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God Wills It! by William Stearns Davis

Iftikhar pressed his face nearer


Iftikhar

pressed his face nearer. Mary thrilled with horror beyond words. She had one thought,--her father, her father.

"To Egypt," Iftikhar was repeating, "to Syria. There is a palace of mine at Aleppo, beside which this is a cottage. And it shall be yours and you mine. _Allah akhbah!_ How beautiful you are; your lips, a kiss--"

But even as Mary's senses reeled, she heard a step, a familiar step, and Iftikhar had let her drop from his hands as though her form were flame. She caught at a column, steadied herself, and looked upon the face of Musa.

The Spaniard was standing in the dim light of the hall, dressed in sombre black armor; but the red plumes danced on his helmet. His shield was on his arm, naked cimeter outstretched.

"The peace of Allah be with you, fair lady, and noble lord," said Musa, bowing in most stately fashion, first to the shivering Greek, then to Iftikhar. The Egyptian already had his weapon drawn, but the Andalusian did not fall on guard.

"Most excellent emir," continued he, very gently, "Count Roger bids me say, if you will go at once to the castle, it will please him well. And your men in the gardens shall be no care to you. I have ridden from Palermo with forty lancers, who will give them all good company on return."

Night was never blacker than the frown of

the Egyptian, when he replied huskily: "And, Sir Spaniard, why does Count Roger favor _you_ with bearing me his orders? And why come you here unbidden, with cimeter and target?"

"Because," answered Musa, his brow too darkening, "I know too well why the Commander of the Guard is here." Then, more sternly, "And that I have come barely in time--praise be to Allah--to save him from a deed at which the very jinns of hell would cry out!"

He took a step closer to Iftikhar, and the two blades went up together. But Mary sprang forward, with the cry:--

"Not as you live! You shall not. Would you kill my father by fighting here, and for me?"

Musa let his point fall, and bowed with courtly ease.

"You say well, Star of the Greeks. The emir will speak with me elsewhere."

Iftikhar made no attempt to conceal his rage.

"Cursed be you and all your race! What enchanter has told you this--has humiliated me thus?"

"You ask what I may not tell," and Musa smiled in his gentle way. "Enough, I was told all that was in your heart, about an hour since,--the ship, the men, the design. Count Roger also knows; and, my lord, he has been none too well pleased with your faithfulness of late. I have come with forty given me by the Count. They do not know their errand; they are to move at my nod. Ride back with me to Palermo, my lord, and pledge me your word, by Allah the Great, said thrice, that you will not molest Mary Kurkuas so long as you remain in Sicily, or--"

"And if I will not--" broke from the raging emir.

"Then, my lord, I shall carry you to the castle in fetters. My men are also without--" Iftikhar had half started upon the Spaniard, swinging his cimeter. "Never!" came between his teeth. Musa beckoned away Mary with his own weapon. "To your father!" he commanded. But the Egyptian let his point sink. "Allah make you feel the fire of Gehennah!" was his curse. "I am trapped, I will swear."


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