The sea hawk, p.12
The Sea-Hawk, p.12Rafael Sabatini
CHAPTER II. THE RENEGADE
How it came to happen that Sakr-el-Bahr, the Hawk of the Sea, the Muslimrover, the scourge of the Mediterranean, the terror of Christians, andthe beloved of Asad-ed-Din, Basha of Algiers, would be one and the sameas Sir Oliver Tressilian, the Cornish gentleman of Penarrow, is at longlength set forth in the chronicles of Lord Henry Goade. His lordshipconveys to us some notion of how utterly overwhelming he found thatfact by the tedious minuteness with which he follows step by step thisextraordinary metamorphosis. He devotes to it two entire volumes ofthose eighteen which he has left us. The whole, however, may withadvantage be summarized into one short chapter.
Sir Oliver was one of a score of men who were rescued from the sea bythe crew of the Spanish vessel that had sunk the Swallow; another wasJasper Leigh, the skipper. All of them were carried to Lisbon, and therehanded over to the Court of the Holy Office. Since they were hereticsall--or nearly all--it was fit and proper that the Brethren of St.Dominic should undertake their conversion in the first place. Sir Olivercame of a family that never had been famed for rigidity in religiousmatters, and he was certainly not going to burn alive if the adoption ofother men's opinions upon an extremely hypothetical future state wouldsuffice to save him from the stake. He accepted Catholic baptism withan almost contemptuous indifference. As for Jasper Leigh, it will beconceived that the elasticity of the skipper's conscience was no lessthan Sir Oliver's, and he was certainly not the man to be roasted for atrifle of faith.
No doubt there would be great rejoicings in the Holy House over therescue of these two unfortunate souls from the certain perdition thathad awaited them. It followed that as converts to the Faith they werewarmly cherished, and tears of thanksgiving were profusely shedover them by the Hounds of God. So much for their heresy. They werecompletely purged of it, having done penance in proper form at an Autoheld on the Rocio at Lisbon, candle in hand and sanbenito on theirshoulders. The Church dismissed them with her blessing and an injunctionto persevere in the ways of salvation to which with such meek kindnessshe had inducted them.
Now this dismissal amounted to a rejection. They were, as a consequence,thrown back upon the secular authorities, and the secular authoritieshad yet to punish them for their offence upon the seas. No offence couldbe proved, it is true. But the courts were satisfied that this lack ofoffence was but the natural result of a lack of opportunity. Conversely,they reasoned, it was not to be doubted that with the opportunity theoffence would have been forthcoming. Their assurance of this was basedupon the fact that when the Spaniard fired across the bows of theSwallow as an invitation to heave to, she had kept upon her course.Thus, with unanswerable Castilian logic was the evil conscience ofher skipper proven. Captain Leigh protested on the other hand that hisaction had been dictated by his lack of faith in Spaniards and his firmbelief that all Spaniards were pirates to be avoided by every honestseaman who was conscious of inferior strength of armaments. It was aplea that won him no favour with his narrow-minded judges.
Sir Oliver fervently urged that he was no member of the crew of theSwallow, that he was a gentleman who found himself aboard her very muchagainst his will, being the victim of a villainous piece of trepanningexecuted by her venal captain. The court heard his plea with respect,and asked to know his name and rank. He was so very indiscreet as toanswer truthfully. The result was extremely educative to Sir Oliver; itshowed him how systematically conducted was the keeping of the Spanisharchives. The court produced documents enabling his judges to recite tohim most of that portion of his life that had been spent upon the seas,and many an awkward little circumstance which had slipped his memorylong since, which he now recalled, and which certainly was notcalculated to make his sentence lighter.
Had he not been in the Barbados in such a year, and had he not therecaptured the galleon Maria de las Dolores? What was that but an act ofvillainous piracy? Had he not scuttled a Spanish carack four years agoin the bay of Funchal? Had he not been with that pirate Hawkins in theaffair at San Juan de Ulloa? And so on. Questions poured upon him andengulfed him.
He almost regretted that he had given himself the trouble to acceptconversion and all that it entailed at the hands of the Brethren ofSt. Dominic. It began to appear to him that he had but wasted time andescaped the clerical fire to be dangled on a secular rope as an offeringto the vengeful gods of outraged Spain.
So much, however, was not done. The galleys in the Mediterranean werein urgent need of men at the time, and to this circumstance Sir Oliver,Captain Leigh, and some others of the luckless crew of the Swallow owedtheir lives, though it is to be doubted whether any of them found thematter one for congratulation. Chained each man to a fellow, ankle toankle, with but a short length of links between, they formed part of aconsiderable herd of unfortunates, who were driven across Portugalinto Spain and then southward to Cadiz. The last that Sir Oliver saw ofCaptain Leigh was on the morning on which he set out from the reekingLisbon gaol. Thereafter throughout that weary march each knew the otherto be somewhere in that wretched regiment of galley-slaves; but theynever came face to face again.
In Cadiz Sir Oliver spent a month in a vast enclosed space that was opento the sky, but nevertheless of an indescribable foulness, a place offilth, disease, and suffering beyond human conception, the details ofwhich the curious may seek for himself in my Lord Henry's chronicles.They are too revolting by far to be retailed here.
At the end of that month he was one of those picked out by an officerwho was manning a galley that was to convey the Infanta to Naples. Heowed this to his vigorous constitution which had successfully withstoodthe infections of that mephitic place of torments, and to the fine thewswhich the officer pummelled and felt as though he were acquiring a beastof burden--which, indeed, is precisely what he was doing.
The galley to which our gentleman was dispatched was a vessel offifty oars, each manned by seven men. They were seated upon a sort ofstaircase that followed the slope of the oar, running from the gangwayin the vessel's middle down to the shallow bulwarks.
The place allotted to Sir Oliver was that next the gangway. Here, starknaked as when he was born, he was chained to the bench, and in thosechains, let us say at once, he remained, without a single moment'sintermission, for six whole months.
Between himself and the hard timbers of his seat there was naught but aflimsy and dirty sheepskin. From end to end the bench was not more thanten feet in length, whilst the distance separating it from the next onewas a bare four feet. In that cramped space of ten feet by four, SirOliver and his six oar-mates had their miserable existence, waking andsleeping--for they slept in their chains at the oar without sufficientroom in which to lie at stretch.
Anon Sir Oliver became hardened and inured to that unspeakableexistence, that living death of the galley-slave. But that first longvoyage to Naples was ever to remain the most terrible experience of hislife. For spells of six or eight endless hours at a time, and on oneoccasion for no less than ten hours, did he pull at his oar without asingle moment's pause. With one foot on the stretcher, the other onthe bench in front of him, grasping his part of that appallingly heavyfifteen-foot oar, he would bend his back to thrust forward--and upwardsso to clear the shoulders of the groaning, sweating slaves in front ofhim--then he would lift the end so as to bring the blade down to thewater, and having gripped he would rise from his seat to throw his fullweight into the pull, and so fall back with clank of chain upon thegroaning bench to swing forward once more, and so on until his sensesreeled, his sight became blurred, his mouth parched and his whole bodya living, straining ache. Then would come the sharp fierce cut of theboatswain's whip to revive energies that flagged however little, andsometimes to leave a bleeding stripe upon his naked back.
Thus day in day out, now broiled and blistered by the pitiless southernsun, now chilled by the night dews whilst he took his cramped andunrefreshing rest, indescribably filthy and dishevelled, his hair andbeard matted with endless sweat, unwashed save by the rains whichin that season were all to
The scurvy broke out on that voyage, and there were other diseasesamong the rowers, to say nothing of the festering sores begotten ofthe friction of the bench which were common to all, and which each mustendure as best he could. With the slave whose disease conquered him orwho, reaching the limit of his endurance, permitted himself to swoon,the boat-swains had a short way. The diseased were flung overboard; theswooning were dragged out upon the gangway or bridge and flogged thereto revive them; if they did not revive they were flogged on until theywere a horrid bleeding pulp, which was then heaved into the sea.
Once or twice when they stood to windward the smell of the slaves beingwafted abaft and reaching the fine gilded poop where the Infanta and herattendants travelled, the helmsmen were ordered to put about, and forlong weary hours the slaves would hold the galley in position, backingher up gently against the wind so as not to lose way.
The number that died in the first week of that voyage amounted to closeupon a quarter of the total. But there were reserves in the prow, andthese were drawn upon to fill the empty places. None but the fittestcould survive this terrible ordeal.
Of these was Sir Oliver, and of these too was his immediate neighbour atthe oar, a stalwart, powerful, impassive, uncomplaining young Moor, whoaccepted his fate with a stoicism that aroused Sir Oliver's admiration.For days they exchanged no single word together, their religions markingthem out, they thought, for enemies despite the fact that they werefellows in misfortune. But one evening when an aged Jew who hadcollapsed in merciful unconsciousness was dragged out and flogged inthe usual manner, Sir Oliver, chancing to behold the scarlet prelatewho accompanied the Infanta looking on from the poop-rail with hardunmerciful eyes, was filled with such a passion at all this inhumanityand at the cold pitilessness of that professed servant of the Gentle andPitiful Saviour, that aloud he cursed all Christians in general and thatscarlet Prince of the Church in particular.
He turned to the Moor beside him, and addressing him in Spanish--
"Hell," he said, "was surely made for Christians, which may be why theyseek to make earth like it."
Fortunately for him the creak and dip of the oars, the clank of chains,and the lashes beating sharply upon the wretched Jew were sufficient tomuffle his voice. But the Moor heard him, and his dark eyes gleamed.
"There is a furnace seven times heated awaiting them, ) my brother," hereplied, with a confidence which seemed to be the source of his presentstoicism. "But art thou, then, not a Christian?"
He spoke in that queer language of the North African seaboard, thatlingua franca, which sounded like some French dialect interspersed withArabic words. But Sir Oliver made out his meaning almost by intuition.He answered him in Spanish again, since although the Moor did not appearto speak it yet it was plain he understood it.
"I renounce from this hour," he answered in his passion. "I willacknowledge no religion in whose name such things are done. Look me atthat scarlet fruit of hell up yonder. See how daintily he sniffs at hispomander lest his saintly nostrils be offended by the exhalations ofour misery. Yet are we God's creatures made in God's image like himself.What does he know of God? Religion he knows as he knows good wine, richfood, and soft women. He preaches self-denial as the way to heaven, andby his own tenets is he damned." He growled an obscene oath as he heavedthe great oar forward. "A Christian I?" he cried, and laughed for thefirst time since he had been chained to that bench of agony. "I am donewith Christians and Christianity!"
"Verily we are God's, and to Him shall we return," said the Moor.
That was the beginning of a friendship between Sir Oliver and this man,whose name was Yusuf-ben-Moktar. The Muslim conceived that in Sir Oliverhe saw one upon whom the grace of Allah had descended, one who wasripe to receive the Prophet's message. Yusuf was devout, and he appliedhimself to the conversion of his fellow-slave. Sir Oliver listened tohim, however, with indifference. Having discarded one creed he wouldneed a deal of satisfying on the score of another before he adoptedit, and it seemed to him that all the glorious things urged by Yusuf inpraise of Islam he had heard before in praise of Christianity. But hekept his counsel on that score, and meanwhile his intercourse with theMuslim had the effect of teaching him the lingua franca, so that at theend of six months he found himself speaking it like a Mauretanian withall the Muslim's imagery and with more than the ordinary seasoning ofArabic.
It was towards the end of that six months that the event took placewhich was to restore Sir Oliver to liberty. In the meanwhile those limbsof his which had ever been vigorous beyond the common wont had acquiredan elephantine strength. It was ever thus at the oar. Either you diedunder the strain, or your thews and sinews grew to be equal to theirrelentless task. Sir Oliver in those six months was become a manof steel and iron, impervious to fatigue, superhuman almost in hisendurance.
They were returning home from a trip to Genoa when one evening as theywere standing off Minorca in the Balearic Isles they were surprised bya fleet of four Muslim galleys which came skimming round a promontory tosurround and engage them.
Aboard the Spanish vessel there broke a terrible cry of"Asad-ed-Din"--the name of the most redoubtable Muslim corsair since theItalian renegade Ochiali--the Ali Pasha who had been killed at Lepanto.Trumpets blared and drums beat on the poop, and the Spaniards in morionand corselet, armed with calivers and pikes, stood to defend their livesand liberty. The gunners sprang to the culverins. But fire had tobe kindled and linstocks ignited, and in the confusion much timewas lost--so much that not a single cannon shot was fired beforethe grappling irons of the first galley clanked upon and gripped theSpaniard's bulwarks. The shock of the impact was terrific. The armouredprow of the Muslim galley--Asad-ed-Din's own--smote the Spaniard aslanting blow amidships that smashed fifteen of the oars as if they hadbeen so many withered twigs.
There was a shriek from the slaves, followed by such piteous groans asthe damned in hell may emit. Fully two score of them had been struck bythe shafts of their oars as these were hurled back against them. Somehad been killed outright, others lay limp and crushed, some with brokenbacks, others with shattered limbs and ribs.
Sir Oliver would assuredly have been of these but for the warning,advice, and example of Yusuf, who was well versed in galley-fightingand who foresaw clearly what must happen. He thrust the oar upward andforward as far as it would go, compelling the others at his bench toaccompany his movement. Then he slipped down upon his knees, releasedhis hold of the timber, and crouched down until his shoulders were ona level with the bench. He had shouted to Sir Oliver to follow hisexample, and Sir Oliver without even knowing what the manoeuvre shouldportend, but gathering its importance from the other's urgency of tone,promptly obeyed. The oar was struck an instant later and ere it snappedoff it was flung back, braining one of the slaves at the bench andmortally injuring the others, but passing clean over the heads of SirOliver and Yusuf. A moment later the bodies of the oarsmen of the benchimmediately in front were flung back atop of them with yells and curses.
When Sir Oliver staggered to his feet he found the battle joined. TheSpaniards had fired a volley from their calivers and a dense cloud ofsmoke hung above the bulwarks; through this surged now the corsairs, ledby a tall, lean, elderly man with a flowing white beard and a swarthyeagle face. A crescent of emeralds flashed from his snowy turban; aboveit rose the peak of a steel cap, and his body was cased in chain mail.He swung a great scimitar, before which Spaniards went down like wheatto the reaper's sickle. He fought like ten men, and to support himpoured a never-ending stream of M
Sir Oliver found Yusuf struggling in vain to rid himself of his chain,and went to his assistance. He stooped, seized it in both hands, set hisfeet against the bench, exerted all his strength, and tore the staplefrom the wood. Yusuf was free, save, of course, that a length of heavychain was dangling from his steel anklet. In his turn he did the likeservice by Sir Oliver, though not quite as speedily, for strong manthough he was, either his strength was not equal to the Cornishman'sor else the latter's staple had been driven into sounder timber. In theend, however, it yielded, and Sir Oliver too was free. Then he set thefoot that was hampered by the chain upon the bench, and with the staplethat still hung from the end of it he prised open the link that attachedit to his anklet.
That done he took his revenge. Crying "Din!" as loudly as any of theMuslimeen boarders, he flung himself upon the rear of the Spaniardsbrandishing his chain. In his hands it became a terrific weapon. He usedit as a scourge, lashing it to right and left of him, splitting here ahead and crushing there a face, until he had hacked a way clean throughthe Spanish press, which bewildered by this sudden rear attack made butlittle attempt to retaliate upon the escaped galley-slave. After him,whirling the remaining ten feet of the broken oar, came Yusuf.
Sir Oliver confessed afterwards to knowing very little of what happenedin those moments. He came to a full possession of his senses to findthe fight at an end, a cloud of turbaned corsairs standing guard over ahuddle of Spaniards, others breaking open the cabin and dragging thencethe chests that it contained, others again armed with chisels andmallets passing along the benches liberating the surviving slaves, ofwhom the great majority were children of Islam.
Sir Oliver found himself face to face with the white-bearded leader ofthe corsairs, who was leaning upon his scimitar and regarding him witheyes at once amused and amazed. Our gentleman's naked body was splashedfrom head to foot with blood, and in his right hand he still clutchedthat yard of iron links with which he had wrought such ghastlyexecution. Yusuf was standing at the corsair leader's elbow speakingrapidly.
"By Allah, was ever such a lusty fighter seen!" cried the latter. "Thestrength of the Prophet is within him thus to smite the unbelievingpigs."
Sir Oliver grinned savagely.
"I was returning them some of their whip-lashes--with interest," saidhe.
And those were the circumstances under which he came to meet theformidable Asad-ed-Din, Basha of Algiers, those the first words thatpassed between them.
Anon, when aboard Asad's own galley he was being carried to Barbary, hewas washed and his head was shaved all but the forelock, by which theProphet should lift him up to heaven when his earthly destiny shouldcome to be fulfilled. He made no protest. They washed and fed him andgave him ease; and so that they did these things to him they might dowhat else they pleased. At last arrayed in flowing garments that werestrange to him, and with a turban wound about his head, he was conductedto the poop, where Asad sat with Yusuf under an awning, and he came tounderstand that it was in compliance with the orders of Yusuf that hehad been treated as if he were a True-Believer.
Yusuf-ben-Moktar was discovered as a person of great consequence, thenephew of Asad-ed-Din, and a favourite with that Exalted of Allah theSublime Portal himself, a man whose capture by Christians had been athing profoundly deplored. Accordingly his delivery from that thraldomwas matter for rejoicing. Being delivered, he bethought him of hisoar-mate, concerning whom indeed Asad-ed-Din manifested the greatestcuriosity, for in all this world there was nothing the old corsair lovedso much as a fighter, and in all his days, he vowed, never had heseen the equal of that stalwart galley-slave, never the like of hisperformance with that murderous chain. Yusuf had informed him that theman was a fruit ripe for the Prophet's plucking, that the grace of Allahwas upon him, and in spirit already he must be accounted a good Muslim.
When Sir Oliver, washed, perfumed, and arrayed in white caftan andturban, which gave him the air of being even taller than he was, cameinto the presence of Asad-ed-Din, it was conveyed to him that if hewould enter the ranks of the Faithful of the Prophet's House and devotethe strength and courage with which Allah the One had endowed him tothe upholding of the true Faith and to the chastening of the enemies ofIslam, great honour, wealth and dignity were in store for him.
Of all that proposal, made at prodigious length and with great wealthof Eastern circumlocution, the only phrase that took root in his ratherbewildered mind was that which concerned the chastening of the enemiesof Islam. The enemies of Islam he conceived, were his own enemies; andhe further conceived that they stood in great need of chastening, andthat to take a hand in that chastening would be a singularly gratefultask. So he considered the proposals made him. He considered, too, thatthe alternative--in the event of his refusing to make the protestationsof Faith required of him--was that he must return to the oar of agalley, of a Muslim galley now. Now that was an occupation of which hehad had more than his fill, and since he had been washed and restoredto the normal sensations of a clean human being he found that whatevermight be within the scope of his courage he could not envisage returningto the oar. We have seen the ease with which he had abandoned thereligion in which he was reared for the Roman faith, and how utterlydeluded he had found himself. With the same degree of ease did he nowgo over to Islam and with much greater profit. Moreover, he embraced theReligion of Mahomet with a measure of fierce conviction that had beenentirely lacking from his earlier apostasy.
He had arrived at the conclusion whilst aboard the galley of Spain,as we have seen, that Christianity as practised in his day was a grimmockery of which the world were better rid. It is not to be supposedthat his convictions that Christianity was at fault went the length ofmaking him suppose that Islam was right, or that his conversion to theFaith of Mahomet was anything more than superficial. But forced as hewas to choose between the rower's bench and the poop-deck, the oar andthe scimitar, he boldly and resolutely made the only choice that in hiscase could lead to liberty and life.
Thus he was received into the ranks of the Faithful whose pavilions waitthem in Paradise, set in an orchard of never-failing fruit, amongrivers of milk, of wine, and of clarified honey. He became the Kayia orlieutenant to Yusuf on the galley of that corsair's command and secondedhim in half a score of engagements with an ability and a conspicuitythat made him swiftly famous throughout the ranks of the Mediterraneanrovers. Some six months later in a fight off the coast of Sicily withone of the galleys of the Religion--as the vessels of the Knights ofMalta were called--Yusuf was mortally wounded in the very moment of thevictory. He died an hour later in the arms of Sir Oliver, naming thelatter his successor in the command of the galley, and enjoining uponall implicit obedience to him until they should be returned to Algiersand the Basha should make known his further will in the matter.
The Basha's will was to confirm his nephew's dying appointment of asuccessor, and Sir Oliver found himself in full command of a galley.From that hour he became Oliver-Reis, but very soon his valour and furyearned him the by-name of Sakr-el-Bahr, the Hawk of the Sea. His famegrew rapidly, and it spread across the tideless sea to the very shoresof Christendom. Soon he became Asad's lieutenant, the second in commandof all the Algerine galleys, which meant in fact that he was thecommander-in-chief, for Asad was growing old and took the sea more andmore rarely now. Sakr-el-Bahr sallied forth in his name and his stead,and such was his courage, his address, and his good fortune that neverdid he go forth to return empty-handed.
It was clear to all that the favour of Allah was upon him, that he hadbeen singled out by Allah to be the very glory of Islam. Asad, who hadever esteemed him, grew to love him. An intensely devout man, couldhe have done less in the case of one for whom the Pitying the Pitifulshowed so marked a predilection? It was freely accepted that when thedestiny of Asad-ed-Din should come to be fulfilled, Sakr-el-Bahr mustsucceed him in the Bashalik of Algiers, and that thus
In spite of certain hostilities which his rapid advancement begot, andof which we shall hear more presently, once only did his power stand indanger of suffering a check. Coming one morning into the reeking bagnioat Algiers, some six months after he had been raised to his captaincy,he found there a score of countrymen of his own, and he gave orders thattheir letters should instantly be struck off and their liberty restoredthem.
Called to account by the Basha for this action he took a high-handedway, since no other was possible. He swore by the beard of the Prophetthat if he were to draw the sword of Mahomet and to serve Islam upon theseas, he would serve it in his own way, and one of his ways was that hisown countrymen were to have immunity from the edge of that same sword.Islam, he swore, should not be the loser, since for every Englishman herestored to liberty he would bring two Spaniards, Frenchmen, Greeks, orItalians into bondage.
He prevailed, but only upon condition that since captured slaves werethe property of the state, if he desired to abstract them from the statehe must first purchase them for himself. Since they would then be hisown property he could dispose of them at his good pleasure. Thus didthe wise and just Asad resolve the difficulty which had arisen, andOliver-Reis bowed wisely to that decision.
Thereafter what English slaves were brought to Algiers he purchased,manumitted, and found means to send home again. True, it cost him afine price yearly, but he was fast amassing such wealth as could easilysupport this tax.
As you read Lord Henry Goade's chronicles you might come to theconclusion that in the whorl of that new life of his Sir Oliver hadentirely forgotten the happenings in his Cornish home and the woman hehad loved, who so readily had believed him guilty of the slaying of herbrother. You might believe this until you come upon the relation of howhe found one day among some English seamen brought captive to Algiersby Biskaine-el-Borak--who was become his own second in command--a youngCornish lad from Helston named Pitt, whose father he had known.
He took this lad home with him to the fine palace which he inhabitednear the Bab-el-Oueb, treated him as an honoured guest, and sat througha whole summer night in talk with him, questioning him upon this personand that person, and thus gradually drawing from him all the littlehistory of his native place during the two years that were sped since hehad left it. In this we gather an impression of the wistful longings thefierce nostalgia that must have overcome the renegade and his endeavoursto allay it by his endless questions. The Cornish lad had brought him upsharply and agonizingly with that past of his upon which he had closedthe door when he became a Muslim and a corsair. The only possibleinference is that in those hours of that summer's night repentancestirred in him, and a wild longing to return. Rosamund should reopen forhim that door which, hard-driven by misfortune, he had slammed. That shewould do so when once she knew the truth he had no faintest doubt. Andthere was now no reason why he should conceal the truth, why he shouldcontinue to shield that dastardly half-brother of his, whom he had cometo hate as fiercely as he had erstwhile loved him.
In secret he composed a long letter giving the history of all that hadhappened to him since his kidnapping, and setting forth the entire truthof that and of the deed that had led to it. His chronicler opines thatit was a letter that must have moved a stone to tears. And, moreover,it was not a mere matter of passionate protestations of innocence, or ofunsupported accusation of his brother. It told her of the existence ofproofs that must dispel all doubt. It told her of that parchment inditedby Master Baine and witnessed by the parson, which document was to bedelivered to her together with the letter. Further, it bade her seekconfirmation of that document's genuineness, did she doubt it, at thehands of Master Baine himself. That done, it besought her to lay thewhole matter before the Queen, and thus secure him faculty to return toEngland and immunity from any consequences of his subsequent regenadeact to which his sufferings had driven him. He loaded the youngCornishman with gifts, gave him that letter to deliver in person, andadded instructions that should enable him to find the document he wasto deliver with it. That precious parchment had been left between theleaves of an old book on falconry in the library at Penarrow, where itwould probably be found still undisturbed since his brother would notsuspect its presence and was himself no scholar. Pitt was to seek outNicholas at Penarrow and enlist his aid to obtain possession of thatdocument, if it still existed.
Then Sakr-el-Bahr found means to conduct Pitt to Genoa, and there puthim aboard an English vessel.
Three months later he received an answer--a letter from Pitt, whichreached him by way of Genoa--which was at peace with the Algerines, andserved then as a channel of communication with Christianity. In thisletter Pitt informed him that he had done all that Sir Oliver haddesired him; that he had found the document by the help of Nicholas, andthat in person he had waited upon Mistress Rosamund Godolphin, who dweltnow with Sir John Killigrew at Arwenack, delivering to her the letterand the parchment; but that upon learning on whose behalf he came shehad in his presence flung both unopened upon the fire and dismissed himwith his tale untold.
Sakr-el-Bahr spent the night under the skies in his fragrant orchard,and his slaves reported in terror that they had heard sobs and weeping.If indeed his heart wept, it was for the last time; thereafter he wasmore inscrutable, more ruthless, cruel and mocking than men had everknown him, nor from that day did he ever again concern himself tomanumit a single English slave. His heart was become a stone.
Thus five years passed, counting from that spring night when he wastrepanned by Jasper Leigh, and his fame spread, his name became a terrorupon the seas, and fleets put forth from Malta, from Naples, and fromVenice to make an end of him and his ruthless piracy. But Allah keptwatch over him, and Sakr-el-Bahr never delivered battle but he wrestedvictory to the scimitars of Islam.
Then in the spring of that fifth year there came to him another letterfrom the Cornish Pitt, a letter which showed him that gratitude wasnot as dead in the world as he supposed it, for it was purely out ofgratitude that the lad whom he had delivered from thraldom wrote toinform him of certain matters that concerned him. This letter reopenedthat old wound; it did more; it dealt him a fresh one. He learnt from itthat the writer had been constrained by Sir John Killigrew to give suchevidence of Sir Oliver's conversion to Islam as had enabled the courtsto pronounce Sir Oliver as one to be presumed dead at law, granting thesuccession to his half-brother, Master Lionel Tressilian. Pitt professedhimself deeply mortified at having been forced unwittingly to make SirOliver so evil a return for the benefits received from him, and addedthat sooner would he have suffered them to hang him than have spokencould he have foreseen the consequences of his testimony.
So far Sir Oliver read unmoved by any feeling other than cold contempt.But there was more to follow. The letter went on to tell him thatMistress Rosamund was newly returned from a two years' sojourn in Franceto become betrothed to his half-brother Lionel, and that they were tobe wed in June. He was further informed that the marriage had beencontrived by Sir John Killigrew in his desire to see Rosamund settledand under the protection of a husband, since he himself was proposingto take the seas and was fitting out a fine ship for a voyage to theIndies. The writer added that the marriage was widely approved, and itwas deemed to be an excellent measure for both houses, since it wouldweld into one the two contiguous estates of Penarrow and GodolphinCourt.
Oliver-Reis laughed when he had read thus far. The marriage was approvednot for itself, it would seem, but because by means of it two stretchesof earth were united into one. It was a marriage of two parks, of twoestates, of two tracts of arable and forest, and that two humanbeings were concerned in it was apparently no more than an incidentalcircumstance.
Then the irony of it all entered his soul and spread it with bitterness.After dismissing him for the supposed murder of her brother, she wasto take the actual murderer to her arms. And he, that cur, that
He tore the letter into fragments and set about effacing the matter fromhis thoughts. Pitt had meant kindly by him, but had dealt cruelly. Inhis efforts to seek distraction from the torturing images ever in hismind he took to the sea with three galleys, and thus some two weekslater came face to face with Master Jasper Leigh aboard the Spanishcarack which he captured under Cape Spartel.
The Sea-Hawk by Rafael Sabatini / Actions & Adventure have rating 4.3 out of 5 / Based on17 votes