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The ambassadors put on their hauberks, close their vizors, and mount their war horses. The Emperor dismisses them, not without misgivings as to their fate, since he commends them to Jesus with many tears,
'Tot en plorant les a ."> Jhcsns command^.'
They go out of the gates of Paris, Fadmirable dt6. Never in their lives will they all return together again.
'Jamais jor de lor vies n'i seront tot rentre.'
They traverse the realm of France, the land of honour, lepa'is Itonord, and come to Aigremont. The evident wealth of the town, and the strength of the castle and its fortifications, which placed its defenders beyond fear of bolt from cross-bow or of stone from mangonel, excited the admiration of the travellers. 'Barons,' says Enguerrand, 'this is a strong place; Karl will never take it in all his life with any manner of siege-machine, unless it be starved out!'
They call to the warder of the gate. 'Ho, warder! good friend !—He ! portiers, biaus amis !—by your leave we will enter the city.' When the warder heard them, he raised his voice and answered, 'a vostre volente.' He opened the gate, let down the drawbridge,
'Et li baron ontrent do bono volente',
they came to the palace, and found Duke Beuve sitting in state with all his baronage. It appears, however, that the ambassadors on such occasions not only delivered themselves of their embassy belement e sans effroi, but added no slight insolence of their own invention, for Enguerrand not only demanded the Duke's service at court at the Nativity, but added that he must come barefoot and in his shirt,— Tot nus pies et en langes, ixsi est dcvisse—if he does not come it shall be done to him as ought to be done to any convicted traitor—tel traitor prove. When the Duke heard this he nearly went out of his mind, and he swears by Lord God the King of Majesty—
lhpoi riestforsmc. Et jure Damo Dieu, lo roi de majeste,'
evil was it that such a message should be said) or brought to him; his love of Karl must have made the messenger mad. Evil was it that such insolence—si grant vilte—should be offered to him in his court. The Duke rose from his seat,
. 'Li duo Bues d'Aigremont s'estoit laves en pies,'
and and cried to his men, 'Barons, delay not, seize me these messengers, and cut every man of them to pieces.' Then his men start up, and draw their swords; but the Duke himself was quicker than any, for he cleaves Euguerrand's head with his sword down'to the teeth, and tells the rest to take the body back to the Emperor for reply.
Karl was again for instant war, but the sage Duke Naimes once more proposes to send an ambassador to avert so great a calamity. 'Sire,' he says, 'by the body of St . Denis, keep your senses and take good counsel; try a more imposing embassy with a suite of four hundred.' 'A benison be to God,' said the Emperor, 'but so help me Saint Simon, I don't know whom to send.'
'Where shall we find the man to go,' said he, looking on his court, 'I will take care he does not lack guerdon.' But never a man of the circle durst raise the chin; they had their doubts about the Duke Beuve and his way of dealing.
• II douturent lo due et la eien facon.'
When Karl saw this he shivered in his heart. 'What is this?' said he, 'is there no man here who will dare to take the staff? (the glove and staff were, as we said, the official ensigns of the ambassadors). To the dismay of Karl, Naimes proposes that Karl's own son Loihers (Lothairc) shall be the proper messenger, and all the court cry out in applause—' Sire, our true Emperor, he shall not be gainsaid, for we are all of his opinion. Now give your son the glove nnd staff.'
But Loihers took the matter courageously in hand, and stepped out before any baron had even looked at him, and came before the King and cried aloud:—' Emperor, you do wrong to be sorry; I will do the message; by the name of Saint Simon, I will not conceal a jot, so may my soul find mercy.'
'I have much fear of the Duke,' said Karl, 'le due mii est felon, that he will hold you captive in his donjon. Now speak gently with him—don't be overbearing—
"Or parlos sagenient, no Boies pas bricon,"
and give him my message.'
The advice of Karl to his son to speak sagement was of little avail, as we shall see. He Dex, says the jongleur, what great damage, and destruction, and confusion came to France from that day. We know that one hundred thousand lost their lives, so many a gentle lady lost her companion, and so many a city was laid waste in fire and ashes. The wife of the Duke Beuve had a foreboding of what was going to happen, for she
spke spoke fair and courteously to her lord, 'Sire, and debonair Duke,' said the noble lady, with many gentle words, 'Ye know very well that Karl of the stern countenance—Karles au visfier— is your liege lord, you cannot deny it, that he is, after Lord God (Dame Dieu), who is above all. And he does much honour to you, you cannot deny that, in sending you his eldest son Loihers. Listen quietly to what he will say, and if he utters anything foolish do not get wrath at once with your proper lord.' She continued with further speech of the same kind, but not with much good augury of success, for the Duke fell into wrath, and ordered her to her chamber, which was of painted gold work, and told her there to correct her maidens and die her silk, inch was her business; his was of a different sort, 'Curses on the beard of any noble prince who goes to a lady's chamber for counsel.'
Loihers now stands in the presence of the Duke and all his baronage, who this time amounted to 2000 men; but all in vain had the advice of Karl been given to him to address the Duke tagement—he was still more haughty and insolent than Enguerrand, and so irritated the Duke that he ordered his barons to seize him. A desperate fight ensued, and in the end Loihers was slain with more than a hundred of his men, and Savaris of Toulouse was charged by the Duke Beuve to take the body of Loihers back to Karl for a reply. The Emperor receives the body with loud lamentation, amid the tears of his court and immediately commences war. He takes Aigremont, and Bcuve is obliged to do homage barefoot and in langes to the Emperor, who spares his life, however, on account of the powerful intercession of Gerard de Roussillon. He is unable, however, to forgive him at heart for the death of his- son, and concurs subsequently in a plot by which the Duke is killed by ambuscade, at the suggestion of traitors of the race of Ganelon, and the head was brought to Karl, who said, 'Friends, this is a very fine gift ':—
* Amis, co dist li rois, oi a mnlt bel present.'
Such was the tale of vengeance accumulating on the side both of Karl, and of the relatives of Beuve d'Aigremont and Doon de Nauteuil, when a fresh accident revived all the memories of past misdeeds, and created another civil war between Karl and his vassals.
To the Court of Karl with his seven crowned kings came Aymon with his four sons (nephews of Duke Beuve), and presents them to the Emperor. He says of them they are fair men, well-grown, and good at heart, and will do him service if he will.
'Je ai ci. iiii. fils qne vus ai amene;
Karl heard, and replied in a clear voice. 'Friend, may you fare happily. Blessed be the hour in which these were begotten. I will retain them willingly in my service and make them knights at the Nativity, for they are of my friends and of my blood!' When Renaud, the eldest, heard this he went and bowed at Karlemaine's feet; but Karl raised him up and kissed him sweetly and softly on the mouth. Indeed, he rapidly takes a fancy to all the four sons, and says again—' Children, we will make you all knights at the Nativity. And give you hauberks and helms, and shields with lions on them!' Alas! says the poet, he had better have burnt them all to cinders, for all the harm they did in after life. Renaud, however, grew so rapidly in Charles's favour that the Emperor said subsequently to him he would make him a knight on the very morrow at dawn:—
• 'Renaud, dit Karlemaine, mult as gento fac,on,
In the ceremony of conferring knighthood on Renaud we have the clearest proof of the antiquity of the poem, for the lady who, in the eleventh century at least, played so prominent a prt, assisting the knight to don his hauberk, fastening on his sword, buckling his spurs of gold, finds here no place at all. At the Court of Karlemaine, on the contrary, Karl calls for the hauberk, qui fu, luisans et cler, he himself helps Renaud to put it on, he laces his helm, while Ogier fastens his sword, and Naimes buckles on his spurs, while the 'rois Salomons,' the King of Brittany, gives him the 'colce;' not the accolade with the sword of later times, but now a mere blow of the hand on the back of the head or the side of the face. After which Renaud mounts his horse, already caparisoned with a steel poitrail, hangs his shield on his neck, and takes his lance in his hand.
After the same ceremony had been gone through by other knights, and after the quintain and the jousting, feasting takes place, and the four sons of Aymon serve the Emperor at table. When the banqueters rise from table they scatter themselves about the hall, and many go to chess, the favourite game of the times; but one unfortunately which requires a calmer temperament in the loser than it was easy to find in those days, when a game of chess too frequently led to manslaughter and war, the devastation of kingdoms and the ruin of empires.
Rcnaud Renaud and Bertolais, the nephew of Karlemaine, take to chess likewise, extended on the inlaid marble pavement; but alas! they quarrel at last—
'Et taut i ont joo quo puis si snnt irie.'
Bertolais got angry, called Renaud a felon and renegade, and gave him a buffet which brought blood as all buffets did apparently in those days. Renaud went to ask for redress from the Emperor, but the Emperor, with the want of logic of the rough natures of that time, feeling that he should be angry with somebody, falls upon Renaud instead of Bertolais, and calls him 'mauvais garqon' 'coart,' in the presence of all the court . When Renaud heard this and saw that all heard it likewise, he burst out in anger, and swore that the time should come when he would demand justice for the murder of his uncle the Duke Beuve d'Aigremont. The Emperor heard this with immense wrath ; he raised his steel glove and struck him in the face, so that the red blood flowed to the ground,
'Si quo li Bans vormous tl la terre cola.1
When Renaud saw this he turned back and sought out Bertolais in the hall, seized the chess-board and dashed out his brains. Then ensued a general meUe, in the midst of which the four sons of Aymon managed to escape.
The rest of the poem is occupied with the vicissitudes of the wars of Karl against the four sons of Aymon. Of the many thousand lines remaining very few are of sufficient interest to repay perusal. Some situations, however, have a certain dramatic and pathetic interest, and the chief of these are such as display the conflict of feudal fidelity and parental affection in the bosom of Aymon, the father of Renaud and his rebel brothers. Aymon, obeying the call of his feudal superior goes to the war against his four sons, and is obliged to forjnrer them, that is, to swear he will treat them as outlaws, carry on war against them, and refuse them all aid in any extremity. This oath he faithfully keeps to the letter, although the heart of the father leads him at times to disobey the spirit of it. For example, after seven years of warfare his four sons arc constrained to pass a winter as houseless outlaws in the forest of Ardennes. They have lost all their soldiers, they have but one horse between them, and that is without shoes, and his reins are broken; their helms are all rusted, their clothes are used up, their hair and beards have grown long and unkempt, and they feel more like brutes than men. In this extremity they determine to seek the hospitality of their own father's castle,