“We will not fail to enter,” cried the Franks. “It is true that we are but few, but we are bold and stanch,” and striking their golden spurs into their chargers’ flanks, they rode to meet the foe.
Once more the noise and dust of battle rose. Once more the plain was strewn with dead, and the green grass was crimson-dyed, and scattered wide were jewels and gold, splintered weapons, and shattered armor.
Fearful was the slaughter, mighty the deeds of valor done, until at last the heathen broke and fled amain. After them in hot pursuit rode the Franks. Their bright swords flashed and fell again and again, and all the way was marked with dead.
At length the heathen cries of despair reached even to where King Marsil stayed upon the hillside. “Marsil, oh our King! ride, ride, we have need of thee!” they cried.
Even to the King’s feet the Franks pursued the fleeing foe, slaying them before his face.
Then Marsil, mounting upon his horse, led his last knights against the fearful foe.
The Franks were nigh exhausted, but still three hundred swords flashed in the sunlight, three hundred hearts still beat with hope and courage.
As Roland watched Oliver ever in the thickest of the fight, dealing blow upon blow unceasingly, his heart swelled anew with love for him. “Oh, my comrade leal and true,” he cried, “alas! this day shall end our love. Alas! this day we shall part on earth for ever.”
Oliver heard him and through the press of fighting he urged his horse to Roland’s side. “Friend,” he said, “keep near to me. So it please God we shall at least die together.”
On went the fight, fiercer and fiercer yet, till but sixty weary Franks were left. Then, sadly gazing upon the stricken field, Roland turned to Oliver. “Behold! our bravest lie dead,” he cried. “Well may France weep, for she is shorn of all her most valiant knights. Oh my Emperor, my friend, alas, why wert thou not here? Oliver, my brother, how shall we speed him now our mournful news?”
“I know not,” said Oliver sadly, “rather come death now than any craven deed.”
“I will sound upon my horn,” said Roland, all his pride broken and gone. “I will sound upon my horn. Charlemagne will hear it and the Franks will return to our aid.”
“Shame would that be,” cried Oliver. “Our kin would blush for us and be dishonored all their days. When I prayed of thee thou wouldst not sound thy horn, and now it is not I who will consent to it. Sound upon thy horn! No! there is no courage, no wisdom in that now. Had the Emperor been here we had been saved. But now it is too late, for all is lost. Nay,” he cried in rising wrath, “if ever I see again my fair sister Aude, I swear to thee thou shalt never hold her in thine arms. Never shall she be bride of thine.” For Roland loved Oliver’s beautiful sister Aude and was loved by her, and when Roland would return to France she had promised to be his bride.