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God Wills It! by William Stearns Davis

Kerbogha was throwing into the press all his numbers


The

cry pealed from a hundred thousand throats; and the stoutest soldier of the Cross felt a shiver and a tingling, though he were veteran from many a well-fought field. Now, at last, was the issue left to their good swords and God!

But while the Moslem war-shout rent the cloudless dome of morning, an answering echo rolled onward from the Christians, and as if the very shout were the signal, the long line rushed forward, the thousands moving as one.

"God wills it! Death to the unbelievers!"

The lines sprang toward each other like lions of the waste; the broad plain country that stretched northward from the river grew narrow under their swift feet. Then avalanche smote avalanche, light wrestled with darkness!

No horseman's and archer's battle as at Dorylaeum; no passage at arms between chieftains while the hosts stood by! But man to man they fought; the starving Franks looking into swarthy faces, where black eyes glanced fire and white teeth flashed hate. So for a moment the Turkoman cavalry strove to break through the Christian spear hedge,--for few French fought mounted that day. But the blooded chargers recoiled from the dense line of lances, and swinging swords, and battle-axes, as from a barrier of live fire, and reeled back to leave the plain red with dying steeds and stricken riders.

The first blood only.

For when Kerbogha saw that his horsemen could not ride down the defiant foe at will, he flung forward his archers and javelin-men, until the air grew dark with flying death that searched out the stoutest armor. Then while the arrows yet screeched, and men were falling fast, the Arabians and Turks charged home. Charged--but though the spear wall wavered, it was not broken--while above the shouts and howls of the infidels beseeching Allah, sounded the chanting of the psalm from the priests who stood behind the men-at-arms:--

"Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; let them also that hate Him, flee before Him!"

So for the second time the Moslems reeled back. And when Kerbogha, sitting in the midst of his guard at the rear of the battle, saw it, he tore his beard in rising fury, and bade Kilidge Arslan the Seljouk lead his squadrons in circuit to fall on the Christians' rear. Now a third time the Moslems came forward, slowly now, horse and foot, their imams and ulamas crying to them to remember the beauty of the houris, the joys of martyrdom, and to hew in pieces the blasphemers of the Prophet.

At this Richard, who knew Arabic and the fury of the unbelievers, called to his men to lock close about the Holy Lance, for now indeed was the fated hour. Then the Christians heard, outrunning the breeze, the wild howl of the dervishes, to whom death was more welcome than a quiet sleep:--

"Hell and Eblees are behind you! Victory or Paradise before you! Forward!"

"Stand fast, men of Auvergne!" rang the Norman's command; and every lance was braced when the third shock smote them. No charging, recoiling, countercharging, in this supreme wrestle between Christ and Mohammed. The dead piled themselves higher, higher. The desert steeds were spitted like birds on the Frankish lances. The stoutest spears shivered like reeds, and targets were cleft as wicker; but the hand-to-hand combat never slackened. Kerbogha was throwing into the press all his numbers. Again and again Richard Longsword, with Gaston of Bearn, the Count of Die, and Raimbaut of Orange, who fought under Adhemar's banner, charged out, and did deeds of valor to be forgotten only with the last _jongleur_. Each time, as the foe gave way, the hard-pressed Christians set up their _Laus Deo_, dreaming they had the victory. But each time the infidels surged back to the onset; pressing closer, smiting harder, and drowning the Crusaders' prayer to Our Lady with their mad "Allah! Allah!"


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