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God Wills It! by William Stearns Davis

As the prelate knelt at the bedside


When

the pontiff's breath failed, there were again shadows in the doorway, and two figures entered treading softly; the one a tall and handsome churchman, in a high prelate's dress, the second a cavalier, not tall, but mighty of limb and shoulder, the jewels flashing on his baldric, the gold spurs at his heels. The warrior threw back his helm, and all saw the long, fair beard, the steel-blue eyes, the mien of high command.

"Odon, Cardinal of Ostia, my dear son!" cried the fainting Pope, as the prelate knelt at the bedside, beseeching the blessing. "But--you?" and he wondered, looking upon the knight. The other bowed his head.

"Holy Father," said he, in the tongue of northern France, "do you not know me? I have greatly sinned: I have fought with Henry against Holy Church. I repent; assign any penance--for from Rome I have come, seeking absolution at the hands of the true Vicar of Christ."

"And you are--?" came from Hildebrand's thin lips.

"Godfrey of Bouillon." And the knight knelt beside the cardinal.

The light was again in the Pope's eye. "Fear not," came his words. "As you have been the foe of Holy Church, so now you shall become her champion. Your sins are forgiven; what you shall do, learn hereafter." Another spasm of coughing; Abd Rahman administered his last elixir. All knew the end was very near. But again

the pontiff spoke. "I must say farewell, sweet children. Make Desidarius my successor, for he has served Holy Church full long. But he is old, and after him"--his eyes went over to Odon--"you shall sit upon the throne of Peter." The prelate was in tears.

"Say it not," he cried. "Unworthy!--Anselm of Lucca, Hugh of Lyons, they are better men than I."

"No," said Gregory, gently, "you will succeed in due time, and do not refuse the service of the Lord." Then he turned to Sebastian. "Dear brother, O for ten years of life, five, one! I have been an unfaithful shepherd of my sheep! But God is all wise. Never in this body shall I call the soldiers of the West to arm against the enemies of Christ! Yet--yet--" the voice faltered, steadied again--"the time cometh when God wills it, and you, Odon, shall call forth the warriors of the Cross; and you, O Godfrey,--be this your penance,--you shall lead the host to Jerusalem. And the host shall move victoriously, Frank, German, Italian! The Holy City shall be rescued from her spoilers! And this be your battle cry, against which paynim or devil may not prevail, '_God wills it!_' For what God wills, may no man or archfiend stay!"

His voice pealed like a trumpet, like the shout of a dauntless captain leading through the deathly press. All looked on him. When his hands stretched on high, every other hand was outstretched. Nearer they crowded, and the swords of the Norman knights leaped from their scabbards,--there was the clang of mail, the flash of light on bare steel,--highest of all the sword of Godfrey. Hildebrand struggled to rise; Sebastian upbore at one side, Odon at the other. The Pope gazed upward toward the vaulting--seemingly through it--beyond--

"I see the heavens opened," was his cry. "I see horses and chariots; a mighty host; and Michael and all his angels with swords of fire. I see the earth covered with armies innumerable, and red with the carnage of countless battles. I see the great host of those who have shed their blood for Christ, ascending into heaven, with psalms of praise, clothed in white robes, while their comrades below march on to victory." A pause,--a final burst of ecstasy,--"I see the Cross triumphant on the walls of Jerusalem! And all this shall be not now, yet speedily; for so God wills it!"


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