Part 3 out of 7
They were returning home from a trip to Genoa when one evening as they
were standing off Minorca in the Balearic Isles they were surprised by a
fleet of four Muslim galleys which came skimming round a promontory to
surround and engage them.
Aboard the Spanish vessel there broke a terrible cry of "Asad-ed-Din"--
the name of the most redoubtable Muslim corsair since the Italian
renegade Ochiali--the Ali Pasha who had been killed at Lepanto.
Trumpets blared and drums beat on the poop, and the Spaniards in morion
and corselet, armed with calivers and pikes, stood to defend their lives
and liberty. The gunners sprang to the culverins. But fire had to be
kindled and linstocks ignited, and in the confusion much time was lost--
so much that not a single cannon shot was fired before the grappling
irons of the first galley clanked upon and gripped the Spaniard's
bulwarks. The shock of the impact was terrific. The armoured prow of
the Muslim galley--Asad-ed-Din's own--smote the Spaniard a slanting blow
amidships that smashed fifteen of the oars as if they had been so many
There was a shriek from the slaves, followed by such piteous groans as
the damned in hell may emit. Fully two score of them had been struck by
the shafts of their oars as these were hurled back against them. Some
had been killed outright, others lay limp and crushed, some with broken
backs, others with shattered limbs and ribs.
Sir Oliver would assuredly have been of these but for the warning,
advice, and example of Yusuf, who was well versed in galley-fighting and
who foresaw clearly what must happen. He thrust the oar upward and
forward as far as it would go, compelling the others at his bench to
accompany his movement. Then he slipped down upon his knees, released
his hold of the timber, and crouched down until his shoulders were on a
level with the bench. He had shouted to Sir Oliver to follow his
example, and Sir Oliver without even knowing what the manoeuvre should
portend, but gathering its importance from the other's urgency of tone,
promptly obeyed. The oar was struck an instant later and ere it snapped
off it was flung back, braining one of the slaves at the bench and
mortally injuring the others, but passing clean over the heads of Sir
Oliver and Yusuf. A moment later the bodies of the oarsmen of the bench
immediately in front were flung back atop of them with yells and curses.
When Sir Oliver staggered to his feet he found the battle joined. The
Spaniards had fired a volley from their calivers and a dense cloud of
smoke hung above the bulwarks; through this surged now the corsairs, led
by a tall, lean, elderly man with a flowing white beard and a swarthy
eagle face. A crescent of emeralds flashed from his snowy turban; above
it rose the peak of a steel cap, and his body was cased in chain mail.
He swung a great scimitar, before which Spaniards went down like wheat
to the reaper's sickle. He fought like ten men, and to support him
poured a never-ending stream of Muslimeen to the cry of "Din! Din!
Allah, Y'Allah!" Back and yet back went the Spaniards before that
Sir Oliver found Yusuf struggling in vain to rid himself of his chain,
and went to his assistance. He stooped, seized it in both hands, set
his feet against the bench, exerted all his strength, and tore the
staple from the wood. Yusuf was free, save, of course, that a length of
heavy chain was dangling from his steel anklet. In his turn he did the
like service by Sir Oliver, though not quite as speedily, for strong man
though he was, either his strength was not equal to the Cornishman's or
else the latter's staple had been driven into sounder timber. In the
end, however, it yielded, and Sir Oliver too was free. Then he set the
foot that was hampered by the chain upon the bench, and with the staple
that still hung from the end of it he prised open the link that attached
it to his anklet.
That done he took his revenge. Crying "Din!" as loudly as any of the
Muslimeen boarders, he flung himself upon the rear of the Spaniards
brandishing his chain. In his hands it became a terrific weapon. He
used it as a scourge, lashing it to right and left of him, splitting
here a head and crushing there a face, until he had hacked a way clean
through the Spanish press, which bewildered by this sudden rear attack
made but little attempt to retaliate upon the escaped galley-slave.
After him, whirling the remaining ten feet of the broken oar, came
Sir Oliver confessed afterwards to knowing very little of what happened
in those moments. He came to a full possession of his senses to find
the fight at an end, a cloud of turbaned corsairs standing guard over a
huddle of Spaniards, others breaking open the cabin and dragging thence
the chests that it contained, others again armed with chisels and
mallets passing along the benches liberating the surviving slaves, of
whom the great majority were children of Islam.
Sir Oliver found himself face to face with the white-bearded leader of
the corsairs, who was leaning upon his scimitar and regarding him with
eyes at once amused and amazed. Our gentleman's naked body was splashed
from head to foot with blood, and in his right hand he still clutched
that yard of iron links with which he had wrought such ghastly
execution. Yusuf was standing at the corsair leader's elbow speaking
"By Allah, was ever such a lusty fighter seen!" cried the latter. "The
strength of the Prophet is within him thus to smite the unbelieving
Sir Oliver grinned savagely.
"I was returning them some of their whip-lashes--with interest," said
And those were the circumstances under which he came to meet the
formidable Asad-ed-Din, Basha of Algiers, those the first words that
passed between them.
Anon, when aboard Asad's own galley he was being carried to Barbary, he
was washed and his head was shaved all but the forelock, by which the
Prophet should lift him up to heaven when his earthly destiny should
come to be fulfilled. He made no protest. They washed and fed him and
gave him ease; and so that they did these things to him they might do
what else they pleased. At last arrayed in flowing garments that were
strange to him, and with a turban wound about his head, he was conducted
to the poop, where Asad sat with Yusuf under an awning, and he came to
understand that it was in compliance with the orders of Yusuf that he
had been treated as if he were a True-Believer.
Yusuf-ben-Moktar was discovered as a person of great consequence, the
nephew of Asad-ed-Din, and a favourite with that Exalted of Allah the
Sublime Portal himself, a man whose capture by Christians had been a
thing profoundly deplored. Accordingly his delivery from that thraldom
was matter for rejoicing. Being delivered, he bethought him of his
oar-mate, concerning whom indeed Asad-ed-Din manifested the greatest
curiosity, for in all this world there was nothing the old corsair loved
so much as a fighter, and in all his days, he vowed, never had he seen
the equal of that stalwart galley-slave, never the like of his
performance with that murderous chain. Yusuf had informed him that the
man was a fruit ripe for the Prophet's plucking, that the grace of Allah
was upon him, and in spirit already he must be accounted a good Muslim.
When Sir Oliver, washed, perfumed, and arrayed in white caftan and
turban, which gave him the air of being even taller than he was, came
into the presence of Asad-ed-Din, it was conveyed to him that if he
would enter the ranks of the Faithful of the Prophet's House and devote
the strength and courage with which Allah the One had endowed him to the
upholding of the true Faith and to the chastening of the enemies of
Islam, great honour, wealth and dignity were in store for him.
Of all that proposal, made at prodigious length and with great wealth of
Eastern circumlocution, the only phrase that took root in his rather
bewildered mind was that which concerned the chastening of the enemies
of Islam. The enemies of Islam he conceived, were his own enemies; and
he further conceived that they stood in great need of chastening, and
that to take a hand in that chastening would be a singularly grateful
task. So he considered the proposals made him. He considered, too,
that the alternative--in the event of his refusing to make the
protestations of Faith required of him--was that he must return to the
oar of a galley, of a Muslim galley now. Now that was an occupation of
which he had had more than his fill, and since he had been washed and
restored to the normal sensations of a clean human being he found that
whatever might be within the scope of his courage he could not envisage
returning to the oar. We have seen the ease with which he had abandoned
the religion in which he was reared for the Roman faith, and how utterly
deluded he had found himself. With the same degree of ease did he now
go over to Islam and with much greater profit. Moreover, he embraced
the Religion of Mahomet with a measure of fierce conviction that had
been entirely lacking from his earlier apostasy.
He had arrived at the conclusion whilst aboard the galley of Spain, as
we have seen, that Christianity as practised in his day was a grim
mockery of which the world were better rid. It is not to be supposed
that his convictions that Christianity was at fault went the length of
making him suppose that Islam was right, or that his conversion to the
Faith of Mahomet was anything more than superficial. But forced as he
was to choose between the rower's bench and the poop-deck, the oar and
the scimitar, he boldly and resolutely made the only choice that in his
case could lead to liberty and life.
Thus he was received into the ranks of the Faithful whose pavilions wait
them in Paradise, set in an orchard of never-failing fruit, among rivers
of milk, of wine, and of clarified honey. He became the Kayia or
lieutenant to Yusuf on the galley of that corsair's command and seconded
him in half a score of engagements with an ability and a conspicuity
that made him swiftly famous throughout the ranks of the Mediterranean
rovers. Some six months later in a fight off the coast of Sicily with
one of the galleys of the Religion--as the vessels of the Knights of
Malta were called--Yusuf was mortally wounded in the very moment of the
victory. He died an hour later in the arms of Sir Oliver, naming the
latter his successor in the command of the galley, and enjoining upon
all implicit obedience to him until they should be returned to Algiers
and the Basha should make known his further will in the matter.
The Basha's will was to confirm his nephew's dying appointment of a
successor, and Sir Oliver found himself in full command of a galley.
From that hour he became Oliver-Reis, but very soon his valour and fury
earned him the by-name of Sakr-el-Bahr, the Hawk of the Sea. His fame
grew rapidly, and it spread across the tideless sea to the very shores
of Christendom. Soon he became Asad's lieutenant, the second in command
of all the Algerine galleys, which meant in fact that he was the
commander-in-chief, for Asad was growing old and took the sea more and
more rarely now. Sakr-el-Bahr sallied forth in his name and his stead,
and such was his courage, his address, and his good fortune that never
did he go forth to return empty-handed.
It was clear to all that the favour of Allah was upon him, that he had
been singled out by Allah to be the very glory of Islam. Asad, who had
ever esteemed him, grew to love him. An intensely devout man, could he
have done less in the case of one for whom the Pitying the Pitiful
showed so marked a predilection? It was freely accepted that when the
destiny of Asad-ed-Din should come to be fulfilled, Sakr-el-Bahr must
succeed him in the Bashalik of Algiers, and that thus Oliver-Reis would
follow in the footsteps of Barbarossa, Ochiali, and other Christian
renegades who had become corsair-princes of Islam.
In spite of certain hostilities which his rapid advancement begot, and
of which we shall hear more presently, once only did his power stand in
danger of suffering a check. Coming one morning into the reeking bagnio
at Algiers, some six months after he had been raised to his captaincy,
he found there a score of countrymen of his own, and he gave orders that
their letters should instantly be struck off and their liberty restored
Called to account by the Basha for this action he took a high-handed
way, since no other was possible. He swore by the beard of the Prophet
that if he were to draw the sword of Mahomet and to serve Islam upon the
seas, he would serve it in his own way, and one of his ways was that his
own countrymen were to have immunity from the edge of that same sword.
Islam, he swore, should not be the loser, since for every Englishman he
restored to liberty he would bring two Spaniards, Frenchmen, Greeks, or
Italians into bondage.
He prevailed, but only upon condition that since captured slaves were
the property of the state, if he desired to abstract them from the state
he must first purchase them for himself. Since they would then be his
own property he could dispose of them at his good pleasure. Thus did
the wise and just Asad resolve the difficulty which had arisen, and
Oliver-Reis bowed wisely to that decision.
Thereafter what English slaves were brought to Algiers he purchased,
manumitted, and found means to send home again. True, it cost him a
fine price yearly, but he was fast amassing such wealth as could easily
support this tax.
As you read Lord Henry Goade's chronicles you might come to the
conclusion that in the whorl of that new life of his Sir Oliver had
entirely forgotten the happenings in his Cornish home and the woman he
had loved, who so readily had believed him guilty of the slaying of her
brother. You might believe this until you come upon the relation of how
he found one day among some English seamen brought captive to Algiers by
Biskaine-el-Borak--who was become his own second in command--a young
Cornish lad from Helston named Pitt, whose father he had known.
He took this lad home with him to the fine palace which he inhabited
near the Bab-el-Oueb, treated him as an honoured guest, and sat through
a whole summer night in talk with him, questioning him upon this person
and that person, and thus gradually drawing from him all the little
history of his native place during the two years that were sped since he
had left it. In this we gather an impression of the wistful longings
the fierce nostalgia that must have overcome the renegade and his
endeavours to allay it by his endless questions. The Cornish lad had
brought him up sharply and agonizingly with that past of his upon which
he had closed the door when he became a Muslim and a corsair. The only
possible inference is that in those hours of that summer's night
repentance stirred in him, and a wild longing to return. Rosamund
should reopen for him that door which, hard-driven by misfortune, he had
slammed. That she would do so when once she knew the truth he had no
faintest doubt. And there was now no reason why he should conceal the
truth, why he should continue to shield that dastardly half-brother of
his, whom he had come to hate as fiercely as he had erstwhile loved him.
In secret he composed a long letter giving the history of all that had
happened to him since his kidnapping, and setting forth the entire truth
of that and of the deed that had led to it. His chronicler opines that
it was a letter that must have moved a stone to tears. And, moreover,
it was not a mere matter of passionate protestations of innocence, or of
unsupported accusation of his brother. It told her of the existence of
proofs that must dispel all doubt. It told her of that parchment
indited by Master Baine and witnessed by the parson, which document was
to be delivered to her together with the letter. Further, it bade her
seek confirmation of that document's genuineness, did she doubt it, at
the hands of Master Baine himself. That done, it besought her to lay
the whole matter before the Queen, and thus secure him faculty to return
to England and immunity from any consequences of his subsequent regenade
act to which his sufferings had driven him. He loaded the young
Cornishman with gifts, gave him that letter to deliver in person, and
added instructions that should enable him to find the document he was to
deliver with it. That precious parchment had been left between the
leaves of an old book on falconry in the library at Penarrow, where it
would probably be found still undisturbed since his brother would not
suspect its presence and was himself no scHolâr. Pitt was to seek out
Nicholas at Penarrow and enlist his aid to obtain possession of that
document, if it still existed.
Then Sakr-el-Bahr found means to conduct Pitt to Genoa, and there put
him aboard an English vessel.
Three months later he received an answer--a letter from Pitt, which
reached him by way of Genoa--which was at peace with the Algerines, and
served then as a channel of communication with Christianity. In this
letter Pitt informed him that he had done all that Sir Oliver had
desired him; that he had found the document by the help of Nicholas, and
that in person he had waited upon Mistress Rosamund Godolphin, who dwelt
now with Sir John Killigrew at Arwenack, delivering to her the letter
and the parchment; but that upon learning on whose behalf he came she
had in his presence flung both unopened upon the fire and dismissed him
with his tale untold.
Sakr-el-Bahr spent the night under the skies in his fragrant orchard,
and his slaves reported in terror that they had heard sobs and weeping.
If indeed his heart wept, it was for the last time; thereafter he was
more inscrutable, more ruthless, cruel and mocking than men had ever
known him, nor from that day did he ever again concern himself to
manumit a single English slave. His heart was become a stone.
Thus five years passed, counting from that spring night when he was
trepanned by Jasper Leigh, and his fame spread, his name became a terror
upon the seas, and fleets put forth from Malta, from Naples, and from
Venice to make an end of him and his ruthless piracy. But Allah kept
watch over him, and Sakr-el-Bahr never delivered battle but he wrested
victory to the scimitars of Islam.
Then in the spring of that fifth year there came to him another letter
from the Cornish Pitt, a letter which showed him that gratitude was not
as dead in the world as he supposed it, for it was purely out of
gratitude that the lad whom he had delivered from thraldom wrote to
inform him of certain matters that concerned him. This letter reopened
that old wound; it did more; it dealt him a fresh one. He learnt from
it that the writer had been constrained by Sir John Killigrew to give
such evidence of Sir Oliver's conversion to Islam as had enabled the
courts to pronounce Sir Oliver as one to be presumed dead at law,
granting the succession to his half-brother, Master Lionel Tressilian.
Pitt professed himself deeply mortified at having been forced
unwittingly to make Sir Oliver so evil a return for the benefits
received from him, and added that sooner would he have suffered them to
hang him than have spoken could he have foreseen the consequences of his
So far Sir Oliver read unmoved by any feeling other than cold contempt.
But there was more to follow. The letter went on to tell him that
Mistress Rosamund was newly returned from a two years' sojourn in France
to become betrothed to his half-brother Lionel, and that they were to be
wed in June. He was further informed that the marriage had been
contrived by Sir John Killigrew in his desire to see Rosamund settled
and under the protection of a husband, since he himself was proposing to
take the seas and was fitting out a fine ship for a voyage to the
Indies. The writer added that the marriage was widely approved, and it
was deemed to be an excellent measure for both houses, since it would
weld into one the two contiguous estates of Penarrow and Godolphin
Oliver-Reis laughed when he had read thus far. The marriage was
approved not for itself, it would seem, but because by means of it two
stretches of earth were united into one. It was a marriage of two
parks, of two estates, of two tracts of arable and forest, and that two
human beings were concerned in it was apparently no more than an
Then the irony of it all entered his soul and spread it with bitterness.
After dismissing him for the supposed murder of her brother, she was to
take the actual murderer to her arms. And he, that cur, that false
villain!--out of what depths of hell did he derive the courage to go
through with this mummery?--had he no heart, no conscience, no sense of
decency, no fear of God?
He tore the letter into fragments and set about effacing the matter from
his thoughts. Pitt had meant kindly by him, but had dealt cruelly. In
his efforts to seek distraction from the torturing images ever in his
mind he took to the sea with three galleys, and thus some two weeks
later came face to face with Master Jasper Leigh aboard the Spanish
carack which he captured under Cape Spartel.
In the cabin of the captured Spaniard, Jasper Leigh found himself that
evening face to face with Sakr-el-Bahr, haled thither by the corsair's
Sakr-el-Bahr had not yet pronounced his intentions concerning the
piratical little skipper, and Master Leigh, full conscious that he was a
villain, feared the worst, and had spent some miserable hours in the
fore-castle awaiting a doom which he accounted foregone.
"Our positions have changed, Master Leigh, since last we talked in a
ship's cabin," was the renegade's inscrutable greeting.
"Indeed," Master Leigh agreed. "But I hope ye'll remember that on that
occasion I was your friend."
"At a price," Sakr-el-Bahr reminded him. "And at a price you may find
me your friend to-day."
The rascally skipper's heart leapt with hope.
"Name it, Sir Oliver," he answered eagerly. "And so that it ties within
my wretched power I swear I'll never boggle at it. I've had enough of
slavery," he ran on in a plaintive whine. "Five years of it, and four
of them spent aboard the galleys of Spain, and no day in all of them but
that I prayed for death. Did you but know what I ha' suffered."
"Never was suffering more merited, never punishment more fitting, never
justice more poetic," said Sakr-el-Bahr in a voice that made the
skipper's blood run cold. "You would have sold me, a man who did you no
hurt, indeed a man who once befriended you--you would have sold me into
slavery for a matter of two hundred pounds...."
"Nay, nay," cried the other fearfully, "as God's my witness, 'twas never
part of my intent. Ye'll never ha' forgot the words I spoke to you, the
offer that I made to carry you back home again."
"Ay, at a price, 'tis true," Sakr-el-Bahr repeated. "And it is
fortunate for you that you are to-day in a position to pay a price that
should postpone your dirty neck's acquaintance with a rope. I need a
navigator," he added in explanation, "and what five years ago you would
have done for two hundred pounds, you shall do to-day for your life.
How say you: will you navigate this ship for me?"
"Sir," cried Jasper Leigh, who could scarce believe that this was all
that was required of him, "I'll sail it to hell at your bidding."
"I am not for Spain this voyage," answered Sakr-el-Bahr. "You shall
sail me precisely as you would have done five years ago, back to the
mouth of the Fal, and set me ashore there. Is that agreed?"
"Ay, and gladly," replied Master Leigh without a second's pause.
"The conditions are that you shall have your life and your liberty,"
Sakr-el-Bahr explained. "But do not suppose that arrived in England you
are to be permitted to depart. You must sail us back again, though once
you have done that I shall find a way to send you home if you so desire
it, and perhaps there will be some measure of reward for you if you
serve me faithfully throughout. Follow the habits of a lifetime by
playing me false and there's an end to you. You shall have for constant
bodyguard these two lilies of the desert," and he pointed to the
colossal Nubians who stood there invisible almost in the shadow but for
the flash of teeth and eyeballs. "They shall watch over you, and see
that no harm befalls you so long as you are honest with me, and they
shall strangle you at the first sign of treachery. You may go. You
have the freedom of the ship, but you are not to leave it here or
elsewhere save at my express command."
Jasper Leigh stumbled out counting himself fortunate beyond his
expectations or deserts, and the Nubians followed him and hung behind
him ever after like some vast twin shadow.
To Sakr-el-Bahr entered now Biskaine with a report of the prize
captured. Beyond the prisoners, however, and the actual vessel, which
had suffered nothing in the fight, the cargo was of no account. Outward
bound as she was it was not to be expected that any treasures would be
discovered in her hold. They found great store of armaments and powder
and a little money; but naught else that was worthy of the corsairs'
Sakr-el-Bahr briefly issued his surprising orders.
Thou'lt set the captives aboard one of the galleys, Biskaine, and
thyself convey them to Algiers, there to be sold. All else thou'lt
leave aboard here, and two hundred picked corsairs to go a voyage with
me overseas, men that will act as mariners and fighters."
"Art thou, then, not returning to Algiers, 0 Sakr-el-Bahr?"
"Not yet. I am for a longer voyage. Convey my service to Asad-ed-Din,
whom Allah guard and cherish, and tell him to look for me in some six
This sudden resolve of Oliver-Reis created no little excitement aboard
the galleys. The corsairs knew nothing of navigation upon the open
seas, none of them had ever been beyond the Mediterranean, few of them
indeed had ever voyaged as far west as Cape Spartel, and it is doubtful
if they would have followed any other leader into the perils of the open
Atlantic. But Sakr-el-Bahr, the child of Fortune, the protected of
Allah, had never yet led them to aught but victory, and he had but to
call them to heel and they would troop after him whithersoever he should
think well to go. So now there was little trouble in finding the two
hundred Muslimeen he desired for his fighting crew. Rather was the
difficulty to keep the number of those eager for the adventure within
the bounds he had indicated.
You are not to suppose that in all this Sir Oliver was acting upon any
preconcerted plan. Whilst he had lain on the heights watching that fine
ship beating up against the wind it had come to him that with such a
vessel under him it were a fond adventure to sail to England, to descend
upon that Cornish coast abruptly as a thunderbolt, and present the
reckoning to his craven dastard of a brother. He had toyed with the
fancy, dreamily almost as men build their castles in Spain. Then in the
heat of conflict it had entirely escaped his mind, to return in the
shape of a resolve when he came to find himself face to face with Jasper
The skipper and the ship conjointly provided him with all the means to
realize that dream he had dreamt. There was none to oppose his will, no
reason not to indulge his cruel fancy. Perhaps, too, he might see
Rosamund again, might compel her to hear the truth from him. And there
was Sir John Killigrew. He had never been able to determine whether Sir
John had been his friend or his foe in the past; but since it was Sir
John who had been instrumental in setting up Lionel in Sir Oliver's
place--by inducing the courts to presume Sir Oliver's death on the score
that being a renegade he must be accounted dead at law--and since it was
Sir John who was contriving this wedding between Lionel and Rosamund,
why, Sir John, too, should be paid a visit and should be informed of the
precise nature of the thing he did.
With the forces at his disposal in those days of his absolute lordship
of life and death along the African littoral, to conceive was with
Oliver-Reis no more than the prelude to execution. The habit of swift
realization of his every wish had grown with him, and that habit guided
now his course.
He made his preparations quickly, and on the morrow the Spanish carack--
lately labelled Nuestra Senora de las Llagas, but with that label
carefully effaced from her quarter--trimmed her sails and stood out for
the open Atlantic, navigated by Captain Jasper Leigh. The three galleys
under the command of Biskaine-el-Borak crept slowly eastward and
homeward to Algiers, hugging the coast, as was the corsair habit. The
wind favoured Oliver so well that within ten days of rounding Cape St.
Vincent he had his first glimpse of the Lizard.
In the estuary of the River Fal a spendid ship, on the building of which
the most cunning engineers had been employed and no money spared, rode
proudly at anchor just off Smithick under the very shadow of the heights
crowned by the fine house of Arwenack. She was fitting out for a
distant vovage and for days the work of bringing stores and munitions
aboard had been in progress, so that there was an unwonted bustle about
the little forge and the huddle of cottages that went to make up the
fishing village, as if in earnest of the great traffic that in future
days was to be seen about that spot. For Sir John Killigrew seemed at
last to be on the eve of prevailing and of laying there the foundations
of the fine port of his dreams.
To this state of things his friendship with Master Lionel Tressilian had
contributed not a little. The opposition made to his project by Sir
Oliver--and supported, largely at Sir Oliver's suggestion, by Truro and
Helston--had been entirely withdrawn by Lionel; more, indeed Lionel had
actually gone so far in the opposite direction as to support Sir John in
his representations to Parliament and the Queen. It followed naturally
enough that just as Sir Oliver's opposition of that cherished project
had been the seed of the hostility between Arwenack and Penarrow, so
Lionel's support of it became the root of the staunch friendship that
sprang up between himself and Sir John.
What Lionel lacked of his brother's keen intelligence he made up for in
cunning. He realized that although at some future time it was possible
that Helston and Truro and the Tressilian property there might come to
suffer as a consequence of the development of a port so much more
advantageously situated, yet that could not be in his own lifetime; and
meanwhile he must earn in return Sir John's support for his suit of
Rosamund Godolphin and thus find the Godolphin estates merged with his
own. This certain immediate gain was to Master Lionel well worth the
other future possible loss.
It must not, however, be supposed that Lionel's courtship had
thenceforward run a smooth and easy course. The mistress of Godolphin
Court showed him no favour and it was mainly that she might abstract
herself from the importunities of his suit that she had sought and
obtained Sir John Killigrew's permission to accompany the latter's
sister to France when she went there with her husband, who was appointed
English ambassador to the Louvre. Sir John's authority as her guardian
had come into force with the decease of her brother.
Master Lionel moped awhile in her absence; but cheered by Sir John's
assurance that in the end he should prevail, he quitted Cornwall in his
turn and went forth to see the world. He spent some time in London
about the Court, where, however, he seems to have prospered little, and
then he crossed to France to pay his devoirs to the lady of his
His constancy, the humility with which he made his suit, the obvious
intensity of his devotion, began at last to wear away that gentlewoman's
opposition, as dripping water wears away a stone. Yet she could not
bring herself to forget that he was Sir Oliver's brother--the brother of
the man she had loved, and the brother of the man who had killed her own
brother. Between them stood, then, two things; the ghost of that old
love of hers and the blood of Peter Godolphin.
Of this she reminded Sir John on her return to Cornwall after an absence
of some two years, urging these matters as reasons why an alliance
between herself and Lionel Tressilian must be impossible.
Sir John did not at all agree with her.
"My dear," he said, "there is your future to be thought of. You are now
of full age and mistress of your own actions. Yet it is not well for a
woman and a gentlewoman to dwell alone. As long as I live, or as long
as I remain in England, all will be well. You may continue indefinitely
your residence here at Arwenack, and you have been wise, I think, in
quitting the loneliness of Godolphin Court. Yet consider that that
loneliness may be yours again when I am not here."
"I should prefer that loneliness to the company you would thrust upon
me," she answered him.
"Ungracious speech!" he protested. "Is this your gratitude for that
lad's burning devotion, for his patience, his gentleness, and all the
"He is Oliver Tressilian's brother," she replied.
"And has he not suffered enough for that already? Is there to be no end
to the price that he must pay for his brother's sins? Besides, consider
that when all is said they are not even brothers. They are but
"Yet too closely kin," she said. "If you must have me wed I beg you'll
find me another husband."
To this he would answer that expediently considered no husband could be
better than the one he had chosen her. He pointed out the contiguity of
their two estates, and how fine and advantageous a thing it would be to
merge these two into one.
He was persistent, and his persistence was increased when he came to
conceive his notion to take the seas again. His conscience would not
permit him to heave anchor until he had bestowed her safely in wedlock.
Lionel too was persistent, in a quiet, almost self-effacing way that
never set a strain upon her patience, and was therefore the more
difficult to combat.
In the end she gave way under the pressure of these men's wills, and did
so with the best grace she could summon, resolved to drive from her
heart and mind the one real obstacle of which, for very shame, she had
made no mention to Sir John. The fact is that in spite of all, her love
for Sir Oliver was not dead. It was stricken down, it is true, until
she herself failed to recognize it for what it really was. But she
caught herself thinking of him frequently and wistfully; she found
herself comparing him with his brother; and for all that she had bidden
Sir John find her some other husband than Lionel, she knew full well
that any suitor brought before her must be submitted to that same
comparison to his inevitable undoing. All this she accounted evil in
herself. It was in vain that she lashed her mind with the reminder that
Sir Oliver was Peter's murderer. As time went on she found herself
actually making excuses for her sometime lover; she would admit that
Peter had driven him to the step, that for her sake Sir Oliver had
suffered insult upon insult from Peter, until, being but human, the cup
of his endurance had overflowed in the end, and weary of submitting to
the other's blows he had risen up in his anger and smitten in his turn.
She would scorn herself for such thoughts as these, yet she could not
dismiss them. In act she could be strong--as witness how she had dealt
with that letter which Oliver sent her out of Barbary by the hand of
Pitt--but her thoughts she could not govern, and her thoughts were full
often traitors to her will. There were longings in her heart for Oliver
which she could not stifle, and there was ever the hope that he would
one day return, although she realized that from such a return she might
look for nothing.
When Sir John finally slew the hope of that return he did a wiser thing
than he conceived. Never since Oliver's disappearance had they heard
any news of him until Pitt came to Arwenack with that letter and his
story. They had heard, as had all the world, of the corsair
Sakr-el-Bahr, but they had been far indeed from connecting him with
Oliver Tressilian. Now that his identity was established by Pitt's
testimony, it was an easy matter to induce the courts to account him
dead and to give Lionel the coveted inheritance.
This to Rosamund was a small matter. But a great one was that Sir
Oliver was dead at law, and must be so in fact, should he ever again set
foot in England. It extinguished finally that curiously hopeless and
almost subconscious hope of hers that one day he would return. Thus it
helped her perhaps to face and accept the future which Sir John was
resolved to thrust upon her.
Her betrothal was made public, and she proved if not an ardently loving,
at least a docile and gentle mistress to Lionel. He was content. He
could ask no more in reason at the moment, and he was buoyed up by every
lover's confidence that given opportunity and time he could find the way
to awaken a response. And it must be confessed that already during
their betrothal he gave some proof of his reason for his confidence.
She had been lonely, and he dispelled her loneliness by his complete
surrender of himself to her; his restraint and his cautious, almost
insidious creeping along a path which a more clumsy fellow would have
taken at a dash made companionship possible between them and very sweet
to her. Upon this foundation her affection began gradually to rise, and
seeing them together and such excellent friends, Sir John congratulated
himself upon his wisdom and went about the fitting out of that fine ship
of his--the Silver Heron--for the coming voyage.
Thus they came within a week of the wedding, and Sir John all impatience
now. The marriage bells were to be his signal for departure; as they
fell silent the Silver Heron should spread her wings.
It was the evening of the first of June; the peal of the curfew had
faded on the air and lights were being set in the great dining-room at
Arwenack where the company was to sup. It was a small party. Just Sir
John and Rosamund and Lionel, who had lingered on that day, and Lord
Henry Goade--our chronicler--the Queen's Lieutenant of Cornwall,
together with his lady. They were visiting Sir John and they were to
remain yet a week his guests at Arwenack that they might grace the
Above in the house there was great stir of preparation for the departure
of Sir John and his ward, the latter into wedlock, the former into
unknown seas. In the turret chamber a dozen sempstresses were at work
upon the bridal outfit under the directions of that Sally Pentreath who
had been no less assiduous in the preparation of swaddling clothes and
the like on the eve of Rosamund's appearance in this world.
At the very hour at which Sir John was leading his company to table Sir
Oliver Tressilian was setting foot ashore not a mile away.
He had deemed it wiser not to round Pendennis Point. So in the bay
above Swanpool on the western side of that promontory he had dropped
anchor as the evening shadows were deepening. He had launched the
ship's two boats, and in these he had conveyed some thirty of his men
ashore. Twice had the boats returned, until a hundred of his corsairs
stood ranged along that foreign beach. The other hundred he left on
guard aboard. He took so great a force upon an expedition for which a
quarter of the men would have sufficed so as to ensure by overwhelming
numbers the avoidance of all unnecessary violence.
Absolutely unobserved he led them up the slope towards Arwenack through
the darkness that had now closed in. To tread his native soil once more
went near to drawing tears from him. How familiar was the path he
followed with such confidence in the night; how well known each bush and
stone by which he went with his silent multitude hard upon his heels.
Who could have foretold him such a return as this
Who could have dreamt when he roamed amain in his youth here with dogs
and fowling-piece that he would creep one night over these dunes a
renegade Muslim leading a horde of infidels to storm the house of Sir
John Killigrew of Arwenack?
Such thoughts begot a weakness in him; but he made a quick recovery when
his mind swung to all that he had so unjustly suffered, when he
considered all that he came thus to avenge.
First to Arwenack to Sir John and Rosamund to compel them to hear the
truth at least, and then away to Penarrow for Master Lionel and the
reckoning. Such was the project that warmed him, conquered his weakness
and spurred him, relentless, onward and upward to the heights and the
fortified house that dominated them.
He found the massive iron-studded gates locked, as was to have been
expected at that hour. He knocked, and presently the postern gaped, and
a lantern was advanced. Instantly that lantern was dashed aside and Sir
Oliver had leapt over the sill into the courtyard. With a hand gripping
the porter's throat to choke all utterance, Sir Oliver heaved him out to
his men, who swiftly gagged him.
That done they poured silently through that black gap of the postern
into the spacious gateway. On he led them, at a run almost, towards the
tall mullioned windows whence a flood of golden light seemed invitingly
to beckon them.
With the servants who met them in the hall they dealt in the same swift
silent fashion as they had dealt with the gatekeeper, and such was the
speed and caution of their movements that Sir John and his company had
no suspicion of their presence until the door of the dining-room crashed
open before their eyes.
The sight which they beheld was one that for some moments left them
mazed and bewildered. Lord Henry tells us how at first he imagined that
here was some mummery, some surprise prepared for the bridal couple by
Sir John's tenants or the folk of Smithick and Penycumwick, and he adds
that he was encouraged in this belief by the circumstance that not a
single weapon gleamed in all that horde of outlandish intruders.
Although they came full armed against any eventualities, yet by their
leader's orders not a blade was bared. What was to do was to be done
with their naked hands alone and without bloodshed. Such were the
orders of Sakr-el-Bahr, and Sakr-el-Bahr's were not orders to be
Himself he stood forward at the head of that legion of brown-skinned men
arrayed in all the colours of the rainbow, their heads swathed in
turbans of every hue. He considered the company in grim silence, and
the company in amazement considered this turbaned giant with the
masterful face that was tanned to the colour of mahogany, the black
forked beard, and those singularly light eyes glittering like steel
under his black brows.
Thus a little while in silence, then with a sudden gasp Lionel
Tressilian sank back in his tall chair as if bereft of strength.
The agate eyes flashed upon him smiling, cruelly.
"I see that you, at least, I recognize me," said Sakr-el-Bahr in his
deep voice. "I was assured I could depend upon the eyes of brotherly
love to pierce the change that time and stress have wrought in me."
Sir John was on his feet, his lean swarthy face flushing darkly, an oath
on his lips. Rosamund sat on as if frozen with horror, considering Sir
Oliver with dilating eyes, whilst her hands clawed the table before her.
They too recognized him now, and realized that here was no mummery.
That something sinister was intended Sir John could not for a moment
doubt. But of what that something might be he could form no notion. It
was the first time that Barbary rovers were seen in England. That
famous raid of theirs upon Baltimore in Ireland did not take place until
some thirty years after this date.
"Sir Oliver Tressilian!" Killigrew gasped, and "Sir Oliver Tressilian!"
echoed Lord Henry Goade, to add "By God!"
"Not Sir Oliver Tressilian, came the answer, but Sakr-el-Bahr, the
scourge of the sea, the terror of Christendom, the desperate corsair
your lies, cupidity, and false-heartedness have fashioned out of a
sometime Cornish gentleman." He embraced them all in his denunciatory
gesture. "Behold me here with my sea-hawks to present a reckoning long
Writing now of what his own eyes beheld, Lord Henry tells us how Sir
John leapt to snatch a weapon from the armoured walls; how Sakr-el-Bahr
barked out a single word in Arabic, and how at that word a half-dozen of
his supple blackamoors sprang upon the knight like greyhounds upon a
hare and bore him writhing to the ground.
Lady Henry screamed; her husband does not appear to have done anything,
or else modesty keeps him silent on the score of it. Rosamund, white to
the lips, continued to look on, whilst Lionel, overcome, covered his
face with his hands in sheer horror. One and all of them expected to
see some ghastly deed of blood performed there, coldly and callously as
the wringing of a capon's neck. But no such thing took place. The
corsairs merely turned Sir John upon his face, dragged his wrists behind
him to make them fast, and having performed that duty with a speedy,
silent dexterity they abandoned him.
Sakr-el-Bahr watched their performance with those grimly smiling eyes of
his. When it was done he spoke again and pointed to Lionel, who leapt
up in sudden terror, with a cry that was entirely inarticulate. Lithe
brown arms encircled him like a legion of snakes. Powerless, he was
lifted in the air and borne swiftly away. For an instant he found
himself held face to face with his turbaned brother. Into that pallid
terror-stricken human mask the renegade's eyes stabbed like two daggers.
Then deliberately and after the fashion of the Muslim he was become he
spat upon it.
"Away!" he growled, and through the press of corsairs that thronged the
hall behind him a lane was swiftly opened and Lionel was swallowed up,
lost to the view of those within the room.
"What murderous deed do you intend?" cried Sir John indomitably. He had
risen and stood grimly dignified in his bonds.
"Will you murder your own brother as you murdered mine?" demanded
Rosamund, speaking now for the first time, and rising as she spoke, a
faint flush coming to overspread her pallor. She saw him wince; she saw
the mocking lustful anger perish in his face, leaving it vacant for a
moment. Then it became grim again with a fresh resolve. Her words had
altered all the current of his intentions. They fixed in him a dull,
fierce rage. They silenced the explanations which he was come to offer,
and which he scorned to offer here after that taunt.
"It seems you love that--whelp, that thing that was my brother," he
said, sneering. "I wonder will you love him still when you come to be
better acquainted with him? Though, faith, naught would surprise me in
a woman and her love. Yet I am curious to see--curious to see." He
laughed. "I have a mind to gratify myself. I will not separate you--
not just yet."
He advanced upon her. "Come thou with me, lady," he commanded, and held
out his hand.
And now Lord Henry seems to have been stirred to futile action.
"At that," he writes, "I thrust myself between to shield her. 'Thou
dog,' I cried,'thou shalt be made to suffer!'
"'Suffer?' quoth he, and mocked me with his deep laugh. 'I have
suffered already. 'Tis for that reason I am here.'
"'And thou shalt suffer again, thou pirate out of hell!' I warned him.
'Thou shalt suffer for this outrage as God's my life!'
"'Shall I so?' quoth he, very calm and sinister. 'And at whose hands, I
"'At mine, sir, I roared, being by now stirred to a great fury.
"'At thine?' he sneered. 'Thou'lt hunt the hawk of the sea? Thou?
Thou plump partridge! Away! Hinder me not!"'
And he adds that again Sir Oliver spoke that short Arabic command,
whereupon a dozen blackamoors whirled the Queen's Lieutenant aside and
bound him to a chair.
Face to face stood now Sir Oliver with Rosamund--face to face after five
long years, and he realized that in every moment of that time the
certainty had never departed from him of some such future meeting.
"Come, lady," he bade her sternly.
A moment she looked at him with hate and loathing in the clear depths of
her deep blue eyes. Then swiftly as lightning she snatched a knife from
the board and drove it at his heart. But his hand moved as swiftly to
seize her wrist, and the knife clattered to the ground, its errand
A shuddering sob escaped her then to express at once her horror of her
own attempt and of the man who held her. That horror mounting until it
overpowered her, she sank suddenly against him in a swoon.
Instinctively his arms went round her, and a moment he held her thus,
recalling the last occasion on which she had lain against his breast, on
an evening five years and more ago under the grey wall of Godolphin
Court above the river. What prophet could have told him that when next
he so held her the conditions would be these? It was all grotesque and
incredible, like the fantastic dream of some sick mind. But it was all
true, and she was in his arms again.
He shifted his grip to her waist, heaved her to his mighty shoulder, as
though she were a sack of grain, and swung about, his business at
Arwenack accomplished--indeed, more of it accomplished than had been his
intent, and also something less.
"Away, away!" he cried to his rovers, and away they sped as fleetly and
silently as they had come, no man raising now so much as a voice to
Through the hall and across the courtyard flowed that human tide; out
into the open and along the crest of the hill it surged, then away down
the slope towards the beach where their boats awaited them.
Sakr-el-Bahr ran as lightly as though the swooning woman he bore were no
more than a cloak he had flung across his shoulder. Ahead of him went a
half-dozen of his fellows carrying his gagged and pinioned brother.
Once only before they dipped from the heights of Arwenack did Oliver
check. He paused to look across the dark shimmering water to the woods
that screened the house of Penarrow from his view. It had been part of
his purpose to visit it, as we know. But the necessity had now been
removed, and he was conscious of a pang of disappointment, of a hunger
to look again upon his home. But to shift the current of his thoughts
just then came two of his officers--Othmani and Ali, who had been
muttering one with the other. As they overtook him, Othmani set now a
hand upon his arm, and pointed down towards the twinkling lights of
Smithick and Penycumwick.
"My lord," he cried, "there will be lads and maidens there should fetch
fat prices in the sôk-el-Abeed."
"No doubt," said Sakr-el-Bahr, scarce heeding him, heeding indeed little
in this world but his longings to look upon Penarrow.
"Why, then, my lord, shall I take fifty True-Believers and make a raid
upon them? It were an easy task, all unsuspicious as they must be of
Sakr-el-Bahr came out of his musings. "Othmani," said he, "art a fool,
the very father of fools, else wouldst thou have come to know by now
that those who once were of my own race, those of the land from which I
am sprung, are sacred to me. Here we take no slave but these we have.
On, then, in the name of Allah!"
But Othmani was not yet silenced. "And is our perilous voyage across
these unknown seas into this far heathen land to be rewarded by no more
than just these two captives? Is that a raid worthy of Sakr-el-Bahr?"
"Leave Sakr-el-Bahr to judge," was the curt answer.
"But reflect, my lord: there is another who will judge. How shall our
Basha, the glorious Asad-ed-Din, welcome thy return with such poor
spoils as these? What questions will he set thee, and what account
shalt thou render him for having imperilled the lives of all these
True-Believers upon the seas for so little profit?"
"He shall ask me what he pleases, and I shall answer what I please and
as Allah prompts me. On, I say!"
And on they went, Sakr-el-Bahr conscious now of little but the warmth of
that body upon his shoulder, and knowing not, so tumultuous were his
emotions, whether it fired him to love or hate.
They gained the beach; they reached the ship whose very presence had
continued unsuspected. The breeze was fresh and they stood away at
once. By sunrise there was no more sign of them than there had been at
sunset, there was no more clue to the way they had taken than to the way
they had come. It was as if they had dropped from the skies in the
night upon that Cornish coast, and but for the mark of their swift,
silent passage, but for the absence of Rosamund and Lionel Tressilian,
the thing must have been accounted no more than a dream of those few who
had witnessed it.
Aboard the carack, Sakr-el-Bahr bestowed Rosamund in the cabin over the
quarter, taking the precaution to lock the door that led to the
stern-gallery. Lionel he ordered to be dropped into a dark hole under
the hatchway, there to lie and meditate upon the retribution that had
overtaken him until such time as his brother should have determined upon
his fate--for this was a matter upon which the renegade was still
Himself he lay under the stars that night and thought of many things.
One of these things, which plays some part in the story, though it is
probable that it played but a slight one in his thoughts, was begotten
of the words Othmani had used. What, indeed, would be Asad's welcome of
him on his return if he sailed into Algiers with nothing more to show
for that long voyage and the imperilling of the lives of two hundred
True-Believers than just those two captives whom he intended, moreover,
to retain for himself? What capital would not be made out of that
circumstance by his enemies in Algiers and by Asad's Sicilian wife who
hated him with all the bitterness of a hatred that had its roots in the
fertile soil of jealousy?
This may have spurred him in the cool dawn to a very daring and
desperate enterprise which Destiny sent his way in the shape of a
tall-masted Dutchman homeward bound. He gave chase, for all that he was
full conscious that the battle he invited was one of which his corsairs
had no experience, and one upon which they must have hesitated to
venture with another leader than himself. But the star of Sakr-el-Bahr
was a star that never led to aught but victory, and their belief in him,
the very javelin of Allah, overcame any doubts that may have been
begotten of finding themselves upon an unfamiliar craft and on a
rolling, unfamiliar sea.
This fight is given in great detail by my Lord Henry from the
particulars afforded him by Jasper Leigh. But it differs in no great
particular from other sea-fights, and it is none of my purpose to
surfeit you with such recitals. Enough to say that it was stern and
fierce, entailing great loss to both combatants; that cannon played
little part in it, for knowing the quality of his men Sakr-el-Bahr made
haste to run in and grapple. He prevailed of course as he must ever
pre-vail by the very force of his personality and the might of his
example. He was the first to leap aboard the Dutchman, clad in mail and
whirling his great scimitar, and his men poured after him shouting his
name and that of Allah in a breath.
Such was ever his fury in an engagement that it infected and inspired
his followers. It did so now, and the shrewd Dutchmen came to perceive
that this heathen horde was as a body to which he supplied the brain and
soul. They attacked him fiercely in groups, intent at all costs upon
cutting him down, convinced almost by instinct that were he felled the
victory would easily be theirs. And in the end they succeeded. A Dutch
pike broke some links of his mail and dealt him a flesh wound which went
unheeded by him in his fury; a Dutch rapier found the breach thus made
in his de-fences, and went through it to stretch him bleeding upon the
deck. Yet he staggered up, knowing as full as did they that if he
succumbed then all was lost. Armed now with a short axe which he had
found under his hand when he went down, he hacked a way to the bulwarks,
set his back against the timbers, and hoarse of voice, ghastly of face,
spattered with the blood of his wound he urged on his men until the
victory was theirs--and this was fortunately soon. And then, as if he
had been sustained by no more than the very force of his will, he sank
down in a heap among the dead and wounded huddled against the vessel's
Grief-stricken his corsairs bore him back aboard the carack. Were he to
die then was their victory a barren one indeed. They laid him on a
couch prepared for him amidships on the main deck, where the vessel's
pitching was least discomfiting. A Moorish surgeon came to tend him,
and pronounced his hurt a grievous one, but not so grievous as to close
the gates of hope.
This pronouncement gave the corsairs all the assurance they required.
It could not be that the Gardener could already pluck so fragrant a
fruit from Allah's garden. The Pitiful must spare Sakr-el-Bahr to
continue the glory of Islam.
Yet they were come to the straits of Gibraltar before his fever abated
and he recovered complete consciousness, to learn of the final issue of
that hazardous fight into which he had led those children of the
The Dutchman, Othmani informed him, was following in their wake, with
Ali and some others aboard her, steering ever in the wake of the carack
which continued to be navigated by the Nasrani dog, Jasper Leigh. When
Sakr-el-Bahr learnt the value of the capture, when he was informed that
in addition to a hundred able-bodied men under the hatches, to be sold
as slaves in the sôk-el-Abeed, there was a cargo of gold and silver,
pearls, amber, spices, and ivory, and such lesser matters as gorgeous
silken fabrics, rich beyond anything that had ever been seen upon the
seas at any one time, he felt that the blood he had shed had not been
Let him sail safely into Algiers with these two ships both captured in
the name of Allah and his Prophet, one of them an argosy so richly
fraught, a floating treasure-house, and he need have little fear of what
his enemies and the crafty evil Sicilian woman might have wrought
against him in his absence.
Then he made inquiry touching his two English captives, to be informed
that Othmani had taken charge of them, and that he had continued the
treatment meted out to them by Sakr-el-Bahr himself when first they were
He was satisfied, and fell into a gentle healing sleep, whilst, on the
decks above, his followers rendered thanks to Allah the Pitying the
Pitiful, the Master of the Day of Judgment, who Alone is All-Wise,
THE LION OF THE FAITH
Asad-ed-Din, the Lion of the Faith, Basha of Algiers, walked in the
evening cool in the orchard of the Kasbah upon the heights above the
city, and at his side, stepping daintily, came Fenzileh, his wife, the
first lady of his hareem, whom eighteen years ago he had carried off in
his mighty arms from that little whitewashed village above the Straits
of Messina which his followers had raided.
She had been a lissom maid of sixteen in those far-off days, the child
of humble peasant-folk, and she had gone uncomplaining to the arms of
her swarthy ravisher. To-day, at thirty-four, she was still beautiful,
more beautiful indeed than when first she had fired the passion of
Asad-Reis--as he then was, one of the captains of the famous Ali-Basha.
There were streaks of red in her heavy black tresses, her skin was of a
soft pearliness that seemed translucent, her eyes were large, of a
golden-brown, agleam with sombre fires, her lips were full and sensuous.
She was tall and of a shape that in Europe would have been accounted
perfect, which is to say that she was a thought too slender for Oriental
taste; she moved along beside her lord with a sinuous, languorous grace,
gently stirring her fan of ostrich plumes. She was unveiled; indeed it
was her immodest habit to go naked of face more often than was seemly,
which is but the least of the many undesirable infidel ways which had
survived her induction into the Faith of Islam--a necessary step before
Asad, who was devout to the point of bigotry, would consent to make her
his wife. He had found her such a wife as it is certain he could never
have procured at home; a woman who, not content to be his toy, the
plaything of his idle hour, insinuated herself into affairs, demanded
and obtained his confidences, and exerted over him much the same
influence as the wife of a European prince might exert over her consort.
In the years during which he had lain under the spell of her ripening
beauty he had accepted the situation willingly enough; later, when he
would have curtailed her interferences, it was too late; she had taken a
firm grip of the reins, and Asad was in no better case than many a
European husband--an anomalous and outrageous condition this for a Basha
of the Prophet's House. It was also a dangerous one for Fenzileh; for
should the burden of her at any time become too heavy for her lord there
was a short and easy way by which he could be rid of it. Do not suppose
her so foolish as not to have realized this--she realized it fully; but
her Sicilian spirit was daring to the point of recklessness; her very
dauntlessness which had enabled her to seize a control so
unprecedented in a Muslim wife urged her to maintain it in the face of
Dauntless was she now, as she paced there in the cool of the orchard,
under the pink and white petals of the apricots, the flaming scarlet of
pomegranate blossoms, and through orange-groves where the golden fruit
glowed and amid foliage of sombre green. She was at her eternal work of
poisoning the mind of her lord against Sakr-el-Bahr, and in her maternal
jealousy she braved the dangers of such an undertaking, fully aware of
how dear to the heart of Asad-ed-Din was that absent renegade corsair.
It was this very affection of the Basha's for his lieutenant that was
the fomenter of her own hate of Sakr-el-Bahr, for it was an affection
that transcended Asad's love for his own son and hers, and it led to the
common rumour that for Sakr-el-Bahr was reserved the high destiny of
succeeding Asad in the Bashalik.
"I tell thee thou'rt abused by him, 0 source of my life."
"I hear thee," answered Asad sourly. 'And were thine own hearing less
infirm, woman, thou wouldst have heard me answer thee that thy words
weigh for naught with me against his deeds. Words may be but a mask
upon our thoughts; deeds are ever the expression of them. Bear thou
that in mind, 0 Fenzileh."
"Do I not bear in mind thine every word, 0 fount of wisdom?" she
protested, and left him, as she often did, in doubt whether she fawned
or sneered. "And it is his deeds I would have speak for him, not indeed
my poor words and still less his own."
"Then, by the head of Allah, let those same deeds speak, and be thou
The harsh tone of his reproof and the scowl upon his haughty face, gave
her pause for a moment. He turned about.
"Come!" he said. "Soon it will be the hour of prayer." And he paced
back towards the yellow huddle of walls of the Kasbah that overtopped
the green of that fragrant place.
He was a tall, gaunt man, stooping slightly at the shoulders under the
burden of his years; but his eagle face was masterful, and some
lingering embers of his youth still glowed in his dark eyes.
Thoughtfully, with a jewelled hand, he stroked his long white beard;
with the other he leaned upon her soft plump arm, more from habit than
for support, for he was full vigorous still.
High in the blue overhead a lark burst suddenly into song, and from the
depths of the orchard came a gentle murmur of doves as if returning
thanks for the lessening of the great heat now that the sun was sinking
rapidly towards the world's edge and the shadows were lengthening.
Came Fenzileh's voice again, more musical than either, yet laden with
words of evil, poison wrapped in honey.
"O my dear lord, thou'rt angered with me now. Woe me! that never may I
counsel thee for thine own glory as my heart prompts me, but I must earn
"Abuse not him I love," said the Basha shortly. I have told thee so
full oft already."
She nestled closer to him, and her voice grew softer, more akin to the
amorous cooing of the doves. "And do I not love thee, 0 master of my
soul? Is there in all the world a heart more faithful to thee than
mine? Is not thy life my life? Have not my days been all devoted to
the perfecting of thine happiness? And wilt thou then frown upon me if
I fear for thee at the hands of an intruder of yesterday?"
"Fear for me?" he echoed, and laughed jeeringly. "What shouldst thou
fear for me from Sakr-el-Bahr?"
"What all believers must ever fear from one who is no true Muslim, from
one who makes a mock and travesty of the True Faith that he may gain
The Basha checked in his stride, and turned upon her angrily.
"May thy tongue rot, thou mother of lies!"
"I am as the dust beneath thy feet, 0 my sweet lord, yet am I not what
thine heedless anger calls me."
"Heedless?" quoth he. 'Not heedless but righteous to hear one whom the
Prophet guards, who is the very javelin of Islam against the breast of
the unbeliever, who carries the scourge of Allah against the infidel
Frankish pigs, so maligned by thee! No more, I say! Lest I bid thee
make good thy words, and pay the liar's price if thou shouldst fail."
"And should I fear the test?" she countered, nothing daunted. "I tell
thee, 0 father of Marzak, that I should hail it gladly. Why, hear me
now. Thou settest store by deeds, not words. Tell me, then, is it the
deed of a True-Believer to waste substance upon infidel slaves, to
purchase them that he may set them free?
Asad moved on in silence. That erstwhile habit of Sakr-el-Bahr's was
one not easy to condone. It had occasioned him his moments of
uneasiness, and more than once had he taxed his lieutenant with the
practice ever to receive the same answer, the answer which he now made
to Fenzileh. "For every slave that he so manumitted, he brought a dozen
"Perforce, else would he be called to account. 'Twas so much dust he
flung into the face of true Muslimeen. Those manumissions prove a
lingering fondness for the infidel country whence he springs. Is there
room for that in the heart of a true member of the Prophet's immortal
House? Hast ever known me languish for the Sicilian shore from which in
thy might thou wrested me, or have I ever besought of thee the life of a
single Sicilian infidel in all these years that I have lived to serve
thee? Such longings are betrayed, I say, by such a practice, and such
longings could have no place in one who had uprooted infidelity from his
heart. And now this voyage of his beyond the seas--risking a vessel
that he captured from the arch-enemy of Islam, which is not his to risk
but thine in whose name he captured it; and together with it he imperils
the lives of two hundred True-Believers. To what end? To bear him
overseas, perchance that he may look again upon the unhallowed land that
gave him birth. So Biskaine reported. And what if he should founder on
"Thou at least wouldst be content, thou fount of malice," growled Asad.
"Call me harsh names, 0 sun that warms me! Am I not thine to use and
abuse at thy sweet pleasure? Pour salt upon the heart thou woundest;
since it is thy hand I'll never murmur a complaint. But heed me--heed
my words; or since words are of no account with thee, then heed his
deeds which I am drawing to thy tardy notice. Heed them, I say, as my
love bids me even though thou shouldst give me to be whipped or slain
for my temerity."
"Woman, thy tongue is like the clapper of a bell with the devil swinging
from the rope. What else dost thou impute?"
"Naught else, since thou dost but mock me, withdrawing thy love from thy
"The praise to Allah, then," said he. "Come, it is the hour of prayer!"
But he praised Allah too soon. Woman-like, though she protested she had
done, she had scarce begun as yet.
"There is thy son, 0 father of Marzak."
"There is, 0 mother of Marzak."
"And a man's son should be the partner of his soul. Yet is Marzak
passed over for this foreign upstart; yet does this Nasrani of yesterday
hold the place in thy heart and at thy side that should be Marzak's."
"Could Marzak fill that place," he asked. "Could that beardless boy
lead men as Sakr-el-Bahr leads them, or wield the scimitar against the
foes of Islam and increase as Sakr-el-Bahr increases the glory of the
Prophet's Holy Law upon the earth?"
"If Sakr-el-Bahr does this, he does it by thy favour, 0 my lord. And so
might Marzak, young though he be. Sakr-el-Bahr is but what thou hast
made him--no more, no less."
"There art thou wrong, indeed, 0 mother of error. Sakr-el-Bahr is what
Allah hath made him. He is what Allah wills. He shall become what
Allah wills. Hast yet to learn that Allah has bound the fate of each
man about his neck?"
And then a golden glory suffused the deep sapphire of the sky heralding
the setting of the sun and made an end of that altercation, conducted by
her with a daring as singular as the patience that had endured it. He
quickened his steps in the direction of the courtyard. That golden glow
paled as swiftly as it had spread, and night fell as suddenly as if a
curtain had been dropped.
In the purple gloom that followed the white cloisters of the courtyard
glowed with a faintly luminous pearliness. Dark forms of slaves stirred
as Asad entered from the garden followed by Fenzileh, her head now
veiled in a thin blue silken gauze. She flashed across the quadrangle
and vanished through one of the archways, even as the distant voice of a
Mueddin broke plaintively upon the brooding stillness reciting the
"La illaha, illa Allah! Wa Muhammad er Rasool Allah!
A slave spread a carpet, a second held a great silver bowl, into which a
third poured water. The Basha, having washed, turned his face towards
Mecca, and testified to the unity of Allah, the Compassionate, the
Merciful, King of the Day of judgment, whilst the cry of the Mueddin
went echoing over the city from minaret to minaret.
As he rose from his devotions, there came a quick sound of steps
without, and a sharp summons. Turkish janissaries of the Basha's guard,
invisible almost in their flowing black garments, moved to answer that
summons and challenge those who came.
From the dark vaulted entrance of the courtyard leapt a gleam of
lanterns containing tiny clay lamps in which burned a wick that was
nourished by mutton fat. Asad, waiting to learn who came, halted at the
foot of the white glistening steps, whilst from doors and lattices of
the palace flooded light to suffuse the courtyard and set the marbles
A dozen Nubian javelin-men advanced, then ranged themselves aside whilst
into the light stepped the imposing, gorgeously robed figure of Asad's
wazeer, Tsamanni. After him came another figure in mail that clanked
faintly and glimmered as he moved.
"Peace and the Prophet's blessings upon thee, 0 mighty Asad!" was the
"And peace upon thee, Tsamanni," was the answer. "Art the bearer of
"Of great and glorious tidings, 0 exalted one! Sakr-el-Bahr is
"The praise to Him!" exclaimed the Basha, with uplifted hands; and there
was no mistaking the thrill of his voice.
There fell a soft step behind him and a shadow from the doorway. He
turned. A graceful stripling in turban and caftan of cloth of gold
salaamed to him from the topmast step. And as he came upright and the
light of the lanterns fell full upon his face the astonishingly white
fairness of it was revealed--a woman's face it might have been, so
softly rounded was it in its beardlessness.
Asad smiled wrily in his white beard, guessing that the boy had been
sent by his ever-watchful mother to learn who came and what the tidings
that they bore.
"Thou hast heard, Marzak?" he said. "Sakr-el-Bahr is returned."
"Victoriously, I hope," the lad lied glibly.
"Victorious beyond aught that was ever known," replied Tsamanni. "He
sailed at sunset into the harbour, his company aboard two mighty
Frankish ships, which are but the lesser part of the great spoil he
"Allah is great," was the Basha's glad welcome of this answer to those
insidious promptings of his Sicilian wife. "Why does he not come in
person with his news?"
"His duty keeps him yet awhile aboard, my lord," replied the wazeer.
"But he hath sent his kayia Othmani here to tell the tale of it."
"Thrice welcome be thou, Othmani." He beat his hands together, whereat
slaves placed cushions for him upon the ground. He sat, and beckoned
Marzak to his side. "And now thy tale!"
And Othmani standing forth related how they had voyaged to distant
England in the ship that Sakr-el-Bahr had captured, through seas that no
corsair yet had ever crossed, and how on their return they had engaged a
Dutchman that was their superior in strength and numbers; how none the
less Sakr-el-Bahr had wrested victory by the help of Allah, his
protector, how he had been dealt a wound that must have slain any but
one miraculously preserved for the greater glory of Islam, and of the
surpassing wealth of the booty which at dawn tomorrow should be laid at
Asad's feet for his division of it.
That tale of Othmani's being borne anon to Fenzileh by her son was gall
and wormwood to her jealous soul. Evil enough to know that Sakr-el-Bahr
was returned in spite of the fervent prayers for his foundering which
she had addressed both to the God of her forefathers and to the God of
her adoption. But that he should have returned in triumph bringing with
him heavy spoils that must exalt him further in the affection of Asad
and the esteem of the people was bitterness indeed. It left her mute
and stricken, bereft even of the power to curse him.
Anon, when her mind recovered from the shock she turned it to the
consideration of what at first had seemed a trivial detail in Othmani's
tale as reported by Marzak.
"It is most singularly odd that he should have undertaken that long
voyage to England to wrest thence just those two captives; that being
there he should not have raided in true corsair fashion and packed his
ship with slaves. Most singularly odd!"
They were alone behind the green lattices through which filtered the
perfumes of the garden and the throbbing of a nightingale's voice laden
with the tale of its love for the rose. Fenzileh reclined upon a divan
that was spread with silken Turkey carpets, and one of her
gold-embroidered slippers had dropped from her henna-stained toes. Her
lovely arms were raised to support her head, and she stared up at the
lamp of many colours that hung from the fretted ceiling.
Marzak paced the length of the chamber back and forth, and there was
silence save for the soft swish of his slippers along the floor.
"Well?" she asked him impatiently at last. "Does it not seem odd to
"Odd, indeed, 0 my mother," the youth replied, coming to a halt before
"And canst think of naught that was the cause of it?"
"The cause of it?" quoth he, his lovely young face, so closely modelled
upon her own, looking blank and vacant.
"Ay, the cause of it," she cried impatiently. "Canst do naught but
stare? Am I the mother of a fool? Wilt thou simper and gape and trifle
away thy days whilst that dog-descended Frank tramples thee underfoot,
using thee but as a stepping-stone to the power that should be thine
own? And that be so, Marzak, I would thou hadst been strangled in my
He recoiled before the Italian fury of her, was dully resentful even,
suspecting that in such words from a woman were she twenty times his
mother, there was something dishonouring to his manhood.
"What can I do?" he cried.
"Dost ask me? Art thou not a man to think and act? I tell thee that
misbegotten son of a Christian and a Jew will trample thee in the dust.
He is greedy as the locust, wily as the serpent, and ferocious as the
panther. By Allah! I would I had never borne a son. Rather might men
point at me the finger of scorn and call me mother of the wind than that
I should have brought forth a man who knows not how to be a man."
"Show me the way," he cried. "Set me a task; tell me what to do and
thou shalt not find me lacking, 0 my mother. Until then spare me these
insults, or I come no more to thee."
At this threat that strange woman heaved herself up from her soft couch.
She ran to him and flung her arms about his neck, set her cheek against
his own. Not eighteen years in the Basha's hareem had stifled the
European mother in her, the passionate Sicilian woman, fierce as a tiger
in her maternal love.
"O my child, my lovely boy," she almost sobbed. "It is my fear for thee
that makes me harsh. If I am angry it is but my love that speaks, my
rage for thee to see another come usurping the place beside thy father
that should be thine. Ah! but we will prevail, sweet son of mine. I
shall find a way to return that foreign offal to the dung-heap whence it
sprang. Trust me, 0 Marzak! Sh! Thy father comes. Away! Leave me
alone with him."
She was wise in that, for she knew that alone Asad was more easily
controlled by her, since the pride was absent which must compel him to
turn and rend her did she speak so before others. Marzak vanished
behind the screen of fretted sandalwood that masked one doorway even as
Asad loomed in the other.
He came forward smiling, his slender brown fingers combing his long
beard, his white djellaba trailing behind him along the ground
"Thou hast heard, not a doubt, 0 Fenzileh, said he. "Art thou answered
She sank down again upon her cushions and idly considered herself in a
steel mirror set in silver.
"Answered?" she echoed lazily, with infinite scorn and a hint of
rippling contemptuous laughter running through the word. "Answered
indeed. Sakr-el-Bahr risks the lives of two hundred children of Islam
and a ship that being taken was become the property of the State upon a
voyage to England that has no object but the capturing of two slaves--
two slaves, when had his purpose been sincere, it might have been two
"Ha! And is that all that thou hast heard?" he asked her mocking in his
"All that signifies," she replied, still mirroring herself. "I heard as
a matter of lesser import that on his return, meeting fortuitously a
Frankish ship that chanced to be richly laden, he seized it in thy
"Fortuitously, sayest thou?"
"What else?" She lowered the mirror, and her bold, insolent eyes met his
own quite fearlessly. "Thou'lt not tell me that it was any part of his
design when he went forth?"
He frowned; his head sank slowly in thought. Observing the advantage
gained she thrust it home. "It was a lucky wind that blew that Dutchman
into his path, and luckier still her being so richly fraught that he may
dazzle thine eyes with the sight of gold and gems, and so blind thee to
the real purpose of his voyage."
"Its real purpose?" he asked dully. "What was its real purpose?" She
smiled a smile of infinite knowledge to hide her utter ignorance, her
inability to supply even a reason that should wear an air of truth.
"Dost ask me, 0 perspicuous Asad? Are not thine eyes as sharp, thy wits
as keen at least as mine, that what is clear to me should be hidden from
thee? Or hath this Sakr-el-Bahr bewitched thee with enchantments of
He strode to her and caught her wrist in a cruelly rough grip of his
sinewy old hand.
"His purpose, thou jade! Pour out the foulness of thy mind. Speak!"
She sat up, flushed and defiant.
"I will not speak," said she.
"Thou wilt not? Now, by the Head of Allah! dost dare to stand before my
face and defy me, thy Lord? I'll have thee whipped, Fenzileh. I have
been too tender of thee these many years--so tender that thou hast
forgot the rods that await the disobedient wife. Speak then ere thy
flesh is bruised or speak thereafter, at thy pleasure."
"I will not," she repeated. "Though I be flung to the hooks, not
another word will I say of Sakr-el-Bahr. Shall I unveil the truth to be
spurned and scorned and dubbed a liar and the mother of lies?" Then
abruptly changing she fell to weeping. "O source of my life!" she cried
to him, "how cruelly unjust to me thou art!" She was grovelling now, a
thing of supplest grace, her lovely arms entwining his knees. "When my
love for thee drives me to utter what I see, I earn but thy anger, which
is more than I can endure. I swoon beneath the weight of it."
He flung her off impatiently. "What a weariness is a woman's tongue!"
he cried, and stalked out again, convinced from past experiences that
did he linger he would be whelmed in a torrent of words.
But her poison was shrewdly administered, and slowly did its work. It
abode in his mind to torture him with the doubts that were its very
essence. No reason, however well founded, that she might have urged for
Sakr-el-Bahr's strange conduct could have been half so insidious as her
suggestion that there was a reason. It gave him something vague and
intangible to consider. Something that he could not repel since it had
no substance he could grapple with. Impatiently he awaited the morning
and the coming of Sakr-el-Bahr himself, but he no longer awaited it with
the ardent whole-hearted eagerness as of a father awaiting the coming of
a beloved son.
Sakr-el-Bahr himself paced the poop deck of the carack and watched the
lights perish one by one in the little town that straggled up the
hillside before him. The moon came up and bathed it in a white hard
light, throwing sharp inky shadows of rustling date palm and spearlike
minaret, and flinging shafts of silver athwart the peaceful bay.
His wound was healed and he was fully himself once more. Two days ago
he had come on deck for the first time since the fight with the
Dutchman, and he had spent there the greater portion of the time since
then. Once only had he visited his captives. He had risen from his
couch to repair straight to the cabin in the poop where Rosamund was
confined. He had found her pale and very wistful, but with her courage
entirely unbroken. The Godolphins were a stiff-necked race, and
Rosamund bore in her frail body the spirit of a man. She looked up when
he entered, started a little in surprise to see him at last, for it was
the first time he stood before her since he had carried her off from
Arwenack some four weeks ago. Then she had averted her eyes, and sat
there, elbows on the table, as if carved of wood, as if blind to his
presence and deaf to his words.
To the expressions of regret--and they were sincere, for already he
repented him his unpremeditated act so far as she was concerned--she
returned no slightest answer, gave no sign indeed that she heard a word
of it. Baffled, he stood gnawing his lip a moment, and gradually,
unreasonably perhaps, anger welled up from his heart. He turned and
went out again. Next he had visited his brother, to consider in silence
a moment the haggard, wild-eyed, unshorn wretch who shrank and cowered
before him in the consciousness of guilt. At last he returned to the
deck, and there, as I have said, he spent the greater portion of the
last three days of that strange voyage, reclining for the most part in
the sun and gathering strength from its ardour.
To-night as he paced under the moon a stealthy shadow crept up the
companion to call him gently by his English name--
He started as if a ghost had suddenly leapt up to greet him. It was
Jasper Leigh who hailed him thus.
"Come up," he said. And when the fellow stood before him on the poop--
"I have told you already that here is no Sir Oliver. I am Oliver-Reis
or Sakr-el-Bahr, as you please, one of the Faithful of the Prophet's
House. And now what is your will?"
"Have I not served you faithfully and well?" quoth Captain Leigh.
"Who has denied it?"
"None. But neither has any acknowledged it. When you lay wounded below
it had been an easy thing for me to ha' played the traitor. I might ha'
sailed these ships into the mouth of Tagus. I might so by God!"
"You'ld have been carved in pieces on the spot," said Sakr-el-Bahr.
"I might have hugged the land and run the risk of capture and then
claimed my liberation from captivity."
"And found yourself back on the galleys of his Catholic Majesty. But
there! I grant that you have dealt loyally by me. You have kept your
part of the bond. I shall keep mine, never doubt it."
"I do not. But your part of the bond was to send me home again."
"The hell of it is that I know not where to find a home, I know not
where home may be after all these years. If ye send me forth, I shall
become a wanderer of no account."
"What else am I to do with you?"
"Faith now I am as full weary of Christians and Christendom as you was
yourself when the Muslims took the galley on which you toiled. I am a
man of parts, Sir 0l- Sakr-el-Bahr. No better navigator ever sailed a
ship from an English port, and I ha' seen a mort o' fighting and know
the art of it upon the sea. Can ye make naught of me here?"
"You would become a renegade like me? "His tone was bitter.
"I ha' been thinking that 'renegade' is a word that depends upon which
side you're on. "I'd prefer to say that I've a wish to be converted to
the faith of Mahound."
"Converted to the faith of piracy and plunder and robbery upon the seas
is what you mean," said Sakr-el-Bahr.
"Nay, now. To that I should need no converting, for all that I were
afore," Captain Leigh admitted frankly. "I ask but to sail under
another flag than the Jolly Roger."
"You'll need to abjure strong drink," said Sakr-el-Bahr.
"There be compensations," said Master Leigh.
Sakr-el-Bahr considered. The rogue's appeal smote a responsive chord in
his heart. It would be good to have a man of his own race beside him,
even though it were but such a rascal as this.
"Be it as you will," he said at last. "You deserve to be hanged in
spite of what promises I made you. But no matter for that. So that you
become a Muslim I will take you to serve beside me, one of my own
lieutenants to begin with, and so long as you are loyal to me, Jasper,
all will be well. But at the first sign of faithlessness, a rope and
the yard-arm, my friend, and an airy dance into hell for you."
The rascally skipper stooped in his emotion, caught up Sakr-el-Bahr's
hand and bore it to his lips. "It is agreed," he said. "Ye have shown
me mercy who have little deserved it from you. Never fear for my
loyalty. My life belongs to you, and worthless thing though it may be,
ye may do with it as ye please."
Despite himself Sakr-el-Bahr tightened his grip upon the rogue's hand,
and Jasper shuffled off and down the companion again, touched to the
heart for once in his rough villainous life by a clemency that he knew
to be undeserved, but which he swore should be deserved ere all was
It took no less than forty camels to convey the cargo of that Dutch
argosy from the mole to the Kasbah, and the procession--carefully
marshalled by Sakr-el-Bahr, who knew the value of such pageants to
impress the mob--was such as never yet had been seen in the narrow
streets of Algiers upon the return of any corsair. It was full worthy
of the greatest Muslim conqueror that sailed the seas, of one who, not
content to keep to the tideless Mediterranean as had hitherto been the
rule of his kind, had ventured forth upon the wider ocean.
Ahead marched a hundred of his rovers in their short caftans of every
conceivable colour, their waists swathed in gaudy scarves, some of which
supported a very arsenal of assorted cutlery; many wore body armour of
mail and the gleaming spike of a casque thrust up above their turbans.
After them, dejected and in chains, came the five score prisoners taken
aboard the Dutchman, urged along by the whips of the corsairs who
flanked them. Then marched another regiment of corsairs, and after
these the long line of stately, sneering camels, shuffling cumbrously
along and led by shouting Saharowis. After them followed yet more
corsairs, and then mounted, on a white Arab jennet, his head swathed in
a turban of cloth of gold, came Sakr-el-Bahr. In the narrower streets,
with their white and yellow washed houses, which presented blank
windowless walls broken here and there by no more than a slit to admit
light and air, the spectators huddled themselves fearfully into doorways
to avoid being crushed to death by the camels, whose burdens bulging on
either side entirely filled those narrow ways. But the more open
spaces, such as the strand on either side of the mole, the square before
the sôk, and the approaches of Asad's fortress, were thronged with a
motley roaring crowd. There were stately Moors in flowing robes cheek
by jowl with half-naked blacks from the Sus and the Draa; lean, enduring
Arabs in their spotless white djellabas rubbed shoulders with Berbers
from the highlands in black camel-hair cloaks; there were Levantine
Turks, and Jewish refugees from Spain ostentatiously dressed in European
garments, tolerated there because bound to the Moor by ties of common
suffering and common exile from that land that once had been their
Under the glaring African sun this amazing crowd stood assembled to
welcome Sakr-el-Bahr; and welcome him it did, with such vocal thunder
that an echo of it from the mole reached the very Kasbah on the hilltop
to herald his approach.
By the time, however, that he reached the fortress his procession had
dwindled by more than half. At the sôk his forces had divided, and his
corsairs, headed by Othmani, had marched the captives away to the
bagnio--or banyard, as my Lord Henry calls it--whilst the camels had
continued up the hill. Under the great gateway of the Kasbah they
padded into the vast courtyard to be ranged along two sides of it by
their Saharowi drivers, and there brought clumsily to their knees.
After them followed but some two score corsairs as a guard of honour to
their leader. They took their stand upon either side of the gateway
after profoundly salaaming to Asad-ed-Din. The Basha sat in the shade
of an awning enthroned upon a divan, attended by his wazeer Tsamanni and
by Marzak, and guarded by a half-dozen janissaries, whose sable garments
made an effective background to the green and gold of his jewelled
robes. In his white turban glowed an emerald cresent.
The Basha's countenance was dark and brooding as he watched the advent
of that line of burdened camels. His thoughts were still labouring with
the doubt of Sakr-el-Bahr which Fenzileh's crafty speech and craftier
reticence had planted in them. But at sight of the corsair leader
himself his countenance cleared suddenly, his eyes sparkled, and he rose
to his feet to welcome him as a father might welcome a son who had been
through perils on a service dear to both.
Sakr-el-Bahr entered the courtyard on foot, having dismounted at the
gate. Tall and imposing, with his head high and his forked beard
thrusting forward, he stalked with great dignity to the foot of the
divan followed by Ali and a mahogany-faced fellow, turbaned and
red-bearded, in whom it needed more than a glance to recognize the
rascally Jasper Leigh, now in all the panoply of your complete renegado.
Sakr-el-Bahr went down upon his knees and prostrated himself solemnly
before his prince.
"The blessing of Allah and His peace upon thee, my lord," was his
And Asad, stooping to lift that splendid figure in his arms, gave him a
welcome that caused the spying Fenzileh to clench her teeth behind the
fretted lattice that concealed her.
"The praise to Allah and to our Lord Mahomet that thou art returned and
in health, my son. Already hath my old heart been gladdened by the news
of thy victories in the service of the Faith."
Then followed the display of all those riches wrested from the Dutch,
and greatly though Asad's expectations had been fed already by Othmani,
the sight now spread before his eyes by far exceeded all those
In the end all was dismissed to the treasury, and Tsamanni was bidden to
go cast up the account of it and mark the share that fell to the portion
of those concerned--for in these ventures all were partners, from the
Basha himself, who represented the State down to the meanest corsair who
had manned the victorious vessels of the Faith, and each had his share
of the booty, greater or less according to his rank, one twentieth of
the total falling to Sakr-el-Bahr himself.
In the courtyard were left none but Asad, Marzak and the janissaries,
and Sakr-el-Bahr with Ali and Jasper. It was then that Sakr-el-Bahr
presented his new officer to the Bashal as one upon whom the grace of
Allah had descended, a great fighter and a skilled seaman, who had
offered up his talents and his life to the service of Islam, who had
been accepted by Sakr-el-Bahr, and stood now before Asad to be confirmed
in his office.
Marzak interposed petulantly, to exclaim that already were there too
many erstwhile Nasrani dogs in the ranks of the soldiers of the Faith,
and that it was unwise to increase their number and presumptuous in
Sakr-el-Bahr to take so much upon himself.
Sakr-el-Bahr measured him with an eye in which scorn and surprise were
"Dost say that it is presumptuous to win a convert to the banner of Our
Lord Mahomet?" quoth he. "Go read the Most Perspicuous Book and see
what is there enjoined as a duty upon every True-Believer. And bethink
thee, 0 son of Asad, that when thou dost in thy little wisdom cast scorn
upon those whom Allah has blessed and led from the night wherein they
dwelt into the bright noontide of Faith, thou dost cast scorn upon me
and upon thine own mother, which is but a little matter, and thou dost
blaspheme the Blessed name of Allah, which is to tread the ways that
lead unto the Pit."
Angry but defeated and silenced, Marzak fell back a step and stood
biting his lip and glowering upon the corsair, what time Asad nodded his
head and smiled approval
"Verily art thou full learned in the True Belief, Sakr-el-Bahr," he
said. "Thou art the very father of wisdom as of valour." And thereupon
he gave welcome to Master Leigh, whom he hailed to the ranks of the
Faithful under the designation of Jasper-Reis.
That done, the renegade and Ali were both dismissed, as were also the
janissaries, who, quitting their position behind Asad, went to take
their stand on guard at the gateway. Then the Basha beat his hands
together, and to the slaves who came in answer to his summons he gave
orders to set food, and he bade Sakr-el-Bahr to come sit beside him on
Water was brought that they might wash. That done, the slaves placed
before them a savoury stew of meat and eggs with olives, limes, and
Asad broke bread with a reverently pronounced "Bismillah!" and dipped
his fingers into the earthenware bowl, leading the way for Sakr-el-Bahr
and Marzak, and as they ate he invited the corsair himself to recite the
tale of his adventure.
When he had done so, and again Asad had praised him in high and loving
terms, Marzak set him a question.
"Was it to obtain just these two English slaves that thou didst
undertake this perilous voyage to that distant land?"
"That was but a part of my design," was the calm reply. "I went to rove
the seas in the Prophet's service, as the result of my voyage gives
"Thou didst not know that this Dutch argosy would cross thy path," said
Marzak, in the very words his mother had prompted him.
"Did I not?" quoth Sakr-el-Bahr, and he smiled confidently, so
confidently that Asad scarce needed to hear the words that so cunningly
gave the lie to the innuendo. "Had I no trust in Allah the All-wise,
"Well answered, by the Koran!" Asad approved him heartily, the more
heartily since it rebutted insinuations which he desired above all to
But Marzak did not yet own himself defeated. He had been soundly
schooled by his guileful Sicilian mother.
"Yet there is something in all this I do not understand," he murmured,
with false gentleness.
"All things are possible to Allah!" said Sakr-el-Bahr, in tones of
incredulity, as if he suggested--not without a suspicion of irony--that
it was incredible there should be anything in all the world that could
elude the penetration of Marzak.
The youth bowed to him in acknowledgment. "Tell me, 0 mighty
Sakr-el-Bahr," he begged, "how it came to pass that having reached those
distant shores thou wert content to take thence but two poor slaves,
since with thy followers and the favour of the All-seeing thou might
easily have taken fifty times that number." And he looked ingenuously
into the corsair's swarthy, rugged face, whilst Asad frowned
thoughtfully, for the thought was one that had occurred to him already.
It became necessary that Sakr-el-Bahr should lie to clear himself. Here
no high-sounding phrase of Faith would answer. And explanation was
unavoidable, and he was conscious that he could not afford one that did
not go a little lame.
"Why, as to that," said he, "these prisoners were wrested from the first
house upon which we came, and their capture occasioned some alarm.
Moreover, it was night-time when we landed, and I dared not adventure
the lives of my followers by taking them further from the ship and
attacking a village which might have risen to cut off our good retreat."
The frown remained stamped upon the brow of Asad, as Marzak slyly
"Yet Othmani," said he, "urged thee to fall upon a slumbering village
all unconscious of thy presence, and thou didst refuse."
Asad looked up sharply at that, and Sakr-el-Bahr realized with a
tightening about the heart something of the undercurrents at work
against him and all the pains that had been taken to glean information
that might be used to his undoing.
"Is it so?" demanded Asad, looking from his son to his lieutenant with
that lowering look that rendered his face evil and cruel.
Sakr-el-Bahr took a high tone. He met Asad's glance with an eye of
"And if it were so my lord?" he demanded.
"I asked thee is it so?"
"Ay, but knowing thy wisdom I disbelieved my ears," said Sakr-el-Bahr.
"Shall it signify what Othmani may have said? Do I take my orders or am
I to be guided by Othmani? If so, best set Othmani in my place, give
him the command and the responsibility for the lives of the Faithful who
fight beside him." He ended with an indignant snort.
"Thou art over-quick to anger," Asad reproved him, scowling still
"And by the Head of Allah, who will deny my right to it? Am I to
conduct such an enterprise as this from which I am returned laden with
spoils that might well be the fruits of a year's raiding, to be
questioned by a beardless stripling as to why I was not guided by
He heaved himself up and stood towering there in the intensity of a
passion that was entirely simulated. He must bluster here, and crush
down suspicion with whorling periods and broad, fierce gesture.
"To what should Othmani have guided me?" he demanded scornfully. "Could
he have guided me to more than I have this day laid at thy feet? What I
have done speaks eloquently with its own voice. What he would have had
me do might well have ended in disaster. Had it so ended, would the
blame of it have fallen upon Othmani? Nay, by Allah! but upon me. And
upon me rests then the credit, and let none dare question it without
Now these were daring words to address to the tyrant Asad, and still
more daring was the tone, the light hard eyes aflash and the sweeping
gestures of contempt with which they were delivered. But of his
ascendancy over the Basha there was no doubt. And here now was proof of
Asad almost cowered before his fury. The scowl faded from his face to
be replaced by an expression of dismay.
"Nay, nay, Sakr-el-Bahr, this tone!" he cried.
Sakr-el-Bahr, having slammed the door of conciliation in the face of the
Basha, now opened it again. He became instantly submissive.
"Forgive it," he said. "Blame the devotion of thy servant to thee and
to the Faith he serves with little reck to life. In this very
expedition was I wounded nigh unto death. The livid scar of it is a
dumb witness to my zeal. Where are thy scars, Marzak?"
Marzak quailed before the sudden blaze of that question, and
Sakr-el-Bahr laughed softly in contempt.
"Sit," Asad bade him. "I have been less than just."
"Thou art the very fount and spring of justice, 0 my lord, as this thine
admission proves," protested the corsair. He sat down again, folding
his legs under him. "I will confess to you that being come so near to
England in that cruise of mine I determined to land and seize one who
some years ago did injure me, and between whom and me there was a score
to settle. I exceeded my intentions in that I carried off two prisoners
instead of one. These prisoners," he ran on, judging that the moment of
reaction in Asad's mind was entirely favourable to the preferment of the
request he had to make, "are not in the bagnio with the others. They
are still confined aboard the carack I seized."
"And why is this?" quoth Asad, but without suspicion now.
"Because, my lord, I have a boon to ask in some reward for the service I
"Ask it, my son."
"Give me leave to keep these captives for myself."
Asad considered him, frowning again slightly. Despite himself, despite
his affection for Sakr-el-Bahr, and his desire to soothe him now that
rankling poison of Fenzileh's infusing was at work again in his mind.
"My leave thou hast," said he. "But not the law's, and the law runs
that no corsair shall subtract so much as the value of an asper from his
booty until the division has been made and his own share allotted him,"
was the grave answer.
"The law?" quoth Sakr-el-Bahr. "But thou art the law, exalted lord."
"Not so, my son. The law is above the Basha, who must himself conform
to it so that he be just and worthy of his high office. And the law I
have recited thee applies even should the corsair raider be the Basha
himself. These slaves of thine must forthwith be sent to the bagnio to
join the others that tomorrow all may be sold in the sôk. See it done,
The corsair would have renewed his pleadings, but that his eye caught
the eager white face of Marzak and the gleaming expectant eyes, looking
so hopefully for his ruin. He checked, and bowed his head with an
assumption of indifference.
"Name thou their price then, and forthwith will I pay it into thy