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God Wills It! by William Stearns Davis

Tancred had stepped beside Richard


Before

either could reply, Mary Kurkuas arose and spoke also. "Since on my account you are at strife, as you love me, I command, even at this late hour, put wrath by. Be reconciled, or perchance whoever wins, I will forbid you both my face forever."

And Richard, as he looked on those red cheeks, the brown hair blown out from the purple fillet and waving in little tresses to the wind, nigh felt a spell spread over him,--was half-ready to bow obedient and forget all hatred, not to displeasure so fair a vision. But Satan had entered into Louis de Valmont's heart, prompting him to answer, hollow and fierce, from the depths of his helmet.

"Sweet lady, gracious lord, I am touched in honor. Gladly will I put all by with Sir Richard, if only he will confess freely that he spoke presumptuously for one of his few years, and was indiscreet in affecting to cross a cavalier of my fame in quest of gallantry."

If Louis had been bent on dashing the last bridge of retreat, he had succeeded.

"After Sir Louis's words," came the reply from Richard's casque at its haughty poise, "I see I need make no answer. Let us ride, my lord, and St. Michael speed us!"

The Count frowned upon the Auvergner:--

"Except you call back your words, Sir Louis, I must perforce order the combat. Yet you may well seek honorable

reconciliation."

"I have offered my terms, my lord," returned Louis; and deliberately mounting, he rode to his end of the lists.

Tancred had stepped beside Richard.

"Fair sir," said he, softly, "you are a young cavalier, but a right knightly one. Trust in St. Michael and your own stout heart. De Valmont seeks your life, but do not fear. And know this: I pass for a keen judge of man and maid,--if it is you that conquer, the Princess Mary will not greatly grieve."

"Holy Mother, how know you this?" and Richard's hands dropped from the bridle. But Tancred only smiled.

"Does a woman speak only with her lips? I saw your sword-play in Italy, and learned to love you. And now I tell you this, thinking it may make your blade dance swifter. Go, then,--and all the saints go with you!"

"Let God judge betwixt them; and let them do their battle!" announced Count Roger, gravely, while the combatants were led to their places. Before each horse attendants stretched a cord, made fast to posts. Others measured two lances of equal length,--lances not blunted, but with bright steel heads and little pennons, Louis's with golden border; Longsword's, green blazoned with a silver lion. Then a herald made sure that neither knight had fastened himself to his saddle.

The attendants scattered from the lists. De Valmont's horse was pawing and sniffing uneasily, but Rollo stood firm as a rock. The champions sat face to face, featureless, silent as of granite. No chatter now in the pavilions. Theroulde broke the stillness with his cry, "Go forward, brave son of a valiant father!" And Bernier forced a broad jest as he glanced at the ladies, "Joy here to pick out one's wife!"


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