“Alas,” sighed Charlemagne, “what sorrow is mine that I was not here ere this battle was fought!”
In and out of his long white beard his fingers twisted, and tears of grief and anger stood in his eyes. Behind him, rank upon rank, crowded his knights and barons full of wrath and sorrow. Not one among them but had lost a son or brother, a friend or comrade. For a time they stood dumb with grief and horror.
Then spoke Duke Naimes. Wise in counsel, brave in battle was he. “Look, Sire,” he cried, “look where two leagues from us the dust arises upon the great highway. There is gathered the army of the heathen. Ride, Sire, ride and avenge our wrongs.”
And so it was, for those who had fled from the battle-field were gathered together and were now crowding onward to Saragossa.
“Alas!” said Charlemagne, “they are already far away. Yet they have taken from me the very flower of France, so for the sake of right and honor I will do as thou desirest.”
Then the Emperor called to him four of his chief barons. “Rest here,” he said, “guard the field, the valleys and the hills. Leave the dead lying as they are, but watch well that neither lion nor any other savage beast come nigh to them. Neither shall any servant or squire touch them. I forbid ye to let man lay hand upon them till we return.”
“Sire we will do thy will,” answered the four.
Then, leaving a thousand knights to be with them, Charlemagne sounded his war trumpets, and the army set forth upon the pursuit of the heathen. Furiously they rode and fast, but already the foe was far. Anxiously the Emperor looked to the sun as it slowly went down toward the west. Night was at hand and the enemy still afar.
Then, alighting from his horse, Charlemagne kneeled upon the green grass. “Oh Lord, I pray thee,” he cried, “make the sun to stop. Say thou to the night, ‘wait.’ Say thou to the day, ‘remain.’” And as the Emperor prayed, his guardian angel stooped down and whispered to him, “Ride onward, Charlemagne! Light shall not fail thee. Thou hast lost the flower of France. The Lord knoweth it right well. But thou canst now avenge thee upon the wicked. Ride!”
Hearing these words, Charlemagne sprang once more to horse and rode onward.
And truly a miracle was done for him. The sun stood motionless in the sky, the heathen fled, the Franks pursued, until in the Valley of Darkness they fell upon them and beat them with great slaughter. The heathen still fled, but the Franks surrounded them, closing every path, and in front flowed the river Ebro wide and deep. Across it there was no bridge, upon it no boat, no barge. Calling upon their gods Tervagan and Apollin and upon Mahomet to save them, the heathen threw themselves into the water. But there no safety they found. Many, weighted with their heavy armor, sank beneath the waves. Others, carried by the tide, were swept away, and all were drowned, King Marsil alone fleeing towards Saragossa.