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God Wills It! by William Stearns Davis

Longsword rode up and down the barony


Then,

to a serving-varlet: "Here, fellow, another horn." And Richard stood up with all eyes upon him. "To Mary Kurkuas," he drank, "and long may she be the liege lady of St. Julien."

Every man present, except Sebastian, roared out the pledge; but Sebastian only sat still, and prayed to the saints.

Thus sped some weeks, and old Baron Gaston breathed his last. Before he died John of the Iron Arm had gone before him, in a manner better surmised than said. The Baron had felt his sins coming home upon him as his time drew nigh. The abbot went to see him very often. Gaston wished to die as a monk. The brethren put on him the monk's robe and scapulary, the sub-prior pronounced over him some words of consecration, and the dying sinner muttered some half-articulate vows. Yet he seemed more concerned as to what would befall his good horse Fleuri when he was gone, than about the welfare of his soul. Around his bed night and day sat his petty nobles and neighbors watching in solemn silence, except to cross themselves when a magpie croaked, or when it was said that a vulture hovered over the castle--sure sign of the death-angel's approach. The moment the Baron was dead, the serving-boys ran through the castle, emptying every vessel of water, lest in one the straying soul should drown itself. The monks gave him a funeral as became one of their own order, and one who had made over to them so wide a stretch of farm-land. Ten days

after Gaston was buried, they proclaimed Richard Baron of St. Julien. Lady Margaret was her father's only heir; but she was far away, and a man with a strong arm was needed in that troubled seigneury. So Richard Longsword sat down in the Baron's high seat at the end of the great hall, and all the lesser nobles came before him, knelt, placed their hands in his, and swore themselves "his men." And Richard raised each up, kissed him on the mouth, and promised love and protection so long as he observed fealty. Fealty, Richard himself owed in name to the Count of Auvergne, with the young William of Aquitaine as overlord of all. But times were turbulent, Aquitaine and Toulouse at bitter feud. Richard looked upon the castle, the stout men, the broad lands, and the blue sky: "No power can say me nay," was his laugh, "saving God and Mary Kurkuas." And one fears he did not greatly dread the former. But the barony he ruled with a strong hand, and ended the petty tyrannies of the lesser nobles upon their serfs; while Sebastian as chancellor chased from office the chaplain of St. Julien, a rollicking, hard-swearing sinner, with a consort, six children, and wide fame as a toper. In his stead reigned Sebastian himself, who soon crossed swords even with the abbot: first, because there were fowls in the abbey kettles Fridays; second, because the brethren bartered smacks with the bouncing village maids. "_Peccatum venale!_" cried the abbot to the last charge, and defended the former by saying that fowls were created along with fish on Friday, and who that day refused fish? So both good men complained to Richard, but he merrily said that Nasr, as an impartial infidel, should compose their quarrel. And ignoring their war, Longsword rode up and down the barony, setting the crooked straight, making the "villains" worship him for his ready laugh, his great storehouse of humor, his willingness to stand with the weak against the strong. Only men who had followed him at Valmont whispered about him. One day Richard heard two men-at-arms with their heads together, while he sat at chess with Musa.


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