When Charlemagne saw that all his enemies were slain, he leapt from his horse, and, kneeling upon the ground, gave thanks to Heaven. And even as he rose from his knees the sun went down and all the land was dim in twilight.
“Now is the hour of rest,” said the Emperor. “It is too late to return to Roncesvalles, for our steeds are weary and exhausted. Take off their saddles and their bridles, and let them refresh themselves upon the field.”
“Sire, it is well said,” replied the Franks.
So the knights, leaping from their horses, took saddle and bridle from them, and let them wander free upon the green meadows by the river-side. Then, being very weary, the Franks lay down upon the grass, all dressed as they were in their armor, and with their swords girded to their sides, and slept. So worn were they with battle and with grief, that none that night kept watch, but all alike slept.
The Emperor too slept upon the ground among his knights and barons. Like them he lay in his armor. And his good sword Joyeuse was girt about him.
The night was clear and the moon shone brightly. And Charlemagne, lying on the grass, thought bitterly of Roland and of Oliver, and of all the twelve peers of France who lay dead upon the field of Roncesvalles. But at last, overcome with grief and weariness, he fell asleep.
As the Emperor slept, he dreamed. He thought he saw the sky grow black with thunder-clouds, then jagged lightning flashed and flamed, hail fell and wild winds howled. Such a storm the earth had never seen, and suddenly in all its fury it burst upon his army. Their lances were wrapped in flame, their shields of gold were melted, hauberks and helmets were crushed to pieces. Then bears and wolves from out the forests sprang upon the dismayed knights, devouring them. Monsters untold, serpents, fiery fiends, and more than thirty thousand griffins, all rushed upon the Franks with greedy, gaping jaws.
“Arm! arm! Sire,” they cried to him. And Charlemagne, in his dream, struggled to reach his knights. But something, he knew not what, held him bound and helpless. Then from out the depths of the forest a lion rushed upon him. It was a fierce, terrible, and proud beast. It seized upon the Emperor, and together they struggled, he fighting with his naked hands. Who would win, who would be beaten, none knew, for the dream passed and the Emperor still slept.
Again Charlemagne dreamed. He stood, he thought, upon the marble steps of his great palace of Aix holding a bear by a double chain. Suddenly out of the forest there came thirty other bears to the foot of the steps where Charlemagne stood. They all had tongues and spoke like men. “Give him back to us, Sire,” they said, “he is our kinsman, and we must help him. It is not right that thou shouldest keep him so long from us.”
Then from out the palace there came a hound. Bounding among the savage beasts he threw himself upon the largest of them. Over and over upon the grass they rolled, fighting terribly. Who would be the victor, who the vanquished? Charlemagne could not tell. The vision passed, and he slept till daybreak.