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God Wills It! by William Stearns Davis

Bear this back to Louis de Valmont


Richard

was very calm. The moment had come. He and Louis de Valmont were face to face, under the eyes of Mary Kurkuas. Betwixt his helmet bars he could see that wonderful face, the head bent forward, the eyes brighter by day than ever stars by night,--at least to him. Holy saints! what deed could he not do with that gaze upon him, with the love of the Greek staked upon his strong arm and ready eye! "For Mary Kurkuas!" That was his battle-cry, though sounded only in his soul. It became stiller--he could hear Rollo's deep breathing. Count Roger had turned to Bishop Gerland. The prelate rose, held on high a brazen crucifix, at which both champions made the sign of the cross with their lance points. Four men with hatchets approached the cords before the chargers.

"_In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen_," came the words slowly; and at the last, Roger signed to the four. "Cut!" his command. The axes fell as one. Their sound was hid by the bursting tumult. Quick as light the horses caught the greensward with mighty strides. Behind, the dust spumed thick. As they flew, each rider swung lightly forward, lance level with thigh, shield over the crouching chest.

Crash! Both steeds were hurled on haunches, and struggled, tearing the ground. The riders reeled, staggered in the saddle. Then with a mighty tug at the reins, brought their beasts standing, and rode apart,--in the hands of each a broken butt, on the ground

the flinders of stout hornbeam lances.

Din unspeakable rang along the lists, as the two swung back to their stations. No more banter and jeers at Rollo. Old Herbert, whose eyes had danced with every gallop, muttered in the ear of poor Lady Margaret:--

"Good cheer, sweet lady! The lad is a good lad. Did you see? The Auvergner was half slung from the saddle, but Richard met his lance like a rock."

They brought new lances to the knights, and, while both waited for breath, Bernier came down the lists with his master's message.

"My lord bids me say, fair knight," declared he to Longsword, "that he loves good jousting and did not expect so smart a tilt. Yet he warns Sir Richard, in fair courtesy and no jesting, he will make this next bout Sir Richard's last--therefore, if there be any parting message or token--"

Sebastian, who stood by, cut him short.

"Bear this back to Louis de Valmont, the murderous man of sin: It is written, 'Let not him that putteth on his armor, boast like him that taketh it off.'" And while Bernier was returning, half crestfallen, the good cleric was muttering: "Ah, blessed Mother of Pity, spare Richard, thy poor child. Make him conscious of his sin--his unholy passion, and presumption. Yet--it will be a rare thing to see De Valmont on his back. Holy saints--what do I say!"

Again they rode; again the last vision before Richard's eyes, ere Rollo shot on the course, was that figure,--white face and brown hair, and those eyes upon him. All men knew Louis spurred with Satan behind him on the charger. Another shivering crash--more lances broken. When they parted, both shields were dinted by the shock. Many heard knights cry that the two were riding more madly than ever. A third time--behold! Louis de Valmont had been half lifted from his saddle; one foot had lost its stirrup; but Longsword sat as a tower. Those at the southern end heard the Auvergner cursing his squires and grooms, calling for a new horse, and invoking aid of all powers in heaven and hell when next he rode.


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