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God Wills It! by William Stearns Davis

Girart was ever a sleepy knave


Mary

had risen from the couch. She was still very pale; what with her flowing hair, and her bare white neck, Richard had never seen her more beautiful.

"Richard Longsword," said she, slowly, "I have said I wish to do something very great to show how much I love you. Well,--I am a soldier's daughter. Manuel Kurkuas was no mean cavalier in his day, though you frown on us Greeks. My fathers and fathers' fathers have fought back Moslem, and Bulgar, and Persian, and Sclave. I am of their blood. And will you fright me with a 'perhaps'? Let Iftikhar Eddauleh lay his snares, and whisper to his dagger-men; I think Trenchefer"--with a proud glance at the iron figure before her, and the great sword--"and he who wields it a sure bulwark."

"Sweetest of the sweet," said Richard, laying his great hands on her smooth shoulders, "something tells me there may be great sorrow in store. I know not why. God knows I have had grief and chastening enough. Yet I still have dread."

"And I," said Mary, gently, lifting her eyes, "know that so long as Richard Longsword keeps the pure and spotless knight of Holy Church, whatever may befall, I can have no great woe!"

"Ah!" cried the Norman, his eyes meeting hers, "you speak well, pure saint. For without you, the fiends will tear me unceasing, and with you beside I may indeed look to heaven. You shall go; without you I am very

full of sin!"

He bent and kissed her. It was the pledge of love, more pure, more deep, than ever had thrilled in him before.

"_Ai_, dear heart," he said, holding her from him that he might see the evening light on her face, "in Sicily I loved you for your bright eyes; but now--I love that in you which is within,--so far within that no _jongleur_ may see, to sing its praise."

* * * * *

That night Baron Hardouin and Herbert slept on the gentle pleasures they had prepared for Zeyneb, the dwarf; but in the morning Aimer the seneschal came to his lord with a face long as a sculptured saint.

"The paynim dwarf!" was his trembling whisper; "he is gone!"

"Gone!" cried Hardouin, dropping the hawk's hood in his hand.

"Truly, my Baron," continued the worthy, "this morning, as we went to the dungeon, behold! Girart, the guard, was stretched on the floor dead, as I am a sinful man!"

"Fellow--fellow--" broke out the nobleman, beginning to quake.

"Art-magic, and direct presence of Satan, it must have been," moaned the seneschal, wringing his hands. "Girart was ever a sleepy knave; yet the infidel had slipped off his fetters. The lock was all pried asunder, and Girart's head beaten in, as though by a bit of iron, while he snored."

"Mary, ever Virgin!" swore the Baron, crossing himself. "Shall the devil go up and down in my own castle? Out, men, boys, varlets, all! scour the country! send riders to all the seigneurs about!"

And so they did, more thoroughly than ever in the camp at Clermont; but again the dwarf had melted out of human ken. True, when the messengers went as far as Marseilles, they heard a vague story that a dark-skinned hunchback had embarked on a merchantman of Cyprus; but even this tale lacked verification, and the simplest and most satisfactory account was that of old Nicole, the gate-keeper's wife, who protested by St. Jude that she had seen two horrible red dogs creeping around the barriers just as she went to bed,--sure sign of the presence of the dreadful devil Cahu, who was on hand to rescue his votary.


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