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God Wills It! by William Stearns Davis

Before Longsword and his friend stretched Palermo


So

days sped, and a letter came to Musa from Palermo, from his uncle the great merchant Al-Bukri, the "general syndic" of the capital. There was promise of patronage and high office with the Fatimite court at Cairo. Would the Spanish knight come down to Palermo for consultation? And Richard vowed loudly he would travel to the city too, only his heart grew sad when Musa spoke of parting and a career in Egypt. "Be not troubled, brother mine," quoth Musa, lightly; "what is fated, is fated; as for my fortune, so far as man may dispose, I say as did once an Egyptian kalif, 'I carry my kingdom here!'" and he slapped the hilt of his cimeter. And Richard, when he thought of what awaited in Palermo, went about with his head in the air. Night and day had the vision of the Greek been before his face. Would he not hew through hosts to possess her? Had he not already won a name and a fame--as a true sprig of the Longswords? Was not the lady in his debt, had she not shown all favor? What hindered him to recount his father's fiefs to Manuel, and say, "Sir, give me your daughter!"

"But the lady may be dowerless," objected old Herbert, who had been Richard's confidant since earliest boyhood; "I have little liking for cat-hearted Greeks who spit, not bite. And I fear the Emperor has snapped up all the exiled Caesar's estates."

"No," was his answer; "I hear that through Venetian merchants, Caesar Manuel saved much ready money. But"--and

Richard's voice rose high--"were she mine with only our old Norman dower,--a chaplet of roses and a mother's kiss,--by St. Michael, I swear I would take her; for the tips of her fingers are dearer than red gold!"

"_Ai_," cried the old daredevil, "you have indeed a merry passion. Well, go your way, and the Holy Mother favor you!"

The Baron consented half reluctantly to his son's desires. He did not love most Greeks; but Caesar Manuel had been a brave cavalier, and had saved the wreck of his great fortune; and the Baron was too fond of his eldest to refuse him anything in reason. Only, before starting, he gave Richard this advice:--

"Be not over-anxious to brew up more quarrel with that Louis de Valmont. I know he comes from your mother's country of Auvergne, and his family and hers have been long at feud. But he is a knight of great renown, and till you have won your spurs, do not bear yourself loftily. He is a haughty man, high in favor with Count Roger, and a broil with him may breed you little glory."

So Richard vowed discretion after his careless way. The two friends were to sail from Cefalu upon a Tunisian corn-ship, that made Palermo on her homeward voyage. Herbert was to follow by land, bringing down the retinue and horses; and his young master went on board, laughing and promising himself that when next Cefalu lay under his eyes, at his side should be another.

* * * * *

Brief voyaging and a kind west wind brought the Tunisian soon in sight of the red crags of Monte Pellegrino, which dominated the "City of the threefold Tongue," where dwelt Greek and Latin and Arab in peace, brotherhood, and prosperity. Before Longsword and his friend stretched Palermo, its white palaces, its domes and minarets bright as snow under the morning's azure sky; around them lay the fair wide crescent of the harbor running away to the wooded headland of Capo Zafferana; and on the emerald waves loitered the rich argosies of Pisa, Amalfi, Venice, and Andalusia, beating out against the laggard wind. Behind the long reach of the city stretched the "Golden Shell," one long green vega, thick with orchards of olive and orange; broken with feathery palm groves, tinted with flowering thickets bright as the sunset; threaded by the circling Preto, and many another silver rivulet hurrying to the sea.


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