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God Wills It! by William Stearns Davis

To ride after Iftikhar Eddauleh


Our Lord's sake, no more of what you imagine!" came from Richard. "Tell only what you _know_!"

"Scarce had he returned"--went on Theroulde, his voice faltering--"when we heard a frightful clamor from the rear and flank of the camp by the river and marsh. Soon grooms and women ran by crying, 'The infidels are on us, slaying all!' And sooner than thought, we beheld the Seljouk horsemen, sword in hand, dashing among the tents, cutting down old man, priest, and woman, without quarter. Then I laid hands on a crossbow. 'Hossein,' cried I, 'if you are true Christian, die with me for our mistress!' But he only smiled, and drawing his cimeter, gave a mighty howl that rose above all other din. Ere I could look upon my lady, lo,--there were horsemen by our tents--Arabs--not Turks--in white, with red girdles; and Hossein shouted in their speech, 'This way, Cid Iftikhar; here is the Star of the Greeks!' And I saw Iftikhar Eddauleh himself upon a splendid horse, in flashing armor. Then I sped a crossbow bolt through one of his riders, cut down a second with my sword, and struck at Hossein, thinking to end his treachery. But Iftikhar swung once at me,--I knew no more. When I came to myself I found that I was under the wreck of the tent. Hours had sped; the battle had drifted away. The emir's sword had turned in his hand; the blunt edge smote me. I had a mighty blow, but will be none the worse--praise the saints! I looked for my lady--gone! All the grooms and

varlets are slain, and old Sylvana the nurse. Hossein gone--and the devils ride with him! And for me, my Lord de St. Julien, if I have been coward or traitor, strike off my head. You are my judge."

Richard tore from his neck his heavy gold chain.

"You are a right valiant man, Theroulde, and no boaster. I believe your tale," said he, throwing him the gold links; "and now a horse--a fresh horse!"

Sebastian still held him.

"Madness!" cried the priest; "it is dark; you have been up since before dawn! For what is this horse?"

"To ride after Iftikhar Eddauleh," came from between Richard's teeth; "and if I find him not--to slay as many of his cursed race as I may; and then to curse God and die!"

While he spoke the moonbeams rested full on his face, and all beholding saw that it had aged in one hour; the lines wrought on it by the death of Gilbert were still there--and more. Had his hair shone white, none would have been amazed. "Christ pity him!" muttered old Herbert, the most fervent prayer of the veteran for many a wicked day.

But Sebastian would not let Richard go.

"As you fear God," commanded the priest, "be quiet; do not fling your life away!"

"I fear God no longer," was Richard's cry. "I only hate Him!"

Sebastian led him into the tent, with a touch soft and tender as a woman's. "Dear lad," he said gently, "God will not be angry unduly with you for what you have just said, though its sin is very great. You think, 'How can this thing be and God be still good?' Remember the words of holy Anselm of Canterbury, 'I ask not to understand that I may believe; but I believe that I may learn to understand.'"

"Father," said Richard, with a terrible calmness in his voice, "if for my own sins I had been doomed to some great woe, I could say '_mea culpa_,--merciful chastisement'; but since the chief suffering will be that of as pure a saint as ever breathed this air, I cannot endure without a groan. I only know that the hand of God is exceeding heavy upon me, and my burden is more than I can bear." Then, to the infinite relief of Sebastian and the rest, he let them take off his blood-soaked armor and shirt, and stanch the wounds, which were none very deep, but so many that he was weak from loss of blood. Presently Herbert came in and reported: "Little lord, our men took thirty Turks prisoners when the camp was stormed; shall we keep them to put to ransom?" Richard was not too feeble to leap from the rugs. "Kill! kill!" he foamed out; "if Satan wait long for their souls, let him have mine too!"

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