Part 5 out of 7
struggle left that trail of blood to mark the way he had come." He
paused, and his tone became gentler, it assumed the level note of one
who reasons impassively. "Was it not an odd thing, now, that none
should ever have paused to seek with certainty whence that blood
proceeded, and to consider that I bore no wound in those days? Master
Baine knew it, for I submitted my body to his examination, and a
document was drawn up and duly attested which should have sent the
Queen's pursuivants back to London with drooping tails had I been at
Penarrow to receive them."
Faintly through her mind stirred the memory that Master Baine had urged
the existence of some such document, that in fact he had gone so far as
to have made oath of this very circumstance now urged by Sir Oliver; and
she remembered that the matter had been brushed aside as an invention of
the justice's to answer the charge of laxity in the performance of his
duty, particularly as the only co-witness he could cite was Sir Andrew
Flack, the parson, since deceased. Sir Oliver's voice drew her
attention from that memory.
"But let that be," he was saying. "Let us come back to the story
itself. I gave the craven weakling shelter. Thereby I drew down
suspicion upon myself, and since I could not clear myself save by
denouncing him, I kept silent. That suspicion drew to certainty when
the woman to whom I was betrothed, recking nothing of my oaths, freely
believing the very worst of me, made an end of our betrothal and thereby
branded me a murderer and a liar in the eyes of all. Indignation
swelled against me. The Queen's pursuivants were on their way to do
what the justices of Truro refused to do.
"So far I have given you facts. Now I give you surmise--my own
conclusions--but surmise that strikes, as you shall judge, the very
bull's-eye of truth. That dastard to whom I had given sanctuary, to
whom I had served as a cloak, measured my nature by his own and feared
that I must prove unequal to the fresh burden to be cast upon me. He
feared lest under the strain of it I should speak out, advance my
proofs, and so destroy him. There was the matter of that wound, and
there was something still more unanswerable he feared I might have
urged. There was a certain woman--a wanton up at Malpas--who could have
been made to speak, who could have revealed a rivalry concerning her
betwixt the slayer and your brother. For the affair in which Peter
Godolphin met his death was a pitifully, shamefully sordid one at
For the first time she interrupted him, fiercely. "Do you malign the
"Patience, mistress," he commanded. "I malign none. I speak the truth
of a dead man that the truth may be known of two living ones. Hear me
out, then! I have waited long and survived a deal that I might tell you
"That craven, then, conceived that I might become a danger to him; so he
decided to remove me. He contrived to have me kidnapped one night and
put aboard a vessel to be carried to Barbary and sold there as a slave.
That is the truth of my disappearance. And the slayer, whom I had
befriended and sheltered at my own bitter cost, profited yet further by
my removal. God knows whether the prospect of such profit was a further
temptation to him. In time he came to succeed me in my possessions, and
at last to succeed me even in the affections of the faithless woman who
once had been my affianced wife."
At last she started from the frozen patience in which she had listened
hitherto. "Do you say that...that Lionel...?" she was beginning in a
voice choked by indignation.
And then Lionel spoke at last, straightening himself into a stiffly
"He lies!" he cried. "He lies, Rosamund! Do not heed him."
"I do not," she answered, turning away.
A wave of colour suffused the swarthy face of Sakr-el-Bahr. A moment
his eyes followed her as she moved away a step or two, then they turned
their blazing light of anger upon Lionel. He strode silently across to
him, his mien so menacing that Lionel shrank back in fresh terror.
Sakr-el-Bahr caught his brother's wrist in a grip that was as that of a
steel manacle. "We'll have the truth this night if we have to tear it
from you with red-hot pincers," he said between his teeth.
He dragged him forward to the middle of the terrace and held him there
before Rosamund, forcing him down upon his knees into a cowering
attitude by the violence of that grip upon his wrist.
"Do you know aught of the ingenuity of Moorish torture?" he asked him.
"You may have heard of the rack and the wheel and the thumbscrew at
home. They are instruments of voluptuous delight compared with the
contrivances of Barbary to loosen stubborn tongues."
White and tense, her hands clenched, Rosamund seemed to stiffen before
"You coward! You cur! You craven renegade dog!" she branded him.
Oliver released his brother's wrist and beat his hands together.
Without heeding Rosamund he looked down upon Lionel, who cowered
shuddering at his feet.
"What do you say to a match between your fingers? Or do you think a
pair of bracelets of living fire would answer better, to begin with?"
A squat, sandy-bearded, turbaned fellow, rolling slightly in his gait,
came--as had been prearranged--to answer the corsair's summons.
With the toe of his slipper Sakr-el-Bahr stirred his brother.
"Look up, dog," he bade him. "Consider me that man, and see if you know
him again. Look at him, I say!" And Lionel looked, yet since clearly
he did so without recognition his brother explained: "His name among
Christians was Jasper Leigh. He was the skipper you bribed to carry me
into Barbary. He was taken in his own toils when his ship was sunk by
Spaniards. Later he fell into my power, and because I forebore from
hanging him he is to-day my faithful follower. I should bid him tell
you what he knows," he continued, turning to Rosamund, "if I thought you
would believe his tale. But since I am assured you would not, I will
take other means." He swung round to Jasper again. "Bid Ali heat me a
pair of steel manacles in a brazier and hold them in readiness against
my need of them." And he waved his hand.
Jasper bowed and vanished.
"The bracelets shall coax confession from your own lips, my brother."
"I have naught to confess," protested Lionel. "You may force lies from
me with your ruffianly tortures.
Oliver smiled. "Not a doubt but that lies will flow from you more
readily than truth. But we shall have truth, too, in the end, never
doubt it." He was mocking, and there was a subtle purpose underlying
his mockery. "And you shall tell a full story," he continued, "in all
its details, so that Mistress Rosamund's last doubt shall vanish. You
shall tell her how you lay in wait for him that evening in Godolphin
Park; how you took him unawares, and...."
"That is false!" cried Lionel in a passion of sincerity that brought him
to his feet.
It was false, indeed, and Oliver knew it, and deliberately had recourse
to falsehood, using it as a fulcrum upon which to lever out the truth.
He was cunning as all the fiends, and never perhaps did he better
manifest his cunning.
"False?" he cried with scorn. "Come, now, be reasonable. The truth,
ere torture sucks it out of you. Reflect that I know all--exactly as
you told it me. How was it, now? Lurking behind a bush you sprang upon
him unawares and ran him through before he could so much as lay a hand
to his sword, and so...."
"The lie of that is proven by the very facts themselves," was the
furious interruption. A subtle judge of tones might have realized that
here was truth indeed, angry indignant truth that compelled conviction.
"His sword lay beside him when they found him."
But Oliver was loftily disdainful. "Do I not know? Yourself you drew
it after you had slain him."
The taunt performed its deadly work. For just one instant Lionel was
carried off his feet by the luxury of his genuine indignation, and in
that one instant he was lost.
"As God's my witness, that is false!" he cried wildly. "And you know
it. I fought him fair...."
He checked on a long, shuddering, indrawn breath that was horrble to
Then silence followed, all three remaining motionless as statues:
Rosamund white and tense, Oliver grim and sardonic, Lionel limp, and
overwhelmed by the consciousness of how he had been lured into
At last it was Rosamund who spoke, and her voice shook and shifted from
key to key despite her strained attempt to keep it level.
"What...what did you say, Lionel?" she asked. Oliver laughed softly.
"He was about to add proof of his statement, I think," he jeered. "He
was about to mention the wound he took in that fight, which left those
tracks in the snow, thus to prove that I lied--as indeed I did--when I
said that he took Peter unawares.
"Lionel!" she cried. She advanced a step and made as if to hold out her
arms to him, then let them fall again beside her. He stood stricken,
answering nothing. "Lionel!" she cried again, her voice growing
suddenly shrill. "Is this true?"
"Did you not hear him say it?" quoth Oliver.
She stood swaying a moment, looking at Lionel, her white face distorted
into a mask of unutterable pain. Oliver stepped towards her, ready to
support her, fearing that she was about to fall. But with an imperious
hand she checked his advance, and by a supreme effort controlled her
weakness. Yet her knees shook under her, refusing their office. She
sank down upon the divan and covered her face with her hands.
"God pity me!" she moaned, and sat huddled there, shaken with sobs.
Lionel started at that heart-broken cry. Cowering, he approached her,
and Oliver, grim and sardonic, stood back, a spectator of the scene he
had precipitated. He knew that given rope Lionel would enmesh himself
still further. There must be explanations that would damn him utterly.
Oliver was well content to look on.
"Rosamund!" came Lionel's piteous cry. "Rose! Have mercy! Listen ere
you judge me. Listen lest you misjudge me!"
"Ay, listen to him," Oliver flung in, with his soft hateful laugh.
"Listen to him. I doubt he'll be vastly entertaining."
That sneer was a spur to the wretched Lionel. "Rosamund, all that he
has told you of it is false. I...I...It was done in self-defence. It
is a lie that I took him unawares." His words came wildly now. "We had
quarrelled about...about...a certain matter, and as the devil would have
it we met that evening in Godolphin Park, he and I. He taunted me; he
struck me, and finally he drew upon me and forced me to draw that I
might defend my life. That is the truth. I swear to you here on my
knees in the sight of Heaven! And...."
"Enough, sir! Enough!" she broke in, controlling herself to check these
protests that but heightened her disgust.
"Nay, hear me yet, I implore you; that knowing all you may be merciful
in your judgment."
"Merciful?" she cried, and almost seemed to laugh
"It was an accident that I slew him," Lionel raved on. "I never meant
it. I never meant to do more than ward and preserve my life. But when
swords are crossed more may happen than a man intends. I take God to
witness that his death was an accident resulting from his own fury."
She had checked her sobs, and she considered him now with eyes that were
hard and terrible.
"Was it also an accident that you left me and all the world in the
belief that the deed was your brother's?" she asked him.
He covered his face, as if unable to endure her glance. "Did you but
know how I loved you--even in those days, in secret--you would perhaps
pity me a little," he whimpered.
"Pity?" She leaned forward and seemed to spit the word at him.
"'Sdeath, man! Do you sue for pity--you?"
"Yet you must pity me did you know the greatness of the temptation to
which I succumbed."
"I know the greatness of your infamy, of your falseness, of your
cowardice, of your baseness. Oh!"
He stretched out suppliant hands to her; there were tears now in his
eyes. "Of your charity, Rosamund...." he was beginning, when at last
"I think you are wearying the lady," he said, and stirred him with his
foot. "Relate to us instead some more of your astounding accidents.
They are more diverting. Elucidate the accident, by which you had me
kidnapped to be sold into slavery. Tell us of the accident by which you
succeeded to my property. Expound to the full the accidental
circumstances of which throughout you have been the unfortunate victim.
Come, man, ply your wits. 'Twill make a pretty tale."
And then came Jasper to announce that Ali waited with the brazier and
the heated manacles.
"They are no longer needed," said Oliver. "Take this slave hence with
you. Bid Ali to take charge of him, and at dawn to see him chained to
one of the oars of my galeasse. Away with him."
Lionel rose to his feet, his face ashen. "Wait! Ah, wait! Rosamund!" he
Oliver caught him by the nape of his neck, spun him round, and flung him
into the arms of Jasper. "Take him away!" he growled, and Jasper took
the wretch by the shoulders and urged him out, leaving Rosamund and
Oliver alone with the truth under the stars of Barbary.
THE SUBTLETY OF FENZILEH
Oliver considered the woman for a long moment as she sat half-crouching
on the divan, her hands locked, her face set and stony, her eyes lowered.
He sighed gently and turned away. He paced to the parapet and looked out
upon the city bathed in the white glare of the full risen moon. There
arose thence a hum of sound, dominated, however, by the throbbing song of
a nightingale somewhere in his garden and the croaking of the frogs by
the pool in the valley.
Now that truth had been dragged from its well, and tossed, as it were,
into Rosamund's lap, he felt none of the fierce exultation which he had
conceived that such an hour as this must bring him. Rather, indeed, was
he saddened and oppressed. To poison the unholy cup of joy which he had
imagined himself draining with such thirsty zest there was that discovery
of a measure of justification for her attitude towards him in her
conviction that his disappearance was explained by flight.
He was weighed down by a sense that he had put himself entirely in the
wrong; that in his vengeance he had overreached himself; and he found the
fruits of it, which had seemed so desirably luscious, turning to ashes in
Long he stood there, the silence between them entirely unbroken. Then at
length he stirred, turned from the parapet, and paced slowly back until
he came to stand beside the divan, looking down upon her from his great
"At last you have heard the truth," he said. And as she made no answer
he continued: "I am thankful it was surprised out of him before the
torture was applied, else you might have concluded that pain was wringing
a false confession from him." He paused, but still she did not speak;
indeed, she made no sign that she had heard him. "That," he concluded,
"was the man whom you preferred to me. Faith, you did not flatter me, as
perhaps you may have learnt."
At last she was moved from her silence, and her voice came dull and hard.
"I have learnt how little there is to choose between you," she said. "It
was to have been expected. I might have known two brothers could not
have been so dissimilar in nature. Oh, I am learning a deal, and
It was a speech that angered him, that cast out entirely the softer mood
that had been growing in him.
"You are learning?" he echoed. "What are you learning?"
"Knowledge of the ways of men."
His teeth gleamed in his wry smile. "I hope the knowledge will bring you
as much bitterness as the knowledge of women--of one woman--has brought
me. To have believed me what you believed me--me whom you conceived
yourself to love!" He felt, perhaps the need to repeat it that he might
keep the grounds of his grievance well before his mind.
"If I have a mercy to beg of you it is that you will not shame me with
"Of your faithlessness?" he asked. "Of your disloyal readiness to
believe the worst evil of me?"
"Of my ever having believed that I loved you. That is the thought that
shames me, as nothing else in life could shame me, as not even the
slave-market and all the insult to which you have submitted me could
shame me. You taunt me with my readiness to believe evil of you...."
"I do more than taunt you with it," he broke in, his anger mounting under
the pitiless lash of her scorn. "I lay to your charge the wasted years
of my life, all the evil that has followed out of it, all that I have
suffered, all that I have lost, all that I am become."
She looked up at him coldly, astonishingly mistress of herself. "You lay
all this to my charge?" she asked him.
"I do." He was very vehement. "Had you not used me as you did, had you
not lent a ready ear to lies, that whelp my brother would never have gone
to such lengths, nor should I ever have afforded him the opportunity."
She shifted on the cushions of the divan and turned her shoulder to him.
"All this is very idle," she said coldly. Yet perhaps because she felt
that she had need to justify herself she continued: "If, after all, I was
so ready to believe evil of you, it is that my instincts must have warned
me of the evil that was ever in you. You have proved to me to-night that
it was not you who murdered Peter; but to attain that proof you have done
a deed that is even fouler and more shameful, a deed that reveals to the
full the blackness of your heart. Have you not proved yourself a monster
of vengeance and impiety?" She rose and faced him again in her sudden
passion. "Are you not--you that were born a Cornish Christian gentleman--
become a heathen and a robber, a renegade and a pirate? Have you not
sacrificed your very God to your vengeful lust?"
He met her glance fully, never quailing before her denunciation, and when
she had ended on that note of question he counter-questioned her.
"And your instincts had forewarned you of all this? God's life, woman!
can you invent no better tale than that?" He turned aside as two slaves
entered bearing an earthenware vessel. "Here comes your supper. I hope
your appetite is keener than your logic."
They set the vessel, from which a savoury smell proceeded, upon the
little Moorish table by the divan. On the ground beside it they placed a
broad dish of baked earth in which there were a couple of loaves and a
red, short-necked amphora of water with a drinking-cup placed over the
mouth of it to act as a stopper.
They salaamed profoundly and padded softly out again.
"Sup," he bade her shortly.
"I want no supper," she replied, her manner sullen.
His cold eye played over her. "Henceforth, girl, you will consider not
what you want, but what I bid you do. I bid you eat; about it,
"I will not."
"Will not?" he echoed slowly. "Is that a speech from slave to master?
Eat, I say."
"I cannot! I cannot!" she protested.
"A slave may not live who cannot do her master's bidding."
"Then kill me," she answered fiercely, leaping up to confront and dare
him. "Kill me. You are used to killing, and for that at least I should
"I will kill you if I please," he said in level icy tones. "But not to
please you. You don't yet understand. You are my slave, my thing, my
property, and I will not suffer you to be damaged save at my own good
pleasure. Therefore, eat, or my Nubians shall whip you to quicken
For a moment she stood defiant before him, white and resolute. Then
quite suddenly, as if her will was being bent and crumpled under the
insistent pressure of his own, she drooped and sank down again to the
divan. Slowly, reluctantly she drew the dish nearer. Watching her, he
laughed quite silently.
She paused, appearing to seek for something. Failing to find it she
looked up at him again, between scorn and intercession.
"Am I to tear the meat with my fingers?" she demanded.
His eyes gleamed with understanding, or at least with suspicion. But he
answered her quite calmly--"It is against the Prophet's law to defile
meat or bread by the contact of a knife. You must use the hands that God
has given you."
"Do you mock me with the Prophet and his laws? What are the Prophet's
laws to me? If eat I must, at least I will not eat like a heathen dog,
but in Christian fashion."
To indulge her, as it seemed, he slowly drew the richly hilted dagger
from his girdle. "Let that serve you, then," he said; and carelessly he
tossed it down beside her.
With a quick indrawn breath she pounced upon it. "At last," she said,
"you give me something for which I can be grateful to you." And on the
words she laid the point of it against her breast.
Like lightning he had dropped to one knee, and his hand had closed about
her wrist with such a grip that all her arm felt limp and powerless. He
was smiling into her eyes, his swarthy face close to her own.
"Did you indeed suppose I trusted you? Did you really think me deceived
by your sudden pretence of yielding? When will you learn that I am not a
fool? I did it but to test your spirit."
"Then now you know its temper," she replied. "You know my intention."
"Forewarned, forearmed," said he.
She looked at him, with something that would have been mockery but for
the contempt that coloured it too deeply. "Is it so difficult a thing,"
she asked, "to snap the thread of life? Are there no ways of dying save
by the knife? You boast yourself my master; that I am your slave; that,
having bought me in the market-place, I belong to you body and soul. How
idle is that boast. My body you may bind and confine; but my soul.... Be
very sure that you shall be cheated of your bargain. You boast yourself
lord of life and death. A lie! Death is all that you can command."
Quick steps came pattering up the stairs, and before he could answer her,
before he had thought of words in which to do so, Ali confronted him with
the astounding announcement that there was a woman below asking urgently
to speak with him.
"A woman?" he questioned, frowning. "A Nasrani woman, do you mean?"
"No, my lord. A Muslim," was the still more surprising information.
"A Muslim woman, here? Impossible!"
But even as he spoke a dark figure glided like a shadow across the
threshold on to the terrace. She was in black from head to foot,
including the veil that shrouded her, a veil of the proportions of a
mantle, serving to dissemble her very shape.
Ali swung upon her in a rage. "Did I not bid thee wait below, thou
daughter of shame?" he stormed. "She has followed me up, my lord, to
thrust herself in here upon you. Shall I drive her forth?"
"Let her be," said Sakr-el-Bahr. And he waved Ali away. "Leave us!"
Something about that black immovable figure arrested his attention and
fired his suspicions. Unaccountably almost it brought to his mind the
thought of Ayoub-el-Sarnin and the bidding there had been for Rosamund in
He stood waiting for his visitor to speak and disclose herself. She on
her side continued immovable until Ali's footsteps had faded in the
distance. Then, with a boldness entirely characteristic, with the
recklessness that betrayed her European origin, intolerant of the Muslim
restraint imposed upon her sex, she did what no True-believing woman
would have done. She tossed back that long black veil and disclosed the
pale countenance and languorous eyes of Fenzileh.
For all that it was no more than he had expected, yet upon beholding
her--her countenance thus bared to his regard--he recoiled a step.
"Fenzileh!" he cried. "What madness is this?"
Having announced herself in that dramatic fashion she composedly
readjusted her veil so that her countenance should once more be decently
"To come here, to my house, and thus!" he protested. "Should this reach
the ears of thy lord, how will it fare with thee and with me? Away,
woman, and at once!" he bade her.
"No need to fear his knowing of this unless, thyself, thou tell him," she
answered. "To thee I need no excuse if thou'lt but remember that like
thyself I was not born a Muslim."
"But Algiers is not thy native Sicily, and whatever thou wast born it
were well to remember what thou art become."
He went on at length to tell her of the precise degree of her folly, but
she cut in, stemming his protestation in full flow.
"These are idle words that but delay me."
"To thy purpose then, in Allah's name, that thus thou mayest depart the
She came to it straight enough on that uncompromising summons. She
pointed to Rosamund. "It concerns that slave," said she. "I sent my
wazeer to the sôk to-day with orders to purchase her for me."
"So I had supposed," he said.
"But it seems that she caught thy fancy, and the fool suffered himself to
"Thou'lt relinquish her to me at the price she cost thee?" A faint note
of anxiety trembled in her voice.
"I am anguished to deny thee, 0 Fenzileh. She is not for sale."
"Ah, wait," she cried. "The price paid was high--many times higher than
I have ever heard tell was given for a slave, however lovely. Yet I
covet her. 'Tis a whim of mine, and I cannot suffer to be thwarted in my
whims. To gratify this one I will pay three thousand philips."
He looked at her and wondered what devilries might be stirring in her
mind, what evil purpose she desired to serve.
"Thou'lt pay three thousand philips?" he said slowly. Then bluntly asked
"To gratify a whim, to please a fancy."
"What is the nature of this costly whim?" he insisted.
The desire to possess her for my own," she answered evasively.
"And this desire to possess her, whence is it sprung?" he returned, as
patient as he was relentless.
"You ask too many questions," she exclaimed with a flash of anger.
He shrugged and smiled. "You answer too few."
She set her arms akimbo and faced him squarely. Faintly through her veil
he caught the gleam of her eyes, and he cursed the advantage she had in
that her face was covered from his reading.
"In a word, Oliver-Reis," said she, "wilt sell her for three thousand
"In a word--no," he answered her.
"Thou'lt not? Not for three thousand philips?" Her voice was charged with
surprise, and he wondered was it real or assumed.
"Not for thirty thousand," answered he. "She is mine, and I'll not
relinquish her. So since I have proclaimed my mind, and since to tarry
here is fraught with peril for us both, I beg thee to depart."
There fell a little pause, and neither of them noticed the alert interest
stamped upon the white face of Rosamund. Neither of them suspected her
knowledge of French which enabled her to follow most of what was said in
the lingua franca they employed.
Fenzileh drew close to him. "Thou'lt not relinquish her, eh?" she asked,
and he was sure she sneered. "Be not so confident. Thou'lt be forced to
it, my friend--if not to me, why then, to Asad. He is coming for her,
himself, in person."
"Asad?" he cried, startled now.
"Asad-ed-Din," she answered, and upon that resumed her pleading. "Come,
then! It were surely better to make a good bargain with me than a bad
one with the Basha."
He shook his head and planted his feet squarely. "I intend to make no
bargain with either of you. This slave is not for sale."
"Shalt thou dare resist Asad? I tell thee he will take her whether she
be for sale or not."
"I see," he said, his eyes narrowing. "And the fear of this, then, is
the source of thy whim to acquire her for thyself. Thou art not subtle,
0 Fenzileh. The consciousness that thine own charms are fading sets thee
trembling lest so much loveliness should entirely cast thee from thy
lord's regard, eh?"
If he could not see her face, and study there the effect of that thrust
of his, at least he observed the quiver that ran through her muffled
figure, he caught the note of anger that throbbed in her reply--"And if
that were so, what is't to thee?"
"It may be much or little," he replied thoughtfully.
"Indeed, it should be much," she answered quickly, breathlessly. "Have I
not ever been thy friend? Have I not ever urged thy valour on my lord's
notice and wrought like a true friend for thine advancement,
He laughed outright. "Hast thou so?" quoth he.
"Laugh as thou wilt, but it is true," she insisted. "Lose me and thy
most valuable ally is lost--one who has the ear and favour of her lord.
For look, Sakr-el-Bahr, it is what would befall if another came to fill
my place, another who might poison Asad's mind with lies against thee--
for surely she cannot love thee, this Frankish girl whom thou hast torn
from her home!"
"Be not concerned for that," he answered lightly, his wits striving in
vain to plumb the depths and discover the nature of her purpose. "This
slave of mine shall never usurp thy place beside Asad."
"0 fool, Asad will take her whether she be for sale or not."
He looked down upon her, head on one side and arms akimbo. "If he can
take her from me, the more easily can he take her from thee. No doubt
thou hast considered that, and in some dark Sicilian way considered too
how to provide against it. But the cost--hast thou counted that? What
will Asad say to thee when he learns how thou hast thwarted him?"
"What do I care for that?" she cried in sudden fury, her gestures
becoming a little wild. "She will be at the bottom of the harbour by
then with a stone about her neck. He may have me whipped. No doubt he
will. But 'twill end there. He will require me to console him for his
loss, and so all will be well again."
At last he had drawn her, pumped her dry, as he imagined. Indeed,
indeed, he thought, he had been right to say she was not subtle. He had
been a fool to have permitted himself to be intrigued by so shallow, so
obvious a purpose. He shrugged and turned away from her.
"Depart in peace, 0 Fenzileh," he said. "I yield her to none--be his
name Asad or Shaitan."
His tone was final, and her answer seemed to accept at last his
determination. Yet she was very quick with that answer; so quick that he
might have suspected it to be preconceived.
"Then it is surely thine intent to wed her." No voice could have been
more innocent and guileless than was hers now. "If so," she went on, "it
were best done quickly, for marriage is the only barrier Asad will not
overthrow. He is devout, and out of his deep reverence for the Prophet's
law he would be sure to respect such a bond as that. But be very sure
that he will respect nothing short of it."
Yet notwithstanding her innocence and assumed simplicity--because of it,
perhaps--he read her as if she had been an open book; it no longer
mattered that her face was veiled.
"And thy purpose would be equally well served, eh?" he questioned her,
sly in his turn.
"Equally," she admitted.
"Say 'better,' Fenzileh," he rejoined. "I said thou art not subtle. By
the Koran, I lied. Thou art subtle as the serpent. Yet I see whither
thou art gliding. Were I to be guided by thine advice a twofold purpose
would be served. First, I should place her beyond Asad's reach, and
second, I should be embroiled with him for having done so. What could
more completely satisfy thy wishes?"
"Thou dost me wrong," she protested. "I have ever been thy friend. I
would that...." She broke off suddenly to listen. The stillness of the
night was broken by cries from the direction of the Bab-el-Oueb. She ran
swiftly to the parapet whence the gate was to be seen and leaned far out.
"Look, look!" she cried, and there was a tremor of fear in her voice.
"It is he--Asad-ed-Din."
Sakr-el-Bahr crossed to her side and in a glare of torches saw a body of
men coming forth from the black archway of the gate.
"It almost seems as if, departing from thy usual custom, thou hast spoken
truth, 0 Fenzileh."
She faced him, and he suspected the venomous glance darted at him through
her veil. Yet her voice when she spoke was cold. "In a moment thou'lt
have no single doubt of it. But what of me?" The question was added in
a quickening tone. "He must not find me here. He would kill me, I
"I am sure he would," Sakr-el-Bahr agreed. "Yet muffled thus, who should
recognize thee? Away, then, ere he comes. Take cover in the courtyard
until he shall have passed. Didst thou come alone?"
"Should I trust anyone with the knowledge that I had visited thee?" she
asked, and he admired the strong Sicilian spirit in her that not all
these years in the Basha's hareem had sufficed to extinguish.
She moved quickly to the door, to pause again on the threshold.
"Thou'lt not relinquish her? Thou'lt not."
"Be at ease," he answered her, on so resolved a note that she departed
IN THE SIGHT OF ALLAH
Sakr-el-Bahr stood lost in thought after she had gone. Again he weighed
her every word and considered precisely how he should meet Asad, and how
refuse him, if the Basha's were indeed such an errand as Fenzileh had
Thus in silence he remained waiting for Ali or another to summon him to
the presence of the Basha. Instead, however, when Ali entered it was
actually to announce Asad-ed-Din, who followed immediately upon his
heels, having insisted in his impatience upon being conducted straight to
the presence of Sakr-el-Bahr.
"The peace of the Prophet upon thee, my son, was the Basha's greeting.
"And upon thee, my lord." Sakr-el-Bahr salaamed. "My house is
honoured." With a gesture he dismissed Ali.
"I come to thee a suppliant," said Asad, advancing.
"A suppliant, thou? No need, my lord. I have no will that is not the
echo of thine own."
The Basha's questing eyes went beyond him and glowed as they rested upon
"I come in haste," he said, "like any callow lover, guided by my every
instinct to the presence of her I seek--this Frankish pearl, this
pen-faced captive of thy latest raid. I was away from the Kasbah when
that pig Tsamanni returned thither from the sôk; but when at last I
learnt that he had failed to purchase her as I commanded, I could have
wept for very grief. I feared at first that some merchant from the Sus
might have bought her and departed; but when I heard--blessed be Allah!--
that thou wert the buyer, I was comforted again. For thou'lt yield her
up to me, my son."
He spoke with such confidence that Oliver had a difficulty in choosing
the words that were to disillusion him. Therefore he stood in hesitancy
"I will make good thy, loss," Asad ran on. "Thou shalt have the sixteen
hundred philips paid and another five hundred to console thee. Say that
will content thee; for I boil with impatience."
Sakr-el-Bahr smiled grimly. "It is an impatience well known to me, my
lord, where she is concerned," he answered slowly. "I boiled with it
myself for five interminable years. To make an end of it I went a
distant perilous voyage to England in a captured Frankish vessel. Thou
didst not know, 0 Asad, else thou wouldst...."
"Bah!" broke in the Basha. "Thou'rt a huckster born. There is none like
thee, Sakr-el-Bahr, in any game of wits. Well, well, name thine own
price, strike thine own profit out of my impatience and let us have
"My lord," he said quietly, "it is not the profit that is in question.
She is not for sale."
Asad blinked at him, speechless, and slowly a faint colour crept into his
"Not...not for sale?" he echoed, faltering in his amazement.
"Not if thou offered me thy Bashalik as the price of her," was the solemn
answer. Then more warmly, in a voice that held a note of intercession--
"Ask anything else that is mine," he continued, "and gladly will I lay it
at thy feet in earnest of my loyalty and love for thee."
"But I want nothing else." Asad's tone was impatient, petulant almost.
"I want this slave."
"Then," replied Oliver, "I cast myself upon thy mercy and beseech thee to
turn thine eyes elsewhere."
Asad scowled upon him. "Dost thou deny me?" he demanded, throwing back
"Alas!" said Sakr-el-Bahr.
There fell a pause. Darker and darker grew the countenance of Asad,
fiercer glowed the eyes he bent upon his lieutenant. "I see," he said at
last, with a calm so oddly at variance with his looks as to be sinister.
"I see. It seems that there is more truth in Fenzileh than I suspected.
So!" He considered the corsair a moment with his sunken smouldering
Then he addressed him in a tone that vibrated with his suppressed anger.
"Bethink thee, Sakr-el-Bahr, of what thou art, of what I have made thee.
Bethink thee of all the bounty these hands have lavished on thee. Thou
art my own lieutenant, and mayest one day be more. In Algiers there is
none above thee save myself. Art, then, so thankless as to deny me the
first thing I ask of thee? Truly is it written 'Ungrateful is Man.'"
"Didst thou know," began Sakr-el-Bahr, "all that is involved for me in
"I neither know nor care," Asad cut in. "Whatever it may be, it should
be as naught when set against my will." Then he discarded anger for
cajolery. He set a hand upon Sakr-el-Bahr's stalwart shoulder. Come, my
son. I will deal generously with thee out of my love, and I will put thy
refusal from my mind."
"Be generous, my lord, to the point of forgetting that ever thou didst
ask me for her."
"Dost still refuse?" The voice, honeyed an instant ago, rang harsh
again. "Take care how far thou strain my patience. Even as I have
raised thee from the dirt, so at a word can I cast thee down again. Even
as I broke the shackles that chained thee to the rowers' bench, so can I
rivet them on thee anew.
"All this canst thou do," Sakr-el-Bahr agreed. "And since, knowing it, I
still hold to what is doubly mine--by right of capture and of purchase--
thou mayest conceive how mighty are my reasons. Be merciful, then,
"Must I take her by force in spite of thee?" roared the Basha.
Sakr-el-Bahr stiffened. He threw back his head and looked the Basha
squarely in the eyes.
"Whilst I live, not even that mayest thou do," he answered.
"Disloyal, mutinous dog! Wilt thou resist me--me?"
"It is my prayer that thou'lt not be so ungenerous and unjust as to
compel thy servant to a course so hateful."
Asad sneered. "Is that thy last word?" he demanded.
"Save only that in all things else I am thy slave, 0 Asad."
A moment the Basha stood regarding him, his glance baleful. Then
deliberately, as one who has taken his resolve, he strode to the door.
On the threshold he paused and turned again. "Wait!" he said, and on
that threatening word departed.
Sakr-el-Bahr remained a moment where he had stood during the interview,
then with a shrug he turned. He met Rosamund's eyes fixed intently upon
him, and invested with a look he could not read. He found himself unable
to meet it, and he turned away. It was inevitable that in such a moment
the earlier stab of remorse should be repeated. He had overreached
himself indeed. Despair settled down upon him, a full consciousness of
the horrible thing he had done, which seemed now so irrevocable. In his
silent anguish he almost conceived that he had mistaken his feelings for
Rosamund; that far from hating her as he had supposed, his love for her
had not yet been slain, else surely he should not be tortured now by the
thought of her becoming Asad's prey. If he hated her, indeed, as he had
supposed, he would have surrendered her and gloated.
He wondered was his present frame of mind purely the result of his
discovery that the appearances against him had been stronger far than he
imagined, so strong as to justify her conviction that he was her
And then her voice, crisp and steady, cut into his torture of
"Why did you deny him?"
He swung round again to face her, amazed, horror-stricken.
"You understood?" he gasped.
"I understood enough," said she. "This lingua franca is none so
different from French." And again she asked--"Why did you deny him?"
He paced across to her side and stood looking down at her.
"Do you ask why?"
"Indeed," she said bitterly, "there is scarce the need perhaps. And yet
can it be that your lust of vengeance is so insatiable that sooner than
willingly forgo an ounce of it you will lose your head?"
His face became grim again. "Of course," he sneered, "it would be so
that you'd interpret me."
"Nay. If I have asked it is because I doubt."
"Do you realize what it can mean to become the prey of Asad-ed-Din?"
She shuddered, and her glance fell from his, yet her voice was composed
when she answered him--"Is it so very much worse than becoming the prey
of Oliver-Reis or Sakr-el-Bahr, or whatever they may call you?"
"If you say that it is all one to you there's an end to my opposing him,"
he answered coldly. "You may go to him. If I resisted him--like a fool,
perhaps--it was for no sake of vengeance upon you. It was because the
thought of it fills me with horror."
"Then it should fill you with horror of yourself no less," said she.
His answer startled her.
"Perhaps it does," he said, scarcely above a murmur. "Perhaps it does."
She flashed him an upward glance and looked as if she would have spoken.
But he went on, suddenly passionate, without giving her time to interrupt
him. "0 God! It needed this to show me the vileness of the thing I have
done. Asad has no such motives as had I. I wanted you that I might
punish you. But he...0 God!" he groaned, and for a moment put his face
to his hands.
She rose slowly, a strange agitation stirring in her, her bosom
galloping. But in his overwrought condition he failed to observe it.
And then like a ray of hope to illumine his despair came the counsel that
Fenzileh had given him, the barrier which she had said that Asad, being a
devout Muslim, would never dare to violate.
"There is a way,'' he cried. "There is the way suggested by Fenzileh at
the promptings of her malice." An instant he hesitated, his eyes
averted. Then he made his plunge. "You must marry me."
It was almost as if he had struck her. She recoiled. Instantly
suspicion awoke in her; swiftly it drew to a conviction that he had but
sought to trick her by a pretended penitence.
"Marry you!" she echoed.
"Ay," he insisted. And he set himself to explain to her how if she were
his wife she must be sacred and inviolable to all good Muslimeen, that
none could set a finger upon her without doing outrage to the Prophet's
holy law, and that, whoever might be so disposed, Asad was not of those,
since Asad was perfervidly devout. "Thus only," he ended, "can I place
you beyond his reach."
But she was still scornfully reluctant.
"It is too desperate a remedy even for so desperate an ill," said she,
and thus drove him into a frenzy of impatience with her.
"You must, I say," he insisted, almost angrily. "You must--or else
consent to be borne this very night to Asad's hareem--and not even as his
wife, but as his slave. Oh, you must trust me for your own sake! You
"Trust you!" she cried, and almost laughed in the intensity of her scorn.
"Trust you! How can I trust one who is a renegade and worse?"
He controlled himself that he might reason with her, that by cold logic
he might conquer her consent.
"You are very unmerciful," he said. "In judging me you leave out of all
account the suffering through which I have gone and what yourself
contributed to it. Knowihg now how falsely I was accused and what other
bitter wrongs I suffered, consider that I was one to whom the man and the
woman I most loved in all this world had proven false. I had lost faith
in man and in God, and if I became a Muslim, a renegade, and a corsair,
it was because there was no other gate by which I could escape the
unutterable toil of the oar to which I had been chained." He looked at
her sadly. "Can you find no excuse for me in all that?"
It moved her a little, for if she maintained a hostile attitude, at least
she put aside her scorn.
"No wrongs," she told him, almost with sorrow in her voice, "could
justify you in outraging chivalry, in dishonouring your manhood, in
abusing your strength to persecute a woman. Whatever the causes that may
have led to it, you have fallen too low, sir, to make it possible that I
should trust you."
He bowed his head under the rebuke which already he had uttered in his
own heart. It was just and most deserved, and since he recognized its
justice he found it impossible to resent it.
"I know," he said. "But I am not asking you to trust me to my profit,
but to your own. It is for your sake alone that I implore you to do
this." Upon a sudden inspiration he drew the heavy dagger from his
girdle and proffered it, hilt foremost. "If you need an earnest of my
good faith," he said, "take this knife with which to-night you attempted
to stab yourself. At the first sign that I am false to my trust, use it
as you will--upon me or upon yourself."
She pondered him in some surprise. Then slowly she put out her hand to
take the weapon, as he bade her.
"Are you not afraid," she asked him, "that I shall use it now, and so
make an end?"
"I am trusting you," he said, "that in return you may trust me. Further,
I am arming you against the worst. For if it comes to choice between
death and Asad, I shall approve your choice of death. But let me add
that it were foolish to choose death whilst yet there is a chance of
"What chance?" she asked, with a faint return of her old scorn. "The
chance of life with you?"
"No," he answered firmly. "If you will trust me, I swear that I will
seek to undo the evil I have done. Listen. At dawn my galeasse sets out
upon a raid. I will convey you secretly aboard and find a way to land
you in some Christian country--Italy or France--whence you may make your
way home again."
"But meanwhile," she reminded him, "I shall have become your wife."
He smiled wistfully. "Do you still fear a trap? Can naught convince you
of my sincerity? A Muslim marriage is not binding upon a Christian, and
I shall account it no marriage. It will be no more than a pretence to
shelter you until we are away."
"How can I trust your word in that?"
"How?" He paused, baffled; but only for a moment. "You have the
dagger," he answered pregnantly.
She stood considering, her eyes upon the weapon's lividly gleaming blade.
"And this marriage?" she asked. "How is it to take place?"
He explained to her then that by the Muslim law all that was required was
a declaration made before a kadi, or his superior, and in the presence of
witnesses. He was still at his explanation when from below there came a
sound of voices, the tramp of feet, and the flash of torches.
"Here is Asad returning in force," he cried, and his voice trembled. "Do
"But the kadi?" she inquired, and by the question he knew that she was
won to his way of saving her.
"I said the kadi or his superior. Asad himself shall be our priest, his
followers our witnesses."
"And if he refuses? He will refuse!" she cried, clasping her hands
before her in her excitement.
"I shall not ask him. I shall take him by surprise."
"It...it must anger him. He may avenge himself for what he must deem a
"Ay," he answered, wild-eyed. "I have thought of that, too. But it is a
risk we must run. If we do not prevail, then--"
"I have the dagger," she cried fearlessly.
"And for me there will be the rope or the sword," he answered. "Be calm!
But the steps that pattered up the stairs were Ali's. He flung upon the
terrace in alarm.
"My lord, my lord! Asad-ed-Din is here in force. He has an armed
following with him!"
"There is naught to fear," said Sakr-el-Bahr, with every show of calm.
"All will be well."
Asad swept up the stairs and out upon that terrace to confront his
rebellious lieutenant. After him came a dozen black-robed janissaries
with scimitars along which the light of the torches rippled in little
runnels as of blood.
The Basha came to a halt before Sakr-el-Bahr, his arms majestically
folded, his head thrown back, so that his long white beard jutted
"I am returned," he said, "to employ force where gentleness will not
avail. Yet I pray that Allah may have lighted thee to a wiser frame of
"He has, indeed, my lord," replied Sakr-el-Bahr.
"The praise to Him!" exclaimed Asad in a voice that rang with joy. "The
girl, then!" And he held out a hand.
Sakr-el-Bahr stepped back to her and took her hand in his as if to lead
her forward. Then he spoke the fateful words.
"In Allah's Holy Name and in His All-seeing eyes, before thee,
Asad-ed-Din, and in the presence of these witnesses, I take this woman to
be my wife by the merciful law of the Prophet of Allah the All-wise, the
The words were out and the thing was done before Asad had realized the
corsair's intent. A gasp of dismay escaped him; then his visage grew
inflamed, his eyes blazed.
But Sakr-el-Bahr, cool and undaunted before that royal anger, took the
scarf that lay about Rosamund's shoulders, and raising it, flung it over
her head, so that her face was covered by it.
"May Allah rot off the hand of him who in contempt of our Lord Mahomet's
holy law may dare to unveil that face, and may Allah bless this union and
cast into the pit of Gehenna any who shall attempt to dissolve a bond
that is tied in His All-seeing eyes."
It was formidable. Too formidable for Asad-ed-Din. Behind him his
janissaries like hounds in leash stood eagerly awaiting his command. But
none came. He stood there breathing heavily, swaying a little, and
turning from red to pale in the battle that was being fought within him
between rage and vexation on the one hand and his profound piety on the
other. And as he yet hesitated perhaps Sakr-el-Bahr assisted his piety
to gain the day.
"Now you will understand why I would not yield her, 0 mighty Asad," he
said. "Thyself hast thou oft and rightly reproached me with my celibacy,
reminding me that it is not pleasing in the sight of Allah, that it is
unworthy a good Muslim. At last it hath pleased the Prophet to send me
such a maid as I could take to wife."
Asad bowed his head. "What is written is written," he said in the voice
of one who admonished himself. Then he raised his arms aloft. "Allah is
All-knowing," he declared. "His will be done!"
"Ameen," said Sakr-el-Bahr very solemnly and with a great surge of
thankful prayer to his own long-forgotten God.
The Basha stayed yet a moment, as if he would have spoken. Then abruptly
he turned and waved a hand to his janissaries. "Away!" was all he said
to them, and stalked out in their wake.
From behind her lattice, still breathless from the haste she had made,
and with her whelp Marzak at her side, Fenzileh had witnessed that first
angry return of the Basha from the house of Sakr-el-Bahr.
She had heard him bawling for Abdul Mohktar, the leader of his
janissaries, and she had seen the hasty mustering of a score of these
soldiers in the courtyard, where the ruddy light of torches mingled with
the white light of the full moon. She had seen them go hurrying away
with Asad himself at their head, and she had not known whether to weep or
to laugh, whether to fear or to rejoice.
"It is done," Marzak had cried exultantly. "The dog hath withstood him
and so destroyed himself. There will be an end to Sakr-el-Bahr this
night." And he had added: "The praise to Allah!"
But from Fenzileh came no response to his prayer of thanksgiving. True,
Sakr-el-Bahr must be destroyed, and by a sword that she herself had
forged. Yet was it not inevitable that the stroke which laid him low
must wound her on its repercussion? That was the question to which now
she sought an answer. For all her eagerness to speed the corsair to his
doom, she had paused sufficiently to weigh the consequences to herself;
she had not overlooked the circumstance that an inevitable result of this
must be Asad's appropriation of that Frankish slave-girl. But at the
time it had seemed to her that even this price was worth paying to remove
Sakr-el-Bahr definitely and finally from her son's path--which shows
that, after all, Fenzileh the mother was capable of some self-sacrifice.
She comforted herself now with the reflection that the influence, whose
waning she feared might be occasioned by the introduction of a rival into
Asad's hareem, would no longer be so vitally necessary to herself and
Marzak once Sakr-el-Bahr were removed. The rest mattered none so much to
her. Yet it mattered something, and the present state of things left her
uneasy, her mind a cockpit of emotions. Her grasp could not encompass
all her desires at once, it seemed; and whilst she could gloat over the
gratification of one, she must bewail the frustration of another. Yet in
the main she felt that she should account herself the gainer.
In this state of mind she had waited, scarce heeding the savagely joyous
and entirely selfish babblings of her cub, who cared little what might
betide his mother as the price of the removal of that hated rival from
his path. For him, at least, there was nothing but profit in the
business, no cause for anything but satisfaction; and that satisfaction
he voiced with a fine contempt for his mother's feelings.
Anon they witnessed Asad's return. They saw the janissaries come
swinging into the courtyard and range themselves there whilst the Basha
made his appearance, walking slowly, with steps that dragged a little,
his head sunk upon his breast, his hands behind him. They waited to see
slaves following him, leading or carrying the girl he had gone to fetch.
But they waited in vain, intrigued and uneasy.
They heard the harsh voice in which Asad dismissed his followers, and the
clang of the closing gate; and they saw him pacing there alone in the
moonlight, ever in that attitude of dejection.
What had happened? Had he killed them both? Had the girl resisted him
to such an extent that he had lost all patience and in one of those rages
begotten of such resistance made an end of her?
Thus did Fenzileh question herself, and since she could not doubt but
that Sakr-el-Bahr was slain, she concluded that the rest must be as she
conjectured. Yet, the suspense torturing her, she summoned Ayoub and
sent him to glean from Abdul Mohktar the tale of what had passed. In his
own hatred of Sakr-el-Bahr, Ayoub went willingly enough and hoping for
the worst. He returned disappointed, with a tale that sowed dismay in
Fenzileh and Marzak.
Fenzileh, however, made a swift recovery. After all, it was the best
that could have happened. It should not be difficult to transmute that
obvious dejection of Asad's into resentment, and to fan this into a rage
that must end by consuming Sakr-el-Bahr. And so the thing could be
accomplished without jeopardy to her own place at Asad's side. For it
was inconceivable that he should now take Rosamund to his hareem.
Already the fact that she had been paraded with naked face among the
Faithful must in itself have been a difficult obstacle to his pride. But
it was utterly impossible that he could so subject his self-respect to
his desire as to take to himself a woman who had been the wife of his
Fenzileh saw her way very clearly. It was through Asad's devoutness--as
she herself had advised, though scarcely expecting such rich results as
these--that he had been thwarted by Sakr-el-Bahr. That same devoutness
must further be played upon now to do the rest.
Taking up a flimsy silken veil, she went out to him where he now sat on
the divan under the awning, alone there in the tepid-scented summer
night. She crept to his side with the soft, graceful, questing movements
of a cat, and sat there a moment unheeded almost--such was his
abstraction--her head resting lightly against his shoulder.
"Lord of my soul," she murmured presently, "thou art sorrowing." Her
voice was in itself a soft and soothing caress.
He started, and she caught the gleam of his eyes turned suddenly upon
"Who told thee so?" he asked suspiciously.
"My heart," she answered, her voice melodious as a viol. "Can sorrow
burden thine and mine go light?" she wooed him. "Is happiness possible
to me when thou art downcast? In there I felt thy melancholy, and thy
need of me, and I am come to share thy burden, or to bear it all for
thee." Her arms were raised, and her fingers interlocked themselves upon
He looked down at her, and his expression softened. He needed comfort,
and never was she more welcome to him.
Gradually and with infinite skill she drew from him the story of what had
happened. When she had gathered it, she loosed her indignation.
"The dog!" she cried. "The faithless, ungrateful hound! Yet have I
warned thee against him, 0 light of my poor eyes, and thou hast scorned
me for the warnings uttered by my love. Now at last thou knowest him,
and he shall trouble thee no longer. Thou'lt cast him off, reduce him
again to the dust from which thy bounty raised him."
But Asad did not respond. He sat there in a gloomy abstraction, staring
straight before him. At last he sighed wearily. He was just, and he had
a conscience, as odd a thing as it was awkward in a corsair Basha.
"In what hath befallen," he answered moodily, "there is naught to justify
me in casting aside the stoutest soldier of Islam. My duty to Allah will
not suffer it."
"Yet his duty to thee suffered him to thwart thee, 0 my lord," she
reminded him very softly.
"In my desires--ay!" he answered, and for a moment his voice quivered
with passion. Then he repressed it, and continued more calmly--"Shall my
self-seeking overwhelm my duty to the Faith? Shall the matter of a
slave-girl urge me to sacrifice the bravest soldier of Islam, the
stoutest champion of the Prophet's law? Shall I bring down upon my head
the vengeance of the One by destroying a man who is a scourge of
scorpions unto the infidel--and all this that I may gratify my personal
anger against him, that I may avenge the thwarting of a petty desire?"
"Dost thou still say, 0 my life, that Sakr-el-Bahr is the stoutest
champion of the Prophet's law?" she asked him softly, yet on a note of
"It is not I that say it, but his deeds," he answered sullenly.
"I know of one deed no True-Believer could have wrought. If proof were
needed of his infidelity he hath now afforded it in taking to himself a
Nasrani wife. Is it not written in the Book to be Read: 'Marry not
idolatresses'? Is not that the Prophet's law, and hath he not broken it,
offending at once against Allah and against thee, 0 fountain of my soul?"
Asad frowned. Here was truth indeed, something that he had entirely
overlooked. Yet justice compelled him still to defend Sakr-el-Bahr, or
else perhaps he but reasoned to prove to himself that the case against
the corsair was indeed complete.
"He may have sinned in thoughtlessness," he suggested.
At that she cried out in admiration of him. "What a fount of mercy and
forbearance art thou, 0 father of Marzak! Thou'rt right as in all
things. It was no doubt in thoughtlessness that he offended, but would
such thoughtlessness be possible in a True-Believer--in one worthy to be
dubbed by thee the champion of the Prophet's Holy Law?"
It was a shrewd thrust, that pierced the armour of conscience in which he
sought to empanoply himself. He sat very thoughtful, scowling darkly at
the inky shadow of the wall which the moon was casting. Suddenly he
"By Allah, thou art right!" he cried. "So that he thwarted me and kept
that Frankish woman for himself, he cared not how he sinned against the
She glided to her knees and coiled her arms about his waist, looking up
at him. "Still art thou ever merciful, ever sparing in adverse judgment.
Is that all his fault, 0 Asad?"
"All?" he questioned, looking down at her. "What more is there?"
"I would there were no more. Yet more there is, to which thy angelic
mercy blinds thee. He did worse. Not merely was he reckless of how he
sinned against the law, he turned the law to his own base uses and so
"How?" he asked quickly, eagerly almost.
"He employed it as a bulwark behind which to shelter himself and her.
Knowing that thou who art the Lion and defender of the Faith wouldst bend
obediently to what is written in the Book, he married her to place her
beyond thy reach."
"The praise to Him who is All-wise and lent me strength to do naught
unworthy!" he cried in a great voice, glorifying himself. "I might have
slain him to dissolve the impious bond, yet I obeyed what is written."
"Thy forbearance hath given joy to the angels," she answered him, "and
yet a man was found so base as to trade upon it and upon thy piety, 0
He shook off her clasp, and strode away from her a prey to agitation. He
paced to and fro in the moonlight there, and she, well-content, reclined
upon the cushions of the divan, a thing of infinite grace, her gleaming
eyes discreetly veiled from him--waiting until her poison should have
done its work.
She saw him halt, and fling up his arms, as if apostrophizing Heaven, as
if asking a question of the stars that twinkled in the wide-flung nimbus
of the moon.
Then at last he paced slowly back to her. He was still undecided. There
was truth in what she had said; yet he knew and weighed her hatred of
Sakr-el-Bahr, knew how it must urge her to put the worst construction
upon any act of his, knew her jealousy for Marzak, and so he mistrusted
her arguments and mistrusted himself. Also there was his own love of
Sakr-el-Bahr that would insist upon a place in the balance of his
judgment. His mind was in turmoil.
"Enough," he said almost roughly. "I pray that Allah may send me counsel
in the night." And upon that he stalked past her, up the steps, and so
into the house.
She followed him. All night she lay at his feet to be ready at the first
peep of dawn to buttress a purpose that she feared was still weak, and
whilst he slept fitfully, she slept not at all, but lay wide-eyed and
At the first note of the mueddin's voice, he leapt from his couch
obedient to its summons, and scarce had the last note of it died upon the
winds of dawn than he was afoot, beating his hands together to summon
slaves and issuing his orders, from which she gathered that he was for
the harbour there and then.
"May Allah have inspired thee, 0 my lord!" she cried. And asked him:
"What is thy resolve?"
"I go to seek a sign," he answered her, and upon that departed, leaving
her in a frame of mind that was far from easy.
She summoned Marzak, and bade him accompany his father, breathed swift
instructions of what he should do and how do it.
"Thy fate has been placed in thine own hands," she admonished him. "See
that thou grip it firmly now."
In the courtyard Marzak found his father in the act of mounting a white
mule that had been brought him.
He was attended by his wazeer Tsamanni, Biskaine, and some other of his
captains. Marzak begged leave to go with him. It was carelessly
granted, and they set out, Marzak walking by his father's stirrup, a
little in advance of the others. For a while there was silence between
father and son, then the latter spoke.
"It is my prayer, 0 my father, that thou art resolved to depose the
faithless Sakr-el-Bahr from the command of this expedition."
Asad considered his son with a sombre eye. "Even now the galeasse should
be setting out if the argosy is to be intercepted," he said. "If
Sakr-el-Bahr does not command, who shall, in Heaven's name?"
"Try me, 0 my father," cried Marzak.
Asad smiled with grim wistfulness. "Art weary of life, 0 my son, that
thou wouldst go to thy death and take the galeasse to destruction?"
"Thou art less than just, 0 my father," Marzak protested.
"Yet more than kind, 0 my son," replied Asad, and they went on in silence
thereafter, until they came to the mole.
The splendid galeasse was moored alongside, and all about her there was
great bustle of preparation for departure. Porters moved up and down the
gangway that connected her with the shore, carrying bales of provisions,
barrels of water, kegs of gunpowder, and other necessaries for the
voyage, and even as Asad and his followers reached the head of that
gangway, four negroes were staggering down it under the load of a huge
palmetto bale that was slung from staves yoked to their shoulders.
On the poop stood Sakr-el-Bahr with Othmani, Ali, Jasper-Reis, and some
other officers. Up and down the gangway paced Larocque and Vigitello,
two renegade boatswains, one French and the other Italian, who had sailed
with him on every voyage for the past two years. Larocque was
superintending the loading of the vessel, bawling his orders for the
bestowal of provisions here, of water yonder, and of powder about the
mainmast. Vigitello was making a final inspection of the slaves at the
As the palmetto pannier was brought aboard, Larocque shouted to the
negroes to set it down by the mainmast. But here Sakr-el-Bahr
interfered, bidding them, instead, to bring it up to the stern and place
it in the poop-house.
Asad had dismounted, and stood with Marzak at his side at the head of the
gangway when the youth finally begged his father himself to take command
of this expedition, allowing him to come as his lieutenant and so learn
the ways of the sea.
Asad looked at him curiously, but answered nothing. He went aboard,
Marzak and the others following him. It was at this moment that
Sakr-el-Bahr first became aware of the Basha's presence, and he came
instantly forward to do the honours of his galley. If there was a sudden
uneasiness in his heart his face was calm and his glance as arrogant and
steady as ever.
"May the peace of Allah overshadow thee and thy house, 0 mighty Asad,"
was his greeting. "We are on the point of casting off, and I shall sail
the more securely for thy blessing."
Asad considered him with eyes of wonder. So much effrontery, so much
ease after their last scene together seemed to the Basha a thing
incredible, unless, indeed, it were accompanied by a conscience entirely
"It has been proposed to me that I shall do more than bless this
expedition--that I shall command it," he answered, watching Sakr-el-Bahr
closely. He observed the sudden flicker of the corsair's eyes, the only
outward sign of his inward dismay.
"Command it?" echoed Sakr-el-Bahr. "'Twas proposed to thee?" And he
laughed lightly as if to dismiss that suggestion.
That laugh was a tactical error. It spurred Asad. He advanced slowly
along the vessel's waist-deck to the mainmast--for she was rigged with
main and foremasts. There he halted again to look into the face of
Sakr-el-Bahr who stepped along beside him.
"Why didst thou laugh?" he questioned shortly.
"Why? At the folly of such a proposal," said Sakr-el-Bahr in haste, too
much in haste to seek a diplomatic answer.
Darker grew the Basha's frown. "Folly?" quoth he. "Wherein lies the
Sakr-el-Bahr made haste to cover his mistake. "In the suggestion that
such poor quarry as waits us should be worthy thine endeavour, should
warrant the Lion of the Faith to unsheathe his mighty claws. Thou," he
continued with ringing scorn, "thou the inspirer of a hundred glorious
fights in which whole fleets have been engaged, to take the seas upon so
trivial an errand--one galeasse to swoop upon a single galley of Spain!
It were unworthy thy great name, beneath the dignity of thy valour!" and
by a gesture he contemptuously dismissed the subject.
But Asad continued to ponder him with cold eyes, his face inscrutable.
"Why, here's a change since yesterday!" he said.
"A change, my lord?"
"But yesterday in the market-place thyself didst urge me to join this
expedition and to command it," Asad reminded him, speaking with
deliberate emphasis. "Thyself invoked the memory of the days that are
gone, when, scimitar in hand, we charged side by side aboard the infidel,
and thou didst beseech me to engage again beside thee. And now...." He
spread his hands, anger gathered in his eyes. "Whence this change?" he
Sakr-el-Bahr hesitated, caught in his own toils. He looked away from
Asad a moment; he had a glimpse of the handsome flushed face of Marzak at
his father's elbow, of Biskaine, Tsamanni, and the others all staring at
him in amazement, and even of some grimy sunburned faces from the rowers'
bench on his left that were looking on with dull curiosity.
He smiled, seeming outwardly to remain entirely unruffled. "Why...it is
that I have come to perceive thy reasons for refusing. For the rest, it
is as I say, the quarry is not worthy of the hunter."
Marzak uttered a soft sneering laugh, as if the true reason of the
corsair's attitude were quite clear to him. He fancied too, and he was
right in this, that Sakr-el-Bahr's odd attitude had accomplished what
persuasions addressed to Asad-ed-Din might to the end have failed to
accomplish--had afforded him the sign he was come to seek. For it was in
that moment that Asad determined to take command himself.
"It almost seems," he said slowly, smiling, "as if thou didst not want
me. If so, it is unfortunate; for I have long neglected my duty to my
son, and I am resolved at last to repair that error. We accompany thee
upon this expedition, Sakr-el-Bahr. Myself I will command it, and Marzak
shall be my apprentice in the ways of the sea.
Sakr-el-Bahr said not another word in protest against that proclaimed
resolve. He salaamed, and when he spoke there was almost a note of
gladness in his voice.
"The praise to Allah, then, since thou'rt determined. It is not for me
to urge further the unworthiness of the quarry since I am the gainer by
His resolve being taken, Asad drew Tsamanni aside and spent some moments
in talk with him, giving him certain instructions for the conduct of
affairs ashore during his absence. That done, and the wazeer dismissed,
the Basha himself gave the order to cast off, an order which there was no
reason to delay, since all was now in readiness.
The gangway was drawn ashore, the boatswains whistle sounded, and the
steersmen leapt to their niches in the stern, grasping the shafts of the
great steering-oars. A second blast rang out, and down the gangway-deck
came Vigitello and two of his mates, all three armed with long whips of
bullock-hide, shouting to the slaves to make ready. And then, on the
note of a third blast of Larocque's whistle, the fifty-four poised oars
dipped to the water, two hundred and fifty bodies bent as one, and when
they heaved themselves upright again the great galeasse shot forward and
so set out upon her adventurous voyage. From her mainmast the red flag
with its green crescent was unfurled to the breeze, and from the crowded
mole, and the beach where a long line of spectators had gathered, there
burst a great cry of valediction.
That breeze blowing stiffly from the desert was Lionel's friend that day.
Without it his career at the oar might have been short indeed. He was
chained, like the rest, stark naked, save for a loincloth, in the place
nearest the gangway on the first starboard bench abaft the narrow
waist-deck, and ere the galeasse had made the short distance between the
mole and the island at the end of it, the boatswain's whip had coiled
itself about his white shoulders to urge him to better exertion than he
was putting forth. He had screamed under the cruel cut, but none had
heeded him. Lest the punishment should be repeated, he had thrown all
his weight into the next strokes of the oar, until by the time the Peñon
was reached the sweat was running down his body and his heart was
thudding against his ribs. It was not possible that it could have
lasted, and his main agony lay in that he realized it, and saw himself
face to face with horrors inconceivable that must await the exhaustion of
his strength. He was not naturally robust, and he had led a soft and
pampered life that was very far from equipping him for such a test as
But as they reached the Peñon and felt the full vigour of that warm
breeze, Sakr-el-Bahr, who by Asad's command remained in charge of the
navigation, ordered the unfurling of the enormous lateen sails on main
and foremasts. They ballooned out, swelling to the wind, and the
galeasse surged forward at a speed that was more than doubled. The order
to cease rowing followed, and the slaves were left to return thanks to
Heaven for their respite, and to rest in their chains until such time as
their sinews should be required again.
The vessel's vast prow, which ended in a steel ram and was armed with a
culverin on either quarter, was crowded with lounging corsairs, who took
their ease there until the time to engage should be upon them. They
leaned on the high bulwarks or squatted in groups, talking, laughing,
some of them tailoring and repairing garments, others burnishing their
weapons or their armour, and one swarthy youth there was who thrummed a
gimri and sang a melancholy Shilha love-song to the delight of a score or
so of bloodthirsty ruffians squatting about him in a ring of variegated
The gorgeous poop was fitted with a spacious cabin, to which admission
was gained by two archways curtained with stout silken tapestries upon
whose deep red ground the crescent was wrought in brilliant green. Above
the cabin stood the three cressets or stern-lamps, great structures of
gilded iron surmounted each by the orb and crescent. As if to continue
the cabin forward and increase its size, a green awning was erected from
it to shade almost half the poop-deck. Here cushions were thrown, and
upon these squatted now Asad-ed-Din with Marzak, whilst Biskaine and some
three or four other officers who had escorted him aboard and whom he had
retained beside him for that voyage, were lounging upon the gilded
balustrade at the poop's forward end, immediately above the rowers'
Sakr-el-Bahr alone, a solitary figure, resplendent in caftan and turban
that were of cloth of silver, leaned upon the bulwarks of the larboard
quarter of the poop-deck, and looked moodily back upon the receding city
of Algiers which by now was no more than an agglomeration of white cubes
piled up the hillside in the morning sunshine.
Asad watched him silently awhile from under his beetling brows, then
summoned him. He came at once, and stood respectfully before his prince.
Asad considered him a moment solemnly, whilst a furtive malicious smile
played over the beautiful countenance of his son.
"Think not, Sakr-el-Bahr," he said at length, "that I bear thee
resentment for what befell last night or that that happening is the sole
cause of my present determination. I had a duty--a long-neglected
duty--to Marzak, which at last I have undertaken to perform." He seemed
to excuse himself almost, and Marzak misliked both words and tone. Why,
he wondered, must this fierce old man, who had made his name a terror
throughout Christendom, be ever so soft and yielding where that stalwart
and arrogant infidel was concerned?
Sakr-el-Bahr bowed solemnly. "My lord," he said, "it is not for me to
question thy resolves or the thoughts that may have led to them. It
suffices me to know thy wishes; they are my law."
"Are they so?" said Asad tartly. "Thy deeds will scarce bear out thy
protestations." He sighed. "Sorely was I wounded yesternight when thy
marriage thwarted me and placed that Frankish maid beyond my reach. Yet
I respect this marriage of thine, as all Muslims must--for all that in
itself it was unlawful. But there!" he ended with a shrug. "We sail
together once again to crush the Spaniard. Let no ill-will on either
side o'er-cloud the splendour of our task."
"Ameen to that, my lord," said Sakr-el-Bahr devoutly. "I almost
"No more!" the Basha interrupted him. "Thou wert never a man to fear
anything, which is why I have loved thee as a son.
But it suited Marzak not at all that the matter should be thus dismissed,
that it should conclude upon a note of weakening from his father, upon
what indeed amounted to a speech of reconciliation. Before Sakr-el-Bahr
could make answer he had cut in to set him a question laden with wicked
"How will thy bride beguile the season of thine absence, 0 Sakr-el-Bahr?"
"I have lived too little with women to be able to give thee an answer,"
said the corsair.
Marzak winced before a reply that seemed to reflect upon himself. But he
returned to the attack.
"I compassionate thee that art the slave of duty, driven so soon to
abandon the delight of her soft arms. Where hast thou bestowed her, 0
"Where should a Muslim bestow his wife but according to the biddings of
the Prophet--in the house?"
Marzak sneered. "Verily, I marvel at thy fortitude in quitting her so
But Asad caught the sneer, and stared at his son. "What cause is there
to marvel in that a true Muslim should sacrifice his inclinations to the
service of the Faith?" His tone was a rebuke; but it left Marzak
undismayed. The youth sprawled gracefully upon his cushions, one leg
tucked under him.
"Place no excess of faith in appearances, 0 my father!" he said.
"No more!" growled the Basha. "Peace to thy tongue, Marzak, and may
Allah the All-knowing smile upon our expedition, lending strength to our
arms to smite the infidel to whom the fragrance of the garden is
To this again Sakr-el-Bahr replied "Ameen," but an uneasiness abode in
his heart summoned thither by the questions Marzak had set him. Were
they idle words calculated to do no more than plague him, and to keep
fresh in Asad's mind the memory of Rosamund, or were they based upon some
His fears were to be quickened soon on that same score. He was leaning
that afternoon upon the rail, idly observing the doling out of the
rations to the slaves, when Marzak came to join him.
For some moments he stood silently beside Sakr-el-Bahr watching Vigitello
and his men as they passed from bench to bench serving out biscuits and
dried dates to the rowers--but sparingly, for oars move sluggishly when
stomachs are too well nourished--and giving each to drink a cup of
vinegar and water in which floated a few drops of added oil.
Then he pointed to a large palmetto bale that stood on the waist-deck
near the mainmast about which the powder barrels were stacked.
"That pannier," he said, "seems to me oddly in the way yonder. Were it
not better to bestow it in the hold, where it will cease to be an
encumbrance in case of action?"
Sakr-el-Bahr experienced a slight tightening at the heart. He knew that
Marzak had heard him command that bale to be borne into the poop-cabin,
and that anon he had ordered it to be fetched thence when Asad had
announced his intention of sailing with him. He realized that this in
itself might be a suspicious circumstance; or, rather, knowing what the
bale contained, he was too ready to fear suspicion. Nevertheless he
turned to Marzak with a smile of some disdain.
"I understood, Marzak, that thou art sailing with us as apprentice."
"What then?" quoth Marzak.
"Why merely that it might become thee better to be content to observe and
learn. Thou'lt soon be telling me how grapnels should be slung, and how
an action should be fought." Then he pointed ahead to what seemed to be
no more than a low cloud-bank towards which they were rapidly skimming
before that friendly wind. "Yonder," he said, "are the Balearics. We
are making good speed."
Although he said it without any object other than that of turning the
conversation, yet the fact itself was sufficiently remarkable to be worth
a comment. Whether rowed by her two hundred and fifty slaves, or sailed
under her enormous spread of canvas, there was no swifter vessel upon the
Mediterranean than the galeasse of Sakr-el-Bahr. Onward she leapt now
with bellying tateens, her well-greased keel slipping through the
wind-whipped water at a rate which perhaps could not have been bettered
by any ship that sailed.
"If this wind holds we shall be under the Point of Aguila before sunset,
which will be something to boast of hereafter," he promised.
Marzak, however, seemed but indifferently interested; his eyes continued
awhile to stray towards that palmetto bale by the mainmast. At length,
without another word to Sakr-el-Bahr, he made his way abaft, and flung
himself down under the awning, beside his father. Asad sat there in a
moody abstraction, already regretting that he should have lent an ear to
Fenzileh to the extent of coming upon this voyage, and assured by now
that at least there was no cause to mistrust Sakr-el-Bahr. Marsak came
to revive that drooping mistrust. But the moment was ill-chosen, and at
the first words he uttered on the subject, he was growled into silence by
"Thou dost but voice thine own malice," Asad rebuked him. "And I am
proven a fool in that I have permitted the malice of others to urge me in
this matter. No more, I say."
Thereupon Marzak fell silent and sulking, his eyes ever following
Sakr-el-Bahr, who had descended the three steps from the poop to the
gangway and was pacing slowly down between the rowers' benches.
The corsair was supremely ill at ease, as a man must be who has something
to conceal, and who begins to fear that he may have been betrayed. Yet
who was there could have betrayed him? But three men aboard that vessel
knew his secret--Ali, his lieutenant, Jasper, and the Italian Vigitello.
And Sakr-el-Bahr would have staked all his possessions that neither Ali
nor Vigitello would have betrayed him, whilst he was fairly confident
that in his own interests Jasper also must have kept faith. Yet Marzak's
allusion to that palmetto bale had filled him with an uneasiness that
sent him now in quest of his Italian boatswain whom he trusted above all
"Vigitello," said he, "is it possible that I have been betrayed to the
Vigitello looked up sharply at the question, then smiled with confidence.
They were standing alone by the bulwarks on the waist-deck.
"Touching what we carry yonder?" quoth he, his glance shifting to the
bale. "Impossible. If Asad had knowledge he would have betrayed it
before we left Algiers, or else he would never have sailed without a
stouter bodyguard of his own.
"What need of bodyguard for him?" returned Sakr-el-Bahr. "If it should
come to grips between us--as well it may if what I suspect be true--there
is no doubt as to the side upon which the corsairs would range
"Is there not?" quoth Vigitello, a smile upon his swarthy face. "Be not
so sure. These men have most of them followed thee into a score of
fights. To them thou art the Basha, their natural leader."
"Maybe. But their allegiance belongs to Asad-ed-Din, the exalted of
Allah. Did it come to a choice between us, their faith would urge them
to stand beside him in spite of any past bonds that may have existed
between them and me."
"Yet there were some who murmured when thou wert superseded in the
command of this expedition," Vigitello informed him. "I doubt not that
many would be influenced by their faith, but many would stand by thee
against the Grand Sultan himself. And do not forget," he added,
instinctively lowering his voice, "that many of us are renegadoes like
myself and thee, who would never know a moment's doubt if it came to a
choice of sides. But I hope," he ended in another tone, "there is no
such danger here."
"And so do I, in all faith," replied Sakr-el-Bahr, with fervour. "Yet I
am uneasy, and I must know where I stand if the worst takes place. Go
thou amongst the men, Vigitello, and probe their real feelings, gauge
their humour and endeavour to ascertain upon what numbers I may count if
I have to declare war upon Asad or if he declares it upon me. Be
Vigitello closed one of his black eyes portentously. "Depend upon it,"
he said, "I'll bring you word anon.
On that they parted, Vigitello to make his way to the prow and there
engage in his investigations, Sakr-el-Bahr slowly to retrace his steps to
the poop. But at the first bench abaft the gangway he paused, and looked
down at the dejected, white-fleshed slave who sat shackled there. He
smiled cruelly, his own anxieties forgotten in the savour of vengeance.
"So you have tasted the whip already," he said in English. "But that is
nothing to what is yet to come. You are in luck that there is a wind
to-day. It will not always be so. Soon shall you learn what it was that
I endured by your contriving."
Lionel looked up at him with haggard, blood-injected eyes. He wanted to
curse his brother, yet was he too overwhelmed by the sense of the fitness
of this punishment.
"For myself I care nothing," he replied.
"But you will, sweet brother," was the answer. "You will care for
yourself most damnably and pity yourself most poignantly. I speak from
experience. 'Tis odds you will not live, and that is my chief regret. I
would you had my thews to keep you alive in this floating hell."
"I tell you I care nothing for myself," Lionel insisted. "What have you
done with Rosamund?"
"Will it surprise you to learn that I have played the gentleman and
married her?" Oliver mocked him.
"Married her?" his brother gasped, blenching at the very thought. "You
"Why abuse me? Could I have done more?" And with a laugh he sauntered
on, leaving Lionel to writhe there with the torment of his
An hour later, when the cloudy outline of the Balearic Isles had acquired
density and colour, Sakr-el-Bahr and Vigitello met again on the
waist-deck, and they exchanged some few words in passing.
"It is difficult to say exactly," the boatswain murmured, "but from what
I gather I think the odds would be very evenly balanced, and it were rash
in thee to precipitate a quarrel."
"I am not like to do so," replied Sakr-el-Bahr. "I should not be like to
do so in any case. I but desired to know how I stand in case a quarrel
should be forced upon me." And he passed on.
Yet his uneasiness was no whit allayed; his difficulties were very far
from solved. He had undertaken to carry Rosamund to France or Italy; he
had pledged her his word to land her upon one or the other shore, and
should he fail, she might even come to conclude that such had never been
his real intention. Yet how was he to succeed, now, since Asad was
aboard the galeasse? Must he be constrained to carry her back to Algiers
as secretly as he had brought her thence, and to keep her there until
another opportunity of setting her ashore upon a Christian country should
present itself? That was clearly impracticable and fraught with too much
risk of detection. Indeed, the risk of detection was very imminent now.
At any moment her presence in that pannier might be betrayed. He could
think of no way in which to redeem his pledged word. He could but wait
and hope, trusting to his luck and to some opportunity which it was
impossible to foresee.
And so for a long hour and more he paced there moodily to and fro, his
hands clasped behind him, his turbaned head bowed in thought, his heart
very heavy within him. He was taken in the toils of the evil web which
he had spun; and it seemed very clear to him now that nothing short of
his life itself would be demanded as the price of it. That, however, was
the least part of his concern. All things had miscarried with him and
his life was wrecked. If at the price of it he could ensure safety to
Rosamund, that price he would gladly pay. But his dismay and uneasiness
all sprang from his inability to discover a way of achieving that most
desired of objects even at such a sacrifice. And so he paced on alone
and very lonely, waiting and praying for a miracle.
He was still pacing there when an hour or so before sunset--some fifteen
hours after setting out--they stood before the entrance of a long
bottle-necked cove under the shadow of the cliffs of Aquila Point on the
southern coast of the Island of Formentera. He was rendered aware of
this and roused from his abstraction by the voice of Asad calling to him
from the poop and commanding him to make the cove.
Already the wind was failing them, and it became necessary to take to the
oars, as must in any case have happened once they were through the coves
narrow neck in the becalmed lagoon beyond. So Sakr-el-Bahr, in his turn,
lifted up his voice, and in answer to his shout came Vigitello and
A blast of Vigitello's whistle brought his own men to heel, and they
passed rapidly along the benches ordering the rowers to make ready,
whilst Jasper and a half-dozen Muslim sailors set about furling the sails
that already were beginning to flap in the shifting and intermittent
gusts of the expiring wind. Sakr-el-Bahr gave the word to row, and
Vigitello blew a second and longer blast. The oars dipped, the slaves
strained and the galeasse ploughed forward, time being kept by a
boatswain's mate who squatted on the waist-deck and beat a tomtom
rhythmically. Sakr-el-Bahr, standing on the poop-deck, shouted his
orders to the steersmen in their niches on either side of the stern, and
skilfully the vessel was manoeuvred through the narrow passage into the
calm lagoon whose depths were crystal clear. Here before coming to rest,
Sakr-el-Bahr followed the invariable corsair practice of going about, so
as to be ready to leave his moorings and make for the open again at a
She came at last alongside the rocky buttresses of a gentle slope that
was utterly deserted by all save a few wild goats browsing near the
summit. There were clumps of broom, thick with golden flower, about the
base of the hill. Higher, a few gnarled and aged olive trees reared
their grey heads from which the rays of the westering sun struck a glint
as of silver.
Larocque and a couple of sailors went over the bulwarks on the larboard
quarter, dropped lightly to the horizontal shafts of the oars, which were
rigidly poised, and walking out upon them gained the rocks and proceeded
to make fast the vessel by ropes fore and aft.
Sakr-el-Bahr's next task was to set a watch, and he appointed Larocque,
sending him to take his station on the summit of the head whence a wide
range of view was to be commanded.
Pacing the poop with Marzak the Basha grew reminiscent of former days
when roving the seas as a simple corsair he had used this cove both for
purposes of ambush and concealment. There were, he said, few harbours in
all the Mediterranean so admirably suited to the corsairs' purpose as
this; it was a haven of refuge in case of peril, and an unrivalled
lurking-place in which to lie in wait for the prey. He remembered once
having lain there with the formidable Dragut-Reis, a fleet of six
galleys, their presence entirely unsuspected by the Genoese admiral,
Doria, who had passed majestically along with three caravels and seven
Marzak, pacing beside his father, listened but half-heartedly to these
reminiscences. His mind was all upon Sakr-el-Bahr, and his suspicions of
that palmetto bale were quickened by the manner in which for the last two
hours he had seen the corsair hovering thoughtfully in its neighbourhood.
He broke in suddenly upon his father's memories with an expression of
what was in his mind.
"The thanks to Allah," he said, "that it is thou who command this
expedition, else might this coves advantages have been neglected."
"Not so," said Asad. "Sakr-el-Bahr knows them as well as I do. He has
used this vantage point afore-time. It was himself who suggested that
this would be the very place in which to await this Spanish craft."
"Yet had he sailed alone I doubt if the Spanish argosy had concerned him
greatly. There are other matters on his mind, 0 my father. Observe him
yonder, all lost in thought. How many hours of this voyage has he spent
thus. He is as a man trapped and desperate. There is some fear rankling
in him. Observe him, I say."
"Allah pardon thee," said his father, shaking his old head and sighing
over so much impetuosity of judgment. "Must thy imagination be for ever
feeding on thy malice? Yet I blame not thee, but thy Sicilian mother, who
has fostered this hostility in thee. Did she not hoodwink me into making
this unnecessary voyage?"
"I see thou hast forgot last night and the Frankish slave-girl," said his
"Nay, then thou seest wrong. I have not forgot it. But neither have I
forgot that since Allah hath exalted me to be Basha of Algiers, He looks
to me to deal in justice. Come, Marzak, set an end to all this. Perhaps
to-morrow thou shalt see him in battle, and after such a sight as that
never again wilt thou dare say evil of him. Come, make thy peace with
him, and let me see better relations betwixt you hereafter."
And raising his voice he called Sakr-el-Bahr, who immediately turned and
came up the gangway. Marzak stood by in a sulky mood, with no notion of
doing his father's will by holding out an olive branch to the man who was
like to cheat him of his birthright ere all was done. Yet was it he who
greeted Sakr-el-Bahr when the corsair set foot upon the poop.
"Does the thought of the coming fight perturb thee, dog of war?" he
"Am I perturbed, pup of peace?" was the crisp answer.