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God Wills It! by William Stearns Davis

Smote and prodded with his cimeter


will I!" snorted the Norman, and he smote his steed's neck with the flat of his great sword. The bishop, the Greek had vanished; hedge, ravine, brooklet, he swept through them, over them; nor knew how often St. George saved him from headlong fall. The Berbers were lashing and prodding with their cimeter points; but Richard was well mounted, only the great black horse bearing the captive lady sped ahead despite all Richard's speed.

A stone wall,--all the fugitives cleared it saving the last, behind whom was strapped a young man, fast prisoner. As Longsword flew, he saw this rider miss the leap, crash downward. In a twinkling all the pursued, save the guard of the lady, wheeled, charged back. But Richard had reached the wall, passed with a bound, and for a long instant it was foil and fence, his life dancing on three cimeter points at his breast. Then, sudden as a thunderclap, there was a new blade opposed to the Berbers,--the erstwhile captive had burst his bands, leaped from under the kicking charger, disarmed his guard, and was in the midst of the fray, giving blow for blow. But at sight of him, all three pirates forsook the Norman, and rained their blows upon the prisoner.

"_Allah!_ Hew him down, though we die for it!" was the shout of their chief. The captive parried all three as one; ere the second stroke, Richard had sped the first raider past sword-play. His new ally beat down a second with a sweeping

blow. The third cried "Mercy!"--but neither gave him heed. The released prisoner, a light-skinned young Moslem of Spain, wiry as a hound, nimble as a cat, had caught the rein of a fallen Berber, and swung himself into the dead man's saddle, touching no stirrup, almost ere Richard could admire.

"As the Most High lives," cried the Spaniard, as if rescue were mere incident, "after the lady! The ship is near!" And ride they did, though the black horse was far ahead now, despite his burden.

"Ride, Frank, ride!" shouted the other, leaning over his steed's neck, and seeming to lend speed by very touch and voice. "Allah smite us, if she is taken!"

Over the foothills, across the rolling country, the feet of their horses springing like on-rushing winds, raced the twain. They saw blue water before an orange grove, and not far away the pirate's refuge,--the ship. And still the black horse held them in chase, though losing slowly. Richard flung the target from his back, to make greater speed. He could see the lady struggling on her uneasy pillion. Her captor with one hand gripped her fast; with the other, smote and prodded with his cimeter. The flecks of blood were on the black steed's flanks. The lady plucked at the Berber's throat with strength born of despair.

"Rescue, rescue, for the love of Christ!" rang her cry; and as if in answer, the great charger began to plunge in his gallop, nigh casting his double mount. The Berber wrestled him down, with a mighty strain on the reins; but in the instant Richard had gained apace. "Ai! St. Michael!" he thundered, his good sword swung almost in stroke. But at the shout there was a wild yell from beyond the orange trees, and as he swept on he saw a score or more pirates rushing with drawn swords to greet them,--and through the grove the tacklings of the ship. Straight toward the midst of the Berbers sped the black horse: a moment,--the lady would be lost indeed!

"Rescue for the love of Christ!" again her wail in reply to the triumphant howl of her captor. The Norman's hand was on his shoulder; down he plucked the white falcon, unhooded, tossed in air,--one circle she cut, then sped straight in the flying raider's eyes.

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