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God Wills It! by William Stearns Davis

A sweeping blow from Iftikhar answered


who fought about the Holy Lance, twice saw it reel in the hands of Raymond of Agiles, as fifty unbelievers pressed close. But the Christian footmen around it were a living wall, and not a dervish who put out his hands to grasp the lance turned back alive. Still the battle wavered. Rumors came down the line, now that Godfrey on the centre was victorious, now that Bohemond was desperately beset by Kilidge Arslan. Richard looked to his men; gaps in the lines. Brave fellows whom he loved well were moaning or speechless under those red heaps. But the infidels were still thronging in. The gaps were closed. The fight raged as though the blood spilled were but oil cast into a furnace.

And presently as Richard fought around the lance, he saw a stately figure in gilded armor that he knew well despite the closed helmet,--saw it come pressing through the ranks of the Moslems.

"Ho! Iftikhar Eddauleh," rang the Norman's challenge, as the roar of the conflict lulled for a twinkling, "face to face, and man to man!"

The only answer by the Ismaelian was a lowered lance, and Rollo flew out to greet the charge. For a moment those standing by gave place. They met unhindered. Under the shock each lance flew to splinters, and the good steeds were flung on their haunches.

"Again!" burst from the emir, as his cimeter glanced in the sun. "Again!" And Richard with Trenchefer

rode straight at him, the unspeakable hate blinding to all things save his foe. Three times they fenced, and the sparks flew at every stroke. With the fourth, Trenchefer sheared off the black plumes on the Ismaelian's crest. A sweeping blow from Iftikhar answered, but Richard's stout shield parried it.

"God wills it! St. Julien and Mary Kurkuas!" shouted the Norman, flinging his old battle-cry in the face of his mortal foe. But the ruling powers would not let these mad spirits fight longer. Suddenly, in a way none could foresee, the line of battle, as it will, swayed in a great shock; and here Moslems were thrown back, here forward, and comrades were torn asunder. The two were caught in the eddy and whirled wide apart, bitterly against their wills.

"The lance! The lance is in danger!" the Christians were shouting; and Richard saw the holy standard sink out of sight in the seething vortex of battling men and beasts.

"Rescue, rescue, Christian cavaliers!" Bishop Adhemar was moaning; and all unarmed as he was, the prelate was about to thrust himself from behind the protecting shield wall into the death-press. But Gaston of Bearn and Die and Orange, as well as Longsword, were before him. Richard saw Gaston snatch the lance out of the clutch of two Turkomans who grasped it, and hew down both--a blow for each. Then the lance was raised once more, and all Crusaders praised God, and fought more stoutly.

So for long the battle raged; no man knowing how it had fared farther down the line, having wits only for his own struggle, and fighting even that blindly. But suddenly upon the wind black smoke came driving down upon the Christians. At first they scarce knew it in the fierce delirium. Then the smoke came denser, hotter; dimming their eyes, and setting all a-gasping. And almost sooner than the telling, the very grass under their feet was in a flame, fanned onward by a breeze that dashed the fire in their faces, while the deadly blast swept away from the Moslems. Whereupon, for the first time that day, a terrible panic fell on the Christians, as even the dead soil seemed thus to rise up and war against them. Men cast down their swords to flee,--all the horses plunged wildly; while with a shout of triumph, the infidels, blessing their Prophet, pressed on to snatch the victory.

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