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God Wills It! by William Stearns Davis

At last a shout Iftikhar fails


Then

came respite, while the lists were cleared for the Saracens' games,--for the wise Count suffered no ill-blood to breed by letting Christian ride against Moslem. The Egyptian cavaliers took part--stately men, in red, silver-embroidered tunics, with blue, gem-set aigrettes flashing in their turbans. No less gallant were the Sicilian Saracens, and Iftikhar most brilliant of them all. A small palm tree was set in the midst of the arena,--the trunk bronze, the leaves one sheen of gold-foil. A silver dove dangled from a bough, in the bill a golden ring. Then the Arab heralds proclaimed that each horseman should ride in turn, catching the ring upon his lance; and he who once failed should not try again.

So they rode, twenty or more. The first round none missed; three in the second; and so till the ninth, when there were but two,--and these Iftikhar and Musa the Andalusian.

"Beard of the Prophet!" cried Hasham, the Egyptian envoy, who sat at the Count's side, "the two are as enchanted. Not in all Egypt--in all Syria and Khorassan,--such horsemen!"

"And the All-wise alone knows," responded the Count, "which of the two be the better! Yet I wish any save these two were contending. See! Again!"

And the twain rode many times; till Mary, whose cheeks were very hot and eyes very bright, forgot to count the rounds. At last a shout:--

justify;">"Iftikhar fails!" The ring was still in the dove's mouth. Musa swung lightly his horse; dropped lance-point, dashed at the tree at a gallop, fleet as the north wind, amid a cloud of dust; but as he flew down the lists a mightier shout was rising. The ring glittered on his spear. The Count placed the prize in Mary's hand, when the heralds led the victor to the judges' lodge.

"Sir Musa," said she clearly, while he knelt and she fixed the diamond-studded aigrette upon his cap, "you have so ridden that all your friends grow proud. May it be ever thus!"

"Could each gem be a thousand," answered the Spaniard, in his musical accent, "they were less precious than your words to-day."

"There spoke the true cavalier of Spain!" cried Count Roger, who loved Moslems so that priests grumbled he dissuaded them from Christianity. And Hasham added, "Verily, the efreets bewitched the Almoravide when he exiled such a horseman!"

"By the brightness of Allah!" replied Musa, with a sweeping bow to the ladies, "who could not ride through a thousand blades with such gaze upon him!"

The Andalusian started to ride slowly back to his station, when the Count summoned him again.

"Sir Musa, all is not smooth between you and Iftikhar Eddauleh. In the game to follow I desire that you ride on the same side. I will not have you meet. What were those words between you?"

The Spaniard's teeth shone white when he answered:--

"Bountiful lord, the emir deigned to tell me that if ever we met face to face and naught hindered, I would do well to commend my soul to Allah."

"And you?"

"Made answer that the secrets of Allah were hid, and no man knows whether the Book of Doom assigns death to Iftikhar or to Musa when they meet; as Musa for his part prays they may."

"Mad spirits!" laughed Roger; "but I cannot have more than De Valmont and Longsword sacrifice themselves to-day. Your word that you will not seek Iftikhar's mischief in the games!"


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