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God Wills It! by William Stearns Davis

It ran thus Louis de Valmont


"Know, most valiant sir, that I boast myself versed in all the noble histories of that wise Trojan priest, Dares, and of the rich Greek cavalier, Dictys of Crete; I can tell you all their tales of Sir Hector and of Sir Ulysses and of the fair and never too much praised Countess Medea. I have set in new verse the whole tale of Roland and Oliver, and how Count Ganelon betrayed them; and I can tell you the story of Oberon, king of faery, who was begotten by Julius Caesar at the isle of Cephallenia, while he was at war with King Pompey."

So he would have run on forever had not Richard thrust him away and gone in to Musa, with a face dark as a thundercloud. The _jongleur_ was left to the hospitality of the Moslem servants of Al-Bakri, who treated him kindly though he eyed them askance; for to his mind they all were servants of Apollin, the pagan demon of the sun. Presently a messenger went from Richard to the castle, where De Valmont lay, bearing a letter,--a letter which demanded of the Provencal that he either inflict summary chastisement on his men who had insulted Richard through his favorite horse, or make good the affront by a meeting face to face.

Richard spent the next two hours in the little court of the syndic, pacing moodily under the orange trees that stood around the fountain basin; while Musa lolled on the rugs upon the divan under the arcade, and tried to persuade his friend to sit down with him at chess.

"By the Mass, Musa," cried the Norman, twisting his mustache with nervous energy, while his eyes studied the black and white tiled pavement, "Moslem that you are, I had rather see Mary Kurkuas yours than De Valmont's. What with all the brave tales you tell of your sweethearts in Cordova and Granada, you must know the way to a woman's heart."

"_Allah!_" exclaimed the Spaniard, taking a cushion from the divan and flinging it merrily at his friend. "Do you not know, I am like the Arab youth who died fighting at Emesa?" said he. "I see the black-eyed girls, the houris looking at me; and one for love of whom all the world would die, beckons me, saying, 'Come hither quickly, for I love thee.' Not that I would slander the beauty of your Greek; but," with half a sigh, "he who has seen the maidens of Andalusia can long only for the houris of Paradise."

"You speak folly," cried the Norman, pettishly. "Where are your eyes?" But at this moment Hugh, the serving-lad who had gone to the castle with the cartel, returned.

"A letter from Sir Louis de Valmont," he announced.

It was a roll of parchment, written by some priest or monk, with only a rude mark over the signature, in another hand; for Louis with all his "gay" science was no clerk. It ran thus:--

"Louis de Valmont, Knight of Auvergne, to Richard Longsword, greeting: I am astounded that an unknighted 'bachelor' like yourself, who has won neither spurs, nor vassals, nor fame in arms, should venture to address me with such insolence. As for my men they had their frolic, and only a fool will quarrel about it. As for your defiance, I will win small honor by slaying a boy like yourself in the lists, as I could well do, and my honor is in no wise hurt when I say I will not meet you. Farewell."

Richard tore the parchment into shreds and strode to and fro in bootless fury.

"By the splendor of God!" cried he, stretching his arms aloft, "the day shall come when this Louis and all the spawn of his sinful house shall curse the hour he sent me this. So may Our Lady help!"

Musa could do nothing to comfort. Richard told his trials to Sebastian, just come down from Cefalu. And in Sebastian he found a counsellor very like to those of long-tormented Job.


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