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Chapter 25

CHAPTER XXV.
OGIER, THE DANE, CONTINUED.

CHARLEMAGNE had not forgotten the offence of Geoffroy, the King of
Denmark, in withholding homage, and now prepared to enforce
submission. But at this crisis he was waited upon by an embassy from
Geoffroy, acknowledging his fault, and craving assistance against an
army of invaders who had attacked his states with a force which he was
unable to repel. The soul of Charlemagne was too great to be
implacable, and he took this opportunity to test that of Ogier, who
had felt acutely the unkindness of his father, in leaving him, without
regard or notice, fifteen years in captivity. Charles asked Ogier
whether, in spite of his father's neglect, he was disposed to lead
an army to his assistance. He replied, "A son can never be excused
from helping his father by any cause short of death." Charlemagne
placed an army of a thousand knights under the command of Ogier, and
great numbers more volunteered to march under so distinguished a
leader. He flew to the succor of his father, repelled the invaders,
and drove them in confusion to their vessels. Ogier then hastened to
the capital, but as he drew near the city he heard all the bells
sounding a knell. He soon learned the cause; it was the obsequies of
Geoffroy, the King. Ogier felt keenly the grief of not having been
permitted to embrace his father once more, and to learn his latest
commands; but he found that his father had declared him heir to his
throne. He hastened to the church where the body lay; he knelt and
bathed the lifeless form with his tears. At that moment a celestial
light beamed all around, and a voice as of an angel said, "Ogier,
leave thy crown to Guyon, thy brother, and bear no other title than
that of 'The Dane.' Thy destiny is glorious; and other kingdoms are
reserved for thee." Ogier obeyed the divine behest. He saluted his
stepmother respectfully, and, embracing his brother, told him that
he was content with his lot in being reckoned among the paladins of
Charlemagne, and resigned all claims to the crown of Denmark.
Ogier returned covered with glory to the court of Charlemagne, and
the Emperor, touched with this proof of his attachment, loaded him
with caresses, and treated him almost as an equal.
We pass in silence the adventures of Ogier for several ensuing
years, in which the fairy-gifts of his infancy showed their force in
making him successful in all enterprises, both of love and war. He
married the charming Belicene, and became the father of young Baldwin,
a youth who seemed to inherit in full measure the strength and courage
of his father and the beauty of his mother. When the lad was old
enough to be separated from his mother, Ogier took him to court and
presented him to Charlemagne, who embraced him, and took him into
his service. It seemed to Duke Namo, and all the elder knights, as
if they saw in him Ogier himself, as he was when a youth; and this
resemblance won for the lad their kind regards. Even Charlot at
first seemed to be fond of him, though after a while the resemblance
to Ogier which he noticed had the effect to excite his hatred.
Baldwin was attentive to Charlot, and lost no occasion to be
serviceable. The Prince loved to play chess, and Baldwin, who played
well, often made a party with him.
One day Charlot was nettled at losing two pieces in succession; he
thought he could, by taking a piece from Baldwin, get some amends
for his loss; but Baldwin, seeing him fall into a trap which he had
set for him, could not help a slight laugh, as he said,
"Check-mate." Charlot rose in a fury, seized the rich and heavy
chess-board, and dashed it with all his strength on the head of
Baldwin, who fell, and died where he fell.
Frightened at his own crime, and fearing the vengeance of the
terrible Ogier, Charlot concealed himself in the interior of the
palace. A young companion of Baldwin hastened and informed Ogier of
the event. He ran to the chamber, and beheld the body of his child
bathed in blood, and it could not be concealed from him that Charlot
gave the blow. Transported with rage, Ogier sought Charlot through the
palace, and Charlot, feeling safe nowhere else, took refuge in the
hall of Charlemagne, where he seated himself at table with Duke Namo
and Salomon, Duke of Brittany. Ogier, with sword drawn, followed him
to the very table of the Emperor. When a cupbearer attempted to bar
his way, he struck the cup from his hand and dashed the contents in
the Emperor's face. Charles rose in a passion, seized a knife, and
would have plunged it into his breast, had not Salomon and another
baron thrown themselves between, while Namo, who retained his
ancient influence over Ogier, drew him out of the room. Foreseeing the
consequences of this violence, pitying Ogier, and in his heart
excusing him, Namo hurried him away before the guards of the palace
could arrest him, made him mount his horse, and leave Paris.
Charlemagne called together his peers, and made them take an oath to
do all in their power to arrest Ogier, and bring him to condign
punishment. Ogier on his part sent messages to the Emperor, offering
to give himself up on condition that Charlot should be punished for
his atrocious crime. The Emperor would listen to no conditions, and
went in pursuit of Ogier at the head of a large body of soldiers.
Ogier, on the other hand, was warmly supported by many knights, who
pledged themselves in his defence. The contest raged long, with no
decisive results. Ogier more than once had the Emperor in his power,
but declined to avail himself of his advantage, and released him
without conditions. He even implored pardon for himself, but
demanded at the same time the punishment of Charlot. But Charlemagne
was too blindly fond of his unworthy son to subject him to
punishment for the sake of conciliating one who had been so deeply
injured.
At length, distressed at the blood which his friends had lost in his
cause, Ogier dismissed his little army, and, slipping away from
those who wished to attend him, took his course to rejoin the Duke
Guyon, his brother. On his way, having reached the forest of Ardennes,
weary with long travel, the freshness of a retired valley tempted
him to lie down to take some repose. He unsaddled Beiffror, relieved
himself of his helmet, lay down on the turf, rested his head on his
shield, and slept.
It so happened that Turpin, who occasionally recalled to mind that
he was Archbishop of Rheims, was at that time in the vicinity,
making a pastoral visit to the churches under his jurisdiction. But
his dignity of peer of France, and his martial spirit, which caused
him to be reckoned among the "preux chevaliers" of his time, forbade
him to travel without as large a retinue of knights as he had of
clergymen. One of these was thirsty, and knowing the fountain on the
borders of which Ogier was reposing, he rode to it, and was struck
by the sight of a knight stretched on the ground. He hastened back,
and let the Archbishop know, who approached the fountain, and
recognized Ogier.
The first impulse of the good and generous Turpin was to save his
friend, for whom he felt the warmest attachment; but his archdeacons
and knights, who also recognized Ogier, reminded the Archbishop of the
oath which the Emperor had exacted of them all. Turpin could not be
false to his oath; but it was not without a groan that he permitted
his followers to bind the sleeping knight. The Archbishop's attendants
secured the horse and arms of Ogier, and conducted their prisoner to
the Emperor at Soissons.
The Emperor had become so much embittered by Ogier's obstinate
resistance, added to his original fault, that he was disposed to order
him to instant death. But Turpin, seconded by the good Dukes Namo
and Salomon, prayed so hard for him, that Charlemagne consented to
remit a violent death, but sentenced him to close imprisonment,
under the charge of the Archbishop, strictly limiting his food to
one quarter of a loaf of bread per day, with one piece of meat, and
a quarter of a cup of wine. In this way he hoped quickly to put an end
to his life without bringing on himself the hostility of the King of
Denmark, and other powerful friends of Ogier. He exacted a new oath of
Turpin to obey his orders strictly.
The good Archbishop loved Ogier too well not to cast about for
some means of saving his life, which he foresaw he would soon lose
if subjected to such scanty fare, for Ogier was seven feet tall, and
had an appetite in proportion. Turpin remembered, moreover, that Ogier
was a true son of the Church, always zealous to propagate the faith
and subdue unbelievers; so he felt justified in practising on this
occasion what in later times has been entitled "mental reservation,"
without swerving from the letter of the oath which he had taken.
This is the method he hit upon.
Every morning he had his prisoner supplied with a quarter of a
loaf of bread, made of two bushels of flour; to this he added a
quarter of a sheep or a fat calf, and he had a cup made which held
forty pints of wine, and allowed Ogier a quarter of it daily.
Ogier's imprisonment lasted long. Charlemagne was astonished to
hear, from time to time, that he still held out; and when he
inquired more particularly of Turpin, the good Archbishop, relying
on his own understanding of the words, did not hesitate to affirm
positively that he allowed his prisoner no more than the permitted
ration.
We forgot to say that, when Ogier was led prisoner to Soissons,
the Abbot of Saint Faron, observing the fine horse Beiffror, and not
having at the time any other favor to ask of Charlemagne, begged the
Emperor to give him the horse, and had him taken to his abbey. He
was impatient to try his new acquisition, and, when he had arrived
in his litter at the foot of the mountain where the horse had been
brought to meet him, mounted him and rode onward. The horse,
accustomed to bear the enormous weight of Ogier in his armor, when
he perceived nothing on his back but the light weight of the Abbot,
whose long robes fluttered against his sides, ran away, making
prodigious leaps over the steep acclivities of the mountain, till he
reached the convent of Jouaire, where, in sight of the Abbess and
her nuns, he threw the Abbot, already half dead with fright, to the
ground. The Abbot, bruised and mortified, revenged himself on poor
Beiffror, whom he condemned, in his wrath, to be given to the
workmen to drag stones for a chapel that was building near the
abbey. Thus, ill-fed, hard-worked, and often beaten, the noble horse
Beiffror passed the time while his master's imprisonment lasted.
That imprisonment would have been as long as his life if it had
not been for some important events which forced the Emperor to set
Ogier at liberty.
The Emperor learned at the same time, that Carahue, King of
Mauritania, was assembling an army to come and demand the liberation
of Ogier; that Guyon, King of Denmark, was prepared to second the
enterprise with all his forces; and, worse than all, that the
Saracens, under Bruhier, Sultan of Arabia, had landed in Gascony,
taken Bordeaux, and were marching with all speed for Paris.
Charlemagne now felt how necessary the aid of Ogier was to him. But,
in spite of the representations of Turpin, Namo, and Salomon, he could
not bring himself to consent to surrender Charlot to such punishment
as Ogier should see fit to impose. Besides, he believed that Ogier was
without strength and vigor, weakened by imprisonment and long
abstinence.
At this crisis he received a message from Bruhier, proposing to
put the issue upon the result of a combat between himself and the
Emperor or his champion; promising, if defeated, to withdraw his army.
Charlemagne would willingly have accepted the challenge; but his
counsellors all opposed it. The herald was therefore told that the
Emperor would take time to consider his proposition, and give his
answer the next day.
It was during this interval that the three Dukes succeeded in
prevailing upon Charlemagne to pardon Ogier, and to send for him to
combat the puissant enemy who now defied him; but it was no easy
task to persuade Ogier. The idea of his long imprisonment and the
recollection of his son, bleeding and dying in his arms by the blow of
the ferocious Charlot, made him long resist the urgency of his
friends. Though glory called him to encounter Bruhier, and the
safety of Christendom demanded the destruction of this proud enemy
of the faith, Ogier only yielded at last on condition that Charlot
should be delivered into his hands to be dealt with as he should see
fit.
The terms were hard, but the danger was pressing, and Charlemagne,
with a returning sense of justice, and a strong confidence in the
generous though passionate soul of Ogier, at last consented to them.
Ogier was led into the presence of Charlemagne by the three peers.
The Emperor, faithful to his word, had caused Charlot to be brought
into the hall where the high barons were assembled, his hands tied,
and his head uncovered. When the Emperor saw Ogier approach, he took
Charlot by the arm, led him towards Ogier, and said these words: "I
surrender the criminal; do with him as you think fit." Ogier,
without replying, seized Charlot by the hair, forced him on his knees,
and lifted with the other hand his irresistible sword. Charlemagne,
who expected to see the head of his son rolling at his feet, shut
his eyes and uttered a cry of horror.
Ogier had done enough. The next moment he raised Charlot, cut his
bonds, kissed him on the mouth, and hastened to throw himself at the
feet of the Emperor.
Nothing can exceed the surprise and joy of Charlemagne at seeing his
son unharmed and Ogier kneeling at his feet. He folded him in his
arms, bathed him with tears, and exclaimed to his barons, "I feel at
this moment that Ogier is greater than I." As for Charlot, his base
soul felt nothing but the joy of having escaped death; he remained
such as he had been, and it was not till some years afterwards he
received the punishment he deserved, from the hands of Huon of
Bordeaux, as we have seen in a former chapter.

Thomas Bulfinch

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