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God Wills It! by William Stearns Davis

Kerbogha cut him short Cid Iftikhar


When

Kerbogha was finished, a great shout went up from the Moslems. "_Allah akhbar!_ Away with the infidels!" and there was a rush, as if to hew the three in pieces then and there. But the general motioned them to keep peace, and Peter, whose daring passed a lion's, flashed back his reply:--

"To-morrow, lord of Mosul, you shall judge whether Mohammed, the false prophet, can prevail against the crucified Christ."

"Away! They rush on ruin!" shouted Kerbogha. "Back to the city with them!"

The little monk cast one last glance of defiance at the figure on the throne, and with a slow and steady step the three Christians turned their backs on the gorgeous company, unheeding a thousand threats that buzzed around their ears. Last of all went Richard, and, as he went, a voice called after him in French:--

"Ho! Richard Longsword, stay!"

The Norman halted; he was face to face with Iftikhar Eddauleh. The Ismaelian had thrown back his helmet, so that the gilded plates no longer concealed his face, which wore a very ugly smile. His teeth shone white and sharp as a tiger's, but his poise was lordly as ever.

"I am at your service, my lord!" said the Christian.

Iftikhar dropped his voice to a whisper:--

"You are well fed in

Antioch! Your cheeks are thinner than on the day you held the lists at Palermo!"

"And I have done many things since then, my lord, as have you," came the answer. Iftikhar's eyes seemed hot irons to pierce through his enemy, when he replied:--

"Between us two lies so great a hate, that if we were both in Gehenna, I think we would forget our pains in joy of seeing the other scorching."

"That is well said, my lord. But why detain me? I know all this."

Iftikhar's voice sank yet lower, that none of the great company might hear. "You had your day at Aleppo, but to-day is mine. Kerbogha holds your host in the hollow of his hand, yet at my word he will let you march unhindered to Jerusalem."

"I do not follow you, Cid Iftikhar."

The voice became a mere whisper, but how hoarse! "Deliver up to me Mary Kurkuas safely, and I will swear by Allah the Great, that Kerbogha raises the siege!"

Richard laughed in his turn now, for it was joy to see his enemy's pain. "My lord, you cannot tempt me! Praise God Mary Kurkuas is anywhere but in Antioch among our starving host!" But even the Norman almost trembled when he saw the storm of blind fury on the Ismaelian's face.

"Where, as Allah lives,--where is the Star of the Greeks?" raged Iftikhar, his voice unconsciously rising.

"Not all your deaths and torments in the dungeons of El Halebah will wring that from me."

"Then by the Apostle of Allah!" foamed Iftikhar; and he clutched at the Norman's arm, while seeking his own hilt. Kerbogha cut him short:--

"Cid Iftikhar, the Christians are madmen; yet respect the embassy. Let this fellow go!"

Iftikhar flung the arm from him.


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