Part 4 out of 7
But Asad shook his head. "It is not for me to name their price, but for
the buyers," he replied. "I might set the price too high, and that were
unjust to thee, or too low, and that were unjust to others who would
acquire them. Deliver them over to the bagnio."
"It shall be done," said Sakr-el-Bahr, daring to insist no further and
dissembling his chagrin.
Very soon thereafter he departed upon that errand, giving orders,
however, that Rosamund and Lionel should be kept apart from the other
prisoners until the hour of the sale on the morrow when perforce they
must take their place with the rest.
Marzak lingered with his father after Oliver had taken his leave, and
presently they were joined there in the courtyard by Fenzileh--this
woman who had brought, said many, the Frankish ways of Shaitan into
MOTHER AND SON
Early on the morrow--so early that scarce had the Shehad been recited--
came Biskaine-el-Borak to the Basha. He had just landed from a galley
which had come upon a Spanish fishing boat, aboard of which there was a
young Morisco who was being conducted over seas to Algiers. The news of
which the fellow was the bearer was of such urgency that for twenty
hours without intermission the slaves had toiled at the oars of
Biskaine's vessel--the capitana of his fleet--to bring her swiftly home.
The Morisco had a cousin--a New-Christian like himself, and like
himself, it would appear, still a Muslim at heart--who was employed in
the Spanish treasury at Malaga. This man had knowledge that a galley
was fitting out for sea to convey to Naples the gold destined for the
pay of the Spanish troops in garrison there. Through parsimony this
treasure-galley was to be afforded no escort, but was under orders to
hug the coast of Europe, where she should be safe from all piratical
surprise. It was judged that she would be ready to put to sea in a
week, and the Morisco had set out at once to bring word of it to his
Algerine brethren that they might intercept and capture her.
Asad thanked the young Morisco for his news, bade him be housed and
cared for, and promised him a handsome share of the plunder should the
treasure-galley be captured. That done he sent for Sakr-el-Bahr, whilst
Marzak, who had been present at the interview, went with the tale of it
to his mother, and beheld her fling into a passion when he added that it
was Sakr-el-Bahr had been summoned that he might be entrusted with this
fresh expedition, thus proving that all her crafty innuendoes and
insistent warnings had been so much wasted labour.
With Marzak following at her heels, she swept like a fury into the
darkened room where Asad took his ease.
"What is this I hear, 0 my lord?" she cried, in tone and manner more the
European shrew than the submissive Eastern slave. "Is Sakr-el-Bahr to
go upon this expedition against the treasure-galley of Spain?"
Reclining on his divan he looked her up and down with a languid eye.
"Dost know of any better fitted to succeed?" quoth he.
"I know of one whom it is my lord's duty to prefer to that foreign
adventurer. One who is entirely faithful and entirely to be trusted.
One who does not attempt to retain for himself a portion of the booty
garnered in the name of Islam."
"Bah!" said Asad. "Wilt thou talk forever of those two slaves? And who
may be this paragon of thine?"
"Marzak," she answered fiercely, flinging out an arm to drag forward her
son." Is he to waste his youth here in softness and idleness? But
yesternight that ribald mocked him with his lack of scars. Shall he
take scars in the orchard of the Kasbah here? Is he to be content with
those that come from the scratch of a bramble, or is he to learn to be a
fighter and leader of the Children of the Faith that himself he may
follow in the path his father trod?"
"Whether he so follows," said Asad, "is as the Sultan of Istambul, the
Sublime Portal, shall decree. We are but his vicegerents here."
"But shall the Grand Sultan appoint him to succeed thee if thou hast not
equipped him so to do? I cry shame on thee, 0 father of Marzakl, for
that thou art lacking in due pride in thine own son."
"May Allah give me patience with thee! Have I not said that he is still
"At his age thyself thou wert upon the seas, serving with the great
"At his age I was, by the favour of Allah, taller and stronger than is
he. I cherish him too dearly to let him go forth and perchance be lost
to me before his strength is full grown."
"Look at him" she commanded. "He is a man, Asad, and such a son as
another might take pride in. Is it not time he girt a scimitar about
his waist and trod the poop of one of thy galleys?"
"Indeed, indeed, 0 my father!" begged Marzak himself.
"What?" barked the old Moor. "And is it so? And wouldst thou go forth
then against the Spaniard? What knowledge hast thou that shall equip
thee for such a task?"
"What can his knowledge be since his father has never been concerned to
school him?" returned Fenzileh. "Dost thou sneer at shortcomings that
are the natural fruits of thine own omissions?"
"I will be patient with thee," said Asad, showing every sign of losing
patience. "I will ask thee only if in thy judgment he is in case to win
a victory for Islam? Answer me straightly now."
"Straightly I answer thee that he is not. And, as straightly, I tell
thee that it is full time he were. Thy duty is to let him go upon this
expedition that he may learn the trade that lies before him."
Asad considered a moment. Then: "Be it so," he answered slowly. "Shalt
set forth, then, with Sakr-el-Bahr, my son."
"With Sakr-el-Bahr?" cried Fenzilch aghast.
"I could find him no better preceptor."
"Shall thy son go forth as the servant of another?"
"As the pupil," Asad amended. "What else?"
"Were I a man, 0 fountain of my soul," said she, and had I a son, none
but myself should be his preceptor. I should so mould and fashion him
that he should be another me. That, 0 my dear lord, is thy duty to
Marzak. Entrust not his training to another and to one whom despite thy
love for him I cannot trust. Go forth thyself upon this expedition with
Marzak here for thy kayia."
Asad frowned. "I grow too old," he said. "I have not been upon the
seas these two years past. Who can say that I may not have lost the art
of victory. No, no." He shook his head, and his face grew overcast and
softened by wistfulness. "Sakr-el-Bahr commands this time, and if
Marzak goes, he goes with him."
"My lord...." she began, then checked. A Nubian had entered to announce
that Sakr-el-Bahr was come and was awaiting the orders of his lord in
the courtyard. Asad rose instantly and for all that Fenzileh, greatly
daring as ever, would still have detained him, he shook her off
impatiently, and went out.
She watched his departure with anger in those dark lovely eyes of hers,
an anger that went near to filming them in tears, and after he had
passed out into the glaring sunshine beyond the door, a silence dwelt in
the cool darkened chamber--a silence disturbed only by distant trills of
silvery laughter from the lesser women of the Basha's house. The sound
jarred her taut nerves. She moved with an oath and beat her hands
together. To answer her came a negress, lithe and muscular as a
wrestler and naked to the waist; the slave ring in her ear was of
"Bid them make an end of that screeching," she snapped to vent some of
her fierce petulance. "Tell them I will have the rods to them if they
again disturb me."
The negress went out, and silence followed, for those other lesser
ladies of the Basha's hareem were more obedient to the commands of
Fenzileh than to those of the Basha himself.
Then she drew her son to the fretted lattice commanding the courtyard, a
screen from behind which they could see and hear all that passed out
yonder. Asad was speaking, informing Sakr-el-Bahr of what he had
learnt, and what there was to do.
"How soon canst thou put to sea again?" he ended
"As soon as the service of Allah and thyself require," was the prompt
"It is well, my son." Asad laid a hand, affectionately upon the
corsair's shoulder, entirely conquered by this readiness. "Best set out
at sunrise to-morrow. Thou'lt need so long to make thee ready for the
"Then by thy leave I go forthwith to give orders to prepare," replied
Sakr-el-Bahr, for all that he was a little troubled in his mind by this
need to depart again so soon.
"What galleys shalt thou take?"
"To capture one galley of Spain? My own galeasse, no more; she will be
full equal to such an enterprise, and I shall be the better able, then,
to lurk and take cover--a thing which might well prove impossible with a
"Ay--thou art wise in thy daring," Asad approved him. "May Allah
prosper thee upon the voyage."
"Have I thv leave to go?"
"A moment yet. There is my son Marzak. He is approaching manhood, and
it is time he entered the service of Allah and the State. It is my
desire that he sail as thy lieutenant on this voyage, and that thou be
his preceptor even as I was thine of old."
Now here was something that pleased Sakr-el-Bahr as little as it pleased
Marzak. Knowing the bitter enmity borne him by the son of Fenzileh he
had every cause to fear trouble if this project of Asad's were realized.
"As I was thine of old!" he answered with crafty wistfulness. "Wilt
thou not put to sea with us to-morrow, 0 Asad? There is none like thee
in all Islam,, and what a joy were it not to stand beside thee on the
prow as of old when we grapple with the Spaniard."
Asad considered him. "Dost thou, too, urge this?" quoth he.
"Have others urged it?" The man's sharp wits, rendered still sharper by
his sufferings, were cutting deeply and swiftly into this matter. "They
did well, but none could have urged it more fervently than I, for none
knows so well as I the joy of battle against the infidel under thy
command and the glory of prevailing in thy sight. Come, then, my lord,
upon this enterprise, and be thyself thine own son's preceptor since
'tis the highest honour thou canst bestow upon him."
Thoughtfully Asad stroked his long white beard, his eagle eyes growing
narrow. "Thou temptest me, by Allah!"
"Let me do more...."
"Nay, more thou canst not. I am old and worn, and I am needed here.
Shall an old lion hunt a young gazelle? Peace, peace! The sun has set
upon my fighting day. Let the brood of fighters I have raised up keep
that which my arm conquered and maintain my name and the glory of the
Faith upon the seas." He leaned upon Sakr-el-Bahr's shoulder and
sighed, his eyes wistfully dreamy. "It were a fond adventure in good
truth. But no...I am resolved. Go thou and take Marzak with thee, and
bring him safely home again."
"I should not return myself else," was the answer. "But my trust is in
Upon that he departed, dissembling his profound vexation both at the
voyage and the company, and went to bid Othmani make ready his great
galeasse, equipping it with carronades, three hundred slaves to row it,
and three hundred fighting men.
Asad-el-Din returned to that darkened room in the Kasbah overlooking the
courtyard, where Fenzileh and Marzak still lingered. He went to tell
them that in compliance with the desires of both Marzak should go forth
to prove himself upon this expedition.
But where he had left impatience he found thinly veiled wrath
"0 sun that warms me," Fenzileh greeted him, and from long experience he
knew that the more endearing were her epithets the more vicious was her
mood, "do then my counsels weigh as naught with thee, are they but as
the dust upon thy shoes?"
"Less," said Asad, provoked out of his habitual indulgence of her
licences of speech.
"That is the truth, indeed!" she cried, bowing her head, whilst behind
her the handsome face of her son was overcast.
"It is," Asad agreed. "At dawn, Marzak, thou settest forth upon the
galeasse of Sakr-el-Bahr to take the seas under his tutelage and to
emulate the skill and valour that have rendered him the stoutest bulwark
of Islam, the very javelin of Allah."
But Marzak felt that in this matter his mother was to be supported,
whilst his detestation of this adventurer who threatened to usurp the
place that should rightly be his own spurred him to mad lengths of
"When I take the seas with that dog-descended Nasrani," he answered
hoarsely, "he shall be where rightly he belongs--at the rowers' bench."
"How?" It was a bellow of rage. Upon the word Asad swung to confront
his son, and his face, suddenly inflamed, was so cruel and evil in its
expression that it terrified that intriguing pair. "By the beard of the
Prophet! what words are these to me?" He advanced upon Marzak until
Fenzileh in sudden terror stepped between and faced him, like a lioness
springing to defend her cub. But the Basha, enraged now by this want of
submission in his son, enraged both against that son and the mother who
he knew had prompted him, caught her in his sinewy old hands, and flung
her furiously aside, so that she stumbled and fell in a panting heap
amid the cushions of her divan.
"The curse of Allah upon thee!" he screamed, and Marzak recoiled before
him. "Has this presumptuous hellcat who bore thee taught thee to stand
before my face, to tell me what thou wilt and wilt not do? By the
Koran! too long have I endured her evil foreign ways, and now it seems
she has taught thee how to tread them after her and how to beard thy
very father! To-morrow thou'lt take the sea with Sakr-el-Bahr, I have
said it. Another word and thou'lt go aboard his galeasse even as thou
saidst should be the case with him--at the rowers' bench, to learn
submission under the slave master's whip."
Terrified, Marzak stood numb and silent, scarcely daring to draw breath.
Never in all his life had he seen his father in a rage so royal. Yet it
seemed to inspire no fear in Fenzileh, that congenital shrew whose
tongue not even the threat of rods or hooks could silence.
"I shall pray Allah to restore sight to thy soul, 0 father of Marzak,"
she panted," to teach thee to discriminate between those that love thee
and the self-seekers that abuse thy trust."
"How!" he roared at her. "Art not yet done?
"Nor ever shall be until I am lain dumb in death for having counselled
thee out of my great love, 0 light of these poor eyes of mine."
"Maintain this tone," he said, with concentrated anger, "and that will
"I care not so that the sleek mask be plucked from the face of that
dog-descended Sakr-el-Bahr. May Allah break his bones! What of those
slaves of his--those two from England, 0 Asad? I am told that one is a
woman, tall and of that white beauty which is the gift of Eblis to these
Northerners. What is his purpose with her--that he would not show her
in the suk as the law prescribes, but comes slinking here to beg thee
set aside the law for him? Ha! I talk in vain. I have shown thee
graver things to prove his vile disloyalty, and yet thou'lt fawn upon
him whilst thy fangs are bared to thine own son."
He advanced upon her, stooped, caught her by the wrist, and heaved her
His face showed grey under its deep tan. His aspect terrified her at
last and made an end of her reckless forward courage.
He raised his voice to call.
"Ya anta! Ayoub!"
She gasped, livid in her turn with sudden terror. "My lord, my lord!"
she whimpered. "Stream of my life, be not angry! What wilt thou do?"
He smiled evilly. "Do?" he growled. "What I should have done ten years
ago and more. We'll have the rods to thee." And again he called, more
"My lord, my lord!" she gasped in shuddering horror now that at last she
found him set upon the thing to which so often she had dared him.
"Pity! Pity!" She grovelled and embraced his knees. "In the name of
the Pitying the Pitiful be merciful upon the excesses to which my love
for thee may have driven this poor tongue of mine. 0 my sweet lord! 0
father of Marzak!"
Her distress, her beauty, and perhaps, more than either, her unusual
humility and submission may have moved him. For even as at that moment
Ayoub--the sleek and portly eunuch, who was her wazeer and chamberlain--
loomed in the inner doorway, salaaming, he vanished again upon the
instant, dismissed by a peremptory wave of the Basha's hand.
Asad looked down upon her, sneering. "That attitude becomes thee best,"
he said. "Continue it in future." Contemptuously he shook himself free
of her grasp, turned and stalked majestically out, wearing his anger
like a royal mantle, and leaving behind him two terror-shaken beings,
who felt as if they had looked over the very edge of death.
There was a long silence between them. Then at long length Fenzileh
rose and crossed to the meshra-biyah--the latticed window-box. She
opened it and took from one of its shelves an earthenware jar,
placed there so as to receive the slightest breeze. From it she poured
water into a little cup and drank greedily. That she could perform this
menial service for herself when a mere clapping of hands would have
brought slaves to minister to her need betrayed something of her
disordered state of mind.
She slammed the inner lattice and turned to Marzak. "And now?" quoth
"Now?" said the lad.
"Ay, what now? What are we to do? Are we to lie crushed under his rage
until we are ruined indeed? He is bewitched. That jackal has enchanted
him, so that he must deem well done all that is done by him. Allah
guide us here, Marzak, or thou'lt be trampled into dust by
Marzak hung his head; slowly he moved to the divan and flung himself
down upon its pillows; there he lay prone, his hands cupping his chin,
his heels in the air.
"What can I do?" he asked at last.
"That is what I most desire to know. Something must be done, and soon.
May his bones rot! If he lives thou art destroyed."
"Ay," said Marzak, with sudden vigour and significance. "If he lives!"
And he sat up. "Whilst we plan and plot, and our plans and plots come
to naught save to provoke the anger of my father, we might be better
employed in taking the shorter way."
She stood in the middle of the chamber, pondering him with gloomy eyes
"I too have thought of that," said she. "I could hire me men to do the
thing for a handful of gold. But the risk of it...."
"Where would be the risk once he is dead?"
"He might pull us down with him, and then what would our profit be in
his death? Thy father would avenge him terribly."
"If it were craftily done we should not be discovered."
"Not be discovered?" she echoed, and laughed without mirth. "How young
and blind thou art, 0 Marzak! We should be the first to be suspected.
I have made no secret of my hate of him, and the people do not love me.
They would urge thy father to do justice even were he himself averse to
it, which I will not credit would be the case. This Sakr-el-Bahr--
may Allah wither him!--is a god in their eyes. Bethink thee of the
welcome given him! What Basha returning in triumph was ever greeted by
the like? These victories that fortune has vouchsafed him have made
them account him divinely favoured and protected. I tell thee, Marzak,
that did thy father die to-morrow Sakr-el-Bahr would be proclaimed Basha
of Algiers in his stead, and woe betide us then. And Asad-el-Din grows
old. True, he does not go forth to fight. He clings to life and may
last long. But if he should not, and if Sakr-el-Bahr should still walk
the earth when thy father's destiny is fulfilled, I dare not think what
then will be thy fate and mine."
"May his grave be defiled!" growled Matzak.
"His grave?" said she. "The difficulty is to dig it for him without
hurt to ourselves. Shaitan protects the dog."
"May he make his bed in hell!" said Marzak.
"To curse him will not help us. Up, Marzak, and consider how the thing
is to be done."
Marzak came to his feet, nimble and supple as a greyhound. "Listen
now," he said. "Since I must go this voyage with him, perchance upon
the seas on some dark night opportunity may serve me."
"Wait! Let me consider it. Allah guide me to find some way!" She beat
her hands together and bade the slave girl who answered her to summon
her wazeer Ayoub, and bid a litter be prepared for her. "We'll to the
sôk, 0 Marzak, and see these slaves of his. Who knows but that
something may be done by means of them! Guile will serve us better than
mere strength against that misbegotten son of shame."
"May his house be destroyed!" said Marzak.
The open space before the gates of the sôk-el-Abeed was thronged with a
motley, jostling, noisy crowd that at every moment was being swelled by
the human streams pouring to mingle in it from the debauching labyrinth
of narrow, unpaved streets.
There were brown-skinned Berbers in black goat-hair cloaks that were
made in one piece with a cowl and decorated by a lozenge of red or
orange colour on the back, their shaven heads encased in skull-caps or
simply bound in a cord of plaited camel-hair; there were black Saharowi
who went almost naked, and stately Arabs who seemed overmuffled in their
flowing robes of white with the cowls overshadowing their swarthy,
finely featured faces; there were dignified and prosperous-looking Moors
in brightly coloured selhams astride of sleek mules that were richly
caparisoned; and there were Tagareenes, the banished Moors of Andalusia,
most of whom followed the trade of slave-dealers; there were native Jews
in sombre black djellabas, and Christian-Jews--so-called because bred in
Christian countries, whose garments they still wore; there were
Levantine Turks, splendid of dress and arrogant of demeanour, and there
were humble Cololies, Kabyles and Biscaries. Here a water-seller, laden
with his goatskin vessel, tinkled his little bell; there an
orange-hawker, balancing a basket of the golden fruit upon his ragged
turban, bawled his wares. There were men on foot and men on mules, men
on donkeys and men on slim Arab horses, an ever-shifting medley of
colours, all jostling, laughing, cursing in the ardent African sunshine
under the blue sky where pigeons circled. In the shadow of the yellow
tapia wall squatted a line of whining beggars and cripples soliciting
alms; near the gates a little space had been cleared and an audience had
gathered in a ring about a Meddah--a beggar-troubadour--who, to the
accompaniment of gimbri and gaitah from two acolytes, chanted a doleful
ballad in a thin, nasal voice.
Those of the crowd who were patrons of the market held steadily amain,
and, leaving their mounts outside, passed through the gates through
which there was no admittance for mere idlers and mean folk. Within the
vast quadrangular space of bare, dry ground, enclosed by dust-coloured
walls, there was more space. The sale of slaves had not yet begun and
was not due to begin for another hour, and meanwhile a little trading
was being done by those merchants who had obtained the coveted right to
set up their booths against the walls; they were vendors of wool, of
fruit, of spices, and one or two traded in jewels and trinkets for the
adornment of the Faithful.
A well was sunk in the middle of the ground, a considerable octagon with
a low parapet in three steps. Upon the nethermost of these sat an aged,
bearded Jew in a black djellaba, his head swathed in a coloured
kerchief. Upon his knees reposed a broad, shallow black box, divided
into compartments, each filled with lesser gems and rare stones, which
he was offering for sale; about him stood a little group of young Moors
and one or two Turkish officers, with several of whom the old Israelite
was haggling at once.
The whole of the northern wall was occupied by a long penthouse, its
contents completely masked by curtains of camel-hair; from behind it
proceeded a subdued murmur of human voices. These were the pens in
which were confined the slaves to be offered for sale that day. Before
the curtains, on guard, stood some dozen corsairs with attendant negro
Beyond and above the wall glistened the white dome of a zowia, flanked
by a spear-like minaret and the tall heads of a few date palms whose
long leaves hung motionless in the hot air.
Suddenly in the crowd beyond the gates there was a commotion. From one
of the streets six colossal Nubians advanced with shouts of--
"0ak! 0ak! Warda! Way! Make way!"
They were armed with great staves, grasped in their two hands, and with
these they broke a path through that motley press, hurling men to right
and left and earning a shower of curses in return.
"Balâk! Make way! Way for the Lord Asad-ed-Din, the exalted of Allah!
The crowd, pressing back, went down upon its knees and grovelled as
Asad-ed-Din on a milk-white mule rode forward, escorted by Tsamanni his
wazeer and a cloud of black-robed janissaries with flashing scimitars.
The curses that had greeted the violence of his negroes were suddenly
silenced; instead, blessings as fervent filled the air.
"May Allah increase thy might! May Allah lengthen thy days! The
blessings of our Lord Mahomet upon thee! Allah send thee more
victories!" were the benedictions that showered upon him on every hand.
He returned them as became a man who was supremely pious and devout.
"The peace of Allah upon the Faithful of the Prophet's House," he would
murmur in response from time to time, until at last he had reached the
gates. There he bade Tsamanni fling a purse to the crouching beggars--
for is it not written in the Most Perspicuous Book that of alms ye shall
bestow what ye can spare, for such as are saved from their own greed
shall prosper, and whatever ye give in alms, as seeking the face of
Allah shall be doubled unto you?
Submissive to the laws as the meanest of his subjects, Asad dismounted
and passed on foot into the sôk. He came to a halt by the well, and,
facing the curtained penthouse, he blessed the kneeling crowd and
commanded all to rise.
He beckoned Sakr-el-Bahr's officer Ali--who was in charge of the slaves
of the corsair's latest raid and announced his will to inspect the
captives. At a sign from Ali, the negroes flung aside the camel-hair
curtains and let the fierce sunlight beat in upon those pent-up
wretches; they were not only the captives taken by Sakr-el-Bahr, but
some others who were the result of one or two lesser raids by Biskaine.
Asad beheld a huddle of men and women--though the proportion of women
was very small--of all ages, races, and conditions; there were pale
fair-haired men from France or the North, olive-skinned Italians and
swarthy Spaniards, negroes and half-castes; there were old men, young
men and mere children, some handsomely dressed, some almost naked,
others hung with rags. In the hopeless dejection of their countenances
alone was there any uniformity. But it was not a dejection that could
awaken pity in the pious heart of Asad. They were unbelievers who would
never look upon the face of God's Prophet, accursed and unworthy of any
tenderness from man. For a moment his glance was held by a lovely
black-haired Spanish girl, who sat with her locked hands held fast
between her knees, in an attitude of intense despair and suffering--the
glory of her eyes increased and magnified by the dark brown stains of
sleeplessness surrounding them. Leaning on Tsamanni's arm, he stood
considering her for a little while; then his glance travelled on.
Suddenly he tightened his grasp of Tsamanni's arm and a quick interest
leapt into his sallow face.
On the uppermost tier of the pen that he was facing sat a very glory of
womanhood, such a woman as he had heard tell existed but the like of
which he had never yet beheld. She was tall and graceful as a
cypress-tree; her skin was white as milk, her eyes two darkest
sapphires, her head of a coppery golden that seemed to glow like metal
as the sunlight caught it. She was dressed in a close gown of white,
the bodice cut low and revealing the immaculate loveliness of her neck.
Asad-ed-Din turned to Ali. "What pearl is this that hath been cast upon
this dung-heap?" he asked.
"She is the woman our lord Sakr-el-Bahr carried off from England."
Slowly the Basha's eyes returned to consider her, and insensible though
she had deemed herself by now, he saw her cheeks slowly reddening under
the cold insult of his steady, insistent glance. The glow heightened
her beauty, effacing the weariness which the face had worn.
"Bring her forth," said the Basha shortly.
She was seized by two of the negroes, and to avoid being roughly handled
by them she came at once, bracing herself to bear with dignity whatever
might await her. A golden-haired young man beside her, his face haggard
and stubbled with a beard of some growth, looked up in alarm as she was
taken from his side. Then, with a groan, he made as if to clutch her,
but a rod fell upon his raised arms and beat them down.
Asad was thoughtful. It was Fenzileh who had bidden him come look at
the infidel maid whom Sakr-el-Bahr had risked so much to snatch from
England, suggesting that in her he would behold some proof of the bad
faith which she was forever urging against the corsair leader. He
beheld the woman, but he discovered about her no such signs as Fenzileh
had suggested he must find, nor indeed did he look for any. Out of
curiosity had he obeyed her prompting. But that and all else were
forgotten now in the contemplation of this noble ensample of Northern
womanhood, statuesque almost in her terrible restraint.
He put forth a hand to touch her arm, and she drew it back as if his
fingers were of fire.
He sighed. "How inscrutable are the ways of Allah, that He should
suffer so luscious a fruit to hang from the foul tree of infidelity!"
Tsamanni watching him craftily, a master-sycophant profoundly learned in
the art of playing upon his master's moods, made answer:
"Even so perchance that a Faithful of the Prophet's House may pluck it.
Verily all things are possible to the One!"
"Yet is it not set down in the Book to be Read that the daughters of the
infidel are not for True-Believers?" And again he sighed.
But Tsamanni knowing full well how the Basha would like to be answered,
trimmed his reply to that desire.
"Allah is great, and what hath befallen once may well befall again, my
Asad's kindling eyes flashed a glance at his wazeer.
"Thou meanest Fenzileh. But then, by the mercy of Allah, I was rendered
the instrument of her enlightenment."
"It may well be written that thou shalt be the same again, my lord,"
murmured the insidious Tsamanni. There was more stirring in his mind
than the mere desire to play the courtier now. 'Twixt Fenzileh and
himself there had long been a feud begotten of the jealousy which each
inspired in the other where Asad was concerned. Were Fenzileh removed
the wazeer's influence must grow and spread to his own profit. It was a
thing of which he had often dreamed, but a dream he feared that was
never like to be realized, for Asad was ageing, and the fires that had
burned so fiercely in his earlier years seemed now to have consumed in
him all thought of women. Yet here was one as by a miracle, of a beauty
so amazing and so diverse from any that ever yet had feasted the Basha's
sight, that plainly she had acted as a charm upon his senses.
"She is white as the snows upon the Atlas, luscious as the dates of
Tafilalt," he murmured fondly, his gleaming eyes considering her what
time she stood immovable before him. Suddenly he looked about him, and
wheeled upon Tsamanni, his manner swiftly becoming charged with anger.
"Her face has been bared to a thousand eyes and more," he cried.
"Even that has been so before," replied Tsamanni.
And then quite suddenly at their elbow a voice that was naturally soft
and musical of accent but now rendered harsh, cut in to ask:
"What woman may this be?"
Startled, both the Basha and his wazeer swung round. Fenzileh,
becomingly veiled and hooded, stood before them, escorted by Marzak. A
little behind them were the eunuchs and the litter in which, unperceived
by Asad, she had been borne thither. Beside the litter stood her wazeer
Asad scowled down upon her, for he had not yet recovered from the
resentment she and Marzak had provoked in him. Moreover, that in
private she should be lacking in the respect which was his due was evil
enough, though he had tolerated it. But that she should make so bold as
to thrust in and question him in this peremptory fashion before all the
world was more than his dignity could suffer. Never yet had she dared
so much nor would she have dared it now but that her sudden anxiety had
effaced all caution from her mind. She had seen the look with which
Asad had been considering that lovely slave, and not only jealousy but
positive fear awoke in her. Her hold upon Asad was growing tenuous. To
snap it utterly no more was necessary than that he who of late years had
scarce bestowed a thought or glance upon a woman should be taken with
the fancy to bring some new recruit to his hareem.
Hence her desperate, reckless courage to stand thus before him now, for
although her face was veiled there was hardy arrogance in every line of
her figure. Of his scowl she took no slightest heed.
"If this be the slave fetched by Sakr-el-Bahr from England, then rumour
has lied to me," she said. "I vow it was scarce worth so long a voyage
and the endangering so many valuable Muslim lives to fetch this
yellow-faced, long-shanked daughter of perdition into Barbary.
Asad's surprise beat down his anger. He was not subtle.
"Yellow-faced? Long-shanked?" quoth he. Then reading Fenzileh at last,
he displayed a slow, crooked smile. "Already have I observed thee to
grow hard of hearing, and now thy sight is failing too, it seems.
Assuredly thou art growing old." And he looked her over with such an
eye of displeasure that she recoiled.
He stepped close up to her. "Too long already hast thou queened it in
my hareem with thine infidel, Frankish ways," he muttered, so that none
but those immediately about overheard his angry words. "Thou art become
a very scandal in the eyes of the Faithful," he added very grimly. "It
were well, perhaps, that we amended that."
Abruptly then he turned away, and by a gesture he ordered Ali to return
the slave to her place among the others. Leaning on the arm of Tsamanni
he took some steps towards the entrance, then halted, and turned again
"To thy litter," he bade her peremptorily, rebuking her thus before all,
"and get thee to the house as becomes a seemly Muslim woman. Nor ever
again let thyself be seen roving the public places afoot."
She obeyed him instantly, without a murmur; and he himself lingered at
the gates with Tsamanni until her litter had passed out, escorted by
Ayoub and Marzak walking each on one side of it and neither daring to
meet the angry eye of the Basha.
Asad looked sourly after that litter, a sneer on his heavy lips.
"As her beauty wanes so her presumption waxes, he growled. "She is
growing old, Tsamanni--old and lean and shrewish, and no fit mate for a
Member of the Prophet's House. It were perhaps a pleasing thing in the
sight of Allah that we replaced her." And then, referring obviously to
that other one, his eye turning towards the penthouse the curtains of
which were drawn again, he changed his tone.
"Didst thou mark, 0 Tsamanni, with what a grace she moved?--lithely and
nobly as a young gazelle. Verily, so much beauty was never created by
the All-Wise to be cast into the Pit."
"May it not have been sent to comfort some True-Believer?" wondered the
subtle wazeer. "To Allah all things are possible."
"Why else, indeed?" said Asad. "It was written; and even as none may
obtain what is not written, so none may avoid what is. I am resolved.
Stay thou here, Tsamanni. Remain for the outcry and purchase her. She
shall be taught the True Faith. She shall be saved from the furnace."
The command had come, the thing that Tsamanni had so ardently desired.
He licked his lips. "And the price, my lord?" he asked, in a small
"Price?" quoth Asad. "Have I not bid thee purchase her? Bring her to
me, though her price be a thousand philips."
"A thousand philips!" echoed Tsamanni amazed. "Allah is great!"
But already Asad had left his side and passed out under the arched
gateay, where the grovelling anew at the sight of him.
It was a fine thing for Asad to bid him remain for the sale. But the
dalal would part with no slave until the money was forthcoming, and
Tsamanni had no considerable sum upon his person. Therefore in the wake
of his master he set out forthwith to the Kasbah. It wanted still an
hour before the sale would be held and he had time and to spare in which
to go and return.
It happened, however, that Tsamanni was malicious, and that the hatred
of Fenzileh which so long he had consumed in silence and dissembled
under fawning smiles and profound salaams included also her servants.
There was none in all the world of whom he entertained a greater
contempt than her sleek and greasy eunuch Ayoub-el-Samin of the
majestic, rolling gait and fat, supercilious lips.
It was written, too, that in the courtyard of the Kasbah he should
stumble upon Ayoub, who indeed had by his mistress's commands been set
to watch for the wazeer. The fat fellow rolled forward, his hands
supporting his paunch, his little eyes agleam.
"Allah increase thy health, Tsamanni," was his courteous greeting.
"Thou bearest news?"
"News? What news?" quoth Tsamanni. "In truth none that will gladden
"Merciful Allah! What now? Doth it concern that Frankish slave-girl?"
Tsamanni smiled, a thing that angered Ayoub, who felt that the ground he
trod was becoming insecure; it followed that if his mistress fell from
influence he fell with her, and became as the dust upon Tsamanni's
"By the Koran thou tremblest, Ayoub!" Tsamanni mocked him. "Thy soft
fat is all a-quivering; and well it may, for thy days are numbered, 0
father of nothing."
"Dost deride me, dog?" came the other's voice, shrill now with anger.
"Callest me dog? Thou?" Deliberately Tsamanni spat upon his shadow.
"Go tell thy mistress that I am bidden by my lord to buy the Frankish
girl. Tell her that my lord will take her to wife, even as he took
Fenzileh, that he may lead her into the True Belief and cheat Shaitan of
so fair a jewel. Add that I am bidden to buy her though she cost my
lord a thousand philips. Bear her that message, 0 father of wind, and
may Allah increase thy paunch!" And he was gone, lithe, active, and
"May thy sons perish and thy daughters become harlots," roared the
eunuch, maddened at once by this evil news and the insult with which it
But Tsamanni only laughed, as he answered him over his shoulder--
"May thy sons be sultans all, Ayoub!"
Quivering still with a rage that entirely obliterated his alarm at what
he had learnt, Ayoub rolled into the presence of his mistress with that
She listened to him in a dumb white fury. Then she fell to reviling her
lord and the slave-girl in a breath, and called upon Allah to break
their bones and blacken their faces and rot their flesh with all the
fervour of one born and bred in the True Faith. When she recovered from
that burst of fury it was to sit brooding awhile. At length she sprang
up and bade Ayoub see that none lurked to listen about the doorways.
"We must act, Ayoub, and act swiftly, or I am destroyed and with me will
be destroyed Marzak, who alone could not stand against his father's
face. Sakr-el-Bahr will trample us into the dust." She checked on a
sudden thought. "By Allah it may have been a part of his design to have
brought hither that white-faced wench. But we must thwart him and we
must thwart Asad, or thou art ruined too, Ayoub."
"Thwart him?" quoth her wazeer, gaping at the swift energy of mind and
body with which this woman was endowed, the like of which he had never
seen in any woman yet. "Thwart him?" he repeated.
"First, Ayoub, to place this Frankish girl beyond his reach."
"That is well thought--but how?"
"How? Can thy wit suggest no way? Hast thou wits at all in that fat
head of thine? Thou shalt outbid Tsamanni, or, better still, set
someone else to do it for thee, and so buy the girl for me. Then we'll
contrive that she shall vanish quietly and quickly before Asad can
discover a trace of her."
His face blanched, and the wattles about his jaws were shaking.
"And...and the cost? Hast thou counted the cost, 0 Fenzileh? What will
happen when Asad gains knowledge of this thing?"
"He shall gain no knowledge of it," she answered him. "Or if he does,
the girl being gone beyond recall, he shall submit him to what was
written. Trust me to know how to bring him to it."
"Lady, lady!" he cried, and wrung his bunches of fat fingers. "I dare
not engage in this!"
"Engage in what? If I bid thee go buy this girl, and give thee the
money thou'lt require, what else concerns thee, dog? What else is to be
done, a man shall do. Come now, thou shalt have the money, all I have,
which is a matter of some fifteen hundred philips, and what is not laid
out upon this purchase thou shalt retain for thyself."
He considered an instant, and conceived that she was right. None could
blame him for executing the commands she gave him. And there would be
profit in it, clearly--ay, and it would be sweet to outbid that dog
Tsamanni and send him empty-handed home to face the wrath of his
frustrated master. He spread his hands and salaamed in token of
At the sôk-el-Abeed it was the hour of the outcry, announced by a blast
of trumpets and the thudding of tom-toms. The traders that until then
had been licensed to ply within the enclosure now put up the shutters of
their little booths. The Hebrew pedlar of gems closed his box and
effaced himself, leaving the steps about the well clear for the most
prominent patrons of the market. These hastened to assemble there,
surrounding it and facing outwards, whilst the rest of the crowd was
ranged against the southern and western walls of the enclosure.
Came negro water-carriers in white turbans with aspersers made of
palmetto leaves to sprinkle the ground and lay the dust against the
tramp of slaves and buyers. The trumpets ceased for an instant, then
wound a fresh imperious blast and fell permanently silent. The crowd
about the gates fell back to right and left, and very slowly and stately
three tall dalals, dressed from head to foot in white and with
immaculate turbans wound about their heads, advanced into the open
space. They came to a halt at the western end of the long wall, the
chief dalal standing slightly in advance of the other two.
The chattering of voices sank upon their advent, it became a hissing
whisper, then a faint drone like that of bees, and then utter silence.
In the solemn and grave demeanour of the dalals there was something
almost sacerdotal, so that when that silence fell upon the crowd the
affair took on the aspect of a sacrament.
The chief dalal stood forward a moment as if in an abstraction with
downcast eyes; then with hands outstretched to catch a blessing he
raised his voice and began to pray in a monotonous chant:
"In the name of Allah the Pitying the Pitiful Who created man from clots
of blood! All that is in the Heavens and in the Earth praiseth Allah,
Who is the Mighty, the Wise! His the kingdom of the Heavens and of the
Earth. He maketh alive and killeth, and He hath power over all things.
He is the first and the last, the seen and the unseen, and He knoweth
"Ameen," intoned the crowd.
"The praise to Him who sent us Mahomet His Prophet to give the world the
True Belief, and curses upon Shaitan the stoned who wages war upon Allah
and His children."
"The blessings of Allah and our Lord Mahomet upon this market and upon
all who may buy and sell herein, and may Allah increase their wealth and
grant them length of days in which to praise Him."
"Ameen," replied the crowd, as with a stir and rustle the close ranks
relaxed from the tense attitude of prayer, and each man sought
The dalal beat his hands together, whereupon the curtains were drawn
aside and the huddled slaves displayed--some three hundred in all,
occupying three several pens.
In the front rank of the middle pen--the one containing Rosamund and
Lionel--stood a couple of stalwart young Nubians, sleek and muscular,
who looked on with completest indifference, no whit appalled by the fate
which had haled them thither. They caught the eye of the dalal, and
although the usual course was for a buyer to indicate a slave he was
prepared to purchase, yet to the end that good beginning should be
promptly made, the dalal himself pointed out that stalwart pair to the
corsairs who stood on guard. In compliance the two negroes were brought
"Here is a noble twain," the dalal announced, strong of muscle and long
of limb, as all may see, whom it were a shameful thing to separate. Who
needs such a pair for strong labour let him say what he will give." He
set out on a slow circuit of the well, the corsairs urging the two
slaves to follow him that all buyers might see and inspect them.
In the foremost ranks of the crowd near the gate stood Ali, sent thither
by Othmani to purchase a score of stout fellows required to make up the
contingent of the galeasse of Sakr-el-Bahr. He had been strictly
enjoined to buy naught but the stoutest stuff the market could afford--
with one exception. Aboard that galeasse they wanted no weaklings who
would trouble the boatswain with their swoonings. Ali announced his
"I need such tall fellows for the oars of Sakr-el-Bahr," said he with
loud importance, thus drawing upon himself the eyes of the assembly, and
sunning himself in the admiring looks bestowed upon one of the officers
of Oliver-Reis, one of the rovers who were the pride of Islam and a
sword-edge to the infidel.
"They were born to toil nobly at the oar, 0 Ali-Reis," replied the dalal
in all solemnity. "What wilt thou give for them?"
"Two hundred philips for the twain."
The dalal paced solemnly on, the slaves following in his wake.
"Two hundred philips am I offered for a pair of the lustiest slaves that
by the favour of Allah were ever brought into this market. Who will say
fifty philips more?"
A portly Moor in a flowing blue selham rose from his seat on the step of
the well as the dalal came abreast of him, and the slaves scenting here
a buyer, and preferring any service to that of the galleys with which
they were threatened, came each in turn to kiss his hands and fawn upon
him, for all the world like dogs.
Calm and dignified he ran his hands over them feeling their muscles, and
then forced back their lips and examined their teeth and mouths.
"Two hundred and twenty for the twain," he said, and the dalal passed on
with his wares, announcing the increased price he had been offered.
Thus he completed the circuit and came to stand once more before Ali.
"Two hundred and twenty is now the price, 0 Ali! By the Koran, they are
worth three hundred at the least. Wilt say three hundred?"
"Two hundred and thirty," was the answer.
Back to the Moor went the dalal. "Two hundred and thirty I am now
offered, 0 Hamet. Thou wilt give another twenty?"
"Not I, by Allah!" said Hamet, and resumed his seat. "Let him have
"Another ten philips?" pleaded the dalal.
"Not another asper."
"They are thine, then, 0 Ali, for two hundred and thirty. Give thanks
to Allah for so good a bargain."
The Nubians were surrendered to Ali's followers, whilst the dalal's two
assistants advanced to settle accounts with the corsair.
"Wait wait," said he, "is not the name of Sakr-el-Bahr good warranty?"
"The inviolable law is that the purchase money be paid ere a slave
leaves the market, 0 valiant Ali."
"It shall be observed," was the impatient answer, and I will so pay
before they leave. But I want others yet, and we will make one account
an it please thee. That fellow yonder now. I have orders to buy him
for my captain." And he indicated Lionel, who stood at Rosamund's side,
the very incarnation of woefulness and debility.
Contemptuous surprise flickered an instant in the eyes of the dalal.
But this he made haste to dissemble.
"Bring forth that yellow-haired infidel," he commanded.
The corsairs laid hands on Lionel. He made a vain attempt to struggle,
but it was observed that the woman leaned over to him and said something
quickly, whereupon his struggles ceased and he suffered himself to be
dragged limply forth into the full view of all the market.
"Dost want him for the oar, Ali?" cried Ayoub-el-Samin across the
quadrangle, a jest this that evoked a general laugh.
"What else?" quoth Ali. "He should be cheap at least."
"Cheap?" quoth the dalal in an affectation of surprise. "Nay, now.
'Tis a comely fellow and a young one. What wilt thou give, now? a
"A hundred philips!" cried Ali derisively. "A hundred philips for that
skinful of bones! Ma'sh'-Allah! Five philips is my price, 0 dalal."
Again laughter crackled through the mob. But the dalal stiffened with
increasing dignity. Some of that laughter seemed to touch himself, and
he was not a person to be made the butt of mirth.
"'Tis a jest, my master," said he, with a forgiving yet contemptuous
wave. "Behold how sound he is." He signed to one of the corsairs, and
Lionel's doublet was slit from neck to girdle and wrenched away from his
body, leaving him naked to the waist, and displaying better proportions
than might have been expected. In a passion at that indignity Lionel
writhed in the grip of his guards, until one of the corsairs struck him
a light blow with a whip in earnest of what to expect if he continued to
be troublesome. "Consider him now," said the dalal, pointing to that
white torso. "And behold how sound he is. See how excellent are his
teeth." He seized Lionel's head and forced the jaws apart.
"Ay," said Ali, "but consider me those lean shanks and that woman's
"'Tis a fault the oar will mend," the dalal insisted.
"You filthy blackamoors!" burst from Lionel in a sob of rage.
"He is muttering curses in his infidel tongue," said Ali. "His temper
is none too good, you see. I have said five philips. I'll say no
With a shrug the dalal began his circuit of the well, the corsairs
thrusting Lionel after him. Here one rose to handle him, there another,
but none seemed disposed to purchase.
"Five philips is the foolish price offered me for this fine young
Frank," cried the dalal. "Will no True-Believer pay ten for such a
slave? Wilt not thou, O Ayoub? Thou, Hamet--ten philips?"
But one after another those to whom he was offered shook their heads.
The haggardness of Lionel's face was too unprepossessing. They had seen
slaves with that look before, and experience told them that no good was
ever to be done with such fellows. Moreover, though shapely, his
muscles were too slight, his flesh looked too soft and tender. Of what
use a slave who must be hardened and nourished into strength, and who
might very well die in the process? Even at five philips he would be
dear. So the disgusted dalal came back to Ali.
"He is thine, then, for five philips--Allah pardon thy avarice."
Ali grinned, and his men seized upon Lionel and bore him off into the
background to join the two negroes previously purchased.
And then, before Ali could bid for another of the slaves he desired to
acquire, a tall, elderly Jew, dressed in black doublet and hose like a
Castilian gentleman, with a ruffle at his neck, a plumed bonnet on his
grey locks, and a serviceable dagger hanging from his girdle of hammered
gold, had claimed the attention of the dalal.
In the pen that held the captives of the lesser raids conducted by
Biskaine sat an Andalusian girl of perhaps some twenty years, of a
beauty entirely Spanish.
Her face was of the warm pallor of ivory, her massed hair of an ebony
black, her eyebrows were finely pencilled, and her eyes of deepest and
softest brown. She was dressed in the becoming garb of the Castilian
peasant, the folded kerchief of red and yellow above her bodice leaving
bare the glories of her neck. She was very pale, and her eyes were wild
in their look, but this detracted nothing from her beauty.
She had attracted the jew's notice, and it is not impossible that there
may have stirred in him a desire to avenge upon her some of the cruel
wrongs, some of the rackings, burning, confiscations, and banishment
suffered by the men of his race at the hands of the men of hers. He may
have bethought him of invaded ghettos, of Jewish maidens ravished, and
Jewish children butchered in the name of the God those Spanish
Christians worshipped, for there was something almost of contemptuous
fierceness in his dark eyes and in the hand he flung out to indicate
"Yonder is a Castilian wench for whom I will give fifty Philips, 0
dalal," he announced. The datal made a sign, whereupon the corsairs
dragged her struggling forth.
"So much loveliness may not be bought for fifty Philips, 0 Ibrahim,"
said he. "Yusuf here will pay sixty at least." And he stood
expectantly before a resplendent Moor.
The Moor, however, shook his head.
"Allah knows I have three wives who would destroy her loveliness within
the hour and so leave me the loser."
The dalal moved on, the girl following him but contesting every step of
the way with those who impelled her forward, and reviling them too in
hot Castilian. She drove her nails into the arms of one and spat
fiercely into the face of another of her corsair guards. Rosamund's
weary eyes quickened to horror as she watched her--a horror prompted as
much by the fate awaiting that poor child as by the undignified fury of
the futile battle she waged against it. But it happened that her
behaviour impressed a Levantine Turk quite differently. He rose, a
short squat figure, from his seat on the steps of the well.
"Sixty Philips will I pay for the joy of taming that wild cat," said he.
But Ibrahim was not to be outbidden. He offered seventy, the Turk
countered with a bid of eighty, and Ibrahim again raised the price to
ninety, and there fell a pause.
The dalal spurred on the Turk. "Wilt thou be beaten then, and by an
Israelite? Shall this lovely maid be given to a perverter of the
Scriptures, to an inheritor of the fire, to one of a race that would not
bestow on their fellow-men so much as the speck out of a date-stone? It
were a shame upon a True-Believer."
Urged thus the Turk offered another five Philips, but with obvious
reluctance. The Jew, however, entirely unabashed by a tirade against
him, the like of which he heard a score of times a day in the course of
trading, pulled forth a heavy purse from his girdle.
"Here are one hundred Philips," he announced. "'Tis overmuch. But I
Ere the dalal's pious and seductive tongue could urge him further the
Turk sat down again with a gesture of finality.
"I give him joy of her," said he.
"She is thine, then, 0 Ibrahim, for one hundred philips."
The Israelite relinquished the purse to the dalal's white-robed
assistants and advanced to receive the girl. The corsairs thrust her
forward against him, still vainly battling, and his arms closed about
her for a moment.
"Thou has cost me dear, thou daughter of Spain," said he. "But I am
content. Come." And he made shift to lead her away. Suddenly,
however, fierce as a tiger-cat she writhed her arms upwards and clawed
at his face. With a scream of pain he relaxed his hold of her and in
that moment, quick as lightning she plucked the dagger that hung from
his girdle so temptingly within her reach.
"Valga me Dios!" she cried, and ere a hand could be raised to prevent
her she had buried the blade in her lovely breast and sank in a
laughing, coughing, heap at his feet. A final convulsive heave and she
lay there quite still, whilst Ibrahim glared down at her with eyes of
dismay, and over all the market there hung a hush of sudden awe.
Rosamund had risen in her place, and a faint colour came to warm her
pallor, a faint light kindled in her eyes. God had shown her the way
through this poor Spanish girl, and assuredly God would give her the
means to take it when her own turn came. She felt herself suddenly
uplifted and enheartened. Death was a sharp, swift severing, an easy
door of escape from the horror that threatened her, and God in His
mercy, she knew, would justify self-murder under such circumstances as
were her own and that poor dead Andalusian maid's.
At length Ibrahim roused himself from his momentary stupor. He stepped
deliberately across the body, his face inflamed, and stood to beard the
"She is dead!" he bleated. "I am defrauded. Give me back my gold!"
"Are we to give back the price of every slave that dies?" the dalal
"But she was not yet delivered to me," raved the Jew. "My hands had not
touched her. Give me back my gold."
"Thou liest, son of a dog," was the answer, dispassionately delivered.
"She was thine already. I had so pronounced her. Bear her hence, since
she belongs to thee."
The Jew, his face empurpling, seemed to fight for breath
"How?" he choked. "Am I to lose a hundred philips?"
"What is written is written," replied the serene dalal.
Ibrahim was frothing at the lips, his eyes were blood-injected. "But it
was never written that...."
"Peace," said the dalal. "Had it not been written it could not have
come to pass. It is the will of Allah! Who dares rebel against it?"
The crowd began to murmur.
"I want my hundred philips," the Jew insisted, whereupon the murmur
swelled into a sudden roar.
"Thou hearest?" said the dalal. "Allah pardon thee, thou art disturbing
the peace of this market. Away, ere ill betide thee."
"Hence! hence!" roared the crowd, and some advanced threateningly upon
the luckless Ibrahim. "Away, thou perverter of Holy Writ! thou filth!
thou dog! Away!"
Such was the uproar, such the menace of angry countenances and clenched
fists shaken in his very face, that Ibrahim quailed and forgot his loss
"I go, I go," he said, and turned hastily to depart.
But the dalal summoned him back. "Take hence thy property," said he,
and pointed to the body. And so Ibrahim was forced to suffer the
further mockery of summoning his slaves to bear away the lifeless body
for which he had paid in lively potent gold.
Yet by the gates he paused again. "I will appeal me to the Basha," he
threatened. "Asad-ed-Din is just, and he will have my money restored to
"So he will, said the dalal, "when thou canst restore the dead to life,"
and he turned to the portly Ayoub, who was plucking at his sleeve. He
bent his head to catch the muttered words of Fenzileh's wazeer. Then,
in obedience to them, he ordered Rosamund to be brought forward.
She offered no least resistance, advancing in a singularly lifeless way,
like a sleep-walker or one who had been drugged. In the heat and glare
of the open market she stood by the dalal's side at the head of the
well, whilst he dilated upon her physical merits in that lingua franca
which he used since it was current coin among all the assorted races
represented there--a language which the knowledge of French that her
residence in France had taught her she was to her increasing horror and
shame able to understand.
The first to make an offer for her was that same portly Moor who had
sought to purchase the two Nubeans. He rose to scrutinize her closely,
and must have been satisfied, for the price he offered was a good one,
and he offered it with contemptuous assurance that he would not be
"One hundred philips for the milk-faced girl."
"'Tis not enough. Consider me the moon-bright loveliness of her face,"
said the dalal as he moved on. Chigil yields us fair women, but no
woman of Chigil was ever half so fair."
"One hundred and fifty," said the Levantine Turk with a snap.
"Not yet enough. Behold the stately height which Allah hath vouchsafed
her. See the noble carriage of her head, the lustre of her eye! By
Allah, she is worthy to grace the Sultan's own hareem."
He said no more than the buyers recognized to be true, and excitement
stirred faintly through their usually impassive ranks. A Tagareen Moor
named Yusuf offered at once two hundred.
But still the dalal continued to sing her praises. He held up one of
her arms for inspection, and she submitted with lowered eyes, and no
sign of resentment beyond the slow flush that spread across her face and
"Behold me these limbs, smooth as Arabian silks and whiter than ivory.
Look at those lips like pomegranate blossoms. The price is now two
hundred philips. What wilt thou give, 0 Hamet?"
Hamet showed himself angry that his original bid should so speedily have
been doubled. "By the Koran, I have purchased three sturdy girls from
the Sus for less."
"Wouldst thou compare a squat-faced girl from the Sus with this
narcissus-eyed glory of womanhood?" scoffed the dalal.
"Two hundred and ten, then," was Hamet's sulky grunt.
The watchful Tsamanni considered that the time had come to buy her for
his lord as he had been bidden.
"Three hundred," he said curtly, to make an end of matters, and--
"Four hundred," instantly piped a shrill voice behind him.
He spun round in his amazement and met the leering face of Ayoub. A
murmur ran through the ranks of the buyers, the people craned their
necks to catch a glimpse of this open-handed purchaser.
Yusuf the Tagareen rose up in a passion. He announced angrily that
never again should the dust of the sôk of Algiers defile his slippers,
that never again would he come there to purchase slaves.
"By the Well of Zem-Zem," he swore, "all men are bewitched in this
market. Four hundred philips for a Frankish girl! May Allah increase
your wealth, for verily you'll need it." And in his supreme disgust he
stalked to the gates, and elbowed his way through the crowd, and so
vanished from the sôk.
Yet ere he was out of earshot her price had risen further. Whilst
Tsamanni was recovering from his surprise at the competitor that had
suddenly appeared before him, the dalal had lured an increased offer
from the Turk.
"'Tis a madness," the latter deplored. "But she pleaseth me, and should
it seem good to Allah the Merciful to lead her into the True Faith she
may yet become the light of my hareem. Four hundred and twenty philips,
then, 0 dalal, and Allah pardon me my prodigality."
Yet scarcely was his little speech concluded than Tsamanni with laconic
eloquence rapped out: "Five hundred."
"Y'Allah!" cried the Turk, raising his hands to heaven, and "Y'Allah!"
echoed the crowd.
"Five hundred and fifty," shrilled Ayoub's voice above the general din.
"Six hundred," replied Tsamanni, still unmoved.
And now such was the general hubbub provoked by these unprecedented
prices that the dalal was forced to raise his voice and cry for silence.
When this was restored Ayoub at once raised the price to seven hundred.
"Eight hundred," snapped Tsamanni, showing at last a little heat.
"Nine hundred," replied Ayoub.
Tsamanni swung round upon him again, white now with fury.
"Is this a jest, O father of wind?" he cried, and excited laughter by
the taunt implicit in that appellation.
"And thou'rt the jester," replied Ayoub with forced calm, "thou'lt find
the jest a costly one."
With a shrug Tsamanni turned again to the dalal. "A thousand philips,"
said he shortly.
"Silence there!" cried the dalal again. "Silence, and praise Allah who
sends good prices."
"One thousand and one hundred," said Ayoub the irrepressible
And now Tsamanni not only found himself outbidden, but he had reached
the outrageous limit appointed by Asad. He lacked authority to go
further, dared not do so without first consulting the Basha. Yet if he
left the sôk for that purpose Ayoub would meanwhile secure the girl. He
found himself between sword and wall. On the one hand did he permit
himself to be outbidden his master might visit upon him his
disappointment. On the other, did he continue beyond the limit so idly
mentioned as being far beyond all possibility, it might fare no less ill
He turned to the crowd, waving his arms in furious gesticulation. "By
the beard of the Prophet, this bladder of wind and grease makes sport of
us. He has no intent to buy. What man ever heard of the half of such a
price for a slave girl?"
Ayoub's answer was eloquent; he produced a fat bag and flung it on the
ground, where it fell with a mellow chink. "There is my sponsor," he
made answer, grinning in the very best of humours, savouring to the full
his enemy's rage and discomfiture, and savouring it at no cost to
himself. "Shall I count out one thousand and one hundred philips, 0
"If the wazeer Tsamanni is content."
"Dost thou know for whom I buy?" roared Tsamanni. "For the Basha
himself, Asad-ed-Din, the exalted of Allah," He advanced upon Ayoub
with hands upheld. "What shalt thou say to him, 0 dog, when he calls
thee to account for daring to outbid him."
But Ayoub remained unruffled before all this fury. He spread his fat
hands, his eyes twinkling, his great lips pursed. "How should I know,
since Allah has not made me all-knowing? Thou shouldst have said so
earlier. 'Tis thus I shall answer the Basha should he question me, and
the Basha is just."
"I would not be thee, Ayoub--not for the throne of Istambul."
"Nor I thee, Tsamanni; for thou art jaundiced with rage."
And so they stood glaring each at the other until the dalal called them
back to the business that was to do.
"The price is now one thousand and one hundred philips. Wilt thou
suffer defeat, 0 wazeer?"
"Since Allah wills. I have no authority to go further."
"Then at one thousand and one hundred philips, Ayoub, she is...."
But the sale was not yet to be completed. From the dense and eager
throng about the gates rang a crisp voice--
"One thousand and two hundred philips for the Frankish girl."
The dalal, who had conceived that the limits of madness had been already
reached, stood gaping now in fresh amazement. The mob crowed and
cheered and roared between enthusiasm and derision, and even Tsamanni
brightened to see another champion enter the lists who perhaps would
avenge him upon Ayoub. The crowd parted quickly to right and left, and
through it into the open strode Sakr-el-Bahr. They recognized him
instantly, and his name was shouted in acclamation by that idolizing
That Barbary name of his conveyed no information to Rosamund, and her
back being turned to the entrance she did not see him. But she had
recognized his voice, and she had shuddered at the sound. She could
make nothing of the bidding, nor what the purpose that surely underlay
it to account for the extraordinary excitement of the traders. Vaguely
had she been wondering what dastardly purpose Oliver might intend to
serve, but now that she heard his voice that wonder ceased and
understanding took its place. He had hung there somewhere in the crowd
waiting until all competitors but one should have been outbidden, and
now he stepped forth to buy her for his own--his slave! She closed her
eyes a moment and prayed God that he might not prevail in his intent.
Any fate but that; she would rob him even of the satisfaction of driving
her to sheathe a poniard in her heart as that poor Andalusian girl had
done. A wave almost of unconsciousness passed over her in the intensity
of her horror. For a moment the ground seemed to rock and heave under
Then the dizziness passed, and she was herself again. She heard the
crowd thundering "Ma'sh'Allah!" and "Sakr-el-Bahr!" and the dalal
clamouring sternly for silence. When this was at last restored she
heard his exclamation--
"The glory to Allah who sends eager buyers! What sayest thou, 0 wazeer
"Ay!" sneered Tsamanni, "what now?"
"One thousand and three hundred," said Ayoub with a quaver of uneasy
"Another hundred, 0 dalal," came from Sakr-el-Bahr in a quiet voice.
"One thousand and five hundred," screamed Ayoub, thus reaching not only
the limit imposed by his mistress, but the very limit of the resources
at her immediate disposal. Gone, too, with that bid was all hope of
profit to himself.
But Sakr-el-Bahr, impassive as Fate, and without so much as deigning to
bestow a look upon the quivering eunuch, said again--
"Another hundred, 0 dalal."
"One thousand and six hundred philips!" cried the dalal, more in
amazement than to announce the figure reached. Then controlling his
emotions he bowed his head in reverence and made confession of his
faith. "All things are possible if Allah wills them. The praise to Him
who sends wealthy buyers."
He turned to the crestfallen Ayoub, so crestfallen that in the
contemplation of him Tsamanni was fast gathering consolation for his own
discomfiture, vicariously tasting the sweets of vengeance. "What say
you now, 0 perspicuous wazeer?"
"I say," choked Ayoub, "that since by the favour of Shaitan he hath so
much wealth he must prevail."
But the insulting words were scarcely uttered than Sakr-el-Bahr's great
hand had taken the wazeer by the nape of his fat neck, a growl of anger
running through the assembly to approve him.
"By the favour of Shaitan, sayest thou, thou sex-less dog?" he growled,
and tightened his grip so that the wazeer squirmed and twisted in an
agony of pain. Down was his head thrust, and still down, until his fat
body gave way and he lay supine and writhing in the dust of the sôk.
"Shall I strangle thee, thou father of filth, or shall I fling thy soft
flesh to the hooks to teach thee what is a man's due from thee?" And as
he spoke he rubbed the too daring fellow's face roughly on the ground.
"Mercy!" squealed the wazeer. "Mercy, 0 mighty Sakr-el-Bahr, as thou
lookest for mercy!"
"Unsay thy words, thou offal. Pronounce thyself a liar and a dog."
"I do unsay them. I have foully lied. Thy wealth is the reward sent
thee by Allah for thy glorious victories over the unbelieving."
"Put out thine offending tongue," said Sakr-el-Bahr, and cleanse it in
the dust. Put it forth, I say."
Ayoub obeyed him in fearful alacrity, whereupon Sakr-el-Bahr released
his hold and allowed the unfortunate fellow to rise at last, half-choked
with dirt, livid of face, and quaking like a jelly, an object of
ridicule and cruel mockery to all assembled.
"Now get thee hence, ere my sea-hawks lay their talons on thee. Go!"
Ayoub departed in all haste to the increasing jeers of the multitude and
the taunts of Tsamanni, whilst Sakr-el-Bahr turned him once more to the
"At one thousand and six hundred philips this slave is thine, 0
Sakr-el-Bahr, thou glory of Islam. May Allah increase thy victories!"
"Pay him, Ali," said the corsair shortly, and he advanced to receive his
Face to face stood he now with Rosamund, for the first time since that
day before the encounter with the Dutch argosy when he had sought her in
the cabin of the carack.
One swift glance she bestowed on him, then, her senses reeling with
horror at her circumstance she shrank back, her face of a deathly
pallor. In his treatment of Ayoub she had just witnessed the lengths of
brutality of which he was capable, and she was not to know that this
brutality had been a deliberate piece of mummery calculated to strike
terror into her.
Pondering her now he smiled a tight-lipped cruel smile that only served
to increase her terror.
"Come," he said in English.
She cowered back against the dalal as if for protection. Sakr-el-Bahr
reached forward, caught her by the wrists, and almost tossed her to his
Nubians, Abiad and Zal-Zer, who were attending him.
"Cover her face," he bade them. "Bear her to my house. Away!"
The sun was dipping swiftly to the world's rim when Sakr-el-Bahr with
his Nubians and his little retinue of corsairs came to the gates of that
white house of his on its little eminence outside the Bab-el-Oueb and
beyond the walls of the city.
When Rosamund and Lionel, brought in the wake of the corsair, found
themselves in the spacious courtyard beyond the dark and narrow
entrance, the blue of the sky contained but the paling embers of the
dying day, and suddenly, sharply upon the evening stillness, came a
mueddin's voice calling the faithful unto prayer.
Slaves fetched water from the fountain that played in the middle of the
quadrangle and tossed aloft a slender silvery spear of water to break
into a myriad gems and so shower down into the broad marble basin.
Sakr-el-Bahr washed, as did his followers, and then he went down upon
the praying-mat that had been set for him, whilst his corsairs detached
their cloaks and spread them upon the ground to serve them in like
The Nubians turned the two slaves about, lest their glances should
defile the orisons of the faithful, and left them so facing the wall and
the green gate that led into the garden whence were wafted on the
cooling air the perfumes of jessamine and lavender. Through the laths
of the gate they might have caught a glimpse of the riot of colour
there, and they might have seen the slaves arrested by the Persian
waterwheel at which they had been toiling and chanting until the call to
prayer had come to strike them into statues.
Sakr-el-Bahr rose from his devotions, uttered a sharp word of command,
and entered the house. The Nubians followed him, urging their captives
before them up the narrow stairs, and so brought them out upon the
terrace on the roof, that space which in Eastern houses is devoted to
the women, but which no woman's foot had ever trodden since this house
had been tenanted by Sakr-el-Bahr the wifeless.
This terrace, which was surrounded by a parapet some four feet high,
commanded a view of the city straggling up the hillside to eastward,
from the harbour and of the island at the end of the mole which had been
so laboriously built by the labour of Christian slaves from the stones
of the ruined fortress--the Peñon, which Kheyr-ed-Din Barbarossa had
wrested from the Spaniards. The deepening shroud of evening was now
upon all, transmuting white and yellow walls alike to a pearly greyness.
To westward stretched the fragrant gardens of the house, where the doves
were murmuring fondly among the mulberries and lotus trees. Beyond it a
valley wound its way between the shallow hills, and from a pool fringed
with sedges and bullrushes above which a great stork was majestically
sailing came the harsh croak of frogs.
An awning supported upon two gigantic spears hung out from the southern
wall of the terrace which rose to twice the height of that forming the
parapet on its other three sides. Under this was a divan and silken
cushions, and near it a small Moorish table of ebony inlaid with
mother-of-pearl and gold. Over the opposite parapet, where a lattice
had been set, rioted a trailing rose-tree charged with blood-red
blossoms, though now their colours were merged into the all-encompassing
Here Lionel and Rosamund looked at each other in the dim light, their
faces gleaming ghostly each to each, whilst the Nubians stood like twin
statues by the door that opened from the stair-head.
The man groaned, and clasped his hands before him. The doublet which
had been torn from him in the sôk had since been restored and
temporarily repaired by a strand of palmetto cord. But he was woefully
bedraggled. Yet his thoughts, if his first words are to be taken as an
indication of them were for Rosamund's condition rather than his own.
"0 God, that you should be subjected to this!" he cried. "That you
should have suffered what you have suffered! The humiliation of it, the
barbarous cruelty! Oh!" He covered his haggard face with his hands.
She touched him gently on the arm.
"What I have suffered is but a little thing," she said, and her voice
was wonderfully steady and soothing. Have I not said that these
Godolphins were brave folk? Even their women were held to have
something of the male spirit in their breasts; and to this none can
doubt that Rosamund now bore witness. "Do not pity me, Lionel, for my
sufferings are at an end or very nearly." She smiled strangely, the
smile of exaltation that you may see upon the martyr's face in the hour
"How?" quoth he, in faint surprise.
"How?" she echoed. "Is there not always a way to thrust aside life's
burden when it grows too heavy--heavier than God would have us bear?"
His only answer was a groan. Indeed, he had done little but groan in
all the hours they had spent together since they were brought ashore
from the carack; and had the season permitted her so much reflection,
she might have considered that she had found him singularly wanting
during those hours of stress when a man of worth would have made some
effort, however desperate, to enhearten her rather than repine upon his
Slaves entered bearing four enormous flaming torches which they set in
iron sconces protruding from the wall of the house. Thence they shed a
lurid ruddy glow upon the terrace. The slaves departed again, and
presently, in the black gap of the doorway between the Nubians, a third
figure appeared unheralded. It was Sakr-el-Bahr.
He stood a moment at gaze, his attitude haughty, his face
expressionless; then slowly he advanced. He was dressed in a short
white caftan that descended to his knees, and was caught about his waist
in a shimmering girdle of gold that quivered like fire in the glow of
the torches as he moved. His arms from the elbow and his legs from the
knee were bare, and his feet were shod with gold-embroidered red Turkish
slippers. He wore a white turban decked by a plume of osprey attached
by a jewelled clasp.
He signed to the Nubians and they vanished silently, leaving him alone
with his captives.
He bowed to Rosamund. "This, mistress," he said, "is to be your domain
henceforth which is to treat you more as wife than slave. For it is to
Muslim wives that the housetops in Barbary are allotted. I hope you
Lionel staring at him out of a white face, his conscience bidding him
fear the very worst, his imagination painting a thousand horrid fates
for him and turning him sick with dread, shrank back before his
half-brother, who scarce appeared to notice him just then.
But Rosamund confronted him, drawn to the full of her splendid height,
and if her face was pale, yet it was as composed and calm as his own; if
her bosom rose and fell to betray her agitations yet her glance was
contemptuous and defiant, her voice calm and steady, when she answered
him with the question--"What is your intent with me?"
"My intent?" said he, with a little twisted smile. Yet for all that he
believed he hated her and sought to hurt, to humble and to crush her, he
could not stifle his admiration of her spirit's gallantry in such an
hour as this.
From behind the hills peeped the edge of the moon--a sickle of burnished
"My intent is not for you to question," he replied. "There was a time,
Rosamund, when in all the world you had no slave more utter than was I.
Yourself in your heartlessness, and in your lack of faith, you broke the
golden fetters of that servitude. You'll find it less easy to break the
shackles I now impose upon you."
She smiled her scorn and quiet confidence. He stepped close to her.
"You are my slave, do you understand?--bought in the market-place as I
might buy me a mule, a goat, or a camel--and belonging to me body and
soul. You are my property, my thing, my chattel, to use or abuse, to
cherish or break as suits my whim, without a will that is not my will,
holding your very life at my good pleasure."
She recoiled a step before the dull hatred that throbbed in his words,
before the evil mockery of his swarthy bearded face.
"You beast!" she gasped.
"So now you understand the bondage into which you are come in exchange
for the bondage which in your own wantonness you dissolved."
"May God forgive you," she panted.
"I thank you for that prayer," said he. "May He forgive you no less."
And then from the background came an inarticulate sound, a strangled,
snarling sob from Lionel.
Sakr-el-Bahr turned slowly. He eyed the fellow a moment in silence,
then he laughed.
"Ha! My sometime brother. A pretty fellow, as God lives is it not?
Consider him Rosamund. Behold how gallantly misfortune is borne by this
pillar of manhood upon which you would have leaned, by this stalwart
husband of your choice. Look at him! Look at this dear brother of
Under the lash of that mocking tongue Lionel's mood was stung to anger
where before it had held naught but fear.
"You are no brother of mine," he retorted fiercely. "Your mother was a
wanton who betrayed my father."
Sakr-el-Bahr quivered a moment as if he had been struck. Yet he
"Let me hear my mother's name but once again on thy foul tongue, and
I'll have it ripped out by the roots. Her memory, I thank God, is far
above the insults of such a crawling thing as you. None the less, take
care not to speak of the only woman whose name I reverence."
And then turning at bay, as even the rat will do, Lionel sprang upon
him, with clawing hands outstretched to reach his throat. But
Sakr-el-Bahr caught him in a grip that bent him howling to his knees.
"You find me strong, eh?" he gibed. "Is it matter for wonder? Consider
that for six endless months I toiled at the oar of a galley, and you'll
understand what it was that turned my body into iron and robbed me of a
He flung him off, and sent him crashing into the rosebush and the
lattice over which it rambled.
"Do you realize the horror of the rower's bench? to sit day in day out,
night in night out, chained naked to the oar, amid the reek and stench
of your fellows in misfortune, unkempt, unwashed save by the rain,
broiled and roasted by the sun, festering with sores, lashed and cut and
scarred by the boatswain's whip as you faint under the ceaseless,
endless, cruel toil?"
"Do you realize it? "From a tone of suppressed fury his voice rose
suddenly to a roar. "You shall. For that horror which was mine by your
contriving shall now be yours until you die."
He paused; but Lionel made no attempt to avail himself of this. His
courage all gone out of him again, as suddenly as it had flickered up,
he cowered where he had been flung.
"Before you go there is something else," Sakr-el-Bahr resumed,
"something for which I have had you brought hither to-night.
"Not content with having delivered me to all this, not content with
having branded me a murderer, destroyed my good name, filched my
possessions and driven me into the very path of hell, you must further
set about usurping my place in the false heart of this woman I once
"I hope," he went on reflectively, "that in your own poor way you love
her, too, Lionel. Thus to the torment that awaits your body shall be
added torment for your treacherous soul--such torture of mind as only
the damned may know. To that end have I brought you hither. That you
may realize something of what is in store for this woman at my hands;
that you may take the thought of it with you to be to your mind worse
than the boatswain's lash to your pampered body."
"You devil!" snarled Lionel. "Oh, you fiend out of hell!"
"If you will manufacture devils, little toad of a brother, do not
upbraid them for being devils when next you meet them."
"Give him no heed, Lionel!" said Rosamund. "I shall prove him as much a
boaster as he has proved himself a villain. Never think that he will be
able to work his evil will."
"'Tis you are the boaster there," said Sakr-el-Bahr. "And for the rest,
I am what you and he, between you, have made me."
"Did we make you liar and coward?--for that is what you are indeed," she
"Coward?" he echoed, in genuine surprise. "'Twill be some lie that he
has told you with the others. In what, pray, was I ever a coward?"
"In what? In this that you do now; in this taunting and torturing of
two helpless beings in our power."
"I speak not of what I am," he replied, "for I have told you that I am
what you have made me. I speak of what I was. I speak of the past."
She looked at him and she seemed to measure him with her unwavering
"You speak of the past?" she echoed, her voice low. "You speak of the
past and to me? You dare?"
"It is that we might speak of it together that I have fetched you all
the way from England; that at last I may tell you things I was a fool to
have kept from you five years ago; that we may resume a conversation
which you interrupted when you dismissed me."
"I did you a monstrous injury, no doubt," she answered him, with bitter
irony. "I was surely wanting in consideration. It would have become me
better to have smiled and fawned upon my brother's murderer."
"I swore to you, then, that I was not his murderer," he reminded her in
a voice that shook.
"And I answered you that you lied."
"Ay, and on that you dismissed me--the word of the man whom you
professed to love, the word of the man to whom you had given your trust
weighing for naught with you."
"When I gave you my trust," she retorted, "I did so in ignorance of your
true self, in a headstrong wilful ignorance that would not be guided by
what all the world said of you and your wild ways. For that blind
wilfulness I have been punished, as perhaps I deserved to be."
"Lies--all lies!" he stormed. "Those ways of mine--and God knows they
were none so wild, when all is said--I abandoned when I came to love
you. No lover since the world began was ever so cleansed, so purified,
so sanctified by love as was I."
"Spare me this at least!" she cried on a note of loathing
"Spare you?" he echoed. "What shall I spare you?"
"The shame of it all; the shame that is ever mine in the reflection that
for a season I believed I loved you."
He smiled. "If you can still feel shame, it shall overwhelm you ere I
have done. For you shall hear me out. Here there are none to interrupt
us, none to thwart my sovereign will. Reflect then, and remember.
Remember what a pride you took in the change you had wrought in me.
Your vanity welcomed that flattery, that tribute to the power of your
beauty. Yet, all in a moment, upon the paltriest grounds, you believed
me the murderer of your brother."
"The paltriest grounds?" she cried, protesting almost despite herself
"So paltry that the justices at Truro would not move against me."
"Because," she cut in, "they accounted that you had been sufficiently
provoked. Because you had not sworn to them as you swore to me that no
provocation should ever drive you to raise your hand against my brother.
Because they did not realize how false and how forsworn you were."
He considered her a moment. Then he took a turn on the terrace. Lionel
crouching ever by the rose-tree was almost entirely forgotten by him
"God give me patience with you!" he said at length. "I need it. For I
desire you to understand many things this night. I mean you to see how
just is my resentment; how just the punishment that is to overtake you
for what you have made of my life and perhaps of my hereafter. Justice
Baine and another who is dead, knew me for innocent."
"They knew you for innocent?" There was scornful amazement in her tone.
"Were they not witnesses of the quarrel betwixt you and Peter and of
your oath that you would kill him?"
"That was an oath sworn in the heat of anger. Afterwards I bethought me
that he was your brother."
"Afterwards?" said she. "After you had murdered him?"
"I say again," Oliver replied calmly, "that I did not do this thing."
"And I say again that you lie."
He considered her for a long moment; then he laughed. "Have you ever,"
he asked, "known a man to lie without some purpose? Men lie for the
sake of profit, they lie out of cowardice or malice, or else because
they are vain and vulgar boasters. I know of no other causes that will
drive a man to falsehood, save that--ah, yes!--" (and he flashed a
sidelong glance at Lionel)--"save that sometimes a man will lie to
shield another, out of self-sacrifice. There you have all the spurs
that urge a man to falsehood. Can any of these be urging me to-night?
Reflect! Ask yourself what purpose I could serve by lying to you now.
Consider further that I have come to loathe you for your unfaith; that I
desire naught so much as to punish you for that and for all its bitter
consequences to me that I have brought you hither to exact payment from
you to the uttermost farthing. What end then can I serve by falsehood?"
"All this being so, what end could you serve by truth?" she countered.
"To make you realize to the full the injustice that you did. To make
you understand the wrongs for which you are called to pay. To prevent
you from conceiving yourself a martyr; to make you perceive in all its
deadly bitterness that what now comes to you is the inevitable fruit of
your own faithlessness."
"Sir Oliver, do you think me a fool? " she asked him.
"Madam, I do--and worse," he answered.
"Ay, that is clear," she agreed scornfully, "since even now you waste
breath in attempting to persuade me against my reason. But words will
not blot out facts. And though you talk from now till the day of
judgment no word of yours can efface those bloodstains in the snow that
formed a trail from that poor murdered body to your own door; no word of
yours can extinguish the memory of the hatred between him and you, and
of your own threat to kill him; nor can it stifle the recollection of
the public voice demanding your punishment. You dare to take such a
tone as you are taking with me? You dare here under Heaven to stand and
lie to me that you may give false gloze to the villainy of your present
deed--for that is the purpose of your falsehood, since you asked me what
purpose there could be for it. What had you to set against all that, to
convince me that your hands were clean, to induce me to keep the troth
which--God forgive me!--I had plighted to you?"
"My word," he answered her in a ringing voice.
"Your lie," she amended.
"Do not suppose," said he, that I could not support my word by proofs if
called upon to do so."
"Proofs?" She stared at him, wide-eyed a moment. Then her lip curled.
"And that no doubt was the reason of your flight when you heard that the
Queen's pursuivants were coming in response to the public voice to call
you to account."
He stood at gaze a moment, utterly dumbfounded. "My flight?" he said.
"What fable's that?"
"You will tell me next that you did not flee. That that is another
false charge against you?"
"So," he said slowly, "it was believed I fled!"
And then light burst upon him, to dazzle and stun him. It was so
inevitably what must have been believed, and yet it had never crossed
his mind. 0 the damnable simplicity of it! At another time his
disappearance must have provoked comment and investigation, perhaps.
But, happening when it did, the answer to it came promptly and
convincingly and no man troubled to question further. Thus was Lionel's
task made doubly easy, thus was his own guilt made doubly sure in the
eyes of all. His head sank upon his breast. What had he done? Could
he still blame Rosamund for having been convinced by so overwhelming a
piece of evidence? Could he still blame her if she had burnt unopened
the letter which he had sent her by the hand of Pitt? What else indeed
could any suppose, but that he had fled? And that being so, clearly
such a flight must brand him irrefutably for the murderer he was alleged
to be. How could he blame her if she had ultimately been convinced by
the only reasonable assumption possible?
A sudden sense of the wrong he had done rose now like a tide about him.
"My God!" he groaned, like a man in pain. "My God!"
He looked at her, and then averted his glance again, unable now to
endure the haggard, strained yet fearless gaze of those brave eyes of
"What else, indeed, could you believe?" he muttered brokenly, thus
giving some utterance to what was passing through his mind.
"Naught else but the whole vile truth," she answered fiercely, and
thereby stung him anew, whipped him out of his sudden weakening back to
his mood of resentment and vindictiveness.
She had shown herself, he thought in that moment of reviving anger, too
ready to believe what told against him.
"The truth?" he echoed, and eyed her boldly now. "Do you know the truth
when you see it? We shall discover. For by God's light you shall have
the truth laid stark before you now, and you shall find it hideous
beyond all your hideous imaginings."
There was something so compelling now in his tone and manner that it
drove her to realize that some revelation was impending. She was
conscious of a faint excitement, a reflection perhaps of the wild
excitement that was astir in him.
"Your brother," he began, "met his death at the hands of a false
weakling whom I loved, towards whom I had a sacred duty. Straight from
the deed he fled to me for shelter. A wound he had taken in the