free ebooks

God Wills It! by William Stearns Davis

To know the desire of Iftikhar


The

grounds were opening before him. The wood broke away to right and left. Richard saw the vague tracery of a wide-stretching palace,--colonnades, domes, pinnacles, all one dim maze in the starlight. For the first time he spoke to his guards.

"This is El Halebah? Tell me--why are our heads not struck off at once?"

"The grand prior wills otherwise," replied Harun, at his side.

"Are we to be put to death speedily, or long reserved?"

The Ismaelian became confidential.

"Cid, you talk as becomes a brave man. I should like to see you with your great sword in battle. Who am I, to know the desire of Iftikhar? Yet I think this: if Christians may enter Paradise, ere midnight you will be sitting at banquet with the maids of pure musk."

"Then why this delay--this endless journey?"

Harun shook his head.

"I am only the grand prior's hands and feet. You will see."

Richard had faced death in battle twenty times and more, and never yet had felt a tremor. But riding to battle was not walking to meet the doom handed down by Iftikhar Eddauleh. The Norman feared not death, but life. Life through the ages of ages! Life shaped for eternal woe, eternal weal, by the deeds of a few earthly moments.

Hell earned by that instant at Valmont! Heaven grasped for in the transfiguration at Clermont! And the issue mystery! mystery fathomless! Kept with God, the All-merciful; but behind all, ordering all, His awful righteousness! Richard knew as well as he knew anything that never in earthly body would he see that mist of stars again; he looked up into the violet-black dome, and trembled, for he knew he was drawing near the Almighty's throne.

They trod up the smooth gravel leading to the palace. The great valves of the portals opened noiselessly at some unseen bidding, then closed behind. A single flickering lamp went before, as they glided through long corridors, or under airy domes, where the wan light struggled up to colored vaulting,--gleamed, vanished. The feet touched soft rugs, and clicked on marbles. More doors opened. The Norman was led down stairways, along stone galleries, where the air was foul and chill. Presently there were more lamps ahead, the ceiling was higher. Richard sniffed sweet fresh air. They were in a room of no great size; floor, walls, vaulting, of gray stone; a stone bench running along the walls; one or two niches, where perhaps in daytime a few rays struggled in. Bronze lamps swung from chains, casting a wavering, ghostly light, as they puffed in the wind that crept through the scanty windows.

Others had preceded the captives into this chamber. Two figures advanced to greet them, as the three were halted,--the lofty Iftikhar, the dwarf Zeyneb. It was the latter that first spoke. To Musa he paid an obsequious salaam.

"The peace of Allah be yours, most noble Cid Musa," his greeting.

"And with you, the strife of Eblees!" replied the Andalusian, whose tongue at least was not pinioned.

"O valorous cavaliers!" protested Zeyneb, raising his hands. "What misfortune! Bow to the Omnipotent's will; what is doomed is doomed! It was doomed that I should behold you, son of Abdallah, creeping about Aleppo and El Halebah. Clever disguises,--not my Lord Iftikhar himself could have penetrated so admirable a conjurer. How adorably was Hakem toyed with! Wallah, I could scarce have bettered it myself!"

Musa repaid with one of his softest smiles.


eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us

freefictionbooks.org is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 freefictionbooks.org - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us