud rode to Montfaucon, and there he found Roland waiting for him. Roland spake the first, and said, "Be sure, Sir Reynaud, that when you leave the field this day, you will so leave it that you will never again fight with me or any other man." "Such threatenings do not become so good a knight," answered Reynaud. Roland said again, "I am not here for peace, but for war. If you are wise you will keep yourself far from me." "You are overproud," answered Reynaud, "maybe I shall abate your high thoughts."

When Reynaud had spoken these words, he spurred Bayard and charged Roland, and Roland also charged from his side. With so great a shock did they come together, that their spears were broken to pieces. As for Reynaud, he was borne to the earth, his saddle girths breaking, and Roland's feet were thrust out of the stirrups. Then Reynaud rising quickly from the ground smote Roland a mighty blow with his sword, so that he scarce knew where he was. Nevertheless, drawing his good sword Durendal, he made at Reynaud, and dealt him a great stroke. Long and fierce was the battle between these two, for they both were as hardy knights as lived.

Then the Duke Naymes cried to the King, "This is ill done to send to their death two such valiant knights, who might do good service against the heathen. Bid them cease from their fighting, Sir King." But the King said nought.

Reynaud said to Roland, "Let us light down and fight afoot lest by chance we should kill our horses, for if we lose them we are not like to get their like again." With this Roland was content. So they lighted down from their horses and fought on foot. First they fought with swords, but neither one could get the better of the other. When Roland saw that he could not prevail with his sword he caught the other round the waist, and wrestled with him in the same fashion as the Northerners use. So they two strove together for so long a time as a man might take for the running of a mile. Then seeing that neither could throw the other they sat down, being utterly wearied; their helmets and shields were partly broken, and the ground whereon they had stood was trampled as if men had beaten corn thereon.

Then there came to pass a right wonderful thing. There suddenly fell upon the two so thick a cloud that neither could see the other. Then Roland, having bethought himself awhile, said to Reynaud, "Will you do me a courteous turn, and I will some day, if you should need it, do the same to you." Reynaud answered, "I am ready to do whatsoever you shall ask me." Then Roland said, "I will that you take me with you to Montalban, for I am persuaded in my mind that in this matter you have the right and I the wrong."

So Roland mounted his horse, and Reynaud mounted on Bayard, and they rode away side by side. When King Charles saw them he was not a little astonished, and leaping upon his horse he cried aloud, "Now shall I see who is on my side." And he hurried after the two knights, and many Frenchmen went with him.

By this time the King, having been baulked of his will once again, for he had counted it for certain that Roland would overcome Reynaud, was yet more steadfastly determined not to give peace to the brethren; therefore he bade Duke Richard of Normandy ride on and guard the crossing over the river while he himself followed with all the host that he could muster.

So the King and his army came to Montalban and set up his tent before the great gates of the castle. One came to Mawgis and said, "The King is come with a great host, and has set up his tent before the great wall." "Take no heed of this," answered Mawgis; "if the King has done this thing he has done it to his own loss."

When Reynaud knew of the matter he told it to Roland, and Roland said, "I will now send to the King my uncle this message—that Reynaud has dealt with me right courteously; also that he and his brethren and Mawgis will give themselves and their castle into his hands if only he will promise to save us alive." "You speak well," said Reynaud; "I am content to do this."

Then they doubted who should take this message to the King. At last it was agreed that the Duke of Naymes and Ogier the Dane should take it. So these two went to the King where he sat in his tent before the great gates of the castle.

But the King hardened his heart, and would not listen to the Duke Naymes and Ogier. Nay more, he cried, "Flee from this place, ye villains! Reynaud shall have no peace with me till I have Mawgis to do with as I will." Then the Barons went back to the castle and told how they had fared. Reynaud said, "I wonder that the King is so hard of heart. But Mawgis I will not give to him; no, not though I should die for it."

Then they went to supper, and ate their meat with much cheerfulness. Supper being ended, Reynaud said to Mawgis, "Cousin, I pray you to watch this night, for on this hangs the lives of us all." "Sleep in peace," answered Mawgis, "for all shall be well."

When all the Barons were abed Mawgis took Bayard out of his stable and rode to the King's camp. When he was come thither he cast upon all the host, by a charm that he had, a very deep sleep. This done, he went to the King's tent and took him out of his bed and laid him across Bayard, and carried him, still sleeping, to Montalban.

Mawgis went to the chamber of Reynaud and said to him, "Cousin, what would you give me if I should deliver the King into your hands?" "I would give you whatsoever you shall ask," answered Reynaud. "Promise me then that you will do him no harm," said Mawgis. Reynaud answered, "I promise." Then Mawgis led him to his own chamber and showed him the King asleep in his bed.

When Mawgis had delivered the King to Reynaud he went to the stable where he had left Bayard and rubbed the horse's back and head with straw, and kissed him, weeping the while. This done he put on him his pilgrim's garb, and having given the porter all the clothing that he had, went forth from the gate.

Mawgis journeyed till he came to the river Dordogne. This he crossed in a boat, and having passed through a pine forest that was on the other side of the river, came to a well whereby there was a little house with a spring before the door, in which a hermit might conveniently dwell. Having entered the house he saw an oratory and in it an image of Our Lady, and when he had knelt down before it he prayed that Our Lord would forgive him his sins. This done, he made a great vow that he would abide in that place for the rest of his life, eating only such wild things as were in the wood. This he did thinking that if he were away the King would make peace with the brethren.

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