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Title: God Wills It! - A Tale of the First Crusade.
Author: Davis, William Stearns, 1877-1930
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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       *       *       *       *       *

  "GOD WILLS IT"


[Illustration: logo]

[Illustration: "IN A TWINKLING RICHARD WAS AT THE HEAD OF THE RAGING
BRUTE"]



  "GOD WILLS IT!"

  A Tale of the First Crusade

  BY
  WILLIAM STEARNS DAVIS
  AUTHOR OF "A FRIEND OF CÆSAR"

  WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY LOUIS BETTS

     _"Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness,
     obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the
     violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness
     were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the
     armies of the aliens."_

  --HEBREWS xi. 33, 34.

  New York
  THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
  LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., LTD.
  1901

  _All rights reserved_



  COPYRIGHT, 1901,
  BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.


  _Norwood Press
  J. S. Cushing & Co.--Berwick & Smith
  Norwood, Mass., U.S.A._

  To my long-time Friend

  ARTHUR WASHBURN

  I DEDICATE THIS TALE

  OF THE DAYS OF FAITH



PREFACE


The First Crusade was the sacrifice of France for the sins of the Dark
Ages. Alone of all the Crusades it succeeded, despite its surrender of
countless lives. No Richard of England, no St. Louis led; its heroes
were the nobles and peasants of France and Norman Italy, who endured a
thousand perils and hewed their victorious way to Jerusalem. In this
Crusade united Feudalism and Papacy won their greatest triumph.
Notwithstanding the self-seeking of a few, the mass of the Crusaders
were true to their profession,--they sought no worldly gain, but to
wash out their sins in infidel blood. In this Crusade also the alien
civilizations of Christendom and Islam were brought into a dramatic
collision which has few historic counterparts.

Except in Scott's "Count Robert of Paris," which deals wholly with the
Constantinople episode, I believe the First Crusade has not been
interpreted in fiction. Possibly, therefore, the present book may have
a slight value, as seeking to tell the story of the greatest event of
a great age.

I have sometimes used modern spellings instead of unfamiliar
eleventh-century names. The Crusade chronicles often contradict one
another, and once or twice I have taken trifling liberties. To Mr. S.
S. Drury and Mr. Charles Hill, University friends who have rendered
kind aid on several historical details, I owe many thanks.

  W. S. D.

  HARVARD UNIVERSITY.



CONTENTS


  PROLOGUE

                                                  PAGE

  HOW HILDEBRAND GAVE A BATTLE CRY                   1

  CHAPTER

        I. HOW BARON WILLIAM SALLIED FORTH          13

       II. HOW RICHARD WON THREE FRIENDS            24

      III. HOW RICHARD WON A BROTHER                37

       IV. HOW RICHARD WENT TO PALERMO              46

        V. HOW RICHARD WON TWO FOES                 53

       VI. HOW ROLLO MET INSULT                     64

      VII. HOW DE VALMONT SENT HIS GAGE             74

     VIII. HOW IFTIKHAR SPED A VAIN ARROW           81

       IX. HOW TRENCHEFER DROVE HOME                94

        X. HOW IFTIKHAR SAID FAREWELL TO SICILY    113

       XI. HOW RICHARD FARED TO AUVERGNE           121

      XII. HOW RICHARD CAME TO ST. JULIEN          127

     XIII. HOW RICHARD SINNED AGAINST HEAVEN       138

      XIV. HOW RICHARD'S SIN WAS REWARDED          148

       XV. HOW RICHARD FOUND THE CRUCIFIX          158

      XVI. HOW LADY IDE FORGAVE RICHARD            168

     XVII. HOW RICHARD SAW PETER THE HERMIT        179

    XVIII. HOW RICHARD MET GODFREY OF BOUILLON     187

      XIX. HOW RICHARD TOOK THE CROSS              195

       XX. HOW RICHARD RECEIVED GREAT MERCY        206

      XXI. HOW RICHARD RETURNED TO LA HAYE         214

     XXII. HOW RICHARD PARTED WITH HIS BROTHER     224

    XXIII. HOW IFTIKHAR'S MESSENGER RETURNED       235

     XXIV. HOW THEY SLEW THE FIRST INFIDEL         247

      XXV. HOW DUKE GODFREY SAVED THE DAY          258

     XXVI. HOW RICHARD WAS AGAIN CHASTENED         272

    XXVII. HOW THE ARMY CAME TO ANTIOCH            283

   XXVIII. HOW RICHARD REGAINED HIS BROTHER        293

     XXIX. HOW IFTIKHAR BORE HOME HIS PRIZE        302

      XXX. HOW THERE WAS FESTIVAL AT ALEPPO        315

     XXXI. HOW MARY REDEEMED HER SOUL              328

    XXXII. HOW MORGIANA PROFFERED TWO CUPS         341

   XXXIII. HOW EYBEK TURNED GRAY                   354

    XXXIV. HOW MUSA PRACTISED MAGIC                367

     XXXV. HOW RICHARD HEARD A SONG                381

    XXXVI. HOW THE ISMAELIANS SAW TRENCHEFER       402

   XXXVII. HOW ROLLO CARRIED WEIGHT                415

  XXXVIII. HOW RICHARD AND MUSA AGAIN PARTED       428

    XXXIX. HOW PETER BARTHELMY HAD A DREAM         444

       XL. HOW THE HOLY LANCE WAS FOUND            457

      XLI. HOW LIGHT SMOTE DARKNESS                472

     XLII. HOW MORGIANA WOUND HER LAST SPELL       483

    XLIII. HOW THE ARMY SAW JERUSALEM              489

     XLIV. HOW MORGIANA BROUGHT WARNING            499

      XLV. HOW RICHARD HAD SPEECH WITH MUSA        510

     XLVI. HOW IFTIKHAR CEASED FROM TROUBLING      522

    XLVII. HOW TRENCHEFER WAS BROKEN               535

   XLVIII. HOW RICHARD SAW THE SUN RISE            546



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                              PAGE

  "In a twinkling Richard was at the head of the raging brute"  16

  "The cup trembled, as at the very thought she shuddered"      40

  "The lad lay with his bright locks in a crimson pool"        146

  "'How may I lift eyes to you when I belong to the cause of
  Christ?'"                                                    222

  "Iftikhar took from the seat a little lute, touched the
  strings, and sang"                                           327

  "All blindly, he knew they were mounting stairways"          401

  "And in his hand the rusted head of a lance"                 462

  "The infidel gave way"                                       542



GOD WILLS IT!



PROLOGUE

HOW HILDEBRAND GAVE A BATTLE CRY


High noon in Italy. Without, a hot sun, a blue bay, a slow sea-breeze;
within, a vaulted chamber, bare stone walls, a few blazoned pennons
upon the pillars, here and there pictured tapestries, where one might
see many a merry tourney and passage-at-arms. Very gentle were the
footfalls, though the room was not empty: the whispers were so low
that the droning buzz of a bee, which had stolen in at the narrow
window, sounded loud as a mill wheel. There were a score of persons in
the chamber: tonsured priests in white stoles, and monks in black
cassocks; knights in silvered hauberks; a white-robed Moor with the
eyes of a falcon and the teeth of a cat; and a young lad, Richard, son
of Sir William the castellan, a shy boy of twelve, who sat upon the
stone window seat, blinking his great eyes and wondering what it all
might mean. No eye rested on the lad: the company had thought only for
one object,--a figure that turned wearily on the velvet pillows, half
raised itself, sank once more. Then came a thin voice, gentle as a
woman's:--

"Abd Rahman, come: feel my wrist, and do not fear to speak the truth."

The Moor at the foot of the bed rose from the rushes whereon he had
been squatting; stole noiselessly to the sick man's side. From the
arch of the vault above dangled a silver ball. The Moor smote the
ball, and with his eye counted the slow vibrations while his hand held
the wrist. Even the vagrant bee stopped humming while the sphere
swung to and fro for a long minute. Then without a word Abd Rahman
crept to a low table where a lamp was heating a silver vial, and on
which other vials and spoons were lying. He turned the warm red elixir
into a spoon, and brought it to the dying man. There was a rush of
color to the pallid cheeks, with a striving to rise from the pillow;
but the Moor again held his wrist. Another long silence,--then the
question from the bed:--

"Do not hesitate. Is it near the end?"

Abd Rahman salaamed until his turban touched the rushes.

"Sheik Gregorius, all life save Allah's is mortal," said he in mongrel
Latin.

At the words, there ran a shiver and sobbing through all the company;
the priests were kissing their crucifixes; the monks were on their
knees,--and had begun to mutter _Agnus Dei, qui tolles peccata mundi,
miserere nobis!_ The sufferer's voice checked them.

"Sweet children, what is this? Sorrow? Tears? Rather should you not
rejoice that God has remembered my long travail, and opens wide the
doorway to the dwellings of His rest?" But the answer was renewed
sobbing. Only Abd Rahman crouched impassive. To him death was death,
for Nubian slave or lordly Kalif.

"Draw nearer, dear brothers, my children in Christ," came the voice
from the bed. "Let me see your faces; my sight grows dim. The end is
not far."

So they stood close by, those prelates and knights of the stout Norman
fortress city of Salerno, on that five-and-twentieth of May, in the
year of grace one thousand and eighty-five. None spoke. Each muttered
his own prayer, and looked upon the face of the dying. As they stood,
the sun dropped a beam athwart the pillows, and lit up the sick man's
face. It was a pale, thin, wasted face, the eyelids half drooping, the
eyes now lack-lustre, now touched by fretful and feverish fire; the
scanty gray hair tonsured, the shaven lips drawn tensely, so wan that
the blue veins showed, as they did through the delicate hands at rest
on the coverings. Yet the onlookers saw a majesty more than royal in
that wan face; for before them lay the "Servant of the Servants of
God." They looked upon Gregory VII, christened Hildebrand, heir of St.
Peter, Vicar of Christ, before whom the imperial successor of
Charlemagne and Cæsar had knelt as suppliant and vassal. The silence
was again waxing long.

"Dear children," said the dying Pope, "have you no word for me before
I go?" Whereupon the lordliest prelate of them all, the Archbishop of
Salerno, fell on his knees, and cried aloud:--

"Oh, _Sanctissime_! how can we endure when you are reft from us? Shall
we not be unshepherded sheep amongst ravening wolves; forsaken to the
devices of Satan! Oh, Father, if indeed you are the Vicar of Our Lord,
beg that He will spare us this loss; and even now He will lengthen out
your days, as God rewarded the good Hezekiah, and you will be restored
to us and to Holy Church!" But there was a weary smile upon Gregory's
pale face.

"No, my brother, be not afraid. I go to the visible presence of Our
Lord: before His very throne I will commend you all to His mercy."
Then the dim eyes wandered round the room. "Where is Odon? Where is
Odon, Bishop of Ostia? Not here?--"

"_Beatissime_" said old Desidarius, Abbot of Monte Casino, "we have
sent urgent messages to Capua, bidding him come with speed."

A wistful shadow passed across the face of Gregory.

"I pray God I may give him my blessing before I die."

He coughed violently; another vial of Abd Rahman's elixir quieted him,
but even the imperturbable face of the Moor told that the medicine
could profit little.

"Let us partake of the body and blood of Our Lord," said Gregory; and
the priests brought in a golden chalice and gilded pyx, containing the
holy mysteries. They chanted the _Gloria Patri_ with trembling voices;
the archbishop knelt at the bedside, proffering the pyx. But at that
instant the lad, Richard, as he sat and wondered, saw the Pope's
waxen face flush dark; he saw the thin hands crush the coverings into
folds, and put by the elements.

"I forget; I am first the Vicar of Christ; second, Hildebrand, the
sinner. I have yet one duty before I can stand at God's judgment
seat." The archbishop rose to his feet, and the holy vessel quaked in
his hand; for he saw on the brow of Gregory the black clouds,
foretelling the stroke of the lightning.

"What is your command, _Sanctissime_?" he faltered.

And the Pope answered, lifting himself unaided:--

"Speak! how has God dealt with the foes of Holy Church and His
Vicegerent? Has He abased Guibert of Ravenna, the Antipope, very
Antichrist? Has he humbled Henry, the German, Antichrist's friend?"
The voice was strong now; it thrilled through the vaulted chamber like
the roar of the wind that runs herald to the thunders.

And Desidarius answered feebly: "Holy Father, it is written, 'He that
is unjust let him be unjust still.' Guibert the Antipope, who
blasphemes, calling himself Clement the Third, still lords it in the
city of Peter; in Germany Henry the accursed is suffered to prosper
for yet a little season."

Whereupon Richard saw a terrible thing. The face of the Pope flushed
with an awful fury; he sat upright in the bed, his eyes darting fire,
and night on his forehead. Abd Rahman rose to quiet him--one glance
thrust the Moor back. None seconded. The Pope was still Pope; his were
the keys of heaven and hell,--perdition to deny! And now he spoke in
harsh command, as if handing down the doom of kingdoms, as indeed he
did.

"Hearken, bishops and prelates! I, Gregory, standing at the judgment
seat of God, am yet the Vicar of Christ. Of me it is said, 'Whatsoever
ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;' and let my last act
on this sinful earth be this--to devote to the devil and his angels
the souls of Henry, king of the Germans, who vaunts the name of
emperor, and Guibert, whose sin shall be forgiven never, for he is
Antichrist."

The pontiff gasped for breath; his voice sounded again.

"Take vellum, and write the formula of the greater excommunication
against the two accursed. Make haste: for all the rest of the world I
will forgive, but they shall be parched forever. Then let me, like
Pope Zacharias, sign the anathema with the very blood of Our Lord.
Haste; for the time grows short."

They obeyed like mute slaves. Richard saw a priest's pen racing over
the parchment, and shivered to his young self; for two of the world's
highest were being handed over to eternal torment. The Pope still sat.
In his eye flashed a fire born of passion passing reason.

"Yes," he ran on. "I am the son of the carpenter of Saona, the poor
monk at St. Mary of the Aventine. Yet I have been set above kings. At
Canossa the prince of this world has knelt at my feet, confessing his
imperial majesty lesser than mine. I have made and unmade kings; I
have raised up and pulled down; and the holy bride of Christ shall
come unblemished to her marriage. The Church--the Church--shall wax
forever; and this has been the work of my hands!" The Pope raved,--all
knew it,--but who should say him nay? Still he stormed on in his
passion: "They have driven me to exile, but mine is the victory. I
die, but the Church advances to triumph! Kingdoms fall,--the Church is
established. The earth passes away,--the Church sits down to the
marriage supper with the Lamb: for the gates of hell shall not prevail
against her!"

Gregory saw the priest lift his eyes from the writing-desk.

"Is it written?"

"It is written, Holy Father."

"Bring it to me, and bring the chalice and the pen; for I will sign."

The archbishop brought the vellum and the holy cup, and knelt at the
bedside; and others had brought lighted candles, twelve in number,
each held by a prelate or priest who stood in semicircle about the
bed. Then while they chanted the great psalm of wrath, they heard the
bell of the castle tolling,--tolling,--not for the death of the body,
but for the more grievous death of the soul. "_In consummatione, in
ira consummationis_"--"Consume them, in wrath consume them," swelled
the terrible chant.

"Give me the crucifix," commanded Gregory. Desidarius placed one of
silver in his hand. A priest at either side bore him up from the bed.
Softly, but solemnly as the Judge of the last Great Day, Gregory read
the major anathema:--

"I, Gregory, Servant of the Servants of God, to whom is given all
power in heaven, on earth, and in hell, do pronounce you, Henry, false
Emperor, and you, Guibert, false Pope, anathematized, excommunicate,
damned! Accursed in heaven and on earth,--may the pains of hell follow
you forever! Cursed be you in your food and your possessions, from the
dog that barks for you to the cock that crows for you! May you wax
blind; may your hands wither; like Dathan and Abiram, may hell swallow
you up quick; like Ananias and Sapphira, may you receive an ass's
burial! May your lot be that of Judas in the land of shades! May these
maledictions echo about you through the ages of ages!"

And at these words the priests cast down their candles, treading them
out, all crying: "Amen and amen! So let God quench all who contemn the
Vicar of Christ."

Then in a silence so tense that Richard felt his very eyeballs
beating, Gregory dipped in the chalice, and bent over the roll. The
lad heard the tip of the pen touch the vellum,--but the words were
never written....

Darkening the doorway was a figure, leaning upon a crooked staff; in
the right hand a withered palm branch,--the gaze fixed straight upon
the Vicegerent of God. And Gregory, as he glanced upward, saw,--gave a
cry and sigh in one breath; then every eye fastened upon the newcomer,
who without a word advanced with soft gliding step to the foot of the
bed, and looked upon the Pope.

None addressed him, for he was as it were a prophet, a Samuel called
up from his long rest to disclose the mysteries hid to human ken. The
strange visitor was of no great height; fasting and hardship had worn
him almost to a skeleton. From under his dust-soiled pilgrim's coat
could be seen the long arms, with the skin sun-dried, shrivelled. Over
his breast and broad shoulders streamed the snow-white hair and beard.
Beneath the shaggy brows, within deep sockets, were eyes, large, dark,
fiery, that held the onlooker captive against his will. The pilgrim's
nose seemed like the beak of a hawk, his fingers like dry talons. And
all looked and grew afraid, for he was as one who had wrestled with
the glamour and sin of the world for long, and had been more than
victor.

Pope and pilgrim gazed upon each other: first spoke Hildebrand:--

"Sebastian, my brother-monk!"

"Hildebrand, my fellow at St. Mary's!"

Then the apparition fell on his knees, saying humbly:--

"And will not the Pope bless Sebastian the palmer from Jerusalem?"

What the pontiff replied was lost to all about; then louder he
spoke:--

"And has Sebastian the palmer forgotten his love for Hildebrand the
monk, when he reverences the Vicar of Christ?"

But the stranger arose.

"I kneel, adoring Gregory, Vicegerent of God: I stand to lay bare to
Hildebrand, the man, his mortal sin."

A thrill of horror ran through all the churchmen, and the archbishop
whispered darkly to Desidarius, but the Pope reproved:--

"And I implore the prayers of Sebastian, a more righteous man than I;
let him speak, and all Christians honor him."

So they stood. The palmer drew close to the bedside, pointing into the
pontiff's face a finger bare as that of one long in the grave.

"Listen, Hildebrand of Saona! I am come from my pilgrimage to the tomb
of our dear Lord. I have come hither to fall at your feet, to bid you
remember the captivity of the city of Christ, and His sorrow at the
wrong done Him through His little ones. I come to find the Vicar of
Christ like the meanest of humankind, nigh to death, and preparing to
stand naked at God's tribunal. I find him not forgiving his enemies,
but devoting to hell. I find him going before God, his last breath a
curse--"

But the Pope was writhing in agony.

"Not this, my brother, my brother," rang his plea. "O Sebastian,
holier man than I," and he strove to turn from the palmer's terrible
gaze, but could not. "Not in my own wrath and hatred do I this. Henry
and Guibert blaspheme Christ and His church, not me. Did I not freely
forgive Censius the brigand, who sought my life? Have I ever been a
worldly prelate, whose cellars are full of wines, whose castles abound
with plate and falcons and chargers? Has simony or uncleanness ever
justly been laid at my door? Not so, not so,--I am innocent."

But Sebastian never wavered. "You and I were fellow-monks at St.
Mary's, friends, as one soul dwelling in two bodies. But the pleasure
of God led us wide apart; you became maker of popes, very Pope--I
remained a simple monk; for our Lord spared me the burdens of
greatness. Now for the third time I have been to the tomb of Christ,
to plead pardon for my many sins and I bring from Palestine treasures
more precious than gold."

The whole company was about the palmer when he drew forth a little
packet. "See--the finger-bone of the blessed St. Jerome; this flask is
filled with water of Jordan; this dust my poor hands gathered at the
Holy Sepulchre." And now all bowed very low. "This splinter is of that
wood whereon the price of all our sins was paid."

Hildebrand took the last relic, kissed it, placed it in his bosom
lovingly. Then came the slow question. "And are the Eastern Christians
still persecuted, the pilgrims outraged, the sacred places polluted?"

"Look, _Sanctissime_" was the answer, tinged half with bitterness and
scorn; and Sebastian bared his arm, showing upon it a ring of scarce
healed scars. "These are tokens of the tortures I endured by command
of the Emir of Jerusalem, when I rejoiced to be counted worthy to
suffer for Christ's dear sake."

"Wounds of Our Lord!" cried the archbishop on his knees, "we are
unworthy to wash the feet of such as you!"

"No," replied the palmer. "It was but merciful chastening. Yet my
heart burns when I behold Christians cursing and slaying one another,
while so many infidels rage unslain and the Holy City mourns their
captive. Therefore I stand here, _Sanctissime_, to reproach you for
your sin."

Again Gregory broke forth: "Unjust Sebastian, eleven years since I
pleaded with King Henry, setting forth the miseries of Jerusalem; ever
has my soul been torn for her captivity. Did I not profess myself
ready to lead over land and sea to the Holy Sepulchre? Then the devil
stirred Henry to his onslaught on the Church, and God has opened no
door for this righteous warfare."

Sebastian leaned over, speaking into the Pope's face.

"You have put your hand to the plough and looked back. You promised
Michael Ducas the Greek aid against the Turks. You anathematized him
for heresy. You wrote of holy war. War blazed forth in Saxony, where
your underling, Rudolf of Swabia, slew his fellow-Christians with your
blessing, while Christ's children in the East were perishing. You
called to Rome Robert Guiscard, that man of sin, whose half-paynim
army spared neither nun nor matron in its violence when it sacked, and
led thousands of Roman captives to endless bondage in Calabria. Where
then your anathemas? You cared more for humiliating Cæsar than for
removing the humiliation of Christ. Therefore I reproach."

There were great beads of sweat on the Pope's forehead; he was panting
in agony; again and again the splinter of the cross was pressed to his
breast, as if the very touch would quench the raging flame within.
"_Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!_" he was repeating. Next he
spoke aloud: "Sweet friends, bear witness,--all my life I have loved
righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore, in exile, here at
Salerno, I die. Yet our old enemy, Satan, has been too strong. I am a
very sinful man, thinking too much of the glory of Peter, too little
of the sorrow of Christ. Pray for me,--for Hildebrand, chief of
sinners; for Gregory the Pope is nigh his end."

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!"

The Pope reeled; Sebastian caught him; they laid him on the bed. Abd
Rahman was beside--no need of his skill--a great rush of blood surged
from Gregory's lips, one brief spasm--he was dead.

"Christians," spoke Sebastian the palmer, "think not the Vicar of
Christ has left us unaided in this sacred task. At the throne of God
he will pray that our fingers be taught the sword, that we be girded
with strength for the battle. And now while his spirit is borne on
high by angels, let us take on ourselves the vow of holy war."

The lad Richard, whose young wits had been sadly perplexed by all he
had seen since at early morn he had been sent to watch in the
sick-room, that his weary father the castellan might rest, made as if
to glide from the chamber; but Sebastian by a glance recalled. They
stood around the bed, looking upon the dead man's face, their arms
stretched on high.

"We swear it! That soon as the path is plain, we will free Jerusalem.
So God wills it!"

Thus cried Odon, thus all; but loudest of all Godfrey of Bouillon.
Then Sebastian, turning to Richard, said:--

"And you, fair young sir, whom the saints make the sprout of a mighty
warrior for Christ--will you vow also?"

Whereupon Richard, holding himself very lordly, as became his noble
Norman blood, replied with outstretched hand, in right manly
fashion:--

"Yes, with St. Maurice's help, I will slay my share of the infidels!"

"Amen," quoth Abbot Desidarius, solemnly, "Gregory the Pope is dead in
the body, but in the spirit he shall win new victories for Holy Church
and for God."



CHAPTER I

HOW BARON WILLIAM SALLIED FORTH


It was early dawn in May, 1094. The glowing sun had just touched the
eastern mountains with living fire; the green brakes and long
stretches of half-tropical woodland were springing out of the shadow;
a thin mist was drifting from the cool valleys; to the north the sea's
wide reach was dancing and darkling. Upon a little height overlooking
the Sicilian town of Cefalu three men were standing, very unlike in
age and dress, yet each with attention fixed on one object,--a white
falcon which the youngest of the party had perched on his fist. Two of
the men were past the prime of life. Of one, the swarthy countenance,
sharp features, bright Oriental dress, ponderous blue turban, and
crooked cimeter proclaimed him at once a Moor, undoubtedly a Moslem;
the other, taller, thinner than his comrade, wore a coarse, dark
mantle; his hood was thrust back, displaying a head crowned with a
tight-fitting steel cap, a face stern and tough, as if it were of
oxhide, marked almost to deformity by plentiful sword scars. He wore a
grizzled gray beard; at his side jangled a heavy sword in battered
sheath; and in his hands, which lacked more than one finger, he held a
crossbow, the bolts for which swung in a leathern case at his thigh.
The two stood by their third companion, who was holding up the falcon
on a gold-embroidered glove, while the other hand readjusted the
feather-tufted hood over the bird's eyes.

"By St. Michael," the young man was declaring, "say to me, Herbert,
and you also, Nasr, there was never such a falcon; no, not in all
Count Roger's mews."

The speaker stood at least a head taller than the others, and they
were not short men. He was a strong-limbed fellow of perhaps
two-and-twenty; with a face not regular and handsome certainly; the
cheek-bones were too high, the features too rugged, the mouth too
large for that. But it was an honest, ingenuous face; the brown eyes
snapped with lively spirits, and, if need be, with no trifling
passion; the mouth was affable; the little brown mustache twisted at a
determined curve; and the short dark hair--he was bare-headed--was
just curly enough to be unruly. He wore a bleaunt, an undercloak of
fine gray cloth, and over this was caught a loose mantle of scarlet
woollen,--a bright dress that marked out his figure from afar.

The young man had been speaking in Norman French, and his comrade in
the steel cap, who answered to the name of Herbert, broke out
loudly:--

"Aye, my Lord Richard, there is not such a falcon in all Sicily from
Syracuse to Trapani; not such a bird as will strike so huge a crane or
heron from so far, and go at the quarry so fearless." And the old man
held up a dead crane, as if in proof of his assertion.

"I am glad to think it," replied the other, "for I have no small hope
that when next I go to Palermo, I may show that haughty Louis De
Valmont I know somewhat of hawking, and can breed a bird to outmatch
his best."

"Allah!" grunted Nasr, the Moor, "the young _Cid_ is right. Never have
I seen a better falcon. And he does well to harbor the old grudge
against the boisterous De Valmont, who will get his dues if the Most
High will! Ha, ha!" And the old rascal began croaking in his throat,
thinking he was laughing.

Nasr had spoken in Arabic, but his companions understood him well
enough; for what tongue was not current in Sicily? The young man's
face was clouded, however, as if by no very pleasant recollection;
then he burst out:--

"By the Mass, but I will not forget the high words that pompous knight
spoke to me. If it be a sin to harbor an enmity, as Sebastian the
chaplain says, why then"--and he crossed himself--"I will do penance
in due time. But the quarrel must be wiped out first." And he clapped
his hand on his sword-hilt to confirm his word.

"_Ai!_" muttered Herbert, "the churchmen talk of the days when spears
shall be beaten into pruning-hooks--so they say it; but I say, let old
Herbert be dead before that time dawns. What is life without its
grudges? A good horse, a good sword, a good wife, and a good
grudge--what more can an honest man want, be he knight or 'villain'?"

Richard yawned and commenced to scratch his head.

"Ah!" he commented, "it was very early we rose! I have not yet rubbed
the vapors out of my crown. Sir Gerald, the knight travelling from
Palermo who lodged with us, was given hospitality in my bed, and we
talked of his horses and sweethearts till past midnight. Then
Brochart, my best dog, was not content to sleep under the bed, as is
his wont, but must needs climb up and lie upon me, and I was too
slumberous to roll him off; so I have dreamt of imps and devils all
night long."

He drew the strap tight that held the falcon to his glove, and led the
way down the slope, remarking that since he had tested the new bird
thus early, he would not hesitate to display her keenness to his
father the Baron, who proposed to ride hawking that day. So they
passed down the hill towards Cefalu with its white houses and
squat-domed churches spreading out below them, a fair picture to the
eye; for the summer sea, flecked by a few fishers' sails, stretched
beyond, and the green hills far to either hand. Before them on a sheer
eminence rose the battlemented keep of the castle, an ancient
Saracenic fortress lately remodelled by the new Norman lords, the dawn
falling bright and free on its amber-gray walls, and lending a rich
blush to the stately crimson banner that from topmost rampart was
trailing to the southern wind.

As the three went down the slope they struck the highroad just beyond
a little clump of palm trees, and at the turn they ran on a travelling
party that was evidently just setting forth from Cefalu. There were
several women and priests on palfreys and mules, one or two mounted
men-at-arms, and several pack animals; but the centre of the whole
party was found in an enormous black horse, who at that instant had
flung off his rider, and was tossing his forefeet in the air and
raging and stamping as if by a demon possessed. Two stout Lombard
serving-men were tugging at his bits, but he was kicking at them
viciously, and almost worrying out of their grasp at every plunge. The
women were giving little shrieks each time the great horse reared; the
priests were crossing themselves and mumbling in Latin; and all their
beasts were growing restive.

In a twinkling Richard was at the head of the raging brute, and with a
mighty grip close to the jaw taught the foaming monster that he felt a
master hand. A moment more and the horse was standing quiet and
submissive. Richard resigned his hold to a servant, and turned to the
strange travellers. A fat man in a prelate's dress, with a frosty red
face, was pushing his white mule forward; Richard fell at once on his
knees, for he recognized in the churchman My Lord Prelate Robert of
Evroult, the Bishop of Messina. The good father was all thanks.

"_Dominus vobiscum_, my son; you have subdued a savage beast, to which
I, a man of peace and not of war, should never have given harborage in
my stables. And who may you be, for I have seen your face before, yet
forget the name?"

"_Beatissime_, I am Richard Longsword, son of William Longsword,
seigneur of this Barony of Cefalu."

"A right noble knight you will prove yourself, no doubt," commented
the bishop; "when at Palermo do not fail to wait on me." And then,
when he had given his blessing, he signed for the cavalcade to
proceed.

"I thank your episcopal grace," quoth Richard, still very dutifully;
and then his eye lit on another of the travellers,--one much more to
his liking than the reverend prelate; for a lady sitting on a second
white mule had thrust back the yellow veil from before her face, and
the Norman caught a glimpse of cheeks red as a rose and white as milk,
and two very bright eyes. Only a glimpse; for the lady, the instant
he raised his gaze, dropped the veil; but she could not cover up those
dark, gleaming eyes. Richly dressed was she, after the fashion of the
Greeks, with red ribbons on her neck and a blue silk mantle and
riding-hood. Her mule had a saddle of fine, embossed leather, and
silver bits. At her side rode an old man in a horse-litter led by
foot-boys; he also daintily dressed, and with the handsome, clear-cut
features and venerable white beard of a Greek gentleman. The lady had
dropped her veil at his warning nod, but now she bent over the mule
and half motioned to Richard.

"You understand Greek, Sir Frank?" was her question; not in the
mongrel Sicilian dialect, but in the stately tongue of Constantinople.
In her voice was a little tremor and melody sweet as a springtime
brook. The Norman bowed low.

"I understand and speak, fair lady," replied he, in her own tongue.

"How brave you have been!" cried the Greek, ingenuously; "I feared the
raging horse would kill you."

Richard shrugged his shoulders and laughed:--

"It is nothing; I know horses as my second self."

But the lady shook her head, and made all the red ribbons and bright
veil flutter. "I am not wont to be contradicted," said she; "a brave
deed, I say. I did not think you Franks so modest."

The old man was leaning from the litter. "Let us ride, my daughter,"
he was commanding. The lady tapped her mule on the neck with the ivory
butt of her whip. "Farewell, Sir Frank; St. Theodore keep you, if you
make so light of peril!"

Richard bowed again in silence. He would not forget those eyes in a
day, though he had seen many bright eyes at Count Roger's court.
"_Ai_," cried he to his companions, "to the castle, or the hawking
begins without us."

So they struck a brisk pace, whilst Herbert related how he had heard
that the Greek gentleman, though a cripple, had stood high at the
court of Constantinople, and that he had come to Cefalu on a Pisan
ship a few days before. It was declared he was in exile, having fallen
out of the Emperor's favor, and had been waiting at Cefalu until the
bishop came up, giving them escort for the land journey to Palermo.

"As for the daughter, ah! she is what you have just seen,--more
precious than all the relics under a church altar; but her father
watches her as if she were made of gold!"

"I am vexed," replied the young man. "I did not know this before; it
was uncourtly that persons of their rank should lodge in Cefalu, and
no one of the castle wait on them." Then because one thought had led
to another: "Tell me, Nasr, have you learned anything of that Spanish
knight whom they say keeps himself at the country house of Hajib the
Kadi? Assuredly he is no true cavalier, or he would not thus
churlishly withdraw himself. There are none too many men of spirit
here at Cefalu, for me to stick at making acquaintance."

Nasr showed his sharp, white teeth.

"Yes, I have gained sight of the Spaniard. From the brother-in-law of
the cousin of the wife of the steward of the Kadi, I learn that he is
called Musa, and is of a great family among the Andalusian Moslems."

Richard chuckled at the circuit this bit of news had taken; then
pressed:--

"But you have seen him? What is he like?"

"If my lord's slave"--Nasr was always respectful--"may speak,--the
Spanish knight is a very noble cavalier. I saw him only once, yet my
eye tells if a man has the port of a good swordsman and rider.
Assuredly this one has, and his eyes are as keen and quick as a
shooting star."

"Yet he keeps himself very retired about the country house?"

"True, _Cid_, yet this, they say, is because he is an exile in Sicily,
and even here has fears for his life; so he remains quiet."

"Foh!" grunted Richard, "I am weary of quiet men and a quiet life. I
will go back to Palermo, and leave my father to eat his dinners and
doze over his barony. I have the old grudge with De Valmont to settle,
and some high words with Iftikhar, captain of the Saracen guards, will
breed into a very pretty quarrel if I am bent on using them. Better
ten broils than this sleepy hawking and feasting!"

So they crossed the drawbridge, entered the outer walls of the bailey,
with its squalid outbuildings, weather-beaten stables, the gray, bare
donjon looming up above; and entering a tiny chapel, Richard and
Herbert fell on their knees, while a priest--none other than
Sebastian, who had stood at Hildebrand's side--chanted through the
"_Gloria_" and "_Preface_" But when it came time for the sermon, the
baron's two bears, caged in the bailey, drowned the pious prosings
with an unholy roar as they fell on one another; and the good cleric
cried, "Amen!" that all might run and drag them asunder.

There by the cage Richard greeted his father,--a mighty man even in
his old age, though his face was hacked and scarred, and showed little
of the handsome young cavalier who had stolen the heart of every maid
in Rouen. But in his blue Norman eyes still burned the genial fire;
his tread was heavy as a charger's, his great frame straight as a
plummet; a stroke of his fist could fell a horse, and his flail-like
sword was a rush in his fingers. He was smooth-shaven; round his neck
strayed a few white locks, all his crown worn bare by the long rubbing
of his helmet. One could have learned his rank by the ermine lining on
his under-mantle, by the gold plates on his sword belt and samite
scabbard; but in a "villain's" dress he would have been known as one
of those lordly cavaliers who had carried the Norman name and fame
from the Scottish Marches to Thessaly.

Father and son embraced almost in bear-fashion, each with a crushing
hug. Then Richard must needs kiss his mother, the fair Lady Margaret
of Auvergne, sweet and stately in her embroidered bleaunt, with golden
circlet on her thick gray-gold hair; after her, Eleanor, a small
maiden of sixteen, prim, demure, and very like her mother, with two
golden braids that fell before her shoulders almost to her knees; and
lastly, Stephen, a slight, dark lad, with a dreamy, contemplative face
and an eye for books in place of arrow-heads, whom the family placed
great hopes on: should he not be bishop, nay Pope, some bright day, if
the saints favored?

"Hola, Richard!" cried the Baron, with a spade-like paw on his son's
shoulder. "So you made test of the white falcon; does she take
quarry?"

"A crane large enough to hold a dog at bay!"

"Praised be St. Maurice! Come, let us eat, and then to horse and
away!"

So they feasted in the great hall, the plates and trenchers
clattering, enough spiced wine to crack the heads of drinkers less
hardened, the busy Norman varlets and Greek serving-maids buzzing to
and fro like bees; for who could hawk with hunger under the girdle? A
brief feast; and all had scattered right and left to make ready; but
not for long.

Soon they were again in the court, the Baron, his sons, and Herbert,
with Aimeri, the falconer, who had brought out his pride, as fine a
half-dozen of goshawks and gerfalcons as might be found in all Sicily.
The birds were being strapped fast to each glove, the grooms were
leading out the tall palfreys, and the Baron stood with one hand on
the pommel of his saddle, ready to dig his spurs and be away, when a
mighty clangor arose from the bronze slab hanging by the gate.

"By St. Ouen," cried he, in a hot Norman oath, pausing in his spring,
"what din is that? I have no mind to put off the hawking to bandy
words with some wandering priest who would stop to swill my wine!"

But Herbert, the seneschal, had gone to the gate, and came back with
his wicked eyes dancing in his head.

"Ho! My lord, there will be no hawking to-day!" he was bawling with
all his lungs.

"Why not, rascal?" growled the Baron; yet he, too, began to sniff an
adventure, like a practised war-horse.

"These people will make it clear to my lord."

And after the seneschal trooped three very dissimilar persons, who all
broke out in a breath into howls and cries.

The first was a well-fed priest, but with a tattered cassock and a
great red welt swelling upon his bare poll; the second, a dark-eyed
Greek peasant of the country in a dress also much the worse for wear;
and the third, a tall, gaunt old Moor, whose one-time spotless white
kaftan and turban were dust-sprinkled and torn. They all cried and
bellowed at once, but the priest got out the first coherent word.

"Rescue, noble Baron, rescue, for the love of Christ! My master, the
Bishop of Messina, is fallen into the hands of the men of Belial, and
I, even I, of all his following, am escaped to tell the tale.
Rescue--"

And here the Greek broke in:--

"Oh! most august Frank, by St. Basil and St. Demetrius, I adjure you,
save my sister, whom the pirates have carried away."

But the old Moor, with tears in his eyes, knelt and kissed the Baron's
very feet.

"Oh! fountain of generosity, save my master, for the Berber raiders
seek not his ransom, but his life. Rescue, O champion of the
innocent!"

"By the splendor of God!" roared the Baron, with a great oath, "I make
nothing of all this wind. What mean they, Herbert?" And the seneschal,
who stood by all alert, replied curtly: "I gather, Moorish pirates
have landed below the town toward Lascari to kill or kidnap the
Spanish knight who dwells with Hajib the Kadi; and doubtless the
Bishop of Messina and his company have fallen into their hands while
passing along the road. It may be, my lord,"--and the sly fellow
winked, as if the hint would be needed,--"that if we ride forth, we
may nip them before they regain the ship. The Kadi's villa is far
inland."

Baron William was no man of words when deeds were needed. In a trice
he had clapped to his mouth the great olifant--the ivory horn that
dangled at his baldric, and its notes rang out sharp and clear. Twice
he wound a mighty blast; and almost before the last peal died away
the castle was transformed. The Norman men-at-arms, dozing and dicing
in the great hall, were tearing their shields from the wall, their
lances from the cupboards and presses. Forth sounded that merriest of
jingling, the clinking of good ring-steel hauberks as they dragged
them on. In the stables feverish grooms girt fast the saddles on the
stamping _destrers_--the huge war-horses. And up from other parts of
the castle rose the boom of kettledrums, the clash and brattle of
cymbals, as the Baron's Saracens, nigh half of his garrison, came
racing into the bailey, clattering their brass-studded targets with
their bow staves, and tossing their crooked cimeters. Richard and his
father had rushed into the donjon, but were back quick as thought with
their mail shirts jangling about them, and stout steel caps hiding all
the face save the eyes. The good Baron was snorting and dancing for
the fray as if it had been his first battle; or as if he were what the
_jongleurs_ said of Charlemagne, "two hundred years old, scarred by a
hundred fields, yet the last to weary of the mêlée."

Good Lady Margaret stood by the gate as the troops rode out, after her
son and husband had kissed her. Dear woman! it was not the first time
she had seen them ride forth perchance to deadlier fields, but she had
not yet learned to love the blasts of the war-horn. Until they
returned she would spend the time in the chapel, betwixt hope and
fear, telling it all to "Our Lady of Succors."

"Will you not come with us?" cried Richard, gayly, to Sebastian, the
old priest, who stood at his mother's side. "Play Roland's Bishop
Turpin, who slew so many infidels."

The good man shrugged his shoulders, and said with a sigh: "Not
slaying infidels, but slaying for slaying's sake you lust after, my
son. When you ride for Christ's love only, then perhaps I ride with
you; but St. George shield you--if not for your sake, at least for
ours."

The troops cantered forth, twenty good Norman men-at-arms; as many
light-mailed Saracen riders,--the Baron and his son in full armor. At
the turn in the road below the castle Richard waved his kite-shaped
shield, as last salute to the little group by the drawbridge.

"Let us go to the chapel, my children," said Lady Margaret to her
younger son and her daughter. "We can do nothing here."



CHAPTER II

HOW RICHARD WON THREE FRIENDS


Little heeded Richard Longsword the warnings of priest or mother, as
with a good horse between his knees, a stout shield tossed over his
back, and the white hawk blinking under her hood and perched upon his
shoulder, he spurred ahead of his troop, leading their mad gallop. One
thought, be it confessed, was uppermost in his mind,--the Greek lady
with the yellow veil and red ribbons,--she the booty of Berber
raiders, while he was near by with a keen sword in his scabbard! St.
Maurice forbid! So furious was his riding that the Baron, who was
foaming behind, must needs shout to him not to outpace the company.
The ground sped fast under the flying hoofs. A fair and fruitful
country it was, had he given it heed: fields of cotton, orchards of
orange and lemon, flower masses scattered here and there bright as the
rainbow, and the great mountains swelling up above all, with Pizzo
Antenna and San Salvadore in the background, their mighty summits
standing forth as brown and green crystal against the azure.

There was a kind, sweet wind creeping in from the sea, bearing a
breath of the pure brine; and to the sea were threading the silver
rivulets from the meadows, the racing brooks from the mountain sides.
Small place had all this in the young Norman's mind. Already as they
cantered westward toward the foothills, his keen eye had lit on a
sluggish column of smoke, at sight whereof he gave his flying steed
another thrust with the rowels; and all the riders at his back, when
they saw, set up one gleeful yell,--they were on track of the
raiders. Now frightened Moslem or Greek peasants scampered past them,
too scared to whimper out more than a word as to where the foe
awaited. Then as they swung round a turn in the road, and cleared a
clump of manna trees, a woman came flying to meet them,--old, but
decently dressed, and throwing up her hands she gave one mighty howl
to Richard.

"Oh! Sir Frank; rescue, rescue for my dear mistress! Save her from the
Hagarenes!" For so the Greeks called all the race of Ishmael.

Richard bent low in his saddle. "Never fear, good woman; where are the
raiders? I will rescue your lady!"

"There!" cried the old woman, screaming again. "Oh! they will kill us
all! St. Irene, St. John, St. Basil--"

But Longsword did not wait for her to finish her adjuration. Right at
the turn in the road were advancing a knot of men in bright barbaric
dresses with tossing spears and brandished cimeters. When they caught
sight of their galloping pursuers, they set up a hideous din from
horns and cymbals and tabors; and the shout of the Baron's party was
met by a louder from fourfold as many throats.

The Baron had pricked up abreast of his son, and one sweeping glance
over the freebooters' array told the story.

"Nigh two hundred," he muttered under his helmet, "and think
themselves too strong to be molested. We have met them as they return
to their ship. Berbers mostly, but I see the fair skins of some
Christian renegadoes. They have captured some horses, and their
prisoners are strapped to them, in the centre of the band. By the
peacock! it will be a pretty fight ere we get at them! But we have our
mounts, and one rider matches ten on the ground."

The pirates stood on a little clearing flanked by vineyard hedges; and
a low stone wall lay betwixt them and their assailants. The horde were
drawing up in close mass: the best-armored men without, bowmen within,
prisoners and booty in the centre. A tall mounted African in a
splendid suit of silvered armor and in gilded casque was wheeling
about, ordering, brandishing his long cimeter,--evidently the chief.
Just before the pirates lay the wall, which a mounted enemy must clear
at a bound to strike them. Baron William turned to Herbert.

"Ready, my men?"

"Ready, lord."

Then again the Baron wound the horn, and the restless horses felt no
spur when the whole band as one swept forward. Right as they came to
the leap of the wall a deadly arrow fire smote them. Three steeds went
down: four riders reeled; but the others took the bound and crashed
upon the Berbers. Four and five to one were the odds, but not a rider
that had not slain his tens and scattered his hundreds; and the weight
of the Norman sword and axe the luckless raiders felt with cost. Like
a sledge shattering the wood the impact smote them: there was one
struggle, one wild push and rally to maintain the spear hedge. It was
broken, and the Baron's men were cutting hand to hand, and hewing down
the Berbers. Loud ran out the Norman war-cry, "_Nostre Dame, Dieu ay
nous ade_," and the very shout struck terror to the hearts of the
quaking pirates. An instant of deadly fencing man to man, and they
were scattered. Like rats they were breaking through the thickets and
dashing down the hillside; close on their heels flew Nasr and his
Saracens, shooting and hewing with might and main.

But Richard had higher foes in view. The instant the pirates
scattered, their six riders had struck out boldly, pushing their
beasts over the walls and through the groves and hedges, all flying
northward toward their only safety,--the ships. Now behind each of
four riders was strapped a prisoner, and it was on these last that
Richard cast chiefest eye; especially on one, for from the prisoner's
throat he could see trailing red ribbons. Leaving the men to hunt down
the fugitives on foot, he thrust his steed by a long leap over a hedge
and was away after the mounted raiders, little recking whether he had
a follower.

The wind whistled in his teeth as his good horse sped across ploughed
lands, and took ditch or garden wall with noble bounds. Now he was
gaining on the rearmost fugitive, a lean, black African on a stolen
steed, who was weighted in his race by no less a prisoner than the
reverend bishop. Richard laughed behind his helm, as he saw the holy
man writhing and twisting on his uneasy pillion, and coughing forth
maledictions at every jolt in the mad chase. The Norman swung up
abreast the Moor, and struck out with his sword. The raider made shift
to wield his cimeter, but one stroke cleft him down, and as he fell he
dragged the bishop with him, who landed on the crupper with a mighty
thud that made him howl to all the saints.

Richard glanced back; two or three of the Baron's men were in the far
distance, the rest scattered; only Herbert on a well-tried horse flew
close at hand.

"Help, fair son! _Maledicte_, I perish--I die a martyr, butchered by
paynims!" groaned the bishop. But Richard left him to salve his own
bruises, and pricked the faster. Be the foe two or twenty, he would
follow the lady of the red ribbons. Swift as a dream he flew on.
Before him on the greensward lay the old Greek, thrust from the
pillion to lighten the load of his captor. Feebly he struggled to rise
as Richard swept past. "Ah, young Frank, for Christ's dear sake save
my daughter!" was his cry and groan.

"That will I!" snorted the Norman, and he smote his steed's neck with
the flat of his great sword. The bishop, the Greek had vanished;
hedge, ravine, brooklet, he swept through them, over them; nor knew
how often St. George saved him from headlong fall. The Berbers were
lashing and prodding with their cimeter points; but Richard was well
mounted, only the great black horse bearing the captive lady sped
ahead despite all Richard's speed.

A stone wall,--all the fugitives cleared it saving the last, behind
whom was strapped a young man, fast prisoner. As Longsword flew, he
saw this rider miss the leap, crash downward. In a twinkling all the
pursued, save the guard of the lady, wheeled, charged back. But
Richard had reached the wall, passed with a bound, and for a long
instant it was foil and fence, his life dancing on three cimeter
points at his breast. Then, sudden as a thunderclap, there was a new
blade opposed to the Berbers,--the erstwhile captive had burst his
bands, leaped from under the kicking charger, disarmed his guard, and
was in the midst of the fray, giving blow for blow. But at sight of
him, all three pirates forsook the Norman, and rained their blows upon
the prisoner.

"_Allah!_ Hew him down, though we die for it!" was the shout of their
chief. The captive parried all three as one; ere the second stroke,
Richard had sped the first raider past sword-play. His new ally beat
down a second with a sweeping blow. The third cried "Mercy!"--but
neither gave him heed. The released prisoner, a light-skinned young
Moslem of Spain, wiry as a hound, nimble as a cat, had caught the rein
of a fallen Berber, and swung himself into the dead man's saddle,
touching no stirrup, almost ere Richard could admire.

"As the Most High lives," cried the Spaniard, as if rescue were mere
incident, "after the lady! The ship is near!" And ride they did,
though the black horse was far ahead now, despite his burden.

"Ride, Frank, ride!" shouted the other, leaning over his steed's neck,
and seeming to lend speed by very touch and voice. "Allah smite us, if
she is taken!"

Over the foothills, across the rolling country, the feet of their
horses springing like on-rushing winds, raced the twain. They saw blue
water before an orange grove, and not far away the pirate's
refuge,--the ship. And still the black horse held them in chase,
though losing slowly. Richard flung the target from his back, to make
greater speed. He could see the lady struggling on her uneasy pillion.
Her captor with one hand gripped her fast; with the other, smote and
prodded with his cimeter. The flecks of blood were on the black
steed's flanks. The lady plucked at the Berber's throat with strength
born of despair.

"Rescue, rescue, for the love of Christ!" rang her cry; and as if in
answer, the great charger began to plunge in his gallop, nigh casting
his double mount. The Berber wrestled him down, with a mighty strain
on the reins; but in the instant Richard had gained apace. "Ai! St.
Michael!" he thundered, his good sword swung almost in stroke. But at
the shout there was a wild yell from beyond the orange trees, and as
he swept on he saw a score or more pirates rushing with drawn swords
to greet them,--and through the grove the tacklings of the ship.
Straight toward the midst of the Berbers sped the black horse: a
moment,--the lady would be lost indeed!

"Rescue for the love of Christ!" again her wail in reply to the
triumphant howl of her captor. The Norman's hand was on his shoulder;
down he plucked the white falcon, unhooded, tossed in air,--one circle
she cut, then sped straight in the flying raider's eyes.

Vainly he strove to buffet away with a fist; the instant the grip on
the reins relaxed, the black horse was plunging, rearing, and
Longsword was abreast. With one long stroke he smote the Berber from
the saddle; the lady reeled also, strapped fast. But the Norman, proud
in his might, calmed the black horse with one hand on the bits; drew
his blade once across the thong, releasing the captive. The pirate
tumbled to earth with never a groan.

Barely in time--the twenty were all about them now; but Richard
Longsword fought as twenty, the Spaniard as twenty more. "A houri! A
great prize! A great ransom!" howled the raiders, seeking their prey;
but they ran on doom. For the Norman mounted, and in his armor dashed
them down with his heavy sword; and those whom the Spaniard's cimeter
bit never cried more. Yet with all the death twinkling about, Richard
held his steed and mailed breast betwixt the foe and the lady. Even
while he fought, her clear Greek voice encouraged. "Holy Mother, that
was a well-struck blow! Oh, were I but a man with a sword!"

How long the mounted two could have beat back the unmounted twenty
only the wise saints know; for just as Richard's hauberk had turned
the third javelin, and his eyes danced with stars when his helmet
dinted, a new cry rang from behind.

"Forward, brothers! Slay! death!" And a bolt from Herbert's crossbow
crashed through a pirate's target,--herald of the advent of the
man-at-arms and fifteen riders more; at sight whereof the
pirates--guessing at last that it was all over with their comrades who
had gone inland--fled like partridges through the grove, over the
white sands; and before Herbert could rein in his steaming beast, they
heard the blocks creaking, as feverish hands made sail and warped the
ship to sea. Not all thus to escape; for the Normans nipped several,
whom they tugged away, strapped to the saddle-bows, after having
searched them for jewels down to their shoes.

Richard looked about him. The lady, agile as a _fée_, had alighted,
and was standing, clinging with both hands to an orange tree, panting
for breath,--as did all. The Spaniard had dismounted also, and stood
leaning against the saddle.

While waiting breath for speech, Longsword surveyed the rescued,
finding in both need of more than one glance. The costume of the Moor
had been sadly dealt with, but his silken vest and the shawl at his
girdle were of the finest silk, and set off a most shapely frame. He
was tall, wiry, supple as a blooded charger; and no dress would have
concealed a face so intelligent, ingenuous, winsome, that, as Richard
looked thereon, he had but a single thought,--"I would know more of
this man." The countenance was a fine oval, the forehead not high but
prominent; the eye, brilliant, deep, and dark; the small mouth, shaded
by a black curly beard; the skin not swarthy, yet tinged with pale
brown, a gentle bronzing of the sun-loved vegas. But these are parts
only, and the whole--how much fairer was it than any part! For the
face thrilled with eager, active intelligence, and the eyes seemed but
open windows to a soul,--a soul perchance to admire, to reverence, to
love. And as Richard beheld him, he felt a magic current of
fellow-feeling drawing him to the Spaniard, ere they had spoken ten
syllables.

Yet not all the Norman's gaze was for the Moslem--far from it. The
lady no longer wore her yellow veil: the red ribbons were in tatters
round her throat; her blue mantle had many a rent; but of these, who
would think? She stood with her brown hair all dishevelled to the
winds, and underneath the flying tresses one could see those bright
eyes--dark, bright, and very merry; a high, white forehead, small red
lips, and features that seemed smoothed and rounded like some marble
image of the old pagans, which Sebastian had called "a snare of
Satan." But this was no snare; for these cheeks were moulded with a
soft texture and bloom like a pale rose; not quite fair, like Norman
maidens, but just tinted enough to show the breath of the sun. All
this Richard saw, and was not awestruck nor abashed, as in the
presence of many handsome dames; but simply delighted, and, as chance
would have it, the lady herself broke silence.

"By St. Theodore, Sir Frank," quoth she, holding out both hands to
Richard, "will you say again to my face that you can do nothing
brave?" And here she laughed so merrily, that the Norman was laughing
too when he replied, having taken the hands:--

"Ah! dear lady, it is the white falcon you should thank, if any praise
be due."

"And no praise for the falcon's trainer?" quoth she, still laughing;
then with a sudden turn, while the tears almost stood in her eyes,
"_Eu!_ Brave, noble sir, what may I do to repay! Kneel, fall at your
feet, kiss them?"--and half she made to do so, but Richard shrank
back, as if horrified.

"St. Michael forbid!" cried he; "rather this, let me kneel and kiss
your hand, blessing Our Lady she has suffered me to save you!"

"But the peril was very great!" protested the lady, while Richard did
as he wished, and kissed a hand very small and white.

"But the joy of peril is greater in such a cause!" he flashed back,
rising. There was a shadow flitting across that bright face.

"My father?" the question came slowly. "He is--safe?"

"I saw him released; have no fear. I swore to him I would save you."
And the flush of pleasure was Richard's tenfold payment.

"Let us go to him," said the Norman, as he bade one of the men-at-arms
arrange a pillion and ride back with the Greek toward the scene of the
first battle.

"Ah! may all the dear saints bless you and your good men--I would give
my life for my father!" said she.

So while the lady rode ahead, Richard galloped stirrup to stirrup with
the Spaniard. He had needed no words to tell him that the Moslem was a
notable cavalier, and the Spaniard had dispelled all doubts by a frank
declaration of his name and position.

"Know, O Frank, that you have this day won the eternal gratitude of
Musa, son of Abdallah, the late Vizier of Al'mu'tamed, King of
Cordova, though I am better known as 'the Sword of Granada,' for in
that city have I spent much of my life."

And the Christian bowed his casqued head in humblest reverence,
asking:--

"Then truly have I saved that famous knight, who, they say, held the
lists at Toledo, during the truce, against the Cid Campeador and all
his cavaliers?"

"I had that fortune," said the Spaniard, smiling, and returning the
bow; "but," and he spoke lightly, "I would not have you, Sir Frank,
regard me in an awesome fashion; for, believe me, after striking the
blows I saw you give to-day, you may, I think, break lances with the
best, and owe deference to none."

"Ah, my lord," cried Richard, "it has been a great privilege for a
simple 'bachelor' like myself to be of service to so great a warrior."

The Moslem laughed, and made reply: "No, I will not be 'lorded' by
you. I think I know an equal and a friend when I set eyes on him. To
you my name is Musa; and yours--?"

"Richard Longsword," was the answer.

"Then, O Richard, we know one another and are brothers."

Then and there, while the horses were at a merry pace, the two young
men leaned over their saddles and caught one another's hands. And at
that moment was stricken a friendship that was destined to bind with
hooks of steel through more than one fateful year. As if to cement the
tie, Longsword passed the flask at his belt to the Spaniard.

"Drink, friend, for you have seen enough this day to chill your veins,
even if your prophet forbids wine."

"I am but a lax Moslem," replied Musa, with another of his soft
smiles. And taking the flask, he clapped it to his lips. "'Wine of
Paradise'!" cried he, when he took it away. "Ah, an hour since I
expected that I would be soon drinking from the cups of the houris in
the real Paradise, or more likely"--with a sly wag of the
head--"scorching in no gentle fire!"

"Then the raiders sought your life, not your ransom?" asked the
Norman.

"Assuredly; do not think I have lain so hidden here at Cefalu because,
like a dervish or one of your monks, I enjoy solitude. I fled Spain
because my blood is too princely to make my presence safe to Yusuf,
the Almoravide, who has come from Africa to save us Spanish Moslems
from conquest by the Christians, and who has conquered us himself.
When Granada fell and its treasures were scattered as booty to his
rude Berber officers, and when Seville and all Andalusia were in his
hands, imprudently I spoke of the days of our great Kalifs. The words
were remembered by enemies and duly reported. Presently I heard that
Yusuf suspected me of leading a revolt in Cordova against his rule,
and that he keenly desired my head. I will not tell how I escaped to
my Cid Campeador at Valencia, and thence to King Alfonso of Castile.
But the Almoravide's arms are long. Nowhere in Spain would I be safe.
So I came to Sicily, where I have relatives, hoping by lying close to
elude his agents; but in vain, as has just been proved!"

"So," asked Richard, "this raid was on your account?"

"Of course," replied Musa; "I was surprised at the country house of
Hajib this morning, and taken before I could kill more than two of the
pirates. In their chief I recognized a corsair long in the service of
Yusuf. They aimed to bear me in chains to Cordova, that the Almoravide
might gloat over me alive, ere calling the headsman. You saw how they
rained their blows at me, when they saw rescue at hand."

"The saints be praised, I saved you!" exclaimed the Norman. "You were
indeed in the very jaws of death."

"Aye," was the careless answer, "and I owe you all thanks; yet this is
not the first time I have imagined I would see no more mornings."

"Ah, my lord, you are a great cavalier!" cried Richard,
enthusiastically.

The Spaniard shook his hand in warning.

"I am not 'lord' to you, brother! If Allah favors our friendship, what
brave adventures shall we not have together!"

Longsword made no reply. The Moor had captivated him: he felt that he
could ride through a thousand men-at-arms with such a friend at his
side. Presently they drew rein under a wide-spreading, venerable
chestnut tree that bowed over the highway. Here were gathered the
Baron and most of his men: here was my lord bishop sitting on the
ground upon a saddle, still groaning and rubbing his bruised shins,
while two scared priests were shivering beside him, and muttering a
_gratias Deo_ for their deliverance from the infidel. The old Greek
was also there, resting on a saddle-bag; but when the young Norman
galloped up he made shift to rise; and his daughter, who had already
left her pillion, hastened to say:--

"This, my father, is that brave Frankish nobleman to whom we owe so
much," and then to Longsword: "And this is my father, the Cæsar Manuel
Kurkuas, late of Constantinople, but who now is exile, and travelling
to Palermo."

The old Kurkuas, despite his lameness, bowed in the stately fashion of
that ceremonious courtesy which was his inheritance.

"Lord Richard," said he, in his sonorous native tongue, for he already
knew the Norman's name, "the blessings of a father be yours; and if at
any time, by word or deed, I may repay you, your wish shall be my
highest law."

But the daughter broke out, a little hotly:--

"Oh! father, not in so solemn and courtly a manner thank him! We are
not in 'His Divine Majesty's' palace, by the Golden Horn. Take him by
the hand as I have done; tell him that we are his friends forever, and
that if we go back to Constantinople, we will take him with us, and
share with him all the riches and honor that would belong to a real
Kurkuas."

The old man listened to her flow of eager words, half pleased, half
alarmed; then, with a deprecatory shrug, exclaimed:--

"Pardon a thousand times, my lord, if I am too old to speak all that
lies at heart, save in a cold and formal way. Yet pardon, also, my
daughter; for she has so unbridled a tongue that if you come to know
her, strong must your friendship be, or she will drive you from her by
sheer witless chatter."

Whereupon, before Richard could reply, the lady returned to the
charge. "Yes, truly, I am half of Frankish blood myself. And I think
it better to speak from my heart and declare 'I love you' and 'I hate
you,' than to move my lips softly and politely and say things that
mean nothing."

The Greek shrugged again, as if accustomed to such outbursts. "You
have lost your veil," he said gently, raising his eyes.

"Assuredly," was the answer; "nor do Frankish ladies wear them." Then,
turning to Richard, "Tell me, Sir Norman, do you see anything about me
to be ashamed of, that I must veil my face?"

The remark was advanced so naturally, in such perfectly good faith,
that Longsword, without the least premeditation, answered as readily
as if to his sister:--

"I see no reason why you should veil, my lady."

"Then do not speak of it again, dear father," said she.

The mules of the bishop's party, which had been taken when the pirates
fell upon them, had been recovered, and the bishop began to stop
groaning over his bruises. The Baron remarked that, although the
baggage had been retaken, it was too late to repack and make the
journey that day. One and all, they must go back to Cefalu and enjoy
the hospitality of the castle. The bishop demurred, when he saw that
the Moslem Musa was bidden to share the feast; but he was very hungry,
and reflected that Christ and Mohammed were impiously good comrades in
Sicily. He and the priests with the Greek and his daughter mounted the
mules and started away, just as Herbert rode up with the tidings that
the Berbers' ship had long since put to sea. As for the great black
horse that had nigh carried Mary away from her rescuers, the grateful
prelate bestowed him upon Richard. "He was an unruly beast," declared
the bishop, "_furiosus, impetuosus, perditus equus_, in whom a devil
beyond all doubt had entered; and if the Baron's son desired him, he
was welcome, though he feared, instead of a gift, he was bestowing a
cursing." But Richard beheld the huge crupper and chest of the great
beast, watched his mighty stride, and reflected that such a _destrer_
would bear quite as safely in battle as one with the prized white coat
and greyhound feet. Therefore he thanked the bishop and led the horse
away.

So they fared back to the castle, while the Cefalu people gave them
cheers and flowers as they passed along the way; but the fairest
welcome was on Lady Margaret's face when they all pounded over the
drawbridge.



CHAPTER III

HOW RICHARD WON A BROTHER


A notable feast it was the good Lady Margaret set before her
unexpected guests; for if the warning was short, the eager hands were
many, and the day before there had been rare hunting. The worthy
Baron, her lord, took pride in the goodly Norman habit of sitting long
at table, and would have found eight hours none too many for meat and
drink, had there been another to keep him company. And if this feast
ended sooner, there was no lack of good food and better cheer.
Hincmar, the stately chamberlain, marshalled his guests up to the
fountain at the door of the great hall, where they washed their hands
in punctilious order of precedence. The hall itself was hung with rare
tapestries, the floor was strewn with fresh mint and cornflags; over
the diners' benches were cast rich carpets of the East, and for the
host and his immediate relatives and guests were gilt chairs of
embossed leather. Then the serving-lads went in and out, bringing
wine-soup in three kinds in remembrance of the Trinity, and flesh and
fowl, from a stuffed cormorant to a haunch of bear's flesh. Last of
all the great drinking-horns began to pass to and fro, and the skins
of Cyprian wine from the cellars, to empty.

The Baron had placed the bishop at his right hand at the head of the
long table, on his left the Greek Cæsar. But a little lower sat
Richard, and beside him Musa and Mary Kurkuas; and while they were
busy over the trenchers talk flew fast, and these in brief were the
stories they told one another.

William Longsword, the present Baron of Cefalu, had been a Norman
seigneur of noble lineage and slender estates near the ducal capital
of Rouen. The Longswords were an ancient house. They boasted their
descent from that notable William Longsword who had succeeded to the
sovereignty of Rollo the Norman; yet, as too often, a great name did
not mean great fiefs, and young William's best fortune was the weight
of his battle-axe. But that battle-axe was very heavy. At
Val-es-Dunes, when William the Bastard crushed his rebellious barons,
Longsword had won the great Duke's highest favor. At Hastings none had
struck doughtier blows than he. For a moment he had dreamt of a broad
English barony and a Saxon heiress. But when the new king was at York
there rose ill-blood and a hint to the monarch that the mutiny of
certain Anjou mercenaries was due to his vassal.

One morning Longsword finding that fetters, not fiefs, waited him in
England, fled just in time to Flanders, and went south to _gaaignant_,
"to go a gaining," as the Normans put it, seeking fortune wherever the
saints favored. In Auvergne he had married the daughter of a mountain
baron, but had drifted on to Italy, had served with Counts Robert
Guiscard and Roger, his brother, in Calabria, Epirus, and Sicily; and
at last when Noto, the last Saracen stronghold in Sicily, fell, and
Count Roger rewarded his faithful cavaliers, William Longsword had
found himself Lord of Cefalu, with a stout castle and a barony of
peaceful and industrious Moslems and Greeks for vassals; now for four
years past he had ceased roving, and dreamed of handing down a goodly
seigneury to his firstborn.

Thus Richard told his father's story, and Mary related more briefly
how her father--and she proudly recounted his titles--was the
"preëminently august" Cæsar Manuel Kurkuas; whose family was of the
most noble and wealthy of the whole imperial city. He had been a great
warrior in his day, until a crippling wound in the Patzinak war had
forced the one-time "commander of the guards" to accept the peaceful
office of "first prefect" of the capital. And in this position he
might have died in honor and prosperity, had it not come to Emperor
Alexius's ears that he had intrigued in favor of Constantine, the son
of the dead sovereign Romanus, who was just raising the rebel
standard. "And so," explained his daughter, quite simply, for she was
bred at the Grecian court, "the Princess Anna Comnena, who is my kind
friend, gave me to understand that all was not well with my father,
and the Grand Chamberlain let fall that 'his eyes were in danger.'
Therefore, with the aid of St. Basil and our cousin, the High Admiral,
we made escape on a Venetian ship, and it was well we did; for
Constantine, I hear, has been captured and blinded, and if we had been
taken, the like would have befallen my father, and I would have been
cast into the convent of Antiochus 'to live with the angels,' as they
call taking the veil, at Constantinople."

"Allah forbid!" cried Musa, who had been following all her story, and
Richard winced when he thought of those brown locks falling under the
shears.

The Greek gave a little shrug and shiver. "Ah!" said she, "let us not
speak of it. Yet I do not blame the Emperor. He has many enemies to
guard against." And she paused.

"But you said you were half a Frank," said Richard, wishing to turn
the conversation.

"Yes, truly, my father was envoy to the Duke of Aquitaine. In Provence
he met my mother, daughter of the Baron of La Haye. She must have been
a beautiful woman. They say all Constantinople was at her feet, when
my father brought her there--his bride. But she died when I was a very
little girl. I can only remember her bright eyes and sweet face."
Another pause; and Richard did not try to break it. Was he not
conscious in his innermost soul, that there were bright eyes and a
sweet face very close to his own? That for an hour past, as the
fashion was, he had been dipping his hand in the same bowl where also
dipped another hand, soft, and white, and delicate? The evening was
stealing on. Now the ruddy torches were sputtering in their cressets
along the wall; and the glow fell softly over the feasters, seeming to
hide witchery and sweet madness in every flickering shadow. For the
first time in his life Richard Longsword felt a strange intoxication
stealing over him. Not the wine--he had not drained a beaker. Up at
the head of the table the Baron and the bishop were matching bumpers,
and the former, between his draughts, was trying to tell Cæsar Manuel
some tale of the Durazzo campaign in which they had both fought,
though on opposing sides. At the foot of the table the Norman
men-at-arms were splashing their liquor, and roaring broad jests at
the Greek serving-maids. Musa, having satisfied hunger, sat with his
long eyelashes cast down in dreamy Oriental revery. Only for one face
and for one voice did Richard have sight or hearing. The princess held
the Majolica cup to her lips, tasted, held it toward the Norman.

"See," said she, softly, "you have saved my father's liberty--perhaps
his life--and me"--the color half left the wonderful face while she
spoke--"from death or worse." The cup trembled as she shuddered at the
thought. "When the Berbers seized me, I pleaded with all the saints to
let me die,--better a thousand deaths than to breathe out one's life
captive in an African harem!"

"By Our Lady, speak not of it," came from Richard,--he, too,
trembling. But the brightness had darted again into the Greek's eyes
while she continued: "And now attend--the reward! Know, brave Frank,
that three months since a 'supremely august' prince, close to
Alexius's self, would have given half his inheritance for gift like
this!"

And with her own hands she held the cup to his lips. Richard drank.
What else possible? He felt himself caught in a tide irresistible, too
delicious in its caress to escape from if he might. Was the wine fire,
that it burned through every vein? Yet the very flame bore a
sweetness, a delight beyond all thought; the hot pain drowned in the
ecstasy. He did not know what he replied, but the lady was answering.

"_Eu!_ What joy I take in you Franks, whom I have never seen before
to-day. When first did we meet? This morning beside the raging horse?
I think I have known and admired you these score of years!"

[Illustration: "THE CUP TREMBLED AS AT THE VERY THOUGHT SHE
SHUDDERED"]

"I?" quoth Richard, wool-gathering.

The lady laughed at her indiscretion.

"You do well to ask. At times my father rails at me; 'Daughter, you
open your mind to strangers like a casket.' Again I am silent, hidden,
locked fast, as my mood alters. Be it so, I am the open casket
to-night. I will speak it all forth. The saints grant I may dwell
amongst you Franks; how much better to crush down a raging horse with
one touch, than to know all the wisdom of Plato!"

"Why better?" asked the Norman, never taking his gaze from that face
all rosy in the flickering light.

"Why?" her voice rose a little, and the brightness of the torches was
in her eyes. "Let others con the musty parchments,--a thousand times
better are the men who _do_, as you of the West,--than the weaklings
who only _know_. Plato babbled foolishness describing his 'perfect
nation,' for when he strove to realize it--failure!"

"These are riddles, sweet lady!" cried Richard; "who was this
Plato--some pagan long since in hell?"

Whereat the princess began to laugh afresh; not offensively, but
sweetly as a running brook; so that the other would have said a
hundred witless things to make her continue. Then she answered, her
eyes dancing, and Richard thought he saw the lips of the dreamy
Spaniard twitch: "Yes, for all his mist-hung cobwebs, he must have
broiled in no common fire. But I love better to talk of coursing and
falconry; that science better befits a Christian!"

"St. Stephen!" blurted out the Norman, pricking his ears, "can you
ride and hawk?"

"Do you think I sat smelling inkhorns and tangling silk yarn all day
in our palace by the Golden Gate? I had my own Arabian palfrey, my own
dear goshawks: not four months have flown since I hunted with the
Princess Anna over the lovely hills of the Emperor's preserves beyond
the Sweet Waters of Europe. O"--and Richard almost thought her about
to weep--"St. Irene, pity my horse and the birds, their mistress so
far away!"

"By the Mass," began Richard, more flighty than ever, "you shall find
our Sicilian birds put the best of Constantinople to shame. But the
saints are very kind not to let you grow more sad over your loss; next
to losing one's kinsfolk, what worse than to lose horse or falcon!"
The lady had kissed a second cup, and pressed it to his lips. "Drink,
then, in token of the merry rides we shall have side by side, if you
come to wait on us at Palermo!"

And Richard drank, while all the time he felt the tide of intoxication
sweeping him onward. Glancing into the Greek's eyes, he knew in a
half-conscious way that a like spirit possessed her too. Had they been
alone, only the saints know what might have befallen. Richard's voice
was very loud when he answered, "No, by the Splendor of God, you must
stay at Cefalu,--you shall ride my best palfrey; fly the white
falcon!" The lady cut him short with another laugh, her face still
very merry: "St. Basil, make them deaf; they all look at us! What have
we been doing!"

Richard started, as from a dream: father, mother, bishop, the Cæsar,
were all looking upon them. The Lady Margaret was turning a warning
face upon Richard, but the Cæsar addressed his daughter austerely. "My
child, these noble Franks and your valiant rescuer will take away
strange tales of your conduct at this feast. Believe me, kind lords,
my daughter is commonly less bold and unmaidenly than to-night. This
has been a strange day for us, and we must pardon her much."

"You forget the princess is not your sister," added Lady Margaret,
severely, her eyes on Richard; and the Baron was ready with his own
word, but the younger Greek cut all short.

"Yes, by St. Theodore," was her saucy cry, "this has been a strange
day for us all. And if you, my father, think my saving is over-dear at
two cups of wine, let the Berbers snatch me off again! But give no
blame to my Lord Richard, for it was I that began, led on, and made
the fire tenfold hotter."

Cæsar Manuel hobbled to his feet.

"I do not blame my Lord Richard," said he, curtly; "I only fear lest
closer knowledge make him repent your friendship. Most gallant Baron,
and you, noble lady," continued he, bowing in courtly fashion to both,
"I am feeble, and my daughter has diverted you enough. With your
pardon, let us go to our chambers."

The Baron muttered something to the effect that there was still much
wine--a pity to miss it. Mary rose and deliberately allowed Richard to
bend and kiss her hand, courtesied before the Baron and his lady,
knelt while the half-tipsy bishop hiccoughed out a benediction.
Stately as a queen, she drew herself up, but her last shaft was darted
at the Cæsar. "Dear father, are you not sorry I am so little
contrite?" then to Richard, "And you, my lord, do not forget we go to
Palermo!" There was a rustle of her dress; Manuel limped after; three
serving-varlets brought up the Greeks' rear. They were gone. Richard
started again--looked about. His mother and sister had risen also. The
Baron and the bishop had reached that stage of joviality where the
holy man was commencing to sing and brandish his flagon. Richard
tasted the wine--insipid; how unlike the sweet fire of the cups
proffered by the lady! Musa had glided from his revery,--was casting
about sharply.

"My head throbs, though I have drunk little," professed the Norman.
"Do you wish more?" Musa shook his head. "Then come upon the
battlements; the bishop's bellowing makes one mad."

They mounted through darkened chambers, up dizzy ladders, to the
summit of the donjon. It was a murky, cloudy night that greeted them
as they emerged from the trap-door and stood alone on the stone-girt
platform, with the land and the sea one vague black haze below. No
moon, no stars; only a red flash on the ground where the light
streamed from a loophole in the great hall. No sound save the faint
shouts of the drinkers, echoing from far below, and their own measured
footfalls. They paced the platform for a few moments in silence. Then
the Norman broke forth in Arabic:--

"Musa, son of Abdallah, we have sworn brotherhood. Our friendship is
young: may I put it to a test?"

"My hands, my wits, my head if need be, all yours, my brother,"
replied the Spaniard, never hesitating.

"Help me to gain the hand of this lady!"

Their hands rested on one another's shoulders. Richard felt--but
perchance he was wrong--a quiver run through the Moslem; only for an
instant, if at all. Very naturally Musa replied:--

"Had you said, 'Kill me this enemy,' how easy to aid you! But to win
the lady, what may I do? I am no magician to mix you philters. In her
eyes I am only Moslem, and Infidel. She has not learned, as have you
Sicilian Normans, that Christian and Moslem may be friends. I would be
a sorry pursuivant in your behalf."

Richard was silent; then cried out:--

"_Ai_, it is all madness! I have no need to be told. I set eyes on her
first this morning. Holy Mother, what sin is mine that I should be
afflicted thus! Never before have I loved a maid so much as my white
falcon. Yet were I longing for a drop of water in Purgatory, I could
not have greater desire. It is sin; it is madness; I must never see
her again, or great sorrow will come of it!"

But Musa pressed his arm closer, and more kindly.

"No," said he, softly, in his rich Spanish accent; "if it is mere
fleeting passion, it will end; and the upright man is none the worse.
Is it a sin to take delight, when Allah reveals to us what seems a
glimmer of Paradise? And as for the future, that lies in the hands of
the Most High. Whatever is written in the books of our dooms--what
power may withstand? To-day, call it madness, and speak not of it.
To-morrow, if it live, call it passion--speak in whispers. A month, a
year; call it love--it will speak for itself. It is a fire--all men
see it. And who would then hide its brightness?"

"Ah," answered the Norman, "what day is this! How dare I stand and
speak thus to you of what I ought to hide even from myself? How long
have I known you?"

"How long?" replied the other, dreamily. "Friendships are made in the
heart of Allah. Before the earliest star was created, before He said
to the earth, 'Be,' it was destined that friend should be joined to
friend, and when two such souls in the body meet face to face, they
are not strangers. In each other they see a fellow that they have
loved, while they dwelt as thoughts in the bosom of the Eternal."

"Yes," said Richard, caught in the pensive mood of the other, "we are
friends. Why? We know not. To what end? A mystery! It is well we both
believe God is good."

"He is good," said Musa, reverently, and they descended.



CHAPTER IV

HOW RICHARD WENT TO PALERMO


The yawning servants had carried the bishop from under the table, long
before Baron William that night found the bottom of his last flagon.
Yet early the next morning, none was more nimble and jovial than he.
The Greeks did not come down to the great hall; they were fatigued,
said Sylvana the old servant who had adjured Richard to rescue them
during the fight. The Cæsar's wound was paining him, and he required
the care of his daughter. So it was noon before Richard set eyes again
on the princess, as she came into the bailey with her father on her
arm, to help him into his litter. The bishop was impatient to be away.
What with the clamor of the foot-boys and grooms, and the neighing of
impatient steeds, there was little chance for ceremonious
leave-taking. The bishop had thanks and blessings for his rescuers and
hosts. The Cæsar gave a few courtly phrases of gratitude; his daughter
bestowed on Lady Margaret and Eleanor each a hearty kiss, and for
Richard, one smile from her bright eyes, and the words, "Fail not to
wait on us, if you come to Palermo." So the troop started, leaving
Richard to stare after them until the cavalcade was a speck on the
roadway, and for the rest of the day to resolve many times that to
Palermo he would go ere many months be sped.

But in the days that followed he was not idle. First of all the
bishop's gift, the great black horse, had to be wrestled into
submission; no light task, for the mighty beast would rage like a
bull; but in the end the brute was conquered, and "Rollo"--such was
his christening--became Richard's boon comrade and second self; dear
as those horses whereof the _jongleurs_ sang, that would snatch their
masters from the midst of a host of foes, or recognize them returning
home after seven years, when the riders' own wives had forgotten them.
But this was the least the raid of the Berbers had brought to Richard,
for he and Musa became grappled to each other by bonds of friendship
that tightened each day. The Spaniard had sealed his gratitude by the
gift of a Valencia hauberk, inwrought with gold wire, light almost as
velvet, on whose links once the sword of Cid Campeador had turned. And
Musa brought also a wonderful chessboard of rock crystal with men of
silver, over whose magic squares the Norman was to puzzle many an
hour; but beyond all else, Musa brought himself--more a marvel every
hour to Richard Longsword. What had he not learned and done! A
swordsman whose prowess in the fence tested Richard's utmost skill; a
poet whose musical Arabic must have charmed many a fair brunette by
the darkling Guadalquiver. He could talk of elixirs, alembics, and
horoscopes. The learning of the University of Cordova was his; he
could read Greek and Latin, and had a smattering of the Languedoc.
Only a consistent Moslem he was not,--neither going to the mosque on
Fridays, nor abstaining from wine nor remembering the fasts; and when
Richard asked, "Will you turn Christian?" Musa had replied, laughing,
"I am of the rationalist school of the Kalif Mamun,--reason alone is
the father of religion; even the commands of Al-Koran are not fetters
to bind, when reason directs otherwise."

Richard could only shake his head. Moslems, he was very sure, were
likely to scorch in eternal fire, but at least he conceived they ought
to be consistent in supporting their superstition, if they held to it
at all. As for himself, when he compared his life and acquirements to
Musa's, he grew exceeding humble; born in a camp in Campania, his
boyhood spent now in this, now in another Italian or Sicilian castle,
from a lad he had learned to wield a sword as became the son of a
doughty sire. But he had neither the gentle troubadour's art, as the
knights of Provence, nor the deeper lore of the Spaniard. Reading,
thanks to Sebastian's patience, he might make shift with; he could
barely scrawl an awkward fist. One accomplishment his south-Italian
life gave him: he could speak Greek, Arabic, Latin, the Languedoc, and
the Languedoil; but with these and some skill in hawking and jousting
his learning ended, and it was small enough.

As day sped into day, Musa was ever at the castle of Cefalu. He had
relatives in Palermo who desired him there, and declared the city safe
against kidnapper or assassin; but he was not tempted to leave the
country house of Hajib. The Baron smiled on the friendship; he had
long since learned to love infidels, if they were only brave knights;
Sebastian alone was all fears and frowns, and had many a wordy tilt
with the Spaniard.

"Ah, Richard," cried the chaplain once, when the two friends sat at
chess in the great hall, "know you not Holy Church condemns chess as
no less perilous to the soul than very dicing?"

And when Richard, despite prickings of conscience, would not leave the
game, Sebastian admonished in private:--

"Remember the words of the Apostle: 'Be not unequally yoked with
unbelievers, for what concord hath Christ with Belial?' Be warned;
bitter sorrow or perdition will come of this friendship; have you
forgotten your vow to slay the unbelievers and free Jerusalem?"

"But we await the will of God, father," answered Richard, carelessly.

"And the will of God is that you first cast off these ties of Satan,
and make ready for holy warfare, or assuredly God will remember your
sin and punish you." But Richard would not hear. Ever he drew closer
to Musa; the reckless paladin Roland and his "sage" friend Oliver were
no nearer comrades, and in the after days Longsword likened their love
to nothing less than the bonds betwixt David and Jonathan.

Yet Sebastian never forbore his warnings. "Dear son," he said, when
Musa was telling his wondering friend of the marvellous mountain of
Kaf, which encircles the earth, and whither the Almighty had banished
the rebellious genii, "be not seduced by the wisdom which cometh from
the Father of Lies. Though Musa called himself Christian (and were not
damned already), yet his soul would be lost because of his sinful
learning. It was so with Gerbert, whom the Devil even aided to become
Pope, yet in the end snatched away his soul; in testimony whereof his
bones rattle in their tomb, every time a pope lies nigh to death."

"_Wallah!_" cried the Spaniard, gently, "your mind, friend, is as wide
as the bridge Es-Sirat, which bridges Hell on the road to
Heaven,--finer than a hair, sharper than a sword-edge."

"Mock me not, Child of the Devil," retorted the unappeased churchman.

"Nay," was the mild answer, "I am not obstinate. Convince me, satisfy
my reason; I will then turn Christian."

"Ah," replied Sebastian, sadly, "have you never heard the words of the
holy Anselm of Canterbury, 'Let the intellect submit to authority,
when it can no longer agree therewith'?"

Musa shook his head.

"Let us not wrangle to no purpose," said he, extending a frank hand;
"our own Prophet commands us, 'Dispute not with those who have
received the scriptures'--the Christians and Jews--'save in the
mildest manner.' Think not we blaspheme the Son of Mary. No good
Moslem speaks His name without adding 'on whom be peace.' We too hold
He was born of a pure virgin, by a miracle of God, and Al-Koran says
'He is the word of God, and a spirit proceeding out of Him.'"

"Aye," made answer the priest, stripping his arm, and smiling grimly
as he pointed to his scars, "and is this not a token of your tolerance
and reverence?"

Musa shrugged his shoulders.

"_Mâshallah!_ Those Seljouks at Jerusalem are but barbarians. We
Arabs love them a little less than we do most Christians!"

"One fire awaits you all," muttered the obdurate priest, withdrawing.

So days sped, and a letter came to Musa from Palermo, from his uncle
the great merchant Al-Bukri, the "general syndic" of the capital.
There was promise of patronage and high office with the Fatimite court
at Cairo. Would the Spanish knight come down to Palermo for
consultation? And Richard vowed loudly he would travel to the city
too, only his heart grew sad when Musa spoke of parting and a career
in Egypt. "Be not troubled, brother mine," quoth Musa, lightly; "what
is fated, is fated; as for my fortune, so far as man may dispose, I
say as did once an Egyptian kalif, 'I carry my kingdom here!'" and he
slapped the hilt of his cimeter. And Richard, when he thought of what
awaited in Palermo, went about with his head in the air. Night and day
had the vision of the Greek been before his face. Would he not hew
through hosts to possess her? Had he not already won a name and a
fame--as a true sprig of the Longswords? Was not the lady in his debt,
had she not shown all favor? What hindered him to recount his father's
fiefs to Manuel, and say, "Sir, give me your daughter!"

"But the lady may be dowerless," objected old Herbert, who had been
Richard's confidant since earliest boyhood; "I have little liking for
cat-hearted Greeks who spit, not bite. And I fear the Emperor has
snapped up all the exiled Cæsar's estates."

"No," was his answer; "I hear that through Venetian merchants, Cæsar
Manuel saved much ready money. But"--and Richard's voice rose
high--"were she mine with only our old Norman dower,--a chaplet of
roses and a mother's kiss,--by St. Michael, I swear I would take her;
for the tips of her fingers are dearer than red gold!"

"_Ai_," cried the old daredevil, "you have indeed a merry passion.
Well, go your way, and the Holy Mother favor you!"

The Baron consented half reluctantly to his son's desires. He did not
love most Greeks; but Cæsar Manuel had been a brave cavalier, and had
saved the wreck of his great fortune; and the Baron was too fond of
his eldest to refuse him anything in reason. Only, before starting, he
gave Richard this advice:--

"Be not over-anxious to brew up more quarrel with that Louis de
Valmont. I know he comes from your mother's country of Auvergne, and
his family and hers have been long at feud. But he is a knight of
great renown, and till you have won your spurs, do not bear yourself
loftily. He is a haughty man, high in favor with Count Roger, and a
broil with him may breed you little glory."

So Richard vowed discretion after his careless way. The two friends
were to sail from Cefalu upon a Tunisian corn-ship, that made Palermo
on her homeward voyage. Herbert was to follow by land, bringing down
the retinue and horses; and his young master went on board, laughing
and promising himself that when next Cefalu lay under his eyes, at his
side should be another.

       *       *       *       *       *

Brief voyaging and a kind west wind brought the Tunisian soon in sight
of the red crags of Monte Pellegrino, which dominated the "City of the
threefold Tongue," where dwelt Greek and Latin and Arab in peace,
brotherhood, and prosperity. Before Longsword and his friend stretched
Palermo, its white palaces, its domes and minarets bright as snow
under the morning's azure sky; around them lay the fair wide crescent
of the harbor running away to the wooded headland of Capo Zafferana;
and on the emerald waves loitered the rich argosies of Pisa, Amalfi,
Venice, and Andalusia, beating out against the laggard wind. Behind
the long reach of the city stretched the "Golden Shell," one long
green vega, thick with orchards of olive and orange; broken with
feathery palm groves, tinted with flowering thickets bright as the
sunset; threaded by the circling Preto, and many another silver
rivulet hurrying to the sea.

A fair picture, thought Musa; while Richard repeated the proud boast
of its citizens, that Palermo was indeed _prima sedes, corona regis,
et regni caput_. Then their ship made anchor off the old Saracen
castle of Castellamare, where now lay the Norman garrison. Busy
boatmen set them down on the quay in the harbor of Khalessa, where
were the warehouses of the great Arab merchants, and where all around
brawled the crowd and clamor of a half-Eastern traffic. And even
Musa's eyes were amazed at the wealth and splendor of this busy city,
which had hardly yet realized that her masters now went to church and
no more to the great mosque. At the stately house of Al-Bakri courtly
hospitality awaited them. The grave syndic was all smiles and flowery
compliments to his nephew's preserver, and cried out when Richard made
to go to the castle. On the next day a messenger came for the Norman,
with words that made his sun shine very bright and the sea-breeze
sweet as nard of Araby--Cæsar Manuel Kurkuas begged Richard to wait on
him at the "Palace of the Diadem," which lay without the city by
Monreale.



CHAPTER V

HOW RICHARD WON TWO FOES


The "Palace of the Diadem" had been the pride of some haughty Kelbite
emir in the days when Palermo was a prime jewel in the Arabian crown;
but the glory of its builder's family had long since been laid low.
Moslem had slaughtered Moslem in the feuds that racked Sicily.
Byzantines and Pisans had menaced the capital and ravaged its emerald
vega. Now at last the Norman had come to conquer, and remained as
lord; so that the owners of the palace had long sought purchaser. Then
the Greek Cæsar came, an exile, but with a good store of bezants held
in trust by Venetian merchants, and the palace had passed into his
hands. It lay on the first slopes of the hills rising back of
Monreale, close by the Norman count's hunting lodge; the steep
mountain sides crowding down upon it from above; before it, to the
north, the broad sweeps of the Golden Shell; and around, dense groves
of locust and almond, palm trees and judas trees, with thickets in
perennial bloom. Here, all the year long, little brooks kept the
greensward moist and sweet; and in springtime the orange blossoms
glistered whiter than clouds against rare green foliage. At evening,
from behind clustered thickets would drift the notes of the
nightingale, while the still, shy moon crept upwards in the sky. Such
the gardens about the palace. And the palace itself? It was a lyric in
stone. One could wander through long halls and wide courts in a soft
half-light, with no rude sun venturing to touch a vulgar ray upon the
stalactite vaults, the mazy colonnades, the red granite and jasper
shafts, the tile work and moulding of red and blue and gold. Buried in
the midst of these halls, where the air ever breathed of musk, and
rose-water, and frankincense, what effort to lie through the round
year, and hear the fountains plash their music, and dream of love,
joy, and the kiss of the houris?

Here dwelt the Cæsar and his daughter. Not alone; thither came all
Palermo, from Count Roger downward. True, Manuel was in exile, but
there were many roads back to Alexius's favor, and once regained, the
Cæsar's friendship was worth the winning. And as for the princess, all
the young knights quarrelled in secret for the chance to offer her
holy water at church, or to ride in Countess Adelaide's train when she
took the fair Greek hawking. Much ill-blood was brewed, and some
little shed; for the Norman and Saracen knights alike would almost
have given their heads for one smile from her. Yet the hottest rivals
were the one-time friends, the great knight, Louis de Valmont of
Auvergne, far-famed as a jouster, and Iftikhar Eddauleh, commander of
Count Roger's Saracen guards, reputed the stoutest lance in Sicily.

Thus it befell that Louis and Iftikhar (who, despite his creed and
dark skin, was all gallantry to the Christian ladies) had ridden to
Monreale to pay their _devoirs_ to the princess on the selfsame day
Richard and his friend rode thither also. The Cæsar affected something
of his native state at Monreale; he met his guests in a marble court,
where a gilded swan was pouring tinkling water from its curving
throat; and scattered about the alabaster basin, in the mild
half-light, lay rug-covered divans, gay carpets, and a great cushioned
armchair for the aged Greek. The Cæsar wore the insignia of his
rank,--buskins of green leather, and a gem-set, open cap, whence
dangled a long lappet of pearls over either cheek. And his daughter,
too, was another and far statelier lady than she whom Richard
Longsword had plucked from the Berbers. She stood to greet her guests,
all radiant in purple tunic, a silken cape about her shoulders which
shone with gems worth a baron's ransom; and when she spoke, it was
with the nod and mien of one whose life it had been to command.

Yet they were very merry. De Valmont had equal fame as troubadour and
as cavalier. He had brought the princess an "improvised" _canso_,
wherein he protested his abject wretchedness when the light of her
face was hid from him, professed himself her slave, and conjured
heaven, since she still remained so cold, to take away his life, that
he might no more suffer. At this poem Mary professed herself
delighted; for she was long past blushing at lip service. Then
Iftikhar, swelling with jealousy, matched the Provençal with his
Arabic, which Mary, like any cosmopolitan Byzantine, understood well;
he sang how all the black-eyed maids of Paradise burned in jealousy of
the Greek, how before her beauty each nightingale forgot his song, and
a hundred genii flitted about her, feasting their ravished eyes.
Whereat Louis, in rivalry, would have capped his song with another,
when a serving-lad announced Richard Longsword and Musa of Granada.

Longsword knew Iftikhar and De Valmont well, yet in years to come he
dated their contact from this hour. Splendid was the emir in form and
face, with broad shoulders and lordly height and poise. His swarthy
Egyptian skin became him as a bay coat a charger; his ponderous hands,
full black beard, red morocco-shod feet, the huge cimeter at his side,
all spoke one word--"power"; a prince in very deed, from his jewelled
black turban downward. And beside him stood Louis,--short, but great
of limb, fair-haired, handsome, save for a certain smile more arrogant
than affable. His beard was trimmed to a little beak, his hair
carefully shaven across his forehead, as the fashion was; and he wore
his native high black boots, the bane of all Provençal-hating Normans.
On the gold plates of his sword-belt were jewel-set rosettes, and
despite the heat of the day he did not disdain to show a mantle lined
with rare sable,--no poor cavalier's dress.

Mary greeted the newcomers warmly; warmly--yet to Richard how
different was she from that merry girl who had pressed the cup to his
lips that fateful evening at Cefalu! He had come expecting to demand,
and to carry away; and behold! the laughing maid was a stately
princess; her suitor was one of a score of young men who loved
without hope; his rivals were the most valorous cavaliers in all the
broad island. He had but set eyes on De Valmont and the emir, when he
saw his day-dreams vanish in thin air. What had he, unknighted,
comparatively unrenowned, to proffer, when such champions sought her
grace?

Still, for a while the talk ran gayly. Mary told of her rescue, and
praised Longsword's valor; but his joy was tempered as he saw the
patronizing smile that sat on De Valmont's face, when the recital
finished.

"Our young friend comes of my own Auvergne stock," said the knight,
with venomous urbanity; "when he reaches due years he will break
lances with the best."

The Norman's cheek flushed, but he mastered his temper. "You say well,
fair sir; I am indeed a very young cavalier. Yet I hope I am not
unworthy of my mother's family of St. Julien, which has won some small
credit in its feuds with its neighbors."

There was an arrow in this reply; for the houses of St. Julien and
Valmont were at bitter strife, and thus far the saints had given glory
to the former. So the knight frowned in his turn, and shot back:--

"Yet, I think, good squire, that you are Norman rather than Provençal.
No gentleman of the South Country preserves that worthy old custom,
whereby the father hands down his festival clothes to the son through
three, and here, I imagine, four generations."

The insult was palpable enough, but Longsword reined in his anger.

"You are wrong, Sir Louis," quoth he, very softly; "my bleaunt is new,
though I have no Provençal tailor; for I remembered the saying of
certain holy churchmen: 'He who dresses after the godless fashion of
the men of the Languedoc, puts in peril his soul.'"

The parry and thrust had gone on long enough to promise little honor
to De Valmont, and the knight ended by saying blandly: "It grieves me,
dear friend, that you listen to such slanders. Be assured there are no
Christians better than those of Provence."

Richard affected to be appeased. Yet every moment his soul was crying
out against this rival, who disdained and mocked him as a mere boy.
And bitterer grew his wrath, when Louis continued:--

"Come, heir of Cefalu; can you not match with me in singing the praise
of the adorable mistress of our hearts, the ever incomparable Princess
Mary Kurkuas,--flower of the Greeks, star of the Moslems, sun of all
Christian cavaliers! Let us hold our _tenso_; and contend,--not with
sword,--but with verses, singing the matchless worth of our lady."

Richard felt the anger swelling within him. He had prudence in dealing
with Louis, but not to bear tamely a thrust of sheer malice, likely to
permit a display of his rival's superior accomplishments before the
princess. Well enough De Valmont had known that the Norman was no
troubadour.

"Louis de Valmont," answered Longsword, haughtily, "I am no clerk in
your 'courts of love,' whereof you Provençals boast so often. When I
will praise man or maid, I find blunt speech good enough, if they have
wit to hear. When I have difference with any gentleman, I have a good
horse and a good sword--and let St. Maurice judge between us."

"By St. Martin," cried the Provençal, bursting into a laugh, "hear you
this, my Lord Iftikhar! Our excellent Norman, when I speak of a
contest of _cansos_, at once talks of hauberks and lances."

The emir cast a disdainful eye upon Longsword.

"_Allah akhbar!_" he commenced, then more mildly: "yet how can we say
aught against so excellent a young man, as he who plucked our princess
from the pirates?"

Richard's gorge was rising; but before his hot words broke forth,
Musa, who had bided his time, interposed:--

"Tell me, Cid Louis," said he, in his broken Languedoc, "men say you
have served in Spain; is that not so?"

"I saw service there with Raymond of St. Gilles," was the answer, "and
with King Alfonso, and Cid Campeador."

"And brave cavaliers they are," continued the Andalusian. "None
better, Christian or Moslem, so far as knightly courtesy is known."

"You say well," asserted the Provençal; "they are splendid knights. By
the Cross," he added deprecatingly, "I count myself no poor lance,
with St. Martin's help; but in Spain every cavalier was nigh my peer."

"I rejoice you found such noble comrades; but, by Allah, know this, O
Frank: I have ridden against all the good lances of Spain, and Richard
Longsword of Cefalu is as firm a saddle as the best!"

The Spaniard had drawn himself up haughtily; there was fire in his
eye, half a threat in his voice. Neither De Valmont nor Iftikhar cared
to contradict him. And when Louis, vainly endeavoring to turn the tide
that was setting against him in the princess's presence, again
proposed a _tenso_, Richard was again able to answer in tones of lofty
scorn.

"Have you no shame, fair sir, to rehearse here the frivolous songs you
doubtless learned at the court of William of Aquitaine, whose _cansos_
and _tornadas_ are all in praise of his paramours--a new love and a
new song each day?"

"Have a care, young sir, have a care!" quoth the southern knight,
angrily.

"I seek no quarrel," was the reply;--"nor shun one." This last, under
the breath.

Louis stepped before the Norman with his hands on his hips.

"Heir of Cefalu," said he, in undertone, "if it is true you are a good
lance--well. But remember this, that is told in Auvergne. On the
mountains near the castle of Valmont lies a chapel, whither often I
went to pray, waiting some champion to come and test my valor; but
none has ever dared, nor have I ever ridden against my match, save
against my own brother Raoul, the Seigneur of Valmont."

"Do not threaten," said Richard, still in undertone.

"Threaten? I?" replied the knight. "I speak of the past, not of the
present. Yet those are sorry who cross my path."

They said no more. The emir and De Valmont were the first to take
leave. Mary gave Louis her hand to kiss, and Iftikhar salaamed very
low. When the two were gone, all who remained were happier; and the
princess, who had been silent long, found her tongue.

"You are not a friend of Sir Louis, or the emir?" said she.

"I would not be their foes," replied Longsword, looking into the
bubbling fountain; "yet it is true Sir Louis is very willing to think
himself above an unknighted cavalier. And the emir and I know each
other little."

"Ah," said the lady, her eyes also resting on the water, "it is sad it
is thus. Believe me, Lord Richard, you and De Valmont should be
friends. He is a gallant cavalier. I have heard much of his valor. He
is a poet also. What lady would not lose her heart at his
compliments?"

Now all this was gall and wormwood to Richard, but he made shift to
reply.

"Yes, doubtless he is a splendid knight."

"But you are not his friend? Why?"

"Lady," replied the Norman, a little sourly, "if to be the cavalier is
only to wear the wreath in the tourney, and sing _cansos_ in the
'courts of love'--behold Louis de Valmont; from the Scottish Marches
to our Sicily none knightlier. But," and his eye kindled, "with God's
help, when in my turn I win stroke of the accolade, they shall say of
Richard Longsword that he was more than mere jouster or troubadour;
for I am no soft Provençal like De Valmont. My ancestors snuffed the
bleak north wind, and laughed at the cold and storm. I hold that the
belted knight is consecrated priest: standing in the world, should
behold its sin and violence, and keep his own heart pure, should lay
low the wicked, and lift up the weak; for God has set him apart to
pray, not with his lips, but with his good sword; and he should ride
to each _mêlée_ as to a sacrament."

"Verily," cried she, smiling; "it is you that are now the poet!"

"Not so," was the half-gloomy answer; "I repeat the words of
Sebastian, our chaplain, who is one of the saints of God."

"You will be a noble cavalier," said Mary, when the two friends arose
to leave her. "Yet," she added, "I will not have you a foe to Louis de
Valmont. That my friends should be enemies among themselves, would be
a heavy grief."

Richard kissed Mary's hand, and rode away. He and Musa had been bidden
to come again and often to Monreale; but he had no great joy in the
prospect. Rather his thoughts were darksome as the night.

       *       *       *       *       *

The shadows were falling when the Norman and his friend left the
Palace of the Diadem. The half-light of the marble arcade was fading
into a soft haze, wherein the gauzy tracery that pierced the pillared
stone work was barely visible. Manuel Kurkuas lay on his cushions,
sunk in silent reveries; his daughter had stolen to his side, cast one
arm about his neck, and with her other hand softly, slowly, stroked
his long white beard. Neither spoke for a long time. Presently in came
an Arab serving-man with noiseless step: tiny lamps began to twinkle
red and green up against the vaulting, throwing the mazy mosaic work
into flickering shadow. The tinkle, tinkle of the fountain never
ceased. They could hear the note of the nightingales from the grove,
sweet, tremulous, melancholy. The servants set a tray before the Cæsar
with silver cups, and fruit, and cakes, salaamed and retired. Then the
fountain and the _bulbuls_ alone broke the evening calm. Presently the
old Greek raised his head.

"They have brought the tray?" he asked, still dreamily.

"Yes, there is a sleeping powder in your wine. Will you drink?"

"Not yet," said the Cæsar, still musing; then half stirring: "Ah! my
daughter, do you remember where we were one year ago this night?"

"We were at our summer house by Chalcedon, and doubtless had just
returned from a sail to the Isles of the Princes on the Emperor's own
galley."

"It is beautiful, that Bosphorus; and our noble capital," ran on
Manuel, dreamily. "No church in the world like to our Hagia Sophia! No
dwelling like the 'Sacred Palace' of our Emperor! No river fairer than
the blue Bosphorus! Ours are all the trophies of the art of Greece at
her prime; ours the books preserving the ancient learning; the speech
of Plato, of Demosthenes, so unlike this Frankish magpies' chatter! Do
you not long to be back? I shall be recalled. You will be again a
great lady at Constantinople; marry some '_pan-sebastos_,' or perhaps
the heir of the purple buskins himself." Mary was silent; the old man
continued: "No reply? I know your thoughts. You are half a Frank and
love them better: better to watch these mad knights at tourney than
read Polybius with the Princess Anna?"

"Yes, my father," was the simple reply; "we have glory, art, learning,
a name never to die. But the future is with these Franks--so
boisterous, so brutish! For high resolve and higher action make people
great, not gazing at statues, and reading of brave deeds done of old."

More silence save for the bulbuls and the fountain.

"Daughter mine," replied the Cæsar, "you say well. We have fought a
good fight,--we of the Rome by the Bosphorus: we have flung back Avar
and Arab. The Turks press hard, yet we may hold them at bay a little
longer; but our race is indeed grown old, and our glory, too. And you
love the West? What wonder! your mother spoke this Languedoc in which
this De Valmont sings. And doubtless you will give your hand to him;
men say he is a mighty cavalier; as his wife you will be a great lady
among these Franks."

"Father!" cried out Mary, in protest.

"No," said the Greek, still smiling, "I will not give you away against
your will. If not he, whom? Does the Moslem Iftikhar find favor?
Religion sits light in this strange Sicily."

But Mary shook her head angrily.

"Ah, then you perhaps were glad when young Richard of Cefalu came
to-day. But he is no poet like De Valmont. His manners may prove as
rough as his blows."

"I will not give myself to a chamberlain or a troubadour. Shall I
receive _cansos_ when my hair is gray, or my face wrinkled? If I wish
soft manners, let it be one of the eunuch-courtiers about the
Emperor's palace."

The Cæsar laughed softly. "You have seen this Richard but little; he
saved us both; we owe him all gratitude. He shall come often. I am a
shrewd judge of men, and read their faces. His I like well. Just now
he thinks De Valmont has you snared, and is very sorrowful. But no
trial harms the lover. To-day he worships your face, as do all. Later
let us see if he looks deeper, and loves you with all your faults!"

"My faults?"

"Yes," with another soft laugh, "you are over-fond of the applause,
and glitter, and whir of admiration. You know your face is very fair
to see, and love to let men see it. And though in action you are often
prudent and demure, yet--as on that night at Cefalu--you are like a
coiled spring,--such as moves the singing bird of the Emperor: one
touch will make you flash forth in some madness. But beneath all I
know you are pure and strong, and will make a noble woman."

"You temper praise with blame, my father," was her answer.

"Now let me sup and go to rest; and while I drink, take your lute and
sing. Not from the choruses of Æschylus; nor Pindar nor Anacreon: sing
me Proclus's hymn to the Muses, the last pagan poem in our Greek,
which is worthy to stand beside our best; and the burden of the hymn,
too, fits with my mood to-night."

So Mary took up the lute, let her fingers wander over the strings, and
then, while the fountain babbled accompaniment, sang sweet as a silver
bell:--

    "Glory and praise to those sweet lamps of Earth,
      The nine fair daughters of Almighty Jove:
    Who all the passage dark to death from birth
      Lead wandering souls with their bright beams of love.

    "Through cares of mortal life, through pain and woe,
      The tender solace of their counsel saves:
    The healing secrets of their songs forego
      Despair: and when we tremble at the waves

    "Of life's wild sea of murk incertitude,
      Their gentle touch upon the helm is pressed,
    Their hand points out the beacon star of good,
      Where we shall make our harbor and have rest:--

    "Hear, heavenly Sisters, hear! O ye who know
      The winds of wisdom's sea, the course to steer;
    Who light the flame that lightens all below,
      And bring the spirits of the perfect there,

    "Where the immortals are, when this life's fever
      Is left behind as a dread gulf o'erpassed,
    And souls, like mariners, escaped forever,
      Throng on the happy foreland, saved at last!"

The lute was still. Naught but the plash, plash of the fountain, the
distant call of the birds. In through the marble tracery stole the
silent panels of moonlight. Manuel Kurkuas sat long in deeper
revery:--

"'Throng on the happy foreland, saved at last!'" he murmured; "ah!
daughter mine, it is late: we must seek rest."



CHAPTER VI

HOW ROLLO MET INSULT


On the next day Richard rode again to Monreale, this time without
Musa. But on the way, just as his horse brought him clear of the city,
and he was speeding past the straggling Saracen village that stretched
far up the hills to Baidha, the canter of two riders going at a mad
pace thundered behind him, and he saw Louis de Valmont with Iftikhar
Eddauleh close at his heels. The Provençal knight was bravely
accoutred with silk mantle and boots of the latest fashion, and was
bestriding a splendid white palfrey that made Richard shiver the tenth
commandment then and there. The emir was no less gay in flaming
scarlet vest, and trailing to the wind a red and yellow kaftan; while
on his head tossed a great blue turban, whereon the gems were
sparkling. Clearly the two had set forth independently, and had no
mind for comradeship; for Richard soon learned that Iftikhar had put
his horse to his speed to outstrip De Valmont, and the latter had
ridden away from him. When the Provençal drew close upon Richard,
however, the Norman, nowise anxious to be the last, spurred on also,
and soon all three were in the race; which ended by De Valmont
shooting ahead, and leaving the others side by side. As the knight
vanished in a cloud of dust, Iftikhar reined in his good bay, and
turned to Longsword.

"He passes us both, Cid Richard," quoth the emir, showing his white
teeth, while he laughed.

"Truly, emir," was the answer, "they say there is no rider like him in
all the South Country."

The Egyptian grinned again, a little angrily.

"_Wallah!_ Let him go. I will reach Monreale soon enough. Not even
Louis de Valmont shall cross my path save when I choose; neither he
nor any other."

"You wax bold, my lord. And may I ask why you speak thus? Surely, it
is no wound to your honor or mine that he chances to-day to outride us
both."

Iftikhar laughed aloud, was silent a moment, then broke forth.

"Verily, Cid Richard, why ride we all, you, I, De Valmont, to
Monreale! _Ya!_ do you still ask why I say I 'let none cross me'?"

Richard's hand started towards his hilt.

"My Lord Iftikhar, we all seek the good favor of that incomparable
lady, Mary Kurkuas."

The Egyptian's hand was on his cimeter also. "You speak well," came
back his haughty answer; "but I speak to a young cavalier like
yourself this word of warning--do not carry your passion too far. As
for De Valmont, let him know this, good lance that he is: I am as sure
a saddle as he, and I am more." Iftikhar leaned, as he rode, and half
whispered to Richard, "Do you know the brotherhood of the Ismaelians?"

"The secret confederacy among Moslems, whose god is the dagger?"

Iftikhar spoke very low: "Know, O Norman, that I am a grand prior
amongst the Ismaelians. Soon as Allah wills, I return to Syria. At my
nod will be countless devotees, who rush on death as to a feast.
Therefore I am not lightly to be thwarted by De Valmont even. _Ya!_"

And the emir laughed grimly. Richard kept silence, but swore in his
heart that laugh should be like Roland's laugh at Ganelon,--a laugh
that cost Roland his life.

When they came to the Palace of the Diadem, De Valmont was there
before them, and had the lady's ear. He was telling of a marvellous
hunting party that was on foot for the morrow, and how Count Roger's
daughter, the young Countess Blanche, had especially bidden him to
ride with the princess to the chase. And Richard, and Iftikhar also,
had perforce to stand by, while Mary gave the Provençal her sweetest
thanks, and promised him her glove to wear at the next jousting.

Sorry comfort it was to Longsword, especially as the princess gave him
and the emir only enough of the talk to let them know she remembered
they were there. As for Iftikhar, black jealousy drove him forth
quickly. He salaamed himself away, and went tearing down the road to
Palermo, uttering invocations to all the evil jinns, to blast Louis de
Valmont's happiness for many a long year. But Richard would not own to
such defeat; while Louis and Mary bartered merry small talk, he sat
beside the old Cæsar, and found in the noble Greek, after the crust of
dignity was broken, a man of the world who could tell his story.

And Richard found that Manuel had been a mighty warrior in his youth,
though not after the Norman fashion. Richard learned with wonder how
armies were marshalled according to careful rules in the military
books of Nicephorus Phocus and Leo the Wise; how campaigns could be
worked out, and armies shuffled about dexterously as chessmen, instead
of depending on chance _mêlées_ and bull valor. The Cæsar had stirring
tales to tell of wars and paladins Richard had never before heard
of,--Zimiskes and his terrible fight with Swiatoslaf the Russian, when
St. Theodore himself, men said, led the charge through the pagan
spear-hedge; of Basil, the terrible "Bulgarian slayer"; of the
redoubtable champion, Diginis Akritas, grim lord of the Cilician
Marches, the terror of the border Arabs; only Manuel's face clouded
when he spoke of the present darkened fame of his people.

"I was with Romanus Diogenes," said he, bitterly, "at Manzikert, that
fatal day when by the treachery of Andronicus, general of the reserve,
our Emperor and all Asia Minor were betrayed to Alp-Arslan the
Seljouk. Oh! Sir Frank--" and his dim eyes lighted, "never saw I
harder fight than that: all that mortal men might, did we, riding down
the Turkish hordes with sword and lance all day. But at nightfall we
were surrounded, and the hosts rolled in around us. Treason had cut
off our succor. Our divisions perished; our emperor was a prisoner;
and the force that Alexius Comnenus led against you Normans at
Durazzo was a shadow, a mockery, of what had been our army in the days
when the Kalif of Bagdad trembled at the advance of the terrible
Romans!"

When Richard left the palace it was in company with Louis de Valmont.
Mary had been very gracious to the Norman in parting, and Manuel had
urged him to come again. He was an old man, time was heavy on his
hands; he was rejoiced to tell his tales to whoever would listen. But
it was Louis who had the last word with the princess, Louis who
whispered at the farewell some soft pleasantry that had a deeper ring
than the common troubadour's praise and compliment. Longsword and the
Provençal rode back towards Palermo side by side. De Valmont was in a
happy enough mood to be very gracious.

"Heir, of Cefalu," said he, while they cantered stirrup to stirrup, "I
did wrong yesterday. I thought you sought to cross me in a quest--what
shame for me to avow it--after the hand of this lady. But to-day by
your discreet carriage I see you have no such rashness. Who can but
fall at the princess's feet, and sigh with passion! And her father,
though a Greek, must have been a fine man once in the saddle."

The Provençal's words were like flint striking steel; Richard replied
very slowly, sure warning that fire was near at hand.

"Sir Louis de Valmont, with our eyes on the lady, no marvel we possess
only one thought. Yet not I only, but Iftikhar Eddauleh may cry
'Hold!' ere you carry this fair game to an end. The emir this day
boasted to me he was become grand prior of the Ismaelians, the
devotees of the dagger, and that not even so good a lance as you might
cross his road when he minded otherwise."

The knight frowned blackly.

"The emir and I are friends no longer. The princess may love the gems
in his turban, his Arabic verses; but not even here in Sicily will she
wed an infidel. He has more than one woman in his harem in the city.
Over his devotees and his own lance I lose little slumber."

"You say well, fair sir," said Richard; "yet honor forbids me to
conceal it. I think you will not take Mary Kurkuas to the priest
before you have tried the temper of my sword, though Iftikhar do what
he lists."

"Take care, my brave lad!" cried the Provençal, dropping his jaw in a
sneer. "I wish to splinter no lances against such as you."

"By St. Michael, I swear it; aye, and will make it good on my body!"
And Richard raised his hand in an oath.

"Fie!" cried the other, pricking ahead. "In the morning you will
repent of this folly. I can win no glory in a broil with you; which,
if I follow up, will end with your funeral mass."

And before Richard could make reply De Valmont's white palfrey had
swept far in advance, leaving the Norman with only his raging thoughts
for company. In this state he rode into the town, seeking the house of
Al-Bakri. But close by the door a noisy crowd was swelling: Pisan
sailors, Greek peasants come to market, Moslem serving-lads, and chief
of all several men-at-arms in leather jerkins and steel caps, all
howling and shouting in half a dozen tongues, and making the narrow
street and bare gray house-walls ring with their clamors.

"A hair, a hair of the wonderful horse of Cefalu!" was braying one of
the men-at-arms in the very centre of the throng. "Pull out his tail;
let him drag a cart! What knight ever rode such a _destrer_? And this
is the best-loved steed of my Lord Richard! Like master, like horse!"
While others shouted: "Give up the fellow! He is ours! We claim him
for our master, Louis de Valmont. What need has your Lord Richard of a
_jongleur_--mountebank himself?"

And then in the midst of the press, Longsword saw his old retainer
Herbert, sitting upon Rollo; perched behind on the great steed a
small, scared-looking man, with the little bright eyes and peaked nose
of a mouse; with a strange dress of blue and red stripes, and hugging
a great viol under his arm. So far the crowd had confined itself to
noise; but it was pressing so madly around the entrance to the court,
that the porter had hesitated to throw open the gate lest the mob
press in with the rider. There was an angry glint in Herbert's eyes;
and the veteran had his fingers round his hilt with the blade half
drawn, while Rollo had tossed up his great black head, and was
snuffing and pawing as if his hoofs were ready to fly out on his
besetters.

"A thousand fiends!" cried Richard, pushing into the throng, "what
have we here! Dogs, devils, back all of you!" And he struck right and
left with his riding whip, making a red scar on more than one swarthy
cheek. "Out of the way, rascals, or your heads pay for it!"

There was no resisting this menace. Rollo himself had struck out with
his mighty hoofs, and a sailor went down upon the pavement with a
groan. The crowd slunk back, cursing and threatening under breath; but
no man wished to come to an issue with his betters.

"Now, Herbert," cried the Norman, "what means this? Has Satan
uncovered the Pit, and his imps flown out? Who is this man with you?"

"May all the saints blast them!" and here the veteran doomed all his
assailants to pitiless and eternal torment. "To be brief, good lord,
this man is by name Theroulde, a right good fellow; as you see by his
viol, a _jongleur_. Before your father fled England, I knew him well,
when we both were younger. I found him as I rode by the quay, landed
from a Pisan merchantman, and seeking to escape the men-at-arms of
Louis de Valmont, who, seeing him a stranger and likely to prove a
merry fellow, wished to carry him to the castle, willy-nilly, to give
them sport over their cups; and this sailor gang fell in with them.
Then when I saw that he did not like their greeting, and that he
recognized me as an old comrade, I took him up behind me, and rode
away; but this pack," with a contemptuous snap of the finger,
"travelled behind us like the curs they are; and I think they would
have learned how my sword could bite, had you not come up."

"Theroulde? Theroulde?" repeated Richard to the _jongleur_, who had
leaped to the ground and stood bowing and scraping, but still hugging
his beloved viol; "are you not son of that Taillefer, the brave
minstrel to whom Duke William granted that he should ride first at
Senlac, singing of Roland and Roncesvalles, and who died a cavalier's
death that day?"

"I am his son, gracious lord," said the man, with another bow and wide
grimace. "I am Theroulde of Mount St. Michael, and well I loved and
served your father in the brave days of the English war."

"By the peacock," cried Longsword, "and what lucky saint sends you to
Sicily, to enter my father's service once more, if you will?"

"Ah! lord," was the doleful answer, "glad I am to see Sicily; but no
merry thing brings me hither. I was in the service of my dear Lord
Henry, son of William the Bastard, and dwelt in his court at Mount St.
Michael, with a warm nook by the fire and a flagon of good drink
always mine for the wishing. But three years since I was driven out an
exile, when William, the wicked 'Red King,' and Duke Robert besieged
Henry their brother, and took the stronghold. So ever since I have
wandered over Champagne and Burgundy and the Ile de France; and then I
went down to Aquitaine and thence to Dauphiny. But I did not learn to
love the chattering Provençals, who think songs of mawkish love better
than our northern _chansons_ of valorous knights. Then I heard that
your noble father had been blessed with a fair barony here in Sicily;
and hither I came to seek his bounty, though I did not expect to find
in his son so grand a cavalier."

Richard laughed a little sourly. Now he had a new grudge against Louis
de Valmont; to the sins of the master had been added those of the men.
A knight did not always as yet keep squires of as gentle blood as
himself. De Valmont's crew of attendants were but little better than
"villains." The insults to Herbert and Rollo were not to be forgiven
in a moment. And in this new fury Richard rode into the courtyard;
while Theroulde, delighted to be under friendly patronage, rattled on,
rehearsing his wares.

"Know, most valiant sir, that I boast myself versed in all the noble
histories of that wise Trojan priest, Dares, and of the rich Greek
cavalier, Dictys of Crete; I can tell you all their tales of Sir
Hector and of Sir Ulysses and of the fair and never too much praised
Countess Medea. I have set in new verse the whole tale of Roland and
Oliver, and how Count Ganelon betrayed them; and I can tell you the
story of Oberon, king of faery, who was begotten by Julius Cæsar at
the isle of Cephallenia, while he was at war with King Pompey."

So he would have run on forever had not Richard thrust him away and
gone in to Musa, with a face dark as a thundercloud. The _jongleur_
was left to the hospitality of the Moslem servants of Al-Bakri, who
treated him kindly though he eyed them askance; for to his mind they
all were servants of Apollin, the pagan demon of the sun. Presently a
messenger went from Richard to the castle, where De Valmont lay,
bearing a letter,--a letter which demanded of the Provençal that he
either inflict summary chastisement on his men who had insulted
Richard through his favorite horse, or make good the affront by a
meeting face to face.

Richard spent the next two hours in the little court of the syndic,
pacing moodily under the orange trees that stood around the fountain
basin; while Musa lolled on the rugs upon the divan under the arcade,
and tried to persuade his friend to sit down with him at chess.

"By the Mass, Musa," cried the Norman, twisting his mustache with
nervous energy, while his eyes studied the black and white tiled
pavement, "Moslem that you are, I had rather see Mary Kurkuas yours
than De Valmont's. What with all the brave tales you tell of your
sweethearts in Cordova and Granada, you must know the way to a woman's
heart."

"_Allah!_" exclaimed the Spaniard, taking a cushion from the divan and
flinging it merrily at his friend. "Do you not know, I am like the
Arab youth who died fighting at Emesa?" said he. "I see the black-eyed
girls, the houris looking at me; and one for love of whom all the
world would die, beckons me, saying, 'Come hither quickly, for I love
thee.' Not that I would slander the beauty of your Greek; but," with
half a sigh, "he who has seen the maidens of Andalusia can long only
for the houris of Paradise."

"You speak folly," cried the Norman, pettishly. "Where are your eyes?"
But at this moment Hugh, the serving-lad who had gone to the castle
with the cartel, returned.

"A letter from Sir Louis de Valmont," he announced.

It was a roll of parchment, written by some priest or monk, with only
a rude mark over the signature, in another hand; for Louis with all
his "gay" science was no clerk. It ran thus:--

"Louis de Valmont, Knight of Auvergne, to Richard Longsword, greeting:
I am astounded that an unknighted 'bachelor' like yourself, who has
won neither spurs, nor vassals, nor fame in arms, should venture to
address me with such insolence. As for my men they had their frolic,
and only a fool will quarrel about it. As for your defiance, I will
win small honor by slaying a boy like yourself in the lists, as I
could well do, and my honor is in no wise hurt when I say I will not
meet you. Farewell."

Richard tore the parchment into shreds and strode to and fro in
bootless fury.

"By the splendor of God!" cried he, stretching his arms aloft, "the
day shall come when this Louis and all the spawn of his sinful house
shall curse the hour he sent me this. So may Our Lady help!"

Musa could do nothing to comfort. Richard told his trials to
Sebastian, just come down from Cefalu. And in Sebastian he found a
counsellor very like to those of long-tormented Job.

"Ah! dear son, this is because all love is sorrow except it be the
love of heaven. Says not the Apostle, 'Love not the world, neither the
things in the world,'--"

"Not so," broke in Richard; "in loving Mary Kurkuas I love an angel of
light."

Sebastian shook his head solemnly. "Dear son, this is a chastisement
sent on you from heaven for forgetting your vow, now that you are
come to man's estate. Often have I invoked my patron saint, Sebastian,
by the arrows that pierced his side, that you would put by all these
carnal lusts, this friendship for Musa, the paynim, and dedicate life
and might to the freeing of the Holy City."

But Richard was in an impious mood that day. "I was a child when I
took the vow. Let the saints smite me, if they will, only first let me
humble De Valmont!"

"Alas!" came the answer, "they will indeed smite you, until in very
agony for your sin you will plead to go to Jerusalem."



CHAPTER VII

HOW DE VALMONT SENT HIS GAGE


Richard's fury lasted more than one angry day, Musa's comforting
counting for nothing. Sebastian's warnings--twanging the same old
string--only made his rage the hotter. He wrote to Cefalu, saying it
was all over with his suit, and received a letter dictated by his
father (who wrote only with his battle-axe) that it was as well; he
could marry a daughter of the Baron's old friend, the Count of Foix.
William had not seen her, but she would bring a large dowry, and a
messenger could sail with proposals for Toulouse at once. Richard
returned answer that he could not marry the lady--she came within the
forbidden degrees through some ancient alliance of his mother's house
with that of Foix. But his heart burned more than ever. Then respite
came: Count Roger was summoned to Campania by his nephew and suzerain
Duke Roger Bursa, to help crush certain malcontent barons, and away he
sailed, taking Iftikhar and his much-prized Saracen guard. With him
also went Musa and Richard Longsword, who was finding Palermo a dreary
place, and gladly bartered gloomy thoughts for hard campaigning.

Louis de Valmont remained. Every morn he fared to Monreale to bask
under the smiles of Mary. Very pleasant these days to her. As Manuel
had said, she was more than fond of the praise of men; knew her eyes
darted madness, and was not ashamed to show them. Palermo was not
Constantinople; no polished Greek as spoken in the circle of Psellus,
the philosopher, and of Anna Comnena; no splendid state ceremonies.
But life was free; men spoke of their loves and hates plainly; did not
prattle friendship and misty compliment and stab in the dark.
Yet in the end Louis's homage began to pall on her. She heard
unpleasant stories touching him through Sylvana, her nurse, an
indefatigable gossip-monger. The Provençal, she learned, was accounted
a hard master to his men; his peers praised his courage, but not his
courtesy; he had fought a duel in Catalonia with a baron, in a broil
concerning the latter's lady; he had two Moslem sweethearts in
Palermo; some said three. All these tales did not go to prosper
Louis's suit, and he began to find the morning chatter growing dull
and the princess meeting his _cansos_ with sober and troublesome
questions.

Manuel Kurkuas said little; he was a shrewd man, and knew it was
easier to lead than to drive. What with De Valmont's hollow gallantry
and boasting of his own great deeds, he fell daily in the daughter's
eyes. Then one day two carrier pigeons fluttered to the casements of
the Palermo castle, and Sylvana came to Mary itching with a tale. The
princess had just bidden Louis farewell. His importunity was great,
her perplexity greater; for she did not love the man, yet things had
gone too far for her to dismiss him without bitterness and gossip all
over the city.

"_Hei, despoina!_" quoth the old woman; "Bardas, the groom, is come
from Palermo--a terrible story. Richard Longsword in deathly peril!"
And Sylvana, sly sinner, who knew Mary better than Mary knew herself,
had expected the start, and flush, and little cry. "No, by St. Basil,
he is safe enough," protested she, consequentially. "He was with Count
Roger in Italy in the war against William of Grantmesnil, who has
turned rebel. Let him tell the whole tale himself. But the chief part
is this: There was a castle which my Lord Count and his kinsman, Duke
Roger Bursa, swore they would take, but it was defended as though held
by very devils. The engines beat a breach in the walls, and the next
thing was the storming. But to make the breach and to go through it
are not the same thing, as Nicetas, who was my uncle's son, and fought
in Syria, once told."

"I have heard that story," cried the lady, impatiently; "go on."

"Well, as I said, the breach was stoutly defended. My Lord Count
orders up his boasted Saracen guard, and bids my Lord Iftikhar lead
the storm: once, twice, they charge--are beaten back--the third time
when ordered, say they are not fond of dying--too many comrades are
fallen already. Then while the emir hung back, forward comes my Lord
Richard and Musa, his friend; they will lead the storm. A few mad
Franks follow them. They win the breach and the castle. St. Theodore
must have aided. They say my Lord Richard had as many wounds as you
have fingers, when they took him up. No, do not stare about thus:
Bardas said he only lost a little blood. But they have made him a
knight after the fashion of these Franks, by Duke Roger's own hand;
and to Musa they gave I know not what presents. And now seeing that
the rebels have sued for mercy, the Count is coming back with all his
men, and sent off pigeons from Stromboli saying that he will arrive
to-morrow."

To-morrow came and went, and De Valmont held aloof, half to Mary's
satisfaction, half to her vexation. Nor did several succeeding days
see him. But finally it fell out that he and his rival sallied forth
from Palermo by different roads, and both came to Monreale and into
the Princess's presence at about the same time. And now it was Louis's
turn to let his sharp little beard curl up in impotent anger. For Mary
gave never a glance to his high-peaked Anjou boots with which he
swelled in pride, but only had eyes for the golden spurs that were
twinkling significantly upon Longsword's heels, and the broad white
belt that girt him.

"Ah! Sir Richard," cried she, with a pretty stress on the "sir," "now
at last you will not deny that you can do a brave deed or two!"

The Norman blushed manfully; for praise from her lips was dearer than
from Pope or Emperor.

"Dear lady," said he, humbly, "thanks to the valor of my good
comrades, and the help of the blessed angel Michael, men are pleased
to speak well of me."

"And the sword you wear," continued she, "it is not the one I saw
glance so bright at Cefalu. Who gave it?" And she added, while Richard
drew forth the weapon: "How long! How heavy! What magic letters are
these upon the blade?"

Richard had bared a mighty weapon, which he held outstretched while
the sun glinted on the long, polished steel, and the gold chased work
on the guard shone bright.

"Know," he said proudly, "that from this weapon we Longswords take our
name. This is 'Trenchefer,' passed from father to son, so far as
memory may reach to the days when our house came down from the
Northland with Duke Rollo, and hewed away our duchy from the weakling
Emperor. Never has a Longsword carried this blade and endured
captivity. Never has a hostile hand gripped its hilt; never has a
first-born of my race"--Richard held his head still higher--"lacked a
first-born who could not toss it like a twig." And he brandished the
great gleaming blade on high. "As for these strange characters, they
say they are an incantation, pagan no doubt, but it still holds good:
a rune-song, they call it, which makes Trenchefer cut iron like wool
and steel like fagots. Here in the hilt is the reliquary, set there by
my pious grandfather to destroy the sin of the spell, and make it
stronger; here is a tooth of St. Matthias, and a clot of the blood of
St. Gereon the Martyr. All his life my father has borne this, and
never yet has Trenchefer failed in the sorest need. Now that my father
is old, and I a belted knight, I have taken Trenchefer to bear until
my own first-born can wield it worthily."

Mary stepped beside him, took the hilt in both her little hands, and
made shift to raise the great sword. It was very heavy. The blood
mounted to her cheeks; she smiled, but bit her lips, and made a mighty
effort. Once she raised the blade, then dropped it with a clang, and
laughed merrily.

"_Eu!_ Sir Richard," she cried in Greek, "what a pretty toy for a maid
like myself! I will let you always swing it for me."

"It is not heavy," quoth the Norman, his iron wrist tossing it
lightly.

"Not heavy!" was the reply. "You Franks are born, I half think, in
armor; slaying is to you a pleasant art."

"And why not, sweet lady?" answered the other, seriously. "Is there
anything better befitting a brave gentleman, after a noble life, than
to be rocked to sleep in a fair battle with the swords clinking merry
music above, and angels to convoy his soul?"

But at this moment De Valmont, who had stood by gnawing his mustachios
all this while, stepped up and took the sword out of Richard's hand.

"Assuredly, Sir Richard," said he, holding up the sword, though truth
to tell he found it nothing easy, "you have here a mighty weapon. You
will be the thirteenth of Charlemagne's twelve peers, and contest the
captaincy with Roland's self." He sheathed the sword, and laughed
dryly.

There was no need for any special wits to see that Louis was seeking a
quarrel at last.

"I trust it will be found keen enough to satisfy any who question
_now_ my knighthood," came back the hot retort. But Mary intervened
with haughty mandate:--

"Sir Louis! Sir Richard! what is this in my presence? How often have I
bidden you be friends, if you would keep my favor! Must you brawl
under my very eyes?"

"I cry pardon of Sir Richard," began the Provençal, feeling he had
made a misstep; but Longsword cut him short.

"And I grant none; but this is no place. Let us begone!"

"I warn you!" cried De Valmont, in black fury, "if we meet, but one
shall ride away. Hitherto you have crossed swords with weaklings, and
I give you a proverb, 'Amongst the blind, the one-eyed man is king.'"

"And I return proverb for proverb," blazed back the Norman: "'It is
well to let the sleeping dog lie.' Let God judge if I have sought this
quarrel!"

"Sirs," commanded Mary Kurkuas, with her haughtiest gesture, "get you
gone both, nor return till this strife be ended!" And she pointed
towards the door.

Richard collected himself with a mighty effort.

"I obey, lady," was all he said; while he bowed, kissed the hem of her
mantle, and stalked out of the palace. De Valmont did not follow him,
but stood staring darkly about, as though wanting half his wits.

"Sir Louis," repeated the princess, still at her lordly poise, "did
you not hear what I said?"

"Ah! _Dona!_ beautiful mistress!" cried the Provençal, half
threatening, half entreating; "what words are these? Depart? Will you
dismiss me? By St. Martin, I swear life will be all night without you!
Oh, pity, favor me; have mercy on my distress!"

Mary looked upon him, and saw that half his profession sprang from his
troubadour gallantry; but the rest--the mad light in his eyes proved
how genuine!

"Give me your hand!" raged on De Valmont, half beside himself. Then
with a step nearer--"No, not your hand, your lips!"

Mary flushed in turn with her anger; quail she did not.

"Sir Louis, recollect yourself," she commanded sternly; "let what has
slipped you be forgotten. I repeat--depart, or I call my father's
servants; and come not again, until your quarrel with Richard
Longsword be ended."

"Then, by Christ's wounds, I will have his life!" roared the Provençal
with a great oath, and tore out of the room, leaving Mary quaking amid
hysteric laughter.

When Manuel Kurkuas heard what had passed, he grew very grave.

"Enemies they have been since first they met here at Monreale," was
his comment, "and now I fear they will strike friendship only in
heaven, unless," he added dryly, "their sins be such--and they are
many--they will perchance meet elsewhere."

So his daughter spent the remainder of the day in no little
trepidation and sorrow; for it was no pleasant thing to feel that two
gallant gentlemen, for whom she had cared much, were to risk immortal
souls, perhaps on her account. About noon the next day, Sylvana came
to her gleefully with the whole story.

"_Ei_, my lady," chattered she, "all Palermo is talking of it, and
Bardas has brought me all they say. It is told that this morning Sir
Richard went to the Cathedral, and confessed to a priest and received
the host; then he set hand on a box of holy relics and swore something
secret, but doubtless terrible. A little later, lo! in comes Sir Louis
and does the very same. Then right in the porch of the church they
came face to face, and Sir Louis broke out with revilings terrible to
hear, and finally cried, 'You are not an equal fit to kiss my cheek;
"villain" you are, or little better, who should kiss my spurs!'
Whereupon Sir Richard gave him a great box on the ear, which nearly
knocked him down, crying, 'This is the kiss I give you!' And then and
there they would have drawn, but other gentlemen dragged them asunder
by main force, and took them to Count Roger, who, when he found he
could not compose their quarrel, demanded of each his knightly word
that they would remain apart until the great tourney, which will be
when the envoys from the Egyptian emperor come. Then the two will
meet, and Our Lady guard their lives!"

Mary Kurkuas did not sleep soundly that night. Often as the dreams
came to her, they took form of champions in armor, charging, charging,
ever charging! And when she awoke, it was with the last words of De
Valmont ringing in her ears, "By Christ's wounds, I will have his
life!" A long time after all the palace was still, she arose, lit a
taper, and knelt before a stiff little Byzantine painting of the Holy
Mother that was by her bedside.

"O pure and blessed Lady," she prayed, "have mercy on me! Have mercy
on them both! I have sinned in leading them on so madly; they have
sinned in loving me so madly! Oh, pity, mercy; have compassion on us
all!"

So ran her prayer. After a while she was a little comforted, and fell
into troubled sleep.



CHAPTER VIII

HOW IFTIKHAR SPED A VAIN ARROW


News from over the sea,--from Italy! News that set old Sebastian
declaiming, and wandering about all day with a mad fire in his eyes
and a verse from Isaiah the prophet on his lips. For it was bruited
abroad that a wonderful pilgrim had come from the East, Peter of
Amiens, once a noble and a warrior, but one who had forsworn the world
and gone to the Holy City to expiate his sins. Now he had returned,
and stood before Pope Urban with messages from the down-trodden
Patriarch of Jerusalem; also with a marvellous tale,--that Christ had
appeared in vision to him, and bidden him summon the soldiers of the
West to the deliverance of the City of God. And the Holy Father had
believed, and given him letters bidding all men hear him and obey. Nor
was that all. There was a great council of the Church soon to convene
at Plaisance to move all Italy to go against the infidel; and if Italy
were too sunken in her civil strifes and unknightly commerce, the Pope
had sworn he would appeal to his own people, the French--"bold
cavaliers so dear to God."

When Sebastian heard this tale, brought by a Genoese, he was all
eagerness to take the next ship for Marseilles with Richard. "It was
the acceptable day of the Lord; who was not for Him was against Him:
beware lest the laggards endure the reproach of Deborah upon Reuben,
that abode by his sheepfold, and Dan, who remained in his ships." But
Richard only swelled with desire to see De Valmont prone upon the
sands; and Musa smiled in his soft manner, saying, "Have not you
Franks broils enough among yourselves, that you must seek Jerusalem?"
Whereupon Sebastian had cried, "Ah! Child of the Devil, you seek to
pluck away Richard's soul; but every night I wrestle with God in
prayer, beseeching God He will sever this unholy friendship. And my
faith does not fail!"

Musa gave no answer; silence was the stoutest armor against the
churchman.

Presently all thoughts of Italy and France were chased from mind by
the coming of the long-awaited embassy from the Egyptian kalif to
Palermo. A great and splendid embassy it was, headed by no less a
person than Hisham, son of Afdhal, vizier to the kalif Abul Kasim.
There were long trains of stately Abyssinian eunuchs and negro
guardsmen in gay liveries; a mighty glitter of scarlet and purple
caftans, jewel-decked turbans, gold-sheathed cimeters, a present of
dazzling gems for the Count and the Countess. The echo of the
earthquake in France and Italy had been heard in Africa, and the kalif
had been anxious to forestall the joining of the redoubtable Sicilian
Count to the Crusade by early display of friendship. Then, too, it was
told that the kalif had especial love for Count Roger, because in
crushing the Sicilian emirs he had only chastised rebels, who had a
little earlier cast off their fealty to the Cairo Emperor.

And Count Roger, bound to do his guests full honor, sent out his
heralds over the length and breadth of Sicily, proclaiming a grand
tournament. Forth went the messengers "crying the tourney," till their
mules were dust-covered and their voices cracked. To the remotest
Norman castle and Saracen village in the mountains they went, and man
and maid made ready their best, and counted the days; for the Count
had ordered there should be games and combats for Christian and Moslem
alike.

The days sped slowly for Mary Kurkuas. De Valmont and Longsword were
bound by pledge to Count Roger not to wait on her till after the
tourney. Bitterly Mary reproached herself for her folly. Did not all
Palermo know how she had given her glove to De Valmont? And Richard?
Why had she held that cup to his lips that night at Cefalu? Mere
gratitude? Was not that repaying her preserver with more than
friendship? And was she not willing to pay? Such her questions--never
answered. Poor little Countess Blanche, Count Roger's daughter, soon
to be exiled as given in marriage to the king of Hungary, would have
laughed with glee to have two such gallant cavaliers joust with her
name on their lips. But Mary's heart told her that it was very wrong.
Her father's health failed fast; she was filled with foreboding. Musa
and Iftikhar were the only visitors at Monreale now. Musa was ever the
same,--gentle, sweet-voiced, courtly, never unduly familiar. Iftikhar
at times swelled with a passion that nearly betrayed him; but Mary was
too accustomed to ardent lovers to take alarm. Yet at times, to her
dismay, she saw he really held that their religion was no barrier
between them, and that he would gladly have stood on equality with
Richard and De Valmont. One day it befell that the fire in the emir
nearly flashed out. He had paid a more than commonly florid
compliment, and Mary twitted him.

"But you Moslems in truth cannot care much for women, for all your
verses and praise; we are not even granted immortal souls by your
law!"

"Oh, believe it not," cried the emir, hotly; "for in Paradise the true
believer will rejoice in the company of all the wives of his mortal
state!"

"Yes," interposed Musa, with a soft laugh. "He will if he desire them,
otherwise not; and there are many husbands and many wives!"

The princess saw the frown that swept over the brow of the emir at
this interference.

"Come, my lord," commanded she, pointing to the lute, "you shall sing
to me! Sing of love, and mirth, and laughter, for I am in a doleful
mood to-day."

But Iftikhar only frowned the more.

"O Brightness of the Heart!" he replied gloomily, "I too am not merry.
Were I to sing, it would be Kalif Rahdi's poem, of which the burden
runs, 'Man is but the child of woe!' You would not care for such
melancholy?"

"Assuredly not," laughed the lady. "Then you shall play the minstrel,
Sir Musa. First you shall tell us of those wonderful poets' gardens in
your Spain; then you shall sing one of the songs that win the sighs
and blushes in the harems of Seville or Granada." And she held out the
lute.

Musa obeyed, tightened the strings, tinkled a few notes, and said in
his musical, liquid Arabic:--

"Know, O lady, that we Spaniards are not like the Moslems of the East;
we do not hide our wives and daughters in prison houses. To us
marriage is born of true love, and he who would win love must be a
poet; therefore all Andalusians are poets. Would you hear of the
wooing of my mother? She was the daughter of the emir of Malaga, and
on the day my father came to her father's court, he saw her in the
gardens, dancing with her women; and his heart was as fire. Sleep left
him. Three days he spent in sighs and sorrow, and on the fourth he
stole under the garden wall and sang his passion: how she was lovelier
than the Ez-Zahra, 'City of the Fairest'; her voice was sweeter than
the murmur of the Guadalquiver glancing in the sun; her eyes more
beautiful than the stars when they twinkle in the lake, and a smile
from her lips surpassed all wine. Then, on the next night as he sang,
she answered him in like manner in verse; how her love was strong as
the Berber lion; his white teeth more precious than pearls; his head
more beautiful than garlands of roses; and his words cut her heart
more keenly than cimeters of Murcia. So my father rejoiced, for he
knew he had won; and went boldly to the emir and demanded his daughter
in marriage."

"And what are the songs which your poets sing by the Guadalquiver and
the Darro?" asked the princess.

"Ah, lady," answered Musa, dreamily, "no true poet can sing his
love-song twice. See; I will wish myself back at Cordova, in the
orange groves I love so well, and will sing as move the genii of
song." And the Spaniard ran his hands over the echoing strings, and
sang in low, weird melody:--

    "Sweet as the wind when it kisses the rose
                Is thy breath!
    Blest, if thy lips had but once on me smiled,
                Would be death!
    Give me the throat of the bulbul to sing
                Forth thy praise:
    Then wouldst thou drink the clear notes as they spring
                All thy days!
    Nard of far Oman's too mean for thy sweetness,
    Eagle wings lag at thy glancing eyes' fleetness;
    By thy pure beauty, bright gems lack completeness;
                Lady, ah, fairest!

    Were I a genie, with rapture I'd seize thee;
                I'd haste away
    To magic-wrought cavern, all jewelled and golden;
                There I'd stay
    While the long glad years with printless feet wheeling
                Leave no trace,
    Save only new beauty and soft love revealing
                In thy face.
    The speeding of ages would breed us no sorrow;
    I'd shrink from no past, and dread naught of the morrow;
    The laugh in thine eyes, that alone I would borrow,
                Lady, ah, rarest!"

"_Ai_, Sir Musa," cried Mary, when the strings were still, "were you
Louis de Valmont or even my Lord Iftikhar, I should say in my heart,
'How much you are my slave!' But to a Spaniard like yourself the
making of such a song--it means nothing?"

"Nothing," answered the Andalusian, his dreamy eye wandering over the
marble tracery on the wall above.

The emir broke forth hotly:--

"_Wallah_, you Spaniard, what mean then your pretty songs, your
chatter of praise and compliment, if they are words, words, and
nothing more? In the East, whence I come, we thrill, we feel, we make
no shame to flame with a mighty passion. Aye, and make our deeds match
our fine words."

Musa laid down the lute, and stared at the emir unconcernedly.

"My good lord," answered he, "do you not know that when I sing love, I
sing not the love of any one lady? And think not I despise our
princess--she is peerless among women. Rather I praise that divine
essence which reveals itself in every bright eye and velvet cheek from
east to west,--this pure beauty sent down from Paradise by the favor
of Allah, I adore; and whenever I behold it, its praise I must sing."

"You are trained in the heathen philosophy of your schools of
Cordova," retorted the emir; "I cannot follow your thought. To me it
is better to have the taste of one cup of wine than be told of the
sweetness of ten thousand. Enough; the Count requires me." And he
arose to bow himself out.

Musa had arisen also, and courteously thrust his right hand in his
breast, where he murmured the farewell, "Peace be on you."

Iftikhar's answer hung for a moment on his lips, then he gave the
customary reply among Moslem friends, "And on you be peace, and the
mercy of Allah and His blessings!"

Mary sighed when the emir was gone.

"You are not gay, dear lady," said the Spaniard; "if I can do aught to
aid, command me."

Half petulantly the princess caught a sugared cake from the tray by
the divan and threw it into the fountain, where the greedy fish in the
basin waited.

"I should be very happy, should I not?" exclaimed she, with a laugh
not very merry. "See, since I have come to Palermo, here are Richard
Longsword and De Valmont with blades drawn on my account; the emir
sighs like the west wind, and is all gloom and restlessness; and you,
Sir Musa," she went on boldly, "were you to speak out your own heart,
are wishing them all three dead, that you might have no rival. Holy
Mother," added she, with half a sob, half a laugh, "I am too much
loved! What am I, silly girl, that so many brave cavaliers should pawn
their souls for my poor sake!"

"Sweet mistress," replied the Spaniard, very slowly, flinging a second
cake into the fountain, "you are wrong. Your friend, your admirer, I
will ever be. Were we both Christian or Moslem, had I no memories of
moon-lit nights and sun-lit orchards in Spain--but enough of that!
Know that I am the sworn brother of Richard Longsword; that he loves
you purely and honorably; that after the manner of his people he will
become a great man, whom any lady, be she however high, might love to
call her lord. And that you may smile on him, is my first and only
prayer."

Mary's whole face crimsoned at this, for Musa was not now playing the
poet. There was a ring of command in her voice when she made answer:--

"Sir Musa, I cannot have another say for them what Richard and Louis
de Valmont may not say to my face. Let us await the tourney. Who knows
lest your friend will woo no more after that day? I hear--God spare
them both--that Louis is a terrible knight; he will ride against
Longsword as though all the fiends were in him."

"They are in the hands of the Most High," said the Andalusian, still
very gently; "yet, believe me, the Provençal may have ridden down many
stout knights, and yet not the peer of Longsword. But--" and he in
turn salaamed, "I have also to hasten. And perhaps even my presence is
burdensome."

"No," cried the Greek, extending her hands, "come, come often; I have
too many lovers, too few friends. My father sinks day by day; Christ
pity me! I am alone in a strange land; I have borne myself foolishly.
The beauty you sing of is half a curse. If truly you would be my
friend, and nothing more, do not desert me. I am very wretched."

There were tears in her eyes; her voice choked a little, but she stood
proud and steady, the great princess still.

Very low was the reverence paid by the Spaniard. He kissed the bright
rug at her feet; then rising, answered:--

"Star of the Greeks, not you, but Allah who has put enchantment in
your eyes, has bred this trouble, if trouble it be. But as for me, I
swear it, by Allah the Great, you shall never call on me in vain!"

"You are a noble cavalier, Sir Musa," said the lady, now all dignity;
"I thank you."

So the days went by, and it was the evening before the tourney. All
around Palermo spread the tents, bright pavilions of silk with broad
pennons above, whipping the slow south wind. The gardens of the Golden
Shell buzzed with the clatter and hum of a thousand busy squires. In
the city, every house--Christian, Moslem, or Jewish--was thrown open
to guests. There were flags at every door and window; and within
pealed the laughter of feasters, the note of viol and psaltery and
tabor at the dance. All the house walls without and within were decked
in tapestries, cloth of gold, and priceless _pail_e and _cendal_ silk,
some from the looms of Thebes or Corinth, some from the farthest Ind.
Mixed with these Orient stuffs, the storied Poitou tapestry shook to
the breeze in long folds, displaying kings and emperors and the legion
of the saints. Much wagering there was with knight and villain on the
issues of the day. Many cavaliers of the baser sort had entered,
merely in hopes to fill their purses by the ransom of defeated
combatants; most of all, men chaffered over the coming duel between
Richard and Louis. "Longsword would never stand one round," ran the
vulgar tongue; "De Valmont had no peer unless it were Iftikhar. The
saints have mercy on the younger knight in Purgatory!"

As for Mary, she had spent the afternoon in no common vexation. Her
father was worse, and could not go to the tourney. Countess Adelaide
had bidden the princess sit with her, but Mary had little joy in the
prospect.

That evening as she sat with a taper at her reading-desk, the purple
vellum leaves of George of Pisidia's learned epic brought little
forgetfulness. While she was staring at the words, Bardas, the
serving-man, startled her: "The emir Iftikhar to see the gracious
princess." And without awaiting permission the Egyptian entered. He
was in his splendid panoply,--gold on the rings of his cuirass, two
broad eagle wings on his helmet, between them burned a great ruby.
Under the mail-shirt hung the green silk trousers with their pearl
embroidery, gems again on the buckles of the high shoes, more gems on
the gilded sword hilt.

"You are come in state, my lord," said the Greek, while he made
profound obeisance. "What may I do for you?"

"O lady of excellent beauty," he began abruptly, "will you indeed give
your hand to him who conquers to-morrow?"

The wandering eye, the flushed cheek, the mad fire of his words--all
these were a warning. Mary drew herself up.

"You ask what you have no right, my lord," answered she; "I am in no
way pledged."

Unlucky admission: in a twinkling the emir had moved a step toward her
and stretched out his arms.

"Oh, happy mortal that I am! O lady with the wisdom of Sukman, nephew
of Job, the beauty of Jacob, the sweet voice of David, the purity of
Mary the Virgin! Listen! Favor me!"

"Sir!" cried the Greek, recoiling as he advanced, "what is this
speech? No more of it. I am Christian, you a Moslem. Friends we have
been, perhaps to our cost. More than that, never; we part, if you
think to make otherwise!"

Iftikhar fell on his knees. All the flame of a terrible passion was
kindling his eyes. Even as she trembled, Mary could admire his
Oriental splendor. But she did not forget herself.

"I must bid you leave me!" with a commanding gesture. "If our
friendship leads to this--it is well to make an end!"

"Not so," burst from the Egyptian, still supplicating; "none worship
you as do I! To me you are fair as the moon in its fourteenth night,
when the clouds withdraw. For your sake I will turn Christian. To win
you--" But Mary was in no gracious mood that night.

"Madman," she tossed back, all her anger rising at his importunity,
"do you think you will buy me with such a bribe? Forswear Mohammed for
your soul's sake, not for mine! I do not love you. Were I to look on
any Moslem, why not Musa? he is a noble cavalier."

Iftikhar was not kneeling now. His eyes still flashed. His voice was
husky; but he mastered it.

"Lady," he said a little thickly, "think well before you say me nay.
Listen--I am a man of great power among both Franks and Moslem. Were I
to go to Syria, even higher things await me,--commands, cities,
principalities," his voice rose higher, "kingdoms even; for you should
know that I am a chieftain of the Ismaelians, one of the highest
_dais_ of that dread brotherhood, whose daggers strike down the
mightiest, and at whose warning kalifs tremble--"

Mary cut him short; her poise grew more haughty. "I do not love you.
Were you kalif or emperor, I would not favor you. Depart."

"Hearken!" cried the Egyptian, with a last effort; "my breast bursts
for the love of you; the light of your eyes is my sun; a kiss from
you--my arms about you--"

But here the Greek, whose face had crimsoned, snatched a tiny baton
beside a bronze gong.

"Away from me!" she commanded fiercely, as he took an uneasy step
toward her. "Away! or I sound the gong and call the grooms."

"Woman!" came from his lips hotly, "what is such a threat to me? I
would have you with your love if I might. But, by the Glory of Allah,
you I will have, though your every breath were a curse. Your grooms!"
with a proud toss of his splendid head; "were they ten, what have I to
fear? I, the best sword in all Sicily, in all Syria, Egypt, and Iran,
perchance." And he came a step still nearer; and now at last Mary
began to dread, but still she did not quail.

"I doubt not your valor, my lord," she said very coldly. "But my heart
and hand are not to be won with a cimeter, as was won that castle
breach which Musa and Richard Longsword, not you, entered first."

Scarce were the words out of her mouth before terror seized her. For
in a twinkling Iftikhar had snatched the gong from her reach, and
caught her wrist in a grasp of iron. She could feel the hot breath
from his nostrils in her face, see the mad blood swelling the veins of
his forehead. In her panic she screamed once, and instantly Iftikhar
was pressing her very throat. In his mighty hands she was dumb and
helpless as a child.

"Hear me," came from his lips in a hoarse whisper. "I have not come
hither alone. I had come to bear away the pledge of your love. You
spurn me. All is provided. My slave Zeyneb is without, and with him
fifteen men, all armed, hidden in the gardens. What resistance could
your servants make, were you to cry ever so loudly? My men are
devotees of our order--would kill themselves at my bidding. A ship
lies in the harbor at my command. It is night. You are helpless. I
will carry you aboard. Before morning we are beyond sight of Sicily,
beyond pursuit. And you are mine, be it in love or hate,
forever--forever!"

Iftikhar pressed his face nearer. Mary thrilled with horror beyond
words. She had one thought,--her father, her father.

"To Egypt," Iftikhar was repeating, "to Syria. There is a palace of
mine at Aleppo, beside which this is a cottage. And it shall be yours
and you mine. _Allah akhbah!_ How beautiful you are; your lips, a
kiss--"

But even as Mary's senses reeled, she heard a step, a familiar step,
and Iftikhar had let her drop from his hands as though her form were
flame. She caught at a column, steadied herself, and looked upon the
face of Musa.

The Spaniard was standing in the dim light of the hall, dressed in
sombre black armor; but the red plumes danced on his helmet. His
shield was on his arm, naked cimeter outstretched.

"The peace of Allah be with you, fair lady, and noble lord," said
Musa, bowing in most stately fashion, first to the shivering Greek,
then to Iftikhar. The Egyptian already had his weapon drawn, but the
Andalusian did not fall on guard.

"Most excellent emir," continued he, very gently, "Count Roger bids me
say, if you will go at once to the castle, it will please him well.
And your men in the gardens shall be no care to you. I have ridden
from Palermo with forty lancers, who will give them all good company
on return."

Night was never blacker than the frown of the Egyptian, when he
replied huskily: "And, Sir Spaniard, why does Count Roger favor _you_
with bearing me his orders? And why come you here unbidden, with
cimeter and target?"

"Because," answered Musa, his brow too darkening, "I know too well why
the Commander of the Guard is here." Then, more sternly, "And that I
have come barely in time--praise be to Allah--to save him from a deed
at which the very jinns of hell would cry out!"

He took a step closer to Iftikhar, and the two blades went up
together. But Mary sprang forward, with the cry:--

"Not as you live! You shall not. Would you kill my father by fighting
here, and for me?"

Musa let his point fall, and bowed with courtly ease.

"You say well, Star of the Greeks. The emir will speak with me
elsewhere."

Iftikhar made no attempt to conceal his rage.

"Cursed be you and all your race! What enchanter has told you
this--has humiliated me thus?"

"You ask what I may not tell," and Musa smiled in his gentle way.
"Enough, I was told all that was in your heart, about an hour
since,--the ship, the men, the design. Count Roger also knows; and, my
lord, he has been none too well pleased with your faithfulness of
late. I have come with forty given me by the Count. They do not know
their errand; they are to move at my nod. Ride back with me to
Palermo, my lord, and pledge me your word, by Allah the Great, said
thrice, that you will not molest Mary Kurkuas so long as you remain in
Sicily, or--"

"And if I will not--" broke from the raging emir.

"Then, my lord, I shall carry you to the castle in fetters. My men are
also without--" Iftikhar had half started upon the Spaniard, swinging
his cimeter. "Never!" came between his teeth. Musa beckoned away Mary
with his own weapon. "To your father!" he commanded. But the Egyptian
let his point sink. "Allah make you feel the fire of Gehennah!" was
his curse. "I am trapped, I will swear."

"Then, my lord, saving Count Roger, and the lady, and myself, none
shall ever know of this," said Musa softly, and he pointed with his
cimeter to the doorway. Iftikhar repeated the great oath--the most
terrible among Moslems--thrice; bowed to the Spaniard; made a profound
salaam to Mary; the samite curtains in the passage closed behind him;
his footfalls died away; he was gone. Musa bowed in turn:--

"Allah is merciful, dear lady. Do I prove a faithful cavalier?"

"Ah, Sir Musa!" cried Mary, still faint and weak, "God requite you. I
offer you all I have, except love--and could I give that, it were mean
repayment."

Musa's plumes almost brushed the pavement as he again saluted.

"I may not tell how I learned of this plot. I was warned secretly by a
strange Arabian woman, who required of me solemn oath not to reveal
her. To her, owe the thanks! But my mistress's words are more precious
than as if each syllable were treasures of gold; the praise, flashed
from her eyes, beyond gems; her voice sweeter than all the
nightingales of Khorassan. I am well repaid."

He, too, departed. Mary stood long clinging to the pillar, now
shivering, now laughing. What had she not escaped? When might she
forget the unholy desire on the emir's face when he departed? Had he
indeed forsaken his passion for her forever?

"St. Theodore," she cried with a sad, wild laugh, "I am cursed with
too much love!"

Then she went to her father.



CHAPTER IX

HOW TRENCHEFER DROVE HOME


November sixth; feast of St. Leonard, the warrior hermit; third hour
of the morning. In the monastery church the monks were chanting
"terce" to an empty nave. When the muezzins climbed their minarets to
bid all Moslems "come to prayer," few heard. Mary Kurkuas sat in the
pavilion of Countess Adelaide, viewing the lists and wondering if even
the vision of the Golden Horn and Constantinople might be more fair.
The lists were set in the broad plain betwixt the city and Monte
Pellegrino, the loftier western height of Castellaccio and Monte
Cuccio. All about lay the matchless country--Palermo, its masses of
white buildings crowned with gilded minarets; the blooming "Golden
Shell" a sea of olive trees, palm, fig, orange, running down to that
other sea of emerald; and in the background rocks of saffron topped by
the broken peaks beyond.

Against the stout wooden barriers with pointed palings, pressed and
jostled a vast swarm of city folk,--Greek, Frank, Arab, Jew,--their
busy tongues making babel. Within the barriers, but behind the low
inner fence, loitered the impatient squires, splendid in bright
mantles and silvered casques, ready, the instant conflict joined, to
rush to the _mêlée_, and drag dismounted combatants from under the
horses. But for the ladies--"the stars of the tourney"--were set shady
pavilions,--wooden lodges, brightly painted, flag-covered. Now their
rising tiers of seats were filled by a buzzing throng, rustling their
silken mantles and satin bleaunts. And the sun was glancing on many a
gemmed fillet and many a ribbon-decked, blond tress that fell nigh to
its proud owner's knees. These on the western side. On the eastern
fluttered gauzy veils, feathery fans, blazing brocade of Mosul, and
kerchiefs of Kufa. Dark eyes flashed from beneath the veiling. But
Moslem watched Christian in peace. A clang of trumpets was drifting
down the wind--the tourneyers were coming from Palermo.

Fifty viols braying in the hands of marching Frankish _jongleurs_;
fifty Egyptian timbrels clattering; kettledrums, northern horns;
heralds in blue mantles, Christian and Moslem side by side--the
combatants two abreast--Norman, Provençal, Sicilian, Arab, Egyptians
of the embassy,--a goodly company; gold on every Toledo hauberk,
silver on each bit and bridle; a trailing pennon on every lance, save
when a prouder banner streamed--the silken stocking of some fair dame,
gift of love to her chosen cavalier. So the procession entered. Behind
them trailed a new horde of common folk who had come from watching two
blindfolded varlets chase a pig in a ring; these, too, now pressed
against the palings, peering and edging for a glimpse within. Then,
while the actual combatants rode to the tents at either end of the
lists, two cavaliers--Count Roger de Hauteville and Prince Tancred,
his nephew--came to take seats in the Countess's lodge; for they were
judges of the games.

A lordly cavalier was the Sicilian count despite threescore years and
more; fire still in his blue eyes, command and power in his voice;
worthy suzerain of so fair an isle. At his side stood his
nephew,--stranger as yet to Mary Kurkuas; but at once she noted his
flaxen hair and crafty "sea-green" eye, and stature above that of
common men. She was told he had fame as the most headlong cavalier in
all south Italy; but she little dreamed what deeds God destined him to
dare. Very ceremonious was the Prince, when he saluted the Greek lady.
He spoke her own tongue fluently, and never in Constantinople had she
met a gentleman more at his ease in courtly company. Their talk ran
soon to the tourney and the combatants.

"I wish you joy, fair princess," protested Tancred; "not often may any
lady see two stouter champions ride with her name on the lips of
both!"

Mary shook her head.

"Would God they might do anything else! They tell me Sir Louis has
sworn to have Sir Richard's life; and the Auvergner is a terrible
cavalier."

Tancred shot a glance keen as an arrow. Did he know that Mary's heart
would ride with one of the train and not with the other?

"Spare him your tears," was the answer. "Louis de Valmont is a famous
knight; but I do not think he will down Richard Longsword in one
joust,--or in seven."

"St. Basil spare both--and forgive both!" was the unuttered reply. But
she asked, "Yet I saw neither among the combatants?"

"True; both protested they could not meet in the regular tourney and
take the required oath to fight solely to gain skill. Fight on the
same side they will not; therefore they will come forward when the
general games end." Tancred was cut short by a word from the Count.

"See, my princess--a cavalier asks your favor."

None other than Musa had reined before the pavilion on a prancing
white Berber. His plain black mail fitted his fine form like a
doublet. His mettled horse caracoled under his touch with a grace that
made a long "Ah!" come from betwixt more than one pair of red lips.
His glance sought the Greek.

Mary rose deliberately; long since had she learned not to dread the
public eye.

"See, Sir Musa," cried she, loosing the red ribbon from her neck.
"Wear this in the games and do me honor!" More than two heads had come
together.

"Has De Valmont a new rival?" ran the whisper. But Mary knew her
ground.

"Your reward for service untold," she tossed forth; and only the Count
and two more knew what her words implied. Musa caught the ribbon with
a flourish of his lance; pressed it to his lips, then wound it deftly
around the green, peaked cap which he wore Andalusian fashion in lieu
of turban.

"You honor a gallant cavalier," said the Count, applauding. "I offered
him much to join my service; but he listens to the proffers of the
Egyptian envoys."

"Look!" came Tancred's voice; and Mary saw Iftikhar Eddauleh, on a
dappled Arabian and in his panoply of the night before, come plunging
down the lists. Abreast of Musa he drew rein in a twinkling, and the
two riders came together so close that no other might hear the words
which flew between them. But ten thousand saw Musa's hand clap to
hilt, and Iftikhar's lance half fall to rest.

"Holy Mother--keep them asunder!" was Mary's whispered prayer.

Count Roger had risen.

"Sirs--what is this? Brew quarrels under your lady's very eyes? Go
apart, or I forbid you to ride in the games." Iftikhar bowed his
head,--in no very good grace, it seemed,--and cantered sulkily to the
upper end of the lists.

"I fear Iftikhar Eddauleh and I must soon seek other masters,"
remarked the Count to Tancred, in Mary's hearing. "Rumor has it, he
has dealings with the Ismaelians. He grows haughty and insubordinate.
A good captain and a matchless cavalier; yet I shall not grieve to see
him return to the East."

But now the Christian heralds were calling on the Normans and
Provençals to range themselves in two companies and do battle, after
the rule of that knightly paragon, Geoffrey de Preully,--"for the love
of Christ, St. George, and all fair ladies." Of the passage at arms
that followed, needless here to tell. Many a stout blow was struck
despite blunted weapons; ten good knights fell senseless from their
horses; the squires took up two dead; sent for a priest to anoint a
third. Before the fray ended, little Countess Blanche and her ladies
had fluttered and shrieked till wild and hoarse. They had torn off
ribbons, necklaces, lockets, bracelets, and tossed forth madly
"gauntlets of love" to favorite cavaliers, until they sat--or stood
rather--dressed only in their robes and their long, bright hair.

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:--

"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!"

"Given, my lord."

"Good!"--then to an attendant knight, "Send the emir to the pavilion."

But the emir had withdrawn himself, and was not to be found, until
amid the clash of Eastern music the arena was cleared and the Moslem
game of the wands began. The ten riders who had contended best for the
rings were drawn up, five against five. Light round targets were
brought them, and in the place of pointed lances, long brittle reeds.
He who failed to break his reed on an opponent's target, when they
charged at gallop, fell out of the game, unless his rival fared no
better. Iftikhar Eddauleh and Musa were arrayed on the same side, with
three combatants between. The Count had seen the shadow flit across
Mary's face, and reassured: "They will not meet unless the other eight
are worsted before either of them--and that can scarcely be; for all
are great cavaliers."

Then the kettledrums boomed, while the ten dashed together. A fair
sight, without the bloodshed of the Christians' tourney. As each rider
swept forward after breaking his reed, he dashed on past attendants
standing with a sheaf of unbroken lances, dropped his shivered butt,
snatched another, and spurred back to the contest. The horses caught
their masters' spirit, and threw up their heels merrily as they flew
on charge after charge. Well matched were all; only on the seventh
round did an agile Sicilian, by a quick crouch in the saddle, elude an
Egyptian's reed while fairly breaking his own. The dust rose high. The
horses panted. One by one the combatants dropped out. At last, after
the multitude had howled and cheered till weary, the dust cloud
settled, and revealed that of one party of five not one remained
contesting; of the other, side by side sat Musa and Iftikhar Eddauleh.

The great Count shook his head, and Mary had little joy. They at least
knew what fires would spur on the emir, when he rode; but to deny the
crowd their sport would have meant riot,--nay, bloodshed,--what with
their thousands standing on the benches, pressing the palings, shaking
earth and air with tumult. The two contestants mounted new horses and
sat face to face; behind each stood an attendant with the sheaf of
reed lances. Count Roger swept his eye over the lists.

"Ha! who is that dwarfish fellow behind the emir?" demanded he; and a
knight beside answered:--

"Zeyneb, Iftikhar's body-servant and shadow."

Roger did not need to see the cloud that spread on Mary's face.
"Holla!" cried the Count, "_he_ is not admitted to the lists! A
venomous cat, I hear." A new roar from the benches drowned his voice.
The two had charged amid deafening din. Three times past, and the
reeds fairly broken; four times,--never drawing rein,--the emir broke
only by a great shift; five times, both shivered fairly; sixth time,
the Egyptian shattered only his tip, which still dangled from the
butt.

"The Spaniard wins!" cried a thousand throats. But the emir had
spurred by, dashed up to his attendant, snatched lance, wheeled
instantly, and thundered back, Musa flying to meet him.

"Ho!" trumpeted the Count, leaping up, "Iftikhar's lance! See!" In a
twinkling the lists rang as never before. The Spaniard reeled in his
saddle; his target flew in twain; he clapped his right hand to his
shoulder and drew it away--blood!

Prince Tancred had bounded into the arena.

"Felony!" his shout; "the emir had a pointed weapon. Sir Musa is run
through. Physicians--aid!"

A dozen squires and grooms buzzed around the Spaniard, making to lift
him from his horse. He sat erect--dispersed them with an angry
gesture.

"Nothing--_Bismillah!_ The lance turned as it split the target. My
side was grazed, and a little blood drawn--it is nothing!"

"Lead Iftikhar Eddauleh this way," raged Tancred, his green eyes fired
with his wrath. The emir had deliberately ridden back unbidden. From
the benches came countless curses and jeers--Frankish and Arabic; he
heeded none.

"What is this doing of yours?" demanded Tancred, very grave. "You rode
with a pointed lance--no reed."

The Egyptian drew himself up very proudly.

"By the soul of my father!" swore he, outstretching his hand to Musa,
"all men saw we were riding madly, and paying little heed to what was
thrust in our hands. Just as we struck, I saw the steel--too late. A
pointed lance must have been hidden in the reeds. Allah be praised,
you are not slain!"

"This is not easy to believe," began Tancred. Musa cut him short:--

"I accept his oath--I am not disabled. Ride again!"

He cantered to his stand at the head of the lists. Tancred returned to
the Count.

"Where is Zeyneb, the emir's dwarf?" demanded Roger.

"By Our Lady," cried the Prince, with a glance--"gone!"

"After him!" thundered Roger. "His was felony or foolishness, best
paid by hanging. Lay him by the heels!"

Men-at-arms rushed away; but in neither the multitude nor the city
found they Zeyneb.

The two rode once more--met; broke fairly. Men heard their voices for
an instant raised high--curse and defiance, doubtless. Who might say?
A second time--all eyes following. Mary saw the Spaniard swing nimbly
in his saddle. The emir's lance overshot harmlessly; his own snapped
fairly on the target. Another mighty shout--Musa had won!

"Again I wish you glory!" said Mary, as she fixed a second diamond
aigrette on the cap of the kneeling Spaniard. "May God ever guard you
as now, and let you shed glory on your friends!" But this last was in
a tone few around might hear.

"And I protest," replied Musa, no louder, "I crave no honor greater
than that of serving you."

Mary blushed. She knew the Andalusian meant all he said; yet she was
not afraid, as she had been if Iftikhar or De Valmont had so spoken. A
page served Musa courteously, bringing him a basin of perfumed water,
towels of sweet white linen, and a goblet of cool Aquillan wine. Then
he sat with the Count and his party during the noon interval,
protesting that Iftikhar had given him but a slight bruise which
needed no stanching, though Mary feared otherwise. Very tolerantly he
listened to the tale of Gerland, militant Bishop of Girgenti, how in
his diocese he had turned his cathedral into a castle--the unbelievers
being so many. The squires brought fruit and cakes and wine. The Greek
monks--Cosman and Eugenius--whom Count Roger patronized for their
poesy, sang a new hymn in honor of the Blessed Trinity; an Arab rival
presented a tale in verse of the Count's late raid to Malta, and so
the hour passed. The multitude scattered a little, but did not
disperse. The best wine had been kept till the last. What were blunted
swords or riding with reed lances, beside a duel betwixt gallant
knights under their lady's very eye; swords whetted, and
life--perchance soul--at stake!

Mary found her heart beating fast. The moments crept slowly. People,
she knew, were staring at her,--pointing, whispering her name. Sweet
no doubt to feel that scarce a young knight but would nigh give his
right hand for a gracious speech from her, hardly a woman but would
almost pawn hope of heaven to sit in her place! But when the pure
heart of the Greek turned to her dying father and the gallant
gentlemen who were hazarding body and soul on her account,--even the
bright sun shone darkly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Richard Longsword had watched the tourney from a lodge at the northern
end of the lists beside his fidgeting father and grave-faced mother,
trying to enjoy the contests and to forget himself in the tale
Theroulde told, while they waited, of the redoubtable paynim knight
Chernubles, who could toss four mules' loads like a truss of straw.
Herbert growled advice in his ear. Sebastian said never a word, but
Richard knew he had lain all that night before the altar, outstretched
like a cross while invoking heavenly legions to speed his "spiritual
son." Only when Musa and Iftikhar contended, Longsword forgot himself;
thrilled at his friend's peril, rejoiced at his victory, and swore a
deep, if silent, oath that the emir should not go scatheless on so
poor excusings.

The interval ended at last--praised be all saints! The heedless
chatter of the ladies, the braying laughs of the men-at-arms, were a
little chilled. Slowly a great hush spread across the lists. Richard
kissed father and mother, wrung Herbert's great scarred paw, and
vanished in a tent at the northern end of the close. Here waited
Sebastian and friendly Bishop Robert of Evroult, who brought the Host
and heard Longsword's confession and shrived him. Richard vowed two
tall candlesticks of good red gold to Our Lady of the Victory, if all
went well; made testaments, if the day went ill. "_Dominus absolvat_,"
the Bishop had said ere the young man rose from his knees. But
Sebastian was murmuring in his heart, "Oh, if he were but to ride for
the love of Christ and His Holy City, and not for unchristian hate and
love of the eyes of a sinful maid!"

Then Musa came to the tent, thrusting all the Cefalu squires aside,
and himself put on the Norman's hauberk, drew the chainwork coif over
the head for shield of throat and cheeks, clapped on the silvered
helm, and made fast the leather laces, till Richard was hid save for
the flashing of his eyes.

When all was ready they led him out, and Theroulde strode before,
proud to play the knight's pursuivant. From the end of the lists the
_jongleur_ sounded his challenge:--

"Ho, Louis de Valmont! Ho, Louis de Valmont! My master awaits you!
Here stands the good knight, Sir Richard of Cefalu, armed for fair
battle, ready to make good on his body against cavalier or villain who
denies that Louis de Valmont is base-born, unknightly, unworthy to
wear his spurs of gold!"

Whereupon, from the other end of the arena, advanced a second
pursuivant, Bernier by name, a dapper Provençal in a fantastic blue
cloak, answering shrilly:--

"Ho, bold man! Who are you that mock Sir Louis de Valmont? He has no
lance save for his peers."

Then Theroulde threw back, still advancing:--

"So tell your master to be well shriven, for my Lord Richard of Cefalu
swears he will number him among the saints ere sunset!"

And Bernier paid in return:--

"Foolish crow cawing folly, you are! Not the saints, but the very
devil, shall be Richard Longsword's company this night!"

But Theroulde was undaunted, and boasted haughtily:--

"My master's sword is trenchant as Roland's 'Durindana'; his strength
that of all the paladins in one. He is terrible as King Oberon with
all his magic host!"

So they bandied their vauntings, and the crowd roared in mirth at each
sally, until two trumpets pealed forth, one from either end of the
lists, and out from the tents came the combatants in full armor, a
herald at each bridle. Louis de Valmont was a notable figure, mailed.
He bestrode a high-stepping white _destrer_, with huge crupper, hair
like silk, eyes like fire, ears carefully cropped away after the
French fashion. The high saddle glittered with gilding and chased
work; the brass knob of the kite-shaped shield on the left arm shone,
and the steel covering flashed as though of flame. Louis wore a
hauberk enamelled red, with black wire embroidered into the sleeves;
but the red crest of his tall helm was brighter than all the rest.

No less bravely panoplied in his white hauberk sat Longsword, but no
skill of his could give grace to the awkward gait and uncouth form of
Rollo. A great wave of jeering laughter swept down the benches as the
black monster passed.

"Ho, steed of Cefalu! Are you an unhorned ox?"

"Defend us, saints! This horse is sired by Satan!"

"His limbs are iron, they drag so heavily!"

These and a hundred more shouts flew out. Men did not see Richard's
muscles grow hard as steel, and his face set like rock, when he caught
their mockery; for every insult to the horse was the like to the
master. But the vows that rose then from his heart boded little good
to Louis de Valmont; for they were sparks from the anvil of a mighty
spirit. Neither did he know--as Mary Kurkuas knew--that the most
battle-scarred knights in the Count's pavilion jeered not, but
muttered darkly; and Prince Tancred whispered to Roger: "They are
wrong when they say De Valmont has the better chance. I know a horse
and a man at sight,--and here are both."

They brought the two knights to the barrier opposite the Count's
pavilion. Very lightly, though armed, the twain dismounted, and stood
side by side before their suzerain.

"Sir knights," quoth Roger, soberly, "I like this combat little. You
do ill, Sir Richard, to seek quarrel with a cavalier of long renown;
you too, Sir Louis, to press a contest that will breed small glory if
won, much sorrow if lost."

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!"

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.

A great hush again down all the lists. The pursuivants had no heart to
cry. For a fourth time Richard Longsword and Louis de Valmont sat face
to face,--and rode. The horses shot like bolts of lightning. The crash
sounded from barrier to barrier. In the whirling murk of dust one
could see naught; but out of it all sounded a shout of triumph,--Richard's
voice: "St. Michael and Mary Kurkuas!" Then while men blinked, the
dust was settled, and Louis de Valmont was rising from the sand,
smitten clean from his horse. None beheld his face; but his mad cry of
rage they heard, as his great sword flashed forth, when on foot he ran
toward his foe. But lightly as a cat, Longsword had bounded from the
saddle, faced the Auvergner, whom the tall Norman towered high above;
and for the first time the multitude saw the sun glint on the long
blade of Trenchefer. Right before Roger's pavilion, under Mary's eye,
they fought, leaping in armor as though in silken vest, making their
huge swords dance in their hands like willow wands. The blade of De
Valmont rained down blows as of hail upon the bowing sedges. Fury and
wounded pride sped might through his arm. For a twinkling Longsword
gave way before his furious onset; as quickly stood firm, paying blow
for blow. Not for life the Auvergner battled,--for dearer than
life,--his knightly name. The best lance in the South Country
dismounted, then mastered by a boy scarce knighted? A thousand deaths
better! Thrice, all his strength flew with a downright stroke,--a
smithy's sledge less crushing. But when he smote on Trenchefer the
steels rang sharp; the blow was turned. From under their helms each
beheld madness in his foeman's eyes, and flashed back equal madness.
Richard fought the more slowly, his casque dented and his shield; but
the Valencia mail was proof. After the first, he yielded not a step;
and at each blow parried, at each stout stroke paid, the saints, if
none other, heard him mutter across his teeth: "This, to win Mary
Kurkuas! This, for the love of the Greek!"

But still the Provençal pressed, and still the Norman held him. Mary
saw De Valmont's blade shun Trenchefer. His sword half turned as
Richard attempted parry,--but smote the Norman's helm-crest. Mary
almost thought she could see the fire-spark leap in bright day. But
ere she could thrill with dread, Longsword had staggered, recovered,
returned the stroke. Quick, deep as from huge bellows, heard she their
breaths. Each moment her heart cried, "All is over!" as some doughty
blow fell. But it would be parried, or turned on the good mail. On
they fought,--fought till mild women rose from the benches and shouted
as not before in that day's mad games; and old cavaliers, who set a
battle before a feast, stood also with a terrible light in their eyes,
blessing the saints for showing them such sword-play! As Mary watched,
her thoughts raced thick and fast: now she longed to laugh, now to
weep; now only to hear no more of the click and clash of those long
swords. Would it never end?

But now Prince Tancred was again with his head beside Count Roger.
"The Auvergner fails!" Men began to cry out that De Valmont no longer
gave back the Norman's blows; only parried. And, of a sudden, Mary saw
the iron tower of Richard Longsword, that had stood firm so long, leap
as with new life. Twice Trenchefer sprang high, and crashed upon De
Valmont. Twice the Auvergner tottered. Thrice--De Valmont's guard
shivered as a rush--through shield, hauberk, gorget cleft the Vikings'
blade. The shield flew in twain. The Provençal fell with a clash of
mail, and, as he reeled, Mary could see the spout of blood where the
sword had bitten the shoulder.

The Count was standing. He beckoned to Longsword--tried to speak. One
mighty shout from Frank and Moslem drowned all else.

"Richard Longsword! Richard of Cefalu!"

All the lists were calling it. The bright mantles and gauzy veils were
all a-flutter. Richard stood over his adversary, Trenchefer swinging
in his hand. Again the Count beckoned--still uproar. Roger flung his
white judge's wand into the arena.

"_Ho! Ho!_" thundered he,--and there was hush at last.

"Sir Richard Longsword," spoke the Count, "you have won after such
sword-play as I have never seen before. De Valmont's life is yours, if
still he lives. Yet if you will, kill not--though he promised you
small mercy. For he is a gallant Cavalier, and proved to-day a mighty
knight, though no victor."

"And I," returned Longsword, under his helm, "give him his life. Let
him live--live to remember how Richard of Cefalu humbled him before
the eyes of Mary Kurkuas!"

So he turned to walk to the end of the lists, but others swarmed about
him; Musa foremost, who unlaced his casque in a trice, and kissed him
heartily on one cheek, while Herbert croaked and shed great bull tears
on the other. Prince Tancred ran down to him, and many nobles more,
while Baron William and his dame sat very stately in their lodge,
their hearts full, but saying nothing--a thousand eyes upon them.
Count Roger had turned to Mary:--

"My princess, I too must speak with this new paladin; and you need
have no shame to go with me."

The Greek's forehead was very red; but while her words were hanging on
her tongue, a serving-lad from Monreale touched her mantle:--

"Gracious mistress--my lord, the Cæsar Manuel, is newly stricken, and
lies very low. He sends for you."

Mary bowed to the Count:--

"My lord, you see it is impossible for me to go to Sir Richard. Yet
tell him I have prayed long he might have no hurt. And now I must go
to my father."

So Roger went down alone, and led the great throng that swept around
the victor as amid the din of harps, viols, and kettledrums uncounted
they bore him to his tent. Few saw the squires that carried Louis de
Valmont away. He still breathed. A Saracen physician said he was
fearfully smitten, but that life was strong within him, and he would
live. But who then cared for the fate of the vanquished?

They bore Richard back to Palermo in high procession. All the knights
swore that he had outdone all the cavaliers of the tourney, and must
receive the chief prize. A great banquet and dance was held at the
castle; the halls rang with music and the clink of wine-cups; the
floors shook beneath a thousand twinkling feet. The young knights to
prove their hardihood danced in the armor worn all day,--chain mail
jingling in time to the castanets. The _jongleurs_ sang new
_chansons_; the ladies blazed in brighter silks and velvet; a myriad
flambeaux flickered over all. Only Mary Kurkuas was not there, nor was
Emir Iftikhar, delight of the ladies. To Richard and to Musa there
were homage and flattery enough to addle wiser wits than theirs.
Richard danced till the morn was paling, despite two great welts on
his forehead. Two young ladies--"flowers of beauty," the _jongleurs_
cried--brought to him the prize of honor, a shield set with jewels and
blazoned with four stripes of gold. Each added to her pleasant words a
kiss. In truth, not a cavalier's daughter there that night would have
said nay to Richard Longsword, had he prayed for anything. When at
full dawn he fell asleep, it was to dream of gallant sword-play,
throbbing music, and bright eyes, but the eyes were always those of
Mary Kurkuas.



CHAPTER X

HOW IFTIKHAR SAID FAREWELL TO SICILY


Richard Longsword spent the winter in Palermo. There had come a letter
oversea from his grandfather, old Baron Gaston of St. Julien in
Auvergne, beseeching his daughter to send to France her son, who, fame
had it, was a mighty cavalier. He was needed to set right his barony,
for he himself grew weak and his vassals quarrelsome. But though
Richard's eyes danced when he thought of France, and he won from Musa
a pledge to postpone any Egyptian service till the new adventure was
well over, he lingered in Sicily. For the life of Cæsar Manuel that
winter ebbed fast. In early spring came a stately dromon streaming
with purple flags, to bear him back to Constantinople, and a great
letter in vermilion ink sealed with gold, pledging the favor of
Alexius to his "dear cousin," and entreating his return to the palace
by the Golden Gate. But on the day the imperial messenger landed, they
were bearing Manuel Kurkuas to his last rest. The Greek Bishop of
Palermo was there, also Count Roger, Tancred, and many seigneurs. Then
when it was over, and Mary had seen all and done all, with the white
face and dry eyes of those true women who can weep for little things
but not for great, she found herself alone in the world and utterly
desolate. The house of Kurkuas had been a decaying stock. Even at
Constantinople her relatives were distant. Only in Provence, at La
Haye, dwelt her uncle, whom she had never seen,--brother of her
long-dead mother. Either she must go to him or return to
Constantinople, where were many ministers and admirers, but only the
Princess Anna to be her true friend. Yet Mary would not leave
Monreale. The Palace of the Diadem was hers. All day long she would
sit in its twilight courts beside the fountain, reading or trying to
read, with only Sylvana for companion. When Richard or Musa went each
day to ask for her, she would send kind greetings; but said she could
not see them. Sylvana, however, was a wise woman as became her years;
and one day, behold! Musa was led into the court of the fountain
unheralded, and the princess must needs speak with him.

"Ah! Sir Spaniard," said she, with a wan smile, "for my father's
memory I would have bidden you stay away. I am in no mood for your
songs of the orange groves by the Darro. Yet"--and here flashed forth
her old arch brightness--"now that Sylvana has circumvented me, I am
very glad you are here!"

Musa smiled sweetly and gravely.

"Dear lady, would that all your sorrows were but monsters, that I
might slay them. What may I proffer you,--music? But your heart is too
heavy. Words? The lips are but unskilful revealers of the soul. And
mine,"--he added with a sincere glance, "is very full for you."

"Do as you will!" cried the lady, suddenly; "say as you will. Look! My
father is dead; at Constantinople I have few that love me. What
matters it what befall me? I am alone--alone; and to whom am I a
care?"

"Brightness of the Greeks," replied the Andalusian, "say not, you are
alone; say not, you are a care to none. To me you are a friend,
and"--he went on quite steadily--"much more than a friend to another."

And Mary looked at him very steadily also, when she replied: "It is
true. When Richard Longsword comes to me, I will have something to
say."

       *       *       *       *       *

Musa rode from Monreale at a racing gallop that afternoon. All the
staid Moslem burghers stared at him as he pounded up the city streets;
and just as the sun was sinking Richard Longsword was leaping from the
steaming Rollo without the gate at the Palace of the Diadem. When
Bardas led him within, he heard the princess's little wind-organ
throbbing and quavering. He stood in the court, and saw her bending
over the keys, while all the silver pipes were ringing. The notes,
marked red and green on the parchment, were spread before her. Sylvana
had her hand on the bellows, as her mistress sang the mad old pagan
chorus of Euripides:--

  "O Eros, O Eros, how melts love's yearning
    From thine eyes when the sweet spell witcheth the heart
    Of them against whom thou hast marched in thy might!
    Not me, not me, for mine hurt do thou smite,
  My life's heart-music to discord turning.
    For never so hotly the flame-spears dart,
    Nor so fleet are the star-shot arrows of light,
    As the shaft from thy fingers that speedeth its flight,
  As the flame of the Love-queen's bolts fierce burning,
    O Eros, the child of Zeus who art!"

Richard stepped softly across the rugs. The bell-like voice died away,
the organ notes wandered, were still. Mary rose from the music.
Flushed indeed was her face, but her voice was steady.

"I have sent for you, Sir Richard!" she said. "I am glad you have
come."

But Richard, foolish fellow, had run to her, and crushed her to his
breast in his giant arms, and was trying to say something with his
lips very near to hers. And Mary felt his touch and kiss as blest as a
heaven-sent fire.

"O sweetest of the sweet!" he was crying, "what have I done that I
should have such joy? For one such touch from you, I would have beaten
down a thousand De Valmonts."

"And do you think, Richard," said she, piteously, "that all I love in
you is this?"--and she pressed her hand around the knotted muscles of
his arm. Then she began to weep and laugh at once, and they both wept
and laughed, like the children that they were; and Sylvana smiled
softly to her sly old self, and bore away the organ.

"And what was in your heart, Mary," cried the Norman, when he found a
steady tongue, "that night when you held the goblet to my lips at
Cefalu?"

"And what was in yours when you drank? Oh, I was all madness that
night. I said to myself, 'Here is the kind of man I would fain be
born,--with a twinkling eye and an arm like iron.' Had not my father's
gaze been on me, St. Theodore knows what I would have done! What with
your head so close to mine, and the wild deeds of the day making us as
friends for a thousand years! But now," and she began to laugh again
softly, "you will have to tame me a great deal. I may look a
wood-dove, but I have the heart of a hawk. It will be a long time
before I can be content to obey any one;" then with a naughty toss of
her pretty head,--"even you."

"Ah!" exclaimed Richard, "it is I that need the taming; I, whose wits
are in my hands, who love the ring of good steel better than all
Musa's roundelays."

"Let us not settle too much of the future," answered she, pertly; "we
shall perhaps know each other better as time speeds." So they
twittered and laughed, till long after the last bird-song had died
into silence, the last bulbul had folded his weary head under a wing.
A full moon was overhead when Richard swung onto the back of Rollo.
His lips were still sweet with the nectar of a warm kiss; the wind was
just creeping over the orange grove, which was whispering softly. Here
and there the fireflies flashed out tiny beacons. Rollo threw up his
great muzzle, and shook his raven mane, as if he knew, rascal that he
was, of the joy in his master's heart. Then, swift as the north wind
he flew toward Palermo, and for Richard, as he rode, the night shone
as a summer's morn.

       *       *       *       *       *

The gossips at Palermo bandied the tale about, almost before those
concerned in it knew it themselves. No one marvelled; all said that
Richard Longsword had fairly won his prize, and Mary Kurkuas would
never have shame for her lord. Only the Emir Iftikhar communed darkly
with his own heart, and with certain sworn followers of his in the
Saracen guard. The good syndic Al-Bakri was a mighty newsmonger. A
certain neighbor brought him a story; he in turn dealt it out to Musa;
and the Spaniard gave Richard Longsword strong reasons for wearing
his Valencia mail shirt under his bleaunt. Baron William had returned
to Cefalu. But when a letter came from his son, the seigneur sent
straightway, bidding Richard come home, and bring with him Mary
Kurkuas, who it was not meet should remain alone, with only Sylvana
and the serving-men and maids at Monreale. Richard, hasty mortal,
would have had her to church before setting out. But Mary shook her
head. The turf was not yet green over the grave of the Cæsar, and she
owed a duty to her mother's kinsfolk in Provence. If Richard was to go
to Auvergne, she would go with him to La Haye, the barony of her
uncle, and there might be the wedding. So with Sylvana as duenna, away
they went to Cefalu. There dear Lady Margaret opened her heart wide to
the motherless Greek; and they spent many a merry day, with guests and
good company coming from far and near to drink at the Baron's board,
and to pledge the health of "the peerless lady, Mary Kurkuas, the
fairest of her age in all Sicily and France." Day after day Richard
and Mary rode forth together; for the Greek was as mad a rider as
though born on the saddle. The white falcon was on her wrist; they
chased the luckless quarry over thicket and brake, while Longsword
laughed as he saw how Mary dashed beside him. And there were long
evenings, when in the soft gloaming, and no other was near, they could
sit in Lady Margaret's bower outside the castle walls, with the
sleeping flowers clinging all about, and a little stream tumbling
gently in the ravine below. Here every breath was eloquence, every
word a poem, and the voice of Mary sweeter than Musa's lute. Only
Mary,--for Richard was all blind these days,--noticed that Musa and
Herbert were ever watchful; that Musa always insisted that his friend
wear the Valencia shirt; that even when the lovers rode off seemingly
alone, there would be Musa or Herbert or Nasr riding within bowshot.

All the castle had opened its heart to Mary,--even Sebastian; though
the churchman did not capitulate without a struggle.

"Lady," said he once to her, "you Greeks are in peril of your souls.
You communicate with leavened, not unleavened, bread, for which you
may all go to perdition; and in your creed you do omit _Filioque_, in
speaking of the Holy Ghost, which I do conceive is the sin whereof Our
Lord speaks, saying, 'He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost
hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.' And
for this sin Pope Leo Third had your patriarch excommunicated, and
delivered over to be buffeted by Satan."

But Mary only answered very gravely:--

"Are not men created in God's image?"

"Certainly, daughter," replied Sebastian, soberly.

"And is Nasr, the abominable devil-visaged Saracen here, a man?"

"A man," began poor Sebastian, wavering, "yet created for--"

"Surely," cried Mary, cutting him short, "God has a strange image, if
it is like Nasr. Unless, indeed, he be of the race Vergilius the
heretical philosopher describes: born in the Antipodes, not descended
from Adam, and for whom no Redeemer died."

"Daughter, daughter," protested Sebastian.

"Do not be angry," came the reply, "only I will answer for my heresy
when you explain concerning Nasr." And with this Sebastian was content
to drop the encounter.

Then of a sudden came a day when the even flow of life at Cefalu was
rudely shaken. Richard and Mary had ridden with some retinue to games
which Baron William's neighbor, the Lord of Pollina, had been holding.
The jousts had been hot, though not so fierce as to be bloody. Richard
had refused to ride, for all the country-side stood in some awe of
him. Musa had won the hearts of all the ladies, as he ever did, by his
dashing horsemanship and grace. Evening was beginning to fall. They
were still two miles from Cefalu, and before them opened a long,
shaded avenue of holm-oak and cypress, through which shimmered the
failing light. Mary touched whip to her fleet palfrey. The good horse
shot forward, and beside her raced Richard, leaving the rest behind.
They had swung into the avenue, the steeds were just stretching their
necks for a headlong pace, when lo, as by magic, behind a thicket rose
three men, and in a twinkling three arrows sped into Longsword's
breast! The clang of the bow and Mary's cry were as one. But even as
Richard reeled in the saddle, Musa and Nasr were beside him, at a
raging gallop. The Norman shivered, sat erect. One arrow was quivering
in his saddle leather, two hung by the barbs from his mantle.

"You are wounded!" was the cry of the Greek. But Richard put her by
with a sweep of the hand.

"For me as for you, Musa, this Spanish mail is a guardian saint. The
arrows were turned. I am unhurt."

"Mother of God!" Mary was crying, all unstrung, "what has befallen
us!"

But Nasr and Herbert had shot ahead. They could hear horses crashing
through the thickets; other men plunged in after them on foot. Then a
great shout, and forth they came, haling two very quaking and
blackguardly-looking Egyptians, in the hands of one a strong bow.

"By the glory of Allah!" Nasr was swearing, "these men are of the Emir
Iftikhar's guard. We shall have a tale to tell when next we fare to
Palermo."

They dragged the wretches into the light. Nasr's identification and
their guilt were beyond dispute. Their comrade had made his escape.
But when Musa began to question them as to who prompted their deed,
they had never a word, only cried out, "Have pity on us, O Sword of
Grenada; like you, we are Moslems, and we sought an infidel's life!"

"By the beard of the Prophet!" protested the Spaniard, "good Moslems
you are in truth. Well do you remember Al Koran, which saith, 'He that
slayeth one soul shall be as if the blood of all mankind were upon
him;'" and he added cynically, "Console yourselves, perchance you will
be martyrs, and enter the crops of the green birds in Paradise."

"Mercy, mercy, gracious Cid!" howled the Egyptians.

"Away with them!" cried Richard, who saw that Mary was very pale and
trembled on her horse. "At Cefalu we have for them a snug dungeon,
thirty feet underground, with straw beds floating in water. There they
can recollect, if Iftikhar Eddauleh put this archery in their heads!"

So Herbert and Nasr trotted the prisoners away, strapped to the
saddles. That night, after Sebastian had said mass in memory of the
merciful preservation of his "dear son," Baron William and Herbert
taught the Egyptians how Normans were accustomed to eke out meagre
memories. They began by sprinkling salt water on the prisoners' feet,
and letting goats lick it; and then, as Sebastian aptly expressed in
his Latin, _sic per gradus ad ima tenditur_, they at last called for
red-hot irons. In this way, though the Egyptians were stupid and
forgetful at first, in time they remembered how Iftikhar had sent them
to Cefalu, to do what, except for the Valencia mail, they nearly
accomplished. They had acted in a spirit of blind obedience, fully
expecting to be captured and to suffer; and when they heard Baron
William ordering the gallows, they only blinked with stolid Oriental
eyes, for they saw that groanings availed nothing.

Very early the next day a messenger flew post haste to Palermo, with a
formal demand from Baron William that the High Mufti, who judged all
the Saracens of Sicily, should hear charges against the Emir Iftikhar.
But the messenger was late. The third assassin had secured a fast
horse, and outstripped him by half a day. Iftikhar was already out to
sea, bound, it was said, for Damietta.



CHAPTER XI

HOW RICHARD FARED TO AUVERGNE


Now when the south wind blew gently with the advancing spring, Richard
set forth for Auvergne. With him went Sebastian, rejoiced to see "that
very Christian country of France," and Herbert his arch-counsellor,
and Nasr with a score of tough Saracens, very fiends as they looked,
Baron William's old retainers, who would have followed the devil with
a stout heart so long as he led to hard blows and good plunder. Just
before he started, Richard was admonished by his father not to rush
into quarrel with Raoul, the brother of Louis, whose lands of Valmont
lay close by St. Julien. "A rough, bearish fellow," William called
him, who had won the name of the "Bull of Valmont" by his headlong
courage. He had broiled with Louis, chased him from the fief, and now
lived alone with his mother, the Lady Ide, and young brother Gilbert.
Just now, report had it, he was at sword's points with the abbot of
Our Lady of St. Julien, who claimed freedom from tolls upon the
Valmont lands, and William warned his son against being used by the
monk to fight his unchurchly quarrel. So Richard promised discretion,
kissed his mother for the last time; and away he went on a stanch
galleon of Amalfi headed for Marseilles, and making Palermo on her
voyage from Alexandria.

A short voyage, too short almost for Richard and Mary, who found even
the evenings grow enchanted, while they sat on the gilded poop
watching the sun creep down into the deep; or listened to the tales of
Theroulde, who set Mary a-laughing when he told of King Julius Cæsar,
and how he built the walls of Constantinople, and wooed the "very
discreet Fée," Morgue, who became his wife. But the joy was rarest to
be alone upon the poop, with the soft breeze crooning in the rigging,
the foam dancing from the beak and trailing behind its snowy pathway
where trod the dying light.

"Ah," said Mary one evening, as the first star twinkled in the deep
violet, "one year it is since I set eyes on you, my Richard; since you
plucked me from the Berbers. In this year I have lost my father, and
gained--you!" And there were both sadness and joy upon her face.

"A year!" quoth Richard, his eyes not upon the stars, but upon a
coronal of brown hair. "How could I ever have lived without you? Since
you have entered into me, my strength waxes twenty-fold. By St.
Michael, I will seek a great adventure to prove it!"

"Do you think to give me joy by risking life at every cross-road to
prove your love? Does a true lover think so meanly of his love, that
he is willing to tear her heart by thrusting his precious self in
peril?"

"No," protested he, taking her right hand in his own, then the other;
and holding both captive in his right, while she laughed and struggled
vainly to get free. "But what do you love in me? The only thing I
have;--an arm that is very heavy. And shall I not use that gift of the
saints? Are there not haughty tyrants with no fear of God in their
hearts, who must be overthrown by a Christian cavalier? Is the world
so good, so free from violence, and wickedness, and strife, that he
who can wield a sword for Christ should let it rust in the scabbard?
You would not have me always in your bower, listening to those Greek
books which I called Churchmen's frippery, until you made them all
music. Only yesterday I heard Sebastian grumble, 'St. Martin forbid
that the princess play the Philistine woman to our Samson, and shear
his locks; so that Holy Church fail of a noble champion!'"

"I will never play the Philistine woman to you, my Richard," answered
Mary, lightly. Then as a sweet and sober light came into her eyes:
"Oh, dear heart, I know well what you must be! It is true the world
is very evil. We are young, and the light shines fair; but there is a
day to dance, and a day, not to mourn, but to put by idle things. You
will be a great man, Richard," with a proud, bright glance into his
face; "men will dread you and your righteous anger against their
wickedness; God will give you mighty deeds to do, great battles to
win, great wrongs to right, and perhaps"--here with another
glance--"they will think you grow hard and sombre, when it is only
because you dare not turn back from your task, but must think of duty,
not of childish things. But I will still be with you; and when you go
away to the wars, as go you must, I will never weep till your banner
is out of sight; and if I do weep, I will still say, as you said, 'It
is no dreadful thing for a brave gentleman to die, if he dies with his
face toward the foe, and his conscience clear.'"

"You will make me a very saint," said Richard, still holding fast her
hands; "but it is by your prayers alone, dear saint, that I may dare
have hope of heaven."

"No," replied the Greek, smiling, "you are not a saint. Oh, you will
do very wrong, I know! But God and Our Lady understand that your heart
is true and pure. It is our souls that go to heaven, not our tongues
with their harsh words, nor our hands with their cruel blows. And when
you are fiercest, and the tempting fiends tear you, and the sky seems
very black, then I will kiss you--so--and you will recollect yourself,
and be my own true cavalier, who wields his sword because the love of
Christ is in his heart."

"But you will not always be with me," protested Richard. "When I am
alone and sorely tempted--what then?"

"Then you must love me so much that my face will be ever before your
eyes; and by this you will know when you strike for Christ, and when
for worldly passion or glory."

"Ah!" cried Richard, "what have I done that God should send down one
of His saints to sit by me, and speak to me, and dwell forever with
me?"

"Forever!" said Mary, lugubriously; "we shall all be in heaven in a
hundred years. How well that there is no marriage nor giving in
marriage there, or some of those lovely saintesses might make eyes at
so fine a warrior-angel as you; then I would wax jealous, and St.
Peter, if he is the peacemaker, might have his wits sore puzzled." But
here soberness left them both, and they laughed and laughed once more;
till Musa and Theroulde, who had discreetly withdrawn to the cabin,
came forth, and the _jongleur_, looking up at the now gleaming
planets, told how wise beldames said, those lights sang a wondrous
melody all night long, and a new-born child heard their music.

Richard was still holding Mary's hands, and she saucily told Musa that
she had begun early those lessons of obedience which her lord would
surely teach her.

"Flower of Greece," laughed the Spaniard, "in Andalusia the women are
our rulers; at their beck palaces rise, wars are declared, peace is
stricken. The king of Seville for his favorite wife once flooded his
palace court with rose water, to satisfy her whim. Come with me to
Spain, not Auvergne."

"No," answered Mary, tugging free her hands and shaking a dainty
sleeve of Cyprian gauze, "we will never turn infidel and peril our
souls--not even to please _you_, Sir Musa."

She saw a dark shadow flit over Musa's face: was it as the ship's
lantern swayed in the slow swell of the sea? But he replied quickly:--

"Alas! I am not such a friend to the lord of Andalusia to-day that I
can proffer there princely hospitality."

Then their talk ran fast on a thousand nothings; but the shadow on
Musa's face haunted Mary. She resolved in her heart, she would never
again remind him that their faith lay as a gulf between them.

       *       *       *       *       *

The stout ship reached Marseilles, where she was to barter her Eastern
wares for Frankish iron, oil, and wax. Her passengers sped joyously to
La Haye, a rich and stately castle in the pleasant South Country,
where Baron Hardouin, Mary's uncle, received his niece and future
nephew with courtly hospitality, as became a great seigneur of
Provence. And when Richard rode again northward with a lock of brown
hair in his bosom, he had a promise that, when he returned in autumn,
there should be a wedding such as became the heiress of a Greek Cæsar
and a great Baroness of the Languedoc.

Never again was Longsword to ride with fairer visions and a merrier
heart. He was in France, the home of knightly chivalry, of Christian
faith. As they passed through Aix and Avignon and Orange, and all
along the stately Rhone, the wealthy lords and ladies entertained him
in their castles, Theroulde paying by his stories for all the
feastings and wassail. And Richard carried his head high, for the fame
of his deeds in Sicily had run overseas; and men honored him, and the
great countesses gave soft looks and words,--with more perchance, had
he only suffered. "Verily," thought Richard in his heart, "the
_jongleurs_ did well to sing that when King Alexander the Great lay
a-dying, he had only one sorrow,--that he had not conquered France,
head of the whole world." But for the ladies, their troops of
troubadours and their "courts of love," Richard had only pleasant
words, no more. For Longsword had a vision before his eyes that two
years before he had never dreamed. Fairer than all knightly glory, the
sweet delirium of battle, the cry of a thousand heralds proclaiming
him victor, rose the dream of a strong and beautiful woman ever beside
him; her voice ever in his ears, her touch upon his arm, her breath
upon his cheek; and from year unto year his soul drawing to itself joy
and power merely by looking upon her--this was the dream. And Richard
marvelled that once his life had found rest in hawking and sword-play.
So as he rode northward, all the little birds upon the arching trees
sang that one name "Mary"; and the great Rhone, hastening seaward,
murmured it from each eddy and foaming boulder; and the kind west wind
whispered it, as it blew over the pleasant corn-lands of Toulouse and
Aquitaine.

Thus ever toward the north; at last they touched the domain of the
Count of Vaudan close to Auvergne, and near St. Flour they entered
Auvergne itself. Then around them rose the mountains like frozen
billows of the angry North Sea, their jagged summits crowned with
cinder-filled craters; upon their bold flanks patches of basalt, where
clinging pines shook down their needles. On nigh each cliff perched a
castle, black as the rock and as steep; and amid the clefts of the
mountains were little valleys where browsed sure-footed kine; where
the people were rude, rough men, with great beards, leather dresses,
surly speech, and hands that went often to their sword-hilts.

"Sure, it is a wild land I have come to set right!" cried Richard,
gazing at the fire-scarped ranges of _puys_; and he rejoiced at
thought of ordering his grandsire's barony with a strong hand. But
Sebastian again was only gloom and warnings.

"Ah, dear son, how much better to leave your grandfather's petty
seigneury to its fate, and heed the word of holy Peter the Hermit, who
is preaching the war against the infidels."

"Not while Mary Kurkuas lives will I quit her to go to Jerusalem,"
proclaimed Richard, boldly, and Sebastian shook his head, as was his
wont. "'The woman tempted me, and I did eat,'" was his bitter answer;
"God is not mocked; your pride shall yet be dashed utterly."



CHAPTER XII

HOW RICHARD CAME TO ST. JULIEN


Now at last they were drawing near to St. Julien, whither Richard sent
advance messengers. And as he saw how, despite the rocks and the
ragged landscape, fair meadow valleys began to spread out, and wide
fields bursting with their summer fatness, he grew still more elated
and arrogant in soul. How many gallant adventures awaited beyond those
hills! How he would rule with a strong hand his grandsire's seigneury!
Nay more, he would do better: he would some day ride over this road
with Mary Kurkuas at his side, and hear knight and villain hail him,
"Richard, by the Grace of God, Count and Suzerain of all Auvergne."
With only five horsemen had Robert Guiscard left Normandy, and when he
died, half Italy and nigh all Sicily were at his feet; and should not
Richard of Cefalu do better, with a fair, rich barony to build upon?

Presently, after a long day's ride, the young knight's company came
forth from the last pass amongst the hilltops, and before them--St.
Julien. Richard could see the tall square towers of the distant castle
shining yellow gray in the dying sun; he could see the long reaches of
ploughed land, the glebe of the Abbey of Our Lady of St. Julien, to
whose abbot the local baron paid each year six bunches of wild
flowers, token of nominal fealty. Far away were the dun masses of the
monastery's many roofs and walls; about the castle nestled the
thatches of a little town, a fair stream ran through the valley, and
all around the beetling mountains kept watch.

"A goodly land," cried Sebastian, shading his eyes with a gaunt hand;
"a goodly land; ah, dear Christ, grant that the hearts of the men
within it be as pure as thine own heavens above!"

"And have I done wrong," declared Richard, pointing from corn-land to
castle, and thence to river, "to come so far to possess it? Does not
God will rather that I should play my part here, than throw away life
and love in a mad wandering to Jerusalem?"

But Sebastian shook his head.

"They say the devil can appear as an angel of light; God forfend that
the earthly beauty of this country breed perdition for your soul."

So they went down the hillside, laughing and singing, and pricking on
their flagging steeds, though Richard saw that Musa was only half
merry.

"Tell me, brother mine," said he, "why are you not gay? Do you envy me
my first inheritance?"

The Spaniard threw up his hands in inimitable gesture.

"_Wallah_; is not your joy my joy, soul of my soul!" cried he,
earnestly. "Not gay? Allah forbid that there be truth in portents. As
at noon we rested, and I slept under the trees, I dreamt that I was
grievously plucked by the hair."

"And that forbodes--?"

"That some calamity or ill news comes either to me or to some dear to
me. So our Arabian diviners interpret dreams, and so some years since
Al-A[=a]zid, my master at Cordova, instructed me."

"Christ defend us!" quoth Richard, crossing himself. He was not
imagining ill for himself nor for Musa, but for Mary Kurkuas.

"Be not troubled," continued the Spaniard; "the surest presages often
fail." Richard rode on in silence. The melancholy of his friend was
contagious. A cloud drifted over the sun; the bright landscape
darkened. As they passed by a wayside cross on the hillside, a
skeleton swung from an oak in the hot wind--some brigand or villain,
who had enraged the seigneur. A wretched beggar met them, just as
they plunged into the trees to enter the valley.

"Alms! alms! kind lord," he croaked, his face red with bloody patches;
and as he spoke he lay on the ground, and foamed as if grievously ill.

"Away with you!" growled Sebastian, angrily; "you have smeared blood
on your face, and there is a bit of soap in your cheeks."

So they left, and heard his shrill curse, when he saw Richard tossed
forth never a _denier_.

"No good omens," muttered Herbert, in his beard.

"Ride faster," commanded Richard, touching spur to Rollo.

So they hastened, while above them the canopy of leaves grew denser,
and more clouds piled across the dimming sun. Then as they swung round
a turn, they came upon a man with a great load of fagots on his
back,--a tall, coarse-faced fellow, with a shock head and unkempt
beard, hatless, dressed in a dirt-dyed blouse held by a leathern belt,
woollen trousers, and high, rude boots.

Herbert rode up to him, as he stood staring with dazed, lack-lustre
eyes at the company.

"Ho, sirrah; and are we on the Baron of St. Julien's land?" No answer;
then again, "Are we on the Baron of St. Julien's land?" Still no
answer, while the scoundrel gazed about like a cornered cat, looking
for chance to escape. Herbert grasped his ear in no gentle pinch.

"I work miracles," bellowed he. "I make the dumb speak!" Then as he
twisted the ear, the man howled out:--

"Yes, this is his land."

"And why not all this before?" roared Herbert.

"I love my lord," growled the fellow; "how do I know but that you seek
his ill? Sorrow enough he has, without need of more."

"Ha!" exclaimed Richard, "what is this? Speak out, my man. I am his
friend and yours!"

But before he could get answer, the pound, pound, of several horsemen
was heard ahead. And they saw in the road four riders, two accoutred
men-at-arms, two others, by their dress and steeds evidently gentlemen
of the lesser sort. One of these, a tall young man of about Richard's
age, spurred ahead; and as he drew near, he dropped his lance-head in
salute.

"Noble lord," said he, "do I speak with Richard Longsword of Cefalu,
grandson of the Baron of St. Julien?"

"I am he, fair sir," replied Richard, with like salute.

"I am rejoiced to see your safety. Your messengers have arrived. We
expected your coming. Know that I am Bertrand, squire of the Baron,
your grandfather; and this is his good vassal the castellan, Sir
Oliver de Carnac; in our Lord's name we greet you well and all your
company."

So Richard thanked them for their courtesy, and then questioned:--

"And is my lord the Baron well?"

But at his words a great cloud lowered on the face of the squire, and
he turned to De Carnac; and that stern-faced knight began to look very
blank, though saying nothing. Then Bertrand began hesitatingly:--

"It grieves me, fair lord; but the Baron is very ill just now; the
skill of the monks of St. Julien does nothing for him."

"Ha!" exclaimed the Norman. "I give him joy; I have here a famous
Spanish knight, who, besides being a mighty cavalier, knows all the
wisdom of the paynim schools, which, if very bad for the soul, is
sovereign for the body."

"No skill avails, lord," said Bertrand, looking down. "He is blind."

"Blind!" came from Longsword. "When? how? he did not write."

"No, fair sir; three days since it happed; and I have a sorry tale to
tell."

"Briefly then." Musa saw the Norman's face very calm and grave, and he
shuddered, knowing a mighty storm was gathering.

"Lord," said Bertrand, "over yonder mountain lies the castle of
Valmont: its seigneur, Raoul, has for years been at feud with your
grandfather, my lord. Much blood has flowed to neither's advantage.
When Louis went away, the two barons made a manner of peace; but of
late they quarrelled, touching the rights to certain hunting-land. The
suzerain, Count Robert of Auvergne, is old; he gave judgment against
Raoul, but had no power to enforce. Four days since Baron Gaston went
upon the debatable land to lay a hound; with him only Gaspar, the
huntsman. Raoul and many men meet them; high words, drawn swords; and
after our Baron had slain three men with his own hands, the 'Bull of
Valmont' takes him. Raoul is in a black rage, and his enemy in his
power."

Richard's face was black also, but he was not raging.

"Go on," said he, very calmly.

"Raoul says to my lord, 'It is a grievous thing to take the life of a
cavalier, who cannot defend himself. I will not do it, yet you shall
never see that pleasant hunting-land more.' Then he calls John of the
Iron Arm, a man-at-arms and chief devil at Valmont, who is after his
own heart, and bids him bring the 'hot-bowl.'"

"The 'hot-bowl'?"

"Yes, lord; a red-hot brazier, which they passed before our Baron's
eyeballs, until the sight was scorched out forever."

Richard was turning very pale. "Mother of God!" muttered he, crossing
himself; but Bertrand went on:--

"Then Raoul struck off Gaspar's right hand, and bade him lead his
seigneur home with the other, and let them remember there was brave
hunting on the Valmont lands."

"And what has been done against Raoul?" asked Richard.

"Nothing, lord. De Carnac is our chief; but when we knew you were
coming, and heard how you had laid the Bull's brother, Louis de
Valmont, on his back, great knight that he was, we waited; for, we
said, 'When Sir Richard comes, we shall be led by one of St. Julien's
own stock, and we shall see if he loves Raoul more than do we.'"

"You have done well, dear friend," said Richard, still very quietly.
"Now tell me, how is my grandfather; well, save for his eyes?"

"Alas! he was nigh dead when he came back, and to-day the monks
declared he would slip away; only desire for revenge keeps his soul in
him."

"I must see him," said Longsword, simply; then to Musa, "Ha! my
brother, will you be at my side in this adventure?"

"_Allah akhbar_," cried the Spaniard, his eyes on fire, "that Raoul
shall feel my cimeter!"

"Softly, softly, dear son," quoth Sebastian, who had heard all,
"_Omnia licent, sed omnia non expediunt!_"

"No Latin now, good father," was the Norman's prompt retort, and he
turned to Bertrand: "To the castle with speed!"

Forward they rode through the squalid little village, where ragged
peasants and slatternly women opened their eyes wide, and crossed
themselves as their eyes lit on the "Saracen devils"; then they
clattered onto the stone bridge, and past the toll-keeper's booth at
the drawbridge in the middle span. Before them across a stretch of
cleared land rose the castle: not a curiously planned system of
outworks, barbicans, baileys, and keeps, as Richard saw in his older
days, but a single massive tower, square, built from ponderous blocks
of black basalt that could mock at battering-ram. It perched upon a
rocky rising, at the foot a moat, deep, flooded by the stream, where
even now the fish were leaping; outside the moat, a high wooden
stockade; within this, the stables. From the crest far above, the eye
could sweep to the farthest glens of the valley. Ten men could make
good the hold against an army; for where was the hero that could mount
to the only entrance--that door in the sheer wall thirty feet above
the moat, and only a wooden drawbridge to reach it, which pulleys
could lift in a twinkling?

Richard looked at the castle and shrugged his shoulders. "Is the hold
of Raoul de Valmont like to this?" he asked.

"As you say, lord; only the outer wall is higher," replied Bertrand,
while they left their steeds at the foot of the dizzy bridge. Richard
blew through his teeth. "St. Michael," cried he, "there will be a tale
to tell ere we get inside!"

When they came within the great hall, dark and sombre, with slits for
the archers its only windows, there were all the castle servants
waiting to do Richard honor, from the gray old chamberlain and the
consequential cellarer to the "sergeants" that kept the guard. But
Longsword would have none of their scrapes and bows.

"Take me to my grandfather," he commanded, after turning down a horn
of mead. So they led him up blind ladders to a room above. Here the
windows were scarce larger; there was a great canopied bed, a
_prie-dieu_ chair, two or three clothes-presses; on the floor new,
sweet rushes. The day was sultry, but there was a hot fire roaring in
the cavernous chimney-place. The glowing logs sent a red glare over
all the room; in every corner lurked black shadows. Before the fire
stretched two enormous wolf-hounds, meet hunters for the fiercest
bear. There was a huge armchair deeply cushioned before the fire, the
back toward the doorway. As Richard entered, the hounds sprang up,
growling, with grinning teeth, and a sharp brattling voice broke
out:--

"Out of the room, pestilent monk. Away to perdition with your
cordials, or I set the dogs on you. Give me the head of Raoul de
Valmont, then stab me if you will!"

"Grandsire, it is I!" cried Richard, and ran beside the chair, and
fell on his knees. A great hairy hand reached out for him, and he saw
a face, hard as a knotted old oak, beaten by storm, scorched by
lightning. Strength was there, brute courage, bitter hate, and an iron
will. Only the lips now were crisped, the white beard was singed to
the very jowl, and across the eyes was drawn a white bandage, stained
with blood.

"Mother of God!" moaned the old man, groping piteously. "Is this the
welcome that I give you, sweet grandson?"

But Richard, who thought it no shame to weep, held the mighty hand to
his lips and sobbed loudly, while "the water of his heart" ran down
his cheeks.

"_Ai_, dear grandsire," said he, when he had his voice, "it is well I
have come. I too bear no love for the race of Valmont."

The old Baron felt for the Norman's arm; caught it; ran his hands from
wrist to shoulder; gripped tight on the iron muscles.

"It is true, it is true!" he half laughed; "you are of my stock, and
your father was a mighty cavalier. You will be worthy to have the
barony."

"Say it not, sweet sir," cried Richard; "please God, you will yet live
many a year!"

"Ho!" roared the Baron, in anger, "would you have me live as a blind
cow! What is life without hawks or hounds or tourneys or war! God
willing, I shall die soon. Hell were nothing worse than this. I do not
fear it!"

"Christ forbid you should speak sincerely!" protested Richard,
crossing himself.

"No; it is true," raged the old man; "there is good company down
below. Do not say Bernard the Devil is not there, these seven years,
and he was my good friend. I am as bad as he. Fire can't hurt a man,
if he can only _see_. What have I to do with your saints and prayers
and priests' prattle! Heaven for them; and for men who love good
sword-play and a merry lass--"

But Richard cut him short.

"Don't blaspheme! How know you that this is not a reward for all your
sins?"

"Raoul used by the saints to reward me? Ha, ha--" and the Baron this
time bellowed a wild laugh in earnest.

"Grandfather," said Richard, very gently, "you are in no mood for
further talk. I will leave you, and come again."

"Come, and say that Raoul has gone to the imps!" raged the Baron;
then, as Richard's steps sounded departing, "and if you take John of
the Iron Arm, Raoul's chief under-devil, alive, give him a bath in
boiling lard to remind him of what awaits him yonder!"

Barely had Richard reached the great hall when Bertrand was at him
again:--

"Their reverences, the abbot of Our Lady of St. Julien, the prior, and
the sub-prior, come to see your lordship."

So the three monks in their black Benedictine habits came in before
Richard, who bowed very low, remembering the wise maxim: "Honor all
churchmen, but look well to your money." The abbot was short and fat,
the prior short but less fat, the sub-prior leaner still. Otherwise
they seemed children of one mother, with their pale, flabby faces,
their long gray beards, and black cowls and cassocks.

"_Benedicte_, fair son," began the abbot; "we trust the true love of
God and Holy Church is in your heart."

"Of God and Holy Church," repeated the prior.

"Of God and Holy Church," chanted the sub-prior.

"I am a great sinner, holy father," quoth Richard, dutifully, "yet I
hope for forgiveness. What may I do for you?"

Then the abbot ran off into a long, winding discourse as to how the
barons of St. Julien had ever been the protectors and "advocates" of
the abbey, and how of late "that man of Belial, Raoul de Valmont," had
oppressed the monks in many ways. "And even now God has mysteriously
deigned," continued the prelate, "that he should commit a sin, the
like whereof have been few since the days of Judas called Iscariot."

"And what may this be?" asked Richard, soberly.

"When our _refectarius_," solemnly went on the abbot, "passed over the
Valmont lands, driving three black pigs, and with twelve fair round
Auvergne cheeses amongst other gifts of the pious in his cart, this
man of blood cruelly possessed himself of the pigs and cheeses,
saying, 'The holy brethren will find prayers rise strongest when they
have pulse in their bellies'--blasphemous sinner!"

"Accursed robber!" cried the prior.

"Friend of the fiends!" echoed the sub-prior.

"And therefore," wound up the abbot, "we do warn you, on the peril of
your soul, to cut off this child of perdition root and branch; to call
forth to arms the _ban_ and the _arrière-ban_; to make his castle a
dunghill and his name a byword and a hissing!"

Richard was smiling. When the abbot finished, he gave the holy fathers
a merry laugh that made them half feel their weighty mission a
failure. But Musa, as he looked upon his friend, trembled, for he did
not like that kind of smile or laugh. Richard flashed forth
Trenchefer, and laid his hand on the knob that contained such holy
relics.

"See you, holy fathers, gentlemen and vassals all. I, Richard
Longsword, setting my hand on the holy relics of the blessed Matthias
and the blessed Gereon, do swear before God Most High, that I will
have the life of Raoul de Valmont, and of every man or lad of his
sinful race; and God and these holy saints do so to me, if I show
mercy!"

And all the men-at-arms, and Bertrand and De Carnac, saw that they had
to do with a born leader of warriors, and cried out "Amen!" with a
mighty shout, so that the solid rafters quaked and reëchoed. But
Sebastian as well as Musa shuddered when he beheld Longsword; for the
Norman's words rang hard and sharp as whetted steel, and the good
churchman's heart was heavy with new foreboding.

"This is a cruel vow, my son," he broke in. "Raoul de Valmont must
suffer for his sin; but Louis,--he whom you spared when at your
feet,--will you seek his life also, and that of the lad Gilbert, the
younger brother?"

But Richard flung out hotly:--

"Silence, Sebastian; cursed am I for sparing Louis de Valmont. Cursed
for sparing an accursed race! I will have the lives of all--all; and
will right my grandsire and myself also. So help me God!"

Sebastian had one last appeal.

"For the sake of Mary Kurkuas, do not rush into this blood-feud. God
will not bless you if you go beyond Raoul!"

Longsword threw back his head.

"I were unworthy of Mary Kurkuas if I yielded a hair! No power shall
shake me! Let Christ pity them; I will not!"

Sebastian turned away.

"Dear Lord," he prayed, "Thou seest how my sweet son is torn by the
fiends who seek his soul; first he forgets Jerusalem, now will dip his
hands wantonly in Christian blood. Spare him; pity him; restore him to
himself."

That night Richard sat at chess with Musa; played skilfully, laughed
loud. His talk was merry, but his face was very hard.



CHAPTER XIII

HOW RICHARD SINNED AGAINST HEAVEN


Night was falling. There was a gray mist creeping over the mountain;
the ash trees and beeches loomed to spectral size; the sky was thick
with dun cloud-banks. But De Carnac, as he looked upward, muttered to
Longsword in a bated whisper, "The clouds are less heavy; wait two
hours--they will break and give us the moon."

"Hist, men!" Richard cautioned the band about him; "not yet; we must
wait for darkness."

Long had they already waited,--those score of Saracens and fifty or
more St. Julien men, lying in ambush behind the trees, north of the
crag whereon perched the Valmont castle, the only side where an easy
road led up to the outer rampart, within which still lowered the great
keep. They had seen men go in and out, but none molested them in the
safe shadow of the trees. Their hearts had leaped at the chirp of each
cricket, the call of each wood-bird. The sounds died away; naught
followed; each man listened to the beating in his own breast.

It grew darker. Now the last light shimmered between the leaf-laden
branches; a murky haze overspread tree and shrub and moss-covered
ground until all objects were lost in the black night. The castle was
a good three hundred paces away, but it was so still that they heard
the rattle of the porter's keys when he made fast the great outer
gate. The chains of the drawbridge rattled; they could see a lantern
flash on a steel cap as its owner made the parapet rounds; a few
glints of light from the narrow windows in the keep faded one by one;
then--silence.

Richard felt for his sheath and loosened Trenchefer; then whispered to
a shock-pated "villain," whose wrists were bound, and the cord in
Herbert's keeping:--

"Now, Giles of the Mill, serve us true in this; for as I hope in
heaven, your hands shall be stricken off, and the stumps plunged in
hot sulphur, if you play false!"

"Never fear, lord," answered the fellow. "Raoul hung my eldest son for
fishing in his stream after mid-Lent; never fear his brother will fail
to let down the ladder."

Richard rose to his feet very slowly. It was so dark under the trees
that the keenest eye saw only blackness. On the western hill-crest,
where the clouds gave way, the last bars of pale light still hung, but
dimming each moment.

"_Nox ruit interea, et montes umbrantur_," repeated Sebastian, softly,
at Longsword's elbow.

"_Ai_, father," muttered the Norman, turning, "why did you not remain
in the glen by the horses? We will call you, if any need shriving."

"And shall not the shepherd go with the sheep?" said Sebastian,
solemnly. "Ah! dear son, if God bless you this night, slay the guilty,
but spare the innocent!"

"Time enough," protested Richard, "to consider, when we see the inside
of that keep. By St. Michael, it will be no jaunty hawking!"

Sebastian laid his great, iron-capped mace upon his shoulder. "This
weapon I bear," said he, "that I may not live by the sword, and so by
the sword perish."

"Now, my men!" commanded Richard, his voice still very low; and
silently the long line of dark figures rose from the fern brake. As
they rose, a distant bell pealed out many miles away, the notes
stealing in among the trees like echoes from an untrodden world.

"They toll some one who has died in Bredon," whispered Bertrand, the
squire. "Let us pray," said Richard. And all the Christians knelt. The
Saracens stood dumbly, but perhaps said their word to "Allah,"--for
who among them was fated to see another morning?

So Richard prayed--a wild, unholy prayer, as became his unholy frame
of mind; and he ended, "Thus I confide myself to the stout heart Thou
hast given me, and to my good sword, and my good right arm; but last
of all to Thee!" And one may hope the Most High rejoiced that He was
not utterly forgotten.

"Come!" commanded Longsword, rising. "Keep your shields from banging,
all the crossbows ready, and the swords loose. De Carnac, you have
torches; we shall need them; and you, Herbert--the great axe."

Softly as birds upon the wing, those seventy mad spirits stole across
the band of open ground betwixt forest and castle. Then they halted
before the looming outworks. They heard the sentinel above tramp along
the platform. A stray gleam of light touched his lance-head. He might
have tossed a pebble down upon Longsword's helm. Herbert laid down his
great axe, set his crossbow, laid a quarrel and levelled into the
dark.

"Not as you love me!" growled Richard, clapping a hand on the reckless
veteran; "will you blast all now?"

Tramp, tramp; the sentry was gone round behind the other side of the
keep. Richard crept up to the wall, and at his side Musa. It was so
dark here, they only knew the barrier by their hands.

"Now, Giles, your signal!" Longsword passed the word. And then sounded
a low bird-call, a second, a third; then silence again. More steps on
the parapet above; and a voice very far away, and mysterious in the
dark.

"Below there?"

"Yes," answered Richard.

"Here; the ladder; I have fastened it." And something whirred down
into the gloom, and struck the ground lightly. It was the end of a
rope ladder. Richard groped for it, caught, and gave command.

"Stand by, men; I will go first; who second?"

"Who but I, brother?" protested Musa, in his ear.

"Good; let us gain the parapet, if we may, in silence; then storm the
drawbridge and the keep-gate before the alarm. And now"--and he
gripped Trenchefer in his teeth and began to climb.

Two rounds he had mounted, when there was a second step above; then a
shout, cry, scuffle:--

"Devil! Traitor! Help!" and in an eye-twinkle there was a torch
flaming on the parapet. Richard paused a moment. Right at the crown of
the battlement stood a figure in armor, and behind the bulwark was the
noise of struggle. Louder the shout:--

"Treachery! attack! to arms!"

Twenty voices had it now. A mighty horn was blaring; a great bell was
tossing up its brazen throat in ringing clangor.

"Down, lord, down!" it was Herbert who called.

"Follow me, all who love God!" flung back Richard; and he sped up the
ladder, and Musa after him. Twenty rounds there were to clear; and at
the top, one who was swinging his sword to cut the cords. But in the
torchlight Herbert again levelled, and whing!--his quarrel had sped
clean through the man-at-arms. A second was there, a third, but a
flight of Saracen arrows smote them. Richard never knew how he climbed
those rounds. He was grasping the battlement--a long leap cleared it.
He had won the platform; beside him was Musa; and beside Musa stood
Herbert. The parapet was theirs--and what a sight!

Upon the summit of the great keep a huge bonfire had sprung up, and
the tall flames leaped toward the inky heavens. Down the long bridge
from the keep-door were running men in armor,--ten, twenty,
twoscore,--and their swords were flashing. And two mighty shouts came
swelling from within and without:--

"God and De Valmont!"

"Our Lady of St. Julien!"

Richard saw a man in a silvered casque running down the drawbridge--a
dwarfish man with the shoulders of a bull; over his head danced the
spiked ball of an armed whip.

"Ah! St. Julien dogs!" was his shout. "To the fiends with them all!"

"Up, men!" roared Richard, his voice swelling above battle-shout,
bell, and fire. But a great curse came from Herbert. "God spare our
souls! One rope of the ladder is snapped!"

"Make it fast," flew back the answer. "Musa and I will cover you. Ha,
my brother?"

And while Herbert tugged at the cords, the Spaniard's cimeter swung
side by side with Trenchefer. A great rush: the Valmont men, tall
mountain giants, were at the two and about them in a twinkling. One
sweep should have flung the twain to the court below; fools!--they
knew not that all the South Country had no better swordsmen. Richard
struck right, Musa left; and their blades grew red. The attackers
recoiled as from live fire. A second rush--a second repulse; once
more--the parapet was narrow; the Valmont men reeled back, and some
cried out in terror.

"Out of the way, dogs!" Raoul was bawling. "I will beat them down!"

But as he rushed, Herbert rose from his task. The great axe was
swinging over his head; and as it poised, first De Carnac, then Nasr,
then the rest by tens cleared the wall.

"God is with us!" burst from Richard, and he leaped from the parapet
into the court below. Right amongst the swarming Valmonters he
plunged, and Trenchefer cleared the path. At his right pressed Musa,
at his left Herbert, and with such guardian saints all hell might rage
in vain against him.

Man to man they fought and right valiantly; but our Lady of St. Julien
smiled on her votaries that sinful night. They flung wide the door to
the court; the Saracens swarmed in, biting like cats with their
crooked cimeters.

"Devils! Paynim devils!" howled the Valmonters, as they still more
gave way. "Christ save! We are lost!"

"Back to the keep!" thundered Raoul, who had laid more than one foeman
low. "Back, and I will guard the bridge!"

The Valmonters surged back. They swarmed upon the drawbridge. The wood
creaked with their rush, the stout chains tightened. Raoul, whose
flail had made even De Carnac give way, turned to follow, but Richard
was on him.

"Now, torturer of old men!" the Norman hissed it through his teeth
while he felt Trenchefer leaping on high, as though it were a
breathing thing.

"Now, St. Julien hound!" and Raoul ran down the bridge to meet him.
They were above the moat--a misstep, death. Richard knew it all, yet
in strange way knew nothing. Fear--what was it? He saw Raoul's great
spike dash down upon him; his head rang, strange lights glared in his
eyes; but all his strength sped into the hilt of Trenchefer. The good
sword caught the tough oak of the flail, cleft it as a reed, and Raoul
de Valmont gave one great cry, and showed a face all gnarled with
deathly hate as he reeled into the darkling moat.

"God is with us!" again Richard cried, and he leaped upon the
drawbridge. The great door slammed fast in his face; he could hear the
bolts rattle; feverish hands strained on the levers to the
bridge-ropes. But just as the planking sprang up, the axe of Herbert
drove through the ropes like pack thread, and Richard rushed onward to
the door.

"Quarter, kind lord, quarter!" voices were crying from within. "Mercy!
our lives! as you love Christ!"

"Down with the door!" raged Longsword, whose head seemed one ball of
fire.

Herbert poised the great axe, and the solid wood sprang in with the
blow, but the bolts were strong.

"Give it me!" and Richard snatched the axe like a toy. Three times the
door gave back under the shattering shock; and with the fourth it
reeled inward. From the battlement above, beams and stones snowed down
upon him. What recked Longsword? He knew they would not hurt, and
cared not if they should. Where in his mind was Mary Kurkuas when he
felt the hot blood streaming on his torn forehead, and the fury of
demons in his heart!

"God is with us!" a third time he called it. Before, opened the dark,
narrow, vaulted way to the great hall. There were flashing eyes and
tossing blades in the passage. What were these at such an hour! The
Valmonters had lived as devils, as devils they fought; but what could
they do, save die? Three minutes of hard cutting hand to hand, and the
way was cleared. Longsword and his men--that were left--stood in the
great hall. The cups still lay on the long tables, scraps of food on
the trenchers; for the evening's carousal had not been cleared away.
For a moment there was darkness, then a cresset on the wall flashed
up, another and another, and all was light.

"Fire! Death! Sack!" the St. Julien men were shouting, and who should
say them nay?

There were women and little children cowering on the settles, young
girls ran screaming up the swaying ladders to the lofts above, and
after them the raging victors. Richard's voice was a trumpet calling
above the stormy chaos.

"Up to the parapet, Nasr! Let not a man escape! Search the dungeons,
Herbert, lest any hide!"

"Kill! kill!" threescore throats were echoing.

But Richard had caught an old woman by the arm, and dragged her from
her knees.

"They say Raoul had a young brother. Where is he? Speak, if you wish
to live." His sword was swinging, very red.

"Pity, lord," moaned the shivering creature. "Spare Gilbert. He is
harmless as a dove!"

"Where is the boy, woman?" belched the Norman, and struck at her with
his knotted fists.

"Oh, mercy!" screamed she; "his mother, Lady Ide, took him to the
chapel."

"After me, men!" blazed Richard; and he ran towards a rude stairway
leading to a chamber below.

Musa caught his arm. "My brother!" he cried in his ear, "you are
beside yourself! This is no work for a cavalier. Your grandfather is
avenged. Call off the men!"

"By the Splendor of God!" flashed forth Longsword, "not even _you_
shall stop me now!" He thrust back Musa with one sweep of his arm, and
flew down the stairway, twenty blades at his heels.

Above, raged the roar of conflict: the moans, cries, agony,
battle-shouts, all blending in one hideous, echoing storm. For a
moment after the red glare of the hall, Richard blinked in the dark;
then in the lower chamber he saw an altar, and four tall candles
burning upon it; and around the altar clung white-clad figures,
moaning and praying in one breath.

Straight across the little chapel sped Richard; and as he did so he
saw amongst the women two men, one tall and in armor, with a sword at
his side; the other a youth, with a fair girl's face and curling
golden hair. As he strode, one of the women rose and stood before him;
very queenly she was in her flowing gray hair, and her brave sweet
face; for she was Ide of the Swan's Neck, once the fairest lady in all
Auvergne.

"As you hope in God--" began she. But as she spoke the man in armor
sprang from the altar, sword in hand.

"Ha! John of the Iron Arm!" laughed De Carnac at Richard's side.

"By the Cross!" cried the Valmonter, "you shall not take me here like
a cornered rat!"

And before he could raise to parry, Richard saw the other's blade
swing straight upon him. One flash--one thought of Mary
Kurkuas--crash! The great mace of Sebastian had dashed the sword
aside, and De Carnac smote the man-at-arms so that he toppled with a
dull cry. Richard saw John of the Iron Arm at his feet.

"Seize! Bind!" he shouted; "let him be as Baron Gaston said." And he
strode straight on toward the altar. Lady Ide caught at his hands.

"As you hope in God," she pleaded, "do not harm my son! Revere the
altar!"

And Richard, with all the fiends in his heart, smote her so that she
fell without a moan. He saw the boy clinging to a box on the
altar--sacred relics doubtless. In one hand the lad held up a brazen
crucifix, and stretched it forth--defence against the slayer.

"Pity, pity, for the love of Christ!" he was pleading. He was only a
young lad.

Sebastian tore at Richard's arm.

"As you love Our Lord!" cried the churchman, "spare him!" Richard
glared round the room.

"Some of you strike down this boy!" was his command to all about. De
Carnac, mad sinner, started forward, gave a glance at the relic box
and crucifix, recoiled, crossing himself. "Deliver us from evil!" he
was muttering.

"You, Abul Kadir," cried Richard to a grinning Saracen. "Pluck the boy
away! Hew him down!"

But the Moslem, though his fingers twitched round his hilt, did not
stir. "Away, away!" pleaded Sebastian, dragging at the Norman's arm.
"Our Lady spare this wickedness!"

"Pity, sweet lord!" moaned the lad, his fair head bowed beneath the
crucifix. Richard shook himself from Sebastian's hand. Trenchefer had
sprung on high; at his shout the vaulting rang.

"I have sworn it! Christ died not for the spawn of Valmont!" The great
sword dashed down the crucifix, shattered the sacred box; the lad lay
with his bright locks in a crimson pool.

Then silence more horrible than any noise. In the rooms above they
were still chasing, plundering, slaughtering; it sounded very far
away. All the tapers save one had been dashed out by the stroke; in
the pale flicker Richard could see strong men with their heads bowed,
and their lips moving in prayer. Musa leaned against a stone pillar,
his cimeter dropped, his face buried in his hands. Only Sebastian was
raising his hand in adjuration.

"Come out of him, thou unclean demon," he was saying slowly and
solemnly.

Richard looked left, looked right. Why did men stare at him, and
shrink away from his glance? Why did his head throb as if the veins
were bursting? He held up Trenchefer--how red the blade was! What had
he been doing? Lady Ide on the hard flags was beginning to quiver and
moan--how came she there? The other women had fled the chapel. The
gray shadowy walls seemed turning round and round; Richard caught the
altar-rail to stand steady.

[Illustration: "THE LAD LAY WITH HIS BRIGHT LOCKS IN A CRIMSON
POOL"]

Now a mightier shout in the halls above.

"Out! Out! The castle burns!" And with the shout a rising roar and
crackle, and the sniff of creeping smoke.

Still Richard stood; almost he felt as a man waking from a dream.
Would it not all flee away and leave him at Cefalu in his mother's
bower? or at Palermo in the genii palace with Mary Kurkuas beside the
plashing fountain?

Musa had stepped to him and touched his arm gently. "Dear brother, the
castle burns quickly. We must haste, if all would get out!"

Richard shook himself; his head steadied.

"Come, my men!" He led them up from the chapel. Already the flames
were mastering the upper lofts. The parapet was a pyramid of glowing
fire. The victors rushed down the drawbridge with their spoil; a great
copper dresser, plate, gold cups, tapestry--the plunder of Raoul de
Valmont for many a long year. Only Musa stayed long enough in the
chapel to bear the Lady Ide outside the bailey, where some of the
castle women were not too terrified to care for her, and take her to
the cottage of a peasant not far away.

Richard stood outside the gate. The fire was climbing downward and
mounting upward. Now from every loophole spouted a blazing jet. The
sky had cleared, but the eddying smoke veiled stars and moon. The
great keep was a flaming beacon against the dark; ten leagues away
lord and vassal would see it, and say that Raoul the Bull of Valmont
had met his deserts at last. The St. Julien men crowded around their
chief, gave him cheer on cheer, and cried out that with him to lead no
emperor might withstand them. Richard stretched up his hands toward
the glowing fire-mount.

"Let God Himself undo my deed this night!" he cried. Then they walked
to the glen, took horse and were away, and saw St. Julien before dawn.
All the ride Richard was laughing and boasting, and saying that he
wished a Raoul every month that he might have such rare sport; but
Sebastian and Musa said little, and their thoughts were none the most
gay.



CHAPTER XIV

HOW RICHARD'S SIN WAS REWARDED


There was mirth and dancing in the St. Julien castle when Longsword
and his band returned. Seventy and more had they gone away, scarce
fifty came back, some of the women howled long for the husband or
brother whom they brought home on the shields; but save for these, who
was there but had a laugh and a cheer for Richard, who had borne
himself a very paladin in the fight? When the knight dismounted at the
castle gate, forth came the gray-haired steward with the great horn
goblet of the urus-ox,--a mighty cup centuries old, ornamented with
strangely wrought silver bands, and brimming with home-brewed mead.

"Drink, fair lord," he commanded, "for you have proved a right noble
seigneur of St. Julien. None but a cavalier of wondrous valor is
suffered to drink from this."

So Richard drained the great horn. "To the perdition of every
Valmonter, and to the bright eyes of Mary Kurkuas!"

Then he went to the chamber of his grandfather, who had sat all that
night, gnawing his nails, crying to the varlets to run to the parapet
to see if the sky was aglow toward Valmont. As Richard came in the old
man staggered up to him, caught him by the arm, and sniffled piteously
when Richard told how they won the outwork and the bridge and the
keep.

"By the Cross!" swore the Baron, half laughing, half moaning, "I would
have given half my life to be there,--there and strike one good blow,
and feel the steel eat through Raoul de Valmont."

"Raoul de Valmont will never feel another sword," said Richard,
softly; "he is gone to his account."

"Aye," cried the Baron; "gone, so the varlets who ran here told me;
gone, and a long time St. Peter will have of it reading off the list
of his sins. By Our Lady, they were not a few; and perhaps mine are as
many, ha! Well, even the devil will not frighten me much, after what I
have lived through!"

"You must live and undo your misdeeds if you can, dear grandfather,"
said Richard, whose own conscience was as yet very easy.

"Yes, I must have a talk with the abbot. Live like a demon, then
square at the end with the priests! Two or three fields added to the
glebe, a few _sols_ ready money, and the saints forget all about you,
and let you crawl under the gate of heaven--that is the way a man of
spirit should live and die! But the Valmonters--the boy Gilbert?"

"I killed him," said Richard, deliberately.

"Good; he had never done any harm; neither have wolf whelps; but we
kill them just the same. And John of the Iron Arm?"

"He is here. De Carnac struck him down, but he is alive; they have him
in the dungeon now."

"Good again; I can hear him whistle his tune before we let him die.
_Ai_, lad, you will be a right good seigneur for this old castle. I
shall sleep in the ground more snugly because I know you possess all.
I have fought, scraped, and lied to make the barony larger. No man
shall ever say Gaston forgave a foe, or failed to square off a grudge,
and now Raoul has been paid--ha!"

So Richard left the old man to chuckle in his darkness. The next day
the abbot came over with congratulations, blessings, and a request for
the great altar cross of Valmont,--which was due, because the
"_aggrave_ and _reaggrave_," double and triple anathema, he had
thundered against the Valmonters, doubtless went far to blast their
prowess; and Longsword all piously gave the cross. The monks chanted
_Te Deums_ and enough masses to lift every fallen St. Juliener promptly
out of purgatory. Richard went about with merry face and loud laugh.
"After the feast comes the dance!" he would cry, when all marvelled at
his nimbleness after so hard a _mêlée_.

At the great feast in honor of the victory, Richard sat at the head of
the long horseshoe table, drank with the deepest, and never blushed
when Theroulde likened him in valor to Huon of Bordeaux or even to
Roland.

"You seem very joyous to-night, dear son," said Sebastian, who
appeared gloomier than ever.

"And why should I not?" quoth Richard, stretching forth for more wine.
"Have I not blotted out my grandfather's enemy; have I not a noble
barony; have I not the love of the best of friends," with a glance at
Musa, "and of the fairest woman in the world?"

"Ah! sweet son," replied Sebastian, sighing, "all these shall pass
away! The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; there will come a time
when you will cry, 'Would God I had been mindful of my vow and gone to
Jerusalem.' Even now it is not too late; let us go and hear the holy
Peter of Amiens, called Peter the Hermit."

Richard cut him short with a direful oath. "Speak not again of
Jerusalem. I care more for Mary Kurkuas and for Musa than for ten
thousand Jerusalems! Let others who have more sin on their souls, and
are more frighted by priests' patter, go if they list. For me I give
you the good Arab saying:--

    "'Begone all eating cares this night!
    Who recks to see the morning light?'"

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.

"Our seigneur is a terrible man. You should have seen him in the
chapel."

"From what I was told, he smote the very relic box. He must shudder
lest the hand of God be laid on him."

"He shudder? Lord Richard would not shrink, if he saw a thousand
fiends. His heart is made of iron, like his hands, if only you could
see it. Yet sometimes I tremble lest we all be smitten a deadly blow
for his deed. We all stood by consenting, though the stroke was his."

Richard heard, and the whispers so shook his mind that he made a false
move, lost a piece, lost the game. Musa saw that he was silent for
once that evening. A messenger had come the day before from La Haye:
Mary was well and joyous; they would have a bridal that would be a
tale through all the South Country. Yet Richard was no longer merry.
Musa confided his anxiety to Herbert, who had become his firm friend.

"The Cid my brother is not well. He talks in his sleep; he boasts
before men, but fears to be left alone. Last night he cried out on
his bed to take away Gilbert de Valmont and his fair, blood-stained
hairs."

Herbert shook his head. "The 'little lord'"--for so he fondly called
his mighty nursling--"has done a deed, even I," he laughed grimly,
"who have a few things to tell the priests, would not like to dip
hands in. Slaying the lad was no wrong, mind you. But the altar! the
altar! Better kill fifty in cold blood than shatter a relic box!"

"No, I think he fears lest Allah requires the boy's blood at his
hands."

Herbert brayed out a great laugh. "God will never wink twice, caring
for those Valmonters. They say Louis is coming north with a band to
take vengeance. Pretty fighting--no music sweeter than that of
sword-blades."

"I would that the princess were here," said Musa, "to lift Richard
from his black mood." But when the news came that Louis was trying to
induce the Counts of Aquitaine and Toulouse to make peace and march
against St. Julien, Richard only laughed loudly as Herbert.

"By St. Maurice, let all come; and bring the king of France and Duke
of Lorraine. Valmont was too easy a task; let me match my strength
against great lords now!"

Musa only shook his head.

"Allah grant," was his prayer, "that naught befall unhappily, until we
go back to La Haye for the wedding. Mary Kurkuas's bright eyes will
scatter all this darkness."

But day after day went on, and no bolt fell. Richard continued to ride
hard, hunt hard, drink hard. Musa began to feel, however, that the
shadow was beginning to lift. Louis had been unable to induce Toulouse
and Aquitaine to compose their feud; there was little to fear from his
quarter. Then one afternoon came the stroke from heaven.

A fair sunny afternoon it was, in the late summer. Richard had been up
with the dawn, following a great boar over the mountains. The dogs had
brought the beast to bay, and his white tusks had killed three hounds,
before Longsword had ended all with a stroke of his Danish
hunting-axe. The boar was a giant of his kind. They brought him on a
packhorse, that staggered beneath the weight. The carcass was laid out
before the huge fireplace of the hall, and all the castle girls and
women stood round pinching his shaggy sides, feeling of his white
teeth, laughing, chattering, and screaming. Richard, having put off
his hunting-boots, was calling to a serving-boy for water, when the
bronze slab at the gate began to clang, proclaiming a stranger.

"_Héh_, porter, open to me!" was the cry without, and there was a
scurry of many feet on stairways, for few visitors made their way to
St. Julien.

Presently they led into the hall a wandering pedler. He had a weighty
pack of Paris pins, of ribbons, of Eastern silks, and fifty kinds of
petty gewgaws that set the women oh-ing and ah-ing. But when he undid
his bundles, he dragged forth a letter, a roll of parchment, carefully
sealed.

"This, fair lord," said he to Richard, "I was bidden to bring you from
Marseilles, where a shipmaster put it in my hands."

"From Sicily--from Cefalu, then." Richard had not expected a letter so
early, but so much the merrier. Only he was puzzled when he saw that
the superscription was not in the hand of his brother Stephen, the
usual scribe for his father. Richard broke the seal, which he did not
recognize, unrolled, and read; while the girls swarmed round the
pedler, ransacked his wares, and pleaded with the men to be generous
with the spoils of Valmont, and buy.

But Musa, as he looked at Richard reading, saw sudden sweat-beads
standing on his forehead. The letter ran thus:

    "Robert of Evroult, Bishop of Messina, to his very dear spiritual
    son, the valiant and most Christian knight, Sir Richard Longsword,
    sends his greeting and episcopal blessing.

    "May the grace of our Lord, the pity of our Blessed Lady, ever
    Virgin, the sweet savor of the Holy Ghost, be upon you. May
    Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, the great and all-adorable
    archangels, spread their shields about you, to deliver you. May
    all the company of the saints on high intercede for you at the
    throne of the Father of all mercies, and bless you; and may God
    Himself grant unto you strength and peace.

    "Fair son, it has pleased the Most High to lay upon me a burden
    which makes my bones to cry out, and my nights to be spent in
    tears and in roarings. Yet who better than I may write you? Bow to
    the will of God, and listen. Ten days since it befell that Moslem
    corsairs landed by night at Cefalu, and stormed your father's
    castle. The tales we have heard are scanty, for few who saw what
    befell are here to tell. From a man-at-arms who escaped, it would
    seem that the castle was surprised about midnight. The garrison
    was small; for my lord, your father, had sent many of his men into
    the mountains to chastise some robbers. They say your father laid
    about him as became a Christian and a cavalier, and slew many; yet
    at the end, seeing there was no hope, stabbed your mother with his
    own hands to spare her captivity amongst the infidels. They say,
    too, that your brother Stephen died fighting with a valor worthy
    of his father and brother. As for your sister Eleanor, I hear
    nothing. Therefore, we dare hope, if indeed it is a thing to hope,
    that she is not dead, but carried away captive by the unbelievers.
    Soon as the alarm was spread, Prince Tancred, who was near Cefalu,
    took ships and followed after the pirate's two vessels. One
    outsailed him; he captured the other after much struggle. The
    prisoners confessed their chief was the Emir Iftikhar, one time in
    Count Roger's service. The emir was on the vessel which escaped
    with your sister, so said the captives. The prince put to death
    his prisoners in a manner meet to remind them of the greater
    torments waiting their unbelieving souls. Rumor has it, Iftikhar
    has sent a creature of his, one Zeyneb, to France to seek your
    hurt. This is incredible, yet be guarded. I have had masses said
    for the souls of your kinsfolk; and consider, sweet son, even in
    your grief, how now they are removed far from this evil world, and
    have their dwelling with the saints in light. May the tender pity
    of Christ comfort you, and give you peace. Farewell."

A great cry, inarticulate, terrible, burst from Richard's lips. He
staggered as he stood. Herbert grasped him round, to steady. The
parchment fell heavily from his hand. Musa caught it, read a few
lines.

"My brother! Allah have compassion--" he sobbed, his own heart melting
fast.

"Where is Sebastian?" came the choking whisper from Longsword.

"Gone to the village, lord," hesitated Bertrand, "to confess two
thieves. He is staying to the feast for the executioner and priest
after the hanging!"

"My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?" Richard was moaning. His
face was ashen. They looked on him, some about to stop their ears at
his blasphemy; but one glance told it was no blasphemy, but bitter
truth. He was putting by Herbert lightly as a child, and springing
toward the door that led down to the drawbridge. At the sight of his
face the women began to weep.

"My brother! my brother! stay!" Musa was calling. He might better have
cried to the whirlwind.

"Halt him, men!" shouted Herbert, leaping after. "He is mad; he will
slay himself!"

Two or three men-at-arms leaped out, as if to stop him. At one flash
from his eyes they fell back, crossing themselves. Richard ran out
upon the drawbridge. They could see his feet totter; all held
breath--the moat was very deep; he recovered, ran on.

Herbert made a trumpet of his hands and shouted to the porter at the
outwork:--

"Stop him! Close the gate!"

But Richard ran right past the gazing fellow, and reached the open.
Musa had sped after him.

"Richard, you are mad! Where are you going?" was his despairing call.
Longsword only ran the faster. They saw him leave the beaten road, and
fly along over garden walls, ditches, hedges, with great bounds worthy
of a courser.

Musa pressed behind, but soon found himself completely outdistanced.
Richard was heading straight for the lowering mountain. The Arab
turned back, panting for breath. Already the Norman was out of sight,
lost in the forest. Musa hastened to the castle.

"Call out all the men, send word to the village," was his command to
De Carnac; "beat up the mountain with dogs, or you will never see your
baron again!"



CHAPTER XV

HOW RICHARD FOUND THE CRUCIFIX


As Richard Longsword ran across field and fallow that bright
afternoon, had the warm sun turned to ink, he would scarce have known
it. Sight he had not, nor hearing. He did not feel the bushes that
whipped smartly in his face as he dashed through them; he did not see
the wide ravine of the brook brawling at his feet. Only by some mad
instinct he leaped and cleared it, and ran on and on; fleeing--from
what? His head was throbbing, though he had touched no wine; there was
a great weight in his breast, numbing, crushing. He even tried to stop
himself, to look about, to call back sense and reason. Useless; the
passion mastered him, and still he ran on.

As he ran, he prayed; prayed aloud, and knew not what he prayed. "Holy
Mary, pray for me! Holy Mother of God, pray for me! Holy Virgin of
Virgins, pray for me! Mother of divine grace, pray for me!"

And still on! Would the fire in his brain never quench? He stumbled
over a fallen tree, and knew he was in the forest. He rose, glanced
back; he could see at last,--the tower of St. Julien was still in
sight. And in the tower were men and maids who could laugh, and
chatter, and love the sunshine. Away from them! Richard broke in among
the crowding trees, and ran yet faster. Presently, though his pain
grew not the less, it ceased to be one aching blur of feelings. Forms,
faces, were darting before his eyes; now among the trees; now peering
from the thickets; now flitting along some grassy mead on the mountain
side. They were not real. He knew it well. When he fastened his gaze
on them, they were nowhere. But still he ran. His feet flew like those
of the hunted roe. And was he not hunted? Was he not fleeing? From
what?

Richard had known his Latin, cavalier that he was. The words of the
service were ringing in his ears--who uttered them? "Whither shall I
go from Thy spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I
ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in hell,
behold Thou art there." The words sounded and sounded again. Richard
clapped his fingers to his ears. Still he heard them. And he must run,
run as never before, if he would escape from his pursuer.

Presently he stumbled over a second log; fell headlong beneath a pine
tree upon a slipping carpet of dead needles. The fall was heavy; he
felt his head thrill with a new pain. For a moment he lay still; and a
cool fern pressed comfortingly against his cheek. It was good to rest
quietly and look upward into the dark tracery far overhead. He could
just see a little patch of the blue shimmering through the pine
boughs, a very blue bit of sky. If heaven lay beyond that azure, how
fair a land it must be! Richard pressed his hands to his brow, and
held them there for long. The throbbing had a little abated. He sat
up; looked around. Not a sound except the drone of a mountain
honey-bee hanging over some blossom. Trees, trees, before, behind. His
eye lost itself in the ranges and mazes of gray-black trunks. There
was no path; he had no recollection of the way. He called aloud--only
echoes from far-off glens.

Richard rose and sat upon the log; and his fingers tore at the wood's
soft mould. Would God his mind had been in His hands! The Cefalu
folk--they were all before him--father, mother, sister, brother. He
should never see them more in this world--and in the next? Oh, horror!
what part could his sainted mother have with her unholy, murderous
son! His father had sinned after his kind, yet to him little had been
given of holy teaching, and little would be required. But he, Richard
Longsword, had he not been brought up gently by his mother, as became
a high-born Christian cavalier? Were not her prayers still in his
ears? Had there not been at his side for guide and counsellor
Sebastian, who was one of the elect of God? Had he not given his
mother a pious and holy kiss when he fared away to Auvergne? and did
she not send him forth with his virgin knightly honor, to do great
deeds for the love of Christ? and how had he kept that honor? He had
slain Raoul, and there was never a stain upon his conscience; but
Gilbert the lad, the innocent boy who had poured out his blood at the
very altar--was it for the love of Christ that he had slain _him_? And
that vaunt he had flung to heaven when the keep of Valmont burned:
"Let God Himself undo the deed!" Lo, it was made good--not even God,
were Gilbert de Valmont to stand forth with breath, could take back
that sinful stroke of Trenchefer!

Richard cried aloud in his agony; and the black woods rang, and birds
flew screaming from their haunts, as though the hawk were on them;
echo and reëcho, then the woods were still. Richard roused himself by
a painful effort. The tree trunks were darkening; the patch of blue
above waxed dim; night was approaching.

"St. Michael!" he muttered, "I must get away quickly, or sleep under
the trees."

But a native of the region might well have wandered in that dusky
maze, and where were Richard's wits for woodcraft? He plunged
heedlessly onward, forcing aside saplings by brute strength, his mind
on anything but his path. One thing alone he knew and cared
for,--never on earth, never in heaven, would he see his mother again,
or his father, or Stephen, the brother at whose learning he had
mocked, but in secret revered. And his sister? Well for Iftikhar
Eddauleh five hundred leagues lay betwixt him and Richard Longsword,
or the emir might have found his proof-panoply become his shroud!

Still Richard wandered. It darkened fast. He began to find himself
peering askance into every shadow. He lengthened his stride, for the
forest was proving too dense for running. His speed led
nowhere--trees, and ever trees, and still the light was failing.
Richard raised his voice for a great halloo. Echoes again, but out of
the gloom came more,--a low, deep growl; and the Norman knew its
meaning well. There was a little break in the forest; the gloaming was
a trifle stronger. Richard saw before him two eyes, bright in the
twilight as coals of fire, and the vague outlines of a huge, dark
form. All the battle instinct of the Norman leaped into life.

"Good," cried he to the woods, "a bear!"

He snatched at his side, no sword--unbuckled at the castle, just
before he read the letter. But he laughed in very delight at what
might master his chief enemy--conscience. "Good!" cried he again, and
he plucked up a great stone. At the moment he felt as if he could
grapple the brute in bare hands and come off victor; and if
otherwise--what matter?

With all his might he dashed the stone between those gleaming eyes. A
mighty snarl. Richard tore the bough from a tree with giant grip, and
sprang to the battle. Another snarl and growl, and behold! the brute
instead of rearing and showing teeth, shambled away, and was lost in
the shadows of the forest. Doubtless it had just been feeding, and
would not fight unless at bay. But Richard cried out, cut by his
pain:--

"Dear God, even the beasts turn from me, I am so accursed!"

He sat again upon a log; it was very dark. He could just see the tall
columns of the trees. The patches of sky were a violet-black now. He
stared and stared; he could go no farther; to wander on were madness.
There were deep ravines on the mountain side. Richard remained still a
long time. As the darkness grew, his sight of things past increased.
His boyhood; his life in South Italy and Sicily; his first meeting
with Mary; his duel with Louis; his parting with Mary; the storming of
Valmont; his mother, ever his mother. She had nursed him herself--rare
mark of devotion for a seigneur's lady. She had been proudest of the
proud, when he had won his honors. She had whispered to him an
hundred sweet admonitions that dear, bright night he was last at
Cefalu. Did he love her more than Mary? Praises be to God, there are
loves that never war; and such were these! Oh, had he but been at
Cefalu, with his good right arm, and Musa, and Herbert, and Nasr--how
different, how much better! And now all were dead save Eleanor, his
bright-haired sister, and she--the captive of Iftikhar. Why, if God
had been so wroth with him, had He not stricken him, and let the
innocent go free? He was strong; his will was adamant as the blade of
Trenchefer; to save those dear ones a single pang--what would he not
suffer! Were they not--all save his sister--happy now? Surely the
saints had taken joy to welcome his mother and brother; and within,
his father's soul was white, if some little seared without.

"Ah!" cried Richard, "if my own heart were clean, I would not grieve.
I would pray for their souls, and love Mary Kurkuas, and know that
pure angels intercede for me at God's throne; but now--what with the
blood of Gilbert de Valmont, the shattering of the altar--what is mine
but torment eternal!"

And Richard saw, he was quite sure, as he strained his eyes in the
dark, a fair green country strewn with flowers, and in the midst a
battlemented city, and within that a glittering throne with myriad
bright angels, playing lute and harp unceasing. Upon the throne sat an
old man, with a white beard falling to his girdle, crowned with gold,
and holding an orb and sceptre; and Richard knew this was God the
Father. Then he saw angels bringing up men before the throne: Raoul de
Valmont, John of the Iron Arm, and all their sinful crew. And God said
to them: "Why have you come here, your sins unrepented, unshriven, all
unprepared to die?" And they answered: "Richard Longsword has sent us;
he was wiser than Thou, Lord, and could not bear with us as Thou hadst
done so long." Then God said: "Your sins are very great. Depart to the
lake of fire!" Then they brought a fair-haired, girlish boy, and God
said: "Why hast thou come, dear child, when thou hadst not done on
earth that which I designed for thee?" And the boy answered: "Richard
Longsword is wiser than Thou; he did not wish me to be on earth." So
the angels gave the lad white wings like their own, and a great viol
like a _jongleur's_. But God said: "Concerning Richard Longsword it is
written, 'Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones, that
believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged
about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.'"
Then some angels, very terrible, approached Richard as he gazed, to
lead him to the throne; and lo! he was stripped naked as an infant at
the font, and all the strength had sped out of him!...

A mighty peal of thunder! the jagged lightnings springing above the
trees; now all the woods were lit by the white bolts, now all was
black; and on high, giants were dragging down pinnacles of a mighty
fortress. Richard cowered on his seat. The raindrops smote him, but
could not cool his glowing temples. The tale of the great storm that
presaged Roland's death came to him--how from Mount St. Michael to
Cologne there was pitch darkness at noonday. Would God this were omen
of his death only--not of his perdition! Betwixt the lightnings could
he not see children running about with two heads, and all the boughs
swelling out with heads of serpents--sure sign of the presence of the
devil? And, in the darkness, what was that flickering will-o'-the-wisp
form, unless it was Herodias's daughter dancing, dancing with glee, as
they said she ever did when she saw a soul devoted, like herself, to
Satan? Would the night ever pass? Richard cowered on his seat. At
last--and who might say how long it was in coming?--there was a faint
tinge among the tree tops, a low flutter of wings on the branches. One
shy bird commenced his morning call; another, another. The blank maze
of tree trunks began to unravel into moss-strewn avenues. The dawning
was at hand, and the sky fast coming blue. The only traces of the rain
were the diamond drops hanging on twig and flower. A warm, moist odor
was rising in the wood; the day would be very hot. Richard roused
himself. His clothes were wet; he flung away his fur-lined
"pelisson"; the heat of the heavy coat was intolerable. His head
swam, as he stood up; but he summoned his strong will. His brain
steadied. He looked about.

"I am lost," reasoned he; "there is only one way to find the path to
St. Julien; I must go above the trees. From the mountain crest I can
see which side to go down." So he climbed, though now his steps were
no longer strong, and his feet ached wearily. At last--the saints
above knew after how long--he saw the pines thinning, then the rocks
shone black and bare in the sun. One last effort--and he was out of
the forest; the jagged summit still towered above him, but he could
look forth--on what a view! Far and wide stretched the pleasant
Auvergne country; corn-land and orchard, green but browning with the
dying summer. The mountains pressed in on every side, north and west
the great volcanic _puys_ tossed their bleak crests far into the blue,
as if piers to upbear the heavens. Away to the east were more
hills--the Cevennes; and beyond, very near the sky line, what was that
whiteness through the scattering haze--the Alps? As he looked up, an
eagle rose with hoarse scream from a crag above, and flew into the sky
straight in the face of the sun, until his broad pinions were only a
speck against the glowing blue. Richard looked downward. To his right
and far away lay a village, monastery buildings, a tall bare
tower--St. Julien--very small; he must have travelled far. But below
him, at his feet, so that he felt he could cast a stone upon it, was
another tower--black, smoke-stained; its bare parapet open to heaven,
a great charred mass around--Valmont! Richard gazed and shuddered.
"Dear God," he cried softly, "why hast Thou led me here, to show me
the place of my sin? Am I not enough punished?"

The scream of the eagle had died away. Higher and higher climbed the
sun. All the valleys were springing out of the receding shadow. There
was a soft, kind wind upon the mountain. Its kiss was sweet and
comforting; but Richard needed more than the wind. It was not all pain
of the heart that tore him now. His head was very heavy; he felt his
knees beating together; at times his sight grew dim.

"I am ill, in fever," he muttered to himself; "I must hasten to some
house, or I shall die, and then--" But he never completed. He could
see peasants' cottages beyond the Valmont tower; perhaps the dwellers
had been wronged by his men the night of the sack, and would make him
scantly welcome; but it was better to risk that, than lie down on the
naked crest of the _puy_. He staggered downward, ever downward. Thrice
he fell; thrice rose by a mighty effort. At last he dimly realized
that the ground before him no longer sloped; he was clear of rock and
trees, and before him, seared and bare, was the keep of Valmont.
Richard fell again, this time on soft grass, and lay long. His head
had ceased to pain him, but he felt weak as a little child. "I shall
die! Christ pity me!" was all his thought. But again he rose, rose and
staggered onward. The ruin drew him towards it, as by an enchanter's
spell. He found his way past the outer wall, through the open gate
where the weeds were already twining. One side of the tower had
fallen, filling the moat; within, the other three walls rose, bare,
fire-scarped, cavernous. Still Richard dragged forward. He was upon
the cinders now; charred beams, benches. Here was a shivered target,
there a shattered lance. As he advanced, three crows flew, coming from
some carrion spoil they had found within. He was inside the enclosure
of the keep; the sun no longer beat on him. It was cool and still. His
strength was at an end. On a pile of dust and ashes were little green
weeds springing. It was soft. He lay down, and tried to close his eyes
and call back some prayers. "Here it is I shall die!" his wan lips
muttered. But as he rested, something hard pressed his head. He took
it, dragged it from the dust. Behold! a brass crucifix, and right
across the body of Our Lord a deep, rude dint! "The crucifix held by
the boy when I slew him!" moaned Richard. Then he looked on the face
of the Christ. The lips moved not, the eyes gave no sign; but as
Richard kept gazing, he felt the brass turning to fire in his
hands,--pain, but pain infused with a wondrous gladness. "Christ died
not for the spawn of Valmont!" had been his blasphemy; had Christ died
for _him_? "Ah! Sweet Son of God," cried Richard from his soul, "Thou
didst not come to earth and suffer for the pure and righteous, but
Thou didst come for such as I. Thou didst pardon the thief on the
cross; canst Thou pardon even me? I have committed foul murder, and
insulted holy relics, and made the heavens ring with my blasphemies. I
have no merit; I were justly sent to perdition for my sins; I lie
here, perhaps dying. Have mercy, Lord, have mercy!" Did a voice speak
from the blue above? Was it only some forest bird that croaked in
Richard's disordered ear? "Lord," cried Richard, half rising, "if Thou
canst forgive, do not let me die; let me live, and, by Thy holy agony,
I swear I will remember the vow of my youth; I will remember the
sorrows of Thy Holy City; and I will rest not day nor night, I will
spare not wealth nor love nor blood, till I see the Cross triumphant
upon the walls of Jerusalem, or until I die--if so God wills it!" And
he knew nothing more until some one was dashing water in his face, and
above him he saw the villain, "Giles of the Mill," who had been the
betrayer of Valmont.

"Ah, lord," he was saying, "well it was that Americ, the leper,
wandering here in search for red adders, found you and told me!"

"Americ, the leper?" asked Richard, his wits wandering.

"Yes, lord; we keep him shut in a little hut outside the hamlet. But
early in the mornings we let him go out hunting for red adders with
white bellies; for if he eats enough of them with leeks, he is cured.
But you, fair sir, are grievously ill. I must take you to my cottage."

Then Richard lapsed again into a stupor; and when next he saw the
world, he was in the miller's house. The good-wife was making a great
fire with vine branches, and hanging a huge iron pot to heat water.
They had laid Richard on the bed, the only one in the whole house,
broad enough for both parents and the half-dozen dirty, shock-headed
brats, that were squalling round the single room, and chasing the
little pigs who belonged there as much as themselves. The children
would steal up to the bed softly on tiptoe, and make curious glances
at the "great seigneur," who had avenged their elder brother by
slaying the terrible Bull of Valmont. Then their mother would cry out
to them to keep their distance: "Who were they to set eyes on the
mighty lord, who could send them all to the gallows if he listed?" But
Richard, as he gazed on the unkempt, freckled faces, said in his
heart, "Ah, if I could give all the St. Julien lands for the one white
conscience of that little girl!"

Giles of the Mill presently had out his plodding horse, and pounded
away on the road to St. Julien, while his wife called in two wrinkled
old crones, who looked at Richard, and shook their heads, then
whispered almost loud enough to let him understand. The women put
strange things into the pot: the feet of a toad, many weeds and
flowers, the tail of a kitten, and a great spider. Then when the water
was very hot, they brought some to him in a huge wooden spoon.
Richard, though he knew what Arabian physicians could do, was too weak
to resist them. Presently there was a clatter of hoofs without, and
Herbert, Musa, and Sebastian were coming into the cottage. The face of
Musa was very grave when he touched Richard's wrist; his next act was
to empty the kettle on the earthen floor. The Norman's last strength
was gone: he had tried to rise to greet his friends, sank back; his
words were but whispers. Sebastian bent over him.

"Dear father," the priest barely heard, "pray for me, pray for me; I
have sworn to go to Jerusalem."

But Richard's eyes were too dim to see the light breaking on
Sebastian's face. Herbert and Musa devised a litter, and they bore the
knight back to St. Julien.



CHAPTER XVI

HOW LADY IDE FORGAVE RICHARD


Richard Longsword lay betwixt death and life for many a long day.
Sebastian hardly left him for an hour, nor did Herbert; but it was
Musa that saved him. Sebastian had a plainly expressed dislike for the
Spaniard's ministrations.

"It is suffering Satan to cast out Satan," said he, to the
Andalusian's face, "to suffer an infidel, such as you, to try to heal
Richard."

"Verily, learned sheik," answered Musa, with one of his grave smiles,
"if it is better that Richard should die and dwell with your saints, I
will not use my art."

"No," sighed Sebastian, who had not lived in Sicily with eyes quite
closed, "the lad is reserved for great things, for God and Holy
Church. He must not die; use your arts, and I will pray Our Lady that
she will defeat the evil in your science, and retain the good."

So Richard was medicined according to the teachings of the world-famed
Abul Kasim, and Sebastian went so far as to side with Musa, when the
Arab forbade the officious sub-prior--who boasted himself a leech--to
speak again of poulticing the Baron's head with sheep's lungs. A
wandering Jewish doctor from the school of Montpellier gave more
efficient aid. The abbot brought over a finger bone of St. Matthew to
put under Richard's pillow,--sure talisman against madness. And it was
sorely needed. Many a time those about the bed would shiver when they
heard Longsword scream aloud that Gilbert was standing beside him, his
face red with blood.

"Remember Mary's tale," Richard would cry, "of the evil Emperor
Constans, who slew his brother, and how the dead man stood before him
in sleep, holding forth a cup of blood, saying, 'Drink, my brother,
drink!' So with me, Gilbert de Valmont holds the cup, I cannot drink
it! Holy Saints, I cannot! Away, away with him!"

And in half-lucid moments, Richard would hear Sebastian pray, "Dear
Lord, if by penance and sacrifice of mine I gain merit in Thy sight,
lay it not up for me, but for Richard, my dear son. For I love him,
Lord, more than any other, saving Thee; and he has sinned grievously,
and Thy hand is heavy upon him. But pity him; he repents, he will go
to deliver Thy tomb and Holy City."

After this, when Richard lapsed again into his mad spells, he would
howl that he was being cast into the burning abyss of Baratron with
the devils Berzebu and Nero. But at last the fever left him wan and
weak, with a face grown ten years older in two months. The castle folk
rejoiced. The abbot came with congratulations and a tale how Brother
Matthias, admittedly a little near-sighted, had seen in broad day St.
Julien himself, accompanied by his stag, who had signified that the
Baron should recover, and give five hundred "white deniers" to the
abbey as thank-offering. Sebastian firmly forbade any generosity.

"Do you doubt the vision?" asked Richard.

Sebastian smiled grimly. "I do not doubt. But St. Julien asked for
money for himself; and your all is dedicated to a higher than St.
Julien--Christ. Our Lord did not bid us bestow riches on the rich.
Need there will be of all money and good swords and strong right arms,
before our sinful eyes see the deliverance of the Holy City. Let not
even pious gratitude turn your thoughts aside." So the monks growled
helplessly, for Sebastian had the Baron's ear now, and all the people
venerated him as being one who seldom touched fish or flesh, slept
little, prayed long, and always cast down his eyes when he passed a
pretty maid.

Then came another letter, from La Haye, in Mary Kurkuas's neat Greek
hand.

    "Mary Kurkuas to her dearest heart, Richard Longsword, sends tears
    and many kisses. Life of my life, I have heard the news from
    Sicily, and my heart is torn. It was for my sake that you earned
    the wrath of Iftikhar, because I said 'I love you' to you, not to
    him. Each morning and sunset I kneel before my picture of the
    Blessed 'God-bearer,' praying her to have pity on you, to make you
    strong, to stanch your heart. From my wise Plato and Plutarch, I
    draw no healing; but when I look on the face of the Mother of God
    I know all is well, though human eye may not see. There has come a
    travelling _jongleur_ from Auvergne, who tells a wonderful tale of
    your deed at Valmont. In the midst of my sorrow I yet rejoice and
    thank the saints, that my own true cavalier was spared, and was
    suffered to slay that horrible Raoul. Yet I am glad it was all hid
    from me till safely over. I know you have a great work to do in
    Auvergne, and would not call you hence. Yet remember now that the
    summer is just sped, that I am waiting for you at La Haye. Then
    when you come, I can touch your face, and smooth away all the
    pain, and we will look no longer back but forward. And so with a
    thousand kisses more, farewell."

This letter made the gloom on Richard Longsword's brow settle more
darkly than ever. She knew of his sorrow, of his storming of
Valmont--of the death of Gilbert, not a word! Here was fresh sorrow;
to his own mortal pain must be added that of giving anguish to one
dearer than self. Who was he, with innocent blood almost reddening his
hands, with blasphemies nigh upon his lips, to take in his arms a
beautiful woman, pure as an angel of light? Richard ground his teeth
in his pain.

"Dear Sebastian," cried he once, despairing, "can even the great
pilgrimage wipe out my sin? Did not Foulques of Anjou go thrice to
Jerusalem before earning peace for his soul?"

"My son," was the answer, "fear not; your sin is great, yet not as
Foulques's, for he tortured his brother to death in a dungeon. No
other pilgrimage--to St. James of Compostella, to St. Martin of
Tours--is like to that to Jerusalem. And now you are to go, not with
staff and scrip, but with a good sword, and to win great battles for
God and His Christ!"

So for a moment Richard brightened; then, lapsing in gloom, he
groaned: "Unworthy, all unworthy am I so much as to look upon the City
of God! Let me turn monk, and seek peace in toil and fast and vigil."

But Sebastian shook his head: "Well I know that too often the very
seat of Satan is within the cloister--spiritual arrogance, worldly
lust, even in the great abbey of Clugny itself. And did God give you a
grip of steel and an arm of iron to let them grow weak in some monkish
cell? You have a great work before you, sweet son. Fear not, be
patient. God will bring it to pass!"

There was a strength, a simple majesty, about Sebastian, when he
spoke, that made all doubts for the moment flee away. So Richard
continued to possess himself in such peace as he might. Day by day he
grew stronger; and at last, just as October began with its cool
evenings and crystal mornings, he was again riding about upon Rollo.
All the St. Julien vassals fell on their knees when their dread lord
passed their hamlets, and they put up a prayer of thanksgiving; for
they said, "The seigneur is a kind and just man, with the love of God
in his heart, despite his fury at Valmont."

But now came messengers out of the south. Louis de Valmont had raised
a great force; all the roving bandits of the woods had gathered around
him; the war between Aquitaine and Toulouse lagged, and many landless
cavaliers had come under his banner. When Herbert heard the news he
began to talk of victualling St. Julien for a long siege, and sending
to Burgundy and Languedoc for help. But Richard would hear none of it.

"The saints know there has been enough Christian blood spilled, since
I came to Auvergne. There shall be no more in my quarrel," declared
he; and he sent back a messenger to Louis, saying that he prayed him
to enter on no new feud, but to grant a meeting where they might
compose their quarrels without arms. Three days sped, and back came
the envoy with a letter, which three months earlier would have made
Richard swear great oaths and draw out Trenchefer. "Louis de Valmont,"
ran the reply, "will come to St. Julien and there meet Richard
Longsword, and five hundred lances will come with him. As for
composition, let Richard make what terms he could with the saints, for
on earth he need beg for no quarter."

"By the Glory of Allah!" declared Musa, when the letter was read, "we
will make them cry 'Hold!' before many arrows fly!" And Herbert began
to call to arms the vassals of the barony, and chuckled when he
thought of the brave times ahead. But Richard, when he had slept on
the letter, called for Sebastian, and was with him long alone. Then he
unbuckled Trenchefer, put on a soiled, brown bleaunt, and bade them
bring a common palfrey for himself and a mule for Sebastian. He
commanded Herbert to keep strict guard of the castle, to yield to
none, to attack none. Even to Musa he would not tell the object of his
journey. With the priest at his side he rode out of the village, and
turned his face toward the south, where the road climbed over the
mountains.

They journeyed on till the sun lacked a bare hour of setting. Then
before them, on a smooth meadow where ran a little river, they saw
many rude tents, horses picketed to lances thrust in the ground, the
smoke of camp-fires; and heard the hum of a hundred voices. Presently
into the road sprang half a dozen surly, hard-visaged men with tossing
pole-axes and spiked clubs. They demanded of knight and priest their
business, in no gentle tone.

"Tell your master, Louis de Valmont," said Sebastian, mildly, "that a
cavalier and a servant of Holy Church would speak with him."

"A servant of Holy Church, ho!" cried one of the men-at-arms, with a
covetous glance at the mule; but Sebastian fastened his firelike eyes
upon the fellow, who dropped his gaze and began to mutter something
about the evil eye.

They led the two into the midst of the camp, where a great press of
disorderly varlets and petty nobles swarmed around, pointing,
laughing, whispering loudly. Only the largest tent was carefully
closed, and about it stood sentries in armor. A man-at-arms went to
this, thrust in his head, and was back with the message:--

"Sir Louis de Valmont and his mother, the noble Lady Ide, have no time
to waste words with every wandering knight and priest that come this
way. They bid you state your errand to me and begone, or we strip you
of steeds and purses."

"Tell Louis de Valmont," said Richard, in a voice that many might
hear, "that the Baron of St. Julien and his chaplain desire speech
with him, and that speedily!"

There was half a hum, half a growl, in the crowd about. Swords waved
on high; lances tossed; voices began to shout, "Seize! Strike!"
Sebastian swept round upon the soldiery with his terrible gaze, and
all recoiled. Richard stood stern and motionless as a rock. Then the
flap of the tent dashed aside, and forth strode a figure in silvered
casque and hauberk.

"Sir Louis de Valmont," said Richard, very gravely, advancing with
outstretched hand, "I greet you well. Let us meet in peace in Christ's
name!"

A dark scowl knotted the brow of De Valmont.

"By all the fiends, what devil persuaded you to come into my presence?
As God lives, you shall die this night, though you kiss my feet and
beg for life."

But Sebastian answered for Richard.

"It shall be as you say, Louis de Valmont; but first you shall look
into your own soul, and see if you be a meet instrument to execute
God's will. We cannot speak here. Let us enter the tent."

Louis stood obdurate; but with a single sweep of his hand and a second
lightning glance, Sebastian scattered the men-at-arms, and he and
Richard strode right past De Valmont into the tent.

Dimly within they saw the rude camp furniture, bedding and rugs on the
ground, where were laid out some silver dishes and flagons, and two
serving-maids were making ready a meal; but as they stepped in, before
them rose a figure, a woman with gray hair and a face ashen with a
great sorrow, who sprang forth to Richard with a bitter cry.

"Away, away, wretch, murderer! Hew him to death, Louis! Ah! my boy! my
boy!"

It was the Lady Ide. And at her cry Richard's face also grew ashen,
but he did not quail.

"Dear lady," answered he, "I am all you say. Yet let me speak. Your
son's men are all around; my life is in Louis's keeping."

"Away! away!" moaned the mother, "and as they kill you, let my curse
still be in your ears! Each night I cry to God to remember the blood
of Gilbert. Oh, may God's wrath be heavy upon you!"

"Lady," replied Richard, turning even paler, "God's wrath has indeed
been heavy upon me! Let them seize and torture me, I do not fear."

And here Louis broke in, raging:--

"Enough of this! In Satan's name, will you add to your infamy by
reviling my mother to her face? Ho, Robert, Aimeon,--this way!--drag
him forth!"

But Sebastian looked straight into De Valmont's eyes.

"Peace, man of sin! Know that if Richard Longsword be indeed so
accursed as you deem him, yet he is as Cain; for God has set a mark
upon him, lest any finding him should slay him!"

And under the priest's terrible gaze the Provençal's hand left his
sword-hilt, and he held down his head. Then to Lady Ide, Sebastian
spoke:--

"Daughter, your sorrow is great. Nevertheless, I warn you. As you
would stand at the judgment seat on the great Day, listen to the words
of this knight."

And Lady Ide also bowed her head. Then Richard began: "Noble lady, the
first cause of your sorrows lies not in me. My grandfather and your
son Raoul quarrelled; on what account I know not. But as God is my
just judge, the thing Raoul did to Baron Gaston, when he held him
prisoner, cried to heaven. I slew Raoul in fair battle after he had
tortured my grandfather, fettered in a dungeon."

And at this the mother burst forth:--

"Oh, holy St. Martin, but Raoul was a terrible man! Yes, I confess it,
though it was I that bore him. Did I not plead with him not to torture
Baron Gaston, and tell him the saints would requite tenfold?"

"Amen, daughter!" commented Sebastian, sternly.

"But Gilbert, my youngest, innocent as song-thrush! gentle as a little
girl!" the lady wailed.

"And I will speak of him also," continued Richard. "Before I came to
St. Julien, I had had quarrel with Sir Louis. Yet we warred in
knightly fashion. Sir Louis lost the day, but there was no stain upon
his honor. Still there was little love betwixt me and any of the De
Valmont name when I went to Auvergne. Then I came to St. Julien, and
saw my grandfather. Holy Cross! dear lady--could you have seen him,
you would have melted with pity--all seared by fire, those sightless
eyeballs!"

"No more! by every saint, no more!" moaned Lady Ide.

"When I saw him, and heard of Raoul, and heard that he had a younger
brother Gilbert, I swore a great oath to Heaven that the Valmonts were
a godless brood, and I would slay them all--all. For in my eyes
Gilbert was but as his brother." Lady Ide groaned, but Richard went
on: "Then when I stormed Valmont, I fought Raoul face to face and man
to man, and he perished as befits a valiant cavalier. Whether my own
sins are not now as great as his, let God judge; but if he died, he
died--I dare to say it--not without cause."

"It is true! Dear Christ, it is true! And I was his mother." Lady Ide
had her face bowed on her hands, and shook with her sobs. Richard
drove straight on:--

"Then the devil entered into me. I was mad with lust of slaying and
the heat of battle. My veins seemed turned to fire. I knew all that I
did, yet in a strange way knew not--only beheld myself striking,
shouting, running, as if I stood a great way off. I struck you down
foully. I slew Gilbert at the altar, and all the time that I raged, I
felt deep within--that what I did, was a sin against God. I shattered
the holy relics; I blasphemed heaven. There are those who have sinned
more than I, but they are not many."

The lady was not weeping now. She was staring at Richard with hard,
tearless eyes,--all the picture of that fearful night standing, as in
a vision, before them.

"But I have been punished,--punished, perhaps, after my sins,--yet
scarce has God given me grace to bear. I had a mother who held me
dear--dearer, if I may say it, than you held Gilbert."

"It cannot be!" cried Ide, starting up, but Sebastian frowned and she
was quiet.

"I had a mother, a father who also loved me, a brother gentle as
Gilbert, and a sister," and when Richard spoke the word even Louis
turned away his gaze, there was such agony on Longsword's face. "And
now tidings have come from Sicily that father, mother, and brother are
dead, slain wantonly by Iftikhar Eddauleh, whom Louis knows well; and
my sister! holy Mother of God, drive the thought from my heart! is the
captive of that paynim. So think you not the sin I committed against
you and yours has not met its reward? Think you I shall greatly fear,
if Sir Louis calls in his men and bids them slay me? What is death
beside the pains that I bear here!" And Richard smote his breast. Then
Louis burst forth:--

"But why, by the Holy Cross, did you venture hither? You know I have
sworn to have your life."

"Right well," answered the Norman, dropping his gaze; "and doubtless
you expected to find me holding St. Julien with all my vassals, and
much blood ready to be spilled. But I again have sworn an oath,--and
the oath is this: 'For my sins, and for the souls of my parents and
brother, I will go to free the Holy City from the unbeliever. And I
will shed no more Christian blood until I see the Cross triumphant on
the walls of Jerusalem, or until I die.' Therefore I stand before you,
asking to be forgiven; and if you will not, I do not fear death."

A long silence; then the woman broke it:--

"My boy! my boy! You have killed him! You must suffer!"

"I am willing, lady," said Richard, never stirring.

But Sebastian now had his word:--

"Take care, daughter, lest you too sin in the sight of God! What said
Our Lord upon the cross? 'Father, forgive them!' And has not this
Richard Longsword been chastened? been brought very low? You lost your
two sons; but one of these, by your own lips, is confessed worthy of
death, and for the slaying of the other this man has been repaid. He
slew one innocent: he has lost three--and one worse than dead. And he
is a chosen vessel of the Lord. For God has cut him short in his sins,
even as He cut short Paul when breathing forth threatenings and
slaughter. For I say unto you: I had granted unto me a vision,"--and
Sebastian's voice rose to a swelling height,--"no flitting dream of
the night, but clear as the noonday; I saw Richard Longsword standing
on the walls of Jerusalem, and above his head the cross. And he shall
fight great battles for Christ, and endure great tribulation more; but
shall see the desires of God upon the wicked. Therefore, you and you,
deal pitifully with him. For he has sinned, but has repented, and now
is one of God's elect."

And as Sebastian spoke, lo! Lady Ide's eyes were bright with tears,
and her frame shook with a mighty sobbing; for, as she looked on
Richard Longsword's face, she saw it aged with an agony beyond any
curse of human thought.

"Ah, dear God!" she cried, lifting up her hands, still very soft and
white, "Thou knowest it is hard, yet I--I forgive him!"

Richard knelt and kissed the hem of her robe.

"Sweet lady," said he, "you have given water to one who seemed parched
in nigh quenchless fire. For when such as you may forgive, I may look
to heaven, and say, 'Christ is not less merciful.'"

Lady Ide only pressed her hands to her face. Richard turned to Louis.
"And am I forgiven by you also?" was his prayer. But Louis answered:--

"My mother forgives you. That is enough. I am not made like the
angels, as is she. I will do you no harm. Since I cannot take my men
to St. Julien, we will go to Clermont, where the Pope will hold the
council, and brave adventures will be set afoot. Between us there is a
truce. Let forgiveness and friendship wait."

So Richard bowed his head and went out of the tent.



CHAPTER XVII

HOW RICHARD SAW PETER THE HERMIT


Thus Richard returned to St. Julien, to the great joy and wonderment
of Musa and Herbert, who had never expected to see him again after
learning his quest. As the days of autumn advanced, Richard began to
make ready for his progress to Clermont. For hither, report had it,
all France was flocking, small and great. In July Urban II, who, as
Cardinal of Ostia, had once knelt at the bed of the dying Gregory, had
crossed the Alps to see once more his native land,--for he was a
Frenchman, born near Chatillon-sur-Marne,--and now that he had become
the Vicar of Christ he did not forget that the best servants of Our
Lord prayed to Him in the Languedoc or the Languedoil. And so, leaving
behind Italy, with its wrangling prelates, its sordid city-folk, its
Antipope, and half-phantom emperor, he returned to his own people. And
lo! all France felt a thrill at the pontiff's coming--for who did not
know that wonders past thinking were at hand! The sense of sin hung
heavy on each man's soul: fast, penance, alms, gifts to abbeys, gifts
to rear cathedral walls, the vows of the monks--all these too feeble
to lift the pall of guilt! Richard was not the only despairing baron
who cried after this fashion,--"Miserable man that I am--who shall
save me from the body of this death!" Sin there was in France, lust,
violence; but also a spark of "the fire not of this world." Let the
breath of the spirit blow; let the prophet's voice cry to the four
winds; and the spark would spring to a flame, the flame to a roaring,
the roaring would echo to the ends of the earth. The sky was bright
over beloved France; day by day new castles were rising, cities also,
and cathedrals mounting up to heaven. All without grew more joyous
every day; but men, looking within, saw their sins beyond reckoning.
With France so fair, and "heaven so like thee, dear France," who would
not give all to possess so lovely a country forever!--yet their
sins--they were so many!

Urban had crossed the Alps in July; in August he was at Nimes; in
September he crossed the Rhone, thence to Clugny, "Queen of Abbeys,"
where he had been a humble monk years before. As November advanced, he
set his face toward Clermont, in Auvergne; and when St. Julien's folk
made preparation to journey thither, Sebastian could scarce restrain
his own impatience. All day he roamed about, his eyes bright but
vacant. Richard did not share his joy; for he thought not of the
pilgrimage only, but of Musa, and his mind grew darker. How he loved
the Arab! And yet was not this bond betwixt Christian and Moslem a sin
not lightly to be punished?

"_Ai_, my brother!" Richard would cry in despair; "turn Christian; go
with me to Jerusalem; when we return, take half of the St. Julien
lands!" Whereupon Musa laughed in his melancholy way, replying:--

"And why may not I bid you become Moslem and speed to Egypt?"

"Well that my faith is strong!" returned the Norman, bitterly. "But we
must part--must part! Yet God has made you flesh of my flesh. We see
love in each other's eyes. We hear each other's voices, and hear joy!
Were we both of one faith, where we two were, there would be heaven!
Yet, O Musa, we are sundered by a gulf wider than the sea!"

The friends had been pacing along the clearing without the castle; and
now Musa thrust his arm around the shoulder of the mighty Norman, and
the two strode on a long time silent. Then Richard continued:--

"Tell me, Musa, if you go to Egypt, and we Franks to Jerusalem, and it
befalls that you have chance to fight in defence of the Holy City,
will you embrace it? You are not a strait Moslem."

The Spaniard answered very slowly, his eyes on the ground:--

"What is written in the book of our dooms, that may no kalif shun.
Says Al-Koran, 'The fate of every man, we have bound about his neck.'
And again it says, 'No soul can die unless by the will of Allah,
according to that which is written in the book containing the
destinies of all things.' Therefore why ask me? The Most High knows
what will befall, whether you Christians will have your will, and see
your cross above the Holy City, or whether you will all be lying with
the dead."

"Amen!" answered Richard, solemnly. "Only to the Christian there can
be no doubt as to the will of God, unless, by the unworthiness of our
sinful hearts, we are denied the boon of setting free the tomb of Our
Lord. But, my kind brother, it is not of this that I would speak. I
dread this parting from you. Think! here stand I, with many vassals to
fear me, a few, like Herbert, to worship me; but--" and the strong
voice was broken--"on all the wide earth there are but three that love
me,--Sebastian, Mary Kurkuas, and you. And how may I lift eyes to Mary
now? And you--you are to be taken away."

Musa only looked on the grass at his feet. Then he said sweetly:--

"Ah, my brother, though now we part, I do not think our friendship
will have brought bitterness only. So long as we live we shall think
each of the other as the half of one's own soul that has traversed
away, but will in some bright future return. And who knows that your
churchmen, and even our prophet (on whom be peace), are wrong alike?
That every man and maid who has walked humbly in the sight of the Most
High, and striven to do His will, will not be denied the joy
hereafter? Do you think Allah is less compassionate than we, who have
dwelt together these many days, and to whom our faith has been no
barrier to pure love?"

Richard shook his head.

"God knows," said he, half piteously; "Sebastian says to me each day:
'The Spaniard is of the devil. Take heed! He stands on the brink of
the lake of quenchless fire; send him away, if you are truly devoted
to the service of Our Lord.'"

"And he is right," answered Musa, bending down and plucking a late
floweret; "our paths lie far asunder. You will go to Jerusalem, and if
you fare prosperously, you will return with the great load lifted from
your soul, and rule here as a mighty baron with Mary Kurkuas at your
side. And I--doubtless I shall gain favor at Cairo. They will give me
work to do. I shall become a great emir,--vizier perhaps--no--I will
better that; what may not a good sword hope with favoring start? May I
not be hailed in twenty years 'Commander of the Faithful'?"

And Richard, catching the lighter mood, answered: "And will you go
forever mateless? At Palermo how many bright eyes smiled on you! As
kalif the fifty houris of your harem will chase from mind the memory
of Richard the Frank." Musa tore in pieces the floweret, and blew away
the petals.

"A harem? Allah forefend! My father had three wives, and was the slave
of each at once. Never wittingly will I yield myself to love, save of
one who shall be the fairest of the daughters of Allah and gifted with
His own wisdom!"

"You speak of Mary Kurkuas!" cried the Norman, starting.

"_Wallah_, to every lover his mistress is the only fair one!"

So Musa made merry. A few days afterward he rode away with the
Saracens to La Haye, to tell Mary that for the sin of her betrothed,
Richard dared not hail her his bride. A sorry story! but only Musa
could make the best of it. Nasr and his Saracens were to be shipped
back to Sicily. As for Longsword, he set forth with a few men-at-arms
westward for Clermont.

As they travelled, more and more people met them, and all were going
the selfsame way. At Chanterelle the lord of the castle had to send to
Richard begging pardon, but there were already so many cavaliers with
their retainers halting with him for the night, that he could offer
no hospitality. At Valbelaix, lo! a great crowd of peasants, men with
long hair and shaggy beards, foot-sore women and little children, were
on the road; and when Richard asked them how they durst leave their
seigneur's lands and brave his wrath, an old man fell on his knees and
answered:--

"Ah, gentle knight, our seigneur may be angry, but God is still more
angry. For we have all many sins, and they say that at Clermont the
Holy Father will tell us how we may be loosed from them."

Then Richard bowed his head very humbly and bade Herbert cast a whole
bag of silver obols amongst the good people, and was very glad when
the children cried out in their sweet, clear voices: "God bless you,
good lord," and "Our Lady remember your kindness."

As the company rode toward Courgoul, they came on another knight with
his train. The cavalier was a thick-pated, one-eyed old warrior, who
had a life of hard fighting and foul living written all over his face.
But when Richard inquired whither he journeyed, the old sinner made
reply:--

"To Clermont, brave sir."

"And why to Clermont?"

"Ah! you have two eyes. You can see; my sins are more than the leaves
on the trees. I could never remember them all at confession. But even
I," and he crossed himself, "am a Christian; and if by riding a few
jousts with the infidels the saints will think more kindly of me, St.
Anastaise, it would be no irksome penance!"

So they travelled, and Richard began to see that he was not the only
one who felt the hand of God very heavy upon him. When the troop came
to Courgoul, a great band of country folk, farmers, petty nobles, and
two or three greater lords were overtaken, all hurrying and shouting,
so that for a long time Longsword could learn nothing from them. Then,
at last, men began to cry, "He is here! he is here!" just as they
turned in before the little village church.

"Who is this 'he'?" pressed Richard. And twenty tongues tossed back:
"Are you a stranger? Peter of Amiens! Peter the Hermit, the apostle of
God!"

So the whole band swarmed to the church door, but could not enter, for
within there was no room to stand. And an old priest came forth, and
scarce obtained silence:--

"Back, back, good Christians, the saintly Peter will come and speak to
you under the great tree."

Then all surged again to a wide-spreading oak before the church, and
the building emptied like bees pouring from a hive; but last of all,
with a sacristan guarding at either side to keep off the people, came
a little man, almost a dwarf in stature. He had his eyes on the
ground; his carriage was ungainly; head and feet were bare. His hair
was unshorn, his brown beard fell upon his breast. One could see that
his cheeks were wan with fasting. He wore a gray hermit's cloak, and
beneath that a rude, dirty cassock, girt With a cord. And this was the
man who was setting France aflame, and doing that which King Philip or
his greatest vassal could not with all their lieges! "Your blessing,
father, your blessing!" voices began to cry. And now a woman, who had
tried to kiss his cloak's hem, but had been thrust back by a
sacristan, fell on her knees, and was kissing the sod where the
hermit's foot had pressed. More voices: "Your blessing, father! Our
sins are great! Pray to God for us--He will hear you!" And the baron
whom Richard had met was on his knees before the anchorite, bowing his
wicked old head, and moaning and sobbing and gasping out all sorts of
petitions. Peter had reached the foot of the great tree. It stood on a
slight rising, and the crowd all gave back a little. Peter fell on his
knees, beat his breast, and prayed silently. And with him all knelt a
long while, each repeating his _mea culpa_. Then the hermit rose. At
the flash of his eyes, bright as carbuncles, a fire seemed to burn to
each hearer's deepest soul.

"Listen, Christians of Auvergne!" One could hear a leaf rustle, it was
so still. "You say your sins are many?" "Yes, yes!" came from a
thousand voices, all moaning at once. A slight gesture; they were
silent. "And you say well. God is very angry with you. He sent His
dear son, Our Lord, to this world more than a thousand years ago. How
wicked it still is! Who of you is guiltless? Let such go hence. I have
no word for him. But you," with a lightning gaze about, "have given
way to lustful passion; and you--have blasphemed the name of God; and
you--have shed innocent blood. It is so. I see it in all your eyes."
And now a terrible commotion was shaking the crowd. Strong men were
crying out in agony; women wailed; there were tears on the most iron
cheek. Peter went on: "I am not the Holy Father. Come to Clermont, if
you wish to learn how to be loosed from your sins. But hear my tale
and consider if the acceptable day of the Lord be not at hand,--the
day when your sins which are as scarlet shall be washed white as wool.
Know, good people, that not long since I was in Palestine, in the dear
home land of our Blessed Lord. Ah, it would tear your hearts too much,
were I to tell you all that I there saw: how the unbelievers pollute
churches and holy altars with vile orgies; how the blood of the
oppressed Christians has run in the streets of Jerusalem, like brooks
in the springtime; how even the Rock of Calvary and the Church of the
Holy Sepulchre have been defiled--by deeds which the tongue may not
utter!" A pause. The crowd was swaying in emotion beyond control.
Peter held on high a large crucifix, and pointed to the Christ
thereon: "Look at the body of Our Lord. His wounds bleed afresh; they
bleed for His children who have forgotten Him, and turned away to
paths of wickedness, and left His sacred city to unbelievers. O
generation of vipers, who shall save you from eternal wrath?" The cord
was strained nigh to breaking. The people were moaning and tossing
their arms. A great outburst seemed impending. "Come to Clermont. For
I say unto you that God has not turned away His face utterly. There
the Holy Father will tell you what you shall do to be saved. Thus long
has God seen your wickedness and been angry with you. But He has not
kept His anger forever. Be sober and of good courage, for a great day
is at hand. When I was in Jerusalem, I communed with the saintly
Simeon, the patriarch, and wept bitterly over the griefs of the
Christians there and the arrogancy of the unbelievers. And I declare
to you that when I knelt one day at the Holy Sepulchre, I heard a
voice: 'Peter of Amiens, arise! Hasten to proclaim the tribulations of
My people; the time cometh for My servants to receive help and My holy
tomb to be delivered!' And I knew it was Our Lord Himself that spoke.
Therefore I rested not day nor night until I had bidden the Christians
of the West put forth their might in God's most holy war!"

For a moment stillness; then Peter broke forth again: "Awake, awake,
put on strength, O arm of the Lord! Awake as in the ancient time, in
the generations of old! Then shall the redeemed of the Lord return,
and come singing into Zion; and they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and mourning shall flee away!"

Then there was a strange thing. The people did not cry out, the
moaning was hushed, all kept motionless; and the hermit stood holding
up the crucifix, with his hand outstretched in benediction!--

"To Clermont!" was his command; "to Clermont, men of Auvergne! There
you shall have rest for your souls!"

He went down from the little rising, and the people again began to
flock about him. But he called for his mule, and when he mounted it,
made away, though the crowd pressed close, and found holy relics in
the beast's very hairs. Richard had been stirred as never before in
his whole life. Was it true that all the world was guilty and sinful
even as he? He felt himself caught in a mighty eddy, bearing he knew
not whither; he, one wavelet amid the sea's myriads. Yes, to Clermont
he would go,--Musa, Mary Kurkuas, honor, life,--he would give them all
if need be, only to have his part in the war ordained by God.



CHAPTER XVIII

HOW RICHARD MET GODFREY OF BOUILLON


Under the dead craters of the Monts Dôme in the teeming Limagne basin
lay Clermont, a sombre, lava-built town, with muddy lanes; and all
around, the bright, cold, autumn-touched country. Far beyond the walls
stretched a new city,--tents spread over the meadows even; for no
hospitable burghers could house the hundreds of prelates and abbots
come to the council; much less the host of lay nobles and "villains."
Daily into the Cathedral went the great bishops in blazing copes, and
the lordly abbots beneath gold-fringed mitres, to the Council where
presided the Holy Father,--where the truce of God was being proclaimed
between all Christians from each Wednesday set-of-sun till Monday
cockcrow, and where Philip of France and his paramour Queen Bertrade
were laid under the great anathema. But no man gave these decrees much
heed; for when Richard Longsword rode into Clermont on a November day,
and pitched his tents far out upon the meadows,--all near space being
taken,--he wondered at the flash in every eye at that one magic word,
"Jerusalem!" All had heard Peter; all burned for the miseries of the
City of Our Lord; knew that their own sins were very great. From
Pérignat to Clermont, Richard accompanied a great multitude, growing
as it went. After he had encamped, the roads were still black with
those coming from the north, from Berri; from the west, from
Aquitaine; from the east, from Forez. One could hear the chatter of
the Languedoil, of the Ile de France, and of Champagne--all France was
coming to Clermont!

Beside Richard encamped an embassy from the Count Raymond of Toulouse,
headed by a certain Raymond of Agiles, a fat, consequential,
good-natured priest, his lord's chaplain; a very hard drinker who soon
struck hands with Longsword,--much to the scandal of Sebastian, who
did not love tales of lasses and wine-cups. With him was a half-witted
clerk, one Peter Barthelmy, of whom more hereafter. But Richard cared
little for their jests. Could even the Holy Father give rest to his
soul? Could a journey to Jerusalem write again his name in the Book of
Life?

Richard went to the church of Our Lady of the Gate. Kneeling by the
transept portal, with strangely carved cherubim above him, he looked
into the long nave, where only dimly he could see the massy piers and
arches for the blaze of light from two high windows bright with
pictured saints. As he entered, a great hush and peace seemed to come
over him. He turned toward the high altar; the gleaming window above
seemed a doorway into heaven. He knelt at a little shrine by the
aisle. He would pray. Lo, of a sudden the choir broke forth from the
lower gloom:--

    "That great Day of wrath and terror!
    That last Day of woe and doom,
    Like a thief that comes at midnight
    On the sons of men shall come;
    When the pride and pomp of ages
    All shall utterly have passed,
    And they stand in anguish owning
    That the end is here at last!"

Richard heard, and his heart grew chill. Still the clear voices sang
on, till the words smote him:--

    "Then to those upon the left hand
    That most righteous Judge shall say:
    'Go, you cursèd, to Gehenna
    And the fire that is for aye.'"

Richard bowed his head and rocked with grief. But when he looked again
up toward the storied windows and saw the Virgin standing bathed in
light, her eyes seemed soft and pitiful. Still he listened as the
music swelled on:--

    "But the righteous, upward soaring,
    To the heavenly land shall go
    'Midst the cohorts of the angels
    Where is joy forevermo':
    To Jerusalem, exulting,
    They with shouts shall enter in:
    That true 'sight of peace' and glory
    That sets free from grief and sin,
    Christ, they shall behold forever,
    Seated at the Father's hand
    As in Beatific Vision
    His elect before Him stand."

Richard sprang to his feet. "_Ai!_" were his words, half aloud; "if
hewing my way to the earthly Jerusalem I may gain sight of the
heavenly, what joy! what joy!"

A hand touched him gently on the shoulder. He looked about, half
expecting to see a priest; his eye lit on a cavalier, soberly dressed,
with his hood pulled over his head. In the gloom of the church Richard
could only see that he was a man of powerful frame and wore a long
blond beard.

"Fair knight," said the stranger, in the Languedoil, in a voice low,
but ringing and penetrating, "you seem mightily moved by the singing;
do you also wish to win the fairer Holy City by seeking that below? I
heard your words." There was something in the tone and touch that won
confidence without asking. And Richard answered:--

"Gallant sir, if God is willing that I should be forgiven by going ten
score times to Jerusalem, and braving twelve myriad paynims, I would
gladly venture."

The strange knight smote his breast and cast down his eyes. "We are
all offenders in the sight of God, and I not the least. Ah! sweet
friend, I know not how you have sinned. At least, I trust you have not
done as I, borne arms against Holy Church. What grosser guilt than
that?"

The two knelt side by side at the little shrine for a long time,
saying nothing; then both left the church, and together threaded the
dirty lanes of the town, going southward to the meadows where was
Richard's encampment. As they stepped into the bright light of day,
Longsword saw that the stranger was an exceeding handsome man, with
flashing gray eyes, long fair hair, and, though his limbs were slender
and delicate, his muscles and frame seemed knit from iron. When they
passed the city gate, Richard asked the other to come to his tent.
"You are my elder, my lord; do not think my request presumption."

"And why do you say 'my lord'?" asked the stranger, smiling.

"Can I not see that your bleaunt, though sombre, is of costliest
_cendal_ silk? that your 'pelisson' is lined with rare marten? that
the chain at your neck is too heavy for any mean cavalier? And--I cry
pardon--I see that in your eye which makes me say, 'Here is a mighty
lord!'"

The knight laughed again, and stroked his beard thoughtfully.

"Good sir," said he, at length, "I see you are a 'sage' man. You
desire to go to Jerusalem?"

"Yes, by Our Lady!"

"So do I; and I have come no small journey to hear the Holy Father.
Let us seal friendship. Your name?"

"Richard Longsword, Baron of St. Julien," answered the Norman,
promptly, thrusting out his hand.

"And mine," replied the other, looking fairly into Longsword's face,
with a half-curious expression, "is Godfrey of Bouillon."

But Richard had dropped the proffered hand, and bowed very low.
"Godfrey of Bouillon? Godfrey of Lorraine? O my Lord Duke, what folly
is mine in thrusting myself upon you--" But Godfrey cut him short.

"Fair sir, do not be dismayed; your surmise is true! God willing, we
shall ride side by side in more than one brave battle for the Cross;
and I count every Christian cavalier who will fight with the love of
Our Lord in his heart to be my good comrade and brother."

"O my lord," began Richard again; and again the elder man stayed him
with, "And why not? Will God give a higher place in heaven to the
sinful duke than to the righteous peasant? Are we not told 'he that
exalteth himself shall be abased'? And why have I, man of sin from my
birth, cause to walk proudly?"

The last words came so naturally that Richard could only cry out in
despair: "_Ai_, Lord Duke, and if that be so, and you, who all men say
are more monk than cavalier, are so evil, what hope then for such as
I, who have sinned nigh past forgiveness?"

"And what was your sin, fair knight?"

"I slew an innocent boy with his hands upon the altar."

Godfrey crossed himself, but answered very mildly: "You have greatly
offended, yet not as I. For when you slew only a mortal boy, I
crucified My Lord afresh by bearing arms against His Holy Church.
Eleven years since with the Emperor Henry, in an evil hour, I aided
him to take Rome from the saintly Pope Gregory. For this God let me be
stricken by a great sickness. I was at death's door. Then His mercy
spared me. And when I recovered, I swore that I would ride forth to
the deliverance of the Holy City; in the meantime, under my silken
robe I wear this," and he showed a coarse haircloth shirt, "as a
remembrance of my sin and of my vow."

"But you are without state?" asked Richard, wondering; "no vassals--no
great company?"

Godfrey smiled. "What are the pomps of this world?" said he, crossing
himself again; "yet in the eyes of men I must maintain them; such is
the bondage of the ruler. Just now my affairs are such in Lorraine and
Brabant that were it to be noised abroad that the Duke were gone to
Clermont, there would be no small stir, and then, perhaps, many would
conspire to resist me. But now they think me hunting, to return any
day, and they dare not move in their plots. Yet my heart has burned to
see the Lord Pope, and hear the word that he must speak. Therefore I
have come hither, in the guise of a simple knight, riding with all my
speed, and only one faithful lord with me, who passes for my
man-at-arms. And I must get the blessing and mandate of the Holy
Father, and be back to Maestricht ere too many tongues begin wagging
over my stay." And then with a flash of his keen eyes he turned on
Richard: "And you, my Lord de St. Julien,--are you not the son of that
great Baron, William the Norman, who rode the length of Palermo in the
face of all the Moslems during the siege, and were you not also victor
in the famous tourney held last year by Count Roger?"

"I am, my Lord Duke; yet how could you know me?"

Godfrey laughed lightly. "I make no boast, fair sir," he answered,
"but there are very few cavaliers in all Christendom of whom I do not
know something. For this war for the Cross is no new thing in my
heart; and I strive to learn all I may of each good knight who may
ride at my side, when we battle with the paynim; and I rejoice that
your dwelling in half-Moslem Sicily has not made your hate for the
unbeliever less strong."

"Ah!" cried Richard, "only lately have I resolved to go to Jerusalem;
I have fought against it long. To go I must put by the wedding of the
fairest, purest woman in all the world,--perhaps forever. Yet my sin
is great; and the blood of my parents and brother, slain by the
infidels, will not let me rest. But it is very hard."

"Therefore," said Godfrey, solemnly, with the fervor of an enthusiast
kindling his eyes, "in the sight of God, your deed will have the more
merit. Be brave, sweet brother. Put by every worldly desire and lust.
I also have sworn to live as brother to mine own dear wife, till the
paynims defile the city of the Lord no more. Our Lady grant us both
the purer, uncarnal love, the glory passing thought, the seats at
God's right hand!" And the great Duke strode on, his head bowed in
deep revery, while Richard drew new strength and peace from his mere
presence. Richard brought Godfrey to his own tent, letting De Carnac
and the others know little of the story of his guest; and with the
Duke came Count Renard of Toul, his comrade, a splendid and handsome
cavalier, who seemed singularly ill-matched with his man-at-arms
jerkin and plain steel cap. Longsword called Theroulde, and the
_jongleur_ was at his best that night as he sang the direful battle of
Roncesvalles, the valor of Roland and Oliver, and the gallant Bishop
Turpin; and of Ganelon and his foul treason, King Marsillius and his
impious attack on the armies of Christ; the death of the dreadful
paynim Valdobrun, profaner of Jerusalem, and a hundred heroes more. As
the tale ran on, it was a thing to see how the Duke swelled with holy
rage against the infidel. As Theroulde sang, sitting by the camp-fire,
the Duke would forget himself, spring from the rugs, and dash his
scabbard upon the ground, until at last when the _jongleur_ told how
Roland wound his great horn thrice in anguish, after it was all too
late and the Frankish army far away, Godfrey could rein himself no
more: "By the Splendor of God!" was his shout, "would that I had been
there and my Lorrainers!" Then Theroulde was fain to keep silence till
the terrible lord (for so he guessed him) could be at peace. Late that
night they parted. On the morrow, report had it, the Pope would
address all the Christians at Clermont from a pulpit in the great
square.

"And then,--and then,"--repeated the Duke; but he said no more, for
they all knew their own hearts. Richard lay down with a heart lighter
than it had been for many a dreary day. "Jerusalem! Jerusalem!" The
name was talisman for every mortal woe.

       *       *       *       *       *

Long after Richard had fallen asleep, Herbert sat with Theroulde,
matching good stories before the camp-fire. The man-at-arms lolled
back at full length by the blaze, his spade-like hands clasped under
his head, his sides shaking with horse-laughs at Theroulde's jests.
Suddenly the _jongleur_ cut his merry tale short.

"St. Michael! There is a man lurking in the gloom behind the Baron's
tent. Hist!"--and Theroulde pointed into the dark. Herbert was on his
feet, and a javelin in his hand, in a twinkling.

"Where?" he whispered, poising to take aim.

"He is gone," replied the _jongleur_; "the night has eaten him up."

"You are believing your own idle tales," growled the man-at-arms.

"Not so; I swear I saw him, and the light as on a drawn dagger. He was
a misshaped, dwarfish creature."

Herbert sped the javelin at random into the dark. It crashed on a
tent-pole. He ran and recovered it.

"No one is there," he muttered; "you dream with open eyes, Theroulde.
Tell no tale of this to Lord Richard. He has troubles enough."



CHAPTER XIX

HOW RICHARD TOOK THE CROSS


With the dawn that twenty-sixth day of November a great multitude was
pouring through the gates of Clermont. A bleak wind was whistling from
the north, mist banks hung heavy on the eastern hills, veiling the
sun; but no one had turned back. A silent crowd, speaking in whispers;
but all manner of persons were in it--seigneur and peasant, monk and
bishop, graybeard and child, lord's lady and serf's wife,--all headed
for the great square. Richard, with Duke Godfrey and Renard of Toul,
fought their way through the throng; for what counted feudal rank that
day! They came on a richly dressed lady, who struggled onward,
dragging a bright-eyed little boy of four.

"Help, kind cavaliers!" came her appeal. "In the press my husband has
been swept from me."

The three sprang to aid. She was a sweet-faced lady, reminding Richard
of Mary Kurkuas. "And who may your husband be?" he asked, setting the
lad on his own firm shoulder.

"He is Sir Tescelinde de Fontaines of Burgundy," answered she, "and I
am the Lady Alethe. We wished our little Bernard here should say when
he grew old, 'I heard the Holy Father when he sent the knights to
Jerusalem.'"

"And he shall see and hear him, by St. Michael!" cried Richard, little
knowing that his stout shoulder bore him whom the world in threescore
years would hail as the sainted Bernard of Clairvaux. The boy stared
around with great sober eyes, looking wisely forth after the manner of
children.

"Yes," repeated Richard, while Godfrey and Renard cleared a way to the
very centre of the square, right under the rude pulpit set for the
occasion. There was a high stone cross standing in front of the
platform, and Richard seated his burden on one of its long arms. "Now,
my little lord," cried he, "you shall be under the Pope's own eye, and
your mother shall sit on the coping below and watch you."

"You are a good man!" declared the child, impulsively, stretching out
his little fat arms.

"Ah!" replied Richard, half wistfully, as his glance lit on Louis, who
had struggled to the front, "would that all might say likewise!"

Richard looked about. The ground rose a little around the pulpit; he
could see a great way,--faces as far as the eye could reach, velvet
caps and bare heads, women's bright veils and monkish cowls,
silver-plated helmets of great lords, iron casques of men-at-arms,--who
might number them? Pennoned lances tossed above the multitude, banners
from every roof and dark street whipped the keen wind. Each window
opening on the wide square was crowded with faces.

The Norman did not see a certain, dark-visaged hunchback, who strove
to thrust himself through the throng to a station beside him. For when
Godfrey's sharp eyes and frown fell on the rascal, he vanished
instantly in the press. But Longsword waited, while men climbed the
trees about and perched like birds on the branches, and still the
multitude pressed thicker and thicker; more helmets, more lances, more
bright veils and brilliant scarfs. Would the people come forever? Yet
all was wondrously silent; no clamor, no rude pressure; each took post
and waited, and listened to the beating of his own heart.

"The Pope is in the cathedral. He is praying for the special presence
of the Holy Ghost," went the low whisper from lip to lip. And the
multitude stood thus a long time, many with heads bowed in prayer. The
chill wind began to die away as the sun mounted. Richard could see
rifts in the heavy cloud banks. The shadow over the arena lifted
little by little. Why was it that every breath seemed alive with
spirits unseen? that the sigh of the flagging wind seemed the rustle
of angels' wings? that he, and all others, half expected to see
bright-robed hosts and a snow-white dove descending from the dark
cathedral tower? More waiting; little Bernard began to stir on his
hard seat. He was weary looking at the crowd. His mother touched him.
"Be quiet, dear child, bow your head, and say your 'Our Father'; the
Holy Spirit is very near to us just now."

At last--slowly the great central portal of the cathedral opened. They
could hear the low, sweet strains of the processional streaming out
from the long nave; the doors swung wider; and forth in slow
procession came priests and prelates in snow-white linen, two by two,
the bishops crowned with white mitres, and around them floated a pale
haze as the faint breeze bore onward the smoke from a score of censers
swinging in the acolytes' hands, as they marched beside. But before
all, in a cope where princely gems were blazing, marched the grave and
stately Adhemar of Monteil, Lord Bishop of Puy, and in his hands, held
on high, a great crucifix of gold and ivory. And as the white-robed
company advanced the multitude could hear them singing the noble
sequence of St. Notker:--

    "The grace of the Holy Ghost be present with us,
    And make our hearts a dwelling-place to itself;
    And expel from them all spiritual wickedness!"

While the procession advanced, the people gave way to right and left
before it; and a great swaying and murmur began to run through them,
waxing more and more when, at the end, the clear voices sang:--

    "Thyself, by bestowing on the apostles of Christ a gift immortal
          and unheard of from all ages,
    Hast made this day glorious."

"Verily the Holy Spirit is not far from us," said Duke Godfrey,
softly, as the last strains rang out. Still more prelates, more
priests; forth came Dalmace, archbishop of Narbonne, William, bishop
of Orange, Matfred of Beziers, Peter, abbot of Aniane, and a hundred
great churchmen more. Then, last of all, with his cardinals all about
him, and a heavy cross of crystal carried aloft, came the Vicar of God
on earth. Richard beheld the glowing whiteness of the bands of his
pallium, whereon black crosses were embroidered; the jewels flashing
on the cope and its golden clasp; the gold on his mitre higher than
all the rest. He could see the face of the pontiff, pale, wrapt,
spiritual, looking not at the mighty crowd about, that was beginning
to sink to its knees, but up into the heavens, as though beyond the
dun clouds he had vision of fairer heavens and fairer earth. Then the
chanting clerics sang again, and advanced more boldly. And as they
moved, two knights striding at either side of the Pope raised lances,
and shook out long banners of white silk, upon each a blood-red cross.
Loud and joyful now was the singing:--

    "The Royal Banners forward go;
    The Cross shines forth with mystic glow;
    Where He in flesh, our flesh who made,
    Our sentence bore, our ransom paid.

    "O Tree of beauty! Tree of light!
    O Tree with royal purple dight!
    Elect on whose triumphal breast,
    Those holy limbs should find their rest!"

Louder the singing. As the people gave way, the prelates and priests
stood at either side, while the Pope ascended the pulpit, at his side
Peter the Hermit. First spoke Peter. The little monk was eloquent as
never before. He told the familiar tale of the woes of the Jerusalem
Christians, so that not a soul was untouched by mortal pang. At times
it seemed the multitude must break forth; but no sound came: only a
swaying and sobbing as from ten thousand hearts. Then a long silence,
when he ceased. It was so still, all could hear the gentle wind
crooning over the tree-tops, and when a little child began to wail,
its cry was hushed--affrighted at its own clamor.

Then stood forth the Pope. And if it had been silent before, there
was deeper silence now. The very wind grew still, and every breath was
bated. Far and wide over that mighty throng the pontiff threw his
voice, clear as a trumpet, yet musical and soulful. His words were not
in the stately Latin, but in the sweet familiar Languedoc, and entered
men's hearts like live coals from off the altar.

"Nation of France: nation whose boast it is you are the elect of God,
glorious in your faith and love of Holy Church, you I address. For you
have heard and your souls are torn with the sorrows wrought at
Jerusalem by that race so hateful to God. You have heard, and I know
well what moves within your hearts. Shall I repeat the words of this
holy hermit? Shall I tell how churches are beaten down, or--Christ
forbid--become temples of the accursed worship? Shall I tell how
Christians have bathed the very altars in their blood; how your
brethren have chosen martyrdom, rather than deny Christ's name? O Holy
Cross of Christ, verily thy dumb wood must cry out, nay, the stones
break silence if the Christians of the West harden their hearts and
will not hear; if no sword flashes forth in vengeance, no army hastes
to succor the Sacred City."

And Urban had gone no further when there was again a swaying,
throbbing, sobbing in the crowd. For an instant the Pope's voice was
drowned, not by outcry, but by one vast murmur. He beckoned; there was
silence, then higher rose his voice.

"O saintly spirits of Charlemagne, and of Louis his pious son,
scourges of Saracens, why do ye sleep? Awake; awake; tell your
children of France that holy war is theirs! O souls of the martyrs,
long at rest, awake, awake; stir the cold hearts of these Christians
that I may not speak in vain! O Holy Tomb of Our Lord, and thou
Calvary, where the price for all our sins was paid, speak forth the
sorrows of Christ's servants to these hard Western hearts. Kindle our
hearts, O Lord, and grant Thine own spirit, that I may speak as
becometh Thee and Thy Holy City--Jerusalem!

"Sweet children in Christ, hear the cry of that city; hear the cry of
those holy fields where trod the Son of God; hear the moan of the
Christian virgins torn to captivity by paynim hands; hear the cry to
God of ten thousand souls whose blood smokes to heaven! How long! O
Lord, how long! When will come vengeance on the oppressor!"--Again the
multitude were quaking,--a deep roar springing from a myriad throats,
and hands were on hilts, and pennons shook madly. But Urban dropped
his voice, and again commanded silence.

"Wherefore has God suffered this? Does He take pleasure in the woes of
His children? Is He glad when unbelievers pollute His altars, hew in
pieces His holy bishops, and cry, 'See how helpless is your crucified
Lord!' Ah, sweet children, look into your own hearts, and search if
you are meet instruments to do His pleasure. Let us weep, let us weep
over Jerusalem! Let us weep, let us weep over our own sins, for each
one of us has more than the hairs of his head; and in the sight of God
none is worthy even to behold the Holy City from afar; and if not
worthy of the earthly city, how much less of the heavenly! All, all
have sinned in God's pure sight. I see cavaliers, sworn defenders of
Holy Church; your hands are red with Christian blood wantonly shed. I
see great prelates, touched with the sacred chrism,--unworthy
shepherds of Christ's sheep; you are stained with pride, hypocrisy,
lust of power. I see men and women of mean estate; selfishness, lust,
unholy hate, are strong within you. All, all have sinned!"

And now strong men were kneeling and groaning, "No more!"--were
stretching out their arms to heaven, and moaning, "Mercy! mercy!" and
here one man and there another was crying out that he had committed
some direful deed, calling on all around to pray God with him for
pardon. But Urban kept on.

"Be of good cheer, sweet children; your sins are great, but greater is
the mercy of God. For I stand before you clothed with power from on
high. Mine are the keys of heaven and earth and hell. And I say to
you, despite your sins, you are forgiven. Shed no bootless tears; for
deeds, not tears, to-day avail. The heritage of the Lord is wasted;
the Queen of cities groans in chains--who, who will spring to her
release?

"Warriors who own the name of Christ, you I address,--you, who have
slain wickedly in unholy war, rejoice! A holy war awaits! You who have
sped fellow-Christians to death, rejoice! God will give you to trample
down the alien! Draw forth the sword of the Maccabees, and go forward.
To him who lives, God will give the spoils of the heathen for an
inheritance; him who dies, Christ Jesus will confess before his
Father. Draw forth the sword, Christians of France! Draw forth, and
let it flush red in the unbelievers' blood! For this is the Lord's
doing, and he who enters upon it, casting out all hate for his brother
from his heart, and with the love of Christ strong within, is purged
of all sin, be it however great, and his name is written in the book
of life!"--A mighty din was rising, but Urban's voice swelled above it
all. "_Soldiers of Hell, become soldiers of the living God!_" was his
cry, facing straight upon Richard; "lands, fame, home, friends,
love,--put them all by; remember the wounds of Christ, the moans of
Jerusalem; for now again Christ says to you, 'He who loveth father and
mother more than me is not worthy of me; if any man will come after
me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me--" No
more; for there rose a thunder as when storm-driven billows break upon
the beach.

"God wills it!" From Richard's lips it had sprung, all unbidden.
Godfrey had caught it--Hildebrand's battle-cry. And as if the shout
had reached high heaven, that instant the dun clouds parted. The sun
streamed on naked swords and tossing lances innumerable; the flashing
of the brightness was terrible as celestial light.

"God wills it!"

Every tongue had caught the cry. It swelled forth, unbidden, the
voicings of the passion in ten thousand breasts. The sun glanced on
the crystal cross in the Pope's hand: those who saw were dazzled, and
looked away.

"Yes," cried Urban, across the sea of quivering steel, "God sends His
own sign from on high. Truly, thus 'God wills it!' To-day is fulfilled
the Saviour's promise, that where His faithful are He will be. He it
is that has put these words in your hearts; choose them as battle-cry;
for on your side will be the God of battles, and at His will you shall
trample down the unbeliever."

Then Urban raised on high the fire-bathed cross. "See," cried he once
more, his voice rising above the swelling din, "Christ Himself issues
from the tomb, and gives to you this cross. It shall be the sign
lifted among the nations which is to gather together the outcasts of
Israel. Wear it upon your shoulders, upon your breasts; let it shine
upon your arms, surety of victory or palm of martyrdom; unceasing
reminder that as Christ died for you, so ought you to die for Him and
His glory!"

Again rose the clamor, and until they chanted his death-mass Richard
forgot not that hour. One wild cry went up, the scope of heaven shook,
the earth quaked; and now the shout was, "The Cross! the Cross! to
Jerusalem!" The swords danced more madly, and little Bernard rose from
his seat, tossed his tiny fists in the air, and joined the mighty cry.
Louis de Valmont, who had stood opposite Richard all the time, and
drunk in each word, ran out before all men, flung his mailed arms
round Longsword's neck and kissed him, while tears streamed down his
face.

"O sweet brother," cried the Auvergner, all melted, "I too have sinned
greatly in God's sight. I cannot go to Jerusalem with hate upon my
soul. I forgive the death of Gilbert; pray that Our Lord may forgive
me!"

The other men who had nursed unholy wrath one to the other began to
embrace, and to beg for pardon; and many more kneeling stretched up
their arms, calling heaven to witness they would shed no more
Christian blood till the Holy City was redeemed. Urban stood upon the
platform, silent, and looking out upon the throng with a smile that
the beholders thought was not of this world. But when the surgings of
the multitude were a little stayed, the Pope again beckoned, and there
was great silence. Then Cardinal Gregory came forward, and all knelt
and beat their breasts, repeating the _Confiteor_.

"I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, through my
fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault," repeated the
thousands; "therefore I beseech the blessed Mary, ever Virgin, the
blessed Michael, the archangel, the blessed John the Baptist, the Holy
Apostles, Peter and Paul, and all the saints to pray to the Lord Our
God for me."

Then when every casqued head was bowed low, the Cardinal proclaimed in
a voice which the most distant might hear, "To as many as shall from
pure love of Christ take the cross to go for the deliverance of
Jerusalem, the same I do absolve from all their sins, and declare them
spotless and perfect, in sight of God the Father, God the Son, and God
the Holy Ghost. Amen!" And the words fell on Richard's soul like water
on fevered lips. Another great cry, "The Cross! the Cross!" and the
thousands surged with one impulse toward the pulpit, demanding the
sacred token at the pontiff's own hands. And nigh foremost was
Richard; not first, for Bishop Adhemar of Puy, his heart burning with
holy fire, was already kneeling before the Pope, and Urban was pinning
a red-cloth cross upon his shoulder. But Richard had sprung upon the
platform and was next.

The Pope smiled when he saw his mighty frame and sinews of iron--a
direful foe of the infidels!

"Father, Holy Father, do you not know me?" cried Richard.

"I do not, sweet son," said Urban, pinning fast the cross.

"I am that lad Richard who stood by Pope Gregory's bedside; but I have
greatly sinned."

"Be of good cheer!" said the pontiff, gently; "you have remembered
your vow. Your sin, however great, is forgotten of God."

So Richard stood back, while Godfrey of Bouillon knelt to receive the
cross. At sight of him Urban smiled again, and would have spoken; for
he recognized the great Duke. But Godfrey whispered, "Not here, Holy
Father, not here; but soon from Metz to Antwerp I will be calling out
my vassals to go to Jerusalem." Then Godfrey stepped back, with the
red badge upon his breast; after him came Renard of Toul; after him
Louis de Valmont; and then the merry priest Raymond of Agiles, merry
no longer, but with a grave and consequential cast upon his face. As
he knelt before the Holy Father, he said he took the cross both in his
own name and in that of his lord and patron Raymond, sovereign Count
of St. Gilles and Toulouse, who pledged himself to the war with all
his southern chivalry. Then there was more shouting and rejoicing, and
it seemed as if the clamor would never end, nor the train of knights
and barons cease advancing to kneel before the Pope and receive the
cross.

Hour after hour sped by, still Urban stood and gave his blessing, and
a brave and pious word to each stout cavalier who came. The priests
brought red cloth from the presses in the bishop's palace, and more
and more. Still not enough; and gayly dressed knights gave up their
scarlet bleaunts for the Holy Father to tear into the sacred emblem.
Then at last, when the sun was near its setting and men finally felt a
bleak wind biting, the Pope spoke again.

"Dear children," said he in closing, "you have done a great thing this
day. What you have promised may cost you dear in blood and worldly
estate; yet, remember the warning to him who putteth the hand to the
plough and looketh back. I bid any who would withdraw, to do it now;
and he commits no sin." Again the cry, "To Jerusalem! God wills it!"
and no man stirred. "Then," continued Urban, "let him who hereafter
shall turn back, be excommunicate and anathema. Anathema upon him who
shall hinder the soldiers of the Cross! Anathema upon him who shall
harm their family or estate, while they fight the Lord's battles.
Gladly would I go with you to win the crown of martyrdom or of
victory, but the Antipope is still in Italy; the Emperor and the king
of France still defy Holy Church. Adhemar of Puy I appoint my legate,
and under his guidance you shall go forth. And now my blessing and
absolution upon you all. Amen."

So the great multitude scattered far and wide; upon the breast of
every man a red cross, and in his heart a joy as of another world; for
it was as if a voice had spoken to each and all out of a cloud, "Thy
sins which are many are forgiven." Richard strode back to his tent
with Louis de Valmont beside him; and all the air seemed sweet, and
their words came fast, as between two long-time friends, while above
in the crisp night the stars burned like cressets lit by the angels.



CHAPTER XX

HOW RICHARD RECEIVED GREAT MERCY


In later days wise monks wrote that at the moment the great cry went
up at Clermont, all the Christians of the world from cold Hibernia to
parching Africa thrilled with joy ineffable, and on all the paynims
there fell fear and trembling. Be this true or false, from the
Pyrenees to the Rhine over wide France ran a fire; from Auvergne to
Aquitaine, to Anjou, to the Ile de France, to Normandy.

There were signs and wonders in the heavens--stars fell from the
firmament; the clouds pictured armies and knights who wore the red
cross on their breasts. The shade of mighty Charlemagne was seen
coming forth in his hoary majesty, with sword pointing toward
Jerusalem. Not knights only, but women and little children ran after
those who preached the gospel of steel and fire. Quiet monks forgot
their abbey kitchens; hermits forsook their solitudes on the
hills--greater merit to win the pilgrim's absolution! The peasants
wandered from their fields in masterless companies, roving on
aimlessly, conscious only that Jerusalem lay toward the sun-rising.
And bandits left their lairs, confessing their crimes, eager to take
the cross. Up and down France went Urban and Peter; at Rouen, at
Tours, at Nimes, there were other Clermonts: each bishop called forth
his flock. Too often the tales of Eastern gold and of paynim beauties
were more enticing to the roistering knights, than summons to holy
warfare. But the sense of sin hung heavy on the land. No avarice drove
Stephen of Chartres to take the cross, great count that he was with
more castles than days in the year; nor did Robert of Flanders pour
out his father's princely treasure in hopes of pelf; nor Robert of
Normandy pawn his duchy. In the south, Raymond of Toulouse, haughtiest
lord in France, whom more lances followed than followed even the king,
set forth for Palestine, determined there to leave his bones. With him
went his wife, the Princess Elvira of Spain, and at Raymond's back
were all the chivalry of the south country, of Gascony, Languedoc,
Limousin, and Auvergne, along with Bishop Adhemar, and the great
prelates of Apt, Lodève, and Orange. So from the least to the greatest
all were stirred; and if King Philip, and William the Red, and Emperor
Henry moved not--what matter? For the might of Christendom lay not in
its phantom kings, but in its great barons and knights whose good
swords would hew the way to Jerusalem. Thus the winter sped, and with
the coming of spring France was ready to pour forth her flood of life!

       *       *       *       *       *

So with France. And how with Richard? He had returned to his tent
after the great day at Clermont with a light heart and a merry laugh.
Duke Godfrey was with him, and Renard of Toul and Louis de Valmont.
They had left little Bernard with his father, and Richard saw the lad
no more, until after many years he heard him preaching as never Peter
the Hermit preached, and calling on men not to go to Jerusalem, but to
cast from their hearts their own dark sins. The night was cold, a keen
wind was again whistling from the western _puys_, and Richard brought
all his friends with him to his tent, to cement friendship by passing
the night in his company. Before the roaring camp-fire they sat a long
time, talking of the brave days in store. Godfrey gulped down eagerly
all that Louis and Richard had gathered in Sicily of the country and
manners of warfare of the infidels, and they knew in turn that a great
captain and master-at-arms was speaking with them. Already Godfrey was
ordering his campaign.

"And the number of the unbelievers?" he would ask.

"More than the sea-sands," Longsword replied, "and they say they are
all light cavalry and archers."

"By Our Lady of Antwerp!" cried the Duke, "we must pray then for a
close country and a hand to hand _mêlée_!"

"Ah!" declared Renard of Toul, "what matter how we fight! Is not the
Lord on our side, and St. Michael and St. George!"

The Duke laughed merrily.

"You are the same mad Renard as ever," said he. "Is it not written,
'Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God?' But," continued he, gayly,
"in good time let me see the Holy City on high; yet not until I have
had a good joust, chasing the paynims from that on earth!"

Thus ran the talk, but presently Louis said:--

"And did you, De St. Julien, see in the multitude a certain dwarfish,
dark-skinned fellow, who stood right back of you all the time the Holy
Father was speaking, his eyes fastened not on the Lord Pope, but on
you?"

"I did not; why did you ask?"

"Because, though I was some little way off, I could have sworn that he
was Zeyneb, the body-servant of Iftikhar Eddauleh, and he seemed as if
devouring you with his eyes."

"Zeyneb? He who gave his master the iron lance instead of the reed,
when Iftikhar rode against Musa the Spaniard?"

Louis nodded.

"You are bewitched, fair sir," laughed Richard, gayly; "the rascal was
long since in Syria or Egypt." And here his face grew dark, as he
thought of the sack of Cefalu, and that Eleanor might be in the
clutches of Zeyneb himself that moment. It was well to forgive
Christian enemies, but to hate infidel foes took on new merit by
wearing the cross, and Richard was not minded to forget Iftikhar
Eddauleh.

"On the relics I could swear I saw him!" protested Louis.

"It is true," added Godfrey; "I set eyes on such a knave. Not that I
set him down as infidel. But I had little liking to have such a fellow
within arm's length; my ribs nigh itched with a dagger at merely
seeing him. When he sidled up to us, I gave him a frown that made him
hide his black head in the crowd."

"Well, fair Duke," said Richard, "rest assured, he has not come to
hear the Holy Father, if this is Zeyneb, the slave of Iftikhar. Bishop
Robert wrote something of his coming to France, but entirely doubted
the tale."

"By St. Michael of Antwerp," declared Godfrey, "what do infidels at
Clermont?"

Richard shook his head, but Herbert, who heard all, came to him only a
moment afterwards and led him aside.

"Little lord,--you must wear the ring-shirt."

The Baron resisted. "You grow fearful as an old woman, Herbert.
Godfrey and Louis dream, when they say a creature of Iftikhar is in
Clermont."

But Sebastian urged as well.

"Theroulde and Herbert have seen him also. As you love our Lord, do
not peril your life. Why has Zeyneb come to Clermont, save to do what
failed at Cefalu?"

"Faugh!" growled Richard, "will not God despise me, if I shiver at
every gust of danger?"

"As you love my Lady Mary, do this!" pressed Herbert shrewdly, and at
Mary's name Richard submitted meekly as a lamb. Thus all that evening
Longsword grumbled at the precaution, and swore he would wear no more
mail till he came face to face with the unbelievers. But he grumbled
no longer, for just as the stars told it was past midnight, he was
waked from sound sleep by a blow that sent him to his feet blinking
and staggering. And lo, the wall of the tent against which he lay was
pierced clean through by a dagger that had broken against the Valencia
shirt; for a bit of the blade lay on the canvas. Herbert and De Carnac
were swearing loudly that they had not closed an eye all night, but it
was Louis who darted into the darkness, and came back with a strange
fellow held in no gentle grip. He dragged the prisoner to the dying
firelight; they saw his coarse villain's blouse, a spine so bent that
he was nigh hunchback, a poll of coarse black hair that scarcely came
up to Richard's elbow, a face not unhandsome, but with black eyes
very small and teeth sharp and white. One shout greeted him, as he was
held before the fire.

"Zeyneb! Zeyneb, the slave of Iftikhar Eddauleh!"

The fellow held down his head, and twisted his face as if to defy
recognition.

"Ha!" cried Renard of Toul, "he has a dagger-sheath in his belt!
Empty? Ah, the crows will love his bones!"

Richard had found his tongue.

"And does my Lord Iftikhar," asked he in Arabic, "think it
cavalier-wise to send out assassins like your worthy self, when he
cannot reach his foe with his own arm? This and the deeds at Cefalu
put me greatly in his debt--let him be well paid!"

"The arm and eye of the grand prior of the Ismaelians reach to
farthest Frankland, my Cid," quoth Zeyneb, standing very limp in
Louis's clutch.

"And the arm shall be soon lopped off," retorted the Auvergner. But at
that instant his firm hold weakened. Untimely slackening! with a
lightning twist and turn Zeyneb had slid from De Valmont's clutches,
as if of oil; gone in the dark before the knights could cry out. The
night swallowed him as if he were a spectre.

"After! after!" thundered Godfrey. "Fifty Tours deniers to him that
seizes!"

There was a mighty shout. All the neighboring tents were in uproar. A
friendly baron loaned bloodhounds; but which of the many trails was
Zeyneb's who might say? All night they beat the camp; a hundred idle
knaves were haled before Richard, each one of whom doubtless would
have been the better for being knocked on the head; but none was the
dwarf. At dawn Richard went wearily to rest, but criers scoured the
country, calling on all good Christians to begin the Crusade by
catching this infidel assassin. Several townspeople told how the
fugitive had come to Clermont a few days since, pretending he was an
Eastern Christian exiled by Moslem persecutors. They had given him
great compassion, and answered his questions as to the whereabouts of
Richard de St. Julien, whom he said he was seeking. But all the search
brought nothing.

"Strange," commented Richard, "Iftikhar should use him as agent; his
crooked back stops all disguise."

"You do not know him, little lord," answered Herbert. "Satan has given
him a heart as darkly crafty as his black eyes. I have heard his fame
at Palermo. Undisguised, he is a rat sly enough to creep through a
hole too small for a beetle."

And Sebastian piously admonished:--

"Dear son, now that you have taken the cross and your sins are
forgiven, great mercy is shown you. Be very humble, for God has some
wondrous service in store!"

The admonition Richard treasured in his heart; but he did not so far
tempt Providence as to put by the Valencia hauberk, and Herbert kept
guard over him night and day. Also a courier speeded to La Haye with a
letter bidding Baron Hardouin have a care that Iftikhar did not try to
repeat his Cefalu raid, and to leave no Syrian dwarf unhanged in his
barony.

A few days thereafter the great gathering at Clermont scattered; and
Heaven knew there was much to be done, if the hosts of the Lord were
not to set forth with scrip and staff merely! The Duke of Bouillon
parted with Richard and Louis as became Christian brothers-in-arms,
and went homeward to rouse his vassals. As for De Valmont, he had need
to go to Champagne; but Longsword rode straight for St. Julien. Every
peasant he met on the road, when they saw he was a gallant knight,
begged him to be their leader to Jerusalem. Almost every breast wore
the red cross; women bore it, and little children. "God wills it! To
Jerusalem!" That was the one cry. Yet Richard was sad at times; for he
saw that men acted in ignorance, and that their very zeal would
destroy them.

As for Sebastian, he had a word of the prophets at all moments in his
mouth, and saw in everything a manifest sign that the days foretold in
the Apocalypse were at hand, when "the Beast" and all that served him
were nigh their end, and the righteous should rule forever.

"Now is fulfilled the word of the Lord!" was his cry. "Fear not, for I
am with thee. I will bring thy seed from the East and gather thee from
the West; I will say unto the North, 'Give up,' and to the South,
'Keep not back; bring my sons from far and my daughters from the ends
of the earth.'"

Only Richard saw that the shrewd cleric was not lacking in worldly
wisdom. When they passed two shouting monks, who were showing their
naked breasts on which they had branded the Cross, and whom many were
declaring to be saints indeed, Sebastian had only the shake of the
head.

"They are blind leaders of the blind," was his comment; "they will
suffer pains enough before they see the Holy City to forget all their
fiery zeal. The kingdom of heaven is not to be won by tortures
inflicted for the praise of men."

When they reached St. Julien, there was work for Richard all that
winter. The Baron convoked his "_Ost_," the fighting-men of the
seigneury, and, standing upon the great stone before the castle, told
how for his own sins and the souls of his kinsfolk he had taken the
cross--"and who would go with him?" Whereupon, as Sebastian declared,
"A new pentecostal fire spread among the St. Julieners;" and so many
cried they would make the crusade, that Richard had trouble to make it
plain, enough must stay behind to care for the aged, the harvests, and
the castle, and that no family be left to charity. Up and down the
barony went Sebastian, showing his scars inflicted by paynims, drawing
all after him. Even the lord abbot was stricken in conscience,
confessed his lax rule, and wished to go to Jerusalem. But Sebastian
told him God were better pleased to have him remain and teach the
brethren fasts and vigils. Yet to the fighting-men the priest had but
one message, "that now was come the time for the righteous to wash
their hands in the blood of the ungodly." And Richard was busy on his
part arranging the seigneury, raising money by sale of rights to pig
pasture held on certain lands, and more money by allowing a rich Jew,
who dwelt in the barony and now wished to go to Spain, to buy his
right of departure; for a rich Jew was a very precious possession to a
seigneur, who never let him withdraw, with his wealth--for a trifle.

Richard was happier in this work than he had been for many a long day.
The blood of Gilbert de Valmont no longer hung heavy on his soul.
Louis de Valmont was his friend. He could look up into heaven and see
there only peace and mercy. But he was sad when his thoughts ran to
Mary Kurkuas and the many years that might speed before he could call
her his bride; for this was no time to think of home and marriage.
Even a greater sadness came over him, when he thought of Musa. All his
faith, all the teachings of Holy Church and her ministers, left him
only the assurance that the Spaniard's soul was doomed to the fire
unquenchable. This life so short, the after-life so long, and Musa
thus doomed! Why did God create amongst the unbelievers such high
manhood, such knightly prowess, and then consign it all to the same
torments reserved for the utterly wicked? Yet could he doubt his own
religion--he, the ardent champion of the Cross, whose new-found
happiness depended on this very belief, that the death of infidels was
most pleasing in God's sight?

At times Sebastian could see that his mind was still clouded, and
would say:--

"Dear son, do not hide what makes your face so sad."

"_Ai_, father, I am thinking of Musa, and how I love him, and how
terrible is the state of his soul."

"Love him not," Sebastian would cry sternly; "as for his soul, it is
given to be buffeted of Satan, at which all good Christians should
rejoice."

"But we are bidden to 'love our enemies,' and Musa is no enemy; I
count him as my brother."

Then Sebastian would frown more fiercely than ever.

"Yes, love 'our' enemies, not those of Holy Church. Give heed lest to
your former sins you add not a greater--that of sinful pity toward the
hated of God!"



CHAPTER XXI

HOW RICHARD RETURNED TO LA HAYE


Long before Assumption Day, the appointed time for setting forth, soon
as the balmy spring winds blew, all France was marching. Not the great
lords first,--for worldly wisdom was plentiest under gilded
helmets,--but the peasants took the road by thousands on thousands.
Day after day the long procession by St. Julien, serpent-like, trailed
on,--priests and bandits, petty nobles, old crones on crutches, little
children on lumbering wagons; for weapons, often only boar spears and
wood axes. "And is this fortress not Jerusalem?" the children would
often cry when they saw the castle; and their fathers and mothers
hardly knew if they ought to tell them nay. Hoary sires crept along on
their staffs, followed by sons and sons' sons and daughters also. To
each stranger they would cry: "Come! God wills it! Let us die at
Jerusalem!" And Richard's heart grew sad, knowing they would indeed
die, but far from the Holy City. At first he bade the butler and
cellarer open the castle vats, and supply food and drink to all; but
those worthies protested that three days of such charity would ruin
the fief, and Richard was forced to let the pilgrim hordes roll by,
subsisting on what they carried with them. Full soon their means would
be at an end; then they must plunder or starve. But Longsword's bounty
would have been only a drop in their bucket.

Sometimes, however, there came sturdy bands that clamored at the
castle gate, demanding food.

"Food?" roared old Herbert, one such day; "and have you taken nothing
in your wallets?"

"No," quoth a hulking peasant, showing an empty pouch; "the priests
say, 'God who nourishes the sparrows will not let His dear children
suffer;' so we have gone forth trusting in His bounty to feed us."

"Begone!" cried Sebastian, from behind the portcullis; for the
pilgrims had begun to threaten. "I also am a priest, and say to you,
as says the Apostle, 'If any would not work, neither should he eat.'
God has given you better wits than have sparrows. Sin not by misusing
them!"

But too often the rascals fell to plunder, and reluctantly Richard
sallied forth; slew some, and hanged others for a warning. Very grave
grew Longsword when he heard of the outrages wrought through the bands
led by Volkmar the priest and Count Emicio in the Rhine cities, for he
knew this was no way to win Heaven's blessing. "Their sins are great,"
commented Sebastian. "God is pleased to lead them to destruction." And
of Peter the Hermit, who headed a like band, as not a few had desired
Sebastian himself to do, he only prophesied, "He listens to the praise
of men; God will abase him!" As indeed came true.

So with the peasants. But at last the seigneurs were moving. Richard
rode from St. Julien with five-and-twenty petty nobles, thrice as many
full-armored men-at-arms, four hundred stout "villains" on foot; and
above his head the great banner of his house, St. Julien's white stag
blazoned on a red field. The baron's heart was gay when he saw the
long line of casques and lances. But beside them trailed a weeping
company; old men and women, who went a little way, making a long
farewell.

"Ah, sweet lord," the pretty maids would cry, "how long will it be,
ere you ride back with Peter and Anselm and Hugo?" and so with fifty
more, wailing out the name of husband, brother, or sweetheart. Then
Richard would bang Trenchefer in a way to hearten the most timorous,
and swear, "In two years you shall see them all again, and I will make
every good man-at-arms a knight!" So when the women saw his bold,
brave face, they took courage. But there were tears and to spare, when
they came to the last wayside cross, and Herbert went down the line,
calling gruffly to every man and maid not bound for Jerusalem to drop
from the ranks. So the lines were closed, and the long files of
helmets and hauberks went over the mountain side. Many an eye went
back to the groups of red, blue, and yellow clustered round the cross;
and many an eye was wet that had been seldom wet before, as they saw
tottering old Bosso, Sebastian's vicar in the parish, hold up the
crucifix, and all the bright gowns bend in prayer. But none fell from
the ranks, no step lagged.

Richard nodded to Theroulde, whose mule was plodding beside Rollo. The
_jongleur_ clapped his viol to his shoulder; the trumpets blew; the
kettledrums boomed until the crags echoed; and then once more the
shout went down the lines as so many times before: "God wills it! To
Jerusalem!" Whereupon the drums thundered faster, the feet twinkled
more nimbly. When they came to the pass of the mountains, Richard
ordered no halt; but he drew rein on Rollo, and let the column swing
past. Each man cast one glance over his shoulder; louder the viols,
the trumpets, the drums; again the cry: "God wills it! To Jerusalem!"
Richard saw the backs of the last rank and turned his gaze toward the
valley. There it lay--fair as when, nigh a year before, he had seen it
from that same hillside, crowned with the bursting summer. He could
see the tower of the great keep, the abbey, the village--all. And in
that year what had not befallen! His grandfather dead; Raoul de
Valmont dead; Gilbert de Valmont dead; ah! pity, his father, mother,
brother--all dead; and his sister worse than dead! And yet the sky
could be blue, and God sit calm above it, despite the wickedness of
His children! Richard's shield-strap had slipped; in readjusting it he
saw his face in the bright steel, clear as a mirror, and he knew lines
of pain and grim resolve and deathly battle were marked thereon that
would never in this world be smoothed away. Yet he was the same: the
same debonair young knight who had laughed when he looked upon this
valley, and vowed it should all be one love-bower for Mary Kurkuas.
And now he was the stern Baron of St. Julien, at whose nod five
hundred fighting-men trembled; who had blood on his hands, and,
merciful saints, more blood on his soul, even if the sin were
absolved! Mary, the soft, sweet life in Cefalu, the sunlit dreams of
one short year ago, of love, of bright tourneys, of victories won
without a pang--where were they now?

As he turned, he saw Sebastian riding his palfrey beside Rollo. "Ah,
dear father," said the Norman, half sadly, "this is a pleasant country
to leave behind. Is Palestine, even with Jerusalem, more fair than
Auvergne? When we have taken the Holy City, we will return, and I will
pray the Lord Pope to make St. Julien a bishopric, and you shall be
the _sanctissimus_ of the country-side!"

Sebastian smiled at this forced banter.

"Dear son," said he, "this is indeed a fair country, as I said when a
year ago we first saw it from this height. But something in my heart
says to me: 'Sebastian, God is hearkening to your prayers. Your
journey in this evil world will some day end. After you have seen the
Cross victorious on the walls of the earthly Zion, then you shall
straightway behold the heavenly.' Therefore I shall never see St.
Julien again."

"These are fancies, father," said the knight, laying his heavy hand
affectionately on the priest's tonsured head; "you shall live to a yet
riper age. You shall see the Holy City purged of infidels. Then at
last it will be no sin to fulfil my dream. Here in St. Julien Mary
Kurkuas and I will dwell, and you beside us; and if God bless us with
children, what greater joy for you than to teach them all things, as
you have taught me, and make them tenfold better (Christ pity me!)
than their father."

"Yes, sweet lad," replied Sebastian, gently, "that would indeed be
joy; but the will of Our Lord be done. And now let us be about His
business." Whereupon he turned his palfrey. Richard cast one glance
over mountain, valley, tower, and farm-land--a vision never to fade;
then:--

"Come, Rollo!" he urged, and flew after the column. The music crashed
ever faster; the marching men raised a mad war-song; Richard's voice
rose above them all. As they sang, they struck the downward slope, and
the crags hid St. Julien.

       *       *       *       *       *

Southward they marched; for the Auvergners went in company with
Raymond of Toulouse, by the southern route across Italy, though
Richard would have desired the German route with Godfrey. At Orange
the Norman met the great Count of Toulouse and St. Gilles,--a tall,
haughty man, with flowing silver hair and beard; brusque to strangers,
but underneath the sternness a high-minded Christian soul. With him
was his handsome and valiant friend, Viscount Gaston of Béarn, a
winsome cavalier who became Longsword's close friend. At Orange
Richard rejoined the band with Raymond of Agiles, Toulouse's chaplain,
and found Louis de Valmont. On that spot was cemented a long-time
friendship, to be ended only after they had all seen deeds, knight or
cleric had never dreamt before.

But while the host lay at Orange, Richard's heart was elsewhere;
presently there came a letter that set him to mount and ride right
quickly.

"Mary Kurkuas, to her sweet lord Richard: kisses and greetings more
than words may tell.

"DEAR HEART: I have heard all from Musa, and I may not write how my
heart is torn for you. The fiends have been many in your soul, have
tempted you grievously, and you have fallen. Do you think I shrink
from you, that I bless the saints I am not yet your wife and can
escape a hateful bond? Sweet life,--love is not made of such feeble
stuff! You do well to go to Jerusalem, but will you go without one
word, one look? I have somewhat to say to you, which can only pass
when face to face. Come to La Haye. Musa tells me I am still as
beautiful as at Palermo, and I hope in your eyes also this will prove
true. I think my words, songs, and love will not make you a meaner
soldier for Christ. To Him you belong first, but after Him to me. Ride
swiftly, for I sit watching to see Rollo coming down the castle road
bearing my own true love. So come. Farewell."

Whereupon, when Richard read, all his resolution to go through
Provence, turning to neither right hand nor left, sped from him as
dust before the south wind. To his surprise Sebastian did not oppose.

"Dear son," said the churchman, "love is of God. There is a love of
man to woman; a love of man to the Most High; happy are they to whom
the higher and lesser are at one."

"But in former days you did not smile on my suit to Mary."

"Verily," said Sebastian, while Herbert made the horses ready, "I saw
in it the hand of Satan to prevent you from going to the Holy City.
But now that you have taken the great vow, and I see in your face that
you are strong, I have no fear. Yet remember, your duty is to God, and
not to women; when you ride toward Palestine, do not leave your soul
snared in a silken net in Provence."

"Ah," cried Richard, "you know not what you say. Did you ever have
love for a pure and beautiful maid?"

Sebastian's face was very grave.

"Many things have befallen in my life, God is lengthening my days. In
the years of my youth--what may not have happened? But she died--she
was very young; so was I. I have mastered all earthly lusts, praise be
to God!"

And this was the only word Richard had ever heard Sebastian speak, of
what befell him before he entered the monastery, and the long shadows
of his life's renunciation fell over him. But of more moment was the
speech Richard had with Herbert, as they rode along.

"I marvel that no mention was made in the letter of the messages I
sent to La Haye, to warn against that dark-faced devil, Zeyneb."

Herbert fell into a long study, his eyes fixed on the way that was
gliding by under their merry canter.

"The roads were safe. All the brigands have left their lairs to go to
Jerusalem--ha!"--this, with a sly grunt and chuckle. "However, if my
lady writes thus three days since, nothing has befallen."

"True," replied the Baron, spurring Rollo more hotly, "yet as I think
of it, I begin to misdoubt. Iftikhar Eddauleh is of that accursed
brotherhood amongst the infidels--the Ismaelians. Their guile reaches
to the ends of the earth. Twice he has sought my life, and only St.
Michael saved me. I would I could see that Zeyneb dancing at a rope's
end."

"The rope or the axe will be his confessor at last!" muttered Herbert;
then they all rode harder.

When Richard came within sight of the towers of the castle of La Haye,
not even Rollo's mighty stride made the ground speed swift enough. All
around stretched the vineyards and orchard bowers of the pleasant
South Country; the wind blew softly over great fields of blossoms; the
peasant and wayfarer trudged on peacefully with no sword at his side,
and feared not raid nor robbers, for safety and ease reigned
everywhere in fair Provence. When they drew near to the castle, they
could see a score of bright banners tossing on the rampart, while a
great crash of music greeted them; for the Baron of La Haye was a
valiant troubadour, and kept as many _jongleurs_ as grooms. But what
cared Richard? As he thundered up the way to the drawbridge, he reined
in Rollo short, was out of the saddle, and his arms were about some
one in white that had run from the orchard to greet him. And he felt a
soft breath on his cheeks, soft hands in his hands, soft words in his
ear; and his own words came so fast, they would scarce come at all.
Then he knew that all the castle folk were standing by, smiling and
laughing in friendly manner. Soon Baron Hardouin came down and gave
him a stately speech, after the best courtesy of the South Country;
and Richard, holding Mary's hand in his own, looked upon all about,
and spoke out boldly: "Fair lord and good people, I have no skill in
speech, but this I say: the Princess Mary Kurkuas is the fairest and
noblest maiden in all the earth, and to him who says me nay, I will
make it good upon my body." Whereupon he half drew Trenchefer, but all
cried out, "Long life to the valiant Baron de St. Julien! long life to
our fairest princess!" And Richard went into the castle with his head
in the air, seeing only one face out of the many, and that very close
to his own.

Only when Hardouin had feasted his guest, and had made him listen to a
dozen _jongleurs_ and their minstrelsy, Richard found himself alone
with Mary in the castle orchard, just as the long afternoon was
spreading out the shadows. They sat on the turf, with a gnarled old
apple tree rustling above them. All around the bees were humming over
the roses; the birds were just beginning to carol the evening. Then
the question was, "And where is Musa?"

Whereupon Mary answered: "He is gone forth hawking; for, said he, 'I
think Richard will come to-day; and though I am his brother, there are
hours when even brothers are better loved afar off.'"

"What a noble soul he is," said Richard, his eyes wandering dreamily
up into the waving canopy of green; "how often I wonder that he has
never courted you, nor you given him favor. Almost I love him too well
for jealousy."

"But not I!" cried the Greek, firing; then with a laugh: "See, your
eyes are open wide, for you are fearful lest I take your words in
earnest. Ah, dear life, I can love but one; and with you my heart is a
full cup. Yet to Musa I would give aught else--all but love. Yet fear
him not. He is the most generous of men. Often as we have been
together, his talk has been of you,--praising you after his Arab
fashion, till even I cry out at him, 'Richard Longsword is a wondrous
knight, yet not so wondrous as you make him!' Then he will laugh and
say, 'In my eyes there was never Moslem or Christian a greater
cavalier than my brother.'"

"So he has been at La Haye all the winter?"

"Yes; he sent away your Saracens to Sicily; and I need not tell the
shifts he had to save their skins, such was the cry against infidels
in all the country. But here in Provence, where there are so many Jews
and unbelievers, not to speak of the Cathari and other heretics that
are so strong, a Moslem knight may dwell without annoy; for I fear my
uncle--" and she fetched a sigh--"likes his troubadours and courts of
love too well to leave them for the war of the Holy City."

But at the mention of Jerusalem Richard's brow grew dark.

"Dear heart," said he, "what madness to come to La Haye! How may I
lift eyes to you, when I belong to the cause of Christ; and what time
is this for marriage and giving in marriage! And if God grants that I
return alive from Palestine,--and well I know the dangers, if some do
not,--how many years for you must it be of weary waiting--years
plucked out of the joyousness of your own dear life! Ah, sweetest of
the sweet, I hold your hand now, and see heaven in your eyes. But I
know you would not have me always thus; we cannot sit beneath the
trees forever."

"No, my beloved," said the Greek, very softly, "this is no time for
marriage or giving in marriage; yet--" and she spoke still more
softly--"shall I not go with you, to nurse the wounded, and give cold
water to the sick; to lay a cool hand on you--thus--if you are very
weary or tempted? Are there no noble ladies who go with the army,--the
Countess of Toulouse, the wife of Baldwin, brother of great Duke
Godfrey, and many more? And shall I not be one? Listen: my sins too
are very great; yes,"--for Richard was raising a hand in protest; "I
am too fond of the pomps and praise of this world, and my heart too
often will not bow to the will of God. For my own sins and for the
sins of him I love better than self, I would pray at the tomb of Our
Lord. Yet I cannot fly out alone--a poor defenceless song-bird,
amongst all the crows and hawks. Therefore I have sent to you, that
you might hear me say this, 'Let us be wedded by the priest full soon,
for the Holy Father has forbidden unprotected maids to go to
Jerusalem; but let us not be to each other truly as husband or wife
until the Sacred City is taken, and we can kneel side by side at the
Holy Sepulchre."

Richard had risen, and as he stood he held Mary's hands in his own,
and looked straight into her eyes.

[Illustration: "'HOW MAY I LIFT EYES TO YOU WHEN I BELONG TO THE CAUSE
OF CHRIST?'"]

"Dear life," cried he, "do you know what you say? Peril, toil,
hardships,--yes, death even, and worse than death,--captivity--all
these may await! And is your little body strong enough for the long,
long way to Jerusalem?"

"It is, Richard," said she, looking back into his face with a sweet,
grave smile; "how I wish I could do something very great, only to show
my love for you!"

He was bending over to snatch her in his arms; her hair was touching
his cheek; when Mary shrank back with a frightened scream:--

"Richard!"

And before the other word could pass her lips, a strange misshapen
form had darted from under the tree. A flash on bright steel, a cry, a
stroke--but at that stroke Mary snatched at the wrist, caught, held an
instant.

"The jinns curse you!" the hiss, and Mary felt the wrist whisk like
air from her hands. Another stroke, Richard half reeled. There was the
click of steel on steel. A second curse, and the assailant ghost-like
was gliding amongst the orchard trees. Longsword was still staring,
trembling, reaching for Trenchefer; but Mary gave a loud cry. And at
that cry, lo! Musa was swinging from his saddle, and grasping in no
gentle grip the cloak of the dwarf Zeyneb.



CHAPTER XXII

HOW RICHARD PARTED WITH HIS BROTHER


The dwarf was writhing, twisting, biting with long, venomous teeth,
but the grasp of the Spaniard was as steel. His eye was not on his
captive, but on Richard.

"_Wallah!_" was his greeting, "are you wounded?"

Richard stood erect, his hand at his side.

"Again you have saved me. The Valencia shirt was proof once more."
Musa was advancing, dragging Zeyneb, who still struggled, but helpless
as a mouse in a cat's mouth.

The Spaniard picked up the dagger that lay on the grass, and frowned
darkly when his eye fell on the edge.

"Poison," was his biting comment. "I did indeed suppose Iftikhar
Eddauleh could at least trust to clean steel, even if he must place it
in the claws of such vermin as this!"

And he shook the dwarf till the latter howled with mortal fright.
Mary, now that the shock was past and the danger sped, was calling out
to all the saints amid hysteric laughter and crying, and Richard, too,
felt very strangely--thrice now his life had thus been sought.

Musa's fingers knit round the dwarf's wretched neck, and he seemed to
find joy in watching the latter's agony.

"Beard of the Prophet!" he repeated, "Iftikhar shall wait long before
he find another such servant!"

"Guard, hold fast!" admonished Richard. "Surely the fiends aid him; he
escaped Louis de Valmont's grasp as by magic."

"He will need a stouter spell to-day, by the glory of Allah!" retorted
Musa. The dwarf at last found tongue.

"Laugh now, my masters, and you, my lady; but you shall all whistle
otherwise ere you hear the last of poor Zeyneb."

The Spaniard laughed scornfully.

"Aye, truly," declared he, "you are like to live many days, my merry
sir, after your feat just now."

The dwarf only hung down his head, while all around them swarmed the
castle folk talking each at once, and making a mighty din. Baron
Hardouin sent his niece away with her maids, to have her temples
bathed in strong waters, for snow was no whiter than her cheeks. But
four sturdy men-at-arms haled Zeyneb within the castle, and then the
Baron blew out on him his fury. He should be torn by wild horses, fed
to the bloodhounds, grilled over hot coals; and any other device for
leaving this world in an agony was told over to him. Zeyneb did not
stir. After his first howl and rage, he only blinked sharply out of
his little black eyes and twisted his lips. But when Richard asked the
Baron if he had received no letter concerning the attempt at Clermont,
the dwarf broke forth in French.

"He has not, Cid Richard, and with good reason. I met your messenger
and killed him."

"Killed him!" the word went round the circle with a shiver, through
braver hearts than those of the maids; for there was an uncanny light
in the hunchback's eye, that made the boldest chary.

"Assuredly," continued Zeyneb, holding up his hands. "I met him on the
road, a simple fellow; it was dark; he could not recognize; the dagger
passed under the fifth rib; he gave one cry."

"_Maledicte!_" exclaimed Sebastian, crossing himself. "Have we here
the very devil in human guise?"

"Be he man or devil," protested Hardouin, with a great oath, "he shall
find the pit more joysome than the dungeons of La Haye."

"Pardon," replied Zeyneb, looking about unflinchingly, and speaking
very good Languedoc. "You will find you have no power at all. You
cannot slay me--"

"Cannot?" flew from Hardouin.

"Truly," was the calm answer. "All things are in the hand of God.
Without His will you can do nothing."

"Silence, blasphemer!" thundered Sebastian, smiting the dwarf on the
mouth. "Who are you to utter God's name?"

"I?" retorted Zeyneb, a little proudly, holding up his head. "I? Know,
Christian, that we Ismaelians are chosen by God Himself to execute His
will. Our sovereign here below says to us, 'Do this,' and we do it,
knowing that no harm can befall, save as it is foreordained by the
Most High."

"Away! Away to the dungeon!" raged Hardouin; "to-morrow you shall have
cause to remember your sins!"

Strong hands were on Zeyneb's shoulders, but he almost writhed out of
them, and stood before Richard.

"_Ya!_ Cid Richard; thrice now have I sought your ending. Well--Allah
preserves you! Sometimes death is sweeter than life. Would you have me
tell of what befell at Cefalu? I saw your mother die, your brother,
your father, your sister--"

"Away!" roared Longsword, "or I shall kill him, and he will escape too
mercifully."

The men-at-arms tugged Zeyneb down the dark stairs. Herbert had him
very tightly by the scruff.

"_Ai_, my dear fellow," the veteran was croaking, "tell me why you
were at La Haye after your adventure at Clermont."

"Because I knew your master would come hither as sure as a dog sniffs
out a bone. My lord Iftikhar had said to me, 'See that Richard
Longsword troubles no longer,' and I had bowed and answered, 'Yes,
master, on my head.' Therefore I came to Auvergne, and when Allah did
not favor, to Provence."

"Where Allah has mightily favored!" chuckled the man-at-arms.

"_Héh_, fellow," grunted a second guard, "I have seen you before
lurking about. By the Mass, I wish then I had slit your weasand." And
the grasp on Zeyneb tightened.

"I owe you no grudge, gentle Franks," quoth the dwarf, as they pushed
back the door of a cell that was all dust and murk. "Allah requite
you! Greet Richard Longsword and the right noble Mary Kurkuas; I shall
meet both, I trust, in Palestine, whither they wish to go."

"Ha!" growled Herbert, driving him in with a mighty kick. "To-morrow,
to-morrow!--Double fetter! Remember your good deeds, if you have any."

And so they left him; yet Herbert, for all his jests, could not shake
off the strange horror that smote him when he recalled the dwarf's
gleaming black eyes, and that direful laugh.

Richard had gone to Mary, who was lying in the ladies' bower, a long,
brightly tapestried chamber, with here and there a tier of saints or
knights in stiff, shadeless fresco. The couch lay by the grated window
that commanded a broad sweep of the fair land. As he entered, one of
the maids rose from beside her mistress, bearing away the silver bowl
of lavender water. Mary's long brown hair lay scattered over the
silken pillows, the sun making dark gold of every tress. She was pale;
but smiling, and very happy.

Richard knelt and spoke not a word, while he put the soft hair to his
lips and kissed it. Then he said gently:--

"Ah! sweet life, I feel all unworthy of so great a mercy. And it was
you that saved me!"

"I!" cried Mary, starting.

"By St. Michael, yes. For the dagger was aimed at my throat, where the
mail did not guard. Had you not seized, I should long since have
needed no physician. But it is not this which now gives me fear.
Zeyneb is a terrible dwarf. To-morrow he shall have cause to mourn his
sins. But if you go with me to Palestine, you go to certain danger.
Iftikhar Eddauleh, I learn, is a great man in Syria. Of this Ismaelian
brotherhood I know very little; but if their daggers can reach even to
France, what is not their might in the East? I may see a day when no
ring-shirt may save me. Yet their power I do not fear; for it is no
great thing to die, were it I only, and absolved of soul. But think,
if in the chance of war or of plotting, you should fall into the hands
of Iftikhar! Death once past would be joy for a dear saint like you,
whom Our Lord would stand ready to welcome; but a living
death--captivity, life-long, to the emir--dear God, forbid the
thought! Yet there is danger."

Mary had risen from the couch. She was still very pale; what with her
flowing hair, and her bare white neck, Richard had never seen her more
beautiful.

"Richard Longsword," said she, slowly, "I have said I wish to do
something very great to show how much I love you. Well,--I am a
soldier's daughter. Manuel Kurkuas was no mean cavalier in his day,
though you frown on us Greeks. My fathers and fathers' fathers have
fought back Moslem, and Bulgar, and Persian, and Sclave. I am of their
blood. And will you fright me with a 'perhaps'? Let Iftikhar Eddauleh
lay his snares, and whisper to his dagger-men; I think Trenchefer"--with
a proud glance at the iron figure before her, and the great sword--"and
he who wields it a sure bulwark."

"Sweetest of the sweet," said Richard, laying his great hands on her
smooth shoulders, "something tells me there may be great sorrow in
store. I know not why. God knows I have had grief and chastening
enough. Yet I still have dread."

"And I," said Mary, gently, lifting her eyes, "know that so long as
Richard Longsword keeps the pure and spotless knight of Holy Church,
whatever may befall, I can have no great woe!"

"Ah!" cried the Norman, his eyes meeting hers, "you speak well, pure
saint. For without you, the fiends will tear me unceasing, and with
you beside I may indeed look to heaven. You shall go; without you I am
very full of sin!"

He bent and kissed her. It was the pledge of love, more pure, more
deep, than ever had thrilled in him before.

"_Ai_, dear heart," he said, holding her from him that he might see
the evening light on her face, "in Sicily I loved you for your bright
eyes; but now--I love that in you which is within,--so far within that
no _jongleur_ may see, to sing its praise."

       *       *       *       *       *

That night Baron Hardouin and Herbert slept on the gentle pleasures
they had prepared for Zeyneb, the dwarf; but in the morning Aimer the
seneschal came to his lord with a face long as a sculptured saint.

"The paynim dwarf!" was his trembling whisper; "he is gone!"

"Gone!" cried Hardouin, dropping the hawk's hood in his hand.

"Truly, my Baron," continued the worthy, "this morning, as we went to
the dungeon, behold! Girart, the guard, was stretched on the floor
dead, as I am a sinful man!"

"Fellow--fellow--" broke out the nobleman, beginning to quake.

"Art-magic, and direct presence of Satan, it must have been," moaned
the seneschal, wringing his hands. "Girart was ever a sleepy knave;
yet the infidel had slipped off his fetters. The lock was all pried
asunder, and Girart's head beaten in, as though by a bit of iron,
while he snored."

"Mary, ever Virgin!" swore the Baron, crossing himself. "Shall the
devil go up and down in my own castle? Out, men, boys, varlets, all!
scour the country! send riders to all the seigneurs about!"

And so they did, more thoroughly than ever in the camp at Clermont;
but again the dwarf had melted out of human ken. True, when the
messengers went as far as Marseilles, they heard a vague story that a
dark-skinned hunchback had embarked on a merchantman of Cyprus; but
even this tale lacked verification, and the simplest and most
satisfactory account was that of old Nicole, the gate-keeper's wife,
who protested by St. Jude that she had seen two horrible red dogs
creeping around the barriers just as she went to bed,--sure sign of
the presence of the dreadful devil Cahu, who was on hand to rescue his
votary.

Only some days after, a groom found scratched on the stones of the
castle's outer wall this inscription in Arabic: "To Cid Richard: three
times are not four. There is a dagger that may pierce armor of
Andalus. Remember." And below this, the rude sign of a poignard
encircled by a noose.

"The token of the Ismaelians," commented Musa, when he read it. "Allah
grant that the boast prove as vain as his earlier strokes! Yet I would
you were going anywhere but to Syria."

       *       *       *       *       *

Day sped into day. The great host of Raymond of Toulouse was preparing
to set forth for Italy. The hours of dreaming in the orchard under the
ivy-hung castle wall at last saw an end. Musa had received by the
latest ship to Marseilles from the East, a long and flattering letter
from Afdhal, the vizier of the Fatimite kalif himself. The offer was a
notable one, a high emirate in the Egyptian service. There would be
fighting in plenty in Tripoli and Ethiopia, not to mention Syria and
beyond; for the Cairo government had on foot a great project to break
the power of the Abbaside rivals at Bagdad and their Seljouk masters
and guardians. Musa brought the letter to Richard and Mary, as the two
sat beneath the great trees, each hearing no music save the other's
voice. And when he had finished, Richard said calmly: "Yes, brother
mine, now at last you must leave us. Yet, please God, you shall see no
service in Syria till we have sped our arrow at Jerusalem, for good or
ill. Our hopes and hearts go with you; but you must go."

Musa bowed his head; then to Mary: "And you, Brightness of the Greeks,
are you bound irrevocably to go to Palestine?"

"I go with my husband," said Mary, simply, looking straight upon him
with her frank, dark eyes.

"Then remember this," replied the Spaniard, very gravely, "if at any
time--and so Allah wills--I can serve you with wit, or sword, or life,
remember I am Richard Longsword's brother, and, therefore, your own.
What I said at Palermo, I say once more. And who is so wise that he
will say: 'Musa the Moslem shall never again give succor to Mary, the
Star of the Christians'?"

"_Hei_," cried Mary, trying to laugh, a little tearfully, "your face
is sad as though you saw me in the clutch--" she was about to say, "of
Iftikhar," but the shadow of the memory of that scene at Palermo, when
the emir's mad breath smote her cheek, passed before her mind, and she
was silent.

"Sweet lady," answered the Spaniard, smiling, yet after his melancholy
way, "I have scant belief in omens. Men say I am reckless in danger,
as though tempting Allah to write my name in the book of doom. Listen:
when I was young my father had the astrologers of the king of
Seville's court cast my horoscope. And they came to him, saying:
'Lord, your son will be a great cavalier; he shall escape a thousand
perils; a thousand enemies shall seek his life; he shall mock them
all. Nevertheless he shall perish, and that because of the passion for
a maid, whose beauty shall outrun praise by the poet Nawas, whose
loveliness shall surpass the houris of Paradise; yet even she in her
guilelessness shall undo him.'"

"But you distrust prophecies!" exclaimed the Greek, blushing.

"Even so," continued the Andalusian, stroking his beard; "yet see. If
it be true as the astrologers say, I may run to myriad dangers and
stand scatheless; for where is the maid who shall put madness in me
saving you," with a soft smile; "and are you not my sister, in whose
love for my brother I joy?"

"You speak riddles," said Mary, this time casting down her eyes.

"Riddles? There is little profit in the unweaving. Perhaps in Egypt,
in that warm, enchanted Nile country, in some genii-haunted island of
the great river where the cataract foams, and the sun makes rainbow
ever on the mist,--who knows but that I may find my temptress--my
destruction!"

"Ah!" cried Richard, laughing now, "she must indeed be more than human
fair, for I think no mortal maid will stir the heart of Musa, son of
Abdallah, if--" But he paused, and his eyes were on Mary, who clapped
her hand upon his lips. Musa was humming gently a weird Spanish song,
then laughed in turn in pure merriment. "See, we almost draw swords,
because I will not confess myself covetous of Richard's bride!"

"Silence, or I wed neither!" came from Mary; and perforce the two made
her blush no more.

Then before the sober days that awaited them came, there was the
wedding. Musa was soon to take ship to Palermo, thence to Egypt; so
they hastened the bridal, and Baron Hardouin gave them one which was
long the talk of the country-side. Never before was the sky more blue,
the air more sweet, the village church bells' pealing merrier. A
hundred guests from far and near; amongst them Counts Raymond and
Gaston, ridden over from Orange. A noble procession it was to the
church, the _jongleurs_ leading in their brightest motley; the bride
all in violet silk, gold lace and ermine at her fair throat; on her
hair a great crown of roses red as her own red lips; behind pranced
Rollo, bearing his lord on an ivory saddle; then all the guests, the
great ladies crowned with gold; and flowers upon every neck, upon the
beasts, upon the roadway; till the throng came to the church porch,
where Sebastian stood to greet them.

In his hands was a book, and on it a little silver ring. Mary stood
before the priest, and Richard Longsword at her side. Her eyes were
cast down--"She has neither father nor mother to give her away, ah!
dear lady," all the women were lamenting. But Baron Hardouin advanced
to her, took her hand in his, laid it in the hand of the Norman; and
the latter--the words coming from his very soul--repeated the great
vow: "Forever I swear it, by God's strength and my strength; in health
or in sickness, I promise to guard her." Then Sebastian took the ring:
he said a little prayer over it, and gave to Richard; and Richard
placed it on three fingers in succession of the little hand that lay
in his. "In the name of the Father!"--then, "of the Son!"--then, "of
the Holy Ghost!" And on that third finger the ring should abide till
life was sped. As it slipped to its place, the women gave a little
laugh and cry, "Good omen! it glides easily! She will be a peaceful
bride!" For when the ring stuck fast, there was foreboding of
shrewings and sorrow.

Then into the church--dim, awesome; two candles on the altar; a cloud
of incense; a vast company still pressing about with curious
whisperings. In the gray nave they knelt for the benediction; distant,
mysterious as from another world, "May God bless you, and show Himself
favorable unto you, your bodies and your souls." Then they received
the host at the altar; and Richard, as was appointed, in the sight of
a thousand, with a great crucifix above and Christ Himself in the
golden dove beneath the altar, took Mary in his arms, and gave her the
kiss of peace--the peace of the love that may not die in earth or in
heaven.

This over, back to the castle, the trumpets making the azure quake;
banners on every house; flowers rained upon the bride; her black mule
treading a scarlet carpet. All shouted, "Joy, joy and long life to the
noble Lady of St. Julien! Joy to the valiant Baron! Joy to both!" So
there were fêtes and tournaments eight days long, as the custom was.
Mary and Richard went to their wedding mass, and during the service
the bride, as did all good brides, they told her, made vows to obey
her lord, to call him "Monsire," or, better, the good Latin
"_Domine_." But she straightway disproved this promise, and mocked the
great De St. Julien to his face.

On the ninth day Musa said farewell. Richard and Mary rode forth with
him for a long way, to see him well towards Marseilles. Neither he nor
Richard spoke the word nearest their hearts,--"What will befall the
soul of my brother?" But they had many things to say, of when the
Crusade should be over, and Moslem and Christian might be friends at
least in this world. But that hour seemed very far away.

At last they came to the fork, and the two could go no farther. Musa
turned to bid farewell. "Remember," said he, in his musical Spanish
Arabic, "remember the mercy of Allah surpasses all human mercy. We are
all in the hollow of His hand; Christian and Moslem alike in His
keeping. By His will we shall meet, and naught shall sever."

"Amen!" said Richard, looking down. They had all dismounted. Without
speaking, he cast his arms about Musa, and gave him a close embrace.
And when the two stood apart, the Spaniard's eyes rested on Mary, then
on Longsword. The Norman smiled and nodded. "Are you not my sister?"
said Musa, simply. And he laid his hands upon her arms, and kissed her
forehead, while she resisted not, nor even blushed. Only her long
lashes were bright, when she answered:--

"Yes, my brother, my heart is very full. I cannot speak all the things
I feel."

Musa swung into his saddle; the men-at-arms of Hardouin who were to
escort him to Marseilles cantered after. They saw the Spaniard climb a
hillock; just at the curve he gave one sweep of the hand--was gone.
Mary laid her head on Richard's shoulder, and spoke nothing for a long
time. Then they rode to La Haye together, and neither had heart for
idle speech.

At the castle gate Sebastian met them, his face--so far as he ever
suffered it--twisted with a smile.

"Glory to St. Raphael! The unbeliever is departed!"

"Musa is gone," answered Richard, soberly.

"Praises to God! the devil hath reclaimed his own! the lake of
unquenchable fire--"

But he spoke no more. Richard had knotted his fist and with one buffet
felled the priest, so that he did not speak for a good while; and when
he did, Mary observed that never by word or deed did he recall the
Spaniard.



CHAPTER XXIII

HOW IFTIKHAR'S MESSENGER RETURNED


It was the twelfth day of the sacred month Ramadan, in the year of the
flight of the Prophet four hundred and ninety,--according to the
Christian reckoning in the month of August, one thousand and
ninety-six,--that Iftikhar Eddauleh sat over his sherbet in the palace
El Halebah, which is by the Syrian city of Aleppo. Now good Moslems
were not presumed to enjoy food or drink from rise to set of sun
during the sacred month, therefore the grand prior of the Ismaelians
sat shaded on the _liwan_, a raised hall opening off the great court
of the palace. Here, with the door covered by Indian tapestries, and
with silken carpets of Kerman deadening the footfalls of each
soft-stepping Persian slave, the great man could lie upon his purple
couch, and let his eye rove from the bright, inlaid stones of the
alabaster walls to the ceiling beams of gilded teak. Without the sun
beat hot, the parching south wind from the desert swept sand-dust in
the eyes of man and beast; but within all was cool, darkened, fragrant
with frankincense from the smouldering brazier.

Iftikhar was in that mood of sleepy indolence to which men wonted to a
life of restless action are often prone. He was clad only in a loose
under-mantle of green cotton; and while he dozed a dark-eyed maid of
Dekkan was bathing his feet with perfumed water from a porcelain
basin. A second maid stood by the couch, and often, as the master
languidly held out his cup, refilled it with the sweet rose sherbet
from a brass cooler of snow. Iftikhar drank again, and again, speaking
not a word; till at last the first Hindoo, having borne away the bowl,
stood at his head with a great fan of bright feathers. So far as
speech or expression was in question, his ministers might have been
moving statues, so noiseless, so mechanical, was every action.

Presently Iftikhar began communing with himself, as was his wont, half
aloud. "One year in Syria; _wallah!_ truly if prosperity is not my
destiny, all the jinns deceive. I have been to Alamont, the 'Vulture's
Nest,' have seen Hassan ben-Sabah, Lord of the Ismaelians, and all the
'devoted' have been bidden to obey my word as they would the 'Cid of
the Mountain.' At my nod ten thousand daggers flash, ten thousand
riders go forth. Let emir or sultan offend:--he lies down on his bed,
his memlouks about; he awakes--in paradise; for in all Islam who may
escape our daggers? _Mashallah!_--let others boast; what may not I,
Iftikhar, accomplish? I, who was left a foundling in the great Cairo
mosque El-Azhar, and was reared by the compassionate Imam Abdul Aziz?
Power, riches, glory--there shall be no bound to my fortune!"

The Egyptian leaped up and began to pace the floor.

"Much yet to do," ran he on; "I have Hassan Sabah's pledge that I
shall be his successor. Every barrier must be plucked down betwixt the
Ismaelians and empire over all Islam, such as Harun or Mansur never
held. 'All is permitted, naught feared,'--such is our watchword,
taught the initiated at the grand lodge in Cairo. Let him who stands
in our way be snuffed out like a rushlight,--Barkyarok the
arch-sultan, the Bagdad kalif, who is Barkyarok's puppet--all--all!"

As the Egyptian spoke, a huge negro, shining with great earrings, and,
save for a red cincture, clothed only in his ebony, glided from behind
the curtained door. In his hand was a naked cimeter of startling
length. Never a word he said, but only pointed with his weapon to the
passage, then salaamed.

"The dervish Kerbogha?" asked Iftikhar, stopping his pacings.

The negro, who was a mute, only bowed almost to the floor.

"Bid him enter." The giant salaamed a third time, and was gone. An
instant later a stranger entered. His robe was spotless white, but the
shoes and belt were red. He was a man just in the turn of life, with a
powerful military frame, the nose of a hawk, and a hawk's keen eye; a
grizzled beard, very thick, that swept his breast; his head crowned
with a peaked felt hat, also white. The sun had long since tanned his
skin to a rich bronze; there were scars on cheeks, forehead, hands. He
strode with the springing step of one who loved hardship for
hardship's sake; and no second glance was needed to tell that power
and command were second nature.

Iftikhar bowed very ceremoniously, thrusting one hand in his bosom,
and the stranger doing the like, while the formula was exchanged:
"Peace be on you." "On you be peace, and the mercy of Allah and His
blessings."

Then the Egyptian bade the Hindoos bring new water and sherbet. The
stranger flung himself upon the divan, and words flew fast.

"You have been to Antioch?" asked Iftikhar.

"I have," replied Kerbogha,--for such was the new comer's name.
"Yaghi-Sian is willing to link hands with us. His pride has been
humbled mightily since he attacked your friend Redouan, lord of
Aleppo, and was defeated. Now he sees that only by joining the
Ismaelians can he hope for success."

"And you promised--?"

"That if the plans of Hassan Sabah fail not, we shall have the puppet
kalif, Mustazhir, and his master, the arch-sultan Barkyarok, at our
mercy in two years. Then each prince who is of our party shall divide
the spoils, and rule every one in his own land, sending some tribute
to Alamont in sign of fealty to the order. I have engaged, you will
warn Redouan, that Yaghi-Sian is not to be attacked; and if he refuse,
let him remember how our daggers found Nizam ul-Mulk, the great
vizier. To-day I am at Aleppo, to-morrow I go to Mosul, thence to
Alamont to tell my tale to Hassan Sabah."

Whereupon Iftikhar replied, while the slaves bathed Kerbogha's
feet:--

"I see all goes well. The Seljouk power declines since the death of
Malek Shah. Yet Barkyarok is not to be despised; he can still summon
the Turkish hordes. The 'devoted' cannot do all. The dagger throws
down many thrones, raises none. To strike kalif and sultan we need
more--an army--myriads; how gather it? A whisper at Ispahan, 'Kerbogha
is of the Ismaelians; he moves disguised as a dervish to seduce the
emirs.' How long then does the arch-sultan delay to send the
bowstring?"

Kerbogha set down his sherbet cup and laughed dryly.

"_Wallah_, can one always play at backgammon,[1] and win? So in life;
fortune and skill must go together. Let us play our game, and take
what Allah sends without a quiver."

"An army, an army; where an army, to break the arch-sultan's might?"
Iftikhar was repeating, when the curtain was thrust away. The giant
negro was salaaming again.

"Another stranger?"

The mute nodded.

"Can he be trusted?" the second question from Kerbogha.

A second nod. "Let him come in."

And the curtains gave way for none other than the dwarf Zeyneb,
travel-stained, with a ragged beard and a very tattered costume. At
sight of his master and Kerbogha, the dwarf bowed to the rugs, then
laid his hand on lips and forehead. At last Iftikhar spoke:--

"You come from Frankland?"

"I have been amongst the Franks, lord, as you deigned to command."

"And Richard Longsword, whom my soul hates?" came eagerly.

The dwarf looked his master full in the eye.

"He still lives, and to my knowledge prospers."

"Child of Eblees the Devil, have you failed yet again? at Palermo, at
Cefalu, and now in France?" And Iftikhar put forth his hand for the
ivory staff that lay by the divan. "Sluggard, an hundred strokes on
your bare heels for this!"

[Footnote 1: Arab name: T[=a]wulah.]

The dwarf still did not flinch.

"Master, once at Clermont where the Frankish lords were all gathered
to prepare for taking Jerusalem, I stabbed at him through the walls of
his tent; some jinn prompted him to wear a Valencia hauberk. Barely I
made away. Again in Provence, when he stood by the Star of the Greeks,
I would have stricken him in her arms; but that chain shirt, enchanted
doubtless, turned the blow. I was cast into a dungeon, and only
because Allah granted that I should know how to pick loose fetters,
and because He shed sleep upon my guard, did I escape being food for
dogs. Therefore, if I deserve stripes, lay on; yet my small wit could
do no more. The hand of Allah protects Richard Longsword."

Iftikhar controlled himself by no common effort.

"You have ever been a trusty slave, Zeyneb; no man may contend against
the Most High. I do wrong to be angry. Depart, and when refreshed,
return and tell all; of the Star of the Greeks and of the commotions
amongst the Franks; for of these last the Lord Kerbogha will be glad
to hear."

But as Zeyneb was bowing himself out of the _liwan_, a low, weird song
stole from the chambers within; now softly rising as the breeze, now
mounting shriller, shriller, till the gilded stalactites trembled, and
the whole hall throbbed with the wailing melody, then fainter, dying
like the retreating wind. Again and again the three heard the wild
song rise, throb, fall, and a strange awe spread over them, as if more
than mortal accents drifted with the note.

"The song of Morgiana," said Iftikhar, dropping his eyes; "she is
fallen in her trance. My Lord Kerbogha, let us go to her. For her eyes
now see things hid to all save Allah!"

The three tiptoed down a long, dark way, Zeyneb following as a matter
of course. At the end was a door where stood a second eunuch, a tall,
beardless, ebony skeleton, with naked sabre held before him. The black
knelt while his master passed. Iftikhar knocked thrice at the door; it
turned on its pivots slowly, noiselessly, by some unseen power. As
the three stepped within, they were nigh dazzled by the intense white
light. They were in a court surrounded by a two-storied arcade, the
delicate columns, the fantastic capitals, fretwork, and panelling, all
in alabaster and marble. Below, the eye wandered over gilt mosaics,
winding scroll into scroll, till sight grew mazed and weary. In the
centre of the court sprang a tall silver pipe, embossed with strange
figures, discharging itself aloft in a fine cool spray that drifted
downward on all beneath. Perfume mingled with the spray, and what with
the blinding light, shot through the mist, and the wandering song
which ever grew nearer, sense lost itself as amid an enchanter's
spell. Iftikhar led past the fountain, into the arcade; and in the
shadows apart from the misty outer air a brazier was smouldering, and
a heavy fragrance rose with the gray smoke. Still the song, very loud
now, but no word heard clearly. Iftikhar spoke.

"Morgiana!" And Kerbogha saw sitting in the dark niche, behind the
brazier, a woman, her head thrown back, drinking in the rising vapor.
She was dressed only in a violet robe that fell from throat to feet.
There was a girdle of silver chain-work; no sleeves; arms, neck, face,
all bare; the skin, not so dark as of most Eastern women, rather a
fine olive. Black and slightly waving was the long hair that tossed
heedlessly over the shoulders. In the shadow Kerbogha could only see
that the face presented a profile of marvellous symmetry, and the
eyes--wonder of wonders,--now flashing with a half-drunken fire--were
steel-blue. As Iftikhar spoke, the woman tossed her head, but
continued the song. They heard her words:--

    "Armies advancing; the vultures appearing,
        Wheel for their prey.
    Now the hosts mingle, a thousand blades flashing;
        Hid is the day
    By the twittering arrows; as, quaking like aspen,
        The warring hosts sway!"

"Morgiana!" again Iftikhar commanded. The song sank into wild
moanings, dimmer, dimmer,--was gone. The strange singer now spoke, yet
still in wild rhythm:--

"Wherefore, man, do you come to me, the blue-eyed maid of Yemen! See,
the smoke-drug is strong; let me drink, drink, drink, and tread beyond
the stars."

"Moon of the Arabs," spoke Iftikhar, softly, as though stepping
delicately, "I heard your song; the power of the drug is upon you. I
would have you speak before me and the Lord Kerbogha. Make known to us
the way of the jinns. Reveal--is it written in the smoke that
Barkyarok perish? that the Master of the Devoted be hailed Commander
of the Faithful in Bagdad?"

The eye of the maiden was wandering, now on Zeyneb, now on Kerbogha--a
long silence, then of a sudden:--

"My sight is dim; I see nothing; the smoke weaves no picture; I cannot
see the sultan; my ears hear the question, my eyes are blind."

"Wait," whispered Iftikhar to Kerbogha, who, man of war that he was,
felt the very air awe-laden.

Morgiana bent over the brazier, blew the smouldering leaves; again the
smoke rose thickly. Twice she breathed it deep; when she raised her
head, the fire glittered once more in her eyes.

"Behold! behold!" and she half started from the niche.

Iftikhar hung on each word. She continued, first slowly, then faster,
faster, finally running in half song, half chant; arising the meantime
with outstretched arms, shaking the flowing tresses as she swayed:--

"Again armies; tens of thousands, horseman and footman, in the armor
of the Franks, the red cross of Issa upon their breasts; another host;
Arab, Seljouk; tens of thousands; battle. Allah can number the slain,
not man; death, death upon every wind!" She swayed still more wildly,
as if mastered by the vapor.

"One face I see, the Greek, the Greek, Mary Kurkuas. She is
struggling--in vain; a mighty arm holds her; a great warrior bears
her. Allah! I know him; I would not tell his name!" But Iftikhar had
broken forth almost sternly:--

"Speak, speak, woman! Who is the warrior you see against the smoke?"
The words turned the trend of the spell. Morgiana moved more gently as
she repeated in quick rhythm:--

        "Now the smoke weaveth in mystical figure;
        I see the hosts marching,
        I see the hosts warring,
        I see the strife swaying
          Like wrestling swift winds!

    "'Twixt Frankland and Eastland the conflict sore wageth;
    I see the Greek flower transported beside thee,
          Thine eyes,--they behold her;
          Thy arms,--they enfold her;
          Thy heart is as flame!--"

"_Allah akhbar!_" burst from Iftikhar, starting. And at the cry,
Morgiana had given another, and fell so suddenly that only a quick
snatch by Zeyneb saved her from striking the brazier. She was
speechless, pallid, when they lifted her; Kerbogha would have declared
her dead. But Iftikhar drew from his bosom a crystal vial, in which
glowed a liquor red as vermilion. Three drops he laid upon her lips;
and lo, there was a flush of color, and in a moment the woman was
sitting upon the rugs and glancing at them with shy, scared eyes.
Iftikhar beckoned to Kerbogha, who bowed and withdrew; but Zeyneb
remained. All the glitter and madness had passed from Morgiana's face.
Zeyneb knelt and kissed her hand, which lay limp within his own.

"You see I have returned safe from my long journey, Moon of Yemen; can
you wish me no joy?"

The languid eyes lighted a little.

"Allah is merciful; I am very weary." This last to Iftikhar.

"Verily," cried the Egyptian, "you should not make the magic smoke;
see, you are frail as a lily of Damascus; a sigh of the south wind
would destroy you. Have I not forbidden it?"

"Lord," replied the lady, raising her eyes, now touched with a soft,
sweet fire, "the hour came to me to-day. As the bird must fly north
in springtime, so must I drink the hemp smoke, when the genii bid, or
die. Ah, lord--I saw in the smoke shapes--terrible shapes--they are
gone; the shadow still hangs over me; yet I know this--woe, woe, woe,
awaits,--for you, for Zeyneb, for me. I am sad; my heart is torn."

Iftikhar knelt beside the divan, and looked into her face.

"Life of my own!" said he, half passionately, "why sad? What is the
desire? A palace--can any be more fair than El Halebah? Jewels,
robes?--the riches of Aleppo are yours. Servants?--a hundred maids of
Khorassan and Fars and Ind are your ministers, most beautiful of the
daughters of men, save as you outshine. The pang? The wish? Your will
is law to me, and to all the 'devoted' of Syria."

But Morgiana turned away her head.

"Lord," said she, half bitterly, "will palace, and riches, and slaves
bind up a bruised heart? Is gold a cordial for the soul? Does the
dagger say, 'I am sovereign physician'?"

"Riddles--" commented Iftikhar, still kneeling.

Morgiana flushed; there was a flash in her eyes now, but not of
softness or delirium. "It is past," cried she, bending her henna-dyed
hand across her brow, as if to drive away a vapor. "The vision is
gone. But I see--O Iftikhar, whom I have loved,--soul of my
soul,--what do I not see! I see your love for me, true, and pure, and
strong, when you bought me and Zeyneb, my brother, at the slave market
in Damascus. And when we were with you in Sicily, and you served
amongst the Christians, what nest of the wood-thrush more joyous than
our home at Palermo? As you won honor after honor, and Christian and
Moslem lauded you, was your gladness greater than mine? Then came the
day when you listened to the cursed envoys of Hassan Sabah, and sold
yourself to this fiend's brotherhood, who live by the dagger of
stealth, and not by the sword of manhood,--that was the first sorrow.
And then--" she hesitated, but drove on, and her eyes flamed yet
fiercer--"came that hour when the old Kurkuas and his daughter came
to Palermo,--and you set eyes on her Greek beauty. I have seen her;
she is fair, I own it--and your heart grew chill toward me. Me you
left in the harem, with a few fawning, glozing words, and went about
sighing, dreaming of the Greek; and my joy was at end. Almost, even
then, you would have possessed her; but I was crafty beyond you and
Zeyneb. Remember the hour in the Palace of the Diadem, when Musa the
Spaniard saw you with your arms--"

"As Allah lives!" thundered Iftikhar, leaping up, "how knew you this?
No more--witch, sorceress!"

"Rage as you will!" tossed forth Morgiana, throwing back her head; "it
was I that warned Musa. Ah! you both are weak--weak, though you vaunt
yourself so strong."

Iftikhar was foaming; his fury was terrible. But Morgiana never
quivered. "So you fled Sicily after devising murder in vain. Then the
deed at Cefalu--and that accursed child Eleanor still remains to drive
me wild with her moans and her sorrow. Again this Zeyneb, worthy
brother, returns from Frankland. He has failed. I saw Richard
Longsword's form in the smoke, and the smoke shows only the living.
But he and Mary Kurkuas will come,--come with the Frankish
hordes,--and then! Woe to you and woe to me, if your heart remember
her beauty!"

"And the smoke mist says true, fair sister," quoth Zeyneb, naught
abashed. "Richard Longsword goes to Jerusalem, and with him Mary
Kurkuas, wedded, though not yet truly his wife; so I heard from her
own lips." And he darted a swift glance at his master.

"Lord, lord!" cried Morgiana, suddenly falling on the pavement. "Do
not listen! forget! forget! Put her from your heart! See! I embrace
your knees, I kiss your feet. By Allah the Great and His prophet, I
conjure you. She loves you not. I would die for you with a laugh on my
lips. Oh, the heart of Zeyneb my brother is black, as his body
misshapen! Death is woven for us all, if you continue this quest.
Remember our love, our joy,--the little babe that died in Palermo.
Have I ever deceived? If you remember Mary the Greek, I say it, 'Woe,
woe for us all!'"

But the jinns of a headlong passion had mastery of Iftikhar that day.
He saw Morgiana of Yemen at his feet; but he saw another--that had
been before his eyes day and night since that hour in Palermo when
Mary Kurkuas's lips had been so near his own.

"Eblees seize you, woman!" came from his throat; and he spurned her.
Morgiana said not a word; without a groan she arose, and sat on the
divan, looking upon him tearlessly. Iftikhar brattled forth a forced
laugh. "_Ya_, Zeyneb, let us go back to Kerbogha. Your sister is all
tears and foreboding to-day. We must not let her sit over the hemp
again." And with that the two left the white court and returned to the
_liwan_, where the Prince of Mosul awaited them. The two chiefs of the
Ismaelians listened long to the tales Zeyneb had to tell of the
assembling of the Franks. Then Iftikhar cried:--

"Glory to Allah! The fish drift into the net!"

"I do not understand, my lord," said the dwarf.

"I know these Christians," the chief replied. "Lions in battle, but
beast-strength will not win Jerusalem. Under cover of destroying them,
we can gather a mighty host, unsuspected by Barkyarok. When they are
blotted out, we take the sultan and kalif unawares! The Most High
delivers the empire into the hands of the Ismaelians. Is it not so,
Kerbogha?"

And the prince called Allah to witness that their troubles were at an
end; that three years should see them masters of all Islam. Only the
dwarf shook his head, and when questioned, replied, "Lords, you are
mighty men-of-war; yet this I say, 'You will fail.'"

"And wherefore?" came from Kerbogha.

"Because I have been among the Franks, and there is a fire burning in
their hearts that a thousand leagues of deserts cannot blast, nor ten
myriad sword-hands quench, nor all your Ismaelians' daggers."

"You, too, prate evil, like your cursed sister!" cried Iftikhar. Then
he asked Zeyneb very carefully as to the route likely to be taken by
the Crusaders, the time of their arrival in Asia, and the like. After
that he sent for a certain Eybek, one of the trustiest and most
skilful of the "devoted," and dismissed him with this last command:--

"But Richard Longsword slay not. In my own time will I deal with him,
man to man. Rather let him live, and eat his pangs as I have eaten
mine, and know that I have borne away his prize."



CHAPTER XXIV

HOW THEY SLEW THE FIRST INFIDEL


Richard and Mary made the toilsome journey across Lombardy and
Dalmatia with trials enough to expiate many sins, before Count
Raymond's host reached Constantinople. There also Emperor Alexius gave
the Crusaders chill greeting, and earned many curses. Yet when Richard
saw the riches of the "City guarded of God," and heard how the first
hordes, led by Peter the Hermit and Walter Lackpenny, had lighted like
locusts on its suburbs, and had sacked palace and church as though
despoiling very infidels, Longsword did not marvel that Alexius
thought needful to deal warily with later comers. Here for the first
time he learned the fate of the first peasant hordes,--how, to save
his city from ruin, Alexius had ferried them across the Bosphorus.
Left then to the Turks' tender mercies, the Sultan of Nicæa had
pounced upon them with his light cavalry and cut them short in their
sins. Peter the Hermit had escaped to Constantinople; his followers
had perished almost to a man; and so began the great outpouring of
life-blood in the long agony of the Crusade.

Small wonder Alexius Comnenus saw in his later guests doubtful friends
or worse! Or that with all his matchless guile he sought pledges from
them, that their coming might bring blessing rather than destruction
to his empire; for the blunt Franks openly swore that the schismatic
Greeks were but one degree better than Moslems. So day followed day of
intrigue and lie-giving; the Augustus bickering and haggling with
Raymond, Godfrey, and the other Latin chiefs. In the meantime Richard
had time to learn the marvels of this great city of the Cæsars. What
city like it! Palermo had not one tithe its wealth. Its walls might
mock all the chivalry of France. Where in the West was one building so
notable as were a score along the Mesa, the great street from the
"Golden Gate" to the "Sacred Palace"? Everywhere Corinthian columns,
veined marbles, bronzes that nigh seemed breathing, palaces, churches
a hundred and more; great _fora_ where swelled a mighty traffic;
merchants whose shops boasted the luxurious wares of Persia, China,
Ind; and multitudes on every street--Greek, Bulgar, Russian, Armenian,
Jew. To Richard the scene was for long an enchanted confusion; and he
marvelled to see how to Mary the pomp and bustle alike came as the
common course of life. When he rode at her side through the humming
city, or felt the light bark spring under the oar, as they shot up the
Golden Horn or toward Chrysopolis, he was fain to question how any one
here born and bred could find joy in coarser, wilder Frankland.

Together the two had been in St. Sophia, monarch of churches, had seen
the great dome swimming on its sea of light above its forty windows;
had heard the choir sing as angels the praise of "Mary, God-bearer,
Giver of Victory." And Richard's soul had been almost carried aloft by
the throb of the stately service. Again in the street, he said: "Dear
life, I feel as if I were but just plucked down from heaven. What have
I done that you love me so; that you can so cheerfully leave all this,
and dwell with me in our rude, bare West?" And Mary, as she rode
beside him, answered, smiling: "Why? And can one live forever in the
great church, and eat and drink music? Is all life a rowing from
Chalcedon to Prinkipo? Ah, Richard, could I be happy to spend my days
after the manner of these ladies of Constantinople,--watched like cats
by sleek eunuchs, and kept close that our masters may stroke us? Is it
better to listen to the music of St. Sophia and to read Sophocles and
Herodotus; or to ride, hawk on fist, over the merry country with you
at my side, to feel the wild wind tossing my hair, to sniff the
breeze in the free woods, and think how sweet a thing is life?"

"Then you are true Frank at heart!" laughed her husband, "despite your
Greek name and learning."

"I am the wife of Richard de St. Julien," answered she, very
seriously; "and he is a mighty baron of France."

So they viewed the great city through each other's eyes, and Richard
grew humble as he saw how much wit heaven had granted those Greeks he
once despised. At last the negotiating ended; the Emperor came down
from his dignity; the princes swore him a loose manner of fealty;
Bohemond of Tarentum, the most covetous of the chiefs, abated his
demands. On a day never to be forgotten, the imperial galleys bore the
host across the narrow strait. "Asia!" the cry of each knight as he
kissed the very soil; at last they were fairly set to go to Jerusalem!

And now the all-reigning desire was to slay infidels. Not many leagues
away lay a great paynim stronghold, Nicæa, capital of Kilidge Arslan,
sultan of Roum,--with fighting promised of a right knightly kind.
Merry the music, and merrier the hearts of the hundred thousands, that
May season, as the host swept in flashing steel and unsoiled bleaunts
past old Nicomedia under the blue Bithynian sky, the hills all bright
and green in springtime glory.

"Sure, Our Lord is with us!" cried Richard. "I feel a giant's
strength!" But Sebastian plodded on with bowed head. "Boast not," was
the reply; "for our sins we all may yet be sorely chastened."

"But is not God on our side, father?"

"Yes, truly; but it shall be even as with the band of Gideon. Of
thirty and two thousand there were left to fall on the Midianites
three hundred; and to be among these, may we be worthy!"

At this Richard laughed, looking off to the long lines of bright
hauberks and forests of lances, far as the eye could reach; yet he had
not laughed, had he known that of the six hundred thousand of
fighting-men that crossed into Asia, scarce fifty thousand were to see
with mortal eye the Holy City. But for the moment the skies seemed
very bright, and the shadows commenced creeping only when forth from
the forest stole ragged wretches, nigh starving, refugees from Peter
the Hermit's rout. These told how Kilidge Arslan had slaughtered man,
woman, and child, when he stormed the camp of Walter Lackpenny. Then,
when the host advanced a little farther, they came to a wide heap of
bones, more than could be counted, bleaching in the sun, and the crows
still a black cloud above; for here had been the first battle and the
first defeat. Loud rose the oaths and threats of vengeance from
peasant and baron; the lines advanced in closer array, the music
lessened, every lance was ready; for now at last they were treading on
the soil of the infidel.

Richard Longsword rode with the three thousand pioneers that Duke
Godfrey sent ahead to plant crosses by the wayside as guides to the
hosts who came after. Thus it befell, the saints granted that he
should be among the first knights to set eyes on the unbelievers. With
Prince Tancred, Bohemond's valiant nephew,--who had not forgotten the
lists at Palermo,--Richard saw a band of horsemen whizzing ahead, and,
lo, as the Christian riders drew near, the Turks' little crooked bows
began spitting out barbed arrows, which glanced harmlessly on the
chain mail, but now and then wounded a horse. "Rash infidels,--singled
out doubtless by Satan for destruction,"--so Prince Tancred cried when
he couched his lance; and away went the whole squadron of knights. The
Seljouks wheeled like lightning, and were off; their bony Tartar
horses flew madly under the spur, while the men, bending dexterously
in their saddles, launched their shafts. But destruction was upon
them; the Christians rode them down one after another; some were
lanced, some taken; a few escaped, howling in a truly devilish
fashion, to tell the tale to their fellow-unbelievers. It had been so
easy for the cavaliers, that they rallied one another on the prowess
of the day.

"Ha! De St. Julien," Tancred would cry,--"how many paladins have you
slain?" And Richard would answer, "As many as you, fair lord; but who
is this grand soldan you have strapped to your stirrup? Will he fetch
a thousand byzants' ransom?"

They brought the luckless prisoners into camp, and scarce knew what to
do with them. Shock-headed, small-eyed fellows they were,--all bones,
teeth, and sinew. None could speak their language. Raymond of Agiles,
worthy chaplain, stood before them with a crucifix, and discoursed an
hour long in Latin on the perilous state of their souls, hoping that
some word of the truth might lodge in their hearts through a miracle
of grace. But the wretches only blinked out of their little eyes, and
never moved a muscle nor gave a sign on their stolid faces. Theroulde
advised that, following Charlemagne's precept, they should be put to
death.

    "None of the Moslems did remain
    But had turned Christian, or else was slain!"

prattled he, jauntily; but Sebastian counselled that due time for
repentance should not be denied them. "Let them be as the men of
Gibeon," he recommended, "hewers of wood and drawers of water." So the
poor Turks were suffered to live, and Mary Kurkuas sent one of her
maids to the tent where they lay bound, with cordials for such as were
wounded. Many good Christians frowned at this, and Count Pons of
Balazan hinted to Richard he would do well to rebuke his wife; "it was
not seemly to have pity on God's enemies." But Richard belched out a
great oath. "By St. Michael, who saveth from peril, he who bids me
rebuke the Baroness de St. Julien shall walk up the length of
Trenchefer!" and Count Pons, who was a discreet man, had to plead no
desire for a quarrel, remembering the fate of the Valmonts.

Thus tamely the Holy War began; but on the sixth of May the army found
itself under the walls of Nicæa--an infidel city now, but forever
sacred to Christians, since here had been framed the great Creed. The
knights laughed at sight of its lofty battlements, as promising
doughty fighting, and sat down for the siege, awaiting the coming of
Raymond from Constantinople. While the siege-engines made the firm
rock quake with the attack, Richard and the other barons rode forth
into the country seeking adventure; for Kilidge Arslan was sending
down his light riders from the hills, and there was steady
skirmishing. Each morning as Richard went abroad he looked back at the
face of Mary--the lips smiling, but not the eyes; and each evening
when Rollo lumbered wearily homeward--perhaps with his lord's target
battered deeply--there would be laughter, kisses, and merry talk, as
they sat before the camp-fire, saw the red flames weaving pictures,
and Longsword told of the brave deeds of the day.

So sped two weeks around Nicæa, and on a Friday Richard sallied forth
in company with Bohemond and Tancred, who led the scouting party. As
their troops climbed the foothills that lay south of the city, the
eagle eyes of Tancred lit upon three men who were stealing from grove
to grove, as if wishing anything rather than to be seen. Then there
was a headlong race among the knights to see which would strike first,
and Rollo tossed out his great hoofs and led them all. Thus Richard
caught the three just as they were plunging in a thicket, and bade
them stand and yield. One indeed made a bold break for freedom, but
just as he dashed among the trees, Tancred's javelin smote him, and
his fellows held up their hands and howled for quarter. When the two
were fairly on the way back to camp Richard observed that one was a
Seljouk, but the other--a brown, black-eyed, wiry-limbed fellow--cried
out in Arabic when addressed: "Ah, Christ be praised! I am amongst
Christians; mercy, kind lord, on a fellow-believer,--release these
bands!" "Christian?" protested Richard, still holding the cord knotted
round the prisoner's hands.

"I call Our Lord to witness," exclaimed the captive, "I am a baptized
Christian of Syria, and have endured captivity and persecution for the
sake of the Gospel;" and at this he cast down his eyes and began to
sigh.

"Our Lady pity you!" cried all the knights, touched to the quick
instantly; "and how came you with these two infidels?"

"Ah! noble lords," declared the Arab, a great tear on each cheek, "I
have been long captive among the unbelievers, the slave of Kilidge
Arslan. Know that on Sunday the Sultan will fall upon you with all his
host, and we three are messengers sent to bear the tidings into the
city through your lines."

"Fellow! fellow!" began Tancred, pricking up his ears, "a Christian,
and yet the private messenger of the infidels?"

"Yes, Cid," was the ready answer, "I have, alas!"--another great
sigh--"been false to my faith and apostatized; yet I said in my heart,
'Let me go with these messengers, and by betraying them to the Franks,
undo my own sin and gain liberty among Christian people.'"

"By St. Theodore," swore Tancred, "you speak smoothly; if it is as you
say, you shall not go unrewarded, and Bishop Adhemar shall give you
full absolution."

"Even so, Cid," replied the Arab, whose hands Richard had set at
liberty, but who made no effort to fly. "Put to torture this Turk, my
companion; he will confess all that I have told."

"You are a stout-limbed varlet," commented Bohemond, the sly-eyed
Prince of Tarentum; "you shall serve with me in my suite as guide and
interpreter, for language and country you must know well." But the
Arab only bowed, and answered:--

"My lord is a fountain of generosity, yet it is my desire to seek
service with the husband of that very noble lady the Princess Mary
Kurkuas, who it is told is the great emir, Richard Longsword."

"St. Michael," burst out Richard, "I am he! Yet why do you call my
wife by name?"

The stranger salaamed almost to the dust.

"God is gracious beyond my sins in granting so noble a lord as husband
of the daughter of my dear master. Know that fifteen years past,
before the Moslems took Antioch, I was house-servant to Manuel
Kurkuas, 'domestic' of Syria. Oftentimes have I held the very august
princess on my knee, and even in her childhood all declared she was of
beauty passing St. Thecla."

Richard had only to hear one praise Mary Kurkuas to become that man's
friend straightway. And he put his hand on the hilt of Trenchefer,
taking oath upon the relics that if the stranger, who called himself
Hossein, told an honest tale, he should never lack a patron. Only
Tancred, viewing the Arab with his sea-green eyes, was heard to
remark, "This fellow invokes the saints glibly, but his faith has more
profession in it than is to my liking."

However, when they brought the two before Duke Godfrey and threatened
the Turk with torture, he broke down and told the interpreter a tale
exactly like Hossein's--that Kilidge Arslan waited in the mountains
with a great host and would fall on the besiegers the next day. So the
Arab's credit was high when Richard brought him to the tent of his
wife. Hossein cast one glance upon her, and fell upon his knees,
kissing her robe and crying:--

"Praises, praises to St. John of Damascus! I behold the daughter of my
beloved lord Manuel, and God has verily clothed her as an angel of
light!"

"Good man," said the Greek, a little confused, "I know you not. When
have you served my father?"

"O preëminently august lady!" broke forth the Arab again. "Do you not
remember Hossein, who was in the Cæsar Manuel's palace at Antioch? How
he told you the tales of his people and sang you the wondrous song of
Antar, and the stories of the jinns and the spirits of the air?"

"I was indeed in Antioch when my father ruled the city, but I was very
young. I recall nothing," replied Mary.

"Alas! I had hopes your memory had not failed," declared Hossein,
still kneeling; "yet it is true, O noblest of the Greeks, you were
very young. Enough; my devotion can repay the daughter what I owe to
the father. For the most excellent Cæsar saved me from cruel death at
the hands of the infidels, my fellow-countrymen."

"You are an honorable man," said the lady, touched at his
demonstration, "to discharge a debt incurred so long ago.
Perhaps"--and she ran over all her early girlhood in her memory--"I
recall something of you, yet my father had many servants. I crave
pardon if I forget. And how have you fared all this while among the
Turks?"

Whereupon Hossein flew into the most pitiful tale as to his life of
captivity and persecution, so that the lady's eyes grew wet, and her
heart right sore.

"Good Christian," said she, at last, "surely you have endured much for
your faith. God grant that under like persecution I do not apostatize
more deeply. And what may I do for you? Have you home, friends, kin?"

"Alas! most august princess, Heaven has taken all away. Let me be your
slave, your bodyguard, and sleep without your tent by night with a
naked sword. Perilous times await, and"--here he choked in his
speech--"the foe shall only touch you by stepping across my poor
body!"

"You are a noble and pious man," said Mary, smiling. "It shall be as
you say. I will ask the Baron to make you my guardsman." Whereupon
Hossein invoked all the saints of the calendar to witness his delight;
and the princess had her varlets and maids clothe and feed him. When
Herbert and Theroulde came to look at him, however, they wagged their
heads; and Sylvana, the nurse, who went wherever her mistress went,
came boldly to Mary, saying:--

"Save for his pious talk, we all swear this man is infidel. I knew all
your father's servants at Antioch, and he was not of them."

But Mary answered her sharply:--

"Must one have a white skin to love Our Lord? No man could come before
me with such a lie. Your memory fails you. The Cæsar had a great
household. Besides, this Hossein has just revealed all the plots of
Kilidge Arslan, and my husband says he is to be trusted." The word of
Richard Longsword was not to be contradicted before his wife, as
Sylvana knew well; so she held her peace. Only Theroulde arranged with
Herbert that one of them should always watch their lady's tent along
with the suspected Hossein.

But the Arab's revelations proved true to the letter. On the next day,
while Raymond of Toulouse with the rear of the Provençals was making
his way to camp, three huge bands of Seljouk cavalry swooped down on
them and on the forces of Duke Godfrey. Then followed a battle of the
true knightly sort, the Turks trying what they became too wise to
attempt again,--to ride down the Franks in fair onset, with sheer
weight of numbers. Long and fierce the struggle; every Christian chief
proved a paladin. Generalship there was not; every baron and his
knights fought his own little battle with the hordesmen confronting.
Then in the end the surviving Seljouks were driven from the field like
smoke; the heads of their fallen comrades slung into Nicæa by the
engines, forewarning of what awaited the garrison. There were masses
for the Christian dead, the first martyrs; _Te Deums_ for the victory.
Richard Longsword, men cried, had slain as many infidels as Duke
Godfrey's self. When he stood in his bloody hauberk before Mary that
night, she cast her arms about him and kissed him, saying: "O sweet
lord, how beautiful you must be in battle! How God must rejoice in
your holy service!"

"Dear life," answered Longsword, pressing her to his mailed breast,
"it is when I think of the pure saint on earth who is praying for me
that my arm grows strong."

"Then it must be very strong, Richard," said she, with half a laugh,
half a sob, "for I love you more than words may tell; and my prayers
are many and all for you."

So they were glad that evening,--at least all who had not lost a
friend. But when Mary had gone to rest, Herbert talked gravely with
Richard.

"Little lord," said he, affectionately, "put no trust in this Hossein.
The saints are on his tongue, yet he stumbled when Sebastian tried to
make him say the Creed, even in his own Arabic; and Theroulde swears
that to-night when he thought none watched, he knelt toward Mecca in
Moslem fashion, as if to pray, and muttered the incantations of their
Al-Koran."

Richard laughed. "Theroulde smells danger at all times; and Sebastian
thinks, to speak Arabic is to squint toward perdition. Hossein has
revealed a secret which has given the infidels the mightiest stroke
that was theirs since Charlemagne marched to Spain. And yet you accuse
him of being one of them? Have shame for your suspicions on a
persecuted fellow-Christian! Treat him as a brother, and pray that
your own souls be in no greater peril than his."

"Nevertheless--" began Herbert.

"I hear no more," replied his master, abruptly; "I must go to rest. A
cursed story told by Count Renard's _jongleur_ runs in my head;--how
Robert the Norman and his father, King William, once fought hand to
hand, helmets closed, and Robert nigh killed his father ere they knew
one another. St. Michael, what if Musa and I should meet thus! But I
must sleep."

Herbert grumbled long to himself, and Theroulde and he renewed their
vow never to leave Hossein a moment alone to work his own devices.



CHAPTER XXV

HOW DUKE GODFREY SAVED THE DAY


The host lay before Nicæa many a weary day before the starved and
despairing garrison declared for Emperor Alexius and the Franks saw
the Greek standards floating from the battlements. Loud was the rage
against this trick that robbed them of the plunder of so fair a city.
"Back to Constantinople!" howled the men-at-arms and petty nobles.
"The Greeks are schismatics and scarce better than Moslem!" But the
judicious presents of Alexius silenced the cries of the chiefs, and
they in turn controlled their people, though from that hour little
love was wasted on the Emperor. On the twenty-fifth day of June the
Army of the Cross struck its tents about Nicæa, and set out for the
march across Phrygia, through the heart of the dominions of Kilidge
Arslan.

Soon after starting the host divided; for water and forage would be
none too plentiful, the guides said, in the plains and mountains
before, and to keep together might mean ruin. So Duke Godfrey led away
the larger half of the army with Raymond, Adhemar, and Hugh the Great;
while the second corps followed Bohemond, Tancred, and Robert of
Normandy. Being himself Norman, Longsword went with this last
division, although he would gladly have kept company with the Duke of
Bouillon. He was ill pleased to see with how little order each host
marched, and how scant was the effort to keep close enough each to the
other for help in case of need. Still, for a day or two, all went
well. They passed through a pleasant rolling country, with abundant
grass and water. All the villages, to be sure, had been burned by the
Turks, and scarce a peasant met them. But around them like an
invisible net the Sultan's light-horsemen hovered, and now and then
the long line of baggage mules and plodding infantry would be
attacked, a few beasts hamstrung, a few footmen wounded, before the
knights could charge out and chase the Seljouks over the hills. On the
third day, however, the attacks grew more violent. Longsword had been
sent back by Bohemond to cover the trailing rear-guard, where were the
staggering sick, the defenceless _jongleurs_, and the women in heavy
carriages. As the afternoon advanced, he sent a message to the Count
of Chartres that unless he had speedy succor his St. Julien men could
not hold back the thickening squadrons; and quick as the
reënforcements came, there was a sturdy _mêlée_--lance to lance, sword
to cimeter--before the Turks broke. When at last they were flying,
Richard pushed the sure-footed Rollo up a hill where any horse saving
he would have stumbled; and behold, from the hilltop Longsword could
see a score of heavy dust clouds rising, north, south, east,
west,--cavalry galloping. When he rode down he met Tancred himself.

"Fair lord," was his report, "the infidels surely plan to attack us in
force to-morrow. If my eyes are good, there are thousands of Turkish
horse around us. Kilidge Arslan must have called round him all his
easternmost hordes, and intends battle. I advise that before nightfall
a strong escort be sent to Duke Godfrey, bidding him hasten to our
relief."

"By the Mass!" swore Tancred, his knightly honor touched. "Of all men,
you, De St. Julien, should be the last to cry 'Rescue!' We are well
able to scatter Kilidge Arslan's thousands, and Godfrey shall rob us
of no glory."

So Richard held his peace, though for some strange reason his heart
was not as gay as it should have been when about to engage in glorious
battle with the infidel. He accompanied the rear as it toiled into the
encampment, already plotted by the van. Longsword saw with anxiety
that, though the camp was protected in the rear by a reedy marsh, and
on one side by a shallow stream, no palisades were being raised, nor
any other defences. The weary men set their tents as they might,
lighted fires, feasted, and were asleep, heavy with the toilsome
march. Mary Kurkuas stood at the tent door as was her wont, and
greeted her husband.

"You ran more than your share of peril to-day. The fighting was hard.
Ah! I was frightened."

"_Ai!_" cried Richard, taking off his heavy helm, "if I never come
nearer death than to-day, like a stork I shall live to be a thousand.
But there is a bandage on your wrist--what? blood?" and his face grew
troubled.

"Yes," answered Mary, smiling now, and holding up the wrist. "While
you were so valiantly guarding the rear, a squadron of Turks flew out
of a defile just before us, and ere Prince Bohemond could ride up with
his knights, had charged very close, shooting arrows."

"Mother of Mercies, you were in danger! But were you frightened?"

"Not till it was all past. For Hossein sprang in front of me, at his
own peril, and covered me with his target, catching three shafts upon
it otherwise meant for me. Then the Prince flew up with his band and
chased the Turks away; and I found that my wrist was bleeding where a
barb had scratched."

"Ha, Herbert!" cried his master, "will not my lady make a noble
cavalier? She wins honorable wounds; she shall have lance and hauberk,
and ride beside me. As for Hossein, what do you say? Be he Moslem or
Christian, he has shielded your mistress at risk of life." The
man-at-arms scratched the thin hairs on his crown.

"True; perchance I have wronged him. Yet yesterday we could not
persuade him to taste a bit of pork, and he has that cast of eye which
'wise women' call malignant."

"You are all suspicions and jealousy," declared Mary, pouting. "Did I
let you, I believe you would clap Hossein in fetters."

"I would I saw them on his wrists!" muttered the veteran, as he went
away to his supper. But Richard and Mary sat a long time before their
tent, sipping the spiced wine of Lesbos they had brought from
Constantinople, and watching the stars peep out one by one from the
deepening sky. The camp buzzed all about, yet dimly, as if each man
was in love with quiet. It was very warm, and the soft wind bore the
scent of drying wild-flowers and parching heather, as it crept down
from the sun-loved uplands. It was a sweet and peaceful hour, one
which stayed as a pure and holy vision in both their minds for many a
long, sad day.

"Sweetheart," said Richard, when they grew tired of counting the
budding stars, "though Prince Tancred and the rest will not hear it,
there will be a mighty battle to-morrow. I have seen Kilidge Arslan's
hosts all around us. We shall fight in the morning as never at Nicæa."

"Ah! Richard," answered Mary, still in laughing mood, "you must let me
ride with you. See!"--and she caught the dagger from his belt--"can I
not strike as manfully as any dapper little squire, and make the
infidels flee before me, as ever did your Frank hero, great Roland?"

"Verily," cried her husband, his eyes on her face, "I think if the
Moslems saw you coming, they would drop every man his sword,--your
darts would pierce them."

"My darts?" asked she.

"Yes, truly,--these," and he laid his fingers on her eyes.

"No," was the answer, and she shook him off. "Listen: my eyes are my
sorrow,--first, because they captured the Baron de St. Julien, who
deserves no such bondage;" then, more gravely, "next, because they
nigh undid Louis de Valmont; and last--O Richard! still I have mighty
fear of Iftikhar Eddauleh; he is seeking your life, and God knows
whether his unholy passion for me is still in his heart! Swear, swear
to me, Richard, that rather with your own hands you will take my life
than suffer me to fall into _that_ man's power. He is Moslem, but on
that account I do not hate him; yet death were better than to be his
bride!"

Richard was accustomed to these changing flashes of gay and grave; but
he knew there was no common ring of entreaty in Mary's last words, and
he answered very soberly:--

"Heart of my heart, I am here in all my strength, with Trenchefer at
my side, and around are thousands of good Christian knights. When they
are all slain, and I also, then you may fear Iftikhar Eddauleh. Till
then, think of likelier things to dread."

Mary was silent, watching the stars for a moment, then replied:--

"You say well, Richard, you are very strong. I am proud of you. Yet I
have a strange fear that all your strength cannot shield me from
Iftikhar. But no more of my folly,--perchance I am moonstruck. Let me
go to the tent, to say one prayer to the Holy Mother to keep you safe
to-morrow, and then to sleep, to dream how happy we shall be when we
go back to France."

So he kissed her; and when the flaps of the tent had closed behind her
and her maids, he called Hossein.

"Good fellow, to-morrow we expect battle. To-day you have been a
gallant guard of the princess. Remain by her to-morrow; defend her
with your life. As I live, if you do your duty, reward shall not
fail."

"Cid," answered the Arab, kissing the Baron's feet, "I hear and obey.
I swear, on my head, no unfriendly hand shall touch your very noble
wife."

As Richard looked about, he saw Theroulde standing in the firelight.
"And you, too, Sir Minstrel," said he, "shall stand guard with Hossein
over your lady." As he spoke, he thought he heard a low curse, "Eblees
confound him!" burst from under Hossein's breath. "Ha! What said you,
Arab?" asked Longsword.

"I was but sighing as I thought of my many sins, Cid," answered the
fellow, very dutifully.

Richard did not reply, but repeated to himself ere he fell asleep: "It
is as well Theroulde will be with Mary. Despite everything, I mislike
this Hossein, for some reason."

       *       *       *       *       *

Richard slept heavily, and was awakened by a hand on the shoulder. It
was the St. Julien knight, De Carnac, who commanded the watch of his
baron's command.

"Up, fair lord!" the warrior was urging, "the Seljouks are closing
round. Our sentinels are being driven in. I am bidden summon you to
council with the Prince of Tarentum." And with this Richard staggered
to his feet and stared around. It was very dark in the tent as he put
on hauberk and helmet. Without there was hum of many voices, distant
shouting, baggage cattle chafing and clinking their chains, and
presently a clear French war-cry, doubly piercing in the night,
"_Montjoye Saint Denis!_" A moment later a trumpet blared out, then
another and another.

Richard stepped from the tent; the sky was graying in the east;
encampment--men, horses, all--were vague black shadows just visible.
He was buckling fast Trenchefer when the flaps of the next tent
parted, and forth came a figure--his wife. In the dim twilight he
could only see the whiteness of her bare throat and the soft, unbound
hair, waving on forehead and shoulders. She came to him, and embraced
him without a word. Then at last she said, "Now, dear life, you must
ride out and fight God's battle, and if I cannot gallop at your side,
you shall know that my heart and my prayers ride with you; and you
must be very brave and very strong, and I will wait here and be brave
also."

"Ah! beautiful," answered he, before he swung into the saddle of the
waiting Rollo, "God will have pity on me for your dear sake. You know
no words can tell you all I feel."

"Our Lord be with you!" and with that word upon her lips she kissed
him; and he mounted, took lance, and rode away, with all the St.
Julien men saving a few grooms, also Theroulde and Hossein, who were
to remain by the tents.

With the breath of the last kiss on his lips, and his head held very
high, Richard Longsword led his troop out of the gray maze of the
encampment. Battle was before him--a great battle against countless
infidels, such as he and his peers had often made merry to think of;
yet Longsword felt no joy that morning. Fear for himself he had none;
the battle might sweep over him, the war-horns blow his funeral
mass--what matter? Yet in a way his heart was sad. It would have been
better had Mary remained at La Haye; better were he to fight for
himself and the cause of Christ alone. But he knew not why he should
grieve. That the Seljouks should so prevail over the soldiers of the
Cross as to menace the encampment, scarce entered his head. Only he
had been happier, could he have recalled his command to Hossein, taken
the Arab in his troops, left another to guard the lady. But the fellow
had twice proved his devotion. Why mistrust? And all such thoughts
sped from his mind when he saw, dimly ahead, armed cavaliers sitting
on their tall _destrers_, and Prince Bohemond's voice called:--

"Who rides? De St. Julien?"

"The same, my lord prince; what news?"

"Praise St. Michael, you are here! We need all our wits. The infidels
are closing round, and dark as it is we can hear the hoof-beats of
tens of thousands. We must prepare for battle with the dawn."

"And have you taken my advice, my Lord Tancred," asked Richard, "and
sent messengers to the Duke?"

"Two knights and ten men-at-arms have ridden an hour since," replied
Tancred, for he was among the horsemen. "Yet I would vow Our Lady two
gold candlesticks, were I sure they could get through the hordes. You
may mock me, De St. Julien, if you will, for not heeding your warning
last evening."

"Mockery is of little profit this morning, my lord," said Richard,
soberly; "how may I serve you?"

But at this moment came another cavalier, in armor that gleamed in the
wan light, and behind him a great train.

"Hail, fair Duke Robert!" cried Bohemond; "what news do your outposts
bring you?"

The son of William the Conqueror swore a deep Norman oath, and
replied: "In my quarter arrows pelt like hailstones; all the fiends
are broke loose. They only wait the light to strike us. God grant we
are all well shriven, for we may sleep with the saints ere another
morning!"

"Fair lords," said Tancred, "we must go to our posts and array the
battle. De St. Julien, bid the varlets and footmen place the baggage
wagons round the camp, to make what barricade they may. After that,
put your men at my right, for by the Virgin, we shall see stout
fighting!"

So the council broke up, there being nothing to advise save to fight
heartily. Richard sent the heralds through the camp and, with cry and
trumpet, roused the sleeping host, though the alarms of the night
already had waked many. A great confusion there was: a thousand voices
shouting at once, women wailing, war-horns blaring, wheels creaking,
all trebly loud in the murk of the breaking day. Long before the wagon
barrier, also, was as it should be, a great cry began to swell: "The
foe! the foe!" and the infantry commenced to bang their shields and
clatter their pike-staffs, for discipline was none the best. Richard
rode away with his hundred St. Julien troopers,--men that he could
trust to the last pinch,--and drew them up beside the personal command
of Prince Tancred. Prince Bohemond and the Norman Duke had arrayed
their mailed cavalry in a solid rank, the line stretching far down the
plain, every man in complete armor, with a good horse between his
knees. As the light strengthened, Richard could see the long files of
lances, ten thousand bright pennons whipping the wind, and the new sun
shone on as many burnished casques and flashing targets--noble sight;
yet not so strange as that which he beheld when he looked northward
just east of the little town called Dorylæum. The hills, so far as eye
could reach, were covered with an innumerable host, thousands on
thousands, and all on horseback. He could see the gay red and green
turbans, the bright scarfs and mantles, pennons, banners--past
counting; and even as the sun lifted above the hills, and sent its
weird red light over the valley, a mighty roar of tambour, kettledrum,
and cymbal came rolling from the foe, and a shout from myriad throats,
wild, beastlike, shrill as the winter wind. With the shout, as if at
magician's wand, all the hills seemed moving; and the Seljouk hordes
charged straight upon the Christian lines.

It was a wondrous spectacle; far as the eye might pierce, only
horsemen, and more horsemen, speeding at headlong gallop. "Christ pity
us!" more than one bronze-faced cavalier muttered in his beard. And
some cried, "Charge!" But Tancred held them steady. The hordes swept
on as one man, nearer, so near that the dust-cloud blew in the
Christians' faces; and all braced themselves for the shock. But just
as the crash was about to tremble on the air, lo! the foremost Turks
had wheeled like lightning, and arrows flew out that darkened the sky
by their number. And as the first horde rolled off to one flank, still
shooting, the next, the next, and yet another whirled past, pouring
forth their volleys.

"Stand fast, Christians!" was Tancred's shout, as the first shafts
dashed harmlessly on the good mail; and for a moment the Franks sat,
their steeds immovable, and let the blast of steel beat on them. Yet
only for a moment; though but one arrow in a hundred struck home, here
and there men were bleeding, wounded horses plunging. Each instant
Crusaders were falling; should they sit forever and be shot to death?
Duke Robert was the first to charge. "_Dex aiè!_" cried his Norman
knights, and lance in rest they spurred straight in the face of the
wheeling myriads. Vain courage! A few Seljouks they struck and rode
over in a twinkling; but the vast horde parted before them like water,
and rained in arrows and ever more arrows from safe distance. The Duke
regained his lines, but one-fourth of his men had been stricken, and
the terrible horse-archers were shooting a more deadly shower than
ever.

"The foot! the crossbowmen!" was the cry of the raging knights. And
their archers and arbalisters, coming to the front, tried to return
the fire as best they could. Many a Seljouk rode no more after their
volley, but their shafts were as a bucket on a holocaust. Horsemen,
and yet more horsemen, were rolling in. More and more rapid the arrow
fire, the sky was dark with flying dust, the ear deafened with the
thunders of hoofs uncounted, the clash of the kettledrums, the yell
and howl of the Seljouks. Flesh and blood could stand the strain no
more. Either the Turks must be routed, or the Franks would perish to
a man.

"Charge! Charge!" this time the cry went down the line on every lip.
Two arrows had grazed Rollo, despite his leathern armor. Thrice had
Richard felt the sting on his ribs, where the mail had turned the
shaft. Only one desire had he now,--to ride through or over his
tormenters.

"God wills it! Normandy! Normandy!" came from Duke Robert's cavaliers.
"_Montjoye Saint Denis!_" rang from the Count of Chartres. "_Biez!_"
thundered the Auvergners; and the whole steel-mailed line swept upon
the Seljouks, like an avalanche. And now a crash! They smote the Turks
with might irresistible; the _destrers_ trampled down the frail Tartar
horses by thousands. What guard were light targets and cotton turbans
to the swords of the men of France? For a moment, when Richard reined
in Rollo, he believed the foe annihilated.

"God wills it!" myriad voices were calling. Yet even as the dust hung
in the air, the arrows began to beat down again. Like flies the Turks
had scattered; like flies they returned, new hordes making good all
loss. And now the Christians were in deadly peril, for their ranks
were all broken into little handfuls, and the Seljouks swarmed round
each, trying to trample it down by weight of numbers. Richard led his
men back from the charge. Trenchefer was very red. How many Turks
opposed the St. Julieners he could not tell, but by the grace of the
saints the line was re-formed at last. Prince Bohemond, crafty of
heart, but a very lion in battle, flew down the line to steady it.

"We have slain a thousand infidels!" the Count of Chartres was crying.
"One more charge and we have victory!"

"One more such victory and we are crowned martyrs!" Prince Tancred
made answer. "Robert of Paris is slain, and William, my brother, and a
hundred good knights more; and we are being shot down like sparrows."

Another onrush of the Seljouks, this time nearer. Richard felt the
moments creeping by with leaden feet. The possibility of a disaster
beyond thought stared him in the face. It was one thing to go to death
in a fair fight with the sword hot in one's hand--another to sit
passive and feel destruction beating down. Yet he was thinking, not of
himself, but of another. Prince Tancred, burning to avenge his
brother's loss, charged out with his own troop. The Seljouks closed
around him like the sea. Bohemond flew to aid, and rescued his nephew.
Richard saw Tancred riding back within the lines bareheaded and
bloody, his lance broken. "Christ keep our souls, the Seljouks have
our bodies," murmured the Breton Count Rothold, "I will not die here!"
and he also charged out with his shrill native war-cry, "_Malo!
Malo!_" In a twinkling the hordes rolled round him; Richard and the
St. Julieners saved him. But now Robert, the Norman, spurred up to
Longsword. The Duke's casque was beaten and gory, his long white
pennon red-dyed, his horse wounded.

"De St. Julien, we are lost unless Godfrey and the rest rescue. The
first messengers are surely slain. Are your troop still left, and your
horses unwounded?" The noise of the Turks made his voice nigh
inaudible, but Richard bowed his head.

"Then for the love of Our Saviour, ride, and bring succor. On you hang
all our lives!"

"Men of St. Julien," cried Richard, "will you follow me?"

"Through ten thousand devils!" roared back De Carnac and the rest.
Richard clapped spurs to Rollo.

"Christ guard us!" was his cry; but his glance was toward the
encampment. He led the Auvergners to the left of the battle, where the
Seljouk horde seemed thinnest.

And what followed was ever to Richard Longsword as one long wild dream
whereof the memory lingered; the reality was blotted out. He knew that
he charged his men against the horde, and, as ever, the Turks gave way
before them--more victims to be swallowed in their quick-sands. But
these Franks, having made their charge, did not turn back. The arrow
fire smote them; yet on and on they spurred, still chasing back the
foe. And then, when the tribesmen saw that these mad Franks would not
wheel back to the encampment, from the fatal line around the Turks
closed in, shield to shield, lance to lance. Richard never knew what
saint gave strength to his arm that day, and made Trenchefer terrible
to the unbelievers. Only after a long delirium of hewing and riding,
he saw the open country before. A look backward--behold, he was upon a
hill. The Turkish lines stretched away to his left; he had cleared
their flank, and the battle raged in its mad carnival behind him. He
looked for his men--how few! They had ridden from camp a hundred;
scarce fifty were at his back. But the deed was done. They had cleared
the Seljouks, and now to Duke Godfrey!

"Lord, I am a very sinful man," prayed Richard, as they pushed their
wounded steeds down the hill southward; "unworthy of this mercy.
Surely it was through the prayers of a dear saint whose peril is still
great."

"Ride, men, ride!" he commanded, and gave head to Rollo, whose tough
hide had turned more than one barb. The great black horse tossed out
his hoofs and was away. No other St. Julien steed could pace him. He
left the band behind, and Richard flew toward the long line of tents
he saw nestling under a distant hill. The mighty steed ran like a
beast of steel, unwearying, unslacking; hillocks he raced over,
gullies he cleared with unfailing leap. The wind whistled in
Longsword's hair--his helmet had gone, the saints knew whither; he
felt the horse speeding too fast for thought. A few roving stragglers
from the Seljouk host pricked after him, two or three arrows twittered
overhead. Rollo dropped them all, their small steeds blown and weary,
while on the Northern monster ran.

And now he drew near the camp. Men were shouting to him, a great crowd
of varlets staring. Rollo ran down the streets of tents, a thousand
eyes upon the thundering black horse and his blood-stained rider.

"The Duke! the Duke!" Richard was shouting, as he drew rein before
the wide, silken pavilion. A score of knights and squires swarmed
around. A strong hand was needed to stay Rollo. Richard sprang
breathless to the ground, and stood face to face with Godfrey, just
emerging from the tent. "Lord de St. Julien," cried Bouillon, "alone?
Covered with blood?" But Richard cut him short.

"Rescue, rescue, as you love Christ! Our host is surrounded, and nigh
perishing; Robert of Paris and Prince William are slain. The Seljouk
arrows are hail. Rescue, or all is lost."

"By Our Lady of Antwerp!" thundered Godfrey, all action, "blow horns,
sound trumpets! Horses; arm; mount!"

No need of more! The word flew through the encampment swifter than
light. Now the Duke's war-horns sounded, now Count Hugh's, now Count
Raymond's. But Godfrey was foremost. Scarce had Richard quaffed a
helmet of water, before the Duke stood before him in his silvered
hauberk, and the fifty picked knights of his bodyguard were in saddle.
"Give me a horse!" cried Richard. "A horse, my lord duke! for mine has
ridden hard, and is wounded."

"By the splendor of God," cried Godfrey, "you will have your fill of
fighting! Bring the best spare _destrer_ and a new helm!"

So Richard was again on horseback; and if he was wounded and weary, he
did not know it till later on that fateful day. Rollo he left in safe
hands, and followed the Duke.

"To the east, my lord. Their flank is unguarded," he urged. "You may
have them all."

And Godfrey rode madly ahead with his bodyguard. After him streamed
the Christian heavy cavalry, they too thousands upon thousands--the
finest squadrons ever arrayed in sinful war. Then again for Richard
the mad delight of the ride! But this time with countless comrades
about him; and as the host swept up over the eastern hills, the sun
hung in mid-heaven, and made the arms and shields one tossing sea of
light. Before and below lay the Seljouk horde and the thin lines of
the Christians--very close now; for Kilidge Arslan was pressing in to
pluck his prey. But at the sight one mighty cry rolled from fifty
thousand throats, "God wills it!" For God had delivered the infidels
into Duke Godfrey's hands.



CHAPTER XXVI

HOW RICHARD WAS AGAIN CHASTENED


Forward the great host swept. And if the sight of the onrushing Turks
had borne terror to the Christians that morning, what terror must have
sped among the hordesmen that noon. For the whole army of Kilidge
Arslan was caught in a fatal triangle,--the hills where no cavalry
might wheel, the lines of Bohemond and Tancred, and the squadrons of
Godfrey. "God wills it!" again the cry; and every knight in the
onrushing squadrons was holding his lance steady--no sitting in rank
now and feeling the beat, beat of the arrows. The Seljouks might not
scatter, if they would.

A howl of mortal fear was rising from the unbelievers. The tale later
spread that they saw two Christian knights in armor fiery-bright, who
rode before the advancing squadrons, whose mail was unpierced by the
stoutest lance-thrust, who slew with lightnings flashed from their
flaming swords. The cry grew louder and louder. The Christians knew
the Turks were calling on Allah and their Prophet to save them,--vain
hope! for all the host of Michael and his angels were fighting for the
Cross that day.

As he swept on, Richard saw the hordesmen dash their thousands upon
Bohemond's thin line,--no arrows now, but striving to crush by mere
weight of numbers. He saw the wearied Normans and Bretons spur out to
the charge. And then indeed there was fair battle,--the Christian host
nigh swallowed in the infidel myriads; but still over all tossed
Tancred's white silk banner blazoned with its blood-red cross; and
above the howl of the Seljouks rang the cry which the unbelievers that
day so learned to dread:--

"God wills it!"

At this moment Godfrey and Raymond, with their fifty thousand mailed
cavalry, struck the Turkish hordes, and swept them toward the hills
like dust that scurries before the west wind. "God wills it!" The
Seljouks were riding for life, the Christian knights trampling them
down with their huge _destrers_; and sword and battle-axe reaping
their bloody harvest. "God wills it!" Richard heard the horns of the
Sultan's picked guard sounding the retreat; and the last resistance
melted away as the Seljouks fled to a man toward the hills.

As Godfrey and his thousands came on, Bohemond, Tancred, and Robert of
Normandy charged forth with their wearied knights--not wearied
now--catching the hordesmen on flank and rear, trampling, slaying,
pursuing. And when the rescued cavaliers saw Longsword flying at
Bouillon's side, another great shout went down the line, "Richard
Longsword! Richard de St. Julien!" Then the Norman held his head very
proudly, for he thought, "What joy will this be to Mary!"

"On! on!" urged Duke Godfrey, never drawing rein, while the rout and
chase swept forward. "To the hills after them! Let none escape! God
and Our Lady are with us!"

"_Dex aiè_," thundered the rescued Normans, and the whole host flew
faster. Swift were the Seljouk horses; but the shivered hordes,
crowding together in the narrow valley, were mown as grass before the
Christian onset. Up among the rocks the pursuit was driven; steeds
fell, their riders trampled down instantly. The Seljouks gained the
crags where lay their camp, dismounted, stood at bay. But the Franks
had dismounted also, and spread around the hills a forest of lances.
On the front attacked Raymond; on the flanks Robert of Flanders, Duke
Robert, Godfrey, Hugh, and Tancred; while brave Bishop Adhemar led the
attack from the rear. Then came the final stand. The Turks fought as
beasts at bay. But the Christians were raging lions; they stormed the
camp, broke the spear wall, scattered the bodyguard of Kilidge Arslan
himself. The Seljouks, like frighted partridges, scampered over rocks
and craggy peaks, where their heavy-armed foe might not follow. So
some escaped, but a score of thousands then and there perished; for
quarter none asked or gave. Foremost in the press had been Richard. He
long since had cast away his shattered shield; but the hauberk of
Valencia was bulwark against a dozen deaths. Every time his good arm
brought low an infidel he was glad; was he not performing to God a
holy service? When the Seljouks broke once more after the storming of
the camp, Longsword regained his horse to chase down those who
hazarded flight in the plain country. The sun was hanging low in the
heavens now. Old knights were praying Charlemagne's prayer at
Roncesvalles--that the day might lengthen while they hunted the
Moslem.

Richard rode with Gaston of Béarn, who had been not the least valiant
of the many brave that day; and as he rode, again and again he came
across fugitives, not in the fantastic colors of the Seljouk, but in a
dress all white with red girdles and sandals. Often as they came on
such, the pursued would turn and charge Gaston's whole troop with a
mad fury that Frankish valor could scarce master. Presently, just as
the shadows began to spread on the hills, Longsword saw before him a
band of horsemen, clothed in white, in their midst the figure of a
mighty warrior in gilded mail, upon a tall bay charger, and across
that rider's saddle it seemed a prisoner in pale dress with fluttering
red ribbons,--to Richard's mind, a woman. "After! After! A prisoner!"
cried Gaston, putting his horse at a last burst of speed,--a good
steed, but he had been ridden hard; and the fugitives still drew
ahead. Richard clapped spurs to his mount; the beast, one of the best
of Duke Godfrey, shot past Gaston, and the distance betwixt Richard
and the strange rider lessened.

Richard could see now that the captive was indeed a woman, that she
was struggling in the arms of her captor. Once he thought he caught
her cry, despite the yells of the flying Moslems, who were invoking
all the jinns to give them speed. He rode past the rearmost fugitive,
who turned for fight, saw before him a brown-faced Arab, saw the
cimeter dancing in his face; felt the steel edge glance on his
helmet--a great rush of blood nigh blinding; a stroke of Trenchefer
cleaving something--the Arab was gone. Richard dashed away the blood
with his fist, pressed the spurs harder. The prisoner leaned out and
shook forth her ribbons--Mother of Mercies! how like the ribbons of
Mary! And had he never seen that splendid rider before? Again he
spurred, and slapped his steed with the flat of his sword. Faster and
faster; the blood once more blinded; once he brushed it away; long
since his lance had been shattered in pieces, but Trenchefer was
brazed to his arm. A last burst of speed; he could see the Arab
warrior struggling with his arms about the captive; one instant more
and he would breast the strange champion. But even as he pressed the
spur, the good horse stumbled, plunged, was down, and Richard dashed
upon the ground. An instant only. He was bruised; but he staggered to
his feet, Trenchefer still in hand. "_Allah akhbar!_" rang the shout
of the Arab, a voice he knew full well, yet had heard--where?
Longsword dragged the kicking _destrer_ from the ground. The good
horse stood, made a step--he was lamed; walking were pain. And as
Richard looked, his quarry sped over a hillock, was gone; while he
stood staring after, scarce knowing that from head to heels he was
bruised, and that the warm blood was streaming over his face. Only the
darkening landscape seemed circling round and round, and his ears were
ringing, yet not with the shout of receding battle. Gaston of Béarn
had ridden up with his men. "Holy St. Barbara," the viscount was
crying, "you are sorely hurt, fair friend. Your horse is lamed. Ho!
Peter, dismount and put my Lord de St. Julien in your saddle. We must
ride for the camp. Already it is darkening."

"No!" exhorted Richard, "continue the chase. Do not let those Arab
fiends escape. They have a Christian prisoner, a lady, I swear by the
four Gospels!"

"A lady!" exclaimed Gaston. "No prisoner! doubtless she is one of
their tent women, whom the riders are trying to save. How could any
Christian maid fall into their hands? Fighting we have had to a fill
to-day, and none more than you, fair knight."

They put Richard upon the man-at-arms's horse. He was so weak now that
Gaston rode at one side, and a squire at the other, to guard against a
fall. As they rode back toward the encampment the stars were peeping
out, and the moon had begun to climb above the hills. There was a thin
gray haze spreading from the shallow river and marsh. Men talked in
whispers, save as here and there they passed one lying wounded and
moaning. All over the plain torches were moving about, priests and
women seeking the Christian wounded, giving water to the dying, and
with them camp varlets,--rabbits during the battle, but brave enough
now,--plundering the fallen Turks, and slaying those who still
breathed. Richard saw the great spoil of the Seljouk camp borne off in
triumph: gold-threaded carpets, coin, horses,--many camels, that the
marvelling victors, who had never seen such ill-shaped bulks before,
thought the devil himself must have begotten.

Closer to the Christian camp the Frankish dead lay thickly on the
ground. Raymond of Agiles was making the sign of the cross above each.
"Blessed are these!" cried he; "already St. Michael leads them before
Our Father; they have white robes and palms, and raise the anthem
everlasting."

They rode on, and to them joined the Count of Chartres, shouting:
"Praised be all angels, De St. Julien! You saved us all; the infidels
were in the very camp!"

"The camp!" cried Richard, starting from his seat.

"Assuredly; Stephen of Blois and Bohemond strove to drive them out;
there is a rumor certain women were carried captive. A scared
horse-boy's tale, I trust! Holy Mother! You are wounded, my Baron! You
nigh fall from the saddle!"

And Gaston of Béarn and Chartres caught Longsword, as he reeled.

"Unhand me, sirs!" shouted Richard, thrusting them both back roughly;
"I am unhurt. I must go to the camp!"

And he spurred away headlong, his bruise nowhere, one horrible thought
mastering all.

Yet as he reached the camp, now very dim in the twilight, a deadly
sense of weakness and weariness was stealing over him. Food? Save for
a mouthful of bread while he buckled on his armor, he had tasted none
that direful day. Water? He had not touched a drop since leaving Duke
Godfrey's camp. Wounds? He was bleeding in a dozen places. He felt the
firm earth spinning. Would there never be end to the frightful pound,
pound of the horse under him? His sight was dimming, ears rang; but,
summoning all his will, he controlled himself.

"Dear Christ," was his prayer, "do not let me faint until, until"--but
he could go no farther. When, however, he passed more knights and
men-at-arms bringing in the spoil, laughing and boasting over their
valiant deeds, his breast grew lighter. When the infidels had been so
utterly broken, what was there to fear? The rush of faintness passed,
he again sat steady in the saddle. And as many as recognized him in
the dusk raised the cry that swelled as the rest caught it: "Ho! De
St. Julien! Hail! De St. Julien! Our Lady bless you, fair lord, you
have saved us all this day!" But the shout that had been music in his
ears two hours earlier he scarce heard. Prince Tancred passed him,
called on him to stay; he spurred on, though the poor soldier's horse
under him nigh dropped of weariness.

In the camp at last. The fires were being rekindled; around each
little groups, over the loot of the Turkish camps. The wounded were
groaning on the dry turf, men were bringing in the dead, and here and
there women wailing. Richard knew the way to his own encampment, as if
by instinct. And as he rode his blood chilled yet more when he saw
here and there tents down, their walls torn, pegs wrenched, poles
shattered, and contents scattered around. Then it was true the
Seljouks had stormed the camp! Before him he saw the little group of
pavilions over which the St. Julien banner had waved that
morning--the banner was gone! His horse stumbled over a body. He
dismounted. The moon was rising; in the pale light he saw the face of
one of his own grooms--set in death. Men were standing before the
tents, some tugging at the cords as if to retighten them, some
kindling a fire, some in groups, talking in low, scared whispers. In
the dimness they did not see Richard, as he came up on foot.

"Holy St. Maurice," one was muttering, "may I not be the first to tell
the tale to my lord!"

"Fellow!" thundered Richard, bursting into the little group, and
clapped a hand heavy as a millstone on the man-at-arms's shoulder.
"Rascal! Speak! Speak! What is this? Dumb as a mute? Why no banner?
The tents in disorder? Where is--" But the words came not, for his dry
tongue clove fast in his mouth.

No answer. The retainer turned as pale and quaking as if the devil's
self had accosted him.

"Speak! speak!" raged Richard, making his victim writhe under his iron
grip. Still nothing. He looked at those around; silent all. He was too
fearful to be angry.

"Mary! Mary de St. Julien!" cried he, finding the name at last; "if
you are here,--one word,--or I am in perdition!" Still silence. He saw
one of the men-at-arms crossing himself; he saw that the pavilion
where he had left his wife was half overturned; he saw lying across
the entrance a dead body, and the firelight showed the white dress and
the red girdle and shoes.

"For the love of Christ!" was his plea, "will no one speak? or must I
kill you all?" In his frenzy he half drew Trenchefer. And just as all
gave way, when they saw the moonlight waver on the blade still red,
there was a step, and a voice--Sebastian's voice--spoke:--

"Sweet son, bow to the will of God. Listen! I have just returned to
the camp with Herbert and the rest. Mary Kurkuas is not here.
Theroulde will tell all."

They heard a groan from Richard, that none forgot to his dying day. A
javelin was lying against a tent-pole; as Theroulde stepped
reluctantly out from the silent circle, the Baron sent the dart
whistling past his head.

"Die!--coward! traitor!" then Longsword cursed terribly when the cast
missed and flew into the dark.

Sebastian had him by the arm.

"Gilbert de Valmont!" whispered he, never trembling when Richard
raised his fist to strike. "Remember him! Add not one sin to another!
Listen to Theroulde!"

"Traitor!" stormed Richard, but the priest held him fast. "Why could
you not die defending your mistress?"

"Hearken, my Lord de St. Julien, then call me traitor and coward if
you will!" cried the minstrel, brave at last. "And see if there be no
worse traitors than I? Would God you had listened to the warnings of
us all against that smooth-tongued Hossein,--as if Christian faith
could ever lurk beneath so swart a skin."

Richard had steadied himself.

"Go on, my man," he said, very quietly now, yet in a tone that set all
a-quaking; for they could not comprehend. They only knew a strong
spirit was in agony.

"Lord," said Theroulde, "if one jot of what I say be other than truth,
so smite me dead, and let Satan own me forever. As we lay in the camp
after you had led forth most of the fighting-men, soon we heard the
rush and roar of battle, and presently some came flying, who said the
cavaliers were hard pressed, and many slain. And all the time my lady
sat before the tent upon the rugs we laid for her, resting her chin on
her hands, and saying nothing. Yet she was not tearful nor pale, at
which we marvelled, for we knew she thought that every roar and shout
might betoken your fall, and her mind had only room for that. Then
after the battle had raged long, and stragglers and wounded began
coming in with tales that grew ever blacker, I said to Hossein, who
sat by me, 'Brother, go to the edge of the camp, see if the St. Julien
banner still towers high, and bring back word to my lady.' For I did
not intend to quit her side, and was glad to have him gone. So he went
without delay and was gone a long time, while the din of battle
continually grew louder and nearer. Yet when he returned, he said, 'I
went so close to the battle lines that--see! two arrows grazed me!'
Then to your wife, 'Most august mistress, your lord's banner is not in
sight; but fear nothing. He is not slain, they tell me, but has ridden
to summon help from Duke Godfrey.' Then my lady's cheeks began to
glow, and I imagine she was thinking of your return and the victory."

"For Our Lord's sake, no more of what you imagine!" came from Richard.
"Tell only what you _know_!"

"Scarce had he returned"--went on Theroulde, his voice
faltering--"when we heard a frightful clamor from the rear and flank
of the camp by the river and marsh. Soon grooms and women ran by
crying, 'The infidels are on us, slaying all!' And sooner than
thought, we beheld the Seljouk horsemen, sword in hand, dashing among
the tents, cutting down old man, priest, and woman, without quarter.
Then I laid hands on a crossbow. 'Hossein,' cried I, 'if you are true
Christian, die with me for our mistress!' But he only smiled, and
drawing his cimeter, gave a mighty howl that rose above all other din.
Ere I could look upon my lady, lo,--there were horsemen by our
tents--Arabs--not Turks--in white, with red girdles; and Hossein
shouted in their speech, 'This way, Cid Iftikhar; here is the Star of
the Greeks!' And I saw Iftikhar Eddauleh himself upon a splendid
horse, in flashing armor. Then I sped a crossbow bolt through one of
his riders, cut down a second with my sword, and struck at Hossein,
thinking to end his treachery. But Iftikhar swung once at me,--I knew
no more. When I came to myself I found that I was under the wreck of
the tent. Hours had sped; the battle had drifted away. The emir's
sword had turned in his hand; the blunt edge smote me. I had a mighty
blow, but will be none the worse--praise the saints! I looked for my
lady--gone! All the grooms and varlets are slain, and old Sylvana the
nurse. Hossein gone--and the devils ride with him! And for me, my Lord
de St. Julien, if I have been coward or traitor, strike off my head.
You are my judge."

Richard tore from his neck his heavy gold chain.

"You are a right valiant man, Theroulde, and no boaster. I believe
your tale," said he, throwing him the gold links; "and now a horse--a
fresh horse!"

Sebastian still held him.

"Madness!" cried the priest; "it is dark; you have been up since
before dawn! For what is this horse?"

"To ride after Iftikhar Eddauleh," came from between Richard's teeth;
"and if I find him not--to slay as many of his cursed race as I may;
and then to curse God and die!"

While he spoke the moonbeams rested full on his face, and all
beholding saw that it had aged in one hour; the lines wrought on it by
the death of Gilbert were still there--and more. Had his hair shone
white, none would have been amazed. "Christ pity him!" muttered old
Herbert, the most fervent prayer of the veteran for many a wicked day.

But Sebastian would not let Richard go.

"As you fear God," commanded the priest, "be quiet; do not fling your
life away!"

"I fear God no longer," was Richard's cry. "I only hate Him!"

Sebastian led him into the tent, with a touch soft and tender as a
woman's. "Dear lad," he said gently, "God will not be angry unduly
with you for what you have just said, though its sin is very great.
You think, 'How can this thing be and God be still good?' Remember the
words of holy Anselm of Canterbury, 'I ask not to understand that I
may believe; but I believe that I may learn to understand.'"

"Father," said Richard, with a terrible calmness in his voice, "if for
my own sins I had been doomed to some great woe, I could say '_mea
culpa_,--merciful chastisement'; but since the chief suffering will be
that of as pure a saint as ever breathed this air, I cannot endure
without a groan. I only know that the hand of God is exceeding heavy
upon me, and my burden is more than I can bear." Then, to the infinite
relief of Sebastian and the rest, he let them take off his
blood-soaked armor and shirt, and stanch the wounds, which were none
very deep, but so many that he was weak from loss of blood. Presently
Herbert came in and reported: "Little lord, our men took thirty Turks
prisoners when the camp was stormed; shall we keep them to put to
ransom?" Richard was not too feeble to leap from the rugs. "Kill!
kill!" he foamed out; "if Satan wait long for their souls, let him
have mine too!"

Herbert smiled grimly and went out of the tent.

"_Ai_," cried Longsword to Sebastian, when the priest forced him to
lie down once more, "I do well to be cruel,--for there is no sweet
angel now to teach me mercy. God reward me double beyond present
griefs, if I slay not my share of the infidels! Therefore let me grow
pitiless and terrible."

"You should hate and slay the Lord's enemies, dear son," said
Sebastian, crossing himself; "yet beware lest you fight for your own
revenge, and not for the glory of God."

"Enough if I slay them!" was the answer. Then Richard took food and
drink, and toward morning slept.

So ended the day of Dorylæum, the battle where, as the pious
chronicler puts it, "by the aid of St. James and St. Maurice the
Christians had a great deliverance from their enemies, and
twenty-three thousand infidels were sped to perdition; such being the
singular favor of God."



CHAPTER XXVII

HOW THE ARMY CAME TO ANTIOCH


To the surprise and joy of Sebastian and Herbert, Richard recovered
from his wounds with miraculous rapidity. When the host marched again,
many a voice cheered him. But those who loved him best saw the stony
hardness of his face, beyond anything that came after the great stroke
at St. Julien. No ragings and thunders now, but a calm and fearful
laugh that made men shiver. He led a band of picked knights after the
Seljouks, no more reckless cavalier in all the host than he. The Turks
had been utterly routed. Two days' marches from the battle Richard
found horses ridden dead by their panic-struck masters. Of all the
prisoners taken Longsword had only one question, "Whither fled
Iftikhar and his band?" But no prisoner could tell--they were only
ignorant hordesmen. So Richard rode on, and only God knew what passed
in his heart.

The army, now in one huge column, commenced the march across Phrygia,
which journey, of all the unforgetable scenes of that Crusade, those
who survived it were least likely to forget. Richard remembered the
tales told by old Manuel Kurkuas, and laid in what provision he could
for his men. Those of his friends who heeded him did likewise. But the
multitude--noble and villain, creatures of a day--scarce stuffed their
wallets, and went forward, little dreaming of the things in store. For
the march was one long horror. Kilidge Arslan had ridden ahead with a
band that still remained by him. If he could not stamp out the
Christians with his hordes, at least he could make famine and thirst
fight against them. He burned harvests; he devastated cities; the
wretched inhabitants he hurried into exile,--with Phrygia, Pisidia,
Cappadocia, to the gates in Mount Taurus, one desert for the bears and
the wolves to hunger in. As the Crusaders advanced, they saw only
fields seared and black, roofless houses, with swallows flitting above
them; and forth from the caves in the hills crept gaunt, starved
wretches, praying for a bit of bread in the name of Our Lord or Allah.
The host climbed on the first day the crest of the "Black Mountains,"
fit presage for the blacker things before; so far as eye could stretch
there was utter desolation. And on the next they entered the terrible
valley called Malabyumas, and were there many days, hemmed in by
precipices and beetling crags, while the great snake of the column
dragged its slow length along. At first, while there was yet water on
the hillsides and food in the wallets, the host toiled on with only
the pitiless summer sun for foe; then, as the little streamlets grew
rarer, the dry, dark crags pressed closer, and the food was failing,
the misery began. Misery past imagining! for if it is terrible for one
mortal to suffer and go out in agony, what is it when hundreds of
thousands suffer? when horses and mules are falling like flies by the
roadway; when men and women trudge onward like dogs, with their
tongues hanging from their mouths; when the sun hangs, from morn till
evening, a flaring, coppery ball, bright and merciless, drying up all
the sap of life; while against the blue ether show the countless
flocks of crows, that whir and caw as they pounce upon the dying ere
the breath has sped or the living marched away?

The very hugeness of the host hindered its hasting through this land
of torment. One Sunday five hundred persons fell down and perished
with thirst, and those who toiled on called them happy; for in heaven
one never dreams of cool fields and sweet, cold water, yet all the
time is burned within by fire unquenchable. When a tiny stream was
reached--what was it among so many? Women fell dying, with their babes
sucking at their breasts; and the host pressed on, for help there was
none from man!

The horses, poor brutes, died by scores; knights wept when they saw
their _destrers_--often better loved than brothers--sink down; saw
their dear falcons and hunting dogs perish. Yet who could think of
beasts, where men were staggering with open mouths, gasping for each
breath of wind to lighten their burning torments? Still the host
pressed on, though, far back as eye might scan, the carcasses and the
crows marked out the line of marching.

On and on! and in the midst of the torment there were strange hours of
ecstasy, of rapture over visions passing human ken. Men raved of
angels and a heavenly city, and streets of gold and living fountains;
and the last word of the dying was "Jerusalem!" while the shout that
went down the parching host when the sun beat fiercest and all the
watercourses were dust, was, "God wills it! Jerusalem!" So the march
kept on; and though thousands fell, none turned back, nor would have,
had the backward track been of less peril than that before.

Richard bore the privations with a steadiness which made good the
opinion of his followers that his frame was built of iron--not of
flesh and blood. Yet his heart was cut, as never in this way before,
to see his men dying before his face, and he unable to aid. Many a
poor Auvergner called to his lord, and bade him tell some mother or
wife or sweetheart in far St. Julien that he had struggled hard to
gain the Holy City, but God had willed otherwise; and the seigneur
would bear witness that he had been a faithful vassal and true
Christian.

Rollo, great steed, endured the thirst with a quiet fortitude that let
him survive when half the cavaliers of the army were bestriding mules
and oxen. Sebastian, too, bore up, shrewdly remarking, as was his way,
that his life of fast and abstinence had advantages in this world as
well as in the world to come. Herbert, too, seemed unconquerable; but
what with the losses at Dorylæum and the thirst, Richard saw his
company thinned in a way to make his heart sick, even had this been
all.

Finally, one day, when the last watercourse was dried up and death
stared all in the face, certain knights saw their dogs slinking into
camp, and behold, sand on their coats and mud on paws! Keen eyes
tracked them; and, hid behind the bleak mountains, the searchers found
a river, broad, still, stately, sweeping through its narrow gorge.
Hither rushed all the host, soldier and beast. Had the Seljouks been
by then, they could have slain their foes to a man, for the Christians
forgot all save water--water!--sweeter, more precious, than spiced
wine. They drank till from very surfeit they fell down stricken; and
three hundred died, slain by the element of life.

This was the end of the great horror. They found new streams; the
parching valleys began to sprinkle with green; they saw once more
fields and trees and vineyards. "I, the Lord, will open rivers in high
places and fountains in the midst of valleys; I will make the
wilderness a pool of water and the dry land springs of water;" so
repeated good Bishop Adhemar, the father of the army; and all who
heard cried "Amen." And the cry was again, "God wills it! To
Jerusalem!" not despairing now, but rejoicing, confident; for after so
great a trial to their faith, need the Most High prove them more? Then
the march quickened, the _jongleurs_ played merrily, there were jests
and tales around the camp-fires; and they began to hope for one more
passage-at-arms with the infidel before taking the Holy City--as if
Heaven had not saved them once already! Yet there was a tone of
sadness in the host, for the line was much shorter now. Where was he
who had left no friend on those burning sands or at Dorylæum? Troopers
were trudging on foot; extra arms and baggage had been thrown to the
wolves long ago; not a man in the army that had not grown a dusty
beard. Once when Richard polished his shield so that it shone as a
mirror, he saw his face upon it. He scarce knew himself, what with the
stiff beard and the fresh scars of the battle, and those lines drawn
above the eyes.

"_Héh_," cried he, forcing a jest to Theroulde, who sat by the tent
mending a crossbow, "how would the fair ladies at Palermo who danced
with me after the tourney regard me now?"

Theroulde tugged at the hairs on his own chin.

"If we see no razor ere long, fair lord, we may swear by our beards as
did Charlemagne, were they but whiter, and, as the song has it, of two
hundred years' growth."

"Verily," answered Richard, making shift to keep a merry face, "I
think I have lived two hundred years in the past month; and if
troubles make white hairs, the saints know I am like to become most
venerable."

Theroulde said no more, and Richard, looking into the shield, thought
in his heart, "Were Mary to see me now, would she still love me?"

But the answer came, "Though your face were changed black as an
Ethiopian's, yet she would love you!" Then the further thought, at
which Richard's soul grew black as night: "Should he never--never in
this world--set eyes on Mary again? Why had God dealt with him thus?
Why should she suffer for his sin,--even if it had not been purged at
Clermont?" Each day Richard's face grew more terrible; men feared him
and praised his holy zeal against the infidels.

Thus the host came to the pleasant city of Antiochetta. Time would
fail to tell of all their later troubles: how Tancred and Baldwin,
brother of Godfrey, took Tarsus and quarrelled over its mastery; how
Baldwin seized Edessa and founded there a principality; how the great
army trudged its weary way across Lycaonia and mounted the rugged
steeps of the "Mountain of the Devil." Many a stout man-at-arms died
by the way, of sheer weariness; but the host pressed on. "God wills
it! To Jerusalem!" was still the cry, and the ranks closed up.

Then leaving Marash and descending Taurus, they met new foes: no more
Turks, but bronzed Arabs on roe-limbed steeds, men armed with cimeters
of Damascus, and bright with the silks and cottons of Ispahan and
Bussorah. Richard was a busy scout-master now, for he and the few
other Christians who came from Sicily alone could speak the Arabic,
and need not trust to uncertain interpreters. So he rode before the
host with his forty knights, no spirit madder than he,--a very St.
George when he fell upon the Moslems.

When they were close to Artesia on their way to invest Antioch,
several Arab riders fell into Richard's hands, and he put to them the
inevitable question:--

"Dogs,--can you tell me if Iftikhar Eddauleh, one time emir in Sicily,
is in Syria, and where did he part company with Kilidge Arslan?"

And the men answered, all trembling:--

"Mercy, O Cid! Your slaves only know that the Emir Iftikhar is great
among the Ismaelians. Report has it that he has now gone to Alamont to
see his lord Hassan-Sabah."

"And you know nothing--nothing--" words spoken with awful
intensity--"of a certain Christian lady, his captive?"

The men saw he had gladly paid them their weight in gold, if they
could have told aught; but they dared not lie.

"Nothing, lord;--we are of the following of Yaghi-Sian of Antioch, and
know of the Emir Iftikhar only by name."

"_Fiat voluntas Tua_," muttered Richard, and he sent the prisoners to
the rear to be further questioned by Duke Godfrey. But he was more
reckless now in the forays and skirmishes than ever. All men said he
was seeking death; and Sebastian gave him warning:--

"Son, you are a chosen warrior of Our Lord. His cause is not served by
throwing your life away. Beware lest, in running into peril, you do
great sin!"

"Ah, father!" was the response, "what have I left save to slay as many
infidels as I can and die! Yet you are right; die I must not, until I
have struck down Iftikhar Eddauleh and avenged--" but he did not speak
the name.

The next day Richard led his men under the city of Aleppo, and
scattered some of the best of the light horse of Redouan, the local
emir. But the walls were high. Report had it there was plunder in the
palaces without the walls; some of the knights wished to attack. "We
fight for Christ, not for gold and jewels!" said Richard, sternly,
and led away.

And now they were in Syria. Before them lay a rolling green country,
fairer than Sicily even,--a deeper blue, a brighter sun, than in
Provence. The warm wind bore to them the sniff of the sand-dunes,
spiced groves, and genii's islands far to southward. They trod a
strange soil, strange flowers underfoot, strange birds in the air,
strange leaves on the trees. All the sunshine, however, did not
brighten Richard Longsword. Gone! Parents, brother, sister,--ah, God!
wife also, and only knightly honor and revenge left. Let him slay
Iftikhar and see the cross above Jerusalem, and then! but he fought
back the black thoughts, as he had many a time before. Day and night
he rode at the head of his men, who whispered his bones were steel, he
was so tireless.

Then the host drew close to the great city of Antioch, the first
Moslem stronghold to resist since the fall of Nicæa. And noble
adventure awaited when the Norman Duke led the van to force the "Iron
Bridge" which spanned the Orontes, key to the northern approach of the
city. Long and stoutly did Yaghi-Sian's horse-archers and infantry
dispute the passage, but Robert's mad knights swept all before them.

"With an hundred and thirty knights Roger won all Sicily at Ceramis!"
cried the valorous Duke. "Shall we fail now with St. Michael and Our
Lady to aid?"

So forward it was; and the Saracens heard the great "_God wills it!_"
rolling down the Christian line,--that battle-cry which made the fight
blaze tenfold fiercer, and which infidels so learned to dread. A great
victory, but something better for Richard. In the press he and De
Valmont fought side by side; and when a sling-stone laid Louis prone,
Longsword had stood above him, covering with his shield, and saved the
Auvergner from the tramplings of friend or foe. Then when they cried
"Victory!" and the scared infidels raced for their lives to get behind
the walls, Richard bore Louis to his own tent; for the Auvergner's was
far to the rear.

"Ah, Richard," said De Valmont, when they had pitched after the
battle, "you would not have stood above me thus in Sicily."

"No, fair knight," answered Richard, frankly; "but God has seen the
sins of us both, and we are rewarded."

"Come," cried the Provençal, firing, for he had a good heart under a
haughty shell; "we swore forgiveness at Clermont; let us swear
brotherhood, for we know each other now. We both are valiant men; we
two fought with honor at least, though to my cost,--shall we not be as
strong in friendship as in hate?"

So Richard took the Auvergner's hand, and gave him the kiss, not of
peace, but of brotherhood. And when Sebastian, coming by, saw them, he
smiled:--

"You do well, dear sons, for two friends have the strength of four
apart, and true affection is of God!"

As soon as Louis was well enough to ride once more, the twain were
ever together. And the companionship of Louis was an unspeakable boon;
for to one whom he held his equal, De Valmont was a frank,
open-hearted, merry-tongued fellow, the very comrade to chase off the
imps of gloom that had of late encamped round Longsword's soul. But as
they scoured the country, bringing in forage and seeking news of the
enemy, Richard always had the same question for any prisoners:--

"Do you know aught of the Emir Iftikhar Eddauleh?" And when they told
him no, he was most likely to give a nod to Herbert, which meant that
the captives' heads were forfeit. Louis pitied him from the bottom of
his soul.

"Dear friend," said the Provençal once, when they waited without Duke
Godfrey's tent to report a skirmish, "you let this loss of Mary
Kurkuas eat your heart away. Believe me, I loved her once as much as
you, and yet--" here he laughed at memory of his own discomfiture--"I
am still a very merry man. Are you angry?" Richard shook his head.
"Then hear me out. Your Greek beauty was a very _fée_, as Roland's
Aude. But hers are not the only bright eyes and red cheeks in the
world. Cannot the Lord of St. Julien have the best and the
fairest?--in Sicily, in France, in Syria? Mark what I have done,--my
heiress in Toulouse could hold her head beside the Greek, and no shame
to either. Say to yourself, 'The saints are unkind; I will not let
them make me pout forever. Another cast of the dice, and better
fortune--'" But here he stopped, for on the face of Richard was, not
indeed rage, but a darkening of passion that Louis knew he had scarce
dreamed of. And Richard answered very gently:--

"Sweet knight, we have sworn brotherhood; I know you speak out of the
goodness of your heart. When you say, 'Once I loved Mary Kurkuas as
much as you,' and then boast your happiness, and add that she is not
alone fair, you show but this,--you loved her eyes and her hair, but
not her true self, as do I. As for what more you say, I only answer
thus: I have sworn that henceforth I will look in love on no woman, if
not on her, but will fight as best I can for God and Holy Church, and
trust that after the sacred city is taken Our Lord will admit me into
His peace. Till then let me be a good friend, and as merry as I may."

While he spoke, the tent doors flapped aside, and Duke Godfrey himself
strode forth. There was strength and joy by merely glancing into the
eyes of that noble man. He put his hand on the shoulder of Richard,
and said as a father to his son: "Richard de St. Julien, fear not that
God is unmindful of your sorrow and prayers. We all, who love and
honor you, have shared your grief, and He who loves you more than we,
must share the most. Be strong, and either He will give you the desire
of your heart, or you shall enter into the peace no mortal man may
know." There was a ring and sweetness in the words of the mighty Duke
which no priest could fuse into his speech, for Richard knew that
Godfrey himself had walked through the moil and toil of life, and was
crowned already victor.

"I will trust in God!" he said, when he left the Duke.

At his tent he sat a long time with Louis over some rare wine they had
taken that day; called for a backgammon board, and played against
Louis, winning seven games running. Herbert, who was standing by, was
glad when he heard his lord give a hearty, unforced laugh--not of the
fearful kind which had been his custom before. When Richard prayed
that night, he put forth a new petition: "Master, if I have been
chastened sufficiently, and it is Thy will, grant that I may see Musa
once more, for next to one whom clearly Thou willest I should not
possess, I desire him beyond all the world."

And this prayer he repeated night after night. Louis de Valmont was
grown a dear friend,--but the Spaniard! Richard never dreamed of
making the Auvergner a rival. "Musa! Musa!" The longing to see him was
too deep for words.



CHAPTER XXVIII

HOW RICHARD REGAINED HIS BROTHER


When the Christians sat down before Antioch in the autumn time, the
delights of the country--the abundance of provisions and drink, the
dark eyes of the sinful Syrian maids who swarmed to the camp--made the
Franks intent on everything save warfare. The massy walls mocked all
storming; and though Bohemond blockaded from the east by the Gate of
St. Paul, Count Hugh on the north, and Godfrey and Raymond on the
northeast, the south was open to every wind, and provisions entered
the city freely. Much ado had Richard to keep discipline amongst his
own men. "My merry masters," said he once, when even De Carnac
clamored for a carouse over some skins of heady Laodicean, "whether we
see the heavenly or the earthly Jerusalem, let us see it with pure
hearts and pure bodies." And with Trenchefer he slit all the
wine-skins. So that night, at least, the St. Julieners kept sober.

But the tide soon turned. A miserable winter it was; chill rains; the
ill-placed camps swimming in water. Swords rusted in a night. There
was hardly an hour when the heavens did not pour down their floods,
until scarce a dry back was in the army. And as the floods continued,
the provisions, once squandered so recklessly, began to fail.
Longsword rode forth with Bohemond and Robert the Norman to sweep the
country, and too often met only roving Saracen horse, who gave them
hard blows and little booty. Then at last came the inevitable
pursuer,--pestilence! and men began to die by scores; their faith all
gone, cursing God and the saints, and the folly that drove them from
lovely France on a fool's own errand. Evil tidings came in daily.
Sweno the Dane, it was told, who was leading fifteen hundred horsemen
across Cappadocia, had been overwhelmed by the Seljouks. And other ill
news flowed fast as the rain torrents. Even the stoutest began to
think more for their own lives than for ever seeing the Holy City.
Some fled to Baldwin at Edessa; others to Cilicia. Duke Robert went to
Laodicea, and only returned when admonished thrice in the name of Our
Lord. William de Melun, the mightiest battle-axe in the whole army,
fled away,--the infidels he did not fear, but who was proof against
famine?

Yet many did not falter; Tancred did not, nor Count Raymond, nor
Godfrey who, before all others, was the reproachless warrior of his
Lord. Bishop Adhemar thundered against the vice in the camp, holding
up the fate of Babylon and of pagan Rome, mother of harlots. Stern
measures were taken against sins of the flesh. Blasphemers were
branded with a hot iron. When some of Yaghi-Sian's spies were taken,
Bohemond had them butchered and cooked, to spread the tale in Antioch
that the Christians ate their captives, and that those who came after
be discouraged.

But when Peter the Hermit took flight by stealth, the whole army raged
in despair.

"If he flee, whom may we trust? Sooner expect a star fall from
heaven!" was the cry. Tancred pursued after and brought him back.
"Father," quoth the Prince, "do you well to lead Christians into a
strait like this,--then valorously depart?"

"Alas!" moaned the one-time prophet, "the flesh is weak, though the
spirit willing! Would I had never preached the Crusade! When I see the
sins of the army, I fear lest I am 'that Egyptian,' as St. Paul was
accused, 'who led forth into the wilderness four thousand men that
were murderers.'"

"Hark you, father," cried the Prince, with a bitter laugh. "I am a
warrior and no churchman; but I think it shame for knight or villain
to call the devil above ground, and then cry because he has a sting in
his tail! Back you shall go, will you, nill you; and let us have no
more long chatterings about the sinful sloth of the warriors of France
until the praters themselves rule their lives by their own gospel."

So they fetched Peter again to Antioch. Before all the army he swore
an oath on the Scriptures that he would never desert. And to his honor
be it said, this lapse was his last. In the after days he won yet more
glory and confidence, despite this showing of human frailty.

Thus the winter wasted. With the spring came better food and more
fighting. Richard had kept his men in moderate health and spirits;
first by his iron discipline, second because he remembered a hint
given by Manuel Kurkuas on Eastern campaigning, and had pitched his
tents on a plot that was sheltered by a hill from the malarial winds
of the lowlands. Now rumors began to come into camp that great
preparations were making among the Moslems for sending a huge host to
the relief of Antioch. As the sun smiled warmer, the hearts of the
Crusaders lightened. Their camp beside the green-bowered Orontes was a
noble sight,--one sea of pennons and bright pavilions,--and all about
a wide moat and a palisade. The knights rode in their tourneys, and
tinkled their lutes in praise of some maiden in far and pleasant
France. But still Yaghi-Sian made Antioch good, and Jerusalem seemed
very far away.

Richard told himself that even Mary would not know him now,--what with
the thinness of his cheeks and his beard that almost brushed his
breast. The first bitterness of his loss was beginning to pass. Mary
had doubtless become wise, and submitted to her lot. Iftikhar, he
knew, would give her every sensuous delight. He prayed that she might
learn to be reconciled. As for himself, there was much work to do. Men
honored his great sword. Though his seigneury was small, the greater
lords called him to their council, because he spoke the infidels'
tongue, because his heart was in the Crusade and not in worldly
advantage; above all, because in him they saw a born leader. He was
still the reckless and headlong cavalier whose squadrons could scarce
keep Rollo in sight when their chief was in the saddle.

"Beware, De St. Julien," said Godfrey, one day, while it was arranged
that Richard should lead a picked band of forty down toward the port
of St. Simeon to cut off some Arab skirmishers. "Life is not to be
thrown down like a cast of dice. Remember Oliver's warning in the
tale:--

    "'Valor and madness are scarce allied;
    Better discretion than daring pride.'"

"True," answered Richard, smiling, while his eye wandered vacantly
over the fine-wrought "life of Moses" pictured on the tapestries
lining the good Duke's tent. "But were I struck dead as I stand, who
would feel a pang? My old watch-dogs, Herbert and Sebastian, Theroulde
the minstrel, Rollo, my horse--who more, my Lord Duke?"

Godfrey touched the young knight's hair gently when he answered: "Fair
son,--for so I will call you, if you take no offence,--all are put in
this world for some great and glorious work,--and to us especially is
granted the task of wresting Christ's own city from the unbelievers.
You would not shun your task. Is it not as wrong to fling life away as
to turn the back on the foe in fair battle? And if aught befell you,
say not that none would mourn. Believe me, we all love and honor you;
for we see that in your heart burns a rare and mighty love for Christ,
and your fall were a grievous loss."

"You say well, my lord," said Richard, bowing; "and were I to fall,
men would mourn 'another stout swordsman and good lance gone'; for I
am honored for my strong arm. But that might be cut off, yet I were
still Richard Longsword; then who would care if I died a thousand
deaths!"

"As Our Lord lives, not so bitterly!" remonstrated the good Duke. But
Richard only replied as he went out, "I thank your kindness; but if I
meet the infidels to-day, let the saints judge between us, and we
shall have a noble battle!"

"By Our Lady," swore Godfrey, when Richard departed, "I have great
sorrow for that lad; for lad he is, yet with so old a face!"

And Bishop Adhemar, who had stood by after the council broke up,
replied: "And I too am torn for him. For his sorrow is beyond human
comfort. Alas! poor baroness! I met her often on the march. May she
and he alike learn to bow to the will of God!" But Richard had flown
back amongst his men, and called loudly, "To horse!"

"_Laus Deo! Gloria! Gloria!_" he shouted to Herbert; "as you love me,
saddle with speed. Scouts bring in that a squad of the emir of
Emessa's cavalry lurk around the port. I ride to cut them off."

"Horse and away, then!" bawled the man-at-arms. "Yet why so merry?"
And Richard answered, laughing:--

"I know not, dear fellow; yet I feel as if some angel had said to me,
'Richard Longsword, some great joy to-day awaits!'"

"And what joy?"

"By St. Maurice, I know not, and care less; most likely I shall slay
twenty infidels, and be slain by the twenty-first!"

"The saints forbid!"

"The saints forbid nothing. I have said in my heart, 'Ill-fortune,
enough of you! Begone!'" And the others marvelled at Longsword's merry
mood. "Forward, and St. Michael with us!" his command. "Forward!
forward!" came from all the rest, for they sniffed adventure when
Richard Longsword led.

Richard gave Rollo a little tap on the flank, that sent the huge brute
racing better than any spur, and they plunged away at a brisk gallop.

Very fair that spring day. Underfoot the wild flowers were springing;
the turf had a fresh green, and all the silver poplars and oaks were
putting on young leaves. When the troop watered their steeds by a
tinkling brook, they saw the water strewn with scattered apple
blossoms. Everything was sweet, balmy, and kind. Who under such a sun
could keep sad, and grimace at God and His world? Not Richard
Longsword. He broke into a gay battle-song of Theroulde's; then the
others took it up, and they made the myrtles and oleanders quiver with
their chorus as they rode along.

"Surely the saints are with us this day!" cried Richard, when the last
catch died on the air. They were skirting the Orontes, now hidden by
the trees, now riding by its bright current, and watching the swans
spread their white sails to the soft east wind. But Longsword had not
forgotten the more serious duty that called him afield.

"You, De Carnac, and two more, dismount. Walk to the crest of this
hillock, and get a long sweep of the valley," was his order.

Presently the three came back with tidings that there was a company of
horsemen, Saracens presumably, camped in the meadow just beyond a
little terebinth grove.

Richard drew up his men with the promptness born of a score of like
encounters.

"God wills it! At them!" such his shout. And the forty, all as one,
swept from their covert over the grassy savannah--were round the grove
and upon the infidels before one could count an hundred. Easy victory;
for the Moslems, perhaps three score, had many of their horses
picketed, and were preparing a meal. The false Prophet had beguiled
them into setting no sentry.

"Strike! Strike!" the Christians were riding them down in a twinkling;
a dozen were crushed before they could rise from the ground; others
drew, and made some slight defence; more stood dazed, and while
calling on Allah were made prisoners. Richard was reining in Rollo,
and growling that he had not struck a single fair blow, when a cry
from Herbert startled him.

"By the Mass! Look! Hossein, as I am a sinner!"

And Richard saw before his eyes a white-robed, catlike Arab, swinging
upon a picketed chestnut charger. No need to glance twice to know the
traitor--Longsword could have singled his face from ten thousand. But
as he gazed a flash of the Arab's dagger had cut the lariat;--a
whistle to the high-bred desert steed, and the splendid creature shot
away, fleet as a startled hart.

"For the love of God, shoot down the horse!" thundered Richard, making
Rollo leap under the spur. Herbert levelled, and sent a crossbow bolt.
Too hasty,--long range, and he missed. And every twinkling was making
the distance grow long between the rider in the white dress and the
Christians.

"Chase! Ride!" rang Longsword's command. "A hundred byzants to take
him alive!" But Rollo himself was soon heading all the forty. Never
had Richard ridden as now, never had Rollo felt the spur so deep; but
the speed of Borak, steed of the lightning, was in the mount of
Hossein. Seldom had Rollo so nearly met his match. Almost before one
dreamt it, the forty were specks in the rear.

"Faster, faster, dear Rollo!" urged Richard, for his voice was ever
the keenest spur to the great brute. And Rollo indeed ran faster, but
the desert steed faster too; and for a long time the distance between
neither waxed nor waned. Grove, thicket, gully, fallen log (for their
way lay along none the most beaten road), the kind Powers led them
past, when a stumble would have dashed rider and steed to certain
death. Richard pressed Rollo again, and the huge horse putting forth
all his powers began slowly as a snail, yet steadily, to gain on the
Arabian. For some moments they raced thus; then the road became
clearer, shut in on either side by trees that arched down, and slapped
their green banners in the riders' faces. Who recked? Already Richard
could see Hossein swaying in the saddle, clearly deliberating whether
he could slacken to dismount and speed up the hillside. But the
Arabian was running for dear life now, and though his rider tugged at
the bit, he hardly swerved. Rollo, black monster, was coming up bound
upon bound. Richard dropped his lance into rest. He would have Hossein
at mercy before one could say three _Credos_. Was his hand steady
enough to pin the Arab through the thigh where flesh was thick, and so
take him prisoner? For Hossein's life would be precious--for a while.

"Ah, traitor!" cried Longsword in Arabic, "call on Allah now!"

The only answer was a fresh bound from the chestnut charger, a final
burst of speed that carried him ahead for a moment. Then the steady
gallop of Rollo told once more--another furlong, and the Ismaelian
would face his doom.

"_La ilaha ill' Allah!_" broke forth from the fugitive; and half
involuntarily Richard drew rein, while the prey nigh in his hands flew
onward. For lo! in the road directly ahead was a company--horse and
foot, in Oriental dress,--advancing rapidly, not a bowshot away!
Richard wavered for an instant. He saw a horseman in flashing armor
and blood-red turban come pricking toward them. Almost ere the thought
could speed through his mind, Hossein was among the newcomers, and a
score more came dashing forward to confront the solitary Christian. A
glance back--not one of his men in sight! Rollo blown and panting!
Escape up the hillside--impossible!--he in armor, and the Moslems
nimble as rats!

"God wills it!" Richard's soul cried. "This is the good fortune; to
ride down the foe, fight valiantly, die gallantly, and then
peace--rest--peace!" He threw down the lance, and drew forth
Trenchefer. "The last time you will strike for a Longsword, good
friend!" quoth he, with a loving eye on the keen blade, "and you shall
not strike in vain!" Then he pressed Rollo once more, "On again, my
horse!" And the huge brute caught the hard road under his hoofs and
went forward at a headlong pace. Richard could see the leading
warrior, a splendid figure on his steed, coming on with drawn
cimeter--a noble comrade in death! He would strike him first. And
Richard made Trenchefer dance high while he flew.

"God wills it! St. Julien and Mary Kurkuas!"

So the woods rang with his battle-shout. He could see the Moslems,
staring half amazed, as he came on headlong, one against their scores;
saw bows bend; heard the arrows scream past. The leader he had singled
as his prey was dashing down the road to meet him. How fair a combat!

"God wills it! St. Julien and Mary Kurkuas!" Richard gave it as his
last battle-cry, and swung Trenchefer to beat through the Moslem's
guard; when lo! the strange warrior had dropped cimeter and
shield--reined short--and from him, as if by echo, there came: "Mary
Kurkuas! _Allah akhbar_, you are Richard Longsword!" And Richard let
Trenchefer clatter in the dust. "Musa! my brother!"

Then, all in armor as they were, they flung their mailed arms about
one another for very joy, and cried, shedding great tears, as do only
strong men when moved too deep for speech. For a moment the other
Moslems, as they swarmed about, were ready to run Richard through,
thinking he had taken their chief captive by some magic art. But Musa
motioned them aside. When the two again found words, the first
question from the Spaniard was, "And how is it with the Star of the
Greeks?" But at this, the face of Richard grew dark.



CHAPTER XXIX

HOW IFTIKHAR BORE HOME HIS PRIZE


Iftikhar Eddauleh rode over the dusty road from Turmanin to Aleppo
with only thirty about him of the hundred riders that had followed him
to Dorylæum. But Zeyneb was at hand, and Eybek, who had gone on the
secret mission months before; and beside the grand prior moved a
horse-litter containing a treasure Iftikhar would not have parted with
had the heads of all his men and his own been at stake. Mary Kurkuas
was his. The scene when he took her in the Christian camp had been
terrible; how beautiful she had been, standing at bay, dagger in
hand--no lioness more dreadful! He had disarmed her without marring
one spot on a skin that was soft as the rose-petals. How she had cried
and pleaded! He had been cruel? Yes; the poets all sang love was
either cruel or sweet; and Iftikhar would be all sweetness now.

As the troops rode past the khan which stands on the Aleppo road,
about twelve furlongs' journey beyond the gates, Iftikhar drew up his
horse beside the litter, which Zeyneb was carefully guarding. The
curtains were closed, but he spoke in his soft, melodious Arabic:
"Star of the Greeks, if you will,--look forth! For we are approaching
Aleppo, and now you may set eyes on the palace El Halebah, which, by
the blessing of Allah, is mine, and therefore yours!"

Mary thrust back the curtains. Her face was very pale now; the red
spots on either cheek seemed to glow with hidden fire. But her eyes
were dry and bright--the hour of outward agony had been long since
passed.

"A beautiful country!" were her words. And it was even so; for,
bowered in gardens and framed by a sky of purest azure, lay Aleppo,
whose white walls, white houses, gilded minarets seemed stencilled in
silhouette against the blue. Crowning the city rose the citadel, high
above the proudest domes with its sheer brown rock. On it, too, shone
the gold work of its battlements, and its gaudy banners streaming.
Iftikhar pointed out the lofty dome of the great mosque Jami-Zakarya,
whose minaret seemed to climb to the very bow of the heavens; the
stately Jewish synagogue, the domes of the Christian churches, the
tall houses of the merchants clustered round the bazaar.

"Beautiful, truly!" said Iftikhar, his eyes not on the stately city,
but on the face of the Greek; "fair as the two gardens by the river of
milk prepared for the beloved of Allah! Yet you see but the outward
husk, O Soul of my Soul! For yours is the palace which Seïf Eddauleh,
one-time lord of Aleppo, prepared for a maiden like yourself of the
blood of the Greeks; and what was her joy shall be yours as well.
See--we are at the gates of El Halebah!"

Mary thrust back the curtains farther, leaned on the cushions of
brocade of Tostar, and saw the troop swing down a stately avenue of
poplars. Soon the glittering city and dusty highway were hid from
view. Between green thickets and leafy arbors she could see the silver
stream of the Kuweik creeping silently in its flower-banked bed. Soon
the trees were so dense that the sunlight only filtered down a soft
haze, and the ground under the horse-hoofs was cool, where the moist
leaves had fallen. A strange hush seemed to pervade the wood, and
Iftikhar himself, as if awed, rode on in silence. Several minutes
thus; and Mary felt a strange thrill, as if a voice had spoken, "You
enter now into a magic world!" The horses had fallen to a slow walk.
They could hear bird calling bird far within, among the myrtles and
laurel hedges. The soft rush of a hidden waterfall crept upon them;
one could almost feel the fine spray, yet only heard the plashing
music. Presently, as if by enchantment, four men in bright armor, with
naked sabres, stood across their way, and a voice rang out, trebly
loud in the hush of the wood: "Stand! Who dares set foot within the
precincts of El Halebah?" But Iftikhar had ridden in advance of the
troops. "By the dirk and the cord!" were his words, when he held up a
finger where a gem-stone glittered.

"The grand prior! Hail, master!" And the white turbans of the four
almost touched the turf while they saluted. An instant more, and they
were gone.

"See!" said Iftikhar, when the seeming apparition had vanished among
the trees. "Though El Halebah seem unguarded, save by the owls and
bats, I say to you not a snake could wind under the dead leaves, but
the eyes of my Ismaelians, keeping watch and ward, would find him.
Fear nothing, O Rose of the Christians! About you this hour are three
thousand blades, and over them all must a foe ride ere he lay hand on
you! You are safe, as though in the bosom of Allah!"

Mary made no reply. The iron had long since entered her soul. Iftikhar
was to have his day; the Holy Mother knew it was like to prove a long
one. Yet even in her plight the magic wood had a strange charm for the
Greek. And at last she asked, "How far about extends the grove of the
palace?"

"How far?" answered Iftikhar. "One might wander a league and more to
the north, and find naught save glen and fern-dell and fountains. Seïf
built it for his fair ones and poets to roam, and think themselves in
Allah's paradise. The singer Motenabbi found his words too faint to
sing its praise. Now by the will of the Dispenser of All Things it has
become the possession of the Ismaelians. Not Redouan, lord of Aleppo,
himself dare set foot within the groves, save at nod of mine. Here we
may dream we are upon the Fortunate Islands, a thousand leagues away
in the Western Sea; and watch the stars go round the pole; and listen
to the bulbuls and the brooks singing,--singing ever of revel, and
laughter, and love, so long as mortal life may be."

Mary held her peace; Iftikhar, too, fell to day-dreaming. Of a sudden
they passed from the wood, and saw before them a wide prairie of
emerald grass. Beyond this rose a palace--one wide stretch of domes
and pinnacles, and fantastic colonnades, and beyond the palace spread
a blue lake, close girded by the forest. In the midst floated a green
island covered with gay kiosks. A light skiff, blue as the waters, was
shooting across the glassy surface under a steady oar. As Iftikhar's
eyes lit upon the rowers in the skiff, he gave a cry:--

"Morgiana!"

"Did you speak to me?" asked Mary.

"No, Soul of my Soul," was the answer. "Yet see the boat; in it glides
one whom, Allah granting, you shall love right well! At least"--and
now he muttered under his breath--"either you shall love each other,
or, as the Most High lives, I know whom I can part with best, and it
will not be the Greek!"

And now they were at the portal. The brass-cased doors swung open
without warning; a hundred gaudy flags tossed out upon pinnacles and
domes; a great crash of music greeted them--trumpet, timbrel, hautboy,
and cymbal,--and a line of twenty negro eunuchs, naked save for skirts
of red silk whereon gold lace was flashing, each holding a ponderous
cimeter. At sight of Iftikhar they knelt and bowed their heads to the
mosaic pavement. Then a single eunuch stepped forward, tall, spare,
gorgeously dressed in Susangird damask, the jewels gleaming from ears,
hands, and shoes; upon his beardless, ebony face a perpetual smile. He
also knelt at his lord's feet. And Iftikhar questioned:--

"The messenger I sent ahead from Afrin came promptly?"

"He did, O Fountain of our Being; and all is prepared to receive and
make joyous the Star of the Greeks!"

"You have done well, O Hakem!" replied the emir. Then when two of the
negroes had lifted Mary from her litter, Iftikhar led her forward.
"This, mine own, is my good slave, and yours too, by name Hakem, the
chief of my eunuchs and ruler of my harem." Hakem had risen when his
lord addressed him, but now at sight of Mary his smile became more
blooming than ever, and his violet cap swept her feet as he bowed.

"Hakem," continued his master, "except I command otherwise, the
tiniest word of the Star of the Greeks is your law. Deny her, and the
stake is ready for your impaling!"

"I hear and obey!" replied Hakem, still smiling, and touching his
head, to proclaim his willingness to lose it.

"Go before us to the harem!" Iftikhar went on, and with only the
eunuch and Mary Kurkuas, the emir advanced within the palace. Mary
saw, as they passed, court after court, fountains, domes, a wealth of
jewel-mosaic on floor and wall, glass sconces of rainbow-tints hanging
from golden chains. Then in a cool inner apartment where the sun stole
dimly through marble tracery in the high ceiling, Iftikhar halted; and
as he entered three women, dark-eyed, bronze-skinned, but beautiful as
houris, stood--then knelt before Mary.

"Your slaves," said Iftikhar, pointing to them. "Command them; if they
fail to please, a word to Hakem, and their lives are snuffed out."

"I thank your kindness, master," said Mary, very softly.

"Master?" exclaimed Iftikhar.

"Assuredly; am I not your slave as much as these women here? Is it not
your pleasure, rather than my right, that keeps me from their servile
tasks? Does not my very breath tremble on your nod?" And Mary stood
before Iftikhar with folded hands, her eyes cast upon the silken rug
of Kerman.

The emir broke forth with the heat of glowing fire.

"O Flower, whose beauty shames the rose of Khuzistan! Star, whose
light I have followed these years, seeking, hoping, praying, striving!
Who the slave, you or I? For your sake have I not sent to the ends of
the earth? For you have I not prepared this palace, than which is not
a fairer from Andalus to Turan? What is my life without you? What my
power among the Ismaelians? My hopes of sovereignty, such as Zubaida,
beloved of Harun, might have joy to share! For you,--it is all for
you! Without you the palace is dungeon; the earth, wilderness; the
fairest of Arabian maidens, jinns of black night."

And in the delirium of the moment he caught her, held her in his arms,
kissed her once, twice. But her lips were icy. The touch of her form
chilled him. He shrank away as from a statue of marble.

"Master," said Mary, never resisting, "I am your slave. You have the
power. I cannot resist; I fear I cannot flee away. You may do with my
poor body as you list; but me,--Mary the wife of Richard de St.
Julien, the soul throbbing behind this flesh and blood,--_me_ you can
never hold in power. No! not, were your three thousand sword-hands
myriads. For my true self is as far beyond your unholy touch as though
I sat above the stars! Do with me as you will,--I laugh at you; I mock
your impure wiles; for till you hold me, soul as well as body, I am
free--free in the sight of God, though you pour all your passions on
me! I love you not, and never shall, till the day breaks in the west,
and the seasons cease to wheel."

As she spoke, her eyes glowed with a fire that lit another fire of
mingled desire and rage in the eyes of Iftikhar.

"Hearken, Star of the Greeks!" and he again stepped toward her. Mary
stood calm as a statue; only her eyes shone yet brighter.

"I have heard you often, master; but I will listen."

"I command you, style me no more 'master,'" raged Iftikhar, feeling he
had conjured up a demon that greater power than his must chain.

"I can style you no otherwise," was the reply; "for so you are. Punish
my disobedience. I can bear much."

There was a little table at hand; on it stood a rock-crystal goblet
and a silver cooler filled with snow-water and rose sherbet.

"Mary Kurkuas," said Iftikhar, controlling himself by a great effort,
and holding up the goblet, "think not I seek the deeds of mad passion
and violence. My power? The might that flashes in your eyes were a
myriad times more! Love? Yes, truly; I would have your lips seek
mine, as two doves flit to the same nest. See! A pledge!--by the great
angel Israfil, at whose trumpet the dead shall spring for judgment, I
swear: I will do you no hurt! nothing! I will teach you to love me,
until Constantinople, and Sicily, and France shall be as a forgotten
dream, and of your own free will you shall be mine own, till Allah cut
us asunder."

He held high the goblet.

"To Mary Kurkuas, fairest of women!" he cried, drank, bowed low, and
was gone, leaving Mary with Hakem the eunuch.

       *       *       *       *       *

The heavy tapestries in the doorway closed noiselessly. Mary stood
gazing half stupidly at Hakem and the maids. Then at last the eunuch
spoke, his imperturbable smile swelling to a fulsome grin.

"O my little birdling, what friends shall we not become! How sweetly
shall we pass the days together!"

Had his words been hot irons, he could not have affected Mary more. In
a trice she had sprung toward him, her eyes flashing flame. She was in
poise and voice the great princess of the house of Kurkuas, born to
rule. "Toad!" came across her teeth, "did I bid you speak? Out of my
sight, you and these wenches, or as I live--"

"Mercy, gracious _Citt_, gracious mistress!" began Hakem, throwing up
his hands and rolling his eyes, for he knew that he faced his match.
"You are travel-worn; your dress--"

Mary took a step toward him, snatched him by the shoulder, whirled his
face toward the door in an instant.

"Away!" was her command; "or if Iftikhar did not mock me, the next
word I have for him is to ask your head!"

Hakem shuffled out of the room like a whipped hound. To the maids Mary
gave not a word--simply pointed toward the passage. The flash in her
eyes sufficed. They were gone; and the Greek found herself alone--oh,
bliss!--alone!

The room was large, high-domed; the walls covered with gold and
colored enamel in fantastic arabesques. Here and there an inscription
from one of the poets in silver mosaic. On the silken carpet the feet
moved noiselessly. The light trickled through the piercings in the
dome, and spread a restful twilight around. There were divans of
priceless Chinese silk, an ebony table whereon lay silver and crystal
cups and coolers, fruit and honey cakes. Upon the divan lay ready a
dress, silk also, plainly prepared for Iftikhar's new favorite, gold
lace, jewel embroidery: in France worth a count's ransom; even in
Constantinople worthy of the Empress herself. It was very still. Mary
sat upon the divan beside the table and rested her face on her hands.
She was more weary than one may tell. Despite the care of Iftikhar,
the journey had been no easy one. And now this was the end! Here was
the golden cage in which the bright bird was to be kept fast! Mary
shed no tears now. Iftikhar had given her a pledge. She felt sure he
would be patient within reason. But in time? Mary knew herself well
enough and Iftikhar well enough to be sure that both were made of
mortal stuff. After all, she was his slave--to be sold in the market
if he chose. She had taken her vows touching Richard Longsword while
life lasted. But was he not dead to her? Perhaps dead to all the
world? Did men only die to one another when they stopped eating,
talking, and sleeping? She could struggle, could put on her majesty,
could say "No" a score of times; but in the end!--what end could there
be saving one! So Mary sat in her revery, her thoughts as dark as the
ebony table beneath her eyes.

Suddenly, as if awaking from a dream, she heard laughter,--laughter
musical as a little stream, but with a mocking, angry tinge that left
a sting. Mary lifted her eyes, raised her head. More laughter--louder,
still musical. The Greek almost started. Could she not even have
sorrow in peace?

"Have I not bidden you all begone?" was her cry, and at last the tears
were not far from her eyes; for this defiance was the last drop to her
cup of sorrow.

"No," came back a voice, clear and melodious as a zithern note; "no,
you have commanded me nothing."

"Then now I say 'away'--leave me alone!"

"How sweet to see you angry! I will not leave you. See! I enter. I
wish to look at you face to face."

The curtains at the farther end of the room opened. As they did so a
score of little bells upon them tinkled, and Mary saw a woman standing
in the mild half-light. Instantly the Greek rose, and the two looked
into each other's eyes.

Morgiana was dressed in a manner only possible to one who felt the
vulgar eye far removed. She wore loose green silk trousers that
gathered a little below the knee; her feet were hid only by white
slippers, where the gem-stones were flashing, and white silken
stockings; arms and neck were bare; a gauzy Indian shawl, white also,
was wrapped about her; on her girdle shone the gold chain work,
another gold chain around her neck; the abundant black hair streamed
loosely over the shoulders from under a jewel-set fillet. The two
women stood facing one another for a long moment. Then each broke
forth in one breath, but the Arab first.

"How beautiful you are!--I hate you!"

"How beautiful!--I wish to love you!"

The two sentences blended into one; and instantly Morgiana burst again
into laughter.

"So this is the Star of the Greeks! I give you joy; you are worthy of
Iftikhar Eddauleh! _Ya_; were you a peri of the deep, you could not be
fairer!"

Mary bowed her head. "Lady," was her answer, "who you are I know not;
but this I know, you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen,
and if Iftikhar possesses you, God alone knows why he casts eyes on
me!"

Yet again Morgiana laughed. "God alone knows?" was her cry; "verily, I
doubt it. Were He knowing, and yet able to change the world, wicked He
must be to suffer the deeds of men! You think me a stranger. Well,
Morgiana the slave of Iftikhar greets Mary the slave of Iftikhar, and
Morgiana adds that she will kill Mary, as surely as the evening
follows the morn!"

"Pray God that you may have your wish full soon!" answered the Greek,
looking down. Her words seemed to have touched a new spring in
Morgiana. The Arab threw her hands on high.

"Cursed are you, O Greek! Cursed your beauty! Cursed all who look in
love upon you! Let the jinns of the abyss swallow you! Let Eblees,
Lord of Darkness, have mastery of you! May your bright eyes be turned
to blindness, your white skin scorch, your smooth arms wither--" But
here Mary interrupted, humble no longer now, her own proud fire
flashing in turn.

"Silence--madwoman! It is you the evil powers will curse! Do I need
maledictions from you to make my lot less darksome, my cup less
bitter? Curse Iftikhar Eddauleh, if you will, whose sin and passion
blast your joy and mine! Curse him, not me!" And at this Morgiana
broke forth fiercely:--

"No, no, not Iftikhar Eddauleh! Were he tearing me with tortures, yet
would I bless him. Were he foul as the rebel angels, his kiss were
honey. Dwelt he in parching Gehennah, to be with him--paradise! No
word against him, or here and now I slay you!"

Mary made no immediate answer. Morgiana's face was aflame with
passion; as she spoke she swayed in half frenzy. Under her breath the
Greek murmured, "She is mad!"

"As Allah lives!" cried Morgiana, her mood veering swift as the flight
of birds, "I have frightened you! Unjust, cruel, my heart is half ice
and half fire. I have given you arrows instead of tears. You are
blameless, wretched, helpless,--what may I do for you?"

And she had caught Mary's hands within her own, and was drawing her
close and kissing her forehead.

"They do well to call you star and flower of the Greeks! _Mashallah!_
how could Iftikhar and all the world fail to give all to gain you!
From Cairo to Samarkand there is none like you!"

Mary did not answer. To her Morgiana was fury, houri, and angel all in
one moment. She knew not what to think, and so kept peace. But the
Arab ran on: "I saw you at Palermo. It came to my ears that you were
very beautiful. I saw you ride to church once with your father. I, of
course, was veiled and guarded by Hakem; and when my eyes lit on you,
I said, 'She is not over-praised.' Yet there was a throng, and you
were not near. But now, face to face, I say, 'Not all the poets from
Imr ul-Kais to An-Nami could paint in verse your beauty; no, nor all
the angels who sing about the throne of Allah!'"

"Praise it not," cried Mary, finding her tongue; "it is, as you say,
cursed,--cursed for me, at least; please God, not for those who have
loved me! I say naught of Iftikhar; let God judge him, not I!"
Morgiana bowed her head in turn.

"You say well. Let the Most High judge Iftikhar. And now"--raising her
eyes--"tell me; shall we be friends?"

Then and there the two kissed one another, cried on each other's
necks, and swore--so far as spirits like theirs may--to be friends and
sisters. For the burden of each was great. When they had ceased crying
and could talk once more, Morgiana led Mary to the divan,
exclaiming:--

"_Wallah!_ But you are all travel-stained and weary. Where are Hakem
and the maids?"

"As you love me," protested the Greek, "do not call them. I will not
see that sleek eunuch's face again. I sent them all away."

"Hakem!" repeated Morgiana, with a sniff; "he is a harmless lizard,
after you grow accustomed to seeing him trail his nose around. His
teeth look very sharp, but they must not frighten you. Nevertheless,
if you will not--" Mary shook her head.

"Then I will play the tiring maid!" cried the Arab; and she laughed
when she drew the pins from Mary's hair, and let it fall over her
shoulders, a shining, brown mass.

"_Wallah!_ How beautiful you are!" Morgiana repeated again and again.
She led Mary into a bath, where the air was heavy with perfumes of
saffron and date-blossoms, then put on the Greek the Eastern dress
which had been made ready. Mary's heart was very full when Morgiana
laid aside the Frankish bleaunt; for in that mantle she had ridden
beside Richard Longsword over the weary road to Constantinople; he had
given it to her on their wedding day. But when the Arab wished to draw
the little silver ring from her finger, the Greek shook her head.

"Silly!" commented Morgiana, "it is not worth a dirhem; I will bring
you a casket of a hundred--ruby, onyx, beryl--"

"My husband set it there," replied Mary, thrusting back her hair and
looking full into the Arab's face. "It was to remain there till I
die." Morgiana tossed up her head. "Your husband? Richard Longsword,
that boorish Frank, who has a bull's strength with a baboon's wits?
How dare you love him, when you may have the love of Iftikhar
Eddauleh!"

"Nevertheless," said Mary, very slowly, never moving her gaze,
"Richard is my husband. I love him. Do not speak ill of him, or our
friendship dies the day of birth."

"I have a very cruel heart!" cried Morgiana, kissing the Greek again;
and the ring was left in its place.

They had completed the toilet. There was a long silvered mirror in the
room, and Mary saw herself dressed after the fashion of the East, from
the mother-of-pearl set upon her yellow shoes, to the gold-spangled
muslin that wound above her flowing hair. "Holy Mother of Pity," she
whispered, looking down at the little ring, "but for this, I were
already become an infidel!"

The next moment the voice of Iftikhar demanded entrance, and the two
women stood before him.

"_Bismillah!_" he exclaimed, smiling, and looking more handsome and
lordly than ever, "I see two of the houris! You are friends?"

"We are sisters," replied Morgiana, a little defiantly. "I fled out
upon the lake that I might not meet you when you returned,--but now!"
and she took Mary by the hand.

"I will wait on you no more to-day," said Iftikhar, bowing in most
stately fashion. But when he had gone, Morgiana gave a bitter cry:--

"Allah pity me; Allah pity you also! His words were for us both, but
his eyes on you alone! I have lost him, lost him forever. The Most
High keep me from some fearful deed!"

"I do not dread you," said Mary, gently.

"No," came the answer, "you need dread nothing. Christian you are, and
Moslem I; but one God hears us both. Oh, let us pray,--pray for His
mercy; for lesser help may not avail!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Mary slept that night in the same chamber as Morgiana, an airy,
high-vaulted room, in an upper story of the palace. Through the
tracery of the lattice came the warm breeze, bearing the narcotic
scent of those tropic gardens. But Mary was long in falling asleep on
her soft pallet. In the darkness she heard the trumpet-voiced muezzins
in the distant Aleppo, calling the midnight _Oola: "Allahu akhbar!_
_Allahu akhbar! Allahu akhbar!_ I testify there is no God but Allah,
and Mohammed is the prophet of Allah! Come to prayer! Come to prayer!
Prayer is better than sleep!"

The words pealed out in the night like voices from another world. Mary
stirred and kissed the silver ring. "Dear Mother of God! Dear Christ
who suffered for us all, give me strength to bear all, to resist, to
endure! Keep my own heart true to Richard Longsword and our love. Save
me utterly, if that may be, and if not, be merciful and let me die;
for the temptation will be very great!"

Morgiana started in her sleep; the curtain above her bed rustled.
"Dear sister," she said softly, "go to sleep. The day has troubles
enough, without letting them steal peace from the night."

So Mary kissed the ring, folded her hands, and at last was dreaming.



CHAPTER XXX

HOW THERE WAS FESTIVAL AT ALEPPO


After the winter rains were past, and when all the birds were singing
in the groves about El Halebah, Mary Kurkuas could see that Iftikhar
Eddauleh was waxing restive in soul; both on her account and on
account of something which was stirring in that great world which lay
beyond the palm trees, the lake, and the silver Kuweik. What those
events without were Mary could scarce guess, for had she been
transported into another planet, she could not have seen less of what
passed in the realm of armies, and princes, and battles. The moment
the enchanted groves of the palace closed about her, all beyond had
been blotted out; she saw no men save Iftikhar, Zeyneb, and Hakem with
his fellow-eunuchs, if these last were indeed men. Once she had asked
Hakem whether the Crusaders had been driven back when they strove to
cross Asia Minor, and whether the expedition to Jerusalem had been
abandoned. The sleek creature had only salaamed, and smirked
deprecatingly.

"O Rose of the Christians, my ears are deaf, my eyes blind to all
beyond the precincts of El Halebah!" was his sole reply. Zeyneb she
loathed from the depths of her soul. The dwarf saw her seldom,
although he affected to seek the company of his foster-sister. Mary
induced Morgiana to ask him to tell of the outside world, and was met
by a blank refusal. "Let him twitter once, and Iftikhar would lift his
head from his shoulders!" As for Iftikhar, when Mary demanded to know
the success of the Crusade, he replied with one of his flashes of
mingled authority and passion: "Soul of my Soul! ask me nothing. My
lips are sealed, save when I speak of the love that burns me and of
the brightness that blazes from your eyes!" And no appeal could draw
from him more. Once during the autumn Mary thought she saw from the
uppermost balcony a squadron of armed horsemen riding furiously from
Aleppo. That day too she heard one negro eunuch say to a fellow,
"Allah grant that they come no nearer!" and the other, "As you love
life, breathe nothing to your own soul! If the _Citt_, Mary, should
hear!" But this was all. Day sped into day. No change in the
monotonous ease and routine of the harem. Mary had grown wonted to the
unending round. She no longer lay awake to hear the muezzins.
Sometimes she wondered if she would forget her Greek and her French,
hearing only Arabic, save when she talked with Eleanor.

Eleanor had been held as captive by Iftikhar, not because he had any
unwonted passion for her, or grudge against her; but she was
beautiful, and he liked to feel that he held one of the Longswords in
his harem. The young Norman had long since bowed her head to her fate.
After a manner she had been kindly treated. Less full of energy and
unquenchable vigor than the Greek, she had grown content to stay all
day in the harem, bathing in the perfumed waters, embroidering,
drinking sherbet. Morgiana, seeing she was not likely to become a
rival, had patronized and protected her against the insolence of the
eunuchs. Mary had been greeted by Eleanor rapturously, as if she were
an angel. As for Morgiana, the "maid of Yemen" was alternately to her
sister and fury. For days together she would have never a word for
Mary save an occasional malediction or threat; then without warning
she would repent in tears, implore forgiveness, become gentle, loving,
clinging as Eleanor; and so until the next cloud of jealousy came over
her.

It was one day in the early springtime when the eunuchs spread
canopies on the palace roof. Here, with the green groves stretching on
every hand, the three women had idled out the warm, sweet afternoon.
Mary was aiding Eleanor over her embroidery frame. And now it was
that Morgiana told what she had never told before--the story of how
she fell into the hands of Iftikhar. "Know, O sweet sister," said she,
laying down the guitar on which her long, shapely fingers had been
wandering, "that I am the daughter of Jaafar bin Shirzâd, who was the
_Hajib_, that is, Lord Chamberlain, to the Commander of the Faithful,
Al Muktadi the Abbasside, and that I was born in my father's palace
which lay by the Tigris in Bagdad. My father had four wives and many
fair female slaves, fair as moons; but most of all he loved my mother,
Kharka, who was peerless among the women of Bagdad. She was the
daughter of Abu Ahmed, emir of the free desert tribes of Yemen. From
her I gain my name; from her my blue eyes, which are found sometimes
among the Arabs of the great waste. My mother was brought up after the
fashion of her people; not pent in harems, guarded by eunuchs, but
free as youth--would to Allah this were the custom in all Islam! From
her love of freedom comes my own proneness to rush to unwomanly
things. At Bagdad my mother pined for her native sand plains, and died
when I was young, leaving me to my nurse,--mother of my accursed
foster-brother, Zeyneb. Then came the direful day when my father lost
his head by demand of Melik Shah, the arch-sultan; and I and all his
harem were plunged in slavery. I was sixteen when I and Zeyneb stood
in the slave market at Damascus. At Iftikhar's first sight of me
unveiled, the love sprang to his eyes as flame leaps on a torch. He
bought us; and for years he and I were to each other as two souls in
one body; the thought of him, joy! sight of him, joy! touch of him,
joy! So he to me. And in love for me he cast all the other women from
his harem. Then--luckless day!--he went to Sicily to find service
among the Christians. There at Palermo I was mother of his child;
merciful Allah! why couldst Thou not spare my little Ali? But he
died--sorrow passing words! After that I saw that Iftikhar was
drifting away from me. First he bought other slave women, though still
he gave me chief place, and love of the lips. Then on a day"--and
Morgiana's eyes seemed fiery daggers searching Mary's very soul--"I
heard Hakem, chief eunuch, speak of the beauty of Mary the Greek; then
I first heard your name, and learned to curse you! Aye, curse you, as
I have a thousand times since. Since that hour, day by day, despite my
wiles, and my beauty, and my sorrow, unceasingly he has drifted from
me farther and farther; and now he has you--your body already, when he
wills; your soul, too, full soon. And I have lost him; have lost him
forever!"

Mary raised her head to reply; but Morgiana swept on: "Oh, it is not
the pain of seeing another mistress of El Halebah; of knowing I am
second when I should be first; of feeling, 'One whisper from the
Greek, and at her wish Iftikhar would slay me.' But I love him. To
possess him, though clothed in rags and loaded with fetters--enough!
To hear him say, 'I love you,' as once he did, and know that it was
not tongue but eyes also that spoke--that were my paradise!"

Morgiana bowed her head, and broke into wild sobbing. The Greek put
her arm about her.

"Dear sister, I, like you, am the slave of Iftikhar Eddauleh--at his
mercy, his toy, his sport for an idle hour--but never fear that I will
love him. Till I know Richard Longsword sleeps with the dead--"

Morgiana lifted her face angrily. "Why speak of Richard Longsword? Who
dares compare him to Iftikhar Eddauleh? Is he not a boorish Frank? And
Iftikhar?--were it not there is but one Allah, would I not call
Iftikhar a god!"

"You worship him; yet you are his slave?"

"Yes! what shame? Do I wish to be free? Are not all mortals slaves of
Allah? And is not Iftikhar to me in the place of Allah? Let men bow
down to a God; but what God may a woman own save a strong man, whose
love is her all--her all!"

The words of Morgiana sank to a sob. She flung her face in Mary's lap
and wept.

"Oh," she cried, "I see well enough how it is with you. I have eyes,
and wits. On the first days you were here you loathed Iftikhar as if
he were a snake. But he knows his game. He has drawn his net about
you. Each day you note his dark Eastern splendor, so unlike the West;
his speech like music, his professions of love; and each day you say,
'I hate him.' But you do not say it with the sting of months ago.
Richard Longsword is becoming very dim before your eyes; Iftikhar
Eddauleh, very real. The change is slow; yet I am not wrong. By Allah,
I am not wrong! For I see two fires in your cheek, another on your
forehead. You do not shudder, as you once did, at thinking, 'All my
life I must spend in a golden prison like El Halebah.' It will be very
pleasant. Iftikhar is to become the lord of all Islam, if naught
fails. The Ismaelians will overthrow Sultan and Kalif, and Iftikhar is
declared heir of Hassan-Sabah. So much I know, though we hear so
little. And you will reign with him--Sultana! Empress!"

"As you love me, speak no more!" Mary found voice to beg.

"Love you!" cried Morgiana, in her mood; "do I not hate you with fury
passing death? Last night, when Iftikhar spoke to you soft and low, I
could see your eye following his as a weaver's the shuttle. You are
yielding, yielding; soon--"

But Mary had clapped her hand upon the Arab's mouth. "Love me or hate
me, do not torture! What can I do?" was her plea. "Day and night I
call to Our Lady, 'Save me, or let me die.' And I am growing weak,
weak! I cannot fight the will of Heaven much longer. How easy to defy
Iftikhar the day he bore me hither! How easy to feel my will each day
growing more helpless to resist! God is angry with me; some sin that I
have forgotten, yet that must be very great. Oh, pity me, for I am
only a weak girl!"

So they comforted one another, those two, whose hearts were too full
for words. While they yet sat side by side, Iftikhar came upon the
balcony. Splendid he was, in his jewelled turban, golden belt, and
dress of _izar_--the gold-embroidered cloth of Mosul. He made a
profound reverence to Mary, then spoke.

"O Star of the Greeks! I your slave have remembered that perchance
even the charm of the halls of El Halebah may grow weary. Deign, I
pray you, to be dressed this evening in such a dress as I have
commanded Hakem to provide; for to-night all the daughters and maidens
of Aleppo have been bidden to make free in these gardens, and there
will be festival, such as Bagdad has seldom seen since the great feast
of Moktader."

"I thank your lordship, I obey," said Mary, bowing. The emir's face
lit with pleasure.

"And you, Morgiana," continued Iftikhar, more lightly, "you, with
Eleanor, of course will not fail me. I would show these beauties of
Aleppo that here hid in our groves are the fairest eyes in Syria."

"Cid," said Morgiana, haughtily, "if you command me, I will obey;
otherwise, let me sleep and the rest dance."

"_Ya!_" cried Iftikhar, testily; "you are gloomy as Gann, lord of the
evil jinns! No doing of mine can please you. _Wallah_, be it as you
will! The Star of the Greeks is more kind. To-night! I swear the poets
of Emir Redouan shall sing of the fête the whole year long!" So he was
gone, and Morgiana turned fiercely on Mary. "Eblees and all his
'Sheytans' of the Pit pluck you away! What have you done? You said yes
as though Iftikhar's words were sweet as honey of Lebanon. He will
conquer you to-night! Are you blind? Not for the maidens of Aleppo,
but for you, this fête is prepared. To-night he will be master of you,
soul as well as body. Blind! blind!"

Mary looked into the Arab's face.

"O dear sister," came her words, "you say well. But I am not blind.
What more can I do? Love him I do not, as you. But I am helpless;
Iftikhar is lord. Better to have an end. Hate him I do not as I did
once. Time is kind. I must bow my head, and pray God make me forget
the past. There is no other way--none. I can fight the battle no
more."

"Dearest heart," cried the Arab, "it is all true. You can do no more.
If you were not so pure and lovely, I would have killed you long ago.
Only do not triumph over me, when you have learned to love Iftikhar
as do I."

"No, blessed soul," said the Greek, softly; "that may never be."

       *       *       *       *       *

That night all the heavens about El Halebah glowed with the light of
myriad torches; lights on the domes and soaring towers; lights
flitting among the palm trees; lights tossing behind every myrtle and
laurel brake; lights twinkling from under the cool colonnades, and
making the mist of the fountains a shimmering spray of diamonds. There
were flowers scattered over every walk; flowers festooned about each
column; the air made heavy with the breath of rose, pink, and violet.
All about were set innumerable banners, streaming to every wind. Fires
flashed from the islands upon the lake; and down the enchanted path
that led through the woods to the Aleppo road there was a cordon of
flambeaux, making the avenue light as day.

So much saw Mary Kurkuas, peering from her lattice, while the maids
made her ready and clothed her in robes such as Iftikhar himself had
never sent her before. At last the emir stood outside her door with
the petition, "O flower more sweet than the rose, I, your slave, pray
you, come forth--come forth; the fête is ready; the stars await the
moon!"

Mary let them wrap round her face the veil of gauze of Baalbec, and
went to meet Iftikhar. Never had the emir been more darkly handsome;
his eye flashed with fire out-vying the blaze of the great gems at his
girdle. He wore a tiara worth thrice the revenues of the king of
France. The sheath of his long cimeter was of beaten gold. And when
Mary looked upon him, a strange thrill passed over her--what a man
this was, who had loved her even against her will!

"Come forth, O Fairest of the daughters of the Christians! And let the
maidens of Syria blush beneath their darker skin: let them mourn, 'Our
beauty cannot compare with the loveliness of the Greek who is beloved
of Iftikhar Eddauleh!'"

So spoke the emir, and a mysterious spell seemed to fall on Mary.
Under his word and nod she was passive as a little child. Once, once
only--the vision of Richard Longsword--rough-featured, firm-lipped,
framed of iron--passed before her eyes,--how dim it all was! How very
far away! Iftikhar took her hand, and led her through the mazy
colonnades. And women fair as the dawn brought her a great wreath of
cool flowers that she hung about her neck; others threw upon the air a
spray of perfumes of Mazendran, while as the two advanced, the lights
and torches ever multiplied; they trod onward in a glow of brightness.

"See!" Iftikhar had led her to the balcony of the colonnade, where
thronged the nobles of the court of Redouan, all in dresses bright as
the sun, but Iftikhar's brightest. Before them and around stretched a
wondrous vision. Mary saw the maids and young women of Aleppo, of
Sultan Redouan's harem and of his grandees, dancing, as was their
custom, in wide circles hand in hand; their white dresses flying,
their brown arms twinkling, their violet-black hair streaming to the
wind. First they danced yet veiled; then as the dances maddened, they
one after another cast the veils aside, and their dark eyes flashed in
the torchlight. Round the women in wider circles were others,--three
thousand men,--also in white, but with each a glittering cuirass and
cimeter. And as the maidens danced the men broke from their ranks, and
danced after their kind; crying aloud, and beating their swords
against their targets. But the crash of the cymbals, the boom of the
copper kettledrums, the wild wail of the hautboys, the flutes, and the
tinkling Persian harps, sounded above all. The dancers caught up
torches, and made the ground spring with whirring light. As the music
quickened, the dances wound their maze yet faster. And now the
Ismaelians rushed among the women, mingling with them in the dance;
plucking away the veils that were still clinging; catching the cymbals
from the musicians' hands and crashing them yet louder. The whole
scene seemed fast becoming pandemonium. Mary's eyes throbbed under the
flashing of the torches; a desire seemed to spring through her to
sway with the mad music--to join in the madder whirl. But as she
gazed, Iftikhar lifted his hand, and one of the musicians upon the
balcony, putting to his lips a tiny flute, blew across the raging sea
of light one note, clear, piercing, tremulous as the bulbul's call. At
that note men and maids were stilled, and stood gazing toward the
colonnade where was Iftikhar Eddauleh with his captive at his side.
Then Iftikhar stepped to the edge of the parapet, and stood in his
blazing dress--a very genie in mien and glory. While he stood, lo!
every knee was bowed. The women also with the Ismaelians swept their
foreheads to the ground; and while they did obeisance, Iftikhar's
voice rang out over lawn and grove: "Ye 'devoted' of the Ismaelians;
and ye women of Aleppo; slaves of the lord of Alamont, of me his
deputy, and his vassal Redouan--behold! Kneel, tremble, adore! For I
will show to you the peerless creation of Allah; the Lady of Beauty,
the Star of the Greeks, who by the grace of the Most High shall, ere
two years speed, be hailed sovereign princess from the western sea to
the river of India! Fall down before her! For I say to you: the man or
maid who shall cross her will or refuse her adoration shall surely
die! Since under Allah she shall hold the lives of you all in the
hollow of her hand!"

At the word, the Ismaelians bowed again to the earth; then standing,
three thousand voices cried, "We swear by Allah the Omnipotent, our
lives and destinies shall hang upon her grace!"

But Iftikhar called, "Let Masudi of Bozra stand forth!"

A tall, handsome young Syrian stepped forward and stood before the
balcony, his eyes cast on the ground.

"O man 'devoted' to Allah!" commanded the grand prior, "lay your
cuirass upon the earth."

The mandate was implicitly obeyed.

"Take your cimeter! Fall upon it!"

Had the emir said, "Drink of this wine," there had not been less
change in the Syrian's face. Not an eyelash quivered, nor did the lips
twitch, when he held the keen blade at his breast and dashed himself
upon the ground. A single spasm of the limbs, a red glow on the green
sward,--that was all. Through all the great host standing under the
torchlight there ran not so much as shiver or murmur.

"See, my children!" cried Iftikhar again, "this moment Masudi, your
brother, sits down with the maids whose bodies are pure musk,--they
who sit waiting by the stream of honey flowing from the root of the
tree Tûba. Who else, at my summons, will take the journey thither?"

And the shout came back: "I!" and "I!" and "I!"; so all the three
thousand cried it, and many sprang eagerly forward.

"No, my children," warned the emir, upraising his hand. "Allah and our
lord on earth, the Cid Hassan Sabah, have need of you. Full soon shall
you win all the glory and riches of this world, or the kiss of the
houris! And now bear the poor dross of Masudi away, and think on his
bliss."

As the eunuchs bore off the dead, Iftikhar spoke to Mary:--

"O Soul of my Soul, bethink you, here are three thousand of like mind
to this man; and in the rest of Syria nine thousand more. With such a
host we shall conquer the world--the world; and over it, you, my own,
shall be sovereign sultana!"

"O Iftikhar," came from the Greek, "who am I to be thus worshipped!"
The voice, the throb behind the voice,--the word "Iftikhar," not
"master"--were they Mary's own? She felt herself snatched in a current
she might not resist. Drifting, drifting, and she knew whither, yet in
some strange way did not shrink. Why did the light flash still more
brightly in Iftikhar's eyes? Why did his dark beauty become more
splendid?

"Come!" was all he said. And in that word there rang a triumph,
clearer than if sounded by trumpets. Her hand in his, he led her down
the steps of the portico, all strewn with white bells of lilies, a
carpet of blooming snow. At the foot of the stair a car which shone
like a huge carbuncle; and harnessed to the car two lions, tame as
oxen, yet tossing their shaggy manes, and their eyes twin coals of
fire. Mary saw the beasts, but did not shrink. She looked upon the
emir's face; in it confidence, pride,--and passion beyond words. How
splendid he was! How one ought to worship this lord of men, to whom
the lords of the beasts crouched submissive! How he had loved her with
a love surpassing thought! She entered the car. They put in her hands
reins of silken white ribbon. But Iftikhar himself stood at the heads
of the lions, leading as if they were camels. Then he spoke: "Shine
forth, O Moon, to the beautiful stars! Unveil!" And Mary, her hand
answering his nod, swept the gauze from her face. In the same flash
all the palace grounds shone with the red glare of Greek fire, so that
the flambeaux made shadow; and Mary stood erect in the car, the light
making her face bright and fair as the white cloud of summer. As she
stood, she knew a tremor ran through the multitude and through the
great lords on the portico; and a thousand voices were crying, not by
forced acclaim, but out of their hearts: "Beauty of Allah! Fairest of
the daughters of genii or men!" Such, and many more, the cries. Mary
looked about; eyes past counting were on her. She held her head very
proudly. Captive or queen, it was her triumph; and to Iftikhar she
owed it all!

The emir led the lions down the long avenue opened for them by the
ranks of the Ismaelians, amid the admiring women,--straight toward the
lake; and as the car moved, the Greek fire sprang from the very water,
red and blue, fantastic flame-columns, whose brightness blotted out
the stars. As they advanced, the multitude closed after them; the
torches on the palace doubled, trebled; every dome and minaret was
traced in light; the music swayed and throbbed like the sighs of an
ocean surf. They reached the shore; a second carpet of lilies; a boat,
long, narrow, bowered in roses; a high canopy of flowers in the bow; a
single negro eunuch standing like an ebon statue at the stern, poising
his oar.

"Come!" so again Iftikhar spoke; Mary dismounted. He led her to the
boat, seated her upon the roses. The multitude upon the shore stood in
silence, all their praises in their eyes. The music was hushed for an
instant. Iftikhar nodded to the rower. The oar dipped noiselessly. The
boat glided from the shore gently as the tread of a spirit. Iftikhar
sat upon the flower-strewn floor of the skiff, looking up into Mary's
eyes. This was the end, praise God it was the end; she would do no
more now! Iftikhar had conquered. Who of mortal stuff would fail to
bend before such love as his; and he--was he not worth all loving?

Neither said a word for a long time. The distance betwixt quay and
boat widened slowly. The lights from the gardens spread out shimmering
paths of fire upon the black waters. The only sound was the distant
music once more throbbing from the palace, the dim shouts of the
revellers within the groves, and the drip of the water from the
noiseless oar. On high above the feathery palms crept the round disk
of the moon. At last Iftikhar, never taking away his gaze, said: "O
Mary, my own,--at last, at last,--I have made all good. You are mine
now--body, soul, forever; for even in Paradise those who love are not
sundered. For you will I strive to win glory as never man strove; a
year, two years, and I lead you into Bagdad, first princess of the
world. Hassan Sabah grows old; his glory passes to me, to you, whose
slave I am,--and you shall be adored from the rising of the sun to its
setting."

"Ah! Iftikhar--" but Mary said no more; the emir had interrupted her.
"Mine are no vain dreams. Kerbogha, lord of Mosul, is gathering all
the might of Mesopotamia for our service. Amaz, emir of Fars, is with
us; and the exiled Vizier Muejjed. The Fatimite kalif of Cairo is our
ally, if all else prosper. Soon--soon--Bakyarok, the arch-sultan, is
fallen, the phantom kalif of Bagdad vanished away, and the hour for
the Ismaelians is come."

Again Mary's lips opened; but the emir checked her.

[Illustration: "IFTIKHAR TOOK FROM THE SEAT A LITTLE LUTE, TOUCHED THE
STRINGS, AND SANG"]

"O my own! why speak of this to-night? Hark, let me sing if I may, as
Antar the hero sang the praise  of Abla, whose love he won by labors
greater than mine; hearken."

And Iftikhar took from the seat a little lute, touched the strings,
and sang, while his rich voice stole softly over the waters:--

    "Moonlight and starlight clear gleaming,
    Over the slow waters streaming,
      Glint on the lake's shining breast;
    Fairer my love's eyes are beaming,
    Where the dark wavelets lie dreaming,
      By the soft oar lightly pressed!

    "Now while the shore lights are dying,
    Now while with swifter stroke plying,
      Flit we across the dim deep;
    Let us in rapt delight lying
    Hear the mild wind gently hying
      Where th' sprites night watches keep!

    "O that for aye I might, sweeping
    Where the long willows hang weeping,
      Feel the musked breeze of the west
    Over our blessèd bark creeping;
    Then would I smile in my sleeping
      By my love's white arms caressed!"

When he raised his eyes to Mary, she could see they were touched by a
gleam of awful fire; and her own breast and face grew warm, flushed
with strange heat. The oar of the negro had stopped; the skiff drifted
on slowly, slowly. Here toward the centre of the lake the water
stretched beneath the moon, a mirror of black glass.

"Mary, my beautiful!" cried Iftikhar, half rising, and he outstretched
his arms. And Mary, as if his beck were a magician's, started toward
him--the end! But as she stirred, her eye glanced downward; the
moonbeams lit on something gleaming upon her hand--the silver ring of
Richard Longsword: and a voice sounded, from the very heavens it
seemed:--

"Mary de St. Julien, what price may a Christian wife give in exchange
for her soul!"



CHAPTER XXXI

HOW MARY REDEEMED HER SOUL


Near midnight--Morgiana had gone to her chamber early, but not to
sleep. The throb of the music, the crash of the cymbals, the shoutings
and laughter of the thousands,--all these nigh drove her mad. Twice
had she tried to shut all out by a fierce resolve to hear no more, and
sleep. Useless; sleep was a thousand leagues away. She had stood by
her lattice and seen the multitudes swarming down to the illumined
quay, had heard the praises of Mary Kurkuas ring up to heaven, had
seen the boat glide into the darkness. And the Arab had cast herself
on her cushions, and wept and wept, until her tears would no more
flow. How long a time sped thus, she might not tell. When next she
knew anything save her grief, she heard a light hand thrusting back
the curtains from her bed.

"Morgiana." Mary stood holding a little silver lamp. The coronet was
still flashing on her flowing hair, the dim light shining on her bare
neck and swan-white shoulders. Never in the eyes of her rival had she
seemed fairer. Morgiana stirred, stared into Mary's face.

"You have yielded! You are his--his forever! Oh, sorrow, sorrow!" So
cried the Arab; but the Greek touched her cheek softly.

"Hush, dear sister! I have not yielded. I have defied him; and this
time there is a gulf sprung between us that only death can close. It
was an angel from heaven that spoke; I must, I will--escape him! I
must fly, fly--or it is best to perish!"

"Fly!" cried Morgiana, startled now. "Allah the Compassionate! You are
mad!" Mary checked her.

"No, not mad; only I know that I cannot sell my soul to Iftikhar
Eddauleh, though he led me sultana through Bagdad. Listen: I had a
terrible scene with him in the boat. God knows what I said or did; I
recall nothing, save as out of a frightful dream. But one thing I
know, I am the wife of Richard Longsword, and till I know he is
numbered with the dead, I will lift eyes to no man, nor angel either;
but to Iftikhar Eddauleh never--till the endless ages end! Dear God--I
can endure no more. I must--I will--fly!"

"O dearest one," cried Morgiana, troubled greatly, "how may I comfort
you? say what? do what? Allah pity us both!"

"He will have pity!" burst out the Greek. "Follow me. When Iftikhar
rowed back to the shore he was in a black rage. I hoped he would
strike me dead. He did not. The Sultan Redouan and his lords were
feasting in the palace. Said Iftikhar to the eunuchs at the quay, 'I
must join the revelling, but lead the accursed woman back to the
harem; for seven days she shall not see my face, since she likes it so
ill.' But the eunuchs were reeling with their wine. I wrapped a veil
about me, and evaded them. Then I wandered through the palace, as did
the other women come from Aleppo. No one knew me. And as I strayed by
the great banqueting hall, I saw one whom they styled Aboun Nedjn,
vizier of Redouan, rise and shout the pledge, 'To the confusion of the
Christians, and may they soon fight their last before Antioch!' Then I
turned to one of the women, and said, 'And are the Christians
besieging Antioch?' and she replied: 'How ignorant! All Aleppo knows
that they have lain about that city all winter; certain prisoners of
theirs have been brought to Aleppo; and now the Lord Iftikhar makes
ready to join the great host which Kerbogha, emir of Mosul, is
gathering to deliver Antioch and its prince, Yaghi-Sian.' Then I
listened no more, but fled straight to you. For I must fly this very
night. Think, Morgiana: at Antioch are the Christians; at Antioch are
Duke Godfrey, and Raymond, and Tancred; at Antioch, oh, joy! is
Richard Longsword, whose soul is more dear than my own!"

"But, sweet sister," protested the Arab, "Antioch, I believe, is
twenty of our Eastern leagues away, perhaps sixty of your Frankish
miles. How can you make the journey? Alone?"

"To-night!" cried Mary, tearing the gold from her hair. "To-night! All
the palace is drunken. Even the 'devoted' are in stupid sleep. No
watch is kept, I saw that well. A late slave boy returning to his
master in Aleppo--no questions."

"But the dangers of the way! Full of bandits, roving horsemen, the
scum of both armies--for such must be afield. You on foot! The
hardships; deathly peril!"

"Light of my heart," exclaimed the Greek, "let the jackals prey on
me--beasts or more cruel men,--if they be not Iftikhar Eddauleh!"

"Curse him not," blazed the other; "not even you shall speak him ill.
Fool, that you do not love him!"

Mary was tearing off her silken dress.

"Morgiana," she said very quietly, "you know the presses where the
eunuchs keep their clothes:--bring me a vest and mantle, and a
turban,--the coarsest you can find; and heavy shoes, if any fit me.
St. Theodore," she cried, looking down at the white thongs of her
sandals, where the gems were shining, "how miserable to have such
small feet!"

Morgiana obeyed without a word.

"Your skin! Your face white as milk!" she protested, when Mary stood
in the costume of a serving-page.

The Greek laughed. "Have I not mocked you often for your Persian
'light of the cheeks' which you keep in that casket? Take your pencils
and your _kohl_, and make me dark and tanned as a true Syrian! Haste;
the night is flying!" As she spoke, an iron ball dropped from the
water-clock in the corner upon a bell. "An hour after midnight. Quick,
if you love me and love yourself!"

Morgiana did her task with all deftness.

"They will search for you. You will be pursued at dawn!"

"Say to Iftikhar," was the ready answer, "that I have wandered from
the palace vowing to cast myself in the lake. Let him bid his
'devoted' seek me there."

"_Wallah!_ You are a terrible maid!" cried the Arabian. "But how
beautiful a serving-boy!"

"Now," continued Mary, desperately, "shears! my hair!"

"Never," protested the other; "not as I live, shall I touch it. See, I
will bind it up beneath your turban. But oh, think better; do not go.
The danger is terrible!"

"Morgiana," was the answer, "my husband is at Antioch. Naught can
befall me worse than I suffer here. You have been a sweet sister to
me; and I leave my kiss for Eleanor. May we never meet again!
Farewell."

They kissed each other. Mary saw Morgiana standing in the dim
lamplight, her head bowed upon her hands. Then the Greek stole through
the dimly lighted halls. When she stepped past the nodding eunuchs who
were standing guard at the harem entrance, she felt a little quiver.
They gave her never a sign. She wandered across the great entrance
hall; only two lamps twinkling high up from the stalactites by the
dome,--weird, ghostly light. She stumbled on some form--a man sleeping
in his drunkenness; for the law of the Prophet against wine, who had
observed that night? She saw dimly low gilt and ebony tables beside
the divans, the food still on them. She caught some cakes of bread and
thrust them under her girdle, then tasted a cup that had not been
drained. The wine was sweet, she did not like it. She wandered on.
Here was the portico, where another guard stared at her stupidly. She
passed outward, two others passed in; a dying flambeau showed the
features of Iftikhar and Hakem. Mary trembled, but one of the pillars
was good shelter. The emir had been over his cups, and his face was
flushed, his speech thick, rapid. The eunuch as ever was smiling.

"By every evil efreet!" Iftikhar was swearing, "I will make her bend.
In the boat I thought to win her kiss; she spat upon me! struggled so
that scarce my strength could keep her from casting us into the lake!
called the name of her accursed husband! See to her, Hakem. Bring her
to more tractable state, and I give a thousand dinars; but let her
spurn me again, and by the Brightness of Allah I will teach her she is
slave indeed!"

"The Fountain of Omnipotence," replied the eunuch, smoothly, "is too
kind. Let the Star of the Greeks be given into my full custody. Let
her learn to bow her head to poor Hakem; and it will go hard, unless
she is all smiles to Iftikhar Eddauleh."

"_Mashallah!_" cried the emir, "it shall be as you say. Well, I have
sworn I will see her no more for seven days. Tame her, as you will.
Sometimes I curse the hour when first I set eyes on her. Why shall I
not deal with her as with any slave? Why speak of her love, her
favor?--her body I own, assuredly. As for her soul,--_Wallah!_ to us
Ismaelians of the upper degree, if man or maid have a soul--it is of
too strange stuff to be reckoned with. But come, good slave! I have
drunk too deep to-night. Soon I expect word from Kerbogha that our
host must move to Antioch; and then I shall have other things in mind
than flambeaux and the eyes of a maid."

"My lord speaks with the wisdom of Allah!" fawned the eunuch. "I will
go to our little bird to see that she sleeps secure, and in the
morning she shall know your will."

They passed within the palace. Mary glided up to the great gate. The
yawning porters were just closing.

"Eblees possess you!" cried one, holding up a lantern. "Back into the
palace! Will you wander home to Aleppo at this hour? The city gates
are barred long ago." But Mary's wits could work fast just now.

"Good brother," said she, jauntily, "I have stayed over-late, I know.
But if I fail to return, my master makes my back pay with cold
stripes. And I have a friend on the watch at the gate who will open
when I call."

"_Mashallah!_ you speak a strange Arabic!" protested the man. "Your
hands are small as those of the Star of the Greeks that they say our
lord loves better than El Halebah itself."

"And you too, friend," was her reply, "speak a tongue that makes me
half believe you Christian! And no man living would liken your hands
to any save ditcher's spades!"

"By Mohammed's beard!" exclaimed the fellow, good-naturedly, "you have
a sharp tongue in your little body. Well, go; and let the kind jinns
fly with you. Though almost I think you are girl, and would cry to you
'a kiss!'"

"Never to such as you!" the retort. The gate closed behind her. All
was dark. The last lamps on the great domes were out. Mary stole on in
silence. There was not the slightest sound of bird, beast, or stirring
leaf; just light enough to see where amid the trees the avenue led
away from El Halebah to the outer road. Along that roadway--sixty
miles due east, so she had reckoned--lay the camp of the
Christians--and Richard Longsword! She was alone, and free! For a
while neither weariness nor fear smote her. The ground could not fly
fast enough under her feet. Again and again she wandered against
thicket or trunk in the dimness of the trees, but the way led on, and
she did not lose it. There was a strange gladness in her heart. "To
Richard! to Richard!" O had she but eagle's wings to lend speed to her
going! Suddenly the trees stopped. She was at the edge of the palace
groves. To one side under the starlight she could just see the
untraced masses of something--Aleppo; to the other side, the east, the
stars told her, the hill and plain country stretched out scarce
discernible. Mary turned her face toward the east, and saw the grove
sink out of sight in the darkness. Then she walked yet faster.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was noon, and the Syrian sun beat down pitilessly. The spring
foliage and buds seemed wilting under the fiery eye. The little brooks
on the hillside had already dried to a trickling thread. Everywhere
the eye lit on reddish sand; red sand-hills and plain country with
here and there a tree. The road had faded to the merest trail, where a
few horses had trodden the thin weeds a day or two before. Mary rose
from the stone by this roadway, where she had been sitting beneath a
solitary sumac. She had eaten her bread, had lifted the water in her
hands out of the tiny pool. She was weary--utterly weary. Had she been
told she had traversed a thousand leagues since setting forth the
night before, she could well have believed it. Yet reason bespoke that
she had come less than a score of miles. She was footsore, hungry,
frightened. The caw of the distant crow bore terror; the whir of the
wind over the sunny plain half seemed the howl of desert wolves.
Already her feet trudged on painfully, while her unaccustomed dress
was dusty and torn. Each moment the utter folly of her flight grew
upon her. She was alone, a helpless maid in the midst of that often
harried country which lay between Antioch and Aleppo. Only once had
she met human kind. During the morning two swarthy-skinned peasants,
flogging an obstinate ass toward Aleppo, had stopped, and gazed
curiously at this solitary youth in page's dress, but with the face of
one of Sultan Redouan's harem beauties.

"Brother," one of the peasants had cried, "do you know that from
Antioch to Aleppo scarce one house is inhabited? The Christians--may
Allah bring them to perdition!--have sacked Dana and Sermada, and left
only the dogs alive. All honest folk have fled nearer to Aleppo or
southward."

"I thank you, kind sheik," came the answer in an Arabic that made the
peasant marvel, "but I know my road. Yet are there any Christians now
at Dana?"

"Praised be the Compassionate! Since the battle at Harenc they keep
closer to their camps, though Allah that day vouchsafed them victory.
It is told that Yaghi-Sian is making so many sallies, they are more
than taxed to repel him, glory be to the Most High!"

"I thank you, good sheik; peace be with you!" And Mary had hastened on
her way, leaving the peasants to wonder.

One said: "Let us go back. This youth is no common wayfarer. Let us
question him further."

But the other wisely answered:--

"The day is hot. What is written in the book of doom is written. Leave
the youth to God! Let us reach Aleppo and rest!"

So they fell again to beating the ass, while Mary dropped them out of
view. She had been made less weary then, and the dialogue had lent
wings to her feet. Presently she came to a wretched village: squalid,
dark, rubble houses with thatched roofs; a few poor fields around,
with the weeds growing higher than the sprouting corn. She hesitated
to walk through the single street, but not a soul met her. The doors
of the houses gaped open; within was scanty household stuff scattered
over the earthen floors. Every house bore signs of hasty leaving. Two
or three were mere charred shells, for the torch had been set to their
thatches. Over in the field a flock of crows and kites were
wheeling,--some carrion,--but Mary did not go near. Yet, as she walked
this street, as it seemed of the dead, forth ran snapping and barking
several gray, blear-eyed dogs. For a moment she quaked lest they tear
her in pieces. But at the sound of her voice they sank back whining,
and followed on a long time, sniffing the bread under her girdle, and
hoping to be fed.

She shook them off at last, half glad, half sorry, to have nothing
living near her. And now she was sitting by the roadway, looking down
into the tiny pool and thinking. She took off her shoes and let her
little white feet trail in the water,--very little and very white,
never fashioned by the Creator, so she told herself with a sobbing
laugh, to be bruised by the hard road. Once Musa at Palermo had
composed verses in praise of her feet; how they were shaped only to
tread upon flowers, or to whisk in dances, or be bathed with perfumes
worth an emir's ransom. Holy Mother! and what were they like to walk
over now! She looked at her hands; as she dipped them in the brook
nearly all the bronzing of Morgiana had washed away. They too had been
praised, times past numbering. A learned poet at Constantinople had
written some polished iambics, likening them to the hands of Artemis,
virgin huntress on the Arcadian hills. How helpless and worthless
they were! Mary saw her face in the pool also. Her beauty--despite the
disguise--her curse; the bane of so many lovers! "Better, better,"
came the thought, "a thousand times I had been foul as an old hag,
than to have my beauty lay snares for my soul!" And then the thought
followed: "No, not better, whatever be my fate; for by my beauty I won
the love of Richard, and the memory of his love cannot be taken from
me in a thousand years!" Then, speaking to herself, she said
resolutely: "Now, my foolish Mary de St. Julien, though your feet are
so weary, they must prepare to be still more weary. For there is many
a long league yet before you see the Christian camp at Antioch, and
set eyes on your dread Frankish lord."

So, telling herself that she was a soldier's daughter and a soldier's
wife, that the toils of travel would be as nothing to her father's
campaign with the Patzinaks, she arose to continue the toilsome way.
But as she stood over the little pool, the water looked more cool and
tempting than ever. It was tedious to drink from the hands--a cup! Her
hands went up to her hair, where was the blue muslin turban so
carefully wound by Morgiana; and underneath it a silken skullcap. She
unwound the turban, her hair fell in soft brown tresses all over her
shoulders. As she bent to fill the cap, in the water she saw again her
face, framed now in the shining hair.

"Allah!" she cried, after the manner of the Arabs, "how beautiful I
am! how Richard will love me!" And she laughed at her own complacency.
A sudden shout made her start like a fawn when the hounds are baying;
then a rush of hoofs, an outcry.

"Iftikhar! He is pursuing!" her thought; and Mary sprang to run up the
sandy hillside. Not Iftikhar; from behind the little sand-hill to the
west six horsemen had appeared in a twinkling: all on long-limbed,
sleek-coated desert steeds. Mary ran as for dear life, scarce knowing
what she did.

"_Ya! Ya!_" came the shout, in a mongrel Arabic, "a maid; seize!
capture! a prize!"

It was all over in less time than the telling. Mary never knew how it
befell. She was standing once more by the roadway; two men,
dismounted, were holding her. The other four still sat on their
saddles. All six were devouring her with their eyes, and pelting her
with questions she had no wits to answer. Her captors, she began to
judge, were roving Syrian cavalrymen--half warriors, half bandits,
tall, wiry-limbed, swarthy, sharp-featured. They and their steeds were
gorgeously decked out with strings of bright silk tassels. They wore
light steel caps polished bright; at their sides were short cimeters;
over their shoulders were curved bows and round, brass-studded
targets. When they opened their bearded lips to chatter, their teeth
shone sharp and white as of hungry cats. At last Mary found words. The
blood of the great house of Kurkuas was in her veins. Even in this
dire strait she knew how to put on pride and high disdain.

"Slaves," was her command, "unhand me! Who are you, so much as to look
upon my face! By what right will you treat me as is unfit to one of
your own coarse brood?"

The curve of the lip and the lordly poise for an instant disconcerted
even the Syrians. But soon one of them answered, with a soldier's
banter:--

"By the soul of my father, pretty one, I half dream you a sultana.
Does Allah rain houris in youths' clothes upon the waste land betwixt
Sermada and Harenc? _Bismillah!_ we do not light every day on a
partridge plump as you!"

"Let me go, fools," cried the Greek, turning very pale, but more with
wrath than fear, "or you will find my little finger large enough to
undo you all."

But at this the six only roared their laughter, and for a moment ogled
their captive with sinful eyes that made Mary's soul turn sick. She
made one last appeal, and only her own heart knew what it cost her to
say the word.

"Act not in folly. Carry me to Aleppo, and deliver me safely to the
great emir, Iftikhar Eddauleh. He will give you for me my weight in
gold."

Another laugh, but the six looked at one another.

"Tell me," quoth the earlier speaker, "O Star that falls in the
Desert, how you come here, if you are possessed by Iftikhar Eddauleh?"

Mary only flushed with new anger.

"Beast, who are you that I should answer? Do as I bid you, or it will
be to your hurt!"

"Truly, O Yezid," began a second Syrian, "it may be as she says. Let
us ride to Aleppo."

But Yezid, who seemed the leader of the band, gave a deep curse.

"To Aleppo? We are too little loved by Redouan to risk our heads
within bowshot of his executioner. Look upon the maid; she is one of
the Franks, whoever she be. She will fetch a hundred purses in the
market. Yet I am minded myself to possess her!"

Mary looked at the Syrian; noted his coarse, carnal eye, and the
impure passion in it, and felt her heart turning to stone.

"Dear God," ran her prayer, "give me strength to bear all; for I am in
the clutch of demons."

But the other five had raised a great outcry.

"Verily, O Yezid," shouted one, "you are a river of generosity. Six of
us capture the maid, and you protest that she is yours alone. May
Allah cut me off from Paradise if I part with my claim to her."

"And who are you, O Zubair," raged back Yezid, his teeth more catlike
than ever, "to dispute my right? Am I not the chief? When we held the
rich Jew without water four days since, did I not share the ransom
equally? And now that we possess this maid, whose form and face fit my
eye as my sword its sheath--" and as he spoke he laid his hand on
Mary's bare neck, making the white flesh creep under his foul touch,
and lifting the soft mass of her telltale hair. The five cut him short
with one yell. "Never, insatiate one!" And Zubair added: "Let the maid
be sold, and the money divided. If we may not take her to Aleppo, let
us swing her across a saddle and spur away to Hamath, where there is a
good market! As you have said,--a hundred purses for such an houri of
the Franks. Better profit twenty fold than watching these roads, when
the Christians have swept the country clean!"

Yezid grinned more savagely than ever; and Mary closed her eyes that
she might not see his leer.

"I have sworn it," cried he. "This once must you sons of Eblees give
way. I like the girl well. Not for an hundred purses would I part with
her. Is she not my captive? shall I not bear her away to the mountains
where is our camp, and the other women?"

Mary closed her eyes tighter. She knew _then_, if not before, that it
had been a mad boast indeed when she said to Morgiana, "Naught can
befall me worse than I suffer here at El Halebah." The evening before
she had been hailed princess, sovereign of thousands--and now! Her
eyes she could close; not her ears, and the foul speech of the angry
Syrians smote them, though her sense grew numb by sheer agony. Louder
and louder the quarrel. Presently she heard a great shout from Yezid.

"By the Beard of Mohammed! either you shall give the girl up to me, to
work my will, or my cimeter is in her breast." His clutch tightened,
and Mary saw through her eyelashes a bright blade held before her.
"Death at last, the Blessed Mother be praised!" and she closed her
eyes, and tried to murmur the words of "Our Father." But the voice of
Zubair grew conciliatory. "Valiant captain, not so angry. You have the
chief claim, but not the only one. Let us not broil, good comrades
that we are. True the Prophet--on whom be peace--forbids dice; but
Allah will be compassionate, and I have some about me. Let us cast for
the maid. You win and possess her. We,--she goes to Hamath, and the
sale's money is divided amongst us five!"

Yezid began to growl in his beard, but the shout of the rest silenced
him. "Let it be as you said!" he muttered. And Mary, opening her eyes,
now saw Zubair and the chief standing by the rock, and shaking the
dice in the hollows of their hands. How strange it all looked! On the
cast of four bits of ivory her own weal or woe was hanging! The
fortune of her--a Grecian princess, a baroness of France, a Sultana of
the Ismaelians! Was it not a dream? One cast,--a curse from Zubair. A
second,--Yezid smiled and smirked toward her. Again Zubair
cast,--again he cursed; and when Yezid lifted his hand he gave a loud,
beastly laugh.

"Praises be to Allah! You have all lost. This houri, comes she here
from the clouds or from Aleppo, is mine. _Ya!_ I can wait no more to
kiss her!" But just as Mary felt sight and sound reeling when he
seized her, there was a great howl from the Syrians.

"Flight! To horse! O Allah, save!" And down the eastern road Mary saw,
not six, but sixty, cavalrymen in headlong gallop; all with white
robes and turbans, and at the head a rider whose armor was bright as
the sun.

"Away, my peacock!" shouted Yezid, who, even in that moment, tried to
swing Mary into his saddle before him. But as the words sped from his
sinful throat, a shaft of Iftikhar went through his horse's flank, and
the wounded beast was plunging.

"_Allah akhbar!_" the yell of the Ismaelians as they swept around
Mary's captors, almost ere the luckless bandits could strike spur; and
it was Iftikhar's own hand that plucked Mary from the clutch of Yezid.

"Bind fast!" his command. "_Bismillah!_ what were they about to do?"

"This beast had won me at dice. He was to carry me to his den in the
mountains, he boasted," Mary said, with twitching lips.

"Mercy, O Sea of Compassion!" Yezid was whining; "how should I know
that I offended my lord?"

"_Ya_," hissed Iftikhar; "strike off the heads of these five here; let
the jackals eat them. But their chief shall go to Aleppo, where we
will plunge his head in a sack of quicklime."

Then, with not a word to Mary, he had his men devise a horse-litter,
placed her in it, and the whole troop headed again for Aleppo.



CHAPTER XXXII

HOW MORGIANA PROFFERED TWO CUPS


It was the next morning at El Halebah that Mary found Morgiana in her
aviary. Here, in a broad chamber at the top of the palace, too high
for any vulgar eye that chanced across the Kuweik to light on the
dwellers of this wind-loved spot, the Arabian had her eyry. The high
openings in the walls were overhung with fine, nigh invisible
nettings, the floor strewn with white sand; and, despite the height,
means had been found to keep a little fountain playing in a silver
basin; and just now two finches were gayly splashing in its tiny pool.
All around in deep tubs were growing oleanders, myrtle, laurel,
although the birds made difficult the lives of the blossoms; there
were hairy ferns, and the scent of sweet thyme was in the air; around
the arabesqued columns roved dark, cool ivy; in and out through the
meshes of the netting buzzed the adventurous honey-bee, flying thus
high in hopes of spoil. Everywhere were the birds--finch, thrush,
sparrow, ring-dove, and even a nightingale that, despite the drooping
for his vanished freedom, Morgiana had by some magic art persuaded to
sing evening after evening, and make the whole room one garden of
music. As the young Arabian stood, upon her shoulder perched a
consequential blackcap cocking his saucy head; and a wood-pigeon was
hovering over her lips trying to carry away the grain there in his
bill. Morgiana had named all the birds, and they learned to answer to
their calls. As for fearing her, they would sooner have fluttered at
their own shadows. Mary pushed back the door, stepped inside, and as
she did so a whir of wings went through all the plants, for she was
not so well known to the birds as was their mistress. But after the
first flash and chirp there was silence once more, save as the doves
in one corner kept up their coo, coo, around a cherished nest.
Morgiana opened her lips; the pigeon swept away the grain, and lit
upon a laurel spray, proud of his booty. Then the Arabian turned to
her visitor. The Greek was very pale; under her eyes dark circles and
red, as if she had slept little and cried much. For a moment she did
not speak. Then Morgiana brushed the blackcap from her shoulder, and
ran and put her arms about Mary.

"Ah! sweet sister,--so I have you back again! It was as I said, folly,
impossible madness."

"Yes, madness!" answered the Greek, very bitterly. "I was indeed mad
to forget that I am naught but a weak woman, made to be admired and
toyed with, for strong men's holiday. But oh, it was passing sweet at
first to think, 'I am free--I am going to Richard!'" And at the name
of the Norman, her eyes again were bright with tears.

"O dearest and best!" cried Morgiana, clasping her closer, "what can I
say to you, how comfort you? I heard the eunuchs tell of the plight in
which Iftikhar found you. My blood runs chill as I speak. Allah! There
are worse things than to be a captive of Iftikhar Eddauleh!"

"You say well, my sister; but how came Iftikhar to follow me? You did
not betray? You told the tale I gave you?"

"Yes," protested the Arab, with half a laugh. "But in the morning,
while Iftikhar foamed and the eunuchs dragged the pond, there came on
me the desire to breathe the hemp smoke, and when the craving comes,
not all the jinns of the abyss may stop me. And as I reeled over the
smoke, I saw you in direful peril, clutched by wanton hands, facing a
fate worse than death! Then I fought with myself. You were gone at
last! And my evil nature said to me, 'Leave the Greek to her living
death. Iftikhar is yours alone, you may win back his heart again, and
be happy--happy!' But, O dearest, when I thought of your agony, I
could not be silent. I told Iftikhar whither you had fled, and he
spurred after and saved you."

"Yes," echoed Mary, "he has 'saved' me, as you well say. Not a word
did he speak to me on the homeward journey. Last night I fell asleep
the moment my head touched the pillow. Oh, bliss, how sweet that long
sleep was! And in it I saw Richard Longsword, and he was holding my
hand, and I could look up into his face. Then I awoke--Hakem, near me,
saying that by the command of the emir hereafter he was to have my
ordering! It was passing from heaven to nethermost hell. And here I am
again! Helpless, passive, for others to work their will upon! while
twenty leagues away lies Antioch and Richard and perfect joy. Yet I
thank you, sister,--there is something worse than to be in the hands
of Iftikhar, but God alone knows if there be anything I may pay you
for the debt I owe."

"Do you believe in a good God?" said Morgiana, stepping backward and
looking into the Greek's eyes.

"Do not Christians and Moslems alike believe in Him?" was the
wondering answer.

"Then," persisted Morgiana, a fierce ring coming into her tone; "why
does He suffer you to endure such sorrow?"

"He alone knows," was the reply. "It is as I said,--some fearful sin
that I have committed and forgotten; or else"--and there was a new
brightness in the eye of the Greek--"I am permitted to endure some
pain that my husband had otherwise been made to bear."

"O foolish one!" came the retort of the Arabian. "You sin? The soul of
Allah is not whiter than yours; no, not as white! Richard Longsword is
strong enough to endure his own pains; yes, and has endured them if
you are to him as he to you! I will curse God--you may not stay me.
Unkind, cruel, He is! All-powerful indeed, yet using His power to
plunge His creatures into misery!"

The Greek shuddered. "Beware! He will strike you dead!" her warning.

"Dead?" echoed Morgiana, lifting her dark bare arms high, as if
calling down heavenly wrath, and bidding it welcome; "almost I think
His power ends there! If He had mercy on me, I were dead long ago. But
no--I go on, living, breathing, talking, laughing,"--and here she did
indeed laugh, in a terrible manner that made Mary quake.

"Pity me. God is angry enough with us already. Anger Him no more!"
cried the Greek.

Morgiana laughed again. "_Hei!_" she continued, "let us look at our
case with both eyes. You are back again at El Halebah. By your flight
Iftikhar assuredly considers his pledge to you at an end. What do you
expect?"

"To be treated like any other captive of his 'bow and spear,' as you
people say. To be at his will, sometimes to be caressed as these birds
are by you, sometimes neglected; when I grow old or out of favor to
see new women thrust before me, as, St. Theodore pity me, I have
supplanted you. I shall in time grow sleepy, fat, and in a poor way
contented; for such is the manner of the harem. Within four walls and
a garden I shall live out my life. If God is still angry, I shall
become very old. At last I shall die--when I shall have been among you
Moslems so long that I can scarce remember 'Our Father.' Where my soul
then will go, I know not; it will be worth little; sodden and dried by
this cageling's life till an ox's were nobler."

"O dearest," cried the Arabian, laughing, but half in tears now, "your
words are arrows to my soul. You must be free, free--either you or I.
What would you give to be truly free? Give for rest, peace, joy, an
end of sorrow, struggle, longing?"

"That waits only beyond the stars," answered the Greek. But she
started when she saw the wandering glitter in Morgiana's eyes, and
there was a wild half-rhythm in the Arabian's words when she replied:
"Why not the stars and beyond? Why not seek out the pathways of the
moon, the gates of the sun, the enchanted islands of the sweet West,
and rest, rest, sleep, sleep--pangless, painless, passionless!"

"Morgiana!" exclaimed Mary. The other answered still in half-chant.
"Yes, there is a way--a way. I will go, will return, and to one of us
the door is opened,--opened wide!"

Then with a gliding, uneasy step she started away. "Back!" warned
Morgiana to Mary, who attempted to follow. "I will do myself no harm.
I return at once." Almost immediately she reëntered, in each hand a
silver cup, the cups identical, each filled with violet sherbet. She
set them upon the slab by the fountain. There was no madness in her
glance now.

"I am thirsty," said the Greek, simply; "may I drink?"

"Drink?" repeated the Arabian, with a strange intonation. "Yes, in
Allah's name, but first hearken! Many years ago, in Bagdad, a wise old
woman taught me of an Indian drug, two pellets, small as shrivelled
peas, in a little wine. Drink, and go to sleep--sleep so sound that
you waken only when Moukir and Nakir, the death angels, sift soul from
body. In Palermo, Iftikhar brought to his harem a Moorish girl. It was
the hour of the beginning of my sorrow. A little made my breast fire,
and my jealousy was swifter than the falling stars, which are Allah's
bolts against the rebel efreets. One night when the Moor drank
sherbet, she tasted nothing, she went to sleep; they found her body
with a smile on the lips--her soul--? Ask the winds and the upper
air."

Mary's eyes were fastened on the silver cups; were they brimmed with
nectar of the old Greek gods that they should charm her so? She heard
her heart-beats, and bated her breath while Morgiana continued: "You
wish to be free. So do I. Life is terrible to you; only when you sleep
is there peace, fair visions, joy. Do you know, I had resolved, when I
learned Iftikhar was bringing you to Aleppo, that you should drink of
sherbet from my hands the first night of all; and wake--where even
Iftikhar's eagle eye could never follow you?"

"Holy Mother! why did you spare me?" came across Mary's teeth.

"Why? Because, when I saw you pure as a lily of the spring, and so
fair that the rose blushed in redder shame before you, and knew that
your sorrow passed mine,--I had no will to kill you. Yes, your very
love for death disarmed my hate. And now?"--she pointed to the cups.

Mary felt herself held captive as her spellbound gaze followed
Morgiana.

The Arabian knelt by the marble slab; took up the two cups; held them
forth.

"Mary, Star of the Greeks," said Morgiana, looking straight into the
Christian's eyes, "you believe in God; that He is good; that He orders
all things well. Be it so. Then either He ordains that you spend your
life the slave of Iftikhar, or that you be free. Either He ordains
that I should possess Iftikhar, and he me--me only, or that I should
flit far hence, where pang and remembrance of my loss can never
follow. Therefore I say this. Here are two cups, alike as two drops of
the spraying fountain. In one,--but I say not which,--I have placed
the pellet of the Indian drug. The cups I cannot tell apart, save as I
remember. You shall take the cups. I leave the room. You shall place
them where you will, only so that I may forget which has received the
magic pellet. I will then return. You shall drink of one, whichever
you choose,--I the other. We shall kiss one another three times, lie
down on the divan, and rest. Whom Allah wills, shall awake beyond the
stars; whom Allah wills, shall awake in El Halebah! All is left to
God. There is no taste, no pang; only sleep, sweet as a child on its
mother's arm. For every day my love for you grows; but every day my
heart says, 'Except Mary the Christian and Morgiana the Moslem be
sundered by seven seas, woe--only woe--for both!'" Still the Greek did
not reply. What were these visions flitting before her eyes? Not the
birds; not the feathery palm groves waving beneath the palace walls.
All her past life was there,--her father's stately house in
Constantinople; the glory of the great city; the wild scenes of the
escape to Sicily; Richard Longsword plucking her from the Berbers; the
tourney--De Valmont in his blood; the hour when Richard touched her
lips with the first kiss; the marriage; the last sight of her husband
in the morning twilight at Dorylæum. Scene upon scene, a wild, moving
pageant; yet behind all seemed to hover the shadow of Iftikhar--Iftikhar,
the cause of sorrow and tears unnumbered. Still Morgiana held out the
cups. "Taste!" she was saying. "You cannot tell. All is in the hands
of God,--whether you bow your head to your fate, or to-night the
moonbeams are your pillow; or whether I am escaped from all my
heartache; can flit over your couch on unseen wing, and teach you to
endure, as best you may, till the hour comes when hand in hand we can
fly up the path of the sun and join in the dance of the winds."

As bidden, Mary touched her finger first in one cup then in the other,
placing each drop in turn on her lips. The same--she might have
drained both goblets and known no difference. Truly the issue was with
God! And still Morgiana proffered.

"Take; we have been dear sisters together. How can I bless Allah when
I desire to love you so, yet know that your life is misery to me, as
misery to you? You have many times said you prayed for death."

And then Mary spoke, a wondrous spell binding her:--

"Not so, Morgiana,--unfair. Why should I live and you die? Let me
drink alone of this blessed drug that makes the heart cease bleeding.
And you may live--live and be glad with Iftikhar."

Morgiana shook her raven-black hair, and spoke with an awful smile.

"Always is death sweet--I will not shun it, if Allah so wills. All I
know is, we twain cannot live together; not in this world. Perhaps it
is the Most High's will that I should go out, and you remain to give
joy to Iftikhar. We leave all to Him. Then let us drink; and each
await the other. Therefore--take." Mary had received the cups. "Place
them where and as you will; I return speedily." And Morgiana was gone.
The Greek gazed on the magic liquor as though on her lover's face.
Almost she seemed to feel herself transformed, transfigured; clothed
with wings white as swans' sails, and soaring upward, upward into
perfect freedom. She saw her father, her mother,--that fair angel face
of childish years. She thought of Richard Longsword. There would be no
time for her, while awaiting the golden morning when her husband could
look upon her face with naught to dread. Did thus God will? She had
set the cups on the railing by the windows. "Come back!" was her call
to Morgiana. The Arab glided straight to the cups; took one; lifted to
her lips. "Let Allah have pity on one of us!" her words. But as Mary's
hand stretched out to do the like, she gave a mighty cry. Her goblet
fell: the other was dashed from Morgiana's hand.

"Dear God! What do we?" cried the Greek. "Spare me this temptation!
Nor do you commit this wickedness. Never shall we so tempt God. Though
the grief be a thousand times more great, yet will I trust His mercy.
I am a Christian, and Our Lord did not hang on the tree in vain to
make us strong to bear. Death would be sweet. But had we God's wisdom,
our present pangs would seem nothing, hid in the speeding ages of joy.
Let us, each after our manner, call on God to show us pity. But never
shall one of us stand before His face unsummoned, and cry, 'I am too
weak to bear what Thou appointest!'"

Morgiana's face flushed livid; she staggered back.

"Then let Allah, if He may, have mercy; our need is great!"--such her
cry from twitching lips. But as the words came, Mary saw the Arab's
eyes set in a glassy stare; the lithe form fell heavily. Mary caught
her round the waist, and laid her on the marble floor by the fountain;
then dashed water in her face, and shouted for help.

Help came--the under-eunuchs, Hakem, Zeyneb; and finally Iftikhar,
lordly and splendid, in a suit of perfectly plain black armor with two
white hawks' wings nodding on his helmet, spurred and girded as for a
foray. The eunuchs brought cordials, strong waters, and pungent
perfumes. But Iftikhar first knelt by Morgiana's side, drew forth the
little red vial, and laid the magic, fiery drops upon her tongue. The
Arab shook herself; her form relaxed; the eyes opened. They bore her
into a room leading from the aviary, and propped her on the divan
cushions. Not till then did Iftikhar speak a word. Now one gesture
sent all save the two women and Zeyneb from the chamber, when the emir
broke forth:--

"In the name of Allah Omnipotent, what means this, Morgiana? I demand
it; speak!"

And the Arab answered with her gaze full on Iftikhar.

"Cid, I asked Mary the Greek to drink out of one of two goblets, in
one of which was a sleeping potion from which the sleeper awakens
never. She refused, saying it were better to endure than to tempt the
Most High. That is all."

A flash of terrible rage crossed the emir's face. "Witch! sorceress!
Have you sought to make the Greek take her life? As the Most High
lives, you shall be impaled!"

"Peace, master," said Mary, gently. "I have refused her proffer. Be
assured I will find strength to bear until I see once more my true
husband, or having endured your unholy will, in God's own time I die."

But at the word the face of Iftikhar was blackened with yet deeper
fury. "Your husband!" came thickly. "Yes, master," answered the Greek;
"for, living or dying, Richard de St. Julien is my true husband."

Iftikhar cut her short: "Dying? What if dead?"

A frightful suspicion crossed Mary's mind. It was her face that was
pallid now. But Iftikhar reassured her with a forced laugh: "_Ya_, how
easy to tell you, 'Richard, the Frankish barbarian, whose sport is
slaying guileless boys, has gone to his long account in the fighting
around Antioch.' But I say to you, he lives, and I go to Antioch to
seek his life."

The Greek was herself once more. Very steadily she answered: "Master,
let God judge Richard de St. Julien for slaying Gilbert de Valmont,
since Zeyneb I see has learned and told the tale. But let God also
judge Iftikhar Eddauleh, who is mightier with the dagger of his
underlings than with his own sword, and who finds iron lances as light
in his hand as those of reed."

The words of the Greek were slingstones whirled in the emir's face. In
the blindness of his fury he sprang toward her, and struck. The woman
tottered, recovered; then tore back the muslin from her neck and
shoulders:--

"Strike!" cried she, "strike again! Are you not master? Are you not
lord of this body of mine you so lust after? What is a little pain, a
few blows, beside what I ever bear!"

Iftikhar's muscles grew tense as springing steel when he reined in his
passion. When he spoke, his voice was low and husky: "Woman, you drive
me to all bounds. You do well to call me 'master.' Truly I am, as you
shall own with sorrow, if not with joy. But two evenings past you were
queen, with the heir of Hassan Sabah your slave. But now--" he was
silent, but broke forth again--"my pledge to you is at an end. You are
mine. I will break your will, if I may not win it. You still hold the
face of Richard Longsword dear?"

"Yes, by every saint!" flashed the defiant Greek.

"Hark, then," was the laugh of hate; "I go soon to Antioch in company
with the great host Kerbogha of Mosul gathers to rescue Yaghi-Sian
besieged by the Christians. I go second in command, with the twelve
thousand 'devoted' of Syria, to whom death is less than sleep, who can
stanch thirst with the vapor from the sunburned sand, whose steeds
find food sniffing the desert blast. We will gird round the Franks
tight as a ring girds the finger. I know the bull valor of your
Christians. But they shall die as die the flies, or fall one and all
our prey--prisoners. And Richard Longsword--"

"Look him fairly in the face--as at Dorylæum!" cried the Greek, in hot
scorn. "As at Dorylæum!"

"And Richard Longsword," continued Iftikhar, still steadily, "as
surely as the sun moves from east to west, I will slay in battle, or,
taking alive, you shall see him my captive. Yes; by the brightness of
Allah! When I go to Antioch, you go also; with your own eyes you shall
see the fate of those Franks you love. You shall see Richard borne
asunder on the cimeters of the 'devoted' or haled fettered before me."

He paused, expecting an outburst. None! The Greek was standing
proudly, her head poised high, eyes very bright.

"And at the end you shall indeed touch the head of your Richard. The
head,--for you shall hear the crier traverse the city, proclaiming,
'He who would amuse himself, come to the great square,--the body of
Richard the Frank is exposed to the dogs!'"

Mary took two steps toward the Ismaelian; her voice was low; she was
pale, but did not tremble.

"Lord Iftikhar, if God suffered and you placed even now the head of
Richard Longsword in my arms, rest assured I would kiss it with never
so much love. For I would know a brave and noble spirit waited on high
till it were granted me to stand at his side, all his sins washed
white by God's mercy. But, my Cid, better to think of bearding the
lion than of celebrating the hunting. For, hear my word; go to
Antioch, you, the 'devoted,' the hordes of Kerbogha,--go all, and meet
there men with a love for God in their hearts, a heaven-sped strength
in their good arms. Not with dagger and stealth shall you meet; but
man to man, breast to breast, sword to sword,--and Christ shall
conquer!"

"Silence!" tossed out the emir, losing self-control.

"Well you cry 'silence'! First silence your own dark soul--silence
reproach for blood spilled wantonly, for tears your deeds have made to
flow. At heart you Ismaelians believe in no God! Believe then in
devils; tremble! For many await you! And this you shall find: men can
die for Christ no less than for Allah! Aye, and can live for Christ;
by His strength, make you Moslems die! As for me I shall not die; in
some strange way, by some strange voice, I am warned God will save me
utterly; and I shall see you blasted, stricken, accursed--and that
were joy of joys!"

Mary's voice had risen higher, fiercer; her hands outstretched in
imprecation. Before the wild gust of her passion Iftikhar had shrunk
back like a timid beast. For a moment the Greek was master, queen as
never before. Then sudden as the flame had flashed, it died. Mary
stood with drooping head, silent, statue-like.

"Away! From my sight!" commanded Iftikhar. His captive did not move.
Hakem had reëntered.

"Take her away," cried his master; "keep her close,--let her lack
nothing; but as Allah lives, her will shall bow. Let her go to Antioch
when I go; but I will not see her face again until I can show her
Richard Longsword dead or my captive. And now--begone!"

Mary followed the eunuch with never a word. But Morgiana, silent long,
broke forth:--

"Cid--seek no more blood in private quarrel. Keep the Greek. I do not
pray for her or for me. But for your own sake--for you who are still
the light of my soul, despite all the wrongs--do not go to Antioch.
Ruin awaits you there. Even the 'devoted' shall fail. True is _Citt_
Mary's warning. Allah will fight with the Christians. Leave Kerbogha
to the decree of doom; leave to doom Richard Longsword. I have said
it--ruin, woe awaits at Antioch. I have said it, and my warnings never
fail!"

Iftikhar swore a great oath.

"Then by Allah that liveth and reigneth ever, they shall fail now! Let
doom decree what it will, to Antioch I go, and to Gehenna speeds
Richard Longsword!"

He turned on his heel, while she made no reply.

"Zeyneb," quoth he to the ever ready dwarf, "in your head are hid half
my wits. You are a faithful servant. In my cause you would outwit
Eblees' self. I declare, by the great name of Allah said thrice, when
they proclaim Iftikhar the kalif, they shall proclaim Zeyneb the
vizier."

The dwarf wagged his ears after his wont, to show how highly he prized
such praise.

"In a few days," continued the grand prior, "I go to join Kerbogha.
You know all my plans, my secrets. While at Antioch there may come to
El Halebah from Alamont and our other strongholds messages needing
instant despatch. You must answer. I give you this signet: seal them
in Hassan Sabah's own name."

Iftikhar drew from his bosom a tiny silk bag, and took forth a ring
set with a single emerald, worth an emir's treasure house.

"The ring of Hassan Sabah!" exclaimed the dwarf.

"_Mashallah!_ is it not a talisman?" came the reply. "Graven with the
sign of the 'dirk and the cord,' no Ismaelian dare refuse anything
commanded by the bearer, whosoever he be, under pain of forfeit of the
pearl-walled pavilion of Paradise. Even the bidding of a grand prior,
except he be present in person to order otherwise, is over-ridden by a
fisherman wearing this ring. Therefore guard as the apple of your eye.
Place it in the strong box where I keep my gems; only wear the key
about your neck."

The dwarf knelt and kissed his master's robe.

"Cid, you overwhelm me with your confidence! How may I requite?"

Iftikhar only laughed carelessly; the dwarf's eye roved round the
room.

"Morgiana has seen and heard," suddenly he whispered.

The grand prior's answer was a second laugh. Then he added: "Morgiana?
She would shed half her blood before twittering such a secret. Smell
out greater dangers, my Zeyneb!"



CHAPTER XXXIII

HOW EYBEK TURNED GRAY


"And how is it with the Star of the Greeks?" repeated Musa, while
Richard Longsword's face grew gnarled as a mountain oak. At the
Norman's silence, the Arab also became grave as death, and in a
whisper that scarce left his throat, he asked:--

"As you are my friend, tell me, was it in the mountains where they say
you suffered so from thirst? or in the camp where was the plague and
fever?"

Richard shook his head; then at last came the words:--

"She lives--at least I fear so!"

"Allah the Compassionate!" was the Spaniard's cry, "you 'fear' she
lives?"

The Norman's casqued head was bent upon the shaggy mane of Rollo; he
groaned in his agony:--

"Mother of Christ, pity me, if I be not beyond all pity! In the great
battle at Dorylæum, of which you must have heard, our camp was
stormed. I was away summoning help from Duke Godfrey. Before the Turks
were driven out, they made prisoners."

"Prisoners! Allah pity us indeed!" Musa rocked in his saddle, and
pressed his hands to his head. But Richard drove straight forward,
having begun his tale. "I continued in the chase of the Seljouks. My
horse ran ahead of the rest. I saw a squadron of riders clothed in
white, not Turks, but Arabs. I saw that the leader of the band was
holding a woman before him on his saddle. I was almost measuring
swords with him, when my horse failed. I returned to camp torn with
forebodings, and found--" But here he stopped, even he startled at
the agony written on the Andalusian's face.

"Tell it all, dear brother," said Musa, raising his head by a mighty
effort.

"I found that Iftikhar Eddauleh and a band of his infamous Ismaelians
had led the storming of the camps. He had carried Mary away in his
flight; and at this moment she is in his harem,--his slave, till God
may have pity on her innocency and let her die." Then Richard told
Musa why he had pursued Hossein, and the Spaniard called on his men to
join in the chase of the fugitive, who had not taken refuge among
them, but had flown on as swift as his steed could carry. But the
Ismaelian seemed to have bidden the earth open, and it had swallowed
him. So after futile search the whole party turned toward Antioch; and
Musa explained that he came against the Christians with no hostile
intent, but as commander of the armed escort of the embassy the
Egyptian Kalif Mustaali was sending the Crusaders. For the Egyptians,
as Musa explained, had little love for the Turks, since the Turks were
the foes of Ali, successor of the Prophet, whom the Egyptians
venerated. Moreover, twenty years before, the Seljouks had plundered
to the very gates of Cairo. And now that Mustaali had conquered
Jerusalem and Palestine from the Turks, he would be glad to strike
hands with the Christians, and grant them free access to the Holy
City, if only it could remain in his hands. Therefore he had sent a
pompous embassy of fifteen deputies to proffer the Crusaders honorable
peace or deadly war. "And do you imagine, O brother," said Richard,
when he had heard this, and they were riding on together, "that we
Franks will have anything less than the complete mastery of the Holy
City, or be turned back by the threats of your kalif?"

"Allah is all-knowing," was the gloomy reply. "I forewarned the Vizier
Afdhal that nothing would come of this; for have I not seen your
France with my own eyes? But I can only obey. The smooth speeches I
leave to the deputies." Then, with a quick turn: "As Allah lives, I
can think of nothing but of what you have told me. Mary Kurkuas the
slave of Iftikhar,--of Iftikhar! O Allah, if indeed Thou art
omnipotent and merciful, why may such things be?"

"Peace, sweet brother," said the Christian, gently. "I am trying to
learn to bow to the will of God. Do not make my task harder. Mary
Kurkuas was my wife; but what was she to you?"

"What to me?" The words came across Musa's white teeth so quickly that
he had spoken ere he could set bridle to his tongue. Then slowly, with
a soft rhythm and melody attuned so well by his rich voice, he
answered: "What to me? Shall I say it again; are you not my brother,
is not Mary the Greek my sister? Are not your joys my joys; your
sorrows--what sorrows are they not!--mine? Allah pity me; my heart is
sad, sad. And what have you done to seek for her?" So Richard told as
well as he might of his questionings of the prisoners, and of the
report that Iftikhar had gone to Persia, to Alamont the trysting-place
of the Ismaelians. But Musa shook his head at this.

"Either the man spoke false or was ignorant. I am close to the gossip
of the court at Cairo. Iftikhar is in Syria. He keeps still, lest he
rouse Barkyarok; but I think report had it he was dealing with Redouan
of Aleppo."

"Aleppo?" repeated Richard. "I rode close to the city. But it is
impossible to gain news. War blocks all roads. These Syrians will lie,
though there be a dagger at their throats. Had we but captured
Hossein--"

"Forgive that my coming made him escape you," broke in the Spaniard.

"Forgive?" continued the Norman; "what have I to forgive touching you,
my brother? Perhaps even Hossein could have told nothing; but
vengeance is sweet."

"_Wallah_, and it shall not be small!" swore Musa.

So the company rode back to the camp of the Christians; and Richard's
men were astonished to meet their chief trotting side by side with an
unbeliever. But he reassured them, and brought the embassy with all
courtesy before Duke Godfrey, who entreated the Egyptians very
honorably. Richard, however, took Musa to his own tent, and the two
spent together an evening long and sweet. Richard told of the fighting
around Nicæa, of Dorylæum, the desert march, the unfruitful siege; and
Musa told a story of a campaign in Nubia against negro nomads, and
showed the gem-hilted cimeter that the Fatimite kalif had himself
bestowed when the Spaniard returned to Cairo victorious. "And I had
another reward offered me," continued Musa, smiling. "The kalif said
to me: 'Cid Musa, you are a gallant emir. As Allah lives you shall be
my son-in-law; you shall have the hand of Laila my daughter; whose
beauty is as a fountain bursting under palms.'"

"So you are wedded at last," cried the Norman, and he held up his
wine-cup. "To Laila, wife of the great Emir Musa, son of Abdallah!"
was his cry. But the Spaniard checked him with a laugh. "No, I put the
offer by, though it was not easy to refuse such a gift and yet save my
head."

"St. Maurice, you refused!"

"I did; a sly eunuch let me see the princess unveiled. To some men she
is beautiful: eyes that need no _kohl_ to deepen, feet too small for
silken slippers, her smile that of a lotus-bloom under the sun,--but
she was not for me."

"Foolish!" cried the Christian, "you sing love ditties ever, but bear
love for none."

"I am yet young. Wait,--in the book of doom what is written is
written. Leave me in peace!" was the laughing answer. But neither
Norman nor Spaniard laughed in heart when they lay down to sleep that
night. Richard knew that Musa had made a great vow; he could nigh
guess its tenor, though the Moslem kept his counsel well.

The Egyptian envoys came on a barren embassy; infidels were infidels
to the Franks, came they from Bagdad or Cairo. When the ambassadors
hinted that the Crusaders would be welcome at the Holy City if they
would only enter unarmed, the answer was fiery: "Tell the kalif that
we do not fear all the power of Asia or of Egypt. Christians alone
shall guard Jerusalem." So the envoys prepared to journey homeward.
The Franks were to send with them a counter-embassy, proposing peace
if Jerusalem were surrendered; but few expected any good to come of
the mission. Yet, despite the brave words, it was a gloomy council of
the chiefs that met in Duke Godfrey's tent the night after they had
rejected the Egyptian terms. Tancred was not there, nor Richard
Longsword. Godfrey's face was careworn as he sat at the head of the
table, on his left Raymond, on his right Bohemond.

"Dear brothers," he pleaded, after a long and bitter debate, "we do
not fight, I remind you, for gold or glory. Therefore do you, my Lord
Raymond, recall your bitter words against Bohemond--Christ is ill
served by His servants' wranglings." But Raymond answered haughtily:
"Fair Duke, I, too, love Our Lord. But now the Prince of Tarentum
comes demanding that whosoever shall take Antioch shall be lord of the
city. I sniff his meaning well. His intrigue with Phirous the Armenian
who wishes to betray the city is well known. Would God we had Antioch!
But I will not sit by and see one man gather all the fruits of our
toil when we have labored together as brothers, and poured out blood
and treasure; will not see the spoils all go to one who hopes to
prosper by base artifice or womanish stratagem."

Bohemond had bounded to his feet.

"Yes, Count of Toulouse, you do well to say Phirous the Armenian will
betray Antioch at my bidding, and at none other. Have I put nothing at
risk in this Crusade? Have I not played my part at Nicæa, Dorylæum,
the battles around the city? If you have a better device for reducing
Yaghi-Sian, make use, and win Antioch yourself! They tell that the
lord of Mosul, the great Kerbogha, is not many days' march away, with
two hundred thousand men, swept from all Mesopotamia and Persia. Will
his coming make our task easier? Time presses; to-morrow? Too late,
perhaps. Promise me that if I win Antioch I shall become its lord, and
Phirous is ready to yield three towers into our hands."

A deep growl was coming from the other chiefs.

"By Our Lady of Paris and St. Denis," swore Count Hugh of the French
blood-royal, angrily, "this Prince of Tarentum shall not beard us
thus. Let half the army watch Antioch, the rest go against Kerbogha.
God willing, we can crush both."

But good Bishop Adhemar interposed.

"To do so were to betray the cause of God. The host is weakened by war
and famine. One-half will never suffice to confront Kerbogha; only the
saints will give the whole the victory. We cannot raise the siege, nor
endure attack from Kerbogha in our camp. Let us not blame the Lord
Bohemond. With God's will every prince and baron shall win a fair
lordship in this Syria; there is room for all."

Silence lasted a moment; then in turn Robert the Norman cried, "By the
splendor of God, my Lord Bohemond, think well if this Phirous has not
deceived you!"

"He has not!" attested the southern Norman, hotly.

"Good!" retorted Robert, "he has taken your money and spoken you fair.
So? You cannot deny. Nevertheless, fair princes, I have a man here
with a tale to tell."

A dozen voices cried: "What man? What tale? Bring him in!"

Two squires of the Norman Duke led in an Arab, muscular, bright-eyed,
decently habited. Robert explained that this man had come to him,
professing to be a native Christian, well disposed to the Crusaders,
and to have just escaped from the city. Through the interpreter he
gave his name as Eybek, and answered all the questions flung at him
with marvellous readiness and consistency. "Yes, he had ready access
to the circle of Yaghi-Sian, and knew that the city was capable of
making a very long defence. The emir was looking for help in a very
few days. If the Christians did not raise the siege at once and march
away, it would need a miracle from St. George and St. Demetrius to
save them from the myriads of Kerbogha." Only once, when the fellow
raised his head--for he had a manner of holding it down--Bohemond
muttered to Godfrey:--

"Fair Duke, I know not when, yet once--I swear it by the thumb-bone of
St. Anthony in my hilt--I have seen his face before." But the Duke
replied:--

"How before, my lord? Not on the Crusade, surely. Perhaps among the
Arabs of Sicily."

Bohemond shook his head. "Not there." And the examination of Eybek
went on.

Then the Christian chiefs pressed him closer, and Hugh of Vermandois
demanded: "But what of Phirous? For the Prince of Tarentum tells us
this Armenian is high in the favor of Yaghi-Sian, that he is a
Christian at heart, having been a renegade, and anxious to return to
the only true faith."

"Noble lord," replied the Oriental, through the interpreter, "if the
Emir Bohemond believes the tales told him by Phirous, he is less wise
than I deemed him. Phirous is in the confidence of Yaghi-Sian day and
night."

"_Ha!_" interposed Duke Godfrey, dropping his jaw, and Bohemond's sly
face flushed with wrath and incredulity.

"Is it not as I said, fair lords?" cried Robert of Normandy, bringing
his fist down upon the long oaken table before him. "What has the
Prince of Tarentum been trying to lead toward, save shame and
disaster?"

"Insolent!" roared Bohemond, on his feet, with his sword half drawn;
"you shall answer to me for this, son of the Bastard!"

Then the Norman Duke's blade started also. But above his angry shout
rang the cry of Bishop Adhemar.

"In the name of Christ, sweet sons, keep peace! Sheathe your swords!
You, Prince of Tarentum, rejoice if we learn the deceit of Phirous in
time. You, Robert of Normandy, do not triumph; for Bohemond has only
sought to advance the victory of Our Lord!"

"Fair lords," commanded Godfrey, sternly, "let us save our swords for
the unbelievers, and be quiet while we hearken to this Arabian. In
truth he appears a pious and loyal man."

Then all kept silence while Eybek continued to explain that Phirous
had been all the time in the counsels of the emir, that there was a
plot to induce the Christian chiefs to adventure themselves inside the
walls by pretending to betray a tower. Once inside, an ambush was to
break out, and the flower of the Christians would be destroyed.

Bohemond raged, and stormed, and tried to browbeat the fellow into
contradictions. The Prince spoke Arabic and needed no interpreter; but
the other clung to his tale unshaken. Only men noticed that he hung
down his head, as if afraid to let the red glare of the cressets fall
fairly on his face, and that when there was a stir among the lesser
chieftains as a certain newcomer took his seat at the foot of the
table he averted his gaze yet more. Presently, baffled and willing to
own his hopes blasted, the Tarentine turned away.

"St. Michael blot out that Armenian! He has taken my gold and deceived
me. This Arab's story clings together too well not to be true." And
the Prince started to leave the tent with a sullen countenance, for he
had come to the council with swelling hopes.

"The finger of God is manifest in this," commented Godfrey, piously.
"Had not Duke Robert brought this man before us we would all, with
Bohemond, have stepped into the pit dug by our enemies."

"Verily," cried Adhemar, "this Eybek is a true friend of Christ; his
reward shall not fail him."

The Arab bowed low before the bishop and Bouillon, and muttered some
flowery compliments in his own tongue.

"Lead him away," commanded Duke Robert to his squires. "In the morning
we will question further." As they obeyed, one took a torch from its
socket on the tent-pole, and, holding it high, the ruddy light fell
full on the face of the Arabian. An instant only, but with that
instant came a cry, a shout.

"Hossein!" and Richard Longsword had bounded from his seat as if an
arrow dashed from a crossbow. One snatch and the torch was in his
hand, held close under the Arab's face. The luckless man writhed in a
clutch firm as steel. Richard held up the light so that every feature
of his victim lay revealed. "The man!" And at the exclamation, and
sight of the iron mood written on Longsword's face, Eybek's bronzed
face turned ashen pale.

There was silence in the council tent for one long minute. Then
Richard was speaking very calmly:--

"Fair lords, we are all deceived. This man is no Christian escaped
from Antioch. What he is, those who know the manner of the captivity
of Mary de St. Julien, my dear wife, can tell. On the day of the
coming of the Egyptian embassy he was in company with a band of
infidel horsemen that I dispersed. The tale he has told you touching
Phirous is doubtless a lie, to cast discredit on the Armenian, and
bring his scheme to naught, if Yaghi-Sian has not been warned by him
already." At Longsword's words a howl of wrath went round the council
table.

"Traitor! Dog of Hell!" Duke Robert was threatening; "he shall know
what it is to play false with the heir of William the Norman!"

"_Te Deum laudemus!_" Bishop Adhemar was muttering. "Verily we were
all deceived in him, as we believed ourselves deceived in Phirous; yet
God has brought the counsels of the crafty to naught; they have fallen
in the pit they had digged for others!"

And Duke Godfrey added: "The Prince of Tarentum will thank you for
this, De St. Julien. Let this accursed Arabian be led away and
fettered."

But Richard held his prey fast. "Fair lords, this is the boon I crave:
give me the life or death of this fellow. By Our Lady I swear he shall
not find either road an easy one."

Then twenty voices chorussed, "Yes! yes! away with him!" So Richard
led, or rather dragged out his victim. Eybek struggled once while they
traversed the long tent-avenues of the sleeping camp,--and only once;
for he found that in Longsword's hands he was weaker than a roe in the
paws of a lion. The Norman did not speak to the captive, or to any in
his train, until outside his own tents. The ever watchful Herbert,
standing sentry, hailed him.

"Does Musa sleep?" was all Richard said. And in a moment the Spaniard
had glided from the tent, and was crouching by the smouldering
camp-fire.

"Ever awake?" asked Longsword, wondering; and the reply was, "Allah
will not grant sleep when I think of--" But here the Andalusian's
ready tongue failed.

"Look!" Richard drew the captive down by the red coals, and whispered
his name. Then Herbert gave a great shout, which brought Sebastian,
Theroulde, De Carnac, and more from their tents, and they lit many
torches.

Now what befell Eybek that night we need not tell. For the ways of
Herbert and De Carnac were not those of soft ladies, who embroider
tapestry all day in a rose bower; and the Ismaelian was no sleek
serving-page, who cried out when the first thorn bush pricked him. But
before Richard Longsword lay down that night he had heard somewhat of
Iftikhar Eddauleh, and of another more important than Iftikhar, which
made his sleep the lighter. At dawn he was outside Godfrey's tent
awaiting speech with the good Duke. When Bouillon heard what he was
seeking, the Norman was instantly admitted; and Godfrey marvelled and
rejoiced at sight of the fire and gladness that shone in Longsword's
eyes.

"Well met, and ever welcome, fair Baron," was the Lorrainer's
greeting; "and will you ride to-day with your men toward Urdeh, and
southward to see if you may sweep in a few droves of beeves and a corn
convoy?"

"My Lord Duke," quoth Richard, curtly, "I cannot ride to Urdeh to-day
or to-morrow."

The Lorrainer gave him a shrewd glance.

"Fair son," said he, half affectionately, "you have been dreaming on
what that captive spy threw out. Do not deny."

"I do not deny, my lord. And now I come to ask you this: Will the
cause of Christ suffer great hurt if I ride on no more forays for the
week to come, or for the next, or, if God so will,"--he spoke
steadily,--"or never?"

The Duke's gaze was more penetrating than before.

"Beware, De St. Julien; you ride to death if you trust the word of
that Eybek, even under torture. We only know of him this--the Father
of Lies is no smoother perjurer."

Richard answered with a laugh:--

"Eybek has said to me thrice, 'Cid, as Allah lives, I swear I warn you
truly,--strike off my head or torture as you will,--know this: you
ride to death when you ride to Aleppo.'"

"To Aleppo?" demanded Godfrey.

"At Aleppo Iftikhar Eddauleh holds Mary Kurkuas prisoner, and I go to
Aleppo to seek my wife," was Longsword's half-defiant reply.

"Madman!" The Duke struck his heavy scabbard on the ground to double
his emphasis.

"'Mad' only as I set the love and joy of one of God's pure saints
before peril that no cavalier, who is true to his knightly vows, could
have right to shun."

"How will you go? Antioch resists. We can detach no large force. Your
own St. Julieners can do nothing."

"My lord," said Richard, steadily, "I shall go alone, save for one
comrade--my brother, Musa the Egyptian emir,--who will fail me when
God Himself loves evil. He is Moslem, but I would sooner have him at
my side than any Christian cavalier from Scotland to Sicily; for what
human craft and wit and strength can do, that can he."

The Duke, leaning heavily upon his sword, a smile half sad, half
merry, upon his face, slowly replied: "You are both very young; God
loves such--whatsoever their faith! You are right, De St. Julien--you
must go. I will ask Bishop Adhemar to pray for your safe return."

So Richard returned to his tents and made the last preparations, said
farewell to many, and last of all to Sebastian. The priest's heart, he
knew, was very full when Richard knelt for the words of blessing, and
at the end Sebastian gave him the kiss of peace.

"Go forth, dear son," was the word of Sebastian; "fight valiantly for
Christ; fear not death. But by the grace of God bring the lost lamb
home. And I--I will wrestle with God, beseeching that Michael and
Raphael and Gabriel, the warriors of heaven, may spread their broad
shields over you. And may He who plucked the three children from the
fire, and Daniel from the paw of the lion, and Peter from the dungeon
of Herod, deliver you also, and her whom you seek! Amen."

When Sebastian had finished, Richard mounted Rollo. He wore no armor
save the Valencia hauberk beneath his mantle; but Trenchefer was
girded to his side. Musa was beside him on a deer-limbed Arabian. They
crossed the Orontes on the bridge of boats behind the camp of Duke
Godfrey. The tents and bright river orchards were fading from sight;
on before lay the sunlit rolling Syrian country. Suddenly the thunder
of a charger at speed came up behind them. Richard turned inquiringly.
A moment later the strange rider had dashed abreast--had drawn rein;
and Longsword rubbed his two eyes, doubting his vision--beside him was
Godfrey, Duke of Lorraine.

"My lord--" the Norman had begun. The Duke, he saw, was in no armor,
and bore only his sword. Godfrey galloped along beside Rollo.

"Fair son," said he, smiling, "has the noble lady, Mary the Greek,
less chance of succor if three cavaliers ride to her aid than if only
two?"

"Impossible!" cried Longsword, distrusting now his ears; "it is you
that are mad, my Lord Duke. Your position, your duties, the army!
Doubtless we ride to death, as you well said."

Godfrey's laugh was merry as that of a boy.

"Then by Our Lady of Antwerp three swords will keep heaven farther
away than two! Know, De St. Julien, that to my mind nothing stirs in
the camp for the next two weeks. I grow sluggish as a cow, listening
to Raymond's and Bohemond's wranglings. Renard will spread in the camp
that I have led a foray southward, and let men miss me if they will.
Enough to know my arm and wits can do more for once at Aleppo than at
Antioch."

"Yet this is utter rashness," urged Richard, in last protest; "to ease
my own conscience, turn back--for my sake do it!"

"For your sake," was the smiling answer, "I will keep my Marchegai
neck to neck with Rollo. I am not so old a knight that I have
forgotten the sniff of an adventure. When I put on the chieftain, I
could not put off the cavalier."

Richard did not reply. To shake off Godfrey was impossible. Presently
the Norman in his own turn laughed.

"On, then, to Aleppo! To Aleppo, be it for life or death!" cried Musa;
and Richard added: "Tremble, Iftikhar,--the three best swords in the
wide earth seek you!" Then each gave his horse the head.



CHAPTER XXXIV

HOW MUSA PRACTISED MAGIC


In the city of Aleppo, close by the great Mosque Jami' el-Umawi, there
stood a warehouse that was more than commonly busy on a certain spring
morning. This warehouse was of two stories, built of coarse brown
rubble, and only entered from the narrow, dirty street by a plainly
arched passageway. Once within, however, the newcomer beheld a large
court, surrounded on the lower floor by little shops; and on the upper
floor, the whole length of the four sides of the court, ran a wooden
gallery, behind which were storerooms and lodgings for the wayfaring
merchants, who made this spot a sort of hostelry and rendezvous. The
shops below were humming with busy traffic. Here on one side lay the
_sook_ of the jewellers, and on the opposite were arrayed the tiny
stalls of the dealers in copper wares. The court was crammed with
braying donkeys, bright-robed Syrians, and the ubiquitous _sakkas_,
the water-bearers, who for a trifle poured a draught from the
camel-skin sacks on their backs, to any who wished. The _sakkas_ were
jostled by the sellers of orange-flower water; these in turn by the
tall, black eunuchs who were clearing the way for a closely veiled
lady intent on visiting the jewellers; while through the midst of men
and beasts swept a stately, venerable sheik from the college at the
mosque, who rained down a curse, devoting to _Hawiyat_, the seventh
and nethermost hell, the luckless donkey-boy that had brushed a dirty
hand upon the doctor's red silk scarf over his shoulders.

The worthy jeweller Asad, whose shop was on the right side of the
court, had long since spread out his array of gemmed rings, silver
cups, tiring pins, and Indian necklaces, and sat back in his little
niche nodding sleepily, now and then opening one eye to see if the
lady who followed the eunuchs was coming to visit him. But the wares
of his rival Ibrah[=i]m kept her busy, and Asad contentedly closed his
eye, and nodded once more, saying: "Leave to Ibrah[=i]m her trade.
To-day his, to-morrow mine. So Allah will prosper us both!" And,
despite the fact that one of the serving-lads who followed the sheik
was casting a covetous glance upon the handy treasures, the good Asad
nearly fell asleep on the mat-covered seat. Presently a question
roused him.

"Worthy sheik, can you tell me if you possess any Andalusian corals?
If so, be so gracious as to show them. Not that I would buy--" But
here Asad, with a keen scent for business, had opened both eyes, and
was looking at his inquirer. A well-formed, handsomely featured Arab
was standing before him; the lines of the face young, but the hair and
beard not a little white. The stranger was dressed decently enough,
but the long, loose _aba_ over the jacket was worn and soiled with
dust, as were also the white leather shoes. "A Moslem gentleman of
good breeding, but perhaps decayed family," was the estimate of the
jeweller. And he answered slowly:--

"Be welcome in peace! Sit with me upon the rug! Here, boy, run to the
confectioner's and bring us cups of sherbet." So the stranger put off
his shoes and crossed his feet on the carpet, facing Asad. The shop
was so small that a second visitor would barely have found room. Asad
opened a little chest, and brought forth a tray of coral necklaces,
which he submitted to his visitor.

"_Bismillah!_" cried the other, "I feel the water hang on my eyelids
when I see this red coral! My heart goes back to my own country I have
not seen for many a year."

"Verily," exclaimed the jeweller; "and have you come from Spain? Your
speech shows you no Syrian."

"It is true; from Spain. Five years since I left my dear home in
Malaga for Mecca, to visit the city of the Apostle--on whom be peace!
Allah confound the robbers that stripped me as I returned across the
desert! I had taken upon myself a vow not to return until I had
gained sevenfold the thousand dirhems with which I set forth. Being
nigh penniless, I have wandered far and near,--Medina, Bagdad,
Ispahan, Bussorah, Damascus, Cairo,--all I have visited, and little by
little Allah blesses me with gain. Now I am in Aleppo seeking to sell
some woollen cloaks of Shir[=a]z; but my longing for my own country is
so great, I said to myself, 'Let me but spend a trifle on some corals
of Andalusia, to remind me of my dear Malaga!'"

"The Most High favor you!" responded the good jeweller, who knew that
kind wishes cost nothing. "See,--this necklace--it is worth twenty
dirhems--yet receive it as a gift,--it is yours for ten." The
Spaniard's only response was a grunt. Then, after long silence: "Have
I the treasures of Solomon the Wise? I care little for the coral,--a
poor necklace; it were dear at three!" It was Asad that grunted now,
but he only answered: "Have I not three wives and seven children? Will
you impose on my generosity?" And then both men, knowing perfectly
well they were on the highroad to a fair bargain, took the cups which
the boy had brought, and began to converse on quite alien matters. "A
noble city is this Aleppo," began the Spaniard; "only Cordova and
Malaga, saving always Bagdad, are finer!" "_Ya!_" cried Asad, "you
over-praise your Spain. Yet Aleppo is a noble city. Would to Allah we
had as noble a prince to rule over it!"

"So!" exclaimed the other; "then Redouan is not loved?"

Asad spat far out into the court to prove his disgust.

"On the last day Sultan Redouan's good deeds will weigh less than an
ant's. Hear--three years since he slew his brothers, Bahram and
Abouthaleb, as caution against conspiracy. His tyranny drives another
brother, Dekak of Damascus, into revolt. He makes Yaghi-Sian of
Antioch his enemy. Aboun Nedj'n, his vizier, is all cruelty and
beheadings. Last of all, we are delivered over to the clutch of
Iftikhar, the Ismaelian, whose evil deeds Allah requite!"

"Iftikhar? I have heard the name."

"Cursed be the day of his birth! The sultan cringes to him as to the
very kalif! He has become possessed of El Halebah, the wonderful
palace outside the city."

"And he is there now?"

"Yes; though soon he departs. In a few days he will lead off his band
of Ismaelians to join the host which Kerbogha of Mosul is leading
against the Christians at Antioch. Eblees pluck them also! There is a
rumor that if the two overcome the Christians, they turn their arms
against the kalif and the arch-sultan next. But woe for us! taxes grow
each day. The gatherers are insatiate. Redouan grinds us at Iftikhar's
bidding."

"_Wallah_, I am interested; tell more of this Iftikhar."

"Alas, brother, I know little to tell. These Ismaelians keep too
close. They talk only with their daggers." Asad lifted the necklace;
the Spaniard eyed it carelessly: "Four dihrems?" suggested he. "I
wrong my household; yet say six," was the answer. The other shook his
head. Asad dropped the necklace; then cried, "_Ya!_ Khalid, come
hither and tell this worthy sheik of Iftikhar Eddauleh!" And at the
shout a tall, gaunt Arab in a muezzin's flowing robe and ample green
turban came groping through the crowd, dexterously threading his way,
though entirely blind. Then there were greetings, and Khalid squeezed
himself betwixt the others and was seated.

"Blind?" answered he, in reply to a question. "Yes, blind by the
blessing of Allah. Once I had sight and starved as a beggar. Then one
day I stole, and the High Kadi put out my eyes. Next, the old muezzin
at the great mosque died. They desired a blind man to succeed him, for
the minaret is so high those with eyes can peer into the vizier's
harem court and squint at his women. So I was chosen, and never since
have lacked good bread and a warm sleeping-mat,--thanks to the
Compassionate!"

"But I desired to hear of Iftikhar, the Ismaelian," said the Spaniard,
smiling.

"Verily," ran on the blind man, "I can tell you a tale concerning him,
for there is no gossip in all Aleppo that does not blow into my ears.
They say he has a captive of marvellous beauty--a Christian." "A
Frank?" was the question. "No, a Greek; more fair than the maids of
Paradise, who are tall as palm trees. He has her in the palace El
Halebah, and seeks to win her love, so the eunuchs tell."

"_Mashallah_, I am astonished. Why should he ask her love if once he
possessed her?"

The blind man blinked slyly.

"A strange tale; I had it all from Wasik, who was one of the eunuchs
that guarded her. It seems the Ismaelian has once been among the
Christians (Allah broil all in Gehenna!); there he saw and loved her,
but she would have none of him. Then war threw her into his hands, and
he moved earth and heaven to make her favor him. Gifts, dresses,
fêtes, serving-maids fair as the moon--he gave all, with El Halebah to
be her dwelling; and she repaid only pouts and high words. At last he
learns that she still sets great store on her husband, a Frankish emir
with their host at Antioch."

"Her husband?" asked the Spaniard, carelessly.

"You have heard his name--Richard of the Great Cimeter--a terrible
emir who slays his captives ruthlessly."

"I have heard of him; go on."

"_Ya!_ Iftikhar prepares his band to go to Antioch, and swears he will
take this houri with him, that she may see the fate of her dear Franks
with her own eyes. He vows likewise he will give her Emir Richard's
head to fondle, since she loves it so."

"Verily he is a bloody man," commented the Spaniard.

"It is so; yet his captive will find she had best put the clouds from
her face and try to please him. He is a man of will harder than
Damascus steel."

The Spaniard took up the coral necklace and eyed it critically.

"Five dirhems?" suggested he. "Take it for five, yet count it as a
gift. Alas, my profit!" sighed Asad.

The other drew the coins from a lank pouch, waited while Asad bit
each to prove it, placed the coral under the folds of his turban, then
whispered to the muezzin, "Friend, follow me,"--the same time slipping
a coin into his closing palm. Asad's eyes shut in a contented cat-nap
when adieus were over; profit enough gained for one day. Khalid
followed the stranger into the bustling street.

"Good father," said the stranger, affably, "do you know, this tale of
the Emir Iftikhar is most interesting. Why? Because it is most
marvellous any prince should go to such lengths to court favor with a
mere captive, be she brighter than the sun. But you surely repeat
gossip on the streets, you do not know the eunuchs, or have access
yourself to El Halebah?"

Khalid chuckled, "I swear by Mohammed's beard there is not a courtyard
about Aleppo I may not find and enter, blind though I am. The gate of
El Halebah is as open to me as to a glutton the way to his mouth, and
I chatter all day with the eunuchs." His questioner began to rattle
his money-bag.

"Friend," said the Spaniard, "you appear an honest man. Now swear
thrice by Allah the Great that you will not betray me, and to-night
you shall count over fifty dirhems."

"Allah forbid!" cried the muezzin, raising his hands in holy horror.
"I cannot know what wickedness you desire to make me share."

"And I swear to you I have no attempt against any man's goods, or
wife, or life, or honor; and you shall count seventy dirhems?"

"I cannot; how can I go before the Most High on the last day with some
great sin on my soul!"

"_Ya!_ Eighty, then?" A long pause; then Khalid answered very slowly,
and his seared eyeballs twinkled:--

"Impossible!--yet--a--hundred--"

"They are yours!" was the prompt reply.

"Oh, fearful wickedness! how can I satisfy the Omnipotent? Yet"--and
the blind eyes rose sanctimoniously toward heaven--"the divine
compassion is very great. Says not Al Koran, 'Allah is most ready to
forgive, and merciful'?"

"You will swear, then?" demanded the other, promptly.

"Yes," and Khalid folded his hands piously while he muttered the
formula; then added, "Now give me the money."

"Softly, brother," was the reply. "Remember well the other words of
the Apostle, 'violate not your oaths, since you have made Allah a
witness over you,' The money in due time; now lead me and do as I
shall bid, or in turn I swear you shall not finger one bit of copper."

       *       *       *       *       *

Now it befell that on the afternoon of the day when Khalid the blind
muezzin sold his conscience for a hundred dirhems, Hakem and his
fellow-eunuch Wasik sat by the outer gate of the great court of El
Halebah with a _mankalah_ board between them, busy at the battle they
were waging with the seventy-two shell counters. As they played, their
talk was all of the languishing state of the Star of the Greeks, and
how since her attempted flight to Antioch all the temper seemed to
have burned out of her mettle.

"I protest, dear brother," quoth the worthy Wasik, studying the
game-board, "doves of her feather cannot perch all day on a divan,
saying and doing nothing, and not droop and moult in a way very
grievous to Cid Iftikhar."

"The Cid's commands are very strait--refuse her nothing in reason,
only make plain to her that he is the master. _Wallah_, I little like
this manner of bird! To my mind there hatches trouble when a woman
refuses so much as to rage at you. This very day I said in my heart,
'Go to, now, Hakem; pick a quarrel with the Star of the Greeks; she
will be happier after giving a few pecks and claws.' I call the Most
High to witness--she submitted to all my demands meekly, as though she
were no eaglet, but a tethered lamb! An evil omen, I say. Allah forbid
she should die! Iftikhar would make us pay with our heads!"

And Wasik shrugged his shoulders to show agreement with Hakem's last
desire. Before he replied there was a loud knocking at the gate; the
lazy porter stopped snoring, and began to shout to some one without.

"For the sake of Allah! O ye charitable!" was the cry from outside,
evidently of a beggar demanding alms.

"Allah be your help! Go your way!" the porter was replying, and
adding: "Off, O Khalid, blind son of a stone-blind hound! Must I again
lay the staff across you!"

But a second voice answered him:--

"Not so, O compassionate fellow-believer; will you drive away a
stranger whom the excellent Khalid has led here, craving bounty? Allah
will requite tenfold any mercy. See, I am but just come from Mecca.
Behold a flask of water from the holy well Zemzem, sovereign remedy
for the toothache. I ask nothing. Let me but sit awhile in the cool of
the porch. I am parched with the heat of the way."

Hakem had reputation for being a pious personage.

"Let the worthy pilgrim come in!" he commanded, the porter obeying.
Wasik had his doubts.

"This is Saturday, the most unlucky day; beware!" he muttered.

But Hakem would have none of him. Behind Khalid there entered a
tottering fellow, bent with age, gray and unkempt; a patch over one
eye, his blue kaftan sadly tattered, his turban a faded yellow shawl.
He swung a huge hempen sack over one shoulder and trailed a heavy
staff.

"Allah requite you and your house!" was his salutation, as he dropped
heavily upon the divan under the shaded arcade.

"And you also," replied Hakem, ever generous at his master's expense.
"Be refreshed. Eat this cool melon and be strengthened."

The pilgrim put aside the plate. "Give to Khalid. Alas! I can eat
nothing that was not eaten by the Prophet (Allah favor and preserve
him!); such is the rule of my order of devotees. And who may say the
Apostle did or did not eat the rind of a melon!" The eunuchs laid
their heads together.

"A very holy man!" "A most worthy sheik; a true saint; a _welee_!"
their whispered opinions. So they kissed the old man's hand; called
him "father"; brought sherbet, dates, and bread. After the stranger
had eaten and edified them all by his pious conversation, presently
his one eye began to twinkle very brightly, and he started to unpack
his sack. Suddenly he drew forth a long iron spike, and plunged it
down his throat to the very butt; then drew it out, laughing dryly at
the wide eyes of the eunuchs. "Verily," cried he, "I am versed in
'high' magic--the noble art handed by the obedient angels and genii to
devout Moslems. I know the 'great name' of Allah, uttering which bears
me instantly to the farthest corner of the world; see!" A puff of
smoke blew from his mouth; a flash of fire followed. Hakem was all
eyes when the sheik rose, drew from his sack a number of brazen pots,
placed them on the pavement, blew a spark seemingly from his mouth,
and the bowls gave forth a blue aromatic smoke. The eunuchs began to
quake under their ebony skins. The sheik turned toward them.

"My sons--I show great marvels; many should see. Your master--away?
But are there no 'flowers of beauty' in the harem who would admire the
one-eyed Sheik Teydemeh, the greatest 'white' magician in all the land
of Egypt?"

Hakem put his mouth to Wasik's ear. "Bring out Morgiana and the Greek.
Let them be thickly veiled."

Wasik hesitated. "We are bidden to keep the Greek closely in the
harem," he remarked.

"We are bidden to see that she does not pine away with naught but
grief to think of. Bring both forth."

Before the magician had finished unburdening his mysterious sack,
Wasik led in a lady all buried in silks and muslins. Hardly were her
dark eyes visible under the veils. "I bring the Greek," whispered
Wasik to Hakem; "she obeyed me like a dumb ox, but Morgiana is in her
moods and will go nowhere."

The lady sat upon the soft divan listlessly, hardly so much as
rustling her dress. The sheik rose, mumbled words doubtless of
incantation, and commenced reeling cotton ribbons from his lips till
they littered the floor. Then he drew from his teeth a score of tin
disks big as silver coins, again poured water into a borrowed cup, and
gave it to Hakem to drink--behold, the water was become sugar sherbet!
Then the magician blew on a tiny reed flute a strain so sweet, so
delicious, Hakem verily thought he heard the maids of Paradise; and as
he sang the sheik began to juggle with balls, first with one hand,
tossing three balls; then laying aside the flute he kept six flying,
all the time dancing and singing in a low quaver in some tongue that
the eunuch did not understand, but thought he had once heard spoken
among the Franks of Sicily. Presently the sheik threw up two more
balls, making eight speed in the place of six; and he danced faster,
spinning round and round amid the smoking bowls, until he came to a
stand right before the veiled lady, who was no longer listless now,
but sat erect, eager, her bright eyes flashing from beneath her veil,
though Hakem did not see--all his gaze was on those flying balls. The
sheik halted before her, spinning upon one foot, yet keeping his
place. Suddenly he broke off his chant in the unknown tongue and sang
in Arabic with clear, deep voice:--

    "Sweet as the wind when it kisses the rose
      Is thy breath;
    Blest, if thine eyes had but once on me smiled,
      Would be death.
    Give me the throat of the bulbul to sing
      Forth thy praise,
    Then wouldst thou drink the clear notes as they spring
      All thy days;
    Nard of far Oman's too mean for thy sweetness,
      Eagle-wings lag at thy glancing eyes' fleetness;
    By thy pure beauty, bright gems lack completeness,
      Lady, ah! fairest!"

And Hakem did not see the rustling nor hear the little sigh under the
muslin and silk, for the sheik had sped round in his dance once more;
again chanting in that foreign tongue some incantation, doubtless to
unseen powers to aid him in his art. Then the wonder-worker halted,
wiped the foam from his lips, and began new tricks; blowing a little
earthen bowl from his mouth,--drawing a live rabbit from one of the
smoking bowls,--and performing many marvels more, till the eunuchs
showered on him all the small change they had about them, and gave him
a great basket of dates and figs to carry to the khan where he said he
lodged.

That night as Hakem, with clear conscience, went to bed, he observed
to Wasik: "Truly, the visit of the one-eyed juggler was better than
fifty elixirs for bringing back bloom to the Star of the Greeks!
Surely, if one such mountebank can cheer her thus, she shall be fed on
white magic each day. Cid Iftikhar will summon hither every skilful
conjurer from Damascus to Bagdad."

And Wasik answered: "By the Prophet, it is true. We are to tame _Citt_
Mary, but not to break her spirit. Give her mind its food as well as
her body. She is not like our Arab maids, whose Paradise a new
necklace can girdle!"

So these good servants took counsel.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night also Richard and Godfrey took their counsel with Musa the
Spaniard. Safe hidden in the gloom of a stall that joined the great
court of the khan, which stood on the Alexandretta road without the
western gate of Aleppo, they had no fear of eavesdroppers. An irksome
day it had been for the two Franks. Long since, the sun had burned
them bronze as many a Moor, and what with their black dyed hair and
their coarse Oriental dress, none had questioned when Musa, who passed
himself as a travelling Berber merchant, declared them his
body-servants. But Godfrey had little Arabic. Richard's accent would
soon betray. Common prudence forced them to sulk all day in the stall
of the khan, while Musa went forth to make his discoveries. Now that
he was back, their tongues flew fast.

"And have you seen her?" That was Richard's first question.

"_Bismillah_, I have; or at least two eyes bright as suns, peering
from under a great cloud of veils! Recall how I made you think at
Cefalu I was possessed by 'sheytans,' because of my art-magic!"
answered Musa, laughing in his noiseless fashion. "_Ya!_ When did old
Jam[=i]l at Cordova dream, while he taught an idle student his art,
that by it I would earn six dirhems and a mess of figs? I met a
mountebank conjurer, bought of him his gear--wretchedly poor tricks
they were,--and then found a worthy blind muezzin, in a way I will
tell, to get me entrance into the very court of El Halebah. Enough;
the good eunuch Hakem thought me a true _welee_, and brought out one
of his cagelings to see my magic. I was bound to make sure she was
truly _Citt_ Mary who was pent up in the palace before you and I
thrust our necks into peril; also I knew the chance of failure was
less if she were warned. So I sang an incantation--in your Provençal,
and clapped on to that a verse I composed before her at Palermo. When
I saw her muslins and silks all a-flutter, I sang my French again, and
it was more of being ready for a visit in the night than of the
efreets and jinns that aid a true magician. Therefore I say this: All
is ready. To-night the Star of the Greeks says farewell to Iftikhar
or--"

But Musa repeated no alternative.

"And the way of escape?" asked Godfrey. "By St. Nicholas of Ghent,
this is no bachelor's adventure!"

Musa laughed again.

"Verily, as says Al Koran, 'No soul knoweth what it shall suffer on
the morrow, but Allah knoweth;' nevertheless, so far as human wit may
run, much is prepared. Understand, Cid Godfrey, that Iftikhar has sent
away from El Halebah the greater part of his Ismaelian devotees to
join the force of Kerbogha. About the palace lie two hundred at most;
a few stand sentry upon the road from Aleppo, a few more lie in the
palace; but nearly all have their barrack in the wood beside the
Kuweik, some distance northward."

"St. George!" swore the Duke, "how discover all this? Can you see
through walls as through Greek glass?"

Musa laughed again: "Allah grants to every man separate gifts! To me
to grasp many things with few words and few eyewinks. I am not
mistaken."

"It is true, did you but know him, my lord; it is true," added
Richard.

Musa continued: "Round dirhems smooth many paths, even amongst the
Ismaelians. With the aid of the reprobate muezzin I discovered that
_Citt_ Mary is held in the westerly wing of the palace, and guarded by
Hakem and a few other eunuchs. I ate salt with the chief of the watch
on the Aleppo road--a generous man who will take a hint swiftly! He
understands I have desire to bear away an Armenian maid belonging to
Beybars, the chief steward. When I come up the way in company with two
comrades, he and his men are blind. We go up to the palace; we go
away; no questions. Beside the highroad to Antioch will be tethered
our horses. I have bought in the Aleppo market a desert steed swift as
the darts of the sun. We enter the palace with the armed hand--shame
indeed if our three blades are no match for the sleepy eunuchs! Once
possess her, rush for the horses--then, speed,--speed for Antioch,
trusting Allah and our steeds. For as the Most High lives, there will
be hot pursuit!"

"There is no better way," commented Richard, drawing up a notch in his
sword-belt.

"St. Michael and St. George!"--swore Godfrey again--"a noble
adventure! Joy that I came from Antioch!"

"Joy or sorrow we shall know full soon," was Musa's sober reply. "We
shall read a marvellous page in the book of doom this night; doubt it
not!"

"And we set forth--?" continued Richard.

"At once,--the night grows dark for the eye of an owl," answered the
Spaniard. "Darkness is kind; we must not waste it."

"Lead, then," commanded Godfrey. "The horses are ready; there is food
in the saddle-bags."

"Follow,--and Allah be our guide!" and the Andalusian took his own
steed by the bridle.

There was darkness and silence in the court of the great khan. The
arrow-swift horses of a Persian trader slept in one stall; a tall
dromedary shook his tether in another. Richard brushed upon a shaggy
donkey; trod upon a mongrel dog, that started with a sullen howl. From
one remote stall came a ray of torch-light, and the chatter of
merchants discussing the profits of the last Oman caravan. A single
watchman stared at them when they led their beasts through the wide
gate. The three were under the stars. Musa took the bridle of the
horse just bought, and the others followed him. Richard trod on as in
a dream; twice he passed his hand before his eyes as if to brush away
the blackness that was unbroken save for the star mist.

"To-night! To-night!" he was repeating.

"What, to-night?" asked Godfrey.

"To-night I may touch the hair of Mary Kurkuas. Is not that chance
worth the hazard of death? But you?"

"I serve Christ best to-night when I serve one so loved by Him as the
Lady of St. Julien. Let us hasten."

They said little more. The night was dark indeed, but Musa seemed
bat-eyed. He led across the Kuweik, through the orchards--dim and
still, until at a tamarisk bush he halted. There they left the horses.
Richard made sure that the lady's saddle on the fourth horse was
strapped fast. Musa spoke not a word, but led away swiftly. They were
entering the wood. Richard was treading at an eager pace, with a
swelling heart, when suddenly he heard a sound behind him,--looked
back,--and behold, on all sides, as if called from earth by
enchantment, were the dim figures of men! And he could see, even in
the darkness, that the dress of each was white.



CHAPTER XXXV

HOW RICHARD HEARD A SONG


Now what befell came so swiftly that in after days Richard could never
tell it all. Sure it is, that had Trenchefer and Godfrey's sword and
Musa's cimeter left sheath, there had been another tale. For in the
twinkling that Richard cast a backward glance, a noose whistled
through the air and closed about the Norman's shoulders, locking his
arms helpless. And with the whistling rope came a rush of feet and
many hands seizing him. One struggle--he could scarce gather wits to
resist; he was helpless as a birdling before the snake. At the same
instant came the crash and gasp of two desperate conflicts
more--Godfrey and Musa likewise seized. As Richard grasped it, the
Spaniard succumbed as readily as he. But the great Duke was not
lightly taken. Draw he could not, but his mighty hand tore clear of
the rope and dashed more than one assailant down before, with ten upon
him, he was mastered. All was done in less time than the telling.
Almost before Longsword's soul cried "danger," a torch was flashing in
his eyes, and a dozen dark Syrian faces pressing close. The torch was
held high, and flashed before him twice. Blinded by the glare, he saw
nothing beyond the ring of faces. From the dark shadow came a voice--a
voice he had heard before: "_Bismillah!_ The Frank, Richard Longsword,
at last!"

The Norman did not cry out. Native sense told him that help there was
none, and all the teaching of the stern school wherein he was bred had
taught him to bear in silence. All stood while Richard saw the torch
carried to the other knots of white-robed men. Then again the voice:
"This is the Spaniard, Cid Musa, the son of Abdallah." And now a great
shout of triumph: "Praised be Allah, destroyer of His enemies! We take
the Emir Godfrey, chief of the Frankish unbelievers!"

Longsword had no need to be told that this was Zeyneb's voice. He was
about to break forth with defiance and curses upon the dwarf, when in
the torchlight he saw a form taller than the others, the plumes of a
haughty helmet, the flash of gilded steel. The captors gave way to
right and left as the chieftain--so he clearly was--advanced until
face to face with Richard.

"Do you know me? I am the one-time commander of Count Roger's guard,
the Egyptian Iftikhar Eddauleh."

The grand prior had spoken naturally, without bravado.

And Richard answered in like vein:--

"I claimed the honor of your friendship once, my Lord Iftikhar. Fate
has kept us long asunder."

Iftikhar's plumes nodded.

"And brings us together at last. Doom leads to El Halebah you and the
valorous Cid Musa and this noble emir, who is strange to me. The night
advances; let us go."

Before his captive could reply, the Egyptian had faded in the dark. An
Ismaelian laid his hand on Richard's sword-belt to disarm him.
Trenchefer clanked. Iftikhar spoke out of the gloom:--

"Leave the sword, Harun. A Frank cavalier loves better to part with
life than with weapon. _Wallah!_ Let them keep their blades and feel
them at their sides; but knot fast,--their strength is as seven
lions!"

They passed a second cord around Richard's arms, drawing back and
pinioning them tight above the elbows. A heavy hand on either shoulder
urged him forward. The Norman steeled his muscles, made one effort as
never before to snap the bands. Useless; even his giant strength
failed. Unresisting he was led blindly on through the gloom, the
captors treading rapidly. They were soon in a grove of trees, where
the matted leafage cut off the least ray of light. The torch, which
only flared when shaken, sank to a glow dim as a firefly. Underfoot
Richard could feel dry twigs crack, and he smelt the fresh earthy odor
of fern brakes and bird-loved thickets. The only sounds were the
footfalls and the chirp, chirp of the crickets. Then a faint gloaming
shone where the trees arched and opened: they were again beneath a
clear sky. The Norman saw the silver band of a stream creeping to the
Kuweik--barely flashing under the starlight, for moon there was none.
His guards led forward; under their tread a floating bridge rang
hollow, and the water gurgled up around the casks.

For one moment Richard pondered whether he could leap into the water,
and drift down-stream with his arms pinioned. Folly--had he not his
mail-shirt, and Trenchefer still at his side? A stone would float
lighter! They had passed the bridge; again were in the woods. Some
uncanny night bird was flapping from bough to bough; he could hear the
whir of heavy wings, hoarse cries, blending with the song of the
crickets. Did not ravens croak when men drew nigh their dooms? Was it
river mist only that was hanging in cold beads upon his brow? Still
the white-robed company led onward. Not a word spoken--when might this
journey end? Richard listened to the beating of his own
heart--merciful saints, why so loudly? Behind he knew were led Godfrey
and Musa; they two walking to death, and for his cause! The Mother of
Mercies knew it had been by none of his willing. Out of the dark was
creeping that vision dreaded so often,--repelled so often,--which he
had vainly hoped had faded away forever. Gilbert de Valmont slain
beside the altar! Richard looked up at the stars shimmering between
the leaves. "Ere these stars fade in sunlight"--spoke a voice (from
within or without, what matter?)--"you, Richard de St. Julien, will be
accounting to God for the soul of that guiltless boy." And though
Longsword thought of the Pope's pledge of absolution, of all the
infidels he had himself slain in the name of Christ, of all his
sufferings in the chastisement at Dorylæum,--all merit seemed turned
to sin, and the word of Urban weak to unlock the mercy of God in His
just anger. "_Mea culpa! mea culpa! mea maxima culpa!_" Other prayers
came not, nor did his heart find room for curses against Iftikhar or
grief for Mary. He thought of her; but truth to tell he was too numbed
to dwell on her agony, on the certitude of her lifelong captivity. And
still the white-robed company led him onward, onward.

The grounds were opening before him. The wood broke away to right and
left. Richard saw the vague tracery of a wide-stretching
palace,--colonnades, domes, pinnacles, all one dim maze in the
starlight. For the first time he spoke to his guards.

"This is El Halebah? Tell me--why are our heads not struck off at
once?"

"The grand prior wills otherwise," replied Harun, at his side.

"Are we to be put to death speedily, or long reserved?"

The Ismaelian became confidential.

"Cid, you talk as becomes a brave man. I should like to see you with
your great sword in battle. Who am I, to know the desire of Iftikhar?
Yet I think this: if Christians may enter Paradise, ere midnight you
will be sitting at banquet with the maids of pure musk."

"Then why this delay--this endless journey?"

Harun shook his head.

"I am only the grand prior's hands and feet. You will see."

Richard had faced death in battle twenty times and more, and never yet
had felt a tremor. But riding to battle was not walking to meet the
doom handed down by Iftikhar Eddauleh. The Norman feared not death,
but life. Life through the ages of ages! Life shaped for eternal woe,
eternal weal, by the deeds of a few earthly moments. Hell earned by
that instant at Valmont! Heaven grasped for in the transfiguration at
Clermont! And the issue mystery! mystery fathomless! Kept with God,
the All-merciful; but behind all, ordering all, His awful
righteousness! Richard knew as well as he knew anything that never in
earthly body would he see that mist of stars again; he looked up into
the violet-black dome, and trembled, for he knew he was drawing near
the Almighty's throne.

They trod up the smooth gravel leading to the palace. The great valves
of the portals opened noiselessly at some unseen bidding, then closed
behind. A single flickering lamp went before, as they glided through
long corridors, or under airy domes, where the wan light struggled up
to colored vaulting,--gleamed, vanished. The feet touched soft rugs,
and clicked on marbles. More doors opened. The Norman was led down
stairways, along stone galleries, where the air was foul and chill.
Presently there were more lamps ahead, the ceiling was higher. Richard
sniffed sweet fresh air. They were in a room of no great size; floor,
walls, vaulting, of gray stone; a stone bench running along the walls;
one or two niches, where perhaps in daytime a few rays struggled in.
Bronze lamps swung from chains, casting a wavering, ghostly light, as
they puffed in the wind that crept through the scanty windows.

Others had preceded the captives into this chamber. Two figures
advanced to greet them, as the three were halted,--the lofty Iftikhar,
the dwarf Zeyneb. It was the latter that first spoke. To Musa he paid
an obsequious salaam.

"The peace of Allah be yours, most noble Cid Musa," his greeting.

"And with you, the strife of Eblees!" replied the Andalusian, whose
tongue at least was not pinioned.

"O valorous cavaliers!" protested Zeyneb, raising his hands. "What
misfortune! Bow to the Omnipotent's will; what is doomed is doomed! It
was doomed that I should behold you, son of Abdallah, creeping about
Aleppo and El Halebah. Clever disguises,--not my Lord Iftikhar himself
could have penetrated so admirable a conjurer. How adorably was Hakem
toyed with! Wallah, I could scarce have bettered it myself!"

Musa repaid with one of his softest smiles.

"Were my wealth that of Ormuz, how could I repay your praise, O Kalif
of the black-hearted jinns! I equal in guile Zeyneb, the
crooked-backed toad of the gallant Iftikhar? Forbid it, Allah!"

Zeyneb laughed, not very easily. He wished Musa's tongue were as fast
as his arms. The dwarf salaamed again.

"No more; I leave you to my Lord Iftikhar. Enough, you know it was
I--I, Zeyneb the dwarf, the hunchback--who discovered the wiles of
Musa the great cavalier; who led him and his two valiant Frankish
comrades into my master's power. And remember, Cid Richard, the word
on the wall at La Haye: 'Three times is not four. There is a dagger
that may pierce armor of Andalus.'" A third salaam, then, "The mercy
of Allah be with you; my lord will tell how many moments are left in
which to rain curses on your poor slave Zeyneb."

Musa shrugged his shoulders, a gesture more eloquent than any he could
make with his hands.

"And think not," he answered still sweetly, "my friends or I have
breath or wind to waste cursing such as you. I thank your courtesy; we
shall never meet again to requite it."

"Never?" queried Zeyneb, cocking his evil head. "Not on the Judgment
Day when, says Al Koran, 'Allah shall gather all men together, and
they shall recognize one another'?"

The Spaniard cut him short.

"Fly! Think not the All Just will so much as raise again your soul,
even to plunge it into the hell where wait garments of fire. Soul you
have not, unless base vermin have. When they rise from the dead, so
will you--no sooner!"

Zeyneb would have ventured reply, but Iftikhar pointed down a passage.
The dwarf vanished instantly. Musa spat after him. "Purer air, now his
stench is not by!" his comment.

Iftikhar, who had been silent, turned to his captives.

"My lords," said he, gravely, speaking Provençal, "we meet again at
last, as I have long desired."

"You are wrong, my emir," interrupted Longsword. "At Dorylæum I sought
you long and vainly."

"And I think it well," continued the Egyptian, flushing, but not
raising his voice, "since we shall not soon meet again, that I say a
few things. This Duke Godfrey, as your friend, shall fare as do you."

"Say it out, fledgling of Satan! Say it out," roared the Duke. "You
will summon the headsman. By Our Lady of Antwerp, you will find those
before Antioch who will not forget!"

"Gallantly done, my lord," taunted Richard. "At Palermo you boasted
you loved to talk with a foe over two sword-blades; Syrian nard
softens your courage and your arm."

Iftikhar lost control for a moment, and boasted wildly.

"_Ya_! You may well curse, for I have triumphed. As a lion you have
lived; as a dog you shall die. The grudge is old; the vengeance
sweetens with the years. Father, brother, mother, sister, I have taken
from you. Yes, by the splendor of Allah, your bride also! Mary, Star
of the Greeks, is mine! I will place your head before her. I will say,
'See, see, Richard, your lord, your husband.' For I have
conquered--have conquered utterly!"

He paused to gather breath. Richard was silent, repeating to himself
the proverb that "stillness angers most." The Egyptian recovered his
control, and went on. "You, Richard Longsword," said he, "you, Cid
Musa, and you, Duke Godfrey, have come to Aleppo to steal away my
prize. You fail. You shall, as Allah reigns, count out the price! I
designed to start for Antioch to-morrow, intent on taking your heads
to the Star of the Greeks. And I should not have failed. Kerbogha's
host is but ten leagues from your Christian camp. You know nothing.
You will be struck as by a bolt from the clear sky. Knight and
villain, you shall die far from Jerusalem,"--the Egyptian broke off in
a laugh; for the Duke, steel against his own peril, had turned gray at
this tale of danger to the army.

"Ah! my Lord Godfrey," went on Iftikhar, "it matters little to you
whether you end all at Aleppo or at Antioch. For on my faith as a
cavalier, I swear there shall not one man of all your host escape.
Already Kerbogha advances beyond Afrin, and not a Christian dreams.
Your scouting parties are gallantly led, fair Franks!"

"Dear God," prayed Richard, "not for our sakes, but for the love of
the army of Thy Son, suffer us even now to escape this Thine enemy!"
But Iftikhar continued: "I speak too long. Enough that I shall bring
you this night before the tribunal of the Ismaelians, since the dagger
is only for those whom our judgments cannot otherwise reach. You shall
stand before our _Daïs_, that is to say the 'masters,' and our
_Refiks_, that is the 'companions,' and it will be asked you if you
sought the hurt of any Ismaelian. Make what defence you may. If the
tribunal decide against you, you are delivered over by the court, and
the world hears of you no more."

"Spare the mockery," thundered Richard, blazing forth at last. "Slay;
but summon no judges who are sworn against all mercy!" Iftikhar's
answer was a gesture toward the passage. "Look!" and Richard leaped
forward, bound as he was, so fiercely that he nigh flung down the
three Ismaelians that held him. Two eunuchs were leading Mary Kurkuas
into the chamber. Longsword had never known a moment like this. Then,
if never before, he felt the pains of hell. Angry God and angry devil
might devise nothing worse. Mary was led before him. She was very
white,--white dress, white hands, white face; and her eyes seemed to
touch the bare gray room with brightness. They must have told her what
awaited, else she had never been so calm and still and beautiful. So
beautiful! Was Mary, Mother of God, sitting upon the Heavenly Throne,
fairer than she? Blasphemy?--but the thought would come! And she did
not moan, nor cry in agony. That was Mary's way,--Richard knew
it,--that she was ready to turn Iftikhar's desires against himself,
and make her last vision one of strength and of peace. With all the
pain,--pain too deep for words,--under the influence of her eyes, he
felt a sweet, holy spell creeping over him, and knew that the
bitterness of death was past.

The two negroes led her until she stood beside Iftikhar. The Egyptian
towered over her, splendid as Satan when robed as angel of light. The
grand prior looked upon her face; and Richard knew he saw all the
brightness of heaven therein. But a cloud passed across the
countenance of Iftikhar, as if in that moment of earthly triumph he
felt there was something passing betwixt his captive and his slave
which not all the might of the "devoted" could win for his own. The
Egyptian pointed from Mary to the Norman--his voice very proud.

"Look, Star of the Greeks, my vow is made good. Behold how Allah has
favored Iftikhar Eddauleh. You indeed see Richard de St. Julien, your
husband."

Mary was stately as a palm when she answered.

"And do you think, Cid, that you have led me hither to see me kneel at
your feet, to hear me moan for mercy for these men? I know you
over-well, Iftikhar Eddauleh. No human power can turn that heart of
yours when once it is fixed. But God in His own time shall bow you
utterly. I do not fear for Richard, for these his friends, for myself.
Life sometimes is nothing so precious that it is worth buying with too
great a price. For these to whom God says 'Go,' the time will not seem
long; and for me, to whom He says 'Stay,'--I shall be given strength
to bear your power or that of other demon. But there is greeting in
the end with naught to sunder. And to you,--to you,"--her eyes were
not lamps now; they were fiery swords, piercing the Ismaelian
through,--"God perhaps lengthens out many days of sin and glory, that
for every instant on earth there may be an æon hereafter of woe."

Iftikhar's face had turned to blackness. He raised his hand to smite.
Richard thought to see him fell the Greek to the stones; but his
uplifted arm lowered, the spasm of madness passed.

"Ask anything, anything but the lives of these men!" cried he, half
pleading, to turn away the bitterness of her curse; "and as Allah
lives I will not deny!"

"Take Richard Longsword, and then take all else. For God and His
angels witness, you spread betwixt you and me a sea ten thousand years
shall see unbridged!"

"I cannot! I cannot spare!" the words came from Iftikhar as a moan.
"Let Richard Longsword live, and I shall win you never!"

And Richard was about to cry that life was worthless if Mary humbled
herself in his behalf. But the Greek spoke for him.

"One boon, Cid Iftikhar. I do not plead for these men. I know my
husband and Cid Musa would rather die by your cord than see me on my
knees before you. Kill or spare, you can never win more of me than my
body, held already. But now let me go; I can do nothing here."

Iftikhar motioned to the blacks to lead her away.

"Richard, my husband," said she, softly, "you and Musa and my Lord
Godfrey did wrong to come hither; but I love you for it more. God will
be kind. You will not find it long to wait for me in heaven."

"May Christ pity you, sweet wife!" answered the Norman.

"He will pity, do not fear." That was all she said. She was gone. Her
wondrous eyes lit the room no more; but a peace was lighted in
Richard's heart, which naught could take away. Iftikhar turned
abruptly the moment the Greek had vanished.

"My friends," declared he, with an ill-assumed irony, "I can do
nothing further to serve you. Before midnight our long accounting is
ended. Leave to Allah the rest. Others will care for you at the
tribunal."

Richard held up his head proudly.

"And I, Richard Longsword, standing in the presence of death, do cite
you, Iftikhar Eddauleh, to stand with me before no less a tribunal
than the judgment seat of Almighty God. There to answer, not as Moslem
to Christian, but as man to man, for the blood you have shed wantonly,
the foul deeds you have plotted, the pure women you have wronged, the
very saint of God you have brought to agony. At His judgment seat I
will accuse you, and you shall make answer to Him and all His holy
angels. So say I!"

"And I!" thundered Godfrey.

"And I!" cried Musa.

They saw the Ismaelian's face flush once more. By an effort he reined
his curses. Without a word he vanished. Richard turned to his
comrades.

"Dear friends, this is the last adventure," said he. "Heaven is
witness I did not pray you to go with me to Aleppo."

"You did not," was the answer of both. And Musa added: "My brother and
you, fair lord, we are at the end. You are praying to your gentle
Issa; I to Allah, the One. Yet our hearts are pure; and be you right
or I, do not think God will lift some to Paradise, and speed some to
hell, because your mothers taught to call on Christ, and mine to call
on Allah."'

The Spaniard fixed his sweet and winning gaze upon the great Duke of
Lorraine, upon Godfrey, the chief of the slayers of the infidels; and
the Duke answered (only Richard knowing what the words meant from such
lips):--

"No, by Our Lady of Pity; be you Moslem, be you Christian, Sir
Musa,--I would that many of the army of the Cross stood so blameless
as you in the sight of God. For never in all my life have I met more
spotless cavalier than you have proved. I am proud to call you
comrade."

One of the white-robed Ismaelians had entered the chamber, and
uplifted his hand.

"The tribunal waits," he announced. "Come!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Iftikhar Eddauleh left the gallery in the cellars of El Halebah with a
strange storm raging in his breast. Victory, pride, the sense of
having at last settled all grudges--in this he exulted. But with it
all came the knowledge that the death of Richard Longsword meant the
death of the last hope to make Mary the Greek other than his slave.
She had truly said,--the Egyptian knew it,--old age might come, æons
might speed, but henceforth Iftikhar would be only to her as
malevolent jinn. The grand prior cursed himself for the mad folly that
had led him to bring Mary and Richard face to face. She had been
brought to give agony; she had given strength. Iftikhar knew that the
sight of her presence, the sound of her voice, had stolen away the
sting of death from the Norman. Likewise he knew that, with all the
"devoted," with all the glory of his state, he was weaker than the
will of this unshielded woman, that he could put forth all his might
to crush that will, and do it in vain. In the eyry apartment of
Morgiana, he found the four around whom, next to himself, the life of
El Halebah revolved--Mary, Zeyneb, Morgiana, and Hakem. The Greek was
standing beside the divan whereon sat the Arabian wife. Her face was
very pale, her eyes so bright that their fire seemed not of this
world. She was calm, and her words came soft and slow. But not so
Morgiana; Iftikhar foresaw the lightnings the moment he entered. He
was, however, in no mood to quail. Ignoring the others, he strode to
Morgiana, and began half severely:--

"Moon of the Arabs, it is late. I commanded you to retire early."

Morgiana lifted her blue eyes.

"I have heard. Well?"

"Do you disobey before my face?" retorted the grand prior.

The answer came when Morgiana leaped to her feet.

"Away, away, hound of Eblees! Away, away, begotten of the sheytans!
Get you gone, or even I shall curse you!"

Iftikhar doubted his ears. Never had Morgiana reviled him thus.

"Silence; my will is law!" And he struck her with his open palm on her
mouth. Struck once, then recoiled, for a flame of wrath flashed with
the red flush on Morgiana's face, such as the Egyptian had never seen
before. Now he saw, and drew back. Morgiana spoke very slowly, sign of
deepest anger.

"Strike--strike--again! and by the Great Name of Allah, I swear I will
bide my time, and murder you in your bed."

And Iftikhar, man of passion and blood, felt his own blood creeping
chill. Half he felt a knife at his throat. His answer died on his
lips. Morgiana was speaking rapidly now:--

"Look on the Greek, Iftikhar Eddauleh! Look on the Greek. Do you know
what pain is, and agony, beyond your conceiving? See it there--see it
there--and tremble! For I say to you, every tear that Mary, the Star
of the Greeks, shall shed, every drop her torn heart bleeds, is
reckoned against your name in the great book of Allah. Yes; and you,
Iftikhar, shall pay the price--the price--the price--through the long
years of eternity. Therefore tremble, for earth and sea shall be
confounded ere the All-Just forget one pang, one deed of darkness!"

Iftikhar tore the dagger from his belt. He had words at last now.

"You are mad. I will kill you!"

"Kill me?" Morgiana threw back her black hair, and laughed as would an
invulnerable jinn. "Kill me? Can you think of nothing worse?" And
again she laughed.

The Egyptian shrank back a step or two, as she advanced. Suddenly her
laughter ended, her voice became calm.

"Cid Iftikhar," she said quietly, "you see I am in no mood to receive
commands to-night. Neither does _Citt_ Mary crave your company. You
have triumphed, my Cid. Doom favors you. You must not exult
mercilessly. Be magnanimous; leave us alone this night."

Iftikhar responded almost perforce to this appeal.

"I grant anything in reason, Morgiana. Rage no more, I will leave
you." And he was gone with a low salaam. Zeyneb made to follow him,
but his foster-sister recalled.

"Zeyneb," said she, "I wish you to tell us of the state of the
prisoners. Will Iftikhar return to see the execution?"

The dwarf showed his white teeth. He marvelled that Morgiana should
question thus with Mary present, but, nothing loth, replied: "He will
not; he goes to his chamber to sleep. In the morning they bring him
the heads."

Mary's white cheeks grew whiter, but the Arabian did not hesitate.

"And when will the execution take place?"

Zeyneb grinned again. "The bells on the water-clock say it is the end
of the fourth hour of the night; at the end of the fifth hour, unless
the tribunal clears them,"--his grin broadened,--"Harun twists the
cord."

Morgiana drew up one little foot on the divan, and clasped it with
both hands.

"_Wallah!_ How admirable has been your trap, foster-brother. Mary had
told nearly all you had done, before Iftikhar broke in upon us. Woe to
us, and joy to you! Allah grant we may have our day also. So it was
you alone that penetrated the disguise of Cid Musa. Allah himself
might hardly outwit you!"

Zeyneb smiled at the flattery. "I am honored, foster-sister."

"And tell this," demanded she, letting her foot drop to the rugs, "are
the faithless sentries warned?"

"_Mashallah_, no! They think all is well. In the morning they are
seized and beheaded. We led the prisoners to the palace by another
way."

"What escapes you, my Zeyneb!" cried the other, rising and stepping
toward the doorway. "But tell me this,--are the horses of these three
adventurers taken?"

Zeyneb gave a start and a curse.

"Blasted am I! Forgotten! Iftikhar left all in my hands. The horses
are still where they were tethered. They will be taken by morning. I
will go and send for them at once."

Before he could cry out, Morgiana had dashed to the door and shot the
bolt.

"_Wallah!_ You rave," howled the dwarf, smitten with fear. "Help,
Hakem!" For Morgiana, with arms outstretched, stood before the door,
her face flaming defiance.

"Mary," cried Morgiana, "are you very strong? Pluck that adder Hakem
round the neck, and hold fast! For the life of Richard Longsword,
hold!"

Dwarf and eunuch had sprung on Morgiana, but the Greek also. Right
round the body of the effeminate Hakem Mary cast her white arms,
caught him, held him; for the strength of an angel was given her, and
the eunuch's strength was that of a fatted sheep. Meantime Morgiana
and Zeyneb waged their fiercer battle.

"Mad woman!" raged the dwarf, writhing, struggling, snapping as for
dear life. "You shall be flogged for this, beheaded, flayed! Release,
or you die! Release! Let go, or--" But Morgiana wrested him almost
from his feet as they struggled, and every time he saw the terrible
purpose in her eyes his heart sank lower. And still they wrestled.

"Help! Rescue!" shrieked the dwarf, feeling himself nigh mastered.
Even louder howled Hakem, tight held in the vise of Mary's arms.

Shrill above their cry was the laugh of Morgiana. "Aye, shriek! Call
as you will," sped her boast. "Louder!--louder! Call Iftikhar, the
eunuchs, the 'devoted.' Far below, none hear. Cry louder--we are alone
in the tower of the palace. Call! Call! None hears save Allah, and it
is He who fights for me! Call again! Make the stars pity, and rain
their aid--naught is nearer!"

Zeyneb wrested one hand free. For a twinkling he brandished a dagger.
A second twinkling, it flew from his hand across the room.

"_Ya!_" rang the shout of his assailant. "See! I am strong, strong,
and Allah fights for me,--for Morgiana the blue-eyed maid of Yemen!
_Bismillah_, it is done!"

And with the word Zeyneb's feet spun from beneath him. He fell heavily
to the floor; so heavily that despite the rug he was senseless in a
flash. Morgiana, with a great cry of delight, bounded after his
dagger, secured it, was at Mary's side. Hakem was struggling
desperately. He could not shake the Greek's hold, and dared not do her
harm. The Arabian held the knife edge to his throat.

"Hakem," came her voice, hard as steel on steel, "let your heart say
the 'Great Prayer,' the _Fat'hah_. You are going to die."

"Spare," pleaded the Greek, beginning to tremble, "spare that God may
spare us!"

"Dead snakes never bite!" came the answer.

Mary never forgot the terrible glow on Morgiana's face when that deed
was done, which made the Greek shiver. The body of the eunuch dropped
from her arms, lay upon the rugs, the blood spurting from the neck.
The Arabian was kneeling over the prone form of Zeyneb. She thrust
away the vest, laid a hand on his heart.

"Living!" whispered she, raising her eyes. "I may do wrong, but he is
my foster-brother, and faithful to Iftikhar."

The Greek was too faint to do anything; but Morgiana rapidly plucked
the curtain from the doorway, tore into strips, knotted about the
dwarf's arms and feet. Then she felt in his bosom and drew forth a
small key.

       *       *       *       *       *

The three bronze lamps high up in the vault were flickering dimly. The
shadows of the pillars lay long and dark across the gray slabs of the
pavement. Upon the floor in irregular semicircle sat a score of
figures in white mantle and turban, red girdle and shoes. The figures
were rigid as marble, features moving not, lips speaking not; only the
dark eyes flashed back the shimmerings of the lamps. In the centre of
the group, and facing the others, another figure was standing, habited
like the rest, save that the turban was black, and a great diamond,
bright as a tiger's eye, twinkled against it. This figure was
speaking.

"Musa, son of Abdallah, and you, Godfrey and Richard, lords of the
Franks,"--the words came cold and metallic,--"you have been brought
before the tribunal of the holy Order of Ismael. You have been accused
of being the foes and plotting the hurt of the Grand Prior of Syria,
Iftikhar Eddauleh. Nor have you denied this; you have confessed you
desired his hurt, you have boasted you desired his death and dishonor.
And now it behooves to ask, were you acquainted with the lot of those
who so much as imagine harm to the least 'aspirant,' a _Las[=i]k_ of
the sacred Ismaelians, far from comparing such to the vice-gerent of
our Lord Hassan Sabah's self?"

Whereupon Musa, facing the semicircle, with Richard and Godfrey at his
side, answered in his melodious Arabic:--

"We well understand that he who offends against one of your order
shall sooner receive mercy from Eblees than from you. Knowing that, we
went forth; knowing that, we stand here. Our foe is Iftikhar Eddauleh.
You are his slaves; bought cattle were not his more utterly. Proceed
to sentence."

Rain beating an iron wall had made deeper dint than his words on that
array of stony features. A long silence--then the former speaker
looked upon his colleagues. Slowly he began: "It is the custom, O
Ismaelians,--and it is here observed,--that those admitted to the
degrees called _Tessis_ and _Teevil_, the sixth and seventh of our
holy brotherhood, shall sit in judgment upon those brought within
danger of the cord. You have heard these men and the accusation. The
mysteries of our order, the mandate of our Lord Hassan Sabah, are
known to you. Yet let me repeat the word of the first of the seven
Imams, the Lord Hossein the martyr, as runs the revered tradition, 'He
that offendeth the least of you, let him wash away his guilt in his
own blood.' Therefore I command that whosoever of you may believe
these men cleared and worthy of liberty, let him speak forth; but
whosoever thinks they should endure the cord, keep silence. For speech
is life, and silence is death. I have spoken."

Silence--while the lamps flickered, flickered, and the shadows swung
on floor and walls; and still the chief stood facing the twenty, who
moved not, nor gave sound. Then at last--after how long! he spoke,--a
voice as from the grave.

"There is no word. Let the law be fulfilled. Judgment is pronounced.
The cord!" The chief seated himself and there was stillness as before,
until a distant bell pealed out, once, twice, thrice, four
times,--five! With noiseless step, the tall Harun glided from behind a
pillar and plucked Musa's elbow.

"Doom!" Harun held up a silken noose, plaited tight, and pointed to
the floor. "Kneel," he commanded softly; "you are Moslem, I grant you
this joy, you shall not see your friends die."

Musa turned to the Franks. Their hands were bound, but their eyes
could greet.

"Sweet friends," said he, smiling as ever in his gentle, melancholy
way, "we must part. But my hope in Allah is strong. We shall meet
before His throne!"

"God is with us all!" answered Richard. "He is very pitiful."

But Godfrey did not speak. Longsword knew his thoughts were not of
Musa, nor of the tribunal, nor even of the shadow of death; but of the
Christian host surprised by Kerbogha, and of the Holy City left in
captivity.

"I am ready," said Musa to Harun; and he prepared to kneel.

       *       *       *       *       *

A tremor, a wind of the spirit, seemed passing over all those
chiselled faces. Musa and all others heard music,--a song,--quavering,
sighing, throbbing melody, wafted down the long underground galleries
from very far away. At first no clear word was borne to them, but the
sweetest note Richard in his life had heard. Was the great change come
so nigh that one heard God's white host singing? Musa stood fast.
Harun was rooted also, the cord hung limp in his hand, all forgotten,
save the wondrous song. Now at last the burden came dimly:--

    "Genii who rule o'er the tempest and wind,
    Peris who tread where red coral lies deep,
    Show forth your haunt that my fleet foot may find
    Where the cool moss caves 'neath the green waves sleep.

    "Lie they under the sea that by Ormuz darkles,
    Or the broad blue bay of the Golden Isles?
    Or where breeze-loved haven in far west sparkles,
    Alight with the sun's ne'er-vanishing smiles?"

The voice swelled nearer; the rhythm was quicker, measure shorter,
words stronger. The song became a prayer, a cry.

    "Away! away from the grief and jarring
    Of this toilsome life and its pang I'd be!
    Forgetting earth and all strife and warring,
    Wrap me away to the breast of the sea!

    "Wreathe me chaplets with sea-flowers brightest,
    With the feath'ry sea-mosses make me dressed!
    Make my pillow the wind-spray whitest;
    Rock me to sleep on the storm-waves' crest!"

Was it day that was dawning on each of those stony faces? Why this
whisper; this rustle of white gowns; this mutter "Allah! Allah!" under
the snowy turbans? "Truly God's angels come!" Richard's soul cried. He
thought to see the vaulting open; the heavens fleeing away as unclean.
What angel could sing of paynim genii and peris? But the voice yet
approached, ever louder, clearer:--

    "Sing, oh, sing, all ye fair, pure spirits!
    Spirit I, to your band I'd flee;
    Blest the soul who for aye inherits
    To rove with you through your kingdom free!"

Now the song was so near that all eyes ran into the dark for the
oncoming singer, and every white robe had risen when the last lines
sounded:--

    "Clearer, clearer the silvery pealing
    Of enchanted bells steals my heart afar!
    Soon I'll see, all the mists unsealing,
    The genii's lord on his pearl-wrought car!"

Silence. They saw a light flash in the low doorway, saw it glisten on
jewels, an empress's pride. A woman entered, tall as a spear, stately
as a palm, black tresses flowing as a fair vine, and eyes and face to
shame the houris. Around her bare throat flashed a great chain of
emeralds; there were diamonds and rubies on her coronet; gold and gems
on her bare brown arms; gold and gems on her sandals, that hid not the
shapely feet. Her robe was one lustrous sea of violet silk, rippling
about her as she glided, not walked. And as she came, she spread
abroad a new melody; no words now, but only a humming, a soft,
witching note, as if bidding all the spirits of the air flit at her
footsteps to do her behests. Her left hand upraised the lamp; her
right was held high also, and on one finger flashed something that
doubled the quivering flame--a ring set with a single emerald.

Onward she came; and right and left the company made way for her. And
Harun dropped his cord, began to mutter: "_Allah akhbar!_ The maids of
the Gardens of Fountains have come down to dwell amongst men!" But the
stranger--spirit or woman, who might say?--came on till she stood
before the three captives. At the mandate in her eyes all other eyes
followed her. No more she sang, but spoke, proud as the queen of the
genii legions.

"Hear! tremble! obey!" She held the emerald higher. At the sight
thereof there was a new stir, new whispers; the Ismaelians were bowing
to the pavement. "Behold it! The ring of Hassan Sabah, your lord! I
say to you, whoever shall disobey the command of the bearer of this
ring, be his merits never so great, Allah shall cut him off from the
joys of Paradise! Obey! and the honeyed kiss of the daughters of the
land of the River of Life is on your lips!"

She swept the flashing ring to and fro before the eyes of the cowering
twenty.

"Reverence therefore the will of the bearer of the ring," she ran on;
"obey, were it on the camel-driver's finger; obey the more, since it
is on mine,--I, at whose word the hosts of the darkness fall
trembling, at whose nod the troops of the upper winds fly obedient!"

Needless her exhortation. One cry from twenty: "We obey! We are your
slaves, O lady of Allah's own beauty! O empress of genii and men!" And
the stranger, scarce pausing, rushed on:--

"See! your judgment is false! See, I am sent by Allah to bring to
naught your desires! I command--I, the blue-eyed maid of Yemen, whose
walk is with the stars! Release these captives. Their doom is
unwritten."

[Illustration: "ALL BLINDLY, HE KNEW THEY WERE MOUNTING STAIRWAYS"]

Richard had beheld all as does the man treading in a dream; who knows
he dreams, yet cannot waken. Dreaming, he had seen this strange spirit
enter; dreaming, he heard; dreaming, he saw a quiver, as of
resistance, pass round that ring of sculptured faces; the eyes bright
as snakes, and more pitiless, questioned once,--once only. The
deliverer shot across their company one lightning glance--majesty,
supremacy, scorn. Still dreaming, Richard saw in her hand a dagger;
and then--dreamt he still?--he felt the bands upon his arms sever. He
stood free--and Godfrey and Musa free! But his protectress was
speaking again:--

"Behold--I say to you, Allah has cast his mantle over these three to
deliver them. Forget this night. Follow me not; for, as the Most High
rules, you shall curse disobedience in the quenchless Gehenna! Tremble
again--you have seen great things--and now, farewell."

Richard felt her hand upon his arm.

"Come," she said softly, "and Allah will yet aid you!"

The chamber of the tribunal, the semicircle of white robes, Harun and
the cord--all were gone. Richard was still in his dream. He trod
onward, feeling no floor beneath his feet. The wavering light of his
protectress went before him. In the narrow galleries they traversed,
the darkness closed after him. All blindly, he knew they were mounting
stairways, were gliding through murky passages. Suddenly the air was
again sweet; Richard saw around him the dim vista of a line of white
columns, and above, the hazy canopy of a great dome.

The woman halted, again upraised her lamp.

"I see Cid Richard Longsword," said she, "and his good comrades, Cid
Musa and Cid Godfrey. If Allah favor us, I will now lead you to Mary
the Greek!"

At these words Richard knew he dreamed no longer; his belief was--God
had already raised him to heaven.



CHAPTER XXXVI

HOW THE ISMAELIANS SAW TRENCHEFER


The voice of Musa recalled the Norman to the things of earth. "_Citt_,
protectress sent from Allah!" the Andalusian was crying, "do my ears
fail? Is your voice strange? When have I heard it before? In Palermo?"

"In Palermo," reëchoed the stranger, "in Palermo, when by the Most
High's favor I warned you against Iftikhar Eddauleh." The name of his
enemy roused all the fires in Richard's breast.

"Lead on!" boasted he, nigh fiercely. "Lead on! and in the name of
every saint, Trenchefer shall weigh out his price to the Ismaelian
to-night!"

His voice was rising to a war-cry, when Musa clapped his hand on his
friend's mouth. The lady had upraised a warning finger; a tremor of
mingled fear and wrath seemed shaking her.

"Hist, Cid Richard! Are you mad? The palace is full of armed men.
Safety is leagues away. And I declare to you, that unless you swear by
the great name of Issa you worship, to do Iftikhar to-night no hurt, I
will cry aloud, and you perish as surely as by Harun's bowstring."

"Iftikhar?" questioned Richard, in amaze. "Iftikhar? You have given
freedom to his arch foe, and yet you say to me, 'Spare'?"

"My lord," said the lady, gently, "Mary the Greek shall tell you why I
do this. Swear, if you would see her face--not die." And, conjured by
that all-potent name, Richard took a willing oath; Godfrey likewise,
and Musa after his manner. The lady raised her lamp once more.

"Follow softly," she warned; "many sleep all about us. I must lead you
the length of the palace."

Then came another journey through the enchanted darkness, lit only by
the lamp and the gleam of the gems at the strange deliverer's throat.
They crossed the great hall, treading gently, Richard's hand on the
hilt of Trenchefer, for nigh he expected to see goblins springing from
the dark. Once across, the lady halted; opened a door. In the glow of
the lamps Longsword saw a giant negro prone upon the rug, at his side
a naked sabre. Trenchefer crept halfway from the sheath, as he turned,
unfolding his mighty hands. But their guide gave him no heed. The
black slumbered on.

The door closed. They sped down a long gallery, swift and silent as
flight in a dream; another door, another guardsman. This time the
negro was awake, standing at his post.

"Now!" came between Godfrey's teeth; and three swords were ready to
flash. The lady smiled, sprang before them. At sight of her the sentry
bowed low.

"Habib," said she, gently, "these are they I said I would bring you.
Remember--you have for them neither ears nor eyes."

"I am blind and dumb, my _Citt_," was the answer.

She beckoned, the three followed; the guardsman was lost in the gloom.
"I begged his life of Iftikhar a year since," explained the lady,
"therefore Habib is grateful."

A second gallery, an open arcade, a sight of the stars twinkling
between the plumes of the palm trees, and the puff of the sluggish
southern wind. They came to a new door, where a lamp burned low. The
door was open. A stairway wound upward lit at intervals by flickering
sconces. The lady halted.

"Cid Richard," said she, "you shall go up with me, and take your wife;
let these two remain below in the shadow."

Musa smiled and salaamed; Godfrey laughed in his beard. "You need no
comrade now, fair knight," said he to Richard.

The Norman's step was on the stairway, as he leaped ahead of the lady.
At last! At last! That was all he knew. God had indeed "stopped the
mouths of the lions, had quenched the violence of fire!" Three steps
Richard had covered with his bound; but at the fourth he was frozen
fast. A cry, a cry of terror, of despairing pain, sped down the
stairway:--

"Morgiana! Help me, for the love of God!"

Whose voice? Longsword knew it above ten thousand; and with it flew
others--curses, howls, cries for help.

"Hakem dead! Zeyneb bound! Rouse Cid Iftikhar! Morgiana,--death to
Morgiana!"

Louder the din; Richard turned to his protectress half fiercely: "What
is this? Shall I go up?"

She had covered her face with her hands.

"Allah pity! Allah have mercy!" moaned she, quaking with sobs. "He
fights against us. Go or stay, we shall soon die."

Now at last leaped forth Trenchefer.

"Follow who will," thundered Richard to Godfrey and Musa, who needed
no bidding.

Fast sped they; faster, Richard. Had he wings when he mounted the
stairway? A second cry of utter despair, the rush of more feet.
Longsword saw the last stair, saw the room, many torches and many
forms; black eunuchs all, some clutching at a struggling woman, some
bending over a prostrate form, some standing around Zeyneb, whose
hands were upraised in malediction.

"Iftikhar! Send for Cid Iftikhar!" he was raging; and every voice
swelled the babel.

But above them all pealed the thunder of the Norman. What profit
silence now! "God wills it. St. Julien and Mary Kurkuas!"

Eblees leaping from the cloven rock smote no greater terror than
Richard bounding upon the blacks. Arms some had, but arms none used;
for Trenchefer dashed them down as the flail smites, ere one could
raise or draw. Richard sought Zeyneb; but the dwarf, the only one with
wits enough to fly, darting through a door, was gone into the
darkness. "God wills it! St. Julien and Mary Kurkuas."

Richard again flung out his battle-cry; but none stood against him. He
stared about the room, saw the dead form in the corner, a negro dying
beside him, a second prone by the head of the staircase, the rest all
fled,--all save one.

Richard felt his knees smiting together, and a darkening mist veiling
his eyes. He tried to speak; there came no word. Trenchefer fell
clanging to the floor. Something was touching him, pressing him. Into
the ringing in his ears stole one name, his own; out of the mist
before his eyes floated one face. Then God gave back sight and speech.

"Mine for life and for death!" came from his lips.

"What is death if once you kiss me!" flew the answer.

But neither said more, nor thought more. What soul may have thoughts
in such an instant! Only Richard knew that never in his whole life had
Heaven granted him joy like this.

Mary was laying her warm, smooth hands upon his shoulders. Her lips
were close to his own. She was speaking.

"Richard, the peril is very great. You should have fled the moment
Morgiana saved you. For my sake you all have committed great sin!"

"And would you not thus have sinned for me?" replied the Norman. Mary
did not reply. Her own heart told that Richard spoke well. Then she
said softly:--

"Sweet husband, I will not be frightened. I can fear nothing now. Only
you must not let Iftikhar possess me again. Holy Mother of God! you
must not let him regain me!" And Richard, who knew what she meant (for
when did he not read all in her eyes?), answered, holding out
Trenchefer:--

"Iftikhar shall not regain you. By the wounds of Christ I swear it.
Ah, how Our Lord will welcome a sweet angel like you when you fly up
to the gate of heaven!"

And Mary laughed at his words, for many things had become more
terrible than death.

"I rejected once the escape of death as a sin," said she, "but I know
it will be no sin now. What, with you beside, is there left to fear,
living or dying?"

"Living!" cried the Norman, snatching a cloak to cast about her. "God
will not suffer the wicked to torture such as you. St. Michael speed
my arm with all the strength of heaven!"

He had not seen Godfrey and Musa mounting to the chamber, or Morgiana
following. He had not heard the tenfold din rising in the palace and
without. But now he heard a howl of fury fit to pass a demon's lips.

"May you scorch forever!" Richard turned. He saw Iftikhar Eddauleh,
cimeter in hand, springing through the doorway. The Ismaelian was
without armor; he wore the white robe of his order only. Rage
unspeakable almost drowned the curses in his throat.

"Die! Die, both of you!" that was his mad cry. Before Richard could
grasp Trenchefer the Egyptian was on him, had torn Mary from his arms,
was shortening his weapon to run him through. But Longsword needed no
weapon. "For Mary's sake!" cried his soul; while one hand caught
Iftikhar's sword wrist, the other clutched the Ismaelian's body. A
struggle, a crash, and the grand prior measured length on the carpet.
Richard bent over him, Trenchefer in hand. One thrust through the
body, and Iftikhar Eddauleh would have passed from the wrath of man.
The great sword was rising when Morgiana tore at the Norman's arm.
"Your oath!" cried she, with livid face; "spare!" Longsword paused.
"What is he to you, woman?" demanded he, sternly.

"He is to me as Mary the Greek to you," answered the Arabian,
defiantly. Richard withheld his hand. Iftikhar was staggering to his
feet, but was weaponless. His conqueror pointed toward the doorway.

"Fair cavalier," said he in Provençal, "get you gone. For sake of my
oath to this woman, I spare you once. When we next meet, God judge
betwixt us."

The Egyptian drew himself up proudly.

"Do not deceive yourself, Cid Richard. You will be overwhelmed by
numbers. Though you spare me, I will not spare you."

Longsword in turn threw back his head.

"Nor do I ask it. We owe each other--nothing. Go!"

And Iftikhar foamed out of the room, gone as suddenly as he had
entered. There was silence for a moment.

"My friends," said Richard, "let us make haste. Shall we not fly?"
Morgiana laughed, as so often, very scornfully.

"Verily you Franks are fools. Do you say 'go'? Are you angels with
swords of fire, that you can blast ten thousand? Hark! fifty approach
the door by which we entered! All the Ismaelians about El Halebah are
alarmed. Iftikhar boasts well; we are soon hewn in pieces."

There was indeed a din, hundreds of voices, many torches shaking and
flitting about the groves, and coming nearer, dogs barking, armor
clanging. The whole cantonment of the Ismaelians was astir to avenge
the violation of the palace. Musa had bowed his head.

"Alas! dear brother," said he, after his gentle manner, "clearly Allah
has written our dooms! We pass from death to death. But we can now die
sword in hand!"

Then Richard held up Trenchefer, so that the reddened blade glittered
in the lamplight.

"This is no time to die!" cried he; "let others die! Let us do the
deeds God has appointed. The life of my wife, the safety of the army
of Christ, are at stake, and with Our Lord's help we shall make our
boast over Iftikhar!"

The others looked at him. For the first time Mary saw that mad fire in
his eyes which once burned the hour when he wrested triumph from death
at Valmont--a thing terrible to see, but Mary did not quail. In a
strange way the sight of him told her they were then not to die; for a
prophet stood before her, a prophet whose evangel would be given that
night with steel.

Richard surveyed the room. It was square, of no great size, lighted in
day by a high lantern. On his right descended the stairway to the
arcade of the palace; before him opened the wide door that led down
the dark corridor. The door itself was of wood and weak. The winding
stairway was steep and narrow; one man could make good the ascent
against a host. But to defend the door was nothing easy. Just beyond
it the passage widened, making space for numbers. Longsword turned to
Morgiana. "Is there no other door?" he demanded.

She shook her head. "None that will open." She tore back the Kerman
tapestry, and revealed a solid door in the wall, barred and bolted
into the casement. "This door has been sealed for years; the firm wall
is little stronger. It leads to another stairway, but the former
masters of El Halebah closed it." Duke Godfrey, who had swept the room
with a captain's eye, snorted with satisfaction.

"Good!" cried he, "only two entrances to defend. By St. Michael, the
_jongleurs_ shall have some brave strokes to sing, before we are
amongst the angels!"

Mary looked from one to the other of her terrible protectors. Musa had
put off his despair; Richard leaned on Trenchefer, a lion crouching
for his spring; Godfrey--terror of the paynims--pranced up and down
the doorway, clattering his great blade, and calling on every Moslem
devil to draw nigh and be satisfied. Mary knew then, if never before,
that to her mighty husband and his peers death was a very pleasant
thing, if only it came in knightly guise. There was redoubled din in
the passage, more din below the stairway. Richard addressed Musa,
"Guard the stairs, the Duke and I can care for the door," and he
sprang to Godfrey's side.

The Greek threw her arms about him, beseeching.

"Dear husband, as you love me,--strike once, and free me from Iftikhar
forever!" And she held down her head. But Richard laughed, as St.
George might, crushing his dragon.

"Yes, by the splendor of God,--as I love you!--I will strike not once,
but many times; and Iftikhar shall never touch you!"

He caught her in his giant arms, pressed her to his breast, put her
away. "Pray for us!" his words; "your prayers will outweigh
Trenchefer!" But Mary only stared about in dread, wishing to cry, to
shout, but her voice was frozen. Morgiana's hand plucked her away.

"Back!" commanded the Arabian; "you can do nothing. They are all in
Allah's hands. Let us await doom."

Morgiana forced her to a corner of the room, and thrust her upon a
divan. Mary heard a thunderous command in the voice of Iftikhar, a
rush of many feet, a clash and crash of targets and sword-blades,--then,
in mercy, sight and hearing fled.

Down the passage, lit by wavering lamps and flambeaux, charged the
white-robed Ismaelians, the commands and curses of the grand prior
speeding them. Not a man but was a trained sword hand, and had been in
the battle press a score of times. But they never knew before how deep
the Frankish bear could bite. Side by side--armed only with their
great blades--Godfrey and Richard met them in the passage. Then came
the rush, the shock. Godfrey swung to left; to right whirled
Trenchefer. Left and right, each felling his man; and cimeters dashed
from hands as stubble, shields were smitten through as if of gauze.
After the shock came the recoil; new charge and new repulse. The long
Frankish swords hewed down the Ismaelians before their short cimeters
could strike. There were three corpses before the door, but the two
were still standing. Third charge--again flung back! Iftikhar raged at
his men.

"Scorpions! Lizards! Will you let two men mock you? Is it thus you
earn Paradise?"

"We may fight men, not jinns!" howled an old _daïs_. Richard
brandished Trenchefer.

"Come you, Iftikhar Eddauleh! The account is long!"

The grand prior forced himself forward.

"It is long!" foamed he. "Eblees pluck me if it is not paid."

"Back, Cid," pleaded the Ismaelians; "they have the might of the rebel
efreets!"

"Fools!" thundered Iftikhar, putting all by; "follow, who dares!" His
eye lit on Morgiana within. "Allah blast me utterly, wench," rang his
menace, "if you see the dawning."

Morgiana's answer was to tear the ring from her finger, and dash it in
his face.

"See, see! You have cursed, mocked, triumphed! But I conquer! You
shall possess the Greek, never, never!"

Iftikhar cut her short by dashing on Richard as a stone from a
catapult. Twice sword and cimeter clashed; thrice, and the Norman's
strength dashed through the Ismaelian's guard. Iftikhar fell, but
Trenchefer had turned in the stroke. He was not maimed. Ere Richard
could strike again, the "devoted," with a great cry, flew after their
chief, to drag to safety. Godfrey slew one, but his body became the
shield. They plucked Iftikhar from danger. He stood, blaspheming
heaven. There was blood on his shoulder, but he snatched for a weapon.

"_Allah akhbar!_" groaned Morgiana, falling on her face; "he is nigh
slain!" Richard laughed in derision.

"Slain? He has strength to kill many good men yet; cursed am I, that
my wrist turned."

"Again! Again!" raged the grand prior; and the "devoted" dashed upon
the two Franks, but only to be flung back as before. At the narrow
stairway, many had tried to ascend; none had passed Musa, "Sword of
Grenada."

Mary was awaking from her oblivion. Still the clatter of swords, the
howl of the Ismaelians, the loud "Ha! St. Michael!" of the two Franks.
Never had she loved Richard Longsword as now, when she saw him
standing beside the great Duke--the two o'ermatching the fifty. Heaven
was very near, she knew it; but the vision of God's White Throne could
hardly be more sweet than the thought--"Richard Longsword is doing
this for me, for me!" And the Norman? How changed from the helpless ox
the Ismaelians had dragged to slaughter! How the touch of warm breath
and soft hair on his cheek, by a great mystery, had sped the might of
the paladins through his veins!

The "devoted" renewed the onset. When Iftikhar sought to lead them,
they thrust him back. When the Frankish swords proved again too
strong, they brought lances and javelins. With darts they would crush
down these destroying jinns. But Godfrey plucked up a low ebony table,
tore three legs clear, holding the table-top by the fourth before him
as a shield, and dashed the other three amongst the foe. A javelin
quivered in the casement; he tore it clear, and sped it clean through
target and cuirass of a bold Ismaelian. No more darts were flung: to
supply weapons to this man were madness. Iftikhar urged yet another
attack; he was met by stolidity and silence.

"Sheytans!" howled he, "are you not 'devoted'? Will you pawn Paradise
for Gehenna?"

It was Harun the executioner who answered. "My Cid--sweet is Paradise,
but the journey these promise is too swift. Strike off our heads at
will,--Allah defends your enemies."

Iftikhar laid down his cimeter, and with outstretched arms approached
the fateful doorway. The two were awaiting him, blood on their cheeks,
their hands, their dress. But he knew their strength was still
terrible; in their grasp were those swords,--those swords he in his
arrogancy had left them, when he should have disarmed.

Richard bowed and saluted with Trenchefer.

"We are hardly winded, my lord," quoth he, though in truth his breaths
came fast. "I reproach the saint that ended our adventure together!"

Iftikhar came a step nearer.

"De St. Julien," said he, in a voice that shook, in mere striving for
calmness, "you are indeed a valiant man; and you also, my Lord
Godfrey. I honor you, and cry against Allah that we must meet as foes
not friends. But you are no jinns, though my cowards bellow it. You
have wounds both. You must soon go down. Ten you may slay, but not
hundreds. I make you a fair proffer of life and honor"--he dropped his
voice--"of life, honor, and safety for the army of the Franks."

Godfrey's hand almost dropped the hilt at this last; but he
answered:--

"I am simply companion to my Lord de St. Julien. In this adventure he
leads. Make conditions with him."

Iftikhar faced Richard. "Ride free, then," said he; "receive your
horses. I swear it is not too late for your host to be warned. My
Ismaelians shall conduct you through the net spread by Kerbogha; but
on this condition--that you give back to me--" his voice faltered; his
eye wandered to the corner of the room within--"give back to me alive
the Star of the Greeks."

Richard felt as though dashed by a thunderbolt. Yield Mary to Iftikhar
as price of his own life? God knew he never thought on that! But
should he set her joy and his before the lives of dear comrades, who
had ridden lightly to the jaws of death in his quarrel? Above all,
should he peril the army of the Cross because Mary loved peace in
heaven rather than the pleasures of El Halebah? No words came to his
lips; he turned appealing eyes to Godfrey, who spoke nothing. But in
the silence Mary spoke. She had risen, had advanced to the doorway.
The two enemies--the Egyptian, the Norman--gazed at her as upon a
treasure for which life were a trivial price.

"Dear husband," her voice came, sweetly as bells across the misty sea,
"you know what you should say. God will avenge me in His own time, and
reward me and reward Iftikhar each according to justice. I have borne
so much, I can bear a little more. You must save yourselves, must warn
the army. It was a sin to go to Aleppo; now Heaven allows you to ride
away scatheless. Do not distrust Iftikhar; he violates no oath."

What might Richard say? His wife before him--in all her beauty! To
save her he would have felt it untold joy to die. He knew that she
herself loved death more than life in this renewed captivity. And yet
there she stood, pleading--pleading, as never before, to be left to
her captivity. What might he do? Mother of God, he was of too frail
stuff to answer! But the great Duke, whose hand was the heaviest,
whose heart the purest, in all broad France, made answer for him.
Very gravely he was replying to Iftikhar.

"My lord, I have faith enough in God to believe that He will not
suffer His army and His cause to perish, because we withhold this
price--the agony of one of His angels. Go back to your men, my lord.
We shall hold them at bay as long as He wills. And rest assured that,
before they master us, the Lady de St. Julien shall have granted her,
as she has prayed, a swift death at our swords, rather than a slow one
in your palace."

"Think better, for the love of Christ, my Duke!" pleaded Mary, making
to fall on her knees. But Godfrey had spoken; and Richard spoke too
and very gently:--

"Sweet wife, you will find heaven no darksome place. Please God I
shall be good enough sometime to see you there." Then he turned to
Iftikhar, his poise high, his voice hard. "Go back, my lord, uncover
the pit, unchain the fiends, lead on your devils! Yet know that the
first foe that crosses this threshold will see my wife's dead body!"

"Dear Son of God!" cried Mary, "will you throw your lives away? Musa,
you are wise, plead with them."

But the Spaniard, who had been playing a part equal to the others,
turned at his post by the stairway, and salaamed after his fashion.

"I have heard my brother and Cid Godfrey. Allah indeed pity us, if we
yield the Star of the Greeks!"

Richard raised Trenchefer.

"Now, Iftikhar Eddauleh!" commanded he, "again--begone! Or, unarmed as
you are, I kill you!"

The Egyptian knew by his foe's eye it was no idle boast; he knew also
that prayers were futile upon the three.

"Brave cavaliers," said he, with a bitter smile, "I can do nothing for
you. Wonderful are your Frankish swords and that of Cid Musa. But you
shall feel a cimeter that will test their temper, be it never so
keen."

He was gone, and disappeared behind the band of Ismaelians who eyed
the Franks from a safe distance down the passage. Mary saw him
vanish, and turned first to Musa, then to Godfrey, then to Richard,
and kissed the first two on the forehead, her husband on the lips.

"Dear friends," she said gently, "you add sin to sin for my sake. The
end cannot be far away. But God is very near, and I fear nothing."



CHAPTER XXXVII

HOW ROLLO CARRIED WEIGHT


Iftikhar had vanished. The Ismaelians on guard had retreated down the
long gallery. Musa from his post declared that only a few sentries
remained at the foot of the stairs. Morgiana, who had crouched in
silence on a divan during the combat, arose, and without a word opened
a cupboard in the side of the wall. She drew forth a silver flagon and
cups, proffering each of the three combatants a spiced wine that sent
new life through their weariness. Godfrey relieved Musa at the
staircase, and the Spaniard, going to the open window, leaned forth to
espy the next move of Iftikhar. In the starlight he could only see the
tracery of the forest of palms, and here and there, ghost-like, a
white dress flitting. The lamps in the chamber were flickering low.
Morgiana extinguished most, and poured the remaining oil into
two,--leaving barely enough light to break the gloom in the vaulted
chamber. It had suddenly become very still through the palace. Almost
was Richard persuaded that the Egyptian by some magic had departed
with all his "devoted." In the oppressive silence none tried speech.
Mary had returned to her post on the divan, and Richard knew she was
sobbing, though no sound came. Musa stole noiselessly about the room,
completing his inspection. Once he paused at the sealed door, and
flung himself against it--adamant had scarce seemed firmer. He came to
Richard's side and shook his head. "Some new attack is preparing," was
his whisper; "in what way, Allah alone knows! I see no road to
escape."

"The sealed door?" asked Longsword.

"The spell of Solomon has turned it to iron. We can escape only over
the Ismaelians, or on the wings of Roc, the giant bird, whose back
upbears an army."

"Then over the Ismaelians be it!" quoth the Norman, laughing grimly;
and he added, "Ah, brother, you know well my proverb: 'Easier go
through the wall than mount it'!"

But Musa did not laugh in reply.

"Brother mine," said he, "I think you and Cid Godfrey are each mighty
as Jalut, whom you call 'Goliath.' But Iftikhar says well; you are no
jinns. In the last charge the Ismaelians nearly passed you, and all
would have been over."

Richard made an angry gesture.

"Good, then! What is left to fear? I think Trenchefer can still sting
before his master's fingers loosen." But his voice grew very grave in
turn,--"Were it not for my wife! But we have chosen!"

"We have chosen, my brother. Trusting in Allah we went to Aleppo;
trusting in Him let us wait. But we have not struck in vain. Iftikhar
shall never set eyes on the sorrow of the Star of the Greeks." A cry
from Godfrey brought Musa to his side.

"Now by St. Nicholas of Ghent!" swore the Duke, in Languedoil. "What
new devil's devisings? Look, Sir Musa! What do you see in the dark?"
He pointed from the casement by the stairs, into the night.

Musa strained his eyes. "I see many men; they are bearing bales, I
think; perhaps of straw and grass. They are approaching the door at
the stairway." Without a word Godfrey caught a second of the ebony
tables,--nothing light,--raised it to the sill--cast it down. A great
howl of pain, and many curses; then the rush of a score of feet. The
defenders awaited a new attack by the stairs, where Musa's cimeter had
already sped three; but the Ismaelians did not ascend. They fled back
into the gloom, and an instant later half a dozen arrows twittered in
at the window and dashed harmlessly against the wall.

"Cover the lamps!" commanded Godfrey; "they give light to aim."
Morgiana hid them behind a curtain. But despite the darkness there
came more arrows, and yet more; in vain hopes to harm by a chance
shaft.

"They waste bowstrings," muttered the Duke. "Lie close a little
longer!" As he spoke a short moan came from Mary's divan. Richard
quitted guard, and was beside her instantly. "Lights!" ordered he. And
Morgiana brought a lamp, despite the danger. There was an arrow
pinning the Greek's left arm just below the elbow to the cushion, and
the blood was flowing. Before her husband could cry out, she plucked
fourth the shaft with her own hand. There was no tremor, and her lips
were firm, though very white.

"It is nothing!" said she, looking upward. "Do you forget my wound the
day before Dorylæum?" But Richard was nigh to weeping when he saw the
blood.

"Dear God!" cried he, "wilt Thou suffer even this?"

Mary smiled. "Now, by St. Basil, you almost weep, while your own face
is all wounds."

"And are not seven drops of your blood seven lakes to me?" declared
Richard. The arrows flew past him, but he stood with his mailed body
between Mary and the window, until Musa had made a bandage of the
tapestry and Morgiana could hide the light. Brave were his wife's
words, and brave her face, but Longsword heard her murmur, "Sweet
Mother of Jesus--let the next arrow touch my breast, and end there all
the pain."

"Ah! little wife," said he, when he kissed her, "I do not think God
will vex you much longer. Surely He will save us soon for earth, or
for heaven!"

A voice was ringing down the darkened gallery,--Iftikhar's voice. "You
Franks and Cid Musa: again, I demand, will you yield the Greek and go
free?"

"We will not!" thundered Godfrey, unhesitatingly.

"_Bismillah!_" came reply. "You have chosen. Behold!"

A kettledrum boomed once, twice; and as a fresh flight of arrows
dashed into the room, suddenly lights darted across the palace lawn
below. A cry broke from Godfrey:--

"Fire! They have brought straw to the entrance and will so destroy us.
Iftikhar is mad thus to ruin his palace!"

Morgiana looked at him quietly.

"He is no more mad than for many a day. You know little his passion
for Mary. This wing of the palace is partly severed from the rest; but
Iftikhar will burn all El Halebah to destroy us!"

Already below sprang a crackle, a roar, as the night wind caught the
flame. In a moment up drifted a puff of smoke, a red glare ever
brightening.

"The palace is marble," declared Godfrey, leaning over the parapet,
despite the shafts.

"Enough also of wood and stucco to glow like Gehenna!" replied Musa,
grimly. "Such is the manner of our palaces."

The smoke blew thicker, the arrows pelted so rapidly that even Godfrey
was fain to drop behind the casement. There was another rush of feet
in the gallery. Richard bounded to the door.

"Praised be St. Michael!" shouted he; "there is still food for
Trenchefer." But the Ismaelians halted at a safe distance; did not
advance; only stood with swinging cimeters, as if awaiting attack.

"Hear their feet below!" growled Godfrey; "they bring more fuel! Hark
the roar! The very palace burns."

Musa thrust his head into the scorching smoke eddy.

"You say well, Cid Godfrey; we are in Allah's hands, and shall see Him
face to face full soon!"

A crash below was followed by a second, a third. Up the stairway shot
a wavering shaft of flame; the smoke that had been rising to the
vaulted dome began to sink and stifle. Richard turned to Morgiana.

"Lady," he said, while he leaned on Trenchefer, "God may reward you
for your deed to-night, but not ourselves. Had not His will been
otherwise, you would have saved us. You can do nothing more. Fly down
the gallery."

As if in echo came Iftikhar's voice:--

"Morgiana need not think to escape. Verily her body shall scorch now,
as her false soul hereafter."

Even at that dread moment Richard shuddered at the passion the
Egyptian struck forth from Morgiana's eyes; but her only answer was
the cry:--

"Then shall my curse light on you forever!" And at that curse, no
blame if Iftikhar trembled.

Thicker the smoke, brighter the glare, higher the flame. They felt the
pavement under the rugs grow warm. Iftikhar thundered once more:--

"For the last time--choose life and freedom, or the fire!"

Godfrey had leaped beside Richard.

"Ha! This is the end of the hunting. Well, St. George aid us, we will
not be grilled here, with that gallery open and fifty cimeters ready
to speed us to heaven!"

Richard cast a look forward,--behind.

"There is nothing else!" said he. But Trenchefer shook in his hands,
for Mary was standing at his side.

"Dear lord and husband," said she, once more, "you have promised. I
know your arm is strong. Let us go away together,--far away, far
away,--to the love and light and peace!"

And she held down her head. But Richard that moment felt his muscles
hard as bands of steel. Should she die, with him so strong, with the
might of the saints shed over him as never before? Should she die, and
by his hand?

"I wait, dear heart," she was saying, "hasten!"

The fire shot up the stairway in one raging, devouring column. But
Trenchefer did not strike.

"Morgiana!" was Richard's fierce cry, "if the sealed door were
shivered, is there escape?"

The Arabian had crouched upon the floor.

"Yes!" gasped she, "when Allah sends a miracle."

"And that He shall! _God wills it!_" and Richard sent the Crusader's
war-cry out into the smoke and fire. The very shout made his might
fivefold.

Through the smoke he bounded to the sealed portal, dashed against it,
a lion against his cage. It stood firm; but he felt the bolts give way
in their fastenings. A marble pendant hung betwixt the windows. He
wrenched it from its mortar setting, swung it on high, and crashed it
upon the door. In after days men found this marble in the wreck and
marvelled at the might of the Christians. At the first blow the wood
and iron sprang inwards as with a groan. Twice!--the stones in the
casement crumbled, the pivots started. Thrice!--and before the iron of
Richard's north-sprung strength the weaker iron of the door gave way.

"God wills it!" Over the storm of fire again he flung the cry.
Iftikhar had seen--the Ismaelians had seen the attack on the door--the
miracle! One and all had sped forward,--at the doorway had met Godfrey
and Musa, and their tireless blades.

A crash below; the firm floors were shivered; flames leaped between.
But the sealed portal--it was sealed no longer! Richard was back in
the press at the other door. The marble block was lifted on high, and
as it sped from his hand it dashed down the tall Harun, who never felt
his hurt. Trenchefer was again flashing in the Ismaelians' faces. They
drew back, crying:--

"No deed of man! We may not fight with Allah!" and Iftikhar with them.
Three steps forward leaped Richard--not a man loved death enough to
meet him face to face. The floor was quaking beneath them.

"Back, back, for the love of Christ!" rang the shout of Godfrey; for
Longsword in his pride would have charged them all. It was Musa who
plucked Mary in his arms, and bounded through the fire. Morgiana flew
across the flame as though on wings. Godfrey caught Richard by an arm,
and drew him after. From the new opening Richard glanced backward. Red
flames roared betwixt him and Iftikhar. The wreck before him held his
gaze as by enchantment, but the others dragged him away. The smoke was
eddying after them into the new portal; soon the fire would follow.
Haste was still their sole safety. Before them were the dimly lighted
rooms of the palace; and Morgiana led their way.

Well that they had such guidance. The command of Iftikhar sounded
loudly to cut off the fugitives when they should come forth. But
Morgiana sped on before them, swift as the flight of a dream, through
dark galleries and under arcades where the flame glared all around.
They followed witlessly, not knowing whether she led to life or death.
Suddenly, as if by magic, the palace and its blazing battlements were
left behind them, their feet trod soft grass; their nostrils drank in
the pure air; and above the haze of vapor and sparks glittered the
fairer haze of the stars. The Arabian led them far on into the wood.

"Where were your horses tethered?" demanded Morgiana, halting.

"At the tamarisk by the road to the palace," answered Musa.

"Good, then," replied she; "follow this shorter path you see in the
starlight. Mount, spur, and Allah spread the cloak of compassion over
you. I can do nothing more!"

"St. Maurice!" swore Richard and Godfrey together, "shall we never
reward you?"

They could see Morgiana's eyes flash in the firelight. "This will be
reward--never again to hear the name 'Mary'!"

Before they could say more the Arabian had flung her arms about the
Greek, kissed her once, and vanished in the night.

       *       *       *       *       *

Despite the danger of pursuit, Morgiana's departure for an instant
broke the spell of delirium that had possessed the fugitives for the
hour. They were under the canopy of the forest. They heard the roar of
the burning, which was dimmed by the dense barrier of the trees. The
chamber of judgment; the chamber of battle; the struggle for life and
death; Morgiana, their good angel--all had vanished--whither! For a
moment the four were silent, drinking deep of the sweet air, their
hearts stirred by emotion too strong for words. It was the Spaniard
whose wits returned first.

"_Allah akhbar!_ What is this, down the path?" And his whisper plucked
back the others to the world of danger. A party of men and horses were
coming straight toward them from the palace.

"Now, by St. George!" cried the Duke, "we need our prayers! They have
taken horse to follow."

The hoofs were thundering behind them. Richard felt Mary trembling in
his arms with mortal dread. To have endured so much and to fail now!

"Holy Mother!" she was crying softly, "are the horses far away?"

But Richard laughed aloud and the others also. Then he trumpeted
through his hands, and Godfrey and Musa did likewise. Down the road
they heard a stamping and snapping of tether-ropes. And as they ran
three great beasts came prancing out of the dark to meet them--Rollo
puffing with his huge mouth in his master's face. The others were
mounted in a twinkling; but Richard gazed in vain for the Arabian
prepared for Mary. There was a crash in the road not forty paces away.
Over his head flew many arrows. The grip of his arm about Mary
tightened.

"Little wife," spoke he, in her ear, "will you trust Rollo?"

"I will trust _you_!" came the answer.

No other way; with his right hand Richard gripped the pommel and
leaped with his burden. And at the press of weight, Rollo gave a long
leap forward, as close upon them in pursuit swung another, a rider on
a tall horse; behind him, a mass of dark forms, sparks striking from
the flying hoofs.

Richard felt his wife shrink closer to him, and above the yell of the
Ismaelians heard her cry:--

"Carry us safe, dear Rollo, for the love of Christ! The need is
great!"

Iftikhar was breasting them, on a steed the pride of El Halebah's
stables. The Ismaelian drew bow, and sent a shaft crashing against
them. The leathern saddle-flap turned it, and Richard taunted: "Truly
you love the Greek! Will you strike her?"

"Better dead than yours!" came back, and with it a second arrow,
against Longsword's shoulder. He reeled, but the Valencia mail was not
faithless. Tightening his grasp, Richard swung Mary so that his own
body was between her and the Egyptian. He drew Trenchefer. Rollo
needed no bridle. At touch of the knee, the beast swerved so suddenly
that Iftikhar's mount was nigh over-ridden. Before the Egyptian could
cast away the bow and draw, the Christian sword fell. The Ismaelian
barely shunned it. Not so his horse; for the good sword cleft through
the saddle and severed the spine. Iftikhar went down with his falling
steed, while Rollo tossed out his heels and flew onward.

But a precious moment had sped, brief though the encounter. Almost as
Iftikhar fell, the Ismaelian band closed upon his conqueror. The dawn
was strengthening. Richard could see the foe about him--dark Syrians,
white-robed, with crooked bows, cimeters, and brass-studded targets.
They raised a mighty yell as they saw the prey they had tracked so
long locked, seemingly, in their hands. A thousand marks Longsword
would have pledged for his good target to cast behind Mary; but his
own body was the living shield. No place this, to swing Trenchefer
now. Speed, the speed of Rollo,--in that and in Our Lady he trusted.

"_Bismillah!_ Glory to Allah! The Christian jinn is taken!" roared the
foremost Ismaelians, with their screaming arrows. One shaft home, and
Rollo was crippled. But he, great brute, was wiser than many men. He
needed no word, no spur. Close to the ground, after his wont, he
dropped his muzzle. Then when he felt the reins slack on his neck and
Richard's fingers gently combing his mane, he struck out in a stretch
no steed of Fars or Khorassan could outpace. Two bounds, it seemed,
plucked him out of that circle of death; with the long way clear, and
the press behind. Through eyes half opened, Mary saw hills, rocks,
trees, speeding past under the pale light, as though runners in a
race. They had left the green wood; were on the highroad, flying
westward. Eastward, behind the howling pack, all the sky was bright,
but not all the glow was from the dawning. A tower of fire was leaping
toward heaven. All the groves were traced darkly against the red
glare, but faded swiftly as Rollo thundered westward.

Arrows, or what she deemed arrows, were whistling past her head. There
were a score of mad voices close behind: "Shoot! Slay! Strike the
horse! The grand prior's houri! A great reward!"

Then more arrows; but it was nothing easy to send a shaft from a
plunging saddle into the dimness, and strike a dragon flying as Rollo
flew. She heard Iftikhar shout once more--the fall had not harmed him,
for he was again mounted--"To every man a hundred dirhems, if you
bring down the horse!"

Her fear had become overmastering now. She was frightened as a little
child. Her face was very close to her husband's. Despite the pace, she
spoke.

"Richard, do not forget. You have promised. Strike, before too late."

The other's answer was a glance behind into the half-light. Mother of
Pity, how close the infidels were! Then he bent forward, and spoke to
Rollo,--not in Greek, Arabic, or Provençal, but in his own Norman
French.

"On, my horse; on, my sweet swallow! Will you be run to death like a
fawn? Shall the paynims say, 'There are no steeds like the steeds of
the East?' Remember your glory, my Rollo! Remember the lists at
Palermo! How you outpaced the winds at Dorylæum. And the brave days at
Antioch, gone by! And will you now fail, swiftest of the _destrers_ of
France?"

Did the black brute understand? Did he know that he had been born and
bred, that for those few moments, double-mounted as he was, he should
speed swifter, ever swifter, beyond range of those shafts whereof one
must soon strike home?

But the Ismaelians saw, and Iftikhar saw, who cursed his men by every
sheytan, vowing stake and torment if they failed. Longsword still
urged:--

"Onward! Onward! the _jongleurs_ sing of Ogier's Broiefort, of Bayard
the fleet steed of Renaud, but swiftest of all shall they set Rollo
bearing master and lady, casting shame on the beasts of the Moslems.
Bravely done, yet faster! Faster, and faster yet! See, the arrows are
falling short! Hear,--they curse and call on their Prophet vainly for
aid. On, Rollo; as I feel your stride, I grow proud, yet you can make
it longer. On, Rollo; another such shaft, our riding is ended! On,
Rollo; you bear rarer than gold in the saddle now! On, Rollo; God
loves a good horse's speed. They shall deck you in ribbons, my Rollo,
and Herbert shall kiss your dear black lips when I tell the tale. All
the Julieners shall be glad; in old age they shall say, 'No steed now
like to Rollo, the great horse of our seigneur.'"

And Rollo? Long had been his stride, longer now; swift, swifter now.
No reed-limbed southern-born he; spaniel-sleek, and spaniel-tender.
Where the road was rough, his great hoof bit out the rock and sent it
flying; where smooth, the Ismaelians saw no wings, but they saw his
flight. Godfrey and Musa led the chase, but not as Rollo. No arrows
for them; the pursuers knew their prey. The eyes of the Ismaelians'
steeds were blood-shot, bits foaming; arrow after arrow sped,--fell
shorter. Mary saw yawning before them a wide gully, cut deep by the
spring torrent. Life--death--flashed up in an instant. She felt Rollo
draw his huge limbs together,--a bound, and cleared; a safe recovery;
the horse ran on. Godfrey passed safely. Musa's charger stumbled, but
reined up dexterously, recovered, flew on. The Ismaelians struck the
gully together; two leaders went down, were trampled out in a breath,
horse and man. The rest still spurred after. But Richard, as he
counted the ells betwixt him and the black mass of the pursuit, saw
the patch of dark road widening slowly, but surely. More arrows now;
when these flew very wide, a single rider shot ahead of the rest. In
the brightening dawn Richard saw the pursuer prodding with a
cimeter-point to add to the spur sting.

Again Richard put his head close to his steed's ear. "Faster again, my
Rollo; faster yet, I say! Only a little more. Iftikhar pricks cruelly
now, cruelly. When did I that, to give you speed? Ha, we are better
friends! You are winning a great race--are heading the fleetest steeds
of Fars, of Khorassan. You are winning! I grow more proud--proud of
Rollo, king of the _destrers_ of France!"

The answer was a final burst of speed, and Richard knew he had never
ridden so before. Iftikhar's men vainly strove to keep pace with their
leader; one after another goaded, dashed forward, dropped from the
chase. Musa's peerless Arabian, Godfrey's Marchegai ran neck to neck
behind Rollo, but they bore no double burden. Richard's heart went
with his eyes when he saw the last effort of the pursuit. For a moment
the space betwixt pursued and pursuers lessened,--but only for a
moment. Then the precious stretch of road grew wider, ever wider.
There came a moment when even the steeds of El Halebah could do no
more. Iftikhar still led; but he was not mad enough to pursue alone
three such spirits. Richard heard his last curse of bootless rage.
There was a last vain flight of arrows: one chance shaft whirled past
Rollo's ear; the blood was started. That was all. Musa waved his
cimeter as a parting defiance. The Ismaelians had halted. For the
first time Mary and Richard had eyes for other things than the flying
Rollo. They saw and marvelled that the darkness had gone. The sun had
risen and was hanging a ball of red gold on the eastern horizon.
Aleppo, El Halebah, and its gardens had vanished, as though but a
vision of the night. All about were the rolling, arid Syrian fields.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Iftikhar returned to El Halebah, the fire had utterly destroyed
the wing of the palace containing the harem. Only through desperate
efforts by the Ismaelians who had not joined in the pursuit was the
remainder of the building saved. The grand prior's first act was to
order search to be made for Morgiana. The "devoted" failed in their
quest as completely as in the chase of the fugitives. The Arab seemed
to have bidden the rock open and receive her. Breathing forth his vows
of vengeance, Iftikhar had retired for the evening, before riding to
join Kerbogha; but Zeyneb wandered from the half-wrecked palace into
the gardens. He was alone in one of the remotest glades, when of a
sudden his arm was plucked, and glancing about he beheld in the
dimness the face of Morgiana. Where she had hidden, he did not know
nor did she tell. He tried to shout; she plucked his throat as
fiercely as on the previous night when she had mastered him.

"_Ya_," he heard her demand; "will you call the 'devoted'? Will you
deliver me up to Iftikhar?"

"He swears he will have you flayed alive," gasped the dwarf; "why
should I save you after what you have done to me?"

"Why?" laughed Morgiana. "Listen, Zeyneb. Did Hakem awake after I cut
his throat? What hindered me to do the like to you."

Zeyneb hung his head. "It is true," he confessed; "you spared me."

"I spared you," she reëchoed, laughing after her unearthly manner,
"not through love--Allah forbid!--but because you were my
foster-brother, and faithful to Iftikhar. The Greek is gone--gone
forever--praised be the Most High! Iftikhar in his mad pride will go
to Antioch, where--and the omens of the smoke never lie--only woe
awaits. He casts me away, but I will not leave him. He curses; I will
never forsake. I am strong, I can yet save."

"Allah!" cried the dwarf--her spell once more over him--"what do you
desire?"

"That you aid me to go to Antioch. You have means and wits. Then,
unknown to him, I shall be at Iftikhar's side, to stand betwixt him
and the danger."



CHAPTER XXXVIII

HOW RICHARD AND MUSA AGAIN PARTED


Rollo had dropped to a slower pace; at last had halted. Richard had
set Mary down on a grassy hummock and gone back to his steed. The
great beast was reeking with sweat, panting in strong gusts such as
blow from a smithy's bellows. Richard plucked off his outer
mantle--long since tattered--and rubbed the steaming flanks and back
of the brute; while all the time he patted him, and praised him for
having done a deed right worthy of a Christian _destrer_ pacing the
steeds of the unbelievers. But it was Mary who rose, and put her fair
white arms round black Rollo's neck, and her cheek against the white
spot on his forehead.

"Ah! dear Lord Jesus Christ," said she, "if there be indeed a heaven
where good horses go, surely our Rollo will be there, a very angel!"

Richard laughed merrily, when he imagined the huge brute duly decked
with halo and with wings. But Rollo, sensible fellow, who knew that he
had only done his duty as became an honest horse, sniffed for water,
found none, and then began to munch the thorny wayside thistles with
as much relish as might a desert camel. Musa and Godfrey had
dismounted, and were praising their steeds also. Well they deserved
it, but neither had borne the burden of Rollo, or run as did he. When
Richard turned once more to Mary, she gave a great cry.

"Mother of Sorrows," began the knight, "were you wounded?"

"I!" the Greek was saying. "They have nigh slain you! You have a
hundred wounds!"

In truth Longsword was no pretty sight. For one could not fight and
ride a night long, and not have bloody cheeks, bloody hands, and a cut
on the right thigh where a cimeter had brushed away the Valencia mail.
Richard wiped it off as best he could.

"It is nothing!" protested he, gayly; "ten times have I bled worse,
and never been the sadder,--at Dorylæum, and time and again about
Antioch."

"Ah, Richard," said she, "some day it may befall that if not you,
another will be sadder if you risk your dear life lightly."

"And why not risk it, when I deemed you were worse than dead to me?"

Mary lifted her face. "But I am not dead, sweet husband; for my sake
do not throw your life away. Above all, swear you will shun to meet
Iftikhar. He is a terrible man."

But the Norman shook his head. "Dear life--say to me 'Pluck me down
three stars,' and I will try; but avoid Iftikhar I cannot. God created
us both; but not a world large enough to hold us both. Yet do not
fear."

"Ah! Richard," said she, smiling in turn, "you also are a terrible man
as well as Iftikhar. I tremble when I think I have the love of beings
so grand, so valorous, as you. I know my love and my pain stand often
but one step apart. But I have chosen you. And you must play your
game, and--when God wills--die your death in your own way; while I
will love and trust you to the end."

Though his face was bleeding, she kissed him.

"I am a cavalier's daughter, and a cavalier's wife," said she, more
lightly; "red wine and white must be alike to me."

Then Musa and Godfrey came up, courteously asking if the lady was
well, and heaping praise on Rollo.

"There lies a ravine with a sweet spring, beyond the next hillock,"
said Musa, who never forgot a road once travelled. "Let us ride
thither. From its crest we can command a wide view, if any party
approaches. Let us rest a little--the Star of the Greeks slept none
too much last night."

Mary pouted at the suggestion that they must wait for her alone. But
in truth the horses sadly needed a halt. Richard knew Godfrey's heart
was in the camp at Antioch lying unwarned of the impending danger. But
even his Marchegai walked wearily as they climbed the little hill. The
sun was fast mounting upward, promising a clear, hot day. Beyond the
hillock, as the Spaniard had said, was a deep, cool ravine, an oasis
in the desert of dry grass and thistle, where a little spring bubbled
from the limestone, and threaded down a rocky bed. Over all swayed a
few aged cypresses, an oleander thicket, ferns, and the twining wild
vine. Here they drank till thirst was ended. Then while the three
horses nibbled the grass, Richard found bread, and cheese, and broken
meat in the saddle-bags, and they had their feast. That ended, the men
saw the eyes of the Greek were very heavy, though she vowed she was
not weary.

"No fear, dear lady," quoth Musa. "As we watch, not a crow can fly
within a league without our seeing. It is safest to ride by night. Let
me stand sentry for a time; then I will rouse Richard, and Lord
Godfrey shall relieve in turn." So, having resaddled the horses, and
prepared for instant flight, he took his cimeter and climbed to the
summit. Godfrey cast himself beneath a cypress, and his snoring soon
told its story. Mary's eyes were scarcely peeping now.

"Come, my Lord Baron," said she, smiling drowsily; "let your little
wife fall asleep with her head in your lap."

And lying under the spreading trees, she did as she wished; for how
could Richard refuse her? She cast a last look into his face.

"How you have changed! How fierce your great beard makes you! You will
be more marked with scars than your father. Once I thought the only
man I could love must be a beautiful youth like the Apollo of Scopas
in our Constantinople home. How different! I ought to fear you, as all
men fear you. But I do not--do not. For you are--Richard."

The last words had come very slowly; there came no more. There was a
little flutter of her breast and lips when she turned in her sleep.
Richard sat a long time; his hands--great clumsy hands--now on her
hair, now on her forehead, now on her neck. What had he done so
pleasing to Heaven that he had been possessed of this--of this! The
events of the past night buzzed about him--the shadow of death in so
many forms!--how unreal the horrors seemed as they flitted by! He knew
he ought to lay Mary's head upon the grass and relieve Musa's watch.
But his eyes also were very heavy. He could not bring himself to
disturb that crown of hair. The ravine and the trees grew dim. At last
Richard thought he was back in St. Julien a-hunting, only the dogs
were pulling down Harun, the Ismaelian, in place of a stag. This also
passed away; he seemed drifting onward, onward,--until he heard a
voice close by:--

"_Wallah!_ How beautiful she is, and how she loves him!"

Richard raised his head. Musa was standing beside him; the sunbeams
were slanting from the west.

"Holy cross!" exclaimed the Norman; "the day is sped. I have slept
through all. And Duke Godfrey?" Musa smiled.

"Look!" The good Duke was still in the sleep of the righteous.

"You have been sole sentinel. Why did you not wake us?" cried Richard.
Musa again laughed.

"If I can wield no cudgels of marble, I have a manner of strength.
Many a night long at Cordova I have counted the hours over my books.
My fellows said, 'Musa is like Allah; he never sleeps.' No foe in
sight; no need of haste."

There was a stir on Richard's lap; the long lashes unclosed.

"Have I slept very long?" said the Greek, with a pretty sigh.

"None too long," answered the Spaniard. "I have made bow and arrows,
and killed two desert partridges. Let us sup and be off."

Godfrey awoke and cursed the devil that made him sleepy. Musa had made
a fire. They ate with a relish. Then Richard swung his wife into the
saddle, and Rollo pranced gleefully as he took the road with his
precious burden. They rode steadily until far into the night, meeting
no one; then halted, resting on the dry grass until the moon had risen
and lit the way. As they galloped onward, once or twice they thought
they heard hoof-beats and saw distant objects moving; but nothing came
close to threaten. The sun had but just risen when they climbed a
commanding height east of the Orontes, where the fair valley,
spreading down to Antioch, lay full in view. Godfrey was leading, when
Richard saw him rein Marchegai short, and heard a bitter cry. "God
Himself is leagued against us!"

Below the whole plain was covered with the squadrons of a countless
host!

       *       *       *       *       *

From their hilltop they could view the strange army in its fulness.
Near by, a squadron of light horsemen were speeding, their arms
flashing under the brightening sun. Farther on a brown line was
winding--small as of creeping ants; but Longsword knew he beheld
footmen on the march, and their numbers were thousands. Perched on a
knoll in the hills were gay pavilions, and above them glittered a
sultan's twin banners, silver and gold. Beyond them was a second pair,
enringed by other tents; beyond these a third, a fourth; and the eye
grew weary counting the companies. Iftikhar had indeed boasted
well--Kerbogha and all the might of the East was moving to the succor
of Antioch. God alone knew if the Christian host would be warned in
time! The Norman brushed his hand across his eyes, as if to dispel
this ill-fraught vision. But vision it was not. The innumerable host,
the marching columns, the sultans' and emirs' encampments, still were
there.

For a moment all were dumb. Musa spoke first.

"As the Most High lives, this is a magician's work!"

Godfrey only smiled gravely.

"No, fair sir, it is the army of Kerbogha. When I quitted camp, we
hoped he was still delaying before Edessa. But come he has, and unless
I greatly fail, there are none in the army that dream he is so near."

"So near, and not discovered?" demanded Longsword. The Duke laughed
wearily. "Even you, De St. Julien, do not know how feeble has been our
scouting. From the lowlands about Antioch we can see little of this
host; only a few advance squadrons that will retire when charged. I
greatly fear--"

But Richard interposed: "That the Army of the Cross is near surprise,
as Iftikhar vaunted. But are not Christ and Our Lady still with us?
Has God ceased to hear prayer?"

The elder knight crossed himself. "It is true, fair sir, our faith is
very weak. We are still stronger than ten thousand thousand paynims!"
Then he turned almost fiercely upon Musa. "And you, Sir Infidel, is
your heart with this army and its purpose? They are of your own faith.
Do you wish them well?"

Musa shook his head thoughtfully:--

"They fight not for Islam, but for their own dark ends. Can any good
thing come from Kerbogha, Iftikhar's ally? I serve the kalif of Egypt,
not the emir of Mosul."

They said no more. What was left to say? The hopes of a day had been
blasted in an instant. Seemingly the army of the emir lay directly
across their road to the city. As the hilltop was exposed to view,
they retired behind to where a tiny brooklet started amid a clump of
date palms. And well they did, for as they drew rein came a click and
canter, and a single Arab horseman whirled down the hill slope,
thinking least of all to meet an enemy. Before any knew it, he was
face to face with them, had halted with a yell, stared once, turned to
fly; but Godfrey had touched Marchegai, and he bounded beside the
Arab, whom the Duke unsaddled before he could draw cimeter. Richard
ran to him, as also Musa. So they held the prisoner fast, and led him
to the brooklet, nipping his throat tightly to choke an outcry. Then,
when the horse also had been taken, and his captors had him on his
back, Godfrey held a dagger at his throat to give good reason for
talking softly. The rascal whined piteously to be killed without
torture; for, he moaned, the Franks were wont to broil prisoners alive
for eating.

"Stop croaking, frog," commanded Longsword, fiercely. "Only as you
speak truly, may you keep a whole windpipe;--if not--" The silence was
the most terrible threat. So the wretch told a story that seemed
likely enough. He was a light rider serving with Dekak of Damascus.
Kerbogha's host had advanced from Edessa, constantly swelling in
numbers. There were twenty-eight emirs from Syria and Mesopotamia with
him; Kilidge Arslan, burning to avenge the defeat at Dorylæum, the
former emir of Jerusalem, and many princes more had led their myriads.
The army had solemnly sworn by the beard of the Prophet to leave not
one Christian to return to Frankland to tell the tale. They had
advanced by stealthy marches from Afrin, and were now within a few
leagues of Antioch itself; but to the prisoner's best knowledge the
Christians had not discovered them. Then came an astonishing piece of
news: while Kerbogha had advanced, Antioch had fallen. Two days
earlier,--so the tale in the Moslem camp ran,--Phirous the Armenian
had betrayed a tower to Bohemond, and all the city except the citadel
had fallen to the Crusaders. This was the sum of the fellow's tale,
and Godfrey liked it little.

"So Bohemond made shift to take the city while he thought me away on
the southern foray!" growled he, almost bitterly. "_Gratias Deo_,--I
ought to say. But I know the manner of these knaves that follow us.
Seven days long they will plunder, kill, and revel, thinking of ten
thousand things before scouting. They will be snared one and all.
Kerbogha will surprise the city. It will be their grave,--the grave of
fools!"

"And why is not the army moving?" demanded Richard.

"We wait for Cid Iftikhar with all his Ismaelians. Men whisper that it
is he in private council, not Kerbogha, who will rule the war."

Richard smiled grimly.

"Cid Iftikhar has had cause to delay. But tell me: does the line of
Kerbogha compass the whole city? How may we enter?"

The dagger's edge was cold against the Arab's throat, a goodly check
to lying, and there was something in Richard's eye that made it
dangerous to haggle with the truth.

"Cid,--I tell you truly,--it will be a great peril for any Christian
to try to enter Antioch. But if you ride to the south and then
westward, touching the river below the city, I think you might pass,
if Allah favor."

Longsword withdrew the dagger.

"See!" commented he; "the word of a Frank is inviolate. Swear you will
whisper, not even to the winds, you were met by us; and you are free.
Only we must keep your horse."

The Arab swore by the "triple-divorcement" (an oath Musa declared
all-abiding), and rejoiced to struggle to his feet.

"I am secret as the Judgment book, my Cid!" quoth he, in his
gratitude. Godfrey motioned him away.

"Remember your oath, then, and begone."

The fellow climbed the hillside, blessing Allah he was still alive.
But those he left had a gloomy council. They were in no state for high
and brave speech. Presently Richard began in his quiet way, sure token
of determination: "We cannot remain here. Others may pass, in greater
numbers. We have captured a fresh horse, and must make over the saddle
for my wife."

But Musa stood listless, his eyes on the ground.

"We are in Allah's hands, brother," said he, with a despairing wave of
the hand. "We have done all men might. Useless--fate is wearied with
saving us. We can do nothing more. If our doom is written, it is
written."

And Richard saw that the proud spirit of his friend was bowed at last.
The heart of Musa was sprung from the East; the word "fate" was a
deadly talisman to him, as to all his race. But the Norman caught him
roughly by the shoulder.

"Rouse up, Musa, son of Abdallah! Do not anger God by saying, 'He puts
forth His arm to save us all in vain,--to save from the cord, the
cimeter, the fire, and the arrow, only to wait for slaughter like
cows!' We have good swords and strong hearts still! Bowed heads never
won triumph. Rouse up; your wits are not frozen. When one wills to
have victory, victory is at hand."

Musa lifted his face; his eyes were again flashing.

"You say well, brother; I am turned coward. Do what you will; I
follow."

Richard swept his arm around in a circle.

"We cannot recross this barren country; no refuge there. And Antioch
must be warned. But there is safety for my wife and for you."

"Safety for me and for Musa? What?" Mary, long silent, demanded.

Richard hesitated; then drove on into seemingly reckless words.

"You have wits keener than your cimeter, Musa, and can tell a tale to
deceive sage Oberon. Take my wife; ride boldly into the camp of
Kerbogha. Say you are an Arab gentleman with a Greek slave fleeing
from the Frankish raiders at Alexandretta; that Turkomen bandits met
your party on the way and scattered it. Dress up the tale--they will
believe you. Unless you meet Iftikhar or Zeyneb face to face, none
will doubt. At first chance sail for Egypt, and be safe."

"And you and Cid Godfrey?"

Richard pointed over the hill toward Antioch; then drew back his
mantle. Upon the ring-shirt was the red cross of the Crusade.

"We are soldiers of Christ, and must warn our brethren."

"_Mashallah!_ You shall attempt nothing," cried the Spaniard. "You
rebuked me; yet you rush into the arms of death! Your wife!"

And Godfrey added eagerly:--

"Yes, by St. Denis,--my duty calls to Antioch, but not yours. One can
pass as safely as two. Think of your wife, De St. Julien. If Musa
prospers at all, he can pass you for a body-servant or the like. I
alone will go to Antioch."

Richard was very pale, and Mary likewise; but before he could answer,
she thrust herself between the Norman and his friends.

"You say well, my lord and husband," said she, simply; "you belong
first to Christ and then to me."

"O sweet lady," broke out Musa, "pray him for your sake, if not for
his own, to go with us; to forget his madness."

Mary looked from one to the other. Her hands clasped and unclasped
nervously, but her voice was calm and sweet.

"No, brave Musa, I cannot say to Richard 'turn back,'--though my Lord
Godfrey says it. Cursed would be my love for him, and his for me, if
thus he was turned from his vow to Our Lord, and from duty to his
comrades. I did not love him, to make him slave to my fears and
desires. Rather I saw him as something higher far than I; like a
mountain whose shadows would cover me; but whose height I would not
lessen. For my heart--as your heart and Duke Godfrey's heart--tells me
his duty is in the city, not with me. And whether he dies--which
Christ forbid!--or lives to see the victory, I shall know my love has
been sweeter than all the pain."

Mary stood with her head erect; her eyes bright, but not with tears.

Richard turned to the others, smiling.

"Ah; good friends, how can I be weak when my dear wife is so strong!"
They did not answer. Then he touched Musa, leading him aside. "I must
speak with you."

The Andalusian's eyes were wet. He was no ice-bound northerner, to
nurse his fires deep within, and to wax more stony the more they
burned.

"Musa," said Richard, very directly, "we have been to each other as
few brothers and fewer friends. God knows why you have run this peril.
Yet I believe you care more for the Greek than for any woman, if you
have loved any, save as a sister."

The Spaniard shrugged his shoulders almost gayly.

"If to any woman I could yield," said he, lightly, "it were to her,
peerless from Andalus to Ind! Alas, I am clothed in some magic armor
the darts of the eyes of the houris may not pierce; yet if any eyes
could pierce, it would be those of Mary de St. Julien."

Richard held his lips close to the other's ear.

"Musa," said he, "I may get into Antioch; but a long road lies still
to Jerusalem. Where the arrows sing, I must be. And if I fall"--he
spoke lower--"Mary will be alone. She cannot go to La Haye and be
wedded to another by her uncle, as would surely be her fate. Not a
kinsman remains at Constantinople. You must"--he hesitated--"you must
swear to me that you will love her; that if I die, she shall be your
wife. For Moslem as you are, no man breathes I would rather see with
his arms about her than you. You alone can make her forget me; make
her look forward and laugh in the sunlight."

Why were beads of sweat on the Spaniard's brow? Why came his breath so
swift and deep? But he answered steadily:--

"Brother mine, you ask a great thing; yet I accept it. If it is
written by the stars that you fall, I swear I will stand in your place
to the Star of the Greeks. May she never want love and service while
life is mine! But till that day I will be to her as a brother, no
more, no less; and let Allah speed the hour when I can give her back
spotless to your arms."

They said no more, those two strong men; their clasped hands sealed
the pledge. Richard walked back to Mary.

"Dear heart," said he, "we Franks have a proverb, 'Hunger drives the
wolf from the woods.' We cannot stand here forever. Why should we
grieve? Have I not seen your face two nights and a day; and do I not
commit you to the noblest friend in all the wide earth? When I enter
the city, I will show three red shields above the Gate of St. George;
and if all goes well with you, let Musa contrive to set three lances
with red pennons before it at an arrow's flight, as sign that your
tale is credited and you are safe in Kerbogha's camp."

"We will not fail," said Musa, calmly. Richard adjusted the saddle of
the captured horse so that Mary might ride. No stragglers were at the
moment in sight. The Norman kissed his friend on both cheeks. He
pressed the Greek once to his breast. Death was not paler than she;
but she did not cry.

"You are my cavalier, my saviour, my husband," said she, lifting her
eyes. "You are your Roland and our Greek Achilles! Dear God, what have
I done that for an hour you should love me?"

"Our Lady keep you, sweet wife!" was the only answer.

"And you, Richard mine."

That was all that passed. Musa spoke his farewell with his eyes.
Godfrey bowed ceremoniously to the Spaniard; kissed the lady's hand.
His honest heart was too deeply moved for words. Richard swung onto
Rollo without touching stirrup. He did not look back. Marchegai
cantered beside. The horses whirled their riders over the hillside.
Soon the view before and behind was hid by the close thickets that
lined the foothills. Richard rode with his head bent over Rollo's
black mane, letting the horse thunder at will at the heels of
Marchegai. The Norman's thoughts? Drowning men, report has it, live a
long life through in a twinkling. Richard's life was not long; yet not
once, but many times, he lived it over during that ride--the good
things, the evil; and the evil were so many! And always before his
sight was the vision of that face, pale as marble, the eyes fairer
than stars--that face he had put away because of the love for the
unseen Christ.

Now of much that passed in that ride Richard remembered little; but he
followed Godfrey blindly. And a voice seemed to repeat in his ears
time and again: "Turn back, Richard Longsword, turn back. You can yet
rejoin Musa and Mary. There is safety in the camp of Kerbogha. You
are not needed in the threatened city. Leave the army to God. You have
long since slain enough Moslems to clear your guilt and vow."

But Richard would cross himself and mutter prayers, calling on every
saint to fight against the assailing devils. As he rode, he saw
remnants all about of the old pagan world where there had been love of
sunlight, of flowers, of fair forms, and men had never borne a pain or
struck a blow for love of the suffering Christ or the single Allah.
They were on a road, he knew, that led to the Grove of Daphne. He had
heard Mary tell of the sinful heathen processions that once must have
traversed this very way,--revellers brimming with unholy mirth, their
souls devoted to the buffets of Satan.

Once he and Godfrey drew rein at a wayside spring to water the horses.
Lo, beside the trickling brook was a block of weather-stained marble,
carved into the fashion of a maiden fair as the dawn. Mother of
Christ! Was it not enchantment that made that stony face take on the
likeness of Mary the Greek? What heathen demon made the lips speak to
him, "Back! back! Do not cast your life away"?

"St. Michael--away, the temptress!" he thundered, and with Trenchefer
smote the stone, so that the smile and the beauty were dashed forever.
"_Kyrie eleison! Christe eleison!_" prayed Richard; "Holy St. Julien,
patron of my house, forbid these fiends to tempt me!"

Yet all the wood seemed full of witchery and the voices of
devils,--the old pagan devils, Pan, and Apollin, and Dian, and
Hercules, and countless more,--who whispered ever that Christ and His
heaven were very far away; that life was sweet, the sun was sweet, and
sweetest of all a woman's love. But Richard muttered his prayers and
rode onward; trusting that they might meet the infidels in flesh and
blood, not sprites of the air whose arrows no ring mail could turn.

At last, after the sun had climbed high, and the horses had dropped to
a weary pacing, there was a shout behind, --an Arab yell,--the
clatter of scabbards and targets. Down a leafy way charged a squadron
of Bedouin light horse, twenty, perhaps, and more. But Rollo and
Marchegai had a fair start, well out of arrow range; and the
unbelievers soon learned the speed of Frankish steeds. A long race,
though not such as that when Iftikhar had led the chase. When at last
the Bedouins turned back, their beasts all spent, the knights' mounts
too had little strength to spare. Woods were still on every hand, when
the two painfully walked beside their horses. As they climbed the
slopes of Mount Silpius in the early afternoon, on the last stage to
the city, suddenly from beyond a bend in the trees came the pounding
of horsemen, fifty at least; and the sound neared fast.

Richard cast a glance at Godfrey.

"My lord," said he, "Rollo is at the end of his speed. We cannot run
from fresh horses."

The Duke shook his head when he heard the deep pants of Marchegai. "It
is true," he answered. "I think we had best say 'Our Father,' and look
to our swords."

But down the forest lane came a clear voice, singing lustily the sweet
Languedoc:--

    "Merrily under the greenwood flying,
    _Zu, zu_, away to my Mirabel!
    Swift! For my lady waits long,--is sighing!
    _Zu, zu_, more speed to my Mirabel!"

"De Valmont's voice, as I hope for heaven!" cried Richard, dropping
the bridle. And straight toward them cantered a merry body of
cavaliers and men-at-arms, Louis's broad pennon leading.

"_Ahois!_ Forward! Infidels!" thundered the Valmonter, couching lance
as he saw the two awaiting him. But there was a loud laugh when the
two knights were recognized.

"Holy Mass!" swore Louis; "and were not you, my Lord Godfrey, on the
foray to Urdeh?"

The Duke shook his head, the instinct of a leader once more
uppermost.

"I was not," quoth he, curtly, explaining nothing. "And you, De
Valmont? What means this party so far from the walls?"

"We rode after Sir Philip of Amiens, who rode with a few knights this
way from the city this morning, and has not returned. We fear they met
Arabs. It is rumored the Prince Kerbogha is as near as Afrin, and
advancing!"

"By the Holy Trinity, he _is_ advancing!" shouted the Duke, mounting
with a leap. "Leave Philip of Amiens to God; he is long since passed
from your aid. Back to the city with speed, if you wish not for
martyrdom."

And wearied though Marchegai was, Godfrey made him outpace all the
rest as they raced toward Antioch. Richard saw the Christian banners
on the walls as he drew near. Once inside the gates he needed nothing
to tell him the city had been sacked in a way that bred slight glory
to the soldiers of the Cross. He left Godfrey to rouse the chiefs, and
to spread the dread tidings of Kerbogha's approach. His own St.
Julieners he found in the house of a Moslem merchant they had
unceremoniously slaughtered. They were so drunken that only Herbert
and Sebastian were able to receive him. A gloomy tale they gave
him--the city stormed, then a massacre of the Antiochers,--Christian
and Moslem alike,--so terrible that even the fiends must have trembled
to find mortal spirits more bloody than they. After the orgy of
killing had come days of unholy revellings, drunkenness, and deeds no
pen may tell. To crown all, the provisions found in the city had been
so wasted, that starvation was close at hand. Richard in his turn told
how it had prospered with him at Aleppo. Sebastian sighed when he
heard of Mary in the custody of Musa.

"Can honey come out of wormwood?" cried he. "God may allow this
infidel to serve Christians in their peril; yet even then with danger
to the soul. Ah, dear son, either you must break this friendship with
the Spaniard of your own will, or rest assured God will break it for
you. Doubt not--light and darkness cannot lie on the same pillow;
neither can you serve God and this Mammon whose name is Musa."

"Father," said Richard, "had you stood as I and Musa did, both in the
presence of death, you would not speak thus."

But the answer was unflinching.

"I declare that had you both died, your soul would have gone to
heaven, or purgatory, and his to the nethermost hell, to lie bound
forever with the false prophet and rebel angels."

Richard's thoughts were very dark after Sebastian's words. Was there a
great gulf sundering him eternally from the Spaniard? But soon he had
little time for brooding on puzzles for the churchmen. The walls had
barely been manned on Duke Godfrey's orders, and the foraying parties
called in, before the hosts of Kerbogha swarmed down the valley,
seemingly numberless. The Moslem garrison of the citadel made
desperate sallies. On the day following Richard's return the party led
by the gallant Roger de Barnville was cut to pieces before the walls.
Each day the bread-loaves grew dearer and smaller. There was ceaseless
fighting by sunlight and starlight. Each day the taunts of the Arabs
were flung in the Crusaders' teeth, "Franks, you are well on the way
to Jerusalem!" Truly the besiegers were become the besieged. As the
days crept by the Christians were few who did not expect to view the
Holy City in heaven before the Holy City on earth.



CHAPTER XXXIX

HOW PETER BARTHELMY HAD A DREAM


On Saturday, the fifth day of June, in the Year of Grace one thousand
and ninety-eight, Kerbogha appeared before Antioch with a countless
host. On the Saturday following a small loaf of bread sold among the
Christians for a gold byzant; an egg was worth six deniers; a pound of
silver was none too much for the head of a horse. Men who had endured
bitter sieges in the home-land, who had marched across the parching
deserts of Isauria without a groan, now at last began to confess their
sins to the priest, and to prepare to die. For help seemed possible
from none save God--and God was visibly angry with His servants for
the blood and passion at the city's sack.

On the day after his entrance, Richard Longsword showed three red
shields on the minaret, and after a little, to his unspeakable joy,
there were three lances with red pennons set close together before the
Gate of St. George. Mary and Musa were safe in the camp of Kerbogha,
and Richard blessed St. Michael and our Lady ever Virgin. Yet for a
while he was angry with Heaven. If he had entered the city so easily,
might not Mary have come in at his side? What need of parting? But he
did not keep these feelings long; and his thankfulness was deep when
he knew that at least his wife was not seeing gallant seigneurs, even
the very Count of Flanders, begging in the city streets for a bit of
bread, nor was herself enduring the awful hunger.

For the famine was the last stroke of the wrath of God upon His
unworthy people. Thousands had died when the first hordes, led by
Peter the Hermit and Walter Lackpenny, had been cut off by Kilidge
Arslan; thousands more at Dorylæum; tens of thousands when they
tracked the desert and besieged Antioch. But this was the crowning
agony. When the news came that Kerbogha was approaching, the princes
had indeed done what they could. Messengers had rushed down to the
coast to bring up provisions landed by the friendly Italian merchants;
foraging parties had been sent to sweep the country. But nine months
long Syria had been harried by the armies. In a few days all the
Christians were face to face with starvation. Pleasanter far to spend
their last strength in the daily battles with Kerbogha, who ever
pressed nearer, than to endure the slow agony in the city. Yet the
infidels won success upon success. The Moslem garrison of the castle
made continual sorties; the outlying forts of the Christians were
defended gallantly, but in vain. Each day drifted into the starving
city some tale of the pride and confidence of Kerbogha--how when
squalid Frankish prisoners were haled before him, his _atabegs_ had
roared at his jest, "Are these shrunken-limbed creatures the men who
chatter of taking Jerusalem?" and how he had written to the
arch-sultan: "Eat, drink, be merry! The Franks are in my clutch. The
wolf is less terrible than he boasted!"

In the city the cry again was, "God wills it!" But the meaning was,
"God wills we should all perish or become slaves;" and on every hand
was dumb lethargy or mad blasphemy.

New misfortunes trod upon old. In a sortie Bohemond the crafty and
brave was wounded; Tancred's and Godfrey's valor ended in repulse. The
foe pressed closer, damming the last tiny stream of provisions that
trickled into the doomed city. Boiled grass, roots, leaves, leathern
shields, and shoes; the corpses of slain Saracens--the Franks had come
even to this! Richard feasted with Duke Godfrey on a morsel from a
starved camel. The good Duke sacrificed his last war-horse except
Marchegai, and then the lord of Lorraine was more pinched for food
than the meanest villain on his distant lands. As day passed into day
despair became deeper. Many, once among the bravest, strove to flee in
the darkness down to the port of St. Simeon and escape by sea. Many
went boldly to the Moslem camp, and confessed Islam in return for a
bit of bread. "Rope-dancers," howled the survivors, of those who by
night lowered themselves from the walls. And Bishop Adhemar talked of
the fate of Judas Iscariot. But still desertions continued, from the
great counts of Blois and of Melun down to the humblest.

One day Richard was cut to the quick by having Prince Tancred, who
kept the walls, send him under guard one of his own St. Julien men,
who had been caught while trying to desert. Richard had prided himself
on the loyalty of his band, and his fury was unbounded.

"Ho! Herbert, rig a noose and gibbet. Turn the rascal off as soon as
Sebastian has shriven him!" rang his command.

To his surprise a murmur burst from the men-at-arms about, and he
surveyed them angrily.

"What is this, my men? Here is a foul traitor to his seigneur and his
God! Shall he not die?"

Then a veteran man-at-arms came forward and kissed Richard's feet.

"Lord, we have served in the holy war leal and true. But it is plain
to all men that God does not wish us to set eyes on Jerusalem! We have
parents and wives and children in dear France. We have done all that
good warriors may, now let us go back together. To-night lead us
yourself along the river road, and let us escape to the port of St.
Simeon."

No thundercloud was blacker than Richard Longsword's face when he
answered, hardly keeping self-mastery:--

"And does this fellow speak for you all?"

"For all, lord," cried many voices. "Did you not promise to bring us
home in safety, to lead us back safe and sound to Nicole, and Berta,
and Aleïs? Surely we did not take the cross to die here, as starving
dogs. Let us die with our good swords in our hands as becomes
Christians, or in our beds, if God wills."

Richard had drawn out Trenchefer, and swept the great blade round. "My
good vassals," he said in the lordly fashion he could put on so well,
"you know your seigneur. Know that he is a man who has thus far gone
share and share to the last crumb with his people, and will. Does not
my belly pinch? do not I live without bread? But I say this: this man
shall die and so shall every other die a felon's death who turns
craven, or I am no Richard, Baron de St. Julien, whose word is never
to be set at naught."

There was a long silence among all the company that stood in the broad
court of the Antioch house. They knew well that Richard never made a
threat in vain. They did not know how great was the pain in the heart
of their seigneur. There was silence while the body of the deserter
was launched into eternity.

"Amen! Even so perish all who deny their Lord!" declared Sebastian.
Richard's heart was very dark when he visited Rollo that day. Thus
far, by great shifts, he had secured forage. All the other St. Julien
beasts had perished; men muttered at Longsword for sparing the horse.
But after that ride from Aleppo he would sooner have butchered
Herbert.

But was this to be the end of the Crusade? of the outpouring of the
Holy Spirit at Clermont? of the agony of the march? Better if all had
ended with the bowstring at Aleppo. No, not better; for Mary was
saved.

A gloomy council came that afternoon at the Patriarch's palace, under
Godfrey's presidency; no hope--the Greek Emperor they had awaited was
reported retreating! The iron men at the council groaned. Guy, brother
of Bohemond, cried out against God Himself.

"Where is Thy Power, now, Lord God?" rang his despairing blasphemy.
"If Thou art all-powerful, why dost Thou let these things be? Are we
not Thy soldiers, and Thy children? Where is the father or the king
who would suffer his own to perish when he has power to save? If now
Thou forsakest Thy champions, who will henceforth fight for Thee?"

"Peace!" interrupted Bishop Adhemar; "is not God angry with us enough
already? Will you rouse Him further by your blasphemies?" And Guy
retorted madly:--

"Angry, _Sanctissime?_ Look on our faces, my lord bishop. Do they look
as if we had feasted? There are mothers lying dead in the street this
moment, with babes sucking at their milkless breasts. I say we have
nothing more to fear from God. He has shown us His final anger; mercy,
indeed, if with one great clap He could strike us all dead and end the
agony. What is to be done, if not to die, one and all, cursing the day
we put the cross upon our breasts?" And the speaker almost plucked the
red emblem from his shoulder. Adhemar did not reply, and Raymond of
Toulouse asked very gravely, turning to Godfrey:--

"Have you sent the heralds to Kerbogha, as the council agreed,
offering to yield the city and return home, on sole condition that our
baggage be left to us?"

Godfrey's face was even darker than before when he replied: "Yes, Lord
Count; there is no need of many words, nor to examine the heralds.
Kerbogha will listen to only one surrender--submission at
discretion--after which he will decide which of us he will hale away
into slavery, which put to death."

The Norman Duke and Gaston of Béarn had risen together.

"Fair princes," cried the latter, "we are at our wits' end. There will
soon be no strength left in a man of us to strike a blow, and the
Moslems will take us with bare hands. Dishonor to desert, and we will
never separate. Yet let us bow to God's will. His favor is not with
the Crusade. Let us cut our way down to the port, and escape as many
as can."

"And so say I," called Duke Robert. "And I," came from Hugh of
Vermandois. "And I," shouted many of the lesser barons. But Tancred,
bravest of the brave, stood up with flashing eyes. "I speak for
myself. I reproach no man, seigneur or villain. But while sixty
companions remain by me, of whatever degree, I will trust God, and
keep my face toward His city!"

"There spoke a true lover of Christ," cried Adhemar, his honest eyes
beaming; and Godfrey's haggard face brightened a little. "You are a
gallant knight, my Lord Prince," said he. "These others will think
differently when they have slept on their words. Better starve here
than return to France, if return we can. We have asked Kerbogha's
terms--we have them. 'The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel,' as
says Holy Writ. How can we return with all the paynim nations jeering
at us, crying, 'See! See the boasted Frankish valor!' We can do no
more to-day; let us meet again to-morrow."

"To-morrow we shall be yet hungrier," muttered Guy of Tarentum, as he
went out at Longsword's side. "Except a miracle come of God, Kerbogha
has us." "Except a miracle!" repeated Adhemar. Richard carried home
the words. Had God turned away His face from His children? Were the
brave days when the Red Sea swallowed Pharaoh's myriads, when four
lepers delivered starving Samaria from the Syrian hosts but as
_jongleurs'_ tales of things long gone by? He told Sebastian what had
passed among the chieftains, and Sebastian only answered with a
wandering gaze toward heaven.

"These are the days of God's wrath! Now appears the host foretold in
the Apocalypse--the four angels loosed from the river Euphrates, come
forth with their army of horsemen, two hundred thousand, and for an
hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, shall they slay the third
part of mankind."

"Father," said Richard, "do you know what the princes say? 'Except a
miracle, we are delivered to Kerbogha.' Are the days of God's mercy
spent? Were the Jews more righteous than we, that they should be saved
by wonders from heaven, and we perish like oxen? I speak not for my
own sake--though the saints know it is hard to keep a stout heart over
a nipping belly--but for my men, for the whole host. Pestilence is
treading behind the famine. This day five thousand have died in
Antioch--cursing the hour they took the cross and the God who led them
forth. I say again: How can these things be--God sit silent in yonder
blue heaven, and still be good?"

Sebastian brushed his bony hand across his face as though driving away
a mist, and ran on wildly:--

"Kerbogha is the beast foretold in the beginning! The beast and the
false prophet, which is Mohammed, have deceived those who have the
mark of the beast; and all such with those that have worshipped his
image shall share with the beast and the false prophet in the lake of
fire, burning with brimstone."

"Yes, dear father," said Richard, simply; "but the vengeance of God is
long delayed!"

Sebastian gave no answer. All that afternoon he went among the dying,
who lay like dogs in the streets, holding up the crucifix, telling
them of the martyrs' joys; that death by sickness and famine was no
less a sacrifice to God than death by the sword.

"Fear not, beloved," were his words to those whose last speech was of
home and longed-for faces, "you are going to a fair and pleasant
country, very like dear France, only brighter and richer than France,
if that may be. There, as far as you can see, is a plain of soft green
grass, and the sky is always blue; and there is a lovely grove with
whispering trees laden with fruit of gold; and the fountain of 'life
and love' sparkling with a thousand jets, and from it flows a river
broader and fairer than any in the South Country. Here all day long
you will dance with the angels, clothed in bleaunts of red and green,
and crowned with flowers as at a great tourney; and all your friends
will come to you; there shall be love and no parting, health and no
sickness; nor fear, nor war, nor labor, nor death; and God the Father
will smile on you from His golden throne, and God the Son will be your
dear companion."

So many a poor sufferer flickered out with a smile on his wan lips at
Sebastian's words, while he thought he was catching visions of the
heavenly country, though there was only before his dying eyes the
memory of a sunny vineyard or green-bowered castle beside the stately
Rhone or the circling Loire.

Thus Sebastian spent his day. But Richard heard him repeat many
times--"A miracle! except we be saved by a miracle!" And toward
evening the Norman saw his chaplain deep in talk with the half-witted
priest, Peter Barthelmy, and another Provençal priest named Stephen.

       *       *       *       *       *

Count Raymond sat at the end of the day in his tent before the castle,
and facing him was Bishop Adhemar. There was no hope, no courage, left
in the army at the close of that gloomy day. Bohemond had had to fire
his followers' barracks to drive them forth to fight on the walls.
When the alarm trumpets sounded an attack, men only muttered, "Better
die by the sword than by a month-long death of starving." Gloomy had
been the dialogue, and at last the Count asked:--

"Dear father, have masses been duly said, and prayers offered Our Lady
that she will plead with Christ for His people?"

And Adhemar answered: "Prayer day and night. All night long I and the
Bishop of Orange lay outstretched after the form of the cross,
beseeching Our Lord. The cry rises to heaven unceasingly. But God
remembers all our sins; there is no sign save of wrath."

And the good Bishop was stirred when he saw a tear on the bronzed
cheek of the great Count of the South. "I must go among the men," said
Raymond; "the saints know I can say little to hearten."

But he was halted by his worthy chaplain, Raymond of Agiles, now grave
and consequential. "My Lord Count, and you, your Episcopal Grace,"
began he, importantly, "there has been a notable mercy vouchsafed this
poor army,--a miracle,--a message sent down from very Heaven!"

"Miracle? Miracle of mercy?" cried the Count, banging his scabbard.
"These are strange words, my good clerk; we have none such to hope for
now!"

"Beware," interposed Adhemar, warningly, for he saw that the chaplain
was flushed and excited. "When men's bodies are weak, the devil finds
his darts lodge easily. Beware, lest Satan has cast over your eyes a
mist, and held out false hopes."

But the chaplain would not be denied.

"Noble lords," quoth he, boldly, "here is a man who declares to me,
'St. Andrew has appeared in a dream, saying, "You shall find the Holy
Lance that pierced our dear Lord's side, and by this talisman overcome
the unbelievers!"' Will you not hear his tale?"

"And who is this fellow?" urged Adhemar.

"Who, save the unlettered and humble priest, Peter Barthelmy, whom
your Episcopal Grace knows well."

Adhemar shook his head hopelessly. "There can be no help in Peter
Barthelmy. There are in the host ten thousand saintlier than he, and
wiser, and no vision has come to them."

"Yes, my Lord Bishop," cried the chaplain, eagerly; "but is it not
written, 'Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and
revealed them unto babes?' Cannot God, who made the dumb ass speak,
and who appeared unto the child Samuel and not to the wise Eli, make
His instrument the untaught clerk Peter of Marseilles?"

There was an honest ring in the chaplain's words and a pious faith
behind them, that made Bishop Adhemar grow humble and cross himself.

"_Mea culpa, Domine_," he muttered, "grant that my pride in my own
high estate and wisdom should be rebuked by making this unlearned
priest indeed Thy instrument of deliverance." Then aloud, "Admit this
man; let us question him, and see if he be of God or Satan." So Count
Raymond waited, and his chaplain went forth and led in the priest
Peter Barthelmy.

A rough-featured, heavy-handed peasant's son was this Peter. He had
gone into holy orders, he scarce knew why; his highest hope had been a
little village "cure," where he could tell saints' stories to the
girls, and baptize the new-born babes, and enjoy a pot of wine on
feast-days, and grow old in peace. But men said that he loved to pray,
was very humble, also was fond of having long and circumstantial
dreams. When he found himself before the great Count of the South, and
Adhemar "the Father of the Army," his speech came thickly, and his
knees smote together under his cassock. But Adhemar, whose heart was
compassion to all save infidels, told him not to fear, if he had a
clean conscience, but to tell them boldly; for they would not despise
him, even if poor, untaught, and a villain's son. So Peter found his
tongue, and his tale ran after this wise:--

During the siege of Antioch, one midnight there had been a great
earthquake, and as Peter called to Heaven in his fear, lo, two men in
bright garments stood before him in his hut,--one young and more
beautiful than any born on earth, the other old, with hairs all gray
and white, his beard long and divided, his eyes black, his countenance
very terrible, and he bore a transverse cross. Then the elder man had
said, "What do you?" And Peter, trembling, answered, "And who are you,
good lord?" Then the other replied: "Arise, and fear not. I am Andrew,
the Apostle. Gather the Bishop of Puy, and the Count of St. Gilles and
Toulouse, and say, 'Why does the Bishop neglect to preach and to warn
and to bless the people?'" Then St. Andrew told Peter he would show
him the lance with which the pagan centurion, Longinus, pierced the
side of Christ, and this lance he must give to Count Raymond, for such
was the will of God. So St. Andrew led Peter through the Saracens into
Antioch to the Church of St. Peter by the north gate, and opened the
ground before the steps of the altar and showed him the lance. And
Peter held in his hand the precious metal, with the water and blood
still rusted upon it. St. Andrew commanded him to go to the church
with twelve men, after the city was taken, and dig, and he should find
it. Then the saint replaced the lance, led Peter back to his own hut,
and disappeared.

"But why did you conceal this so long?" asked Adhemar; "why did you
disobey the Holy Saint?"

"Ah, my Lord Bishop," was the answer, "your Grace sees I am a poor,
stammering wretch. Not once, but four times, has the Holy Saint
appeared to me, warning and threatening, because I feared to make bold
and come before the princes and your Grace with my commission." Then
Peter told how he had tried to escape the commands of the saint, and
how the saint had pursued him, until his fear of punishment from
heaven was greater than his fear of the scoffs of man, and thus he had
come to the Count and Adhemar.

When the priest was finished, the Bishop and Count sent him away, and
sat for a long time deep in thought; for whether he spoke out of
malice, or fancy, or inspiration from above, who might say? The
chaplain, Raymond of Agiles, waited without the tent, and received the
decision of Adhemar.

"Let him abide until to-morrow. During the night let us pray again
earnestly, and see if the night and the morning bring any sign that
the wrath of God is turned away."

So the night came, and a thrill went through all the starving city,
when it was rumored that the Bishop would go to the Church of St.
Peter to offer solemn petition for a sign from God, whether He would
vouchsafe a miracle. And as a hundred thousand despairing eyes watched
the heavens, about midnight there came a sortie of the Turks from the
citadel, and there was fighting in the streets. But, lo! just when the
strife was fiercest, and the Christians almost gave way, there was a
rushing noise in the upper heavens; Crusaders and Moslem saw a great
star of glowing fire rush downward, so that the city and the camps of
Kerbogha were lit bright as day. Then the star burst in three pieces
over the paynim camp, as if God were raining down fire upon the
unbeliever, as upon old Sodom; and for the first time in many weary
days the Christians dared to raise their heads, and cry: "God wills
it! He will still have mercy!"

The night passed; and in the morning there came the priest Stephen,
who went before the princes as they sat in council beneath the castle.
And he in turn told a story that made men cross themselves and mutter
their _Glorias_. For according to Stephen's tale, he had gone to the
Church of the Holy Virgin, believing the Turks were broken in, and
wishing to die in God's house. But when the foe did not come, and all
his companions slept, a young man with a blond beard, the most
beautiful form he had ever seen, appeared to him, and a bright cross
shone above the head, token that this was Our Lord. Then while Stephen
adored, Christ said to him, "I am the God of Battles; tell me the name
of the chief of the army." And Stephen replied, "Lord, there is no one
chief; but Adhemar is most revered." Whereupon Our Lord answered:
"Tell Bishop Adhemar to bid the people return unto me, and I will
return unto them. Let the cavaliers invoke my name when they ride into
battle. And after five days, if my commands are obeyed, I will have
pity on my people." Then at Christ's side appeared a lady, more
beautiful than day, who said, "Lord, it is for these folk in Antioch I
have made intercession for Thy favor." So Our Lord and His Blessed
Mother vanished, and Stephen could hardly wait for the day to tell his
story to the army.

Now when the stories of Stephen and Peter Barthelmy had run through
the host, it was a marvel surpassing to see how the skies were
brightened; and if a man doubted, he stifled his doubts within his
breast, as being little less than blasphemy. Richard Longsword in days
to come was accustomed to wonder what it was that Sebastian had said
to the two priests, when they talked so earnestly together. But he
spoke to no man, only gave thanks in silence.

"Let us cast all sin from our hearts," admonished Adhemar in the
council; "for it is manifest God will not keep His anger forever."
Then all the princes took a great oath to remain faithful to the Holy
War; and when the Arabs cried to the sentries on the walls: "Out,
Franks, out! Show us the Christian valor!" the reply came boldly now:
"Patience, Sons of Perdition! The devil double-heats his fires against
your coming!"

So the appointed five days sped, and though many yet died, the very
famine seemed easier to bear. Every gaunt Frank whetted his sword, and
if prayer and vigil avail aught, or one cry to God from thousands on
thousands, it should have availed them. No more blasphemy and
scoffings now; only one desire: "The lance! the lance! Then rush
against the infidel!"

"Sebastian," said Richard, "do you know, if the lance is not found,
the whole host will curse God; perhaps turn infidel for a loaf of
bread?"

"I know it," came the solemn answer; "but it is sin to doubt."

"Yes, but I am weak in faith. How great is the power of Kerbogha!"

Sebastian's answer was an uplifted hand.

"Would God I could do as did Elisha to his servant, and open your
eyes; for now, as then, the host of the ungodly lie round the city,
but behold the mountains are full of horses and chariots of fire to
deliver the Lord's elect!"



CHAPTER XL

HOW THE HOLY LANCE WAS FOUND


In the morning the Crusading Chiefs prepared to dig for the Holy
Lance. Richard was touched when he left his men, to see how, despite
their murmurings, the honest fellows tried to put on a brave face.
"Ha, Herbert!" cried De Carnac, "the rats we feasted on last night
were better than a St. Julien boar." And the man-at-arms forced the
counter-jest, "After so much rat-flesh I shall lose all taste for
venison." "Three of our rats," snickered Theroulde, "are better than
giant Renoart's dinners--five pasties and five capons all for
himself."

But this was strained merriment. Richard at the council found he was
appointed to go with Count Raymond, Raymond of Agiles, the Bishop of
Orange, Pons de Balazan, Ferrard de Thouars, Sebastian, and five more,
to dig for the lance. Bishop Adhemar, good soul, lay ill, but his
prayers were with them. The twelve took Peter Barthelmy and went to
the Church of the Blessed Peter, a gray stone building, domed after
the Eastern manner. When they came to the threshold they knelt and
said three _Paternosters_ and a _Credo_; then the Bishop of Orange
blessed their spades and crowbars, sprinkling each implement with holy
water. All about the church in the narrow streets stood the people,
far as the eye could see--gaunt skeletons, the bronzed skin drawn
tight over the bones, the eyes glittering with the fire of dumb agony.
When the company entered the church, there went through the multitude
a half-audible sigh, as all breathed one prayer together; and many
started to follow the twelve, though none cried out or spoke a word.
But Count Raymond motioned them back. Then all who were in the
church--and like all the churches during the siege, it was crowded
with men and women--were bidden to rise from their knees and go away.

Slowly the church was emptied. Then when the last worshipper was gone,
the twelve put-to the gates; and all, saving the Count and the Bishop,
took a spade or crowbar. Peter Barthelmy led them up to the stairs
leading to the high altar, at its south side. Here the priest turned,
and pointing to the pavement said, in awestruck whisper, "Here! at
this spot the holy saint took the lance from the ground, and laid it
back again, in my dream."

"Amen! and amen!" repeated the Bishop. Then all the rest knelt a
second time, while he blessed them, making over each the sign of the
cross. When they arose, they remained standing until he gave the word.
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,
Amen!"

The pickaxe in the hands of Raymond of Agiles smote first on the
pavement. There was a crash, as the mosaic pattern shattered. Then the
others bent to their toil. The costly glass and stone work flew out to
every side, then the gray cement, then the chill, dark earth, and with
all the speed and strength that was theirs the twelve slowly pushed
downward.

It was a strange scene. The windows of the church were very small.
Over the altar, with its painted and gem-crusted ikons of the saint,
twinkled a pair of candles; above the heads of the thirteen, far up
against the dark dome, shone a pair of silver lamps, flickering, with
a ruddy glare. The shadows hung upon the cold pillars of the old
basilica. They saw faint images of painted martyrs and angels peering
down from the frieze and vaulting. Every stroke of their tools rang
loud, and awakened echoes that died away behind the maze of far-off
arches.

Digging and still digging, the earth flew fast under their eager
hands. The Count forgot his proud title and broad baronies, caught a
spade, and toiled as became a villain bred to the soil. All the time
they labored the Bishop chanted psalm after psalm, and the sound of
his voice was a double spur to the work, if spur were needed. But
after they had labored a great while, and the trench was growing broad
and deep, every man began to have a half-confessed sinking of heart.
They laid down their tools, searched the great pile of earth that was
rising in the aisle; found in it only pebbles and a few bits of broken
pottery, but no wonder-working lance!

Yet Peter Barthelmy encouraged them.

"Dear lords and brothers," said he, undauntedly, "do not grieve.
Believe me, the Blessed Andrew went far deeper into the earth than
have we. You have not dug down yet to the sacred relic."

So, though their arms were growing weary, they fell again to the toil,
and the Bishop chanted louder than ever:--

"'In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and He heard me.'"

More and more feverish grew the toil. Richard drove his own spade
down, as if very life depended on each stroke, and who might deny it?

"By St. Michael!" was his oath, "we will find the lance, though we dig
to Satan and his imps to pluck it up!"

So for a still longer time they wrought, until their hands were sore,
arms and backs lame, and still only dark earth and sandy pebbles. When
at last they paused for breath, each one looked in his fellow's face,
and saw reflected there his own waning hope. But still Peter urged:--

"Be confident, dear friends and lords; deeper yet was the lance when I
saw it. Do not distrust the saint!"

They toiled still longer, until by noting the shortening of the
candles on the altar they knew that noon was long past, and the day
was speeding. None dared utter his doubts. But at last Count Raymond
declared that he could stay no more; it was his turn to go and command
the fort before the Gate of St. George. Richard could see the anguish
on the face of the great lord of the South.

"What shall I say to the people who are waiting without the church?"
demanded he of Peter Barthelmy; "they will be plunged in despair when
they know we have failed."

"Ah, Lord Count, do not lose faith in the saint! That were mortal sin!
Can St. Andrew lie?" replied Peter, between the strokes of his
mattock.

"St. Andrew cannot lie, but Provençal priests can," was the Count's
menacing retort. "Think well on your sins, my good clerk. If you have
been tempted by the devil to deceive us in this--rest assured the
people will pluck you in pieces."

"I do not fear," said Peter, steadily, with the stolid resignation of
the peasant born.

"You shall be taught to fear," muttered the Count; then to the others,
"My Lord Bishop, my other lords, and you good Christians, I say
farewell;" and he added bitterly,--"and let God have mercy upon our
souls, for we can hope for nothing more on earth."

The Count was gone. And then for the first time, like the howling of a
distant gale, they heard a raging and roaring around the basilica,
creeping in through the thick walls and tiny windows.

"The multitude grows angry," muttered Pons de Balazan. "They have
waited long." Then he went forth, and tried to calm the impatient
people, and called in other proper men, to take the places of such of
the twelve as had grown weary.

But no man took Richard's place. Not his own life, but the lives of a
hundred thousand, shut up in that starving Antioch, hung on their
toil. The chance of failure was so frightful, that not even he, whose
fingers had learned so well to fight, to whom the life of a man was so
small a matter, dared look that future in the face. Had the rest all
forsaken, he would have toiled on, spading forth the earth, raising
the dark mound higher, ever higher.

And all the company wore grim, set faces now, as they wrestled with
their strengthening despair, except Peter Barthelmy and Sebastian. The
monk was working with an energy surpassed only by Richard himself.
Longsword saw that he was still calm, that the light in his usually
terrible eyes was even mild; and as the two stood side by side in the
trench, Sebastian said to him: "Why fear, dear son? Are we not in
God's hands? Can He do wrong, or bring His own word to naught?"

The Norman answered with an angry gesture:--

"Truly our sins must be greater than we dreamed, to be punished
thus--to be promised deliverance, and have Heaven mock us!"

Sebastian's reply was a finger pointed upward to the painted Christ,
just behind the two lamps.

"Be not fearful, O ye of little faith!"

Richard fought back the doubts rising in his soul, and flung all his
strength anew into his work.

The noise without the church was louder now. They could hear shouts,
curses, threats, rising from a thousand throats.

"Deceiver, the devil has led him to blast us with false hopes!
Impostor, he dreamed nothing! Out with them; out with them all! The
whole company is leagued with Satan! Kill the false dreamer first,
then yield to Kerbogha; he can only slay us!"

These and fifty more like shouts were ringing fiercely. Presently
there was a crashing and pounding at the gates of the church. "Open,
open! There is no lance! Slay the deceiver!"

Richard turned to the Bishop, who in sheer weariness had ceased
chanting. "_Reverendissime_, the people are getting past control. In a
moment they will break in on us and commit violence at the very altar;
go and reason with them while there is yet time."

"Open! open! Death to Peter the Provençal!"

The roaring had swelled to thunders now. The strong iron-bound gates
were yielding under the strokes of mace and battle-axe. Richard flung
down his spade, and gripped Trenchefer. He would not defend the
deceiving priest; but no unruly men-at-arms should touch a hair of
Sebastian, if he also was menaced. But just as the portals began to
give way, Peter Barthelmy, stripped of girdle and shoes, his hands
empty, and only his shirt on his back, leaped into the deep black pit.
Even as the doors flew open, but while the crowd stood awed and
hesitant at sight of the dim splendor of the nigh empty church,
Raymond of Agiles fell on his knees and prayed loudly:--

"O Lord God of battles and of mercy, have pity on Thy people. Have
mercy! Give us the lance, sure token of victory!"

And the moment his words died away, Peter Barthelmy lifted one hand up
from the pit--and in his hand _the rusted head of a lance_!...

Now what followed no man could tell in due order. For afterward
Raymond, the chaplain, was sure that he was the first to seize the
lance from Peter, and kiss it fervently; and Sebastian and the Bishop
and Richard Longsword each claimed the same for themselves. But all
the toilers were kneeling ranged behind the Bishop, as he stood in the
centre of the great aisle, and upheld the relic in sight of the
multitude thrusting its way in.

"Kneel! Thank God with trembling!" rang the words; "for He has had
mercy on His army, has remembered His elect! Behold the lance that
pierced our Saviour's side!"

And at these words a wondrous sobbing ran through the swelling
company; after the sobbing, a strange, terrible laughter, and after
the laughter one great shout, that made the dark vaulting echo with
thunder.

"_Gloria in excelsis Deo! et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis!_"
so they sang in the church. But now the tidings had flown on wings
unseen to the thousands without, and all the streets were rolling on
the greater doxology: "_Laudemus te; benedicimus te, adoramus te,
glorificamus te; gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam!_"

When Richard came out of the church, he was met by a cry from
countless voices: "Hail! Richard de St. Julien! You were one who found
the Holy Lance! The favor of God and the love of Christ go with you!
May you ever prosper. You were one of those who saved us all!"

[Illustration: "AND IN HIS HAND THE RUSTED HEAD OF A LANCE"]

"No, sweet friends," said the Norman to those who could hear. "We
are all saved by the favor of God. I am only like you, a very sinful
man." And he bowed his head, remembering his misdeeds, and wondering
why he was chosen to have part in so great a mercy. But the people
would not listen to him or his fellows. They carried the twelve, and
Peter Barthelmy at their head, borne on high to the palace of the
Patriarch; and there the dear Bishop Adhemar was roused from his
sickness, and cured in a twinkling by the cry that shot on ahead of
the company, "_Gloria! Gloria!_ The lance! The lance! Let us fall upon
Kerbogha!"

The cry came to the men on the walls, and to Duke Godfrey, who crossed
himself and swore seven candlesticks of gold to our Lady of Antwerp.
The Moslems heard it, and those who were wise said, "Let us pray Allah
to shield against the Frankish valor, if once it be kindled."

       *       *       *       *       *

Only one shout now throughout the city. From the weakest and
hungriest, "Battle!" But Godfrey restrained those who wished to fight
that very night. "Nothing rash," he urged; and it was determined to
send an embassy to bid Kerbogha raise the siege or offer fair combat.
They sent as envoys Peter the Hermit, and one Herluin who knew the
infidels' speech; also Richard Longsword, because he likewise spoke
Arabic, and could cast a soldier's eye on the emir's camp. The parley
sounded, and a gorgeously dressed _atabeg_ met the envoys at the
Bridge Gate to lead them to Kerbogha. The Moslem made large eyes at
the little monk with his rope girdle and tattered cassock, the humble
interpreter, and the ponderous Frankish baron, in threadbare bleaunt
and clattering a sword no arm from Tunis to Bokhara could wield.

"And is this embassy clothed with power to deal with our commander?"
demanded the wondering _atabeg_. "The passions of the Lord Kerbogha
are swift. Do not play with him."

"Friend," said Richard, soberly, "you shall find that we lack not
authority."

Therefore the three were led into the paynim camp, of which the chief
part lay north of the river. Here they saw that the might of the East
had indeed gathered about Kerbogha: wiry Seljouks of Kilidge Arslan,
brown Arabs from the Southern deserts, graceful Persians, dark-eyed
Syrians in the white dress of the Ismaelians, gaudily clad Turkoman
cavaliers from Khorassan and Kerman, Tartar hordesmen from the steppes
of the far East; all stood about, pointing, whispering, jeering at the
three Franks. "Were these the terrible men who had won Nicæa and
Dorylæum, and taken Antioch?" ran the titter. But no one molested
them, as the _atabeg_ escorted through the avenues of black
camel's-hair tents, interspersed with the gayer silken pavilions of
the emirs. Then at last they found themselves before the palace tent
of Kerbogha. Here they were led at once before the Moslem chief
himself, who was clothed in gold, silk, and jewels, worth ten baronies
in France. He was surrounded by the emirs and petty sultans, standing
close about his throne; on his left hand was Kilidge Arslan the
Seljouk, and Dekak lord of Damascus; on his right a figure Richard
knew full well, clothed though he was in gilded, jewel-set armor from
head to heel, Iftikhar Eddauleh! All around the tent were ranged
Kerbogha's bodyguard, three thousand picked Turkish horsemen,
panoplied in flashing steel; while the three envoys were led up a lane
of giant negro mace-bearers, whose eyes followed the least beck of
their lord, whose golden girdles and red loin-cloths shone doubly
bright against their ebony skins. Richard, as he came, saw the stores
of food and wine laid out for the pleasure of the infidels, while good
Christians were starving. He saw the camels of the hospital corps of
Kerbogha, and the host of physicians waiting here with their medicine
chests, while in Antioch thousands had died of pestilence. Then his
heart grew hard, and he held his head very high, as he and his
companions walked down the file of negroes and stood before Kerbogha.

Now the chamberlains who were at the foot of the throne had motioned
to the Franks to bow down, and kiss the carpet before Kerbogha; but
the three stood like statues. When the silence was long, Kerbogha
spoke forth, not veiling impatience.

"Fools, how long will you carry yourselves so arrogantly? It is yours
to humble yourselves, not play the part of lords. A strange embassy
this--who are you? What do you seek?"

And Harluin respectfully, but firmly, answered:--

"Lord, we are the envoys of the princes in Antioch; and this venerable
hermit named Peter will speak for us."

A thousand eyes were on the little monk when he stepped forward. There
was no sign of fear, his own eyes were very bright; he returned the
haughty gaze of Kerbogha as if he were himself arbiter of life or
death. Harluin strove to interpret for him; but Peter had recalled his
Syriac learned on the pilgrimage, and some angel gave him the gift of
tongues. Then right in the teeth of Kerbogha and the emirs the
tattered monk flung his challenge:--

"Your Highness, the assembly of the chiefs shut up in Antioch have
sent me to you to bid you cease from this siege of the city which the
mercy of God has restored to us. The blessed Peter, prince of the
Apostles, has by virtue of the will of God plucked it from you, never
to return. Now, therefore, take choice: raise the siege of this city
without delay, or prepare for instant battle. If you will, send any
number of champions into the lists, and let them meet an equal number
of our own; but if you will not--know that God is preparing to cut
your host short in its sins! Nevertheless, our word is still--peace.
Return to your own country, the Christians will not molest you. We
will even put up prayers that your hearts may be touched with the
Gospel and your souls delivered from perdition. Sweet indeed to call
you brethren, to conclude betwixt Frank and Turk abiding peace!
Otherwise, let there be war; and let the just God of battles judge
between us! Surprise us, you cannot; neither will we steal victory.
But in fair field, man to man, will we meet you,--with few or with
many,--and teach your haughty mouths the taste of Christian valor!"

When the monk had finished, there ran a low growl and bitter laugh
amongst the emirs and guardsmen, while Iftikhar laughed loudest of
them all.

"Ha! noble monk!" he cried in French, "and you, my Lord de St. Julien,
one would never think such bold words could flow out of such empty
bellies!"

Richard made him no answer. He saw Kerbogha's right hand twitch, as if
to sweep it from left to right, the sign for instant decapitation of
the envoys,--an order that fifty eager negroes would have fulfilled.
But the general frowned on his guards who started forward, and reined
in his fury.

"Peter, take back to Antioch the only resolution left to you and your
starving host, whose feasts are on grass and vermin. Let the beardless
youth deliver themselves up to me, and I will let them live as my
slaves, and of my friends and vassals. Let the young girls come
out,--they shall be kept safe in our harems; they say the Frankish
maids are fair. As for all those with beards or white hair, it shall
rest with me to put them all to the edge of the sword, or slay some,
and load the rest with chains;" and as he spoke he pointed to the leg
irons and manacles which lay in great heaps all about the pavilion,
ready for the Christian captives. "Yield now, and to _some_ I may show
mercy. Let not your babbling priests deceive you. Allah has turned
against you. Where are your crucified Messiah and your false apostles,
that they let you perish like gnats? Yield now; the axe is kinder than
death by starving. To such as become Moslem, Al Koran commands to show
compassion; for the rest, they must yield themselves into my hands,
and take what I will. Do not wait until to-morrow; if you are taken
_then_, cry on your God, who could not save even himself from the
cross, to save you from my fury!"

When Kerbogha was finished, a great shout went up from the Moslems.
"_Allah akhbar!_ Away with the infidels!" and there was a rush, as if
to hew the three in pieces then and there. But the general motioned
them to keep peace, and Peter, whose daring passed a lion's, flashed
back his reply:--

"To-morrow, lord of Mosul, you shall judge whether Mohammed, the false
prophet, can prevail against the crucified Christ."

"Away! They rush on ruin!" shouted Kerbogha. "Back to the city with
them!"

The little monk cast one last glance of defiance at the figure on the
throne, and with a slow and steady step the three Christians turned
their backs on the gorgeous company, unheeding a thousand threats that
buzzed around their ears. Last of all went Richard, and, as he went, a
voice called after him in French:--

"Ho! Richard Longsword, stay!"

The Norman halted; he was face to face with Iftikhar Eddauleh. The
Ismaelian had thrown back his helmet, so that the gilded plates no
longer concealed his face, which wore a very ugly smile. His teeth
shone white and sharp as a tiger's, but his poise was lordly as ever.

"I am at your service, my lord!" said the Christian.

Iftikhar dropped his voice to a whisper:--

"You are well fed in Antioch! Your cheeks are thinner than on the day
you held the lists at Palermo!"

"And I have done many things since then, my lord, as have you," came
the answer. Iftikhar's eyes seemed hot irons to pierce through his
enemy, when he replied:--

"Between us two lies so great a hate, that if we were both in Gehenna,
I think we would forget our pains in joy of seeing the other
scorching."

"That is well said, my lord. But why detain me? I know all this."

Iftikhar's voice sank yet lower, that none of the great company might
hear. "You had your day at Aleppo, but to-day is mine. Kerbogha holds
your host in the hollow of his hand, yet at my word he will let you
march unhindered to Jerusalem."

"I do not follow you, Cid Iftikhar."

The voice became a mere whisper, but how hoarse! "Deliver up to me
Mary Kurkuas safely, and I will swear by Allah the Great, that
Kerbogha raises the siege!"

Richard laughed in his turn now, for it was joy to see his enemy's
pain. "My lord, you cannot tempt me! Praise God Mary Kurkuas is
anywhere but in Antioch among our starving host!" But even the Norman
almost trembled when he saw the storm of blind fury on the Ismaelian's
face.

"Where, as Allah lives,--where is the Star of the Greeks?" raged
Iftikhar, his voice unconsciously rising.

"Not all your deaths and torments in the dungeons of El Halebah will
wring that from me."

"Then by the Apostle of Allah!" foamed Iftikhar; and he clutched at
the Norman's arm, while seeking his own hilt. Kerbogha cut him
short:--

"Cid Iftikhar, the Christians are madmen; yet respect the embassy. Let
this fellow go!"

Iftikhar flung the arm from him.

"Go then, go," rang his threat in Arabic, which a hundred heard.
"To-morrow we will clear the reckoning. It grows ever longer. Do you
know," and he showed his white teeth, "I have killed your sister
Eleanor with my own hand?"

Richard bowed in his stateliest fashion.

"My lord," said he, "my sister was long since worse than dead; I did
not know she was in El Halebah when I came to Aleppo, or I might have
rescued. Our Lady is merciful; she has peace. And as for me--ask your
own heart if I am a harmless foe; remember you fell at Aleppo twice,
thrice, and by my strength! So let God judge us, and give fair
battle!"

"Let Him judge!" retorted Iftikhar, turning, and Kerbogha shook out
his handkerchief, the signal for the breaking up of the assembly.

So the three Christians were led away, and they did not quail when
wild desert dervishes flourished bare cimeters over their heads, and
chanted from Al Koran:--

"Strike off their heads and strike off their fingers!

"They shall suffer because they resisted Allah and his apostle!

"Yea, the infidels shall suffer the torment of hell fire!"

While Richard heard Peter muttering softly to himself:--

"Happy shall he be who rewardeth thee, as thou hast served us!

"Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the
stones!"

At last, despite the curses, the three were again safe and sound
before the Bridge Gate. They entered, and were surrounded by a vast
crowd demanding the result of the embassy. When Peter wished to tell
the people of the threats and ragings of Kerbogha, Duke Godfrey, who
had been the first to hear, feared lest any should be discouraged. So
Peter merely declared that Kerbogha wished instant battle, and was
taken before the chiefs. There he and Longsword told of the might and
splendor and insolence of the Moslems, how Kerbogha had blasphemed the
name of Christ and breathed forth cruelty against the besieged. Then
even among the chieftains, despite the miracle of the lance, a few
faint hearts trembled. But Bishop Adhemar, standing up, lifted his
eyes to heaven and recited solemnly:--

"This is the word of the Lord concerning Kerbogha, as once against
Sennacherib, king of Assyria:--

"'Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou
exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the
Holy One of Israel.

"'But I know thy abode, and thy rage against me.

"'Because thy rage against me and thy tumult is come up into mine
ears, therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy
lips, and I will turn thee back by the way thou camest.

"'For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake and for
my servant David's sake!'"

When Adhemar had spoken, there was only one thought at the
council,--battle on the morrow! and the heralds-at-arms went through
the city, bidding every man prepare to march with the dawn. It was
very late, but no man sought his bed. Richard was long with Bohemond,
Tancred, Duke Robert, and Godfrey, telling all that he had seen in the
Moslem camp: how that despite the numbers and the splendor, discipline
seemed lax, and the divisions very ill placed.

Even while the chiefs were in council, all Antioch was rejoicing over
a great boon--another favor of Heaven. A secret magazine of corn had
been discovered; and a meal of good food was set before every man that
night, something that was priceless gain to those who were to struggle
for their lives at cockcrow.

There was no despairing now; no helpless lethargy, no longing for
"gentle France." One had thought the victory already gained, to go
among the host and hear everywhere the _Te Deums_ in honor of the Holy
Lance and the battle-cry,--so cheerful now,--"God wills it! To
Jerusalem!"

The whole host made ready for battle that night with prayer and
sacrament. The priests went their rounds through the army, confessing
each man; and many a hardened sinner, who had taken even the cross
lightly, had his heart melted when his comrades were exchanging the
kiss of love, and saying, "God keep us all, dear brothers; who knows
but that to-morrow night we shall be sitting with the angels!"

It was almost the gray of dawn when Richard went among his men. He
found them cheerful, arms ready, anxiously awaiting the signal for
battle.

"My good vassals," said the Norman, "we all stand in the presence of
God, seigneur and peasant. You have been faithful vassals to me, and I
have tried to be a kindly and just lord to you. Yet if any man have a
grievance against me--say on! Let all hear him."

But many voices answered, "You have been a father and elder brother to
us, lord; may we all die for you if need be!"

"And I for you!" replied the Baron, deeply touched. Then, after a
pause, "Now, my men, are we prepared--body and soul--for victory on
earth, or the sight of God the Father?"

"Ready," gruffly replied Herbert; "Sebastian has made us all spotless
as young lambs."

"You have many sins to confess, brother," slyly hinted Theroulde. "Sad
if you have forgotten some odd killing, that will rise up for
judgment!"

"Think of your own lies and cheating," snapped the man-at-arms.

But Sebastian only cried, "Peace! peace!" and told how the meanest
villain who died fighting on the morrow was sure of a heavenly throne
and a kingdom greater than that of Philip of France. If their past had
been wicked, here was an easy penance--given by Bishop Turpin at
Roncesvalles, "to smite their best against the infidels"; and always
let them remember that all the angels clapped their hands when an
unbeliever fell under the sword, and there was joy unspeakable in the
heart of God.

With a vast company the St. Julieners marched through the Bridge Gate
at red dawn. "God wills it!" arose the shout from thousands on
thousands, while the monks and priests upon the walls began to thunder
forth the great psalm:--

  "Let God arise: let His enemies be scattered!"

There was a terrible gladness in all hearts--they must fight paynims
unnumbered; defeat was death. But death meant welcome to Christ's
right hand; victory, the spoiling of Kerbogha.



CHAPTER XLI

HOW LIGHT SMOTE DARKNESS


Now the full story of the battle of Antioch can be told only by that
strong angel in whose book are treasured the records of the brave
deeds done in faith. When that awful book is unsealed, it will be
known why the spirits of evil beguiled Kerbogha into sitting idly in
his tent at chess, while the Christian host was issuing from Antioch;
why the two thousand Turks who held the head of the Iron Bridge
scattered like smoke at the Crusaders' first bolts, to let the
starving Franks lead their twelve "battles" across the river, and put
them in close array confronting the Moslem line. Long, however, before
the grapple came, Kerbogha and his _atabegs_ had taken the saddle, and
the Christians saw arrayed against them horse and foot innumerable; a
wide sea of flashing steel, of bright turbans and surcoats, tossing
pennons and lances on plunging desert steeds. From the extreme left
wing with the Holy Lance as special talisman borne by Raymond of
Agiles where Bishop Adhemar commanded, to the right of the long line
where Hugh of Vermandois led, there ran a thrill, and each man
whispered to his neighbor "Now!" and steeled his muscles for the
shock. No jests and laughter as often before a battle; not a soul now
had heart for that. But every eye was bright, every lip firm, and the
breath came quick and deep. There was dead hush when Adhemar in mitre
and stole went down the line followed by a great company of priests
bearing smoking censers, and in their midst a high crucifix. And when
he spoke each casqued head bowed, each knee was bent. At the sight
even the Moslems seemed to keep silence.

"The peace of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be
in your hearts and keep you. And in the name of the Holy Trinity do
battle. Amen!"

So sounded the great benediction. When all rose to their feet, and
were locking close the spear hedge, Richard Longsword, one of the few
mounted knights who rode as guard around the Holy Lance, heard as it
were the roaring of a tempest coming down the wind from the host of
Kerbogha, a wild clangor of _atabals_ and kettledrums, and the clash
of myriad cymbals, and higher and shriller than all, the yell from the
mad devotees of Arabia and Khorassan:--

"_La ilaha ill' Allah! La ilaha ill' Allah!_"

The cry pealed from a hundred thousand throats; and the stoutest
soldier of the Cross felt a shiver and a tingling, though he were
veteran from many a well-fought field. Now, at last, was the issue
left to their good swords and God!

But while the Moslem war-shout rent the cloudless dome of morning, an
answering echo rolled onward from the Christians, and as if the very
shout were the signal, the long line rushed forward, the thousands
moving as one.

"God wills it! Death to the unbelievers!"

The lines sprang toward each other like lions of the waste; the broad
plain country that stretched northward from the river grew narrow
under their swift feet. Then avalanche smote avalanche, light wrestled
with darkness!

No horseman's and archer's battle as at Dorylæum; no passage at arms
between chieftains while the hosts stood by! But man to man they
fought; the starving Franks looking into swarthy faces, where black
eyes glanced fire and white teeth flashed hate. So for a moment the
Turkoman cavalry strove to break through the Christian spear
hedge,--for few French fought mounted that day. But the blooded
chargers recoiled from the dense line of lances, and swinging swords,
and battle-axes, as from a barrier of live fire, and reeled back to
leave the plain red with dying steeds and stricken riders.

The first blood only. For when Kerbogha saw that his horsemen could
not ride down the defiant foe at will, he flung forward his archers
and javelin-men, until the air grew dark with flying death that
searched out the stoutest armor. Then while the arrows yet screeched,
and men were falling fast, the Arabians and Turks charged home.
Charged--but though the spear wall wavered, it was not broken--while
above the shouts and howls of the infidels beseeching Allah, sounded
the chanting of the psalm from the priests who stood behind the
men-at-arms:--

     "Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; let them also that
     hate Him, flee before Him!"

So for the second time the Moslems reeled back. And when Kerbogha,
sitting in the midst of his guard at the rear of the battle, saw it,
he tore his beard in rising fury, and bade Kilidge Arslan the Seljouk
lead his squadrons in circuit to fall on the Christians' rear. Now a
third time the Moslems came forward, slowly now, horse and foot, their
imams and ulamas crying to them to remember the beauty of the houris,
the joys of martyrdom, and to hew in pieces the blasphemers of the
Prophet.

At this Richard, who knew Arabic and the fury of the unbelievers,
called to his men to lock close about the Holy Lance, for now indeed
was the fated hour. Then the Christians heard, outrunning the breeze,
the wild howl of the dervishes, to whom death was more welcome than a
quiet sleep:--

"Hell and Eblees are behind you! Victory or Paradise before you!
Forward!"

"Stand fast, men of Auvergne!" rang the Norman's command; and every
lance was braced when the third shock smote them. No charging,
recoiling, countercharging, in this supreme wrestle between Christ and
Mohammed. The dead piled themselves higher, higher. The desert steeds
were spitted like birds on the Frankish lances. The stoutest spears
shivered like reeds, and targets were cleft as wicker; but the
hand-to-hand combat never slackened. Kerbogha was throwing into the
press all his numbers. Again and again Richard Longsword, with Gaston
of Béarn, the Count of Die, and Raimbaut of Orange, who fought under
Adhemar's banner, charged out, and did deeds of valor to be forgotten
only with the last _jongleur_. Each time, as the foe gave way, the
hard-pressed Christians set up their _Laus Deo_, dreaming they had the
victory. But each time the infidels surged back to the onset; pressing
closer, smiting harder, and drowning the Crusaders' prayer to Our Lady
with their mad "Allah! Allah!"

Richard, who fought about the Holy Lance, twice saw it reel in the
hands of Raymond of Agiles, as fifty unbelievers pressed close. But
the Christian footmen around it were a living wall, and not a dervish
who put out his hands to grasp the lance turned back alive. Still the
battle wavered. Rumors came down the line, now that Godfrey on the
centre was victorious, now that Bohemond was desperately beset by
Kilidge Arslan. Richard looked to his men; gaps in the lines. Brave
fellows whom he loved well were moaning or speechless under those red
heaps. But the infidels were still thronging in. The gaps were closed.
The fight raged as though the blood spilled were but oil cast into a
furnace.

And presently as Richard fought around the lance, he saw a stately
figure in gilded armor that he knew well despite the closed
helmet,--saw it come pressing through the ranks of the Moslems.

"Ho! Iftikhar Eddauleh," rang the Norman's challenge, as the roar of
the conflict lulled for a twinkling, "face to face, and man to man!"

The only answer by the Ismaelian was a lowered lance, and Rollo flew
out to greet the charge. For a moment those standing by gave place.
They met unhindered. Under the shock each lance flew to splinters, and
the good steeds were flung on their haunches.

"Again!" burst from the emir, as his cimeter glanced in the sun.
"Again!" And Richard with Trenchefer rode straight at him, the
unspeakable hate blinding to all things save his foe. Three times they
fenced, and the sparks flew at every stroke. With the fourth,
Trenchefer sheared off the black plumes on the Ismaelian's crest. A
sweeping blow from Iftikhar answered, but Richard's stout shield
parried it.

"God wills it! St. Julien and Mary Kurkuas!" shouted the Norman,
flinging his old battle-cry in the face of his mortal foe. But the
ruling powers would not let these mad spirits fight longer. Suddenly,
in a way none could foresee, the line of battle, as it will, swayed in
a great shock; and here Moslems were thrown back, here forward, and
comrades were torn asunder. The two were caught in the eddy and
whirled wide apart, bitterly against their wills.

"The lance! The lance is in danger!" the Christians were shouting; and
Richard saw the holy standard sink out of sight in the seething vortex
of battling men and beasts.

"Rescue, rescue, Christian cavaliers!" Bishop Adhemar was moaning; and
all unarmed as he was, the prelate was about to thrust himself from
behind the protecting shield wall into the death-press. But Gaston of
Béarn and Die and Orange, as well as Longsword, were before him.
Richard saw Gaston snatch the lance out of the clutch of two Turkomans
who grasped it, and hew down both--a blow for each. Then the lance was
raised once more, and all Crusaders praised God, and fought more
stoutly.

So for long the battle raged; no man knowing how it had fared farther
down the line, having wits only for his own struggle, and fighting
even that blindly. But suddenly upon the wind black smoke came driving
down upon the Christians. At first they scarce knew it in the fierce
delirium. Then the smoke came denser, hotter; dimming their eyes, and
setting all a-gasping. And almost sooner than the telling, the very
grass under their feet was in a flame, fanned onward by a breeze that
dashed the fire in their faces, while the deadly blast swept away from
the Moslems. Whereupon, for the first time that day, a terrible panic
fell on the Christians, as even the dead soil seemed thus to rise up
and war against them. Men cast down their swords to flee,--all the
horses plunged wildly; while with a shout of triumph, the infidels,
blessing their Prophet, pressed on to snatch the victory.

But at the very moment when all the world seemed turned to ruin,
Bishop Adhemar ran down the line up-bearing the crucifix. A hundred
paynim arrows sped toward him; not one flew true, for some angel
turned all aside.

"See!" was his cry above the howls of the dervishes. "See, Christians,
the sufferings of your Lord! Stand fast, if you would prove that
Christ died not in vain!"

And when the Franks thought of their God upon the tree,--of the Holy
Agony,--their own agony was forgot. Wounded men, whose life was
running out in blood, sprang to their feet and fought like Roland's
peers; those who had turned to flee, looked back, ran again into the
press through the mad flames, and gave the Moslems blow for blow.

Yet this could not last forever; the limit to what human might could
do was very near. Denser the smoke, hotter the fire. Barely with all
his strength could Richard now hold Rollo, and he knew while yet he
fought, that unless the smoke were turned, the boast of Kerbogha would
not be vain. A wail of despair was rising from the Christians: "_Kyrie
eleison! Kyrie eleison!_" and the triumphant "_Allah akhbar!_" of the
Moslems seemed the sole answer.

Then, even with his sinful and corporeal eyes, each Crusader had proof
that on his side strove the Lord of Battles! For as the smoke blew
blinding, with a great gust the wind changed, and the fire that
Kilidge Arslan had lit for his foes' destruction turned to his own.
Strong and fresh from the west came a piping sea-breeze, and the smoke
swept in one heavy cloud into the faces of the infidels! So sudden the
deliverance, that the Franks stood speechless, marvelling at this
great act of God. And while thus they stood, Bishop Adhemar pointed
with his staff toward the northern hills.

"Behold, Christians! Three knights clothed in white armor, the succor
promised by God! The martyrs George, Demetrius, and Theodore fight for
us! Forward, all who love Our Lord!"

Forward and ever forward. No faltering now, for it was the Moslems
that were howling to the Prophet to save them from the smoke and the
flame, and were shrinking back in panic. Down the line the Christian
trumpets were sounding the charge, and the news flew fast that Godfrey
and Tancred were sweeping all before them, while Hugh and Bohemond
held their own.

Then a marvellous madness seized the host of Adhemar. It was midday;
they were starving; they had fought for life since dawn, but each man
felt his feet wings when crossing that fire-seared plain.

"God wills it! Death to the infidels!"

At the cry even the dervishes gave way. The onrush of the Christians
made the unbelievers scatter to the four winds; the fleet
desert-steeds of the horsemen, caught in the press and panic,
struggled vainly to escape and lead the flight. The Franks were upon
them! the Franks had been granted victory by Allah! It was fate! Let
who could shun his doom!

"And the stars in their courses fought against Sisera!" cried
Sebastian, swinging his mace at the head of the St. Julien men as they
joined in the onset. Then suddenly as had changed the wind, the
Christians hardened their ranks to endure again the shock; for,
brushing aside their fleeing comrades, came the white-robed
"devoted,"--the Ismaelians, held by Iftikhar as a last reserve,--sent
forth to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat; twelve thousand
wild spirits whose one longing was to slay Christians, and hasten to
the embraces of the black-eyed maids of Paradise. Fair upon the
Frankish line, broken and disorganized even by victory, Iftikhar flung
his thunderbolt. Over the dead and over the living charged the
Ismaelians. With them went again the battle-shout raised by so many
Moslem armies, never in vain:--

"_La ilaha ill' Allah! La ilaha ill' Allah!_"

"Bear up, Christians! This is the last charge!" urged Gaston of Béarn,
but more than brave words were needed to turn that blast. The
"devoted" smote the Frankish spear hedge, and for the first time that
day broke through it. The Holy Lance went down under twenty slain;
the Christian war-cry was drowned by the howl of the Ismaelians:
"_Allah akhbar!_ Victory! Victory!" As out of a dream, Richard saw
that the battle had swept round him, with only hostile faces on every
side. But he had no time to think of peril; for he was face to face
again with Iftikhar Eddauleh himself, and at the sight he sent Rollo
straight against the grand prior.

"Again! Cid Iftikhar, let God judge between us!" he cried. But the
Ismaelian avoided the shock, swerving to one side, and answered:
"Fool! Allah has already judged! Take him prisoner, slaves! Pluck him
from his horse!"

Nothing easy; for though twenty of the "devoted" leaped to the ground
to do as bidden, they found nothing sweet in the taste of Trenchefer.
Richard put the face of Mary Kurkuas before his eyes while he fought:
should he never see her more? The thought made his arm strong as
forged steel. But just as the Ismaelians were crying to their lord
that the terrible Frank could never be taken alive, and begging to use
their swords, a blow of a mace crushed Longsword's right shoulder. His
arm sank at his side, and Trenchefer nigh dropped from the numbed
fingers. He saved the sword with his left hand, casting away the
shield.

"Yours! Seize! Bind!" exhorted Iftikhar. Yet even now there was a
struggle, for Rollo that loved his master well made his great hoofs
fly as he plunged and reared, and Richard's left arm dealt no weak
blow.

"Cowards!" thundered the grand prior; "let me curb in the horse!" But
while he pressed nearer, a terrible howl of dread went up from the
"devoted" themselves.

"Allah save us! All is lost! The Christians conquer!"

And as Iftikhar and Richard looked about them they saw the "battles"
of Tancred and Godfrey, that had not endured the Ismaelian's charge,
bearing down in serried line to drive this last Moslem squadron from
the field.

"Turn, Iftikhar Eddauleh!" Louis de Valmont's voice was ringing,
"turn, and fight!" But Iftikhar only gave a bitter curse, and spurred
away among his men. Adhemar's division had been shattered, not
dispersed. The Christians were pressing in on all sides. The cry was
spreading that Kilidge Arslan was in flight. The Franks saw Iftikhar
re-forming his "devoted"--much less than twelve thousand now, though
none had fled away; they half heard the imprecation he called upon
them if they rode in vain. They formed, they charged; each rider a
demon upon a steed possessed. They cast away their lives with an awful
gladness. But the Christian spear wall was as iron, though pressed by
springing steel. There was no other charge. Where the Ismaelians
struck, they fought; where they fought, they died; and where they
died, no other Moslems leaped to take their place. The thunderbolt had
fallen--the storm had passed!

And now praised be God the Son, and Mary ever Blessed! The infidels
were become as stubble to Prince Tancred's sword, and to Bohemond,
Hugh, and Godfrey. Loud and victorious sounded now the chant, ever
repeated:--

  "Let God arise; let His enemies be scattered!"

And scattered they were! "How is it, Lord?" said the chronicler; "how
dare men say that it was not Thy doings that the great host of
Kerbogha melted like the spring snows before us, when we were weak
with famine, and one where they were three? How, save by Thy help, did
our poor jaded steeds fly like eagles after their Arabs, and overtake
those chargers swifter than the lightnings? How, save by Thy grace,
did Prince Tancred ride alone against an hundred, and see them flee as
leaves before the gale?" How? The whole army knew, for the age of
doubting had not come.

"Not unto us, Lord; not unto us! But unto Thy name be the glory!" was
the prayer of Adhemar, as he stood with his priests about him, while
far to the eastward and northward drifted the rout and pursuing. For
there was no valor in the Moslems now. Their chiefs fled swiftest of
all; one way Kerbogha, another Dekak of Damascus, another Kilidge
Arslan. And their camp with a treasure worth half the wealth of
France, and swarming with eunuchs and harem women, had become a spoil
to the servants of God and His Christ. The thought however was not of
spoil, but of pursuit and vengeance. Loudest of all among the priests
sounded the voice of Sebastian, urging on the warriors.

"The heathen are sunk down into the pit that they made; in the net
which they made is their own foot taken! Pursue--follow after; tarry
not; for this is the acceptable day of the Lord--the day when one of
you shall chase a thousand; when you shall smite the infidels as
Israel smote Amalek--man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep,
camel and ass! Destroy, let not one escape!"

Fierce and unflagging the pursuit. Tancred mounted his footmen as
swiftly as they could capture horses, and hunted the fleeing Moslems
over plain and mountain. Here and there the despairing Turks and
Arabians turned like beasts at bay when the terrible Franks crashed on
them. But there was no strength left in a Moslem's arm. Doom--doom
against the servants of the Prophet had been decreed by the stars--not
the might of all Islam could turn back the stroke of fate. Here and
there the raging Christians came on foes who cast down the useless
weapons, and stretching out their hands, cried in a tongue which all
knew: "Quarter! Mercy!" But they had better pleaded with stones; for
that day there was none of mercy. The battle had begun with the
morning; the shadows were lengthening on the hills when Tancred turned
back his pursuers near Harin, halfway to Aleppo, and rode back toward
Antioch, still galloping, for fear his comrades had squandered all the
spoil.

Long before the last chase was ended, Richard Longsword had been borne
to the city. Despite his crushed shoulder and lifeless arm, he had
urged on Rollo to the pursuit, almost hoping that he would meet
Iftikhar once more; though how, all maimed, he could have fought the
Ismaelian, St. Michael only knew. He saw the last struggle around the
encampment of Kerbogha, where the camp-followers tried to defend the
palisade and were destroyed by firing the barrier; he saw the
Christians dragging out the spoil,--rarest silk and webs of Ind, and
unpriced gems; fifteen thousand sumpter camels; howling slave girls;
shivering servants. He knew that the great battle, the battle against
the infidel he and his fellows had dreamed of so long, had been
fought, and won; and that the tale of the victory would fly from
Britain to Tartary. And yet he half felt a sense of sadness: he had
met Iftikhar Eddauleh face to face, and yet the Ismaelian lived. They
told him that when the last charge failed Iftikhar had turned his
steed's head and ridden away, joining Kerbogha and the fleeing emirs
and _atabegs_. Then Richard breathed a deep curse; for he knew, though
no clear reason came, that the grand prior, coward though his flight
had proven him, would in some way work great ill either to himself or
those he loved. He bade the St. Julieners search the camp to find if
Mary Kurkuas and Musa had been present at the battle. No trace; he was
at once saddened and relieved. Then, just as the first procession of
triumph, laden with dainties and rich wines from the camp for the
starving city-folk, was preparing to enter Antioch, the Norman felt of
a sudden the firm earth whirling, and as his sight dimmed, the din in
his ears drowned all the _Glorias_ and _Te Deums_ of the rejoicing
multitude. Herbert saw him reel on Rollo's back, and caught him just
as he dropped to the earth. Sebastian loosed his casque--found it full
of blood; a dervish's blade had cleft to the bone. His shoulder was
crushed; from ten more spots he was bleeding. The St. Julieners laid
their baron on a litter of lances and bore him to the city. Nor did
Richard know aught more for many days.



CHAPTER XLII

HOW MORGIANA WOUND HER LAST SPELL


Wrong had been done Iftikhar, when the Franks boasted he had fled
headlong with Kerbogha and his coward _atabegs_. Had all his peers in
the Moslem host fought as he, there might have been fewer Christian
_Glorias_. Where death was thickest he had sought it. Under his
cimeter had sped many a Frankish life. At the end he had led the final
charge of his "devoted," maddest rider in all that headlong band. But
doom had been against him; the Ismaelians had died where they could
not conquer. Iftikhar, escaping fifty deaths, had thrown himself into
a band of flying Turkomans, beseeching, threatening, adjuring, to make
them turn for a last stand. One howl met his prayer.

"Fate is against us! Flee! Flee! Allah aids the Franks!"

He struck the fugitives with his cimeter; they fled more swiftly. He
thrust his beast across their path; the good Arabian was nigh swept
down in the vortex of the panic. Panic everywhere, the Franks flying
after, each Christian a raging jinn whose joy was slaying.

Then at last Iftikhar knew he could do no more, and he turned the head
of his wounded steed to ride on the Christian lances. But just as he
was casting shield away, that death might light more quickly, the hand
of a strange rider plucked his saddle rein, and before the grand prior
could strike at the unknown, Zeyneb's voice sounded in his ears above
the "_Montjoye!_" of the onrushing French:

"What, Cid? You ride to death?"

"Unhand!" thundered Iftikhar, "all is lost! I know how to die!"

But Zeyneb with a wondrous strength had tugged at the bits and swung
the charger's head; and close by, the Egyptian saw another rider,
unarmored, in a flowing dress,--but the face was turned from him.

"You are mad, lord!" cried Zeyneb. "Do not cast yourself away. Fate
will change, Allah willing!"

Then, as Iftikhar struggled to turn, a squadron of flying Persian
light horse struck them, and swept the three riders away perforce in
its flight.

"Faster, faster!" the Persians were shrieking; "the Franks! Their
horses are vultures! their strength as of monsters!"

Iftikhar cursed while he strove vainly to escape them and ride against
the pursuers.

"Fools, sons of pigs and Jews!" roared he; "see, scarce ten men
follow, and you an hundred. Turn; ride them down!"

"They are ten sheytans," yelled the rest, spurring harder. "Speed,
brothers, speed!"

Iftikhar glanced back. Behind him flew De Valmont and Tancred, who
knew him by his armor, and taunted:--

"Face to face, Cid Iftikhar; did you fly thus at Palermo?"

But the Persians pricked their beasts to a headlong gallop; the Franks
rode down some, and slew them; the rest made their escape. When the
Christians left the chase in the evening, Iftikhar found himself with
a wounded and weary steed upon the bare Syrian hill slope, with only
Zeyneb for escort. The strangely dressed rider he had noticed,
followed half an arrow flight behind; but the Egyptian gave little
heed. Hardly had he drawn rein before another squadron of breathless
riders joined him, their horses' flanks in blood and foam. Their chief
was Kerbogha, master that morning of two hundred thousand sword-hands,
master that night of scarce fifty. Iftikhar bowed his casque in gloomy
salutation, but the lord of Mosul did not return it.

"Cid Iftikhar," came his words, cold as ice, "we have played our
chess-game with fortune. Mated! and we play no more! Forget that I
have known you!"

"I do not understand, my lord!" protested Iftikhar, his color rising.

"Clearer, then," and Kerbogha peered backward, lest the Frankish
banners tossed again in the gloaming. "We went to Antioch first to
crush the Franks, but also to gather, unhindered and unsuspected, an
army to grind Barkyarok and the Kalif. We gathered the army. Where it
is now, demand of the winds and the blood-red plain! Our plot is
ended. Barkyarok will suspect. Let Hassan Sabah gain his empire in his
own way. I must save myself by forswearing the Ismaelians and be all
loyalty to the arch-sultan. As for you, let Allah save or slay, you
are neither friend nor foe to me. Go your way; forget me, as I forget
you!"

"But our oaths--our pledge of comradeship till death!" urged Iftikhar,
in rising wrath.

"Death? A hundred thousand dead Moslems have wiped out the bond.
Cursed be the day I listened to your plots!"

"Then answer sword to sword!" raged the Egyptian, in frenzy, and ready
to join mortal grapple. But a shout from the emir's escort sent
Kerbogha fleeing away, without so much as replying.

"The Franks! They follow! Flight, flight!"

A false alarm, but the lord of Mosul and his fifty had vanished in the
thickening twilight; his speed such that the hoof-beats were soon
faint in the distance. Iftikhar looked about him. The night was sowing
the stars. The young moon was shining with its feathery crescent. Far
and wide stretched the desolate hills, fast fading into one black
waste. Lost! the battle lost! the hope of empire lost! the vengeance
on Richard lost! the love of Mary Kurkuas lost! He had only a wounded
horse, his cimeter, and his arms. That morning twelve thousand men
would have died for him at his nod. Yes, and had died! It was the
stroke of doom, the doom that had been written a million years, before
Allah called the heavens out of smoke, the earth out of darkness; and
there was no escaping. The Christians had turned back to Antioch, but
Iftikhar knew where to find them. He could ride back on his tracks,
enter their camp, slay seven men before dying himself, and give the
lie to the taunts of De Valmont and Tancred. So doing he would save
one last treasure--his honor.

"Zeyneb!" he said sternly, "go your way. You are at the end of your
service. I must ride to Antioch."

"And why to Antioch, Cid?"

"To win back the honor you stole from me."

Iftikhar had leaped to the ground to tighten his girths, when the
strange rider came beside him and dismounted. As he rose from his
task, he saw a veiled woman facing him; and while he started and
trembled, she swept the veil from her face. Morgiana standing in the
moonlight!

For an instant not a word passed. Then Iftikhar spoke: "Morgiana,
surely Eblees will gain you at last, since he sends you here." His
voice was shaking with towering passion.

"I have come to save you, my Cid," answered she.

"To save me?" burst from the Egyptian. "To save me? To drag down to
Gehenna rather; to speed me to endless torture!"

She turned her face away. "Not that," she pleaded, "not that. Have I
not loved you, and been ever faithful?"

He sprang at her, caught her by the throat.

"You have indeed _loved me_! Hearken: through your love for me you
strengthened the Greek to resist me; through your love for me you
saved Richard and his comrades, and plucked the Greek from me; through
your love the accursed Norman and Duke Godfrey were able to escape, to
warn their army, when ready to drop unresisting into the net spread by
Kerbogha. This siege, this battle, this loss of myriads, is your
handiwork; is _yours_,--and for it you shall die. Would to Allah I had
killed you long ago!"

He had drawn his cimeter, and brandished above her. She raised her
eyes and looked at him unflinching.

"_Wallah!_" cried he, wavering, "there is magic in your eyes. The
sheytans aid you! Yet you shall die!"

Morgiana's face was not pale now; all the blood had returned; her eyes
were brighter than red coals. She wrested her neck from his grasp, and
caught his sword-hand, held it fast, with a strange, giant-like
strength that frighted him.

"Strike!" cried she; "but as Allah lives and judges, first hear. Where
are your twelve thousand? I have seen them all dead. Your hopes of
power? Sped to the upper air. And the Greek? Allah knoweth. All these
lost, but not I. No, by the All-Great you shall not strike until you
hear me; for I am strong--stronger than you. I have been cursed, but
have not replied; been hated, but paid in love; been wronged, but
remained faithful. Now hope goes to ruin; war, love, friends,--all is
lost,--saving I. But me you shall not lose. Either on earth you shall
keep me near, to joy in your joys, to sorrow in your sorrows; or
dying, my spirit shall be yet closer, to follow your path in heaven,
earth, or hell--bittering every sweet, trebling every woe, haunting,
goading, torturing, until you curse tenfold the hour you forgot the
love of Morgiana, maid of Yemen!"

And when Morgiana had spoken, she cast Iftikhar's hand from her, and
bowed her head, as if waiting the stroke. But the Ismaelian's arm had
fallen. He stood as in a trance, for before his storm-driven soul
passed the vision of that Morgiana of other days, before the babe died
and he set eyes on the Greek,--those days when he boasted he asked no
Paradise, for the kiss of the fairest houri was already his. His
sword-arm trembled. The woman said not a word, but raised her eyes
again, not burning, but mild and tender he saw them now, lit with soft
radiance in the dim moonlight. He felt the mad fury chained as by some
resistless spell. Presently he spoke, the words dragged as it were
from the depths of his soul:--

"Some jinn is aiding you! Live then this once. I shall be cursed again
for sparing."

Morgiana's only answer was to kneel and kiss his feet. Then she rose
and stood with bent head and folded arms waiting his wishes. But
Zeyneb had flitted between.

"Cid," he said abruptly, "there are horsemen approaching, very likely
Christians; the gallop is that of heavy northern horses. Let us ride."

"Ride?" asked the dazed Iftikhar, "whither?" And he looked at
Morgiana. His iron will was broken; he was content to let her lead
him. She had already remounted.

"Toward Emesa, my Cid," she said directly.

"And what is there?" asked he, still dazed.

"The road to Egypt. You have still a name and a fame. All is not lost
while Allah gives life. You are still young. The Egyptian kalif will
rejoice to welcome such a warrior to his service."

"_Mashallah!_" cried Iftikhar, raising his hands, "when did you devise
all this for me?"

"Many days since, lord. For in the hemp smoke it was written Kerbogha
and the 'devoted' should fail."

"And you have been hidden at El Halebah?"

"No," she replied, "I have been closer than you dreamed, in your tents
before Antioch, concealed by Zeyneb, to be near you when the need
should be great. When the Christians stormed the camp I was taken by
Duke Godfrey. In gratitude he set me free, and gave me a horse. I
found Zeyneb and followed after you, that you might not cast your life
away."

He went up to her as she sat on the saddle, put his arms about her,
kissed her many times. And upon that Syrian hillside, under the stars,
Morgiana found her moment of Paradise. He said nothing; but the
Arabian laughed as she looked up at the sky.

"Praised be Allah, All-merciful," she cried. "The old is sped, the new
is waiting. Mary the Greek is gone--will be forgotten. May I never
hear word of her again!"

"I have been blind to the love of this woman," muttered Iftikhar,
bounding into the saddle; "I have been blind, and Heaven restores
sight. Yet if Mary the Greek is to be forgotten, may she never again
cross my path. But this is left to Allah."



CHAPTER XLIII

HOW THE ARMY SAW JERUSALEM


Of the weary days passed by Richard Longsword while his wound was
healing, of how Sebastian and Herbert bled him, poulticed him with
poppy leaves, and physicked him with sage, there is no time to tell.
Neither is there space to relate the lesser misfortunes that befell
the Crusaders, after the greatest misfortune at the hands of Kerbogha
had been escaped through Heaven's mercy. For in the days that the army
waited in Antioch a great plague fell upon it, which swept away all
the weak and aged the famine had spared. Chief amongst those taken was
Bishop Adhemar, who was not permitted in this mortal body to see the
triumph of the cause he loved so well. There were quarrels and
desertions amongst the chiefs. Hugh of Vermandois went away to
Constantinople and returned no more. Raymond of Toulouse, and
Bohemond, who took Antioch for his own principality, were at strife
unceasing,--once passing the lie before the very altar. Thus the
season was wasted, and the host frittered away its time around
Antioch. Richard recovered and grew mightily impatient. To Jerusalem
he must go, or the blood of Gilbert de Valmont must rest upon his
soul. Long since the desire of knightly adventure had been fully
sated. But his northern determination was unshaken as ever. His heart
was always running ahead of the loitering host. To sweeten his delay,
a letter had come through a Jew merchant from Tyre. Musa's tale had
been received in Kerbogha's camp; he had been kindly entreated, but he
had at once obtained transport to Tyre, whence he expected a ship for
Egypt. Mary was well. In Egypt she would await the end of the war.
Then, however Allah might rule the issue, Richard would be free to
return homeward, and could receive back Mary safe and spotless from
his brother's care.

So Richard took courage, and counted the days till once more he could
see the pleasant hills of Auvergne, the teeming valley; and dreamed of
the hours when he would sit in the castle halls, with Mary at his
side, and how they would fleet the days under the ancient trees beside
the green-banked fosse, forever, forever. But those blessed days could
not come till the Holy City was ransomed; and no spirit was gladder
than Longsword's when the host started southward in the long-awaited
springtime.

At last the army had begun its final march, not an emir drawing sword
against it; for the fear of Frankish valor had spread over all Islam.
None of the host had desire for besieging any city save Jerusalem, and
when they sat down before Archas they met only discomfiture. But while
before Archas, Peter Barthelmy, puffed with pride, vowed he would
silence those who ventured--after safe lapse of time--to doubt the
miracle of the holy lance. Waxing confident, and boasting new visions
from St. Andrew, he offered himself for the ordeal. In the presence of
the whole host he passed down a lane of blazing fagots. None denied
that he left the flames alive; but a few days later he was dead.
"Impostor," cried the Northern French, who said the fire smote him, as
being a deceiver. But the Provençals called him a martyr, having
passed through the flames unhurt, but trampled down by his enemies in
the throng when he came forth from the fire. As for Sebastian, he
would only cock one eye, when asked of the miracle of the lance, and
keep silence. Once Theroulde said to his face:--

"Father, were you a sinful man, I should say you were itching to
peddle forth a good story."

But the story Sebastian never told.

       *       *       *       *       *

Soon enough poor Barthelmy's fate was forgotten. For the host was now
treading a soil made sacred by the steps of prophets and apostles and
holy men of old. The Franks forgot weary feet, the long journey and
all its pains, when the march wound under the rocky spurs of Lebanon,
and by the green Sidonian country. From Tyre they saw the blue sea,
behind whose distant sky-line they knew beloved France was lying. They
traversed the plain of Acre, climbed Carmel's towering crest. And now
the swiftest marching seemed feeble. Jerusalem was nigh--Jerusalem,
the city of God, goal of every hope, for whose deliverance myriads had
laid down their lives. The toilsome way through Illyria, the
passage-at-arms at Dorylæum, the march of agony through "Burning
Phrygia," the starving, the death grapple in battle, and the
pestilence at Antioch--all forgotten now! "God wills it! To
Jerusalem!" was the cry that made the eager steps press onward from
sun to sun; and men found the summer nights too long that held them
back. A strange ecstasy possessed the army. Without warning whole
companies would break out into singing, clashing their arms and
running forward with holy gladness.

"God is with us! The saints are with us! Jerusalem is at hand!" was
the shout that flew from lip to lip, as the host passed Sharon, and
prepared to strike off from the coast road for the final burst of
speed across the Judean plains to the Holy City. Richard rode on, as
in an unearthly dream. Half he thought to see legions of angels and
hoary prophets rise from behind each hilltop. When he set eyes on a
great boulder, a thrill passed at the thought, "Jesus Christ doubtless
has looked on this." Almost sacrilege it was for Rollo to pound the
dusty road; blessed dust--had it not felt the mortal tread of fifty
holy ones, now reigning in eternal light?

So the march hastened. When the dusty columns tramped through Lydda,
every man beat his breast, and said his _Pater noster_, in memory of
St. George the warrior, who there had won his martyr's crown. At Ramla
they halted to adore the very ground where Samuel the Prophet of God
had been born.

And now at the end of a day's march they were only sixteen short
miles from Jerusalem, and the leaders held a council. For some who
even to the last were faint-hearted wished to march past Jerusalem and
strike Egypt, since it was said water and provisions were failing
about the Holy City. But Godfrey, standing in the assembly, said after
his pure, trustful manner:--

"We came to Palestine, not to smite the Egyptian kalif, but to free
the tomb of Christ. Bitterly reduced as we are in numbers, let us only
go straight on. Will God, who plucked us out of the clutch of Kilidge
Arslan and Kerbogha, suffer us to fail at the last? Up tents!
weariness, away! and forward this very night!"

Then all the braver spirits cried with one voice: "We will not fail!
God wills it!" So the order spread through the camp, though hardly yet
pitched, to march forward at speed; and when the army heard it they
blessed God, and each man strode his swiftest to be the first to set
eyes on Jerusalem.

It was the evening of the ninth of June in the year of grace one
thousand and ninety-nine; three years and a half since the great cry
had swelled around Urban at Clermont, that the Christian army set out
for this last march to the Holy City. The Christian army--alas! not
the army that had ridden forth from France,--that had arrayed itself
so splendidly on the plains of Nicæa! For of the hundred thousands,
there were scarce fifty thousand left; and of these, twelve thousand
alone were in full state for battle. The bones of the martyrs lined
the long road from the Bosphorus to Judea. Many had fallen behind,
sick; many had turned back craven. But the head of an army dies
hardest; of the twelve thousand warriors that pricked their weary
steeds across the arid Syrian land, not one but was a man of iron with
a soul of steel. Bohemond and Hugh and Stephen of Blois had deserted;
but Robert the Norman was there, with Raymond of Toulouse, Tancred,
and Godfrey, bravest of the brave.

A little after nightfall they struck camp, with the bright eastern
stars twinkling above them. As they marched, they saw before them all
the plains and mountains ablaze, where the commandant of Jerusalem
was burning the outlying villages, to desolate the country against
their coming. Richard Longsword, who rode with Tancred and a picked
corps sent ahead to seize Bethlehem, heard the tales of the despairing
native Christians who came straggling in to greet their deliverers.
They blessed the saints in their uncouth Syriac for the help they had
awaited so long, and bade the Franks be speedy with vengeance; for the
Egyptian governor was breathing out cruelty against the servants of
Christ.

"And who may this commandant be?" demanded the Norman of an old
peasant who spoke a little Greek.

"Iftikhar Eddauleh, once of the cursed Ismaelians, lord," answered the
fugitive, whimpering when he glanced toward his blazing vineyard. "Oh!
press on, for the love of Christ! The Egyptians have driven my son and
my daughter like sheep inside of Jerusalem, to hold as hostages. They
say that the emir even threatens to destroy the tomb of Our Lord in
his mad ragings!"

Richard thundered out a terrible oath.

"Now, by the Trinity and Holy Cross, God do so to me if Iftikhar
Eddauleh long escape the devil! He, emir of Jerusalem! Praised be
every saint, we shall yet stand face to face!"

And under the starlight Rollo, as if knowing that the last stretch of
the weary road had come, ran onward with his long, unflagging gallop.
It was very dark; but the red glare of the villages was sure beacon.
Once Rollo stumbled and barely recovered. Longsword dropped his
companions one by one. A single thought possessed him now,--over those
dark, low-lying hills, barely traced under the stars, lay
Jerusalem--City of God on earth! And in Jerusalem waited his mortal
foe, and the vengeance he had wooed so long! Vengeance, sweet as the
kiss of Mary Kurkuas; sweeter, if so might be. In his revery, as he
galloped, he saw neither hills, nor stars, nor road; he dreamed only
of Trenchefer carving its way through the Ismaelian.

Vengeance, the clearing of his vow, return to France, to love--all
these just on before! Richard was lost in the vision. Suddenly the
click and thunder of a steed at headlong pace shook him from the
revery. What rider this, that gained on Rollo? A voice through the
darkness:--

"Ho! friend; why so fast? Your company!"

It was the voice of Godfrey. Richard had reined instinctively. The
Duke was beside him.

"By St. George, fair lord," cried the Norman, "where is your own
corps? Why ride you here alone?"

Godfrey laughed under his helmet.

"Could I leave Tancred the glory and the boast, 'I first set eyes on
the Holy City'? Under cover of the dark I left Baldwin du Bourg to
bring up my men, and spurred forward. I knew that with me would ride
one whose right arm is none the weakest."

"Forward, then!" returned Richard; "I have joy in your company, my
lord."

"Please God, we shall meet a few infidels and avenge the burned
villages," muttered Godfrey, as they flew on. "Ten paynims to one
Christian are fair odds with Jerusalem so nigh!"

But the wish was unrealized. They rode for a while in silence; met no
more fugitives, nor any of the garrison. Presently the horses fell to
a walk. The light of the burning hamlets died away. Very dark--only in
the farthest east there was a dim redness. No smouldering farmhouse, a
light brightening slowly, slowly. A soft warm southern wind was
creeping across the plain. To the left the twain just saw black cedars
massed in a dark ravine. There was an awe and hush on all the earth.
Behind came the clink of arms, the click of men and steeds; but from
Tancred's company drifted no murmur. Who craved speech at such an
hour? Slower the steps of the horses. A hill slope extended before--a
blank form in the dark. The wind seemed to hush as they advanced.
Richard knew that never in all life had awe possessed him more
utterly. He heard the water trickling in a hidden brooklet. Out of a
tamarisk whirred a wild partridge. How great the noise! Did Rollo
know he trod down holy ground, his great feet fell so softly? The sky
grew brighter--rocks, trees, hillocks springing to being; the
blackness was gray, the gray was tinged with red, the stars were
fading.

Godfrey whispered softly to Richard:--

"From what the pilgrims say, we now climb the Mount of Olives. Before
us lies the chapel of the Ascension, beyond--Jerusalem! Let us kneel
and pray that God make us worthy to behold His Holy City."

The two knights dismounted, fell on their knees, their hearts almost
too full even for silent prayer. "So many agonies, so bitter loss, so
many days! At last! At last!" This was all Richard Longsword knew. He
tried to confess his sins; to say _mea culpa_, but his one thought was
of thanksgiving. With Godfrey he rose and led Rollo by the bridle
upward. They ascended slowly, reverently, counting each rock and
nestling olive tree. And with their mounting, mounted the light. Now
Richard looked back--a wide, dim landscape faded away into the rosy
east, peaks and plain, more peaks all desolate, and farthest of all a
little steel-gray shimmer, where he knew the Dead Sea lay. Still the
light strengthened, making all the landscape red gold; the naked chalk
rock to the west lit with living fire. Behind hasted the whole
van--footmen running abreast of the horsemen, priests outstripping the
warriors, and one priest speeding before all--Sebastian. He overtook
the two knights, breathless with his speed; but the new light not
brighter than the light in his eyes. He said nothing. The three
pressed forward. Four and twenty hours, barely halting, all had
advanced, but who was weary?

Suddenly the host behind broke forth chanting as they toiled
upward,--the psalm tenfold louder in the morning stillness:--

    "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised
    In the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness.
    Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth,
    Is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north,
    The city of the great King."

The chant went up to heaven and seemed to call forth more light from
the glowing east. Suddenly every voice hushed,--silence as never
before. For all thoughts went deeper than word or cry. The last mist
stole upward, a thin gray haze; the sun-ball hung behind the highest
peak of Moab. His tip crept above it; Longsword glanced back. A cry
from Sebastian recalled him.

"Jerusalem!"

It came as a great cry and sigh in one from the priest. He had cast
himself on the bare summit and kissed the holy rock.

Richard and Godfrey looked westward, and bathed in the dawn--_they saw
the Holy City_. They saw gray walls and a dim brown country, naked
almost of tree or shrub, and white houses peering above frowning
battlements. Dominating over all they saw the dome of the mosque on
the Sacred Rock,--token of the enemies of Christ. What mattered it
now?

"Jerusalem! Jerusalem!" the cry was passing down the line, and made
the climbing easy as though on eagle's wings.

"Jerusalem! Jerusalem!" Richard saw strong men falling on their faces,
as had he. And his and every other's cheek was wet, for tears would
come,--no shame when they looked upon the city of their risen Lord!
Gray stones and brown cliffs, thorns and thistles, dust and drought,
naked plains, burned by blasting heat; so be it! This their goal, the
object of an untold agony! Could human hearts be filled so full and
not break? Godfrey flung his arms about Richard, and their iron lips
exchanged the kiss of awful gladness. Words they had none, save that
one word. They named the Holy City a thousand times: "Jerusalem!
Jerusalem!" And men prayed God then and there to die, for already
their souls were wrapt to heaven. Tancred the haughty, who had just
come up, saw at his side a simple man-at-arms, a plodding peasant's
son; but the great Prince had forgotten all, save that for both one
Saviour died.

"My brother! My brother in Christ!" Tancred was pleading, as he gave
the kiss of love, "Pray for me! pray for me! I am a very sinful man!"

They remained thus upon the mountain, weeping and laughing and
stretching forth their hands, till the sun had risen far above the
mountains. Had the Egyptians sallied forth to smite, scarce a sword
would have flashed, so dear seemed martyrdom. But at length the hour
of transfiguration was past. Godfrey had risen for the last time from
his knees. He mounted and pointed with his good sword to the minarets
and the clusters of spears upon the lowering battlements.

"Forward, Christians!" rang the command; "the infidels still hold the
City of God! Forward! there is yet one fight to be won in Our Lord's
dear name!"

Then another cry thundered from the army, each blade leaping from
scabbard:--

"God wills it! God wills it!" And the unbelievers must have seen the
Mount of Olives a sea of flashing steel, while the bulwarks of Zion
rang with the shouting.

"Yes," Richard heard from Sebastian, bowing low his head, "this truly
is the will of God! The hour of my deliverance from this evil world is
nigh."

The ranks closed, and as the host marched down the slopes of Olivet,
the priests sang, advancing:--

    "Blessed City, heavenly Salem,
      Vision dear of Peace and Love,
    Who of living stones art builded,
      Art the joy of Heaven above,
    And with angel cohorts circled,
      As a bride to earth doth move!"

Then the whole army rolled out the mighty _Gloria_:--

    "Laud and honor to the Father!
      Laud and honor to the Son!
    Laud and honor to the Spirit!
      Ever Three and ever One!
    Con-substantial, Co-eternal!
      While unending ages run!"

So the cliffs echoed back the singing, the Christian host moved
onward, driving the last squadrons of the Egyptians inside the walls,
and sending divisions southward to raise Tancred's standard over
Bethlehem. All that day the Crusaders streamed over the heights of
Emmaus, raising the song of Isaiah:--

     "Awake, awake, O Jerusalem: break forth into joy: put on thy
     beautiful garments: for the Lord hath comforted His people: He
     hath redeemed Zion."

But Richard had driven Rollo close to the Gate of St. Stephen, mocking
a cloud of infidel arrows, and on the walls directing the garrison, he
had seen a figure in gilded armor he would have known among ten
thousand. That night, if his vows against Iftikhar Eddauleh had been
strong, they were threefold stronger now.



CHAPTER XLIV

HOW MORGIANA BROUGHT WARNING


How, as related in his letter, Musa had entered the camp of Kerbogha,
made his guileful tale believed, and escaped safely with Mary Kurkuas
to Tyre, we have no need to tell. When the Spaniard was landed at that
city, he dreamed unwisely that his troubles were at an end. An easy
voyage to Damietta, an easy journey to Cairo, and at Cairo a spacious
palace awaited him as emir in service to the Fatimite Mustaali. There
the Greek could spend the time in quiet and luxury until the Crusade
had run its course. But, again, Musa was to learn that the book of
doom contains many things contrary to the wish of man. While at Tyre a
letter came from the omnipotent grand vizier, Al Afdhal, ordering him
to hasten at once to Jerusalem and assume the post of second in
command. A high honor; and the vizier added that the Spaniard had been
given this signal trust, both because all in Cairo had learned to put
confidence in his valor and discretion, and because the Christians
would be sure to reach the city soon, where the defenders should be
familiar with their warfare.

Musa spent half a day in vain maledictions over this letter. By
refusing the kalif's daughter he had put his neck in peril once; to
decline this second honor would be to invite the bowstring. Hardly
could he bring himself to lay his dilemma before the Greek. She had
been lodged with all honor in the harem of the Egyptian governor of
the city, for Musa had passed her before the world as his own
Christian slave. When the Spaniard came to her, he professed himself
willing to throw over his position in Egypt and fly to Tunis, if she
bade him. But Mary only smiled and shook her head. "Dear friend," said
she, "you shall go to no more pains on my behalf. The Holy Mother
knows I spend many an evening crying when I think of all the brave
men, just and base, who have died or run perils for my sinful sake."

"Then what am I to do?" protested the Spaniard, with one of his
eloquent gestures. "Go to Jerusalem?"

Mary was silent for a long time; then said directly:--

"Ah, Musa, I am Christian bred, but were all Moslems like you, I could
hate none. Leave that to the priests, like Sebastian! If you go to
Jerusalem and the Christians attack, as attack they will, you will
defend the city, will fight to the last?"

Musa nodded soberly. "Would to Allah I could do anything else! But
Jerusalem is scarce less sacred to my people than to yours. To us it
is '_El Kuds_,' the 'Sanctuary of Allah'; and even _I_"--and he smote
his breast--"must die in the breach or on the walls before an armed
Frank enter!"

Mary looked at him, and saw by his face more than by the words that he
would indeed die if put to the last gasp.

"Musa," she said softly, throwing that grave light into her eyes which
had made Richard cry he saw all heaven therein, "you speak truly. God
keep you safe; but, Christian or Moslem, you must follow the path that
duty opens. You must go to Jerusalem, for so your Allah clearly
wills!"

"And," protested the Spaniard, "I shall send you to Cairo? You will be
lonely in the great harem of my palace, with only servants and eunuchs
to wait on you. For I must conform to the customs of my country, and
let no lady in my care wander forth."

Mary shook her head in violent dissent.

"Why should I not go with you to Jerusalem? If the city falls, will
not my husband be at hand to receive me? If the defence is made
good,"--she stared hard at the pavement,--"I know my Richard Longsword
will not live to see defeat; and then--"

She broke short; her eyes were bright with tears.

"_Wallah!_ what may I say to comfort you?" cried the Andalusian, in
distress. But Mary sprang from the divan and stood before him, eye
meeting eye.

"Musa," she said quietly, "I am a woman, and Heaven gives me a few
wits. I know well what Richard said to you that moment he drew you
aside before we were parted near Antioch."

The Spaniard reddened and stirred uneasily. As if by sympathy, the
Greek flushed also; but she continued:--

"Dear Musa, we can best speak plainly one to another. Whether you have
ever borne love for woman as Richard has borne love for me, I greatly
doubt. Strange man, once I was angry, even while I blessed you, that
when so many professed love, your only word was friendship. But all
that is past now. I am the wedded wife of your dearest comrade. If he
die, save Baron Hardouin in Provence, I have no other friend in the
wide earth but you. If Richard dies, and Heaven is kind, I shall not
live long. But people cannot die when they wish. If my husband is
taken away, it is right that you should possess me. I cannot give you
the deepest love; nor expect it from you. But so long as you live, I
shall be content--for, saving Richard Longsword, you are the purest,
noblest--Christian or Moslem--who treads God's earth."

Mary outstretched her hand to the Spaniard, who did not take it, but
knelt and kissed the hem of her dress.

"Star of the Greeks," he said, smiling after his soft, melancholy way,
"how good that we can look into one another's eyes and see 'trust'
written therein. May the All-Merciful put far the day that will make
you other than my brother's wife! But you shall go to Jerusalem."

Mary pressed her hands to her forehead.

"Holy Mother," she cried, "is it mercy to send Richard and Musa both
to Jerusalem, where one must surely die!"

The Spaniard shrugged his shoulders. "If the Most-High watch over my
brother, waste no tears in fear for me. I shall live or die, as is
fated, and the day of death is fixed, be a man on battle-field or on
his bed."

"Your destiny is cruel," declared the Greek. But Musa answered,
"Destiny is the will of Allah, and even the hard things from Him are
sent in mercy."

       *       *       *       *       *

So Mary fared by easy journeys to Jerusalem, and not to Cairo. In the
Holy City they said the lieutenant-commandant kept a lady in his
harem, but that wakened no comment. Musa had means and rank to secure
a comfortable house on the north of the city, by the Gate of Herod; to
fit it with all needful luxury, to provide Nubian eunuchs and Syrian
serving-maids. The Greek had learned at Aleppo to be content with the
close harem life, and Musa went to all lengths to please her. When he
could spare time, he read and sang to her all day long; played chess
and backgammon; matched her in contests of verse; repeated his
jugglery tricks. He provided books in plenty--the Arabian histories;
Macoudi's "Prairies of Gold," the great geography; and Greek
manuscripts--Homer, Sophocles, Plato, and more. The Spaniard loved to
sit at Mary's feet, hearing her read in her own rich native accent the
hexameters that throbbed with the wrath of Achilles, and all the other
stories of the old pagan world so long departed. Mary took all his
attention with a kind of mute wonder, having long since ceased to
marvel at his devotion. "Am I not utterly in his power?" she would say
to herself. "Could he not take me forever from Richard Longsword by
his mere wish?" So she would be silent, admiring the friendship that
could go to lengths like this. For though they constantly talked of
the Norman, Musa never breathed a word that was not to Richard's
praise--of his valor, purity, steadfastness, and lofty purpose,
telling Mary often that she was wedded to the noblest cavalier in
Frankland or Islam.

So for Mary at Jerusalem, as for Richard at Antioch, the slow winter
crept by. And in the spring came the news that the Christian host was
coming southward by forced marches. Musa's face was sad when he
brought Mary the tidings, though it was only what each had expected.
But neither was prepared for the sudden thunderbolt that crashed upon
them just as the Christians broke camp before Archas. A messenger came
into the city from Cairo, bringing word that Iftikhar Eddauleh, the
one-time Ismaelian chief, had landed at Alexandria, been received with
high favor by the kalif and vizier, appointed to the chief command at
Jerusalem, and was on his way thither with heavy reënforcements for
the garrison. Musa--ran the vizier's orders--was to retain his post as
second; and with two such officers, so well schooled in the
Christians' mode of warfare, the kalif made no doubt of a successful
defence.

No opportunity for drawing back now. A new embassy was being sent to
the Franks to try to halt their march by a peace at the last moment.
But Musa feared to intrust it with a letter for Richard, as the
members were all appointed by Iftikhar himself, who arrived in
Jerusalem almost as soon as the first messenger. The Spaniard
presented himself to his chief at the Castle of David, the mighty
stronghold on the western wall of the city. When the two cavaliers met
face to face, without a word to Musa, Iftikhar ordered every guard and
slave out of his presence, and the twain stood staring hard at one
another for a long time in silence. Presently Musa said simply:--

"Cid Iftikhar, we have been personal enemies, and owe each other many
a grudge; but this is no time nor place for private broils. I am your
lieutenant, ready to die in defence of _El Kuds_. Command me in
anything touching my duty as a soldier, and I obey to the last."

Iftikhar's face was very stern when he answered:--

"You say well, my Lord Musa. At a convenient time Allah grant that I
may reckon with you. Only with Richard the Norman have I an account
that is longer. But to-day let us toil as one man for the defence of
Jerusalem; for, as the All-Just reigns, we have no light task before
us!"

"Then," asked the Spaniard, "until the city is saved we are at truce?"

"At truce," assented Iftikhar, nodding. But he would not accept Musa's
proffered hand. And when the Spaniard went back to Mary he cautioned
her gravely to remain close in the harem. Likewise he sent many of his
servants out of the city, retaining only those most trusty;
admonishing all not to breathe on the streets or to their gossips that
a Grecian lady was lodged in his palace.

But now came a series of days, each more terrible for Mary than the
one before. Musa would have told her little, but he found that keeping
back the news made her grieve yet more; therefore he related all. As
the Franks advanced, Iftikhar had sent out his squadrons and laid
waste the country for leagues about, filling up the wells, scarce
leaving one house standing, that the Christians might find no comfort
or provision. On this work Musa had ridden, though he loved it little.

At last the Christians were at hand; and Mary, looking from her harem
balcony, saw the hills covered with the familiar Frankish armor and
the white-stoled priests and the forest of tossing lances. But though
the eunuchs and city folk cowered and whimpered, Mary knew the
Egyptian garrison was made of stouter stuff,--not blind fanatics, like
the Ismaelians, but men who would defend the walls to the last.

On the next day Mary was fain to lie in her chamber, stopping her
ears, and pleading with every saint; for the Christians were
assaulting. Then at evening came silence. Musa returned, dust-covered,
his cheek bleeding where an arrow grazed, but safe; and Mary knew the
onslaught had failed. With her own hands she stripped off the weary
Spaniard's armor.

"The Christians rush on ruin," was his bitter tale. "With only one
ladder they tried to scale. With a second they might have mastered.
They endured our rain of bolts, stones, and Greek fire as if pelted by
dry leaves. They have perished by hundreds. Well that Allah is
all-wise; He alone knows the need of this war!"

"And Richard?" asked Mary, scarce venturing the word.

"I saw him all reckless, in his open steel cap! My heart turned to ice
when he began to climb the ladder with Trenchefer in his teeth. He
laughed at our arrows. A stone overturned the ladder; he fell, then
rose unhurt from under a heap of slain, and was about to mount once
more when a priest--Sebastian, doubtless--dragged him out of view."

Mary blessed the saints for this mercy, and was constant in prayer;
for women could only pray while strong men had the easier deeds of
fighting and dying. While the Christians were building their siege
engines, there were no more assaults. But this only postponed the days
of evil. Mary could see that Musa was laboring under extreme
excitement. In her presence he affected his old-time gayety and
playful melancholy. But once she caught him in an unguarded moment,
gazing upon her so fixedly, that had he been Iftikhar, she would have
thrilled with danger; and once she overheard him in his chamber crying
aloud to Allah as if beseeching deliverance from some great
temptation, and from the evil jinns that were tearing his breast.

"Dear Musa," said Mary, "what is it that makes you grow so sad?"

But the only answer was the gentle laugh, and the remark,
"_Wallah_,--and with your Christians pressing us night and day, and
all preparing for the death grip, will you marvel I am not always
merry?"

"True," she replied; "but I know it is not the siege that darkens
you."

Musa said nothing. In fact she saw him seldom. The wretched Jerusalem
Christians were kept at forced labor on the walls, and sight of their
piteous state made Mary hate all Moslems save the Spaniard. Presently
rumor had it the Franks had completed their engines. Mary saw the
great procession around the city, after the fashion of the Israelites
around Jericho,--the priests, the knights, the men-at-arms, a great
company that marched from the valley of Rephaim, beside Calvary, to
the Mount of Olives, where they halted for exhortings to brave deeds,
by the chieftains and priests. The hymns and brave words Mary did not
hear; but she did hear the blasphemies of the Moslems, as from the
walls they held up crosses in the sight of all the Christians, heaping
filth upon them, and shouting, "Look, Franks, look; behold the blessed
cross!" But the Greek knew deep down in her heart that they blasphemed
to their own destruction; and Musa half shared her thought, when that
night he parted from her to go upon the walls.

"Star of the Greeks," he said, salaaming, "the Christians' engines are
ready, and their host in array to attack with the morning. Allah alone
knows what we shall see by another sunset. Keep close within the
harem. I cannot return until about this time to-morrow evening."

And he was gone, leaving Mary to pass a sleepless night with awaking
to a wretchedness she had never felt before. Not dread for herself
this time. Richard would be face to face with death--and Musa! What if
_both_ should be cut down! Then let Iftikhar Eddauleh or any other
demon in mortal guise possess her; this world would be one blackness,
and trifles would matter little. She tossed on her pillow till
daybreak, then rose to greater misery. What mockery to pray; to cry to
God and the saints! If they were all righteous, why had they created
in her that stubborn will which would not bow to their decree? Under
her lattice in the narrow dirty streets the corps of the garrison were
rushing to and fro. She could see the ebon Ethiopians clashing their
huge targets and sabres as they ran toward the walls, while the
war-horns and kettledrums blared and boomed unceasingly.

"This way, true believers!" came the shout. "The Franks are advancing.
He who speeds one Christian to hell blots out ten thousand sins!" But
over the din of arms sounded the cry of the muezzins from the Mosque
el-Aksa, and all the other lesser fanes, calling the people to prayer.
Looking up at a minaret close by, Mary could see the pigeons still
nesting under the balcony; and when the waves of clangor hushed an
instant, she could hear the coo, coo, of mate to mate, as if the brown
earth were calm and peaceful as the azure dome.

So the day commenced. As the sun climbed higher, the rock on which
Jerusalem was founded trembled under the crash of bursting war. Mary,
sitting upon the house roof, could hear all the tumult in the city
streets, and see the garrison massing on the battlements by the Gate
of Herod.

How long a day! The eunuchs, timorous as their mistress, gave her
little heed. But a few grapes and figs were all the food the Greek
cared to touch. About the third hour of the morning she knew the
conflict was joined. From that time till sunset the roar of assault
and defence went up to heaven as one continuous thunder. The shouts of
Christian and Moslem; the crash of mangonel and catapult; the hurtling
of myriad arrows and stones,--all these made a raging babel that spoke
but a single word--"Death!" For Mary, it was one long-drawn terror.
Long since had she, with her woman's heart, ceased to care whether the
blessed Christ or Allah reigned within the bulwarks of the Holy City.
She only knew that her husband and a man who had become dearer to her
than a brother were in the midst of that chaos. Again and again she
heard a mighty crash from the battlements, sounding above the unending
din, that told of a triumph won by besiegers or besieged. Twice her
heart leaped to her throat, as shrieking men flew down the street,
calling on Allah to "have mercy; the city was taken." And twice again
others passed, bawling out their _Bismillahs_, telling how the Franks
had been utterly crushed. It was noon, and still the thunders grew
louder. The third hour after noon; were the heavens of adamant that
they did not crack asunder at the roaring? The fourth hour, and under
the balcony galloped an Egyptian officer.

"_Allah akhbar!_ Rejoice, O Moslems! The Christians have been repulsed
on all hands!" he was proclaiming; "they will never assault again. The
Lord Iftikhar has made a sally from the breach, and all their engines
are burning!"

"Victory for the true faith! _Allah akhbar!_" shouted the squadrons
that raged after him. "To the gates! a sally! cut off the Franks ere
they can flee to the hills!"

Mary bowed her head. The Franks repulsed, defeated, scattered; the
Crusade lost, and Richard Longsword,--never, the Greek knew well,
would her husband turn back from a stricken field to breathe out his
fiery spirit on his bed. But the clangor of arms and shouting did not
die away. The sun was dropping lower now, but the battle seemed
blazing hotter than when the day was young. In the street women and
city-folk ran this way and that. From their cries Mary knew not what
to think. To remain longer on the housetop she could not, though Musa
commanded a thousand times. She must know the worst or die. The
cowering maids and eunuchs gave her never a thought. She cast a veil
about her face and rushed down into the street. The way was plain
before her. In a great press of soldiers, citizens, and shrieking
women, she was swept on toward the Gate of Herod, scarce knowing
whither she went. As she moved on blindly, jostled and thrust about by
rude hands, she knew that the din was lessening, the thunder from the
walls intermitting. Now, as she looked toward the battlements, she
could see the engineers making fast the machines, the archers running
from the towers. Through the gate was pouring a cavalry corps, the
horses bleeding and panting, the men battered and bleeding also. Many
bore shivered lances; many brandished red blades; many toiled wearily
on foot. It needed none to tell her that the sally had failed, else
why did the great gate clash to in a twinkling the instant the last
rider passed under? And in through the closing portal rang the good
French war-cry, almost at the riders' heels, "_Montjoie St. Denis!_"
So the Franks had been repulsed, but not scattered. The leaguer had
not been raised. There must be other days of horror.

"St. Theodore guide me!" prayed Mary to herself, "I must be back
instantly. Musa would be justly angry if he found me in this throng."
And she turned from the gate, thankful, yet fearful. What had befallen
Richard and Musa that day of blood? The multitude surged backward,
carrying her toward the inner city. In the rude press the veil was
swept from her face. She knew that soldiers were pointing at her, and
passing the word "Look--a houri!" But she heeded little, only forced
her way up the narrow street to regain the house. The throng made
space for her, for they knew she was an emir's lady, and many improper
deeds were forgiven on a day like this. She reached the friendly
portal; reëntered the harem. The cowering maids and eunuchs stared at
her dishevelled hair and dress, but hardly knew that she had been
gone. Mary returned to her post on the housetop, and from the shouting
in the street below learned that the Christian attack on the walls had
been entirely repulsed, but that Iftikhar had lost many men in the
sally. Just after sunset came a cavalryman with a note scribbled on a
bit of dirty vellum.

     "Musa to the ever adorable Star of the Greeks. Allah has kept
     Richard Longsword safe through battle. I also am well. I think
     the Christian machines so wrecked by our Greek fire, no assaults
     will take place for many days. I will come to you before
     midnight. Farewell."

A brief letter, but it made the dying light on the western clouds very
golden to Mary Kurkuas. So Richard lived, and Musa also. What
thoughtfulness of the Spaniard to imagine her fears and send
reassurance! The buzzing streets grew calmer. She heard the muezzins
calling the evening "_maghreb_ prayer" over the city. The eunuchs had
so far awakened from their terror as to be able to bring her a few
sweet cakes and some spiced wine. The Greek felt little weariness,
despite her sleepless night. She would await Musa, hear from him the
story of the battle, and how he knew Richard was well. With a quieting
heart she left the roof balcony, ordered a lamp in her harem chamber,
opened the book-closet and began to unroll her Pindar. She was just
losing herself in the rhythm and splendor of a "Nemean" when a eunuch
interrupted with his salaam.

"A woman to see the _Citt_ Mary,--who will not be denied." Before Mary
could answer, the curtain had been thrust aside, and she saw in the
dim glint of the lamp the face of Morgiana!



CHAPTER XLV

HOW RICHARD HAD SPEECH WITH MUSA


In the days that the Christians lay about Jerusalem, after the first
assault had failed, Richard learned to know every ring on that gilded
coat of armor which shielded the commandant of Jerusalem. Iftikhar had
borne a charmed life those four and twenty days of the siege; a
thousand bolts had left him unscathed; his voice and example had been
better than five hundred bowmen at a point of peril. Along with
Iftikhar, Richard noted a second mailed figure upon the walls, more
slender than the emir, nimble in his sombre black mail as a greyhound;
and his presence also fired the Egyptians to fight like demons.
Longsword bore about in his heart two resolves, to lay Iftikhar
Eddauleh on his back (of this he was trebly resolved) and to discover
who this black-armored warrior might be. Had he never seen that
graceful figure make those valorous strokes before? So Longsword
nursed his hate and his curiosity, and threw all his energy day and
night into the siege works.

In the days that came it pleased Heaven to put a last test upon the
faith and steadfastness of the army. Not even in burning Phrygia had
they parched more with thirst. Midsummer, a Syrian sun, a country
always nearly arid, and all the pools stopped by Iftikhar, ere he
retired within the city;--no wonder there was misery!

"O for one cooling drop from some mountain stream of France!" Had the
army joined in one prayer, it would have been this. For a skinful of
fetid water, brought far, fetched three deniers, and when the
multitude struggled around the one fountain Siloam, often as the
scanty pool bubbled, what was it among so many? To secure water to
keep the breath in Rollo, Richard went nigh to the bottom of a
lightened purse; and still the heavens would cloud and darken and
clear away, bringing no rain, but only the pitiless heat.

In Phrygia, and even at Antioch, men had been able to endure with
grace. But now, with victory all but in their grasp, with the Tomb of
Christ under their very eyes, how could mortal strength brook such
delay? Yet the work on the siege engines never slackened. A rumor that
a relieving army was coming from Egypt made them all speed. Out of the
bare country Northern determination and Northern wit found timbers and
water and munitions. They built catapults to cast arrows, mangonels to
fling rocks. Gaston of Béarn directed the erecting of three huge
movable towers for mounting the ramparts. There were prayers and vows
and exhortations; then on Thursday, the fourteenth of July, came the
attack--the repulse.

It must have been because Mary Kurkuas's prayers availed with God that
Richard did not perish that day. If ever man sought destruction, it
was he. When he saw the stoutest barons shrinking back, and all the
siege towers shattered or fixed fast, he knew a sinking of heart, a
blind rage of despair as never before. Then from the Gates of Herod
and St. Stephen poured the Egyptians in their sally to burn the siege
towers. Longsword was in the thickest of the human whirlpool. When he
saw the garrison reeling back, and Iftikhar Eddauleh trying vainly to
rally, he pressed in mad bravado under the very Gate of Herod, casting
his war-cry in the infidels' teeth. But while a hundred javelins from
the walls spun round him, of a sudden he heard a name--his own name,
shouted from the battlements; and the blast of darts was checked as if
by magic. The chieftain in the sombre armor had sprung upon the crest
of the rampart, had doffed his casque, and was gesturing with his
cimeter.

"Musa!" cried the Norman, falling back a step, scarce knowing what to
hope or dread.

The Spaniard, while ten thousand stared at him, friend and foe, bowed
and flourished in salutation, then, snatching up a light javelin,
whirled it down into the earth at Longsword's feet.

"Death to the infidel!" the Christian crossbowmen at Richard's heels
were crying as they levelled. But the Norman checked them with the
threat:--

"Die yourselves if a bolt flies!"

Then he drew the dart from the ground, and removed a scrap of
parchment wrapped round the butt.

"Be before the Gate of Herod two hours after sunset. Bear the shield
with the St. Julien stag, and the sentinels will not shoot. Your wife
is in the city and is well."

And while Richard read, the Spaniard had saluted the wondering
Christians once more and vanished behind the rampart. The Norman
walked away with a heart at once very light and very heavy. Musa in
Jerusalem, Mary in Jerusalem, Iftikhar in Jerusalem! A great battle
waged all day, and to all seeming lost,--the Crusade a failure! He
heard men, who all those awful years had never blenched, whispering
among themselves whether they could make their way to Joppa and escape
to France, since God had turned His face away. As he passed through
the camp, Tancred and Gaston both spoke to him, asking whether in duty
to their men they ought to press the siege longer. Should they wait,
the great Egyptian army would come, and not a Christian would escape.
But Richard, with his vow and the blood of Gilbert de Valmont on his
soul, replied:--

"Fair lords, answer each to your own conscience; as for me, I will see
the Cross upon the walls of Jerusalem to-morrow, or die. There is no
other way."

And both of these chieftains, who had been hoping against hope,
answered stoutly:--

"Our Lady bless you, De St. Julien! You say well; there is no other
way for those who love Christ!"

So Richard waited outside the Gate of Herod during the soft gloaming,
while the night grew silent, and when, after the searchers for the
dead and dying had gone their rounds, naught was heard save the
whistling of the scorching wind as it beat against the walls and
towers, laden with the dust and blight from the desert. No soldiers'
laughter and chatter from the camp that night; no merriment upon the
battlements. The Christians were numbed by their defeat; the Moslems
knew the storm had not passed.

Then, when it had grown very dark, he heard a bird-call from the
gateway,--a second,--and when he answered, a figure unarmed and in a
sombre caftan drew from the blackness. The Norman and the Spaniard
embraced many times in profoundest joy.

They sat together on the timber of a shattered catapult, and told each
other the tale of the many things befallen since they parted on the
hill before Antioch.

"And Mary?" Richard would ask time and again.

"She is more beautiful than the light, after the tempest passes and
the rainbow comes. We talk of you daily, and of her joy and yours when
the Crusade is ended."

Richard groaned from the bottom of his soul.

"Would God," he cried, "my own fate were woe or weal to me, and not to
another. It must have been sinful to keep her love after I took the
cross. For how can I have joy in heaven, if"--and he crossed
himself--"I am ever worthy to pass thither, thinking that Mary is in
tears?"

Musa pressed his hand tighter.

"You are sad to-night. Why not? I know the stake you set on the
Crusade, yet bow to the will of Allah. What is destined is destined by
Him; what is destined by Him is right. Cannot even a Christian say
that? You have done all that mortal man can; the task is too hard.
Your vow is cleared. Return to France. Mary shall go with you. Have
joy in St. Julien, and think of Musa, your brother, kindly."

But Richard had leaped to his feet.

"No, as God lives and reigns!" he cried, "I will not bow. We have
endured a great defeat. You know all; I betray no trust. Our towers
are nigh wrecked, our throats are burned with drought, half our
fighting-men are wounded, you have two warriors in the city to one in
our camp. But know this, brother mine that you are: we Franks differ
from you Moslems. For in the face of disaster you cry 'Doom,' and bend
your necks; but we hold our heads proudly and cry 'On, once more!' And
so we master very doom; for there is no doom to strong men who forget
that black word 'fate'!"

Musa put his hand affectionately around the Norman's ponderous
shoulders.

"Verily, O Richard, I think if the rebel jinns were to gather a
squadron of Franks about them, they could shake even the throne of
Allah!"

"I am in no jest," replied Richard, and his tone told that he spoke
true. But Musa said, doubting:--

"I cannot believe you can attack again before the Egyptian army comes.
It is right to fight so long as there is hope. Allah never commands
men to invite death."

"Then answer this," demanded the Christian, hotly; "if you lay in my
tent, would you turn back and hear all France say, 'This is one of the
cavaliers who rode to Jerusalem, found the paynim arrows bitter, and
rode away'? By the splendor of God, you would die ten thousand deaths
before! You dare not deny; I know you well."

"No, my brother," said Musa, very simply, "I do not deny. But for
Mary's sake do not throw your life away."

The Norman laughed bitterly.

"By your 'doom' I perish as soon over my cups at St. Julien as on the
siege tower at Jerusalem. God knows what comes to-morrow. Tell
Iftikhar Eddauleh that I ask no greater favor from Heaven than to meet
him once more face to face. Yet after his craven flight at Antioch I
wonder he has courage to bear himself so valiantly on the walls."

"I will tell him; and believe me, he was no coward, as I hear, at
Antioch. From his own lips to-day I learned he wishes nothing better
than to meet you."

"And you will guard Mary from him?--ever?"

"While Allah grants me breath."

"You are a true brother, Musa, son of Abdallah!" cried the Norman,
pressing the other's hand in a grasp that brought pain even to those
fingers of steel. "Sometimes I think you are a better friend to me
than I to myself."

"And no message for Mary?" asked the Spaniard, softly.

Richard drew his hand across his face. He did not speak for a long
while. Then the words came very slowly:--

"Either to-morrow at this time we are masters of the city, or you can
know that I am discharged forever of all vows and warfare. Does Mary
know what we said together, at parting at Antioch?"

"She knows. And she accepts."

"That is well. Tell her I can leave only this message: 'I have from
the hour I left her carried myself as became a Christian cavalier. I
have prayed for grace to live and grace to die. I know that after the
first pain is past she will wonder why she ever had love for the rude
Frankish baron, when she has the favor of the most gallant emir, the
most courtly prince, the purest-hearted man, Christian or Moslem.' For
though you cannot yearn for her with the fire that burns in me, I can
trust you never to let her grow hungry for love."

"Yes: but--" Musa laughed a little nervously--"but if the city is
taken? What of me? Will you lead me in fetters back to St. Julien?"

Richard saw the implication.

"No, by St. George," he protested, "you shall not die! I will go to
every friend, and I have many, and beseech them if we conquer to spare
you."

Musa only laughed again.

"And where you would scorn to live, I must hold back?"

Both were silent; for they saw the inevitable issue. Then Musa spoke
again: "Again I say it, what is doomed, is doomed. We are in the Most
High's hands. So long as you bear your St. Julien shield I shall know
you, and if we meet no blows shall pass. But wear a closed helmet. I
quaked when I saw you mocking the arrows in your open casque."

Both were standing. There was nothing more to say. Richard's heart was
very sad, but Musa comforted.

"No fears--is not Allah over us both? Will He not dispose all
aright,--to-night,--to-morrow,--forever,--though we may not see the
path?"

The two men embraced; and, without another word, Richard saw the form
of Musa vanish into the darkness.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of all the councils of the chiefs, none at Antioch was so gloomy as
the one held the night after that day of battle and defeat. Duke
Robert the Norman spoke for all when he cried in his agony:--

"Miserable men are we! God judges us unworthy to enter His Holy City!"

"Have we endured all this pain in vain?" answered Godfrey. "Unworthy
we are, but do we not fight for the glory of Christ?"

"We have fought stoutly as mortal men may!" groaned the son of William
the Bastard. "Twice repulsed, half our men slain, our towers wrecked.
Where are my brave cavaliers from Rouen and Harfleur? Dead--dead; all
who were not happy and died on the march!"

Then silence, while the red torches in Godfrey's tent flickered.
Robert the Norman bowed his head and wept, sobbed even as a child.

But Robert, Count of Flanders, broke out madly:--

"By St. Nicholas of Ghent, why sit we here as speechless oxen? Let us
either curse God and the false monks who led us on this devil's dance,
and every man speed back to his own seigneury, if so Satan aid him; or
let us have an end of croaks and groans, bear our hurts with set
teeth, and have Jerusalem, though we pluck down the wall with our
naked hands." But not an answer or token followed his outburst; and
after a pause he added bitterly: "Yes, fair lords; my cousin of
Normandy speaks well; we are unworthy to deliver the Holy City. Let us
go back to dear France, and think of our sins." Still silence; and
then, with an ominous tread, Gaston of Béarn entered, in full armor
and with drawn sword.

"Good brothers," quoth he, gazing about a little blankly, and meeting
only blank helplessness, "I, who hold the lines while you counsel,
have only one word--speed. The rumor passes that the siege is to be
raised, the Crusade abandoned. Half the army is ready to fly. Breathe
it once, and the shout will be, 'For France!'--and the host scatters
like sheep toward Joppa; while those more devoutly minded will cast
their naked breasts on the Moslems' spears to earn martyrdom in place
of victory."

Godfrey roused himself by a great effort.

"As God lives," he protested, "we cannot suffer the Crusade to fail.
We cannot say to all the widows and orphans of France, 'Your husband,
your father, died like headstrong fools.'"

"We have wrought all that the paladins of Charlemagne wrought, and
more," tossed back Robert the Norman, hopelessly.

A voice lower down amongst the lesser chiefs interrupted:

"You are wrong, my lord of Normandy."

The Conqueror's son rose in his dignity.

"Wrong? Who speaks? I will not have my honor questioned."

The others saw Richard Longsword rising also. His face was very set
and stern, he held his head proudly.

"I say it, 'You are wrong.' No man has done all that the paladins of
old have done until, like them, he stops prating of the anger of God,
and dies with his face toward the paynim and twenty slain around. Take
heed, my lords, lest we think too much of our unworthiness, too little
of the captivity of the Tomb of Our Lord; and how in freeing it the
price of all our sins is paid. I did not come to council to learn how
to lead my men to Joppa, but how we were one and all to mount the
breach, or perish in the moat."

There was a ring in Richard's voice hard as the beaten anvil; and,
before Robert could reply, more than one voice cried: "So say I! And
I! Never can we slink back, and look in the eyes of the women of
France!"

"I cry pardon, fair lords," said Longsword. "I am a young knight to
instruct my betters." But Godfrey answered him:--

"There is none of us too great to listen to brave words like these;"
and Tancred, leaping up, added: "Yes, by God's help I will make it
good on my body against any who cry 'backward,' till the city be won.
Away with all these bats of darkness that are lighting on our heads!
How does the night advance?"

"By the stars, midnight," answered Gaston, just entered.

"Good," ran on the Prince, sweeping all before him. "Pass the word
through the host that we assault at dawn. Let every spare hand work to
repair the towers. Let the rest sleep. We can make shift to move my
Lord Godfrey's tower. If we have suffered without the walls, rest
assured the infidels have splintered some bones within." The ebb tide
had turned. The flood ran swiftly now.

"God wills it! Attack with the morning!" the two Roberts were crying,
as loud as the rest. And others shouted:--

"An end to divisions. Let us have one leader! Let us proclaim Godfrey
king. To-morrow we will crown him in Jerusalem!"

But the pure-hearted Duke beckoned for silence, and answered: "God
forbid, dear brothers, that I should be styled 'sire,' and wear crown
of gold, where my Saviour was spit upon and crowned with thorns. We
have one work now--to storm the city."

"The infidels are attacking the machines!" thundered Raimbaud of
Orange, from the tent door. "To the rescue, fair lords!"

"Rescue! Rescue!" cried all, flying forth with drawn swords. And while
Raymond and Tancred went to beat back the sally, Richard found himself
close to Godfrey. "Our Lady bless you, De St. Julien," said Bouillon,
grasping Richard's hand. "It was only a word you said; but a word in
season will raise or pluck down kingdoms. How shall I reward you? I
was near despair when I saw the gloom settling ever blacker over the
council."

"Only this, fair Duke, that I may be in the front of the assault."

"Rashest of the rash! Some day the saints will grow weary of
protecting you, and you will be slain."

"What matter, if all else is well?"

So Richard hastened off into the night, found his own encampment in
the maze of tents, and told his men there was to be no retreat--that
with the morning the storm would be renewed.

"And will you follow your seigneur, now as ever?" was his question to
the fifty gaunt, mailed figures (all of his five hundred that were
left) that grouped before the dying camp-fire.

"Through all hell,--though each Moslem were a thousand devils!"
answered De Carnac; and every St. Julien man roared forth "Amen!"

"Good!" returned their lord. "And by St. Michael, you shall have
chance to prove your vow!"

Then, having heard that the sortie was repulsed, Richard went to his
own tent. He found Sebastian sitting by the doorway. As the young
Baron entered, the priest without a word arose and kissed him gently
on either cheek. And even in the dim firelight Richard could see a
wonderful glow of peace and joy upon the face of the ascetic. "Dear
father," said he, wondering, "what happiness has come, that you seem
so glad? And why is it thus you kiss me?"

Whereupon Sebastian put his arm about Richard's neck, stroking his
hair with the other hand, and at last said very softly, "I have had a
vision."

"A vision?" And Richard smiled amid the darkness, for Sebastian's
visions came every other night. But the priest only continued,
guessing his thought: "No, your lips need not twitch. For this vision
was of a manner different from any that I have ever seen before. As I
lay here, of a sudden I woke, and saw the dim camp-fire and stars
glitter as I see now, and heard the chatter and groaning of the men.
But of a sudden a youth, clothed in a whiteness passing snow, bright
and with wings, stood by me, and said most gently, 'Sebastian.' And I
answered: 'Yes, Lord. What may I do in Thy service?' And he replied:
'Be of good cheer. God hath seen thy good works, and how thou hast
crucified the flesh and all carnal lusts, and knowest how thou hast
wrestled in prayer. Now rejoice; the end of thy toil in this evil
world draws nigh. But before thou shalt see with the eyes of the
spirit the heavenly Jerusalem and the blessed host, with thy mortal
eyes thou shalt see the Cross triumphant on the walls of the earthly
Jerusalem. And this hour comes quickly.' Then while I lay in bliss
unspeakable he had vanished." Richard was very grave.

"Dear father, you do not long for heaven so much that you would leave
me?"

But Sebastian answered softly: "It shall be as God wills. You will be
comforted. It is written, 'He giveth His beloved sleep'--sleep after
the toil and the pain and the crushing of sinful self. And then to
wake and see our dear Lord's blessed face! You would not grudge me
that?"

"No, dear father," said Richard, submissively; "but yet I pray God
will ordain otherwise." Sebastian only kissed him again, lay down on
the hard earth, and was soon in quiet sleep. Longsword went to his
men, told them to sleep also, for they must rise with dawn. But as for
himself his eyes were not heavy, despite the terrible day. As Herbert
lay dozing, he heard from his master's tent the ominous click, click,
of a whetstone. "The 'little lord' is sharpening Trenchefer," muttered
the man-at-arms. "The devil help the Moslems who stand in his path
to-morrow. The devil help Iftikhar Eddauleh if the two come face to
face."

Richard sat in the dark, the great sword across his lap, handling it
lovingly, smoothing each rust-speck that touched his finger's nail,
making the long blade razor-keen. And had a lamp flashed on his face,
his features would have showed harder than his blade. His heart was at
peace--at peace with an awful gladness. Father, mother, sister,
brother, were all to be avenged on the morrow when he fronted Iftikhar
Eddauleh. That some saint would aid him to meet the Egyptian he did
not doubt. And then? But Richard never so much as wondered what would
befall, after Trenchefer had smitten once and fairly on that gilded
mail.



CHAPTER XLVI

HOW IFTIKHAR CEASED FROM TROUBLING


When the Arabian's eyes lit upon Mary, Morgiana gave a little cry, ran
to the Greek, and caught her in her arms. For a moment the two were so
wrapt in the joy of meeting that all else was forgot. But quick as the
first flood of gladness passed, Morgiana broke forth with the eager
demand:--

"Musa? Musa? where is the Spanish emir?"

"Upon the walls, where are all the chieftains," was the wondering
Greek's answer.

"_Wallah!_ and when will he return?" ran on Morgiana, beginning to
tremble as Mary held her, as though in some mastering dread.

"I do not know; at any time,--now,--or not till midnight. Dear
God--what has befallen? what may I do? You are turning pale, and your
hands are cold!"

"Allah have mercy on us both, unless Musa comes! Iftikhar has
discovered you!" cried Morgiana, calming herself with a mighty effort.
And now it was the Greek's turn to tremble.

"Iftikhar?"--the word came across her pallid lips faint as a dying
groan. "How? When? Speak, as you love me--"

Morgiana thrust back the dark hair that had fallen over her eyes, and
drew herself up half scornfully.

"Foolish woman! Is there not sorrow enough, that you need make more?
Why did you wander into the streets at sundown? Why did you let the
veil slip from your face? Zeyneb, my foster-brother, whom the sheytans
love and the angels hate, looked on you,--followed you,--saw you
enter the house, and sped straight to Iftikhar! Speak--speak--" and
the Arabian plucked at Mary's arm fiercely, while in her eyes was
again the mad gleam of old. "Why should I not curse you? you who have
wronged me, utterly! When I was just winning back Iftikhar's love, and
all the evil past was being forgot!--now--now I have lost him once
more. And you--you are my ruin. As Allah lives I will curse you, and
your lily-white beauty!"

Mary was indeed white as the lily, or whiter, if that may be; but she
caught both of Morgiana's wrists and held fast. Under the calm
influence shed from her eyes the Arabian's wandering gaze grew steady.

"Enough!"--she cut the other short--"you did not come hither only for
maledictions. How have you learned? What will Iftikhar do?"

"Learned?"--Morgiana threw back her head and laughed. "I heard Zeyneb
repeating all to Iftikhar. Do? I only saw the Egyptian's face--the
passion, the longing, the hate. He will come to seize you without
delay. Not even Musa can save you. Is not Iftikhar lord of Jerusalem?
I wonder he is not here already, finding I have fled his harem at the
Castle of David."

But Mary remained calm.

"Tell me, my sister, what am I to do? You are all wits. Better death
by fire than one touch from Iftikhar."

"The Christian camp," pleaded the Arabian. "There are friends, your
husband, safety. Oh, were but Musa here, you could be sent without the
walls ere it is too late."

"By the water-clock it lacks midnight an hour," said Mary, quietly.
"The Spaniard may be here any moment. But I cannot dream that
Iftikhar, at a time like this,--with the very city at stake,--will
forget all, quit his duty on the walls, to tear a defenceless maid
away to his harem."

Morgiana laughed again, very bitterly. "Fool you are, in very truth!
Iftikhar cares more for the lashes of your eyes than for a thousand
Jerusalems,--for a thousand of his own lives. You will be at his mercy
before daybreak, though the Christian cavaliers sack the city."

There was the clatter of hoofs on the pavement, a shouting, a clang of
armor and arms. Mary gave a great sigh of relief. "Musa; he has come
from the walls with his guard." But Morgiana blasted the hope with one
cry: "Hear! The Egyptian's voice!" And Mary reeled as she stood; for
she heard a voice she knew right well thundering, "Guard the house
about, and down with the door." Then came the resounding knock of a
cimeter-hilt on the portal. The Greek sprang to the lattice over the
street. In the narrow way below were fifty Soudanese negroes, with
ruddy torches, tossing their spiked flails and spears; while beating
at the door was a lordly figure in gilded armor--Iftikhar himself.

Morgiana saw Mary trying to speak to her; at least the lips moved. The
blows on the portal redoubled.

"Open, open, or I kill you all!" rang Iftikhar's command, sounding
above his own strokes. The eunuchs and maids of the household ran
chattering and screaming from the lower rooms, as if they might find
protection beside their mistress.

"There is no hope," said Morgiana, sullenly, holding down her face;
"we have both played our game, and we have lost."

And the Arabian, all the fire and steel gone out of her, fell to her
knees, cast her mantle over her head, shaking with sobs and groans.
Mary trod proudly toward the head of the stairway leading to the lower
court. Over her head hung a great bronze candelabra. She knew the
light fell full upon her; she was sure she was never more beautiful
than at that instant, when her face was bloodless as Parian marble.
One resolve was in her heart--to let Iftikhar gather no sweets by her
vain agony and tears. She was the great Greek princess, with the blood
of Cæsars in her veins, never more conscious of her dignity and pride.

The weak house door had shivered. There was a heavy step in the court
below, a voice commanding: "I will enter alone. Let the rest stand
guard." Mary saw Iftikhar at the foot of the stairs; his gilded mail
twinkling, his naked cimeter in hand, his black-plumed casque thrust
back so that the face was bare. How splendid, almost how beautiful,
he was, striding on in the pride of his power! But when he saw the
white face and burning eyes of the Greek looking down upon him, even
his wild spirit was reined for an instant. And while he halted on the
first stair, Mary spoke, in tones cold as the winter wind.

"You come as ever, my Lord Iftikhar, unbidden, and with a naked sword.
Are the cavaliers who saw your back at Antioch hidden in this house,
that you must burst in to beard them?"

The sting of her words was as salt on a wound. The answer was a curse
upon jinns and angels who should stand between him and his prey. His
feet flew up the stairway, but the Greek remained steadfast.

"You see, Cid Iftikhar, I am weak, and with empty hands. But without
the walls is Richard Longsword, who will speak to you in my behalf.
This is your night, my lord; but in the morning--"

"Leave the morning to the rebel jinns!" rang the Egyptian's cry.
"To-night, to-night,--I possess you. To-night! To the castle with all
speed!" He snatched her in his impure arms. He crushed her to his
breast, and pressed on her cold cheeks burning kisses. Mary neither
struggled nor moaned. What she said in her heart was heard only by
God. In his delirium Iftikhar saw neither Morgiana nor any other. He
leaped down the stairs three at a bound,--his captive in his arms.

"_Allah akhbar!_" went his shout through the lower court. "I have won;
the stars fight for me. Mine, to do with as I will!" And he kissed her
again on lips and neck. Then of a sudden he stopped motionless, as
though a charmer had made him stone, for outside in the street was
sounding an angry command to the Soudanese to make way--the voice of
Musa.

The grasp of the Egyptian on his prey never weakened, though his
weapon was out once more. Yet Mary, in his grasp, for the first time
began to struggle,--helpless as bird in the snare,--but her call sped
out into the street shrilly: "Rescue! Rescue, for the love of God!"

For reply she saw the Soudanese by the door dashed to one side like
shapes of wood, and across the threshold strode Musa, in no armor, but
his cimeter also in hand. A glance, and the Spaniard knew all. He took
one step toward Iftikhar, as if to cross swords without passing a
word. Then, with point outstretched, he spoke, but mildly, as if in
grave irony.

"Cid, is this the manner of Egyptian emirs in keeping truce?"
Iftikhar's only response was to make his grip of Mary's arm so
vise-like that she cried out with pain.

Musa spoke again, still gently. "Cid, this is my own house, my own
harem. For what cause is it surrounded by your negroes, and violated?"

Iftikhar pointed toward the door with his cimeter. "I made truce with
you," he retorted defiantly, "not with _her_." And he glared madly at
the Greek. "Away, or the Soudanese strike off your head!"

The Spaniard calmly let his weapon sink to the pavement, and smiled as
he leaned upon it. "Good emir, we have our hands busy--as Allah
knows--to defend _El Kuds_. Do we well to nurse private lusts and
hates, while the jewel of Islam trembles in the balance?"

"Off!" came the hot reply. "Off, or you die this instant!"

Musa lifted his eyes from the floor, and gave the Egyptian glance for
glance. "I do well to tremble!" was his answer, the voice higher now,
with a ring of harshness. "I do well to tremble! Remember the tourney
at Palermo, my lord emir! Was it Iftikhar Eddauleh who crowned his
turban with the prize?" And he stood on guard across the door.
"Remember a night like this at Monreale."

The face of Iftikhar was black with his fury. For an instant there was
a grating in his throat, thickening every word. "_Ya!_ Dogs from
Nubia, smite this mutineer down! Hew him down, or I hang you all!"

The Soudanese stared at him, rolling the whites of their great eyes,
but not a spiked flail rose, not a foot crossed the threshold.

"Are you, too, rebels?" howled the Egyptian, his breath coming fast.

Musa had turned to the fifty.

"Hear you, Moslems. In an hour like this, with the Sacred City at
stake, shall your emir or another dip hands in a private quarrel? What
do I, save defend my own house, and my own harem? Have I not wrought
on the walls manfully as Iftikhar? Dare any deny it?"

A shout came from the Soudanese:--

"You say well. You have been the sword and shield of Jerusalem, no
less than the emir!"

"Hounds of Eblees! Will you not hew him down?" raged Iftikhar.

A gray-headed negro, captain of the fifty, fell on his knees before
the Egyptian. "Cid, command, and we follow through the Christian camp;
but we are the slaves of Kalif Mustaali, Commander of the Faithful,
not yours for private feud. We cannot obey."

"Traitors!" the veins in Iftikhar's forehead were swollen now. "Know
that this is no slave of Musa, son of Abdallah, but the wife of
Richard Longsword, a chief of the Franks. You aid the infidels in
saving!" But the Soudanese did not stir.

"And where reads Al Koran," retorted Musa, "'Thou shalt possess
thyself of thine enemy's wedded wife'? For the sake of peace and El
Islam leave the Greek till the siege be ended."

"For the sake of El Islam suffer me to depart with her unhindered."
Iftikhar cast the woman across his left arm as though a toy, and
swinging his blade, sprang toward the portal.

"Make way!" rang his last warning.

"Then let Allah judge the wrong!"

Musa was before the entrance, his cimeter waving. Iftikhar knew well
he had no light combat in store. He cast Mary from him as he might a
stone, and sprang to his work.

"I am not balked, as at Monreale!" he hissed from his teeth.

"No, _Bismillah_! I can kill you now!" flew the answer.

The steels rang sharp, stroke on stroke. Musa was without armor; but
he had torn his cloak from his shoulders and covered his left arm. The
cimeters were of equal length, and every time they clashed there
flashed fire. Musa sprang aside from the doorway at the first blow,
and worked his way into the middle of the court, where the light was
stronger and there was ample space. This was no duel with long swords,
as between Richard and Louis, where sledge-hammer strength was victor.
The Spaniard's blade was both sword and shield. Again and again the
Egyptian gave a sweeping stroke, a lunge, and felt his "Damascus"
parried by the turn of a wrist, or to pierce only the air. Well that
he wore armor! Time and again Musa's weapon clashed on his hauberk,
making the chain mail ring and its wearer reel. Click, click, sang the
blades, and so the two fought on.

"_Allah!_" the Soudanese would cry every time the Spaniard seemed
ended by some downright stroke. Yet he never bled, but paid blow for
blow. It was a marvel to see them. What Musa lost for lack of arms,
was half returned in nimbleness. The Egyptian twice staggered in his
armor, twice recovered. Musa had pricked him upon the neck, and the
blood was running over the gilded shirt. But the fury of a thousand
jinns was in his arm; still he fought.

Mary stood against the pillar by the upper stair, watching the combat
as if through a mist. Deeds and words had flown too fast for catching.
She was nigh asking herself: "Why this stamping? Why this ring of
steel? What is this to me?" She saw Iftikhar shoot his point squarely
toward the Spaniard's breast. Before the horror could be felt, Musa
had doubled like a snake. The blade flew over him. At his
counter-stroke there was more blood on the Egyptian's cheek. For an
instant he winced, then rushed to the attack with redoubled fury.
Twice more around the court they fought. And then there was a strange
thing: for Morgiana, with hair flying and eyes bright as meteors, sped
down the stairs. One moment she stood, as if terror froze her; then
with a fearful moan ran straight toward the fighters. "As Allah lives,
you shall not slay Iftikhar!" she shrieked, and snatched Musa behind,
holding fast by the girdle. Only for an instant, for the Spaniard
dashed her from him with a fist. But she was back, snatched again, and
clung, despite the blows, while all the time Iftikhar pressed harder.

"Die you, die we, but not Iftikhar!" she screamed once more. Another
twinkling, and the emir would have driven home. But in that twinkling
the Greek found strength and wit. The Mother of God doubtless sped
down the strength by which she tore loose Morgiana's hold. The Arabian
writhed in her tight embrace; struggled with feet, nails, teeth, like
a frenzied tigress at bay. "Allah! Allah!" came her moan; "you shall
not, you must not, hold me! Let us all die, but not Iftikhar! Not he!
None, none shall kill him!"

Mary trembled at the horror graven on Morgiana's face; but her arms
held strong as steel.

"Release! Release!" pleaded Morgiana, piteously now; "he is my all, my
all. Not Allah's self shall kill him!"

But Mary shut her eyes and held tighter. The Arabian might smite,
bite, tear; she could not shake that hold. Only the terrible monotony
of the combat seemed unending. Click--click--went the blades; the two
were still fighting. How much longer could she hold fast? A cry of
terror from Morgiana made her fingers weaken. The Arabian slipped from
them at a bound.

"Allah! He reels!"

Morgiana had flown to pluck the Spaniard's girdle. Too late! The Greek
saw Iftikhar tottering as the tall pine totters at its fall. And just
as Morgiana touched Musa, his long blade swept down the Egyptian's
guard, and caught the neck just above the mail. There was a thundering
shout from the Soudanese. Iftikhar slipped, made one faint effort to
lift his point; slipped once more; fell with clash of armor; and with
a fearful cry his wild spirit sped--whither? God is not judged.

There was silence,--silence in which they heard the slow night wind
creeping by in the street. Iftikhar had stretched his length. He lay
without stir or groan. Morgiana had recoiled from Musa as if from the
death angel. Mary saw her standing motionless as the stucco pillar,
looking upon the face of the dead. The Spaniard, steaming and panting,
pressed his red blade into the sheath, and caught at a pillar, saying
never a word. Then when the stillness had grown long, Morgiana gave a
little cry and sigh, more of surprise than of dread, and stepped
softly until she stood close beside the dead. Iftikhar's casque had
fallen from his head; his face was fixed in an awful smile; he looked
straight upward with glassy eyes and opened teeth. When Morgiana gazed
down upon him, she was still once more. Then came a scream of agony.
She fell upon her knees; she lifted that motionless head. Though the
blood flowed from the great wound all over her delicate hands, she
tore loose the hauberk, and laid the head in her lap, staring hungrily
for some sign.

"Iftikhar! Iftikhar!" she cried, as if perforce to make the deaf ears
hear. "Do you not see? Do you not know? It is I, Morgiana, your
blue-eyed maid of Yemen, who have toiled for you, grieved for you,
joyed for you,--yes, will die for you! Speak! Speak one word, and say
you are still here!"

She raised her head as if to listen for the voice that would never
come.

"O Iftikhar, soul of my soul, light of my eyes, joy of my joy! have
you not one word for me,--for me who have clung fast to you these many
years through all? Speak, though it be but to curse me! Speak, though
it be of love for the Greek! You will not, cannot, go out now and
leave me here alone,--alone, alone!"

No answer. Mary heard her own heart-beats, the crooning of the wind in
the streets, the deep breaths of Musa.

Suddenly Morgiana let the limp head fall, and leaped to her feet,
blood-stains on dress and hands and face.

"Dead!" she cried; "dead!" casting toward Mary a look so terrible that
the Greek drew back. "Dead! Gone forever! Forever, forever!" And
Morgiana's voice died away as if far off into the coming ages. Then
once more she fell upon the dead form, kissed the speechless lips,
and cooed into the deaf ear, saying sweet and pleasant things as in
the lovers' days of long ago. But all the soft words ended in a cry of
agony. Again she rose and faced Musa and the Greek.

"In Allah's name be you cursed! You for your strength, and you for
your beauty! For the beauty that stole Iftikhar from me,--that led him
to ruin, to death,--cursed, ten thousand times! May the jinns of evil
crush you! May all Gehenna's fires wither you! May the Most High
forget you from His mercy--" Mary was sobbing now:--

"Sweet sister, pity me," was her plea. "What have I done? Forget the
Egyptian. How has he paid back your great love for him? He was
unworthy of such love." But Morgiana only tossed her blood-stained
arms on high.

"Fool, fool; am I not a woman? Did I love him by my reason? Worthy or
unworthy, I _have_ loved him. Enough!"

She tore at her bosom; drew forth a tiny silver vial. It was at her
lips before Musa could seize it.

"Poison!" shouted he.

The face of the Arabian turned livid; her eyes wandered. "He is mine;
mine! Beyond the stars, where no Christian may come with her beauty!
Beyond the stars, where is Paradise and rest!"

She fell upon Iftikhar's dead form; one paroxysm, one groan; her hand
was resting on the emir's face, her lips close to his. Musa laid his
hand above her heart, drew it back and said nothing. Then again a long
silence, while he examined the silver vial.

"Strychnine," he said softly; "the Egyptians often use it. Swifter
than a falling star."

Mary buried her face in her hands, and swayed while she sobbed in her
fathomless grief. "Holy St. Theodore, have mercy; Mother of God, have
mercy; Jesus Christ, have mercy! It is my fault--mine! I cannot bear
it!"

"Yours? Never, Star of the Greeks," protested Musa. "How was it you
that led Iftikhar to his madness, and put frenzy in this woman's
heart?"

But Mary wiped her eyes, and told all that had befallen. How she had
gone into the streets; how Zeyneb had seen, had told Iftikhar, and
sent him to his death. Before the Spaniard could reply, another
strange step was on the threshold. It was that of a Nubian in scarlet
surcoat, giant tall,--Ammar, third in command.

"In Allah's name," was his demand as he entered, and recoiled in his
horror at the sight, "what means this rumor on the streets? Where is
the Cid Iftikhar Eddauleh?"

"His body?--there!" answered the Andalusian, pointing downward. "Allah
accounts with his soul."

"_Mashallah!_" and Ammar nigh drew his cimeter, "you have slain the
emir, commandant of the city!"

"He rushed on ruin, good comrade. It was a private quarrel, and he is
wrong. Ask of these guardsmen, is it so."

"It is so! _Wallah_, the emir was mad. It is so!" came voices from the
doorway. Ammar's face was lowering when he demanded:--

"Yet how will you answer to Al Afdhal, the vizier?"

Musa drew himself to full height haughtily.

"Victory covers all pasts. Let me fling back the Christians and Al
Afdhal will forget to question. If defeated"--Musa swept his hand in a
wide gesture--"I will not be here to make reply. And now you, O Ammar,
are my lieutenant, and I commandant this night of Jerusalem. Leave
Iftikhar Eddauleh to Allah, and get you to the ramparts, for there is
work in store." The clatter of a horseman in the streets cut him
short; a breathless messenger was entering. "_Allah akhbar!_" gasped
the courier, "I am from the Gate of St. Stephen. We have sallied forth
to burn the Franks' siege towers. All the unbelieving jinns aid them.
The towers are repaired. We were driven back with loss. They attack at
dawn."

"Fellow, fellow," began Musa, while Ammar dropped his jaw in surprise,
"no tales, as you love your head! With my own eyes I saw those towers
in ruins--they can never be fought again."

"In Allah's great name I do not lie," flew back the answer; "and the
Christians have just flung the corpse of an Egyptian inside the city
on a mangonel, with letters saying they send us the courier from Al
Afdhal, who promises aid, but that they will be in Jerusalem ere he
can set forth from Egypt."

The Spaniard cast about a lightning glance of high command; never was
Iftikhar more lordly. "Then for El Islam we shall win glory or
martyrdom by another sun. Lead to the walls, Cid Ammar, I follow
instantly. Call all the city-folk to repair the breach. Hurry the
Greek fire and oil caldrons from the citadel. We must each have a
thousand hands betwixt now and morning. But on your lives say nothing
of Iftikhar."

"Allah! Allah! Death to the Franks! Death!" roared the Soudanese,
vanishing down the dark street as suddenly as they had come. But Ammar
halted. "Cid," said he, gravely, "you are indeed commandant, but if
the news flies out at this last grapple that Iftikhar lies dead,
needless to tell how every sword-hand will weaken. The name of
Iftikhar is worth a thousand in the death-grip. What is to be done?"
Musa had bent over the corpses, and was unbuckling the Egyptian's
gilded armor.

"See," declared he, holding up the gem-set baldric, "I will put on the
emir's mail. I have his height; none will miss his shoulders. With the
casque drawn down, all but those in the secret will know nothing. I
can again put on my own sombre armor, and appear elsewhere on the
wall. The host will think they have both commanders. Ere the truth is
known the city is saved."

"Allah! You have the craft of Solomon! So be it!"

"Breathe not a word of this to any. Bid the Soudanese keep silence.
Deny the rumor. Haste five spare mangonels over to the west wall; nine
to the northern. Illumine the Franks with Greek fire, shoot arrows and
stones incessantly. I will be on the Stork Tower at the northwest
bastion without delay; do you look to the western city."

Ammar salaamed; was gone. Musa had finished stripping and putting on
Iftikhar's armor. Save for the plumed helm that he held in his hand,
who could say he was not the Egyptian?

"Take these corpses away," was his command to the eunuchs; "anoint and
embalm them carefully. They must have honorable burial." Then he
turned to Mary.

"Star of the Greeks, I must go upon the walls again. Hard indeed it is
to leave you. But be comforted, Richard is well. I have talked with
him. Our speech was all of you."

Mary was ready to weep once more, but held back the tears. Sweet and
strong was her face when she answered:--

"Dear Musa, I know all that lies at stake this night and coming day. I
can bear much. I am ready for whatever God may send. Once I called you
my own cavalier at Palermo. Be such still. May the God who loves us
all--Christian, Moslem--be with you and Richard Longsword."

She took the helmet from his arms. He knelt; with her own hands she
fitted it after he had caught her hands, and kissed each one. Then he
rose, clothed head to foot in the gilded mail.

"God go with you, my cavalier," said the Greek. "I may not say, 'send
victory.' Farewell."

The stately plumes swept the pavement when the Spaniard salaamed.
"Fear nothing, lady," was all he replied; "remember the arm of the
Most High is under all. His will over all. What is to us most ill, is
to Him most good. Farewell."

He bowed again,--vanished from the doorway,--was swallowed up in the
black night. Mary heard him mount; heard his horse's hoofs dim away in
the distance. All the slow wind brought was a far-off murmur and
rumble of many toilers on the walls. And Mary went up the staircase to
seek her chamber and to pray.



CHAPTER XLVII

HOW TRENCHEFER WAS BROKEN


Again high noon. The Syrian sun beat pitilessly, but Richard and his
peers thought little of sun or star that Friday as they toiled on the
levers and ropes of the great _beffroi_, the siege tower of Godfrey.
From daybreak they had been urging the ponderous fabric across rock
and ravine, though its three tall stories of rough-hewn timber quaked
and tottered on the rollers, though its facing of undressed hides had
turned a hundred blazing arrows. Half the day they had wrought, while
their crossbowmen vainly strove to quench the showers of missiles the
Nubians rained upon them. Now, with the tower five hundred feet from
its goal, lo! all the sally-ports and the broad gates of Herod and of
St. Stephen were flung wide, and forth sallied the garrison,--ebon
devils whose only whiteness was their teeth.

"At them, Christians! Forward, in Our Lady's name!" rang the cry of
Duke Godfrey. Then all around the tower had surged the battle, the
infidels calling "Fire!" and the Christians struggling to save it; but
in the end the Moslems were flung back, thinned and saddened by
Frankish bolts and blades. Richard, in one moment of the succeeding
calm, breathed a prayer of praise to Heaven, "_Gloria!_ _Gloria!_ At
last! At last!" for he knew that the final hour was drawing nigh. And
in the lead of the Nubians, and last of them to turn back, had he not
seen that figure in gilded mail he had singled for his vengeance? At
the thought of that vengeance even the vision of Mary grew dim, and
the weight of his own sins was forgotten. Therefore of all the mad
spirits, that day of glory and of wrath, none was madder than he, and
none strained the pulleys harder.

Four hundred feet still to cover; four hundred leagues seemingly were
traversed easier! For while the great tower lumbered on, groaning as a
dragon at his death, the unbelievers set new engines on the walls and
smote the Christians, even as God smote Sodom and Gomorrah. After the
arrow hail came the catapult darts of two ells long, and stones of a
man's own weight blew down as snow from the housetops. After the darts
and the stones came things more terrible--glass vessels spitting fire;
whereupon all the ground had turned to flame, and from the tower rose
smoke and the crashing of timbers.

"Greek fire! Hell loosened! Save who can!" went up the wail of the
Christians. But the great Bouillon, treading amid the flames as
through a gentle rain, called above the din: "Christ is still with us!
Forward in His Name!" Then all courage returned. They brought vinegar
and quenched the burning earth. The _beffroi_ shook off the fire and
crept onward.

Three hundred feet now! The tower was swayed each instant by the shock
of the Moslem enginery--darts, stones, fire; it withstood them all.
Around the gilded crucifix, fixed high above the summit, a thousand
screeching arrows of the infidels had sped. It stood unscathed against
the calm blue sky, as amid a realm of eternal peace; and the
Christians, looking upon the image of their Lord, rejoiced and pressed
forward.

Then again the sally-ports were opened; a second sortie more furious
than the last. This time the champion in gilded mail laid about him
among the Christians as if Satan's self were raging against God's
saints. Richard pressed hard toward him to cross swords; but the
strife held them asunder. Gaston of Béarn measured strength with the
arch-infidel, and all the Franks groaned when they saw the Viscount
fall. But his vassals sprang over him, and locked their shields around
him, making the Moslem champion give back. Godfrey, who was cast with
Richard for a moment, asked, "And is this not Iftikhar Eddauleh?" The
answer was a nod of the head, but he heard behind the closed helm
which Longsword, contrary to wont, was wearing, the words muttered,
"Father, mother, sister, brother," and knew the Egyptian would need
all his might that day.

So for a second time they fought, and for a second time, though two
Moslems sallied forth to one of the Christians, the defence found
Frankish steel too keen. Their chief strove to rally them, but in
vain. Only his sweeping blows thrust back the hardy knights, who
followed the unbelievers to the very drawbridge. The gates clanged in
the face of the assault, and again from battlement and flanking tower
pelted the storm of death. But the _beffroi_ still crept on.

Two hundred feet. Tower and wall were so close that the Christian
bowmen on the summit could begin to shed a counter rain of missiles
upon the infidels to quench that dashing from their enginery. Richard,
toiling at the lever, saw a man-at-arms, who was working a catapult,
fall, stricken through by a heavy bolt. The Egyptians raised a yell of
triumph from the walls; the machine stood useless. Instantly out of
the press around the tower rushed a priest--Sebastian! no armor save
the holy armor of his white stole. The paynim shafts buzzed over him;
to flies he would have paid greater heed. Richard saw the man of
fasting and prayer lay the great arrow, draw home the huge bow, press
the lever. There was a howl of rage on the walls,--the tall Ammar had
fallen under the shaft. Richard ran to the priest's side.

"Back, father!" shouted he, "you rush on death!"

The priest left his toil to kneel beside a stricken bowman. None save
the dying heard his voice; but he pointed to the glittering Christ on
the sky-raised crucifix. There was a smile on the face when Sebastian
laid the head of the dead gently down. The priest looked Richard
calmly in the eye, though an arrow flew between them while he spoke.

"I must be about my Father's business," was all he said. Without more
words he was back at the catapult, bending, levelling, shooting more
than one infidel at every bolt. High above the clangor swelled his
voice at each triumph. "Die, Canaanite! die, Amorite! Thou art my
battle-axe and weapons of war! With thee will I break in pieces the
nations! I will break in pieces captains and rulers!"

Richard knew he was in God's hands and left him. The Christian
enginery was at last beginning to tell. Under their missiles he saw
the battlements crumbling; dared he hope he saw the firm curtain-wall
totter? Richard knew it was long past noon. When last had he touched
food or drink or tasted sleep? But when he thought of the deeds to be
done ere sunset, and saw that figure in gilded mail upon the walls, he
dwelt no more on thirst or slumber.

One hundred feet; every finger's length bought with ten lives, but the
price was not in vain. Men were beginning to count the moments before
they could set foot on the rampart. Yet at this point a terrible rumor
flew through the army. "The