The sea hawk, p.20
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       The Sea-Hawk, p.20

           Rafael Sabatini


  At the sok-el-Abeed it was the hour of the outcry, announced by a blastof trumpets and the thudding of tom-toms. The traders that until thenhad been licensed to ply within the enclosure now put up the shuttersof their little booths. The Hebrew pedlar of gems closed his box andeffaced himself, leaving the steps about the well clear for the mostprominent patrons of the market. These hastened to assemble there,surrounding it and facing outwards, whilst the rest of the crowd wasranged against the southern and western walls of the enclosure.

  Came negro water-carriers in white turbans with aspersers made ofpalmetto leaves to sprinkle the ground and lay the dust against thetramp of slaves and buyers. The trumpets ceased for an instant, thenwound a fresh imperious blast and fell permanently silent. The crowdabout the gates fell back to right and left, and very slowly andstately three tall dalals, dressed from head to foot in white and withimmaculate turbans wound about their heads, advanced into the openspace. They came to a halt at the western end of the long wall, thechief dalal standing slightly in advance of the other two.

  The chattering of voices sank upon their advent, it became a hissingwhisper, then a faint drone like that of bees, and then utter silence.In the solemn and grave demeanour of the dalals there was somethingalmost sacerdotal, so that when that silence fell upon the crowd theaffair took on the aspect of a sacrament.

  The chief dalal stood forward a moment as if in an abstraction withdowncast eyes; then with hands outstretched to catch a blessing heraised his voice and began to pray in a monotonous chant:

  "In the name of Allah the Pitying the Pitiful Who created man from clotsof blood! All that is in the Heavens and in the Earth praiseth Allah,Who is the Mighty, the Wise! His the kingdom of the Heavens and of theEarth. He maketh alive and killeth, and He hath power over all things.He is the first and the last, the seen and the unseen, and He knowethall things."

  "Ameen," intoned the crowd.

  "The praise to Him who sent us Mahomet His Prophet to give the world theTrue Belief, and curses upon Shaitan the stoned who wages war upon Allahand His children."


  "The blessings of Allah and our Lord Mahomet upon this market and uponall who may buy and sell herein, and may Allah increase their wealth andgrant them length of days in which to praise Him."

  "Ameen," replied the crowd, as with a stir and rustle the closeranks relaxed from the tense attitude of prayer, and each man soughtelbow-room.

  The dalal beat his hands together, whereupon the curtains were drawnaside and the huddled slaves displayed--some three hundred in all,occupying three several pens.

  In the front rank of the middle pen--the one containing Rosamund andLionel--stood a couple of stalwart young Nubians, sleek and muscular,who looked on with completest indifference, no whit appalled by thefate which had haled them thither. They caught the eye of the dalal,and although the usual course was for a buyer to indicate a slave hewas prepared to purchase, yet to the end that good beginning should bepromptly made, the dalal himself pointed out that stalwart pair to thecorsairs who stood on guard. In compliance the two negroes were broughtforth.

  "Here is a noble twain," the dalal announced, "strong of muscle and longof limb, as all may see, whom it were a shameful thing to separate. Whoneeds such a pair for strong labour let him say what he will give."He set out on a slow circuit of the well, the corsairs urging the twoslaves to follow him that all buyers might see and inspect them.

  In the foremost ranks of the crowd near the gate stood Ali, sent thitherby Othmani to purchase a score of stout fellows required to make upthe contingent of the galeasse of Sakr-el-Bahr. He had been strictlyenjoined to buy naught but the stoutest stuff the market couldafford--with one exception. Aboard that galeasse they wanted noweaklings who would trouble the boatswain with their swoonings. Aliannounced his business forthwith.

  "I need such tall fellows for the oars of Sakr-el-Bahr," said he withloud importance, thus drawing upon himself the eyes of the assembly, andsunning himself in the admiring looks bestowed upon one of the officersof Oliver-Reis, one of the rovers who were the pride of Islam and asword-edge to the infidel.

  "They were born to toil nobly at the oar, O Ali-Reis," replied the dalalin all solemnity. "What wilt thou give for them?"

  "Two hundred philips for the twain."

  The dalal paced solemnly on, the slaves following in his wake.

  "Two hundred philips am I offered for a pair of the lustiest slaves thatby the favour of Allah were ever brought into this market. Who will sayfifty philips more?"

  A portly Moor in a flowing blue selham rose from his seat on the step ofthe well as the dalal came abreast of him, and the slaves scenting herea buyer, and preferring any service to that of the galleys with whichthey were threatened, came each in turn to kiss his hands and fawn uponhim, for all the world like dogs.

  Calm and dignified he ran his hands over them feeling their muscles, andthen forced back their lips and examined their teeth and mouths.

  "Two hundred and twenty for the twain," he said, and the dalal passed onwith his wares, announcing the increased price he had been offered.

  Thus he completed the circuit and came to stand once more before Ali.

  "Two hundred and twenty is now the price, O Ali! By the Koran, they areworth three hundred at the least. Wilt say three hundred?"

  "Two hundred and thirty," was the answer.

  Back to the Moor went the dalal. "Two hundred and thirty I am nowoffered, O Hamet. Thou wilt give another twenty?"

  "Not I, by Allah!" said Hamet, and resumed his seat. "Let him havethem."

  "Another ten philips?" pleaded the dalal.

  "Not another asper."

  "They are thine, then, O Ali, for two hundred and thirty. Give thanks toAllah for so good a bargain."

  The Nubians were surrendered to Ali's followers, whilst the dalal's twoassistants advanced to settle accounts with the corsair.

  "Wait wait," said he, "is not the name of Sakr-el-Bahr good warranty?"

  "The inviolable law is that the purchase money be paid ere a slaveleaves the market, O valiant Ali."

  "It shall be observed," was the impatient answer, "and I will so paybefore they leave. But I want others yet, and we will make one accountan it please thee. That fellow yonder now. I have orders to buy him formy captain." And he indicated Lionel, who stood at Rosamund's side, thevery incarnation of woefulness and debility.

  Contemptuous surprise flickered an instant in the eyes of the dalal. Butthis he made haste to dissemble.

  "Bring forth that yellow-haired infidel," he commanded.

  The corsairs laid hands on Lionel. He made a vain attempt to struggle,but it was observed that the woman leaned over to him and said somethingquickly, whereupon his struggles ceased and he suffered himself to bedragged limply forth into the full view of all the market.

  "Dost want him for the oar, Ali?" cried Ayoub-el-Samin across thequadrangle, a jest this that evoked a general laugh.

  "What else?" quoth Ali. "He should be cheap at least."

  "Cheap?" quoth the dalal in an affectation of surprise. "Nay, now. 'Tisa comely fellow and a young one. What wilt thou give, now? a hundredphilips?"

  "A hundred philips!" cried Ali derisively. "A hundred philips for thatskinful of bones! Ma'sh'-Allah! Five philips is my price, O dalal."

  Again laughter crackled through the mob. But the dalal stiffened withincreasing dignity. Some of that laughter seemed to touch himself, andhe was not a person to be made the butt of mirth.

  "'Tis a jest, my master," said he, with a forgiving yet contemptuouswave. "Behold how sound he is." He signed to one of the corsairs, andLionel's doublet was slit from neck to girdle and wrenched away from hisbody, leaving him naked to the waist, and displaying better proportionsthan might have been expected. In a passion at that indignity Lionelwrithed in the grip of his guards, until one of the corsairs struck hima light blow with a whip in earnest of what to expect if he continuedto be troublesome. "
Consider him now," said the dalal, pointing to thatwhite torso. "And behold how sound he is. See how excellent are histeeth." He seized Lionel's head and forced the jaws apart.

  "Ay," said Ali, "but consider me those lean shanks and that woman'sarm."

  "'Tis a fault the oar will mend," the dalal insisted.

  "You filthy blackamoors!" burst from Lionel in a sob of rage.

  "He is muttering curses in his infidel tongue," said Ali. "His temper isnone too good, you see. I have said five philips. I'll say no more."

  With a shrug the dalal began his circuit of the well, the corsairsthrusting Lionel after him. Here one rose to handle him, there another,but none seemed disposed to purchase.

  "Five philips is the foolish price offered me for this fine youngFrank," cried the dalal. "Will no True-Believer pay ten for such aslave? Wilt not thou, O Ayoub? Thou, Hamet--ten philips?"

  But one after another those to whom he was offered shook their heads.The haggardness of Lionel's face was too unprepossessing. They had seenslaves with that look before, and experience told them that no good wasever to be done with such fellows. Moreover, though shapely, his muscleswere too slight, his flesh looked too soft and tender. Of what use aslave who must be hardened and nourished into strength, and who mightvery well die in the process? Even at five philips he would be dear. Sothe disgusted dalal came back to Ali.

  "He is thine, then, for five philips--Allah pardon thy avarice."

  Ali grinned, and his men seized upon Lionel and bore him off into thebackground to join the two negroes previously purchased.

  And then, before Ali could bid for another of the slaves he desired toacquire, a tall, elderly Jew, dressed in black doublet and hose like aCastilian gentleman, with a ruffle at his neck, a plumed bonnet on hisgrey locks, and a serviceable dagger hanging from his girdle of hammeredgold, had claimed the attention of the dalal.

  In the pen that held the captives of the lesser raids conducted byBiskaine sat an Andalusian girl of perhaps some twenty years, of abeauty entirely Spanish.

  Her face was of the warm pallor of ivory, her massed hair of an ebonyblack, her eyebrows were finely pencilled, and her eyes of deepest andsoftest brown. She was dressed in the becoming garb of the Castilianpeasant, the folded kerchief of red and yellow above her bodice leavingbare the glories of her neck. She was very pale, and her eyes were wildin their look, but this detracted nothing from her beauty.

  She had attracted the jew's notice, and it is not impossible that theremay have stirred in him a desire to avenge upon her some of the cruelwrongs, some of the rackings, burning, confiscations, and banishmentsuffered by the men of his race at the hands of the men of hers. He mayhave bethought him of invaded ghettos, of Jewish maidens ravished,and Jewish children butchered in the name of the God those SpanishChristians worshipped, for there was something almost of contemptuousfierceness in his dark eyes and in the hand he flung out to indicateher.

  "Yonder is a Castilian wench for whom I will give fifty Philips, Odalal," he announced. The datal made a sign, whereupon the corsairsdragged her struggling forth.

  "So much loveliness may not be bought for fifty Philips, O Ibrahim,"said he. "Yusuf here will pay sixty at least." And he stood expectantlybefore a resplendent Moor.

  The Moor, however, shook his head.

  "Allah knows I have three wives who would destroy her loveliness withinthe hour and so leave me the loser."

  The dalal moved on, the girl following him but contesting every step ofthe way with those who impelled her forward, and reviling them tooin hot Castilian. She drove her nails into the arms of one and spatfiercely into the face of another of her corsair guards. Rosamund'sweary eyes quickened to horror as she watched her--a horror prompted asmuch by the fate awaiting that poor child as by the undignified furyof the futile battle she waged against it. But it happened that herbehaviour impressed a Levantine Turk quite differently. He rose, a shortsquat figure, from his seat on the steps of the well.

  "Sixty Philips will I pay for the joy of taming that wild cat," said he.

  But Ibrahim was not to be outbidden. He offered seventy, the Turkcountered with a bid of eighty, and Ibrahim again raised the price toninety, and there fell a pause.

  The dalal spurred on the Turk. "Wilt thou be beaten then, and byan Israelite? Shall this lovely maid be given to a perverter of theScriptures, to an inheritor of the fire, to one of a race that would notbestow on their fellow-men so much as the speck out of a date-stone? Itwere a shame upon a True-Believer."

  Urged thus the Turk offered another five Philips, but with obviousreluctance. The Jew, however, entirely unabashed by a tirade againsthim, the like of which he heard a score of times a day in the course oftrading, pulled forth a heavy purse from his girdle.

  "Here are one hundred Philips," he announced. "'Tis overmuch. But Ioffer it."

  Ere the dalal's pious and seductive tongue could urge him further theTurk sat down again with a gesture of finality.

  "I give him joy of her," said he.

  "She is thine, then, O Ibrahim, for one hundred philips."

  The Israelite relinquished the purse to the dalal's white-robedassistants and advanced to receive the girl. The corsairs thrust herforward against him, still vainly battling, and his arms closed abouther for a moment.

  "Thou has cost me dear, thou daughter of Spain," said he. "But I amcontent. Come." And he made shift to lead her away. Suddenly, however,fierce as a tiger-cat she writhed her arms upwards and clawed at hisface. With a scream of pain he relaxed his hold of her and in thatmoment, quick as lightning she plucked the dagger that hung from hisgirdle so temptingly within her reach.

  "Valga me Dios!" she cried, and ere a hand could be raised to preventher she had buried the blade in her lovely breast and sank in alaughing, coughing, heap at his feet. A final convulsive heave and shelay there quite still, whilst Ibrahim glared down at her with eyes ofdismay, and over all the market there hung a hush of sudden awe.

  Rosamund had risen in her place, and a faint colour came to warm herpallor, a faint light kindled in her eyes. God had shown her the waythrough this poor Spanish girl, and assuredly God would give her themeans to take it when her own turn came. She felt herself suddenlyuplifted and enheartened. Death was a sharp, swift severing, an easydoor of escape from the horror that threatened her, and God in Hismercy, she knew, would justify self-murder under such circumstances aswere her own and that poor dead Andalusian maid's.

  At length Ibrahim roused himself from his momentary stupor. He steppeddeliberately across the body, his face inflamed, and stood to beard theimpassive dalal.

  "She is dead!" he bleated. "I am defrauded. Give me back my gold!"

  "Are we to give back the price of every slave that dies?" the dalalquestioned him.

  "But she was not yet delivered to me," raved the Jew. "My hands had nottouched her. Give me back my gold."

  "Thou liest, son of a dog," was the answer, dispassionately delivered."She was thine already. I had so pronounced her. Bear her hence, sinceshe belongs to thee."

  The Jew, his face empurpling, seemed to fight for breath

  "How?" he choked. "Am I to lose a hundred philips?"

  "What is written is written," replied the serene dalal.

  Ibrahim was frothing at the lips, his eyes were blood-injected. "But itwas never written that...."

  "Peace," said the dalal. "Had it not been written it could not have cometo pass. It is the will of Allah! Who dares rebel against it?"

  The crowd began to murmur.

  "I want my hundred philips," the Jew insisted, whereupon the murmurswelled into a sudden roar.

  "Thou hearest?" said the dalal. "Allah pardon thee, thou art disturbingthe peace of this market. Away, ere ill betide thee."

  "Hence! hence!" roared the crowd, and some advanced threateningly uponthe luckless Ibrahim. "Away, thou perverter of Holy Writ! thou filth!thou dog! Away!"

  Such was the uproar, such the menace of angry countenances and clenchedfists shaken in his very face, t
hat Ibrahim quailed and forgot his lossin fear.

  "I go, I go," he said, and turned hastily to depart.

  But the dalal summoned him back. "Take hence thy property," said he,and pointed to the body. And so Ibrahim was forced to suffer the furthermockery of summoning his slaves to bear away the lifeless body for whichhe had paid in lively potent gold.

  Yet by the gates he paused again. "I will appeal me to the Basha," hethreatened. "Asad-ed-Din is just, and he will have my money restored tome."

  "So he will," said the dalal, "when thou canst restore the dead to life,"and he turned to the portly Ayoub, who was plucking at his sleeve. Hebent his head to catch the muttered words of Fenzileh's wazeer. Then, inobedience to them, he ordered Rosamund to be brought forward.

  She offered no least resistance, advancing in a singularly lifeless way,like a sleep-walker or one who had been drugged. In the heat and glareof the open market she stood by the dalal's side at the head of thewell, whilst he dilated upon her physical merits in that lingua francawhich he used since it was current coin among all the assorted racesrepresented there--a language which the knowledge of French that herresidence in France had taught her she was to her increasing horror andshame able to understand.

  The first to make an offer for her was that same portly Moor who hadsought to purchase the two Nubeans. He rose to scrutinize her closely,and must have been satisfied, for the price he offered was a good one,and he offered it with contemptuous assurance that he would not beoutbidden.

  "One hundred philips for the milk-faced girl."

  "'Tis not enough. Consider me the moon-bright loveliness of her face,"said the dalal as he moved on. "Chigil yields us fair women, but no womanof Chigil was ever half so fair."

  "One hundred and fifty," said the Levantine Turk with a snap.

  "Not yet enough. Behold the stately height which Allah hath vouchsafedher. See the noble carriage of her head, the lustre of her eye! ByAllah, she is worthy to grace the Sultan's own hareem."

  He said no more than the buyers recognized to be true, and excitementstirred faintly through their usually impassive ranks. A Tagareen Moornamed Yusuf offered at once two hundred.

  But still the dalal continued to sing her praises. He held up one of herarms for inspection, and she submitted with lowered eyes, and no signof resentment beyond the slow flush that spread across her face andvanished again.

  "Behold me these limbs, smooth as Arabian silks and whiter than ivory.Look at those lips like pomegranate blossoms. The price is now twohundred philips. What wilt thou give, O Hamet?"

  Hamet showed himself angry that his original bid should so speedily havebeen doubled. "By the Koran, I have purchased three sturdy girls fromthe Sus for less."

  "Wouldst thou compare a squat-faced girl from the Sus with thisnarcissus-eyed glory of womanhood?" scoffed the dalal.

  "Two hundred and ten, then," was Hamet's sulky grunt.

  The watchful Tsamanni considered that the time had come to buy her forhis lord as he had been bidden.

  "Three hundred," he said curtly, to make an end of matters, and--

  "Four hundred," instantly piped a shrill voice behind him.

  He spun round in his amazement and met the leering face of Ayoub. Amurmur ran through the ranks of the buyers, the people craned theirnecks to catch a glimpse of this open-handed purchaser.

  Yusuf the Tagareen rose up in a passion. He announced angrily that neveragain should the dust of the sok of Algiers defile his slippers, thatnever again would he come there to purchase slaves.

  "By the Well of Zem-Zem," he swore, "all men are bewitched in thismarket. Four hundred philips for a Frankish girl! May Allah increaseyour wealth, for verily you'll need it." And in his supreme disgusthe stalked to the gates, and elbowed his way through the crowd, and sovanished from the sok.

  Yet ere he was out of earshot her price had risen further. WhilstTsamanni was recovering from his surprise at the competitor that hadsuddenly appeared before him, the dalal had lured an increased offerfrom the Turk.

  "'Tis a madness," the latter deplored. "But she pleaseth me, and shouldit seem good to Allah the Merciful to lead her into the True Faith shemay yet become the light of my hareem. Four hundred and twenty philips,then, O dalal, and Allah pardon me my prodigality."

  Yet scarcely was his little speech concluded than Tsamanni with laconiceloquence rapped out: "Five hundred."

  "Y'Allah!" cried the Turk, raising his hands to heaven, and "Y'Allah!"echoed the crowd.

  "Five hundred and fifty," shrilled Ayoub's voice above the general din.

  "Six hundred," replied Tsamanni, still unmoved.

  And now such was the general hubbub provoked by these unprecedentedprices that the dalal was forced to raise his voice and cry for silence.

  When this was restored Ayoub at once raised the price to seven hundred.

  "Eight hundred," snapped Tsamanni, showing at last a little heat.

  "Nine hundred," replied Ayoub.

  Tsamanni swung round upon him again, white now with fury.

  "Is this a jest, O father of wind?" he cried, and excited laughter bythe taunt implicit in that appellation.

  "And thou'rt the jester," replied Ayoub with forced calm, "thou'lt findthe jest a costly one."

  With a shrug Tsamanni turned again to the dalal. "A thousand philips,"said he shortly.

  "Silence there!" cried the dalal again. "Silence, and praise Allah whosends good prices."

  "One thousand and one hundred," said Ayoub the irrepressible

  And now Tsamanni not only found himself outbidden, but he had reachedthe outrageous limit appointed by Asad. He lacked authority to gofurther, dared not do so without first consulting the Basha. Yet if heleft the sok for that purpose Ayoub would meanwhile secure the girl.He found himself between sword and wall. On the one hand did hepermit himself to be outbidden his master might visit upon him hisdisappointment. On the other, did he continue beyond the limit so idlymentioned as being far beyond all possibility, it might fare no less illwith him.

  He turned to the crowd, waving his arms in furious gesticulation. "Bythe beard of the Prophet, this bladder of wind and grease makes sport ofus. He has no intent to buy. What man ever heard of the half of such aprice for a slave girl?"

  Ayoub's answer was eloquent; he produced a fat bag and flung it on theground, where it fell with a mellow chink. "There is my sponsor," hemade answer, grinning in the very best of humours, savouring to thefull his enemy's rage and discomfiture, and savouring it at no costto himself. "Shall I count out one thousand and one hundred philips, Odalal."

  "If the wazeer Tsamanni is content."

  "Dost thou know for whom I buy?" roared Tsamanni. "For the Bashahimself, Asad-ed-Din, the exalted of Allah," He advanced upon Ayoub withhands upheld. "What shalt thou say to him, O dog, when he calls thee toaccount for daring to outbid him."

  But Ayoub remained unruffled before all this fury. He spread his fathands, his eyes twinkling, his great lips pursed. "How should I know,since Allah has not made me all-knowing? Thou shouldst have said soearlier. 'Tis thus I shall answer the Basha should he question me, andthe Basha is just."

  "I would not be thee, Ayoub--not for the throne of Istambul."

  "Nor I thee, Tsamanni; for thou art jaundiced with rage."

  And so they stood glaring each at the other until the dalal called themback to the business that was to do.

  "The price is now one thousand and one hundred philips. Wilt thou sufferdefeat, O wazeer?"

  "Since Allah wills. I have no authority to go further."

  "Then at one thousand and one hundred philips, Ayoub, she is...."

  But the sale was not yet to be completed. From the dense and eagerthrong about the gates rang a crisp voice--

  "One thousand and two hundred philips for the Frankish girl."

  The dalal, who had conceived that the limits of madness had been alreadyreached, stood gaping now in fresh amazement. The mob crowed and cheeredand roared between enthusiasm and derision, and ev
en Tsamanni brightenedto see another champion enter the lists who perhaps would avenge himupon Ayoub. The crowd parted quickly to right and left, and through itinto the open strode Sakr-el-Bahr. They recognized him instantly, andhis name was shouted in acclamation by that idolizing multitude.

  That Barbary name of his conveyed no information to Rosamund, and herback being turned to the entrance she did not see him. But she hadrecognized his voice, and she had shuddered at the sound. She could makenothing of the bidding, nor what the purpose that surely underlay it toaccount for the extraordinary excitement of the traders. Vaguely had shebeen wondering what dastardly purpose Oliver might intend to serve, butnow that she heard his voice that wonder ceased and understanding tookits place. He had hung there somewhere in the crowd waiting until allcompetitors but one should have been outbidden, and now he stepped forthto buy her for his own--his slave! She closed her eyes a moment andprayed God that he might not prevail in his intent. Any fate but that;she would rob him even of the satisfaction of driving her to sheathea poniard in her heart as that poor Andalusian girl had done. A wavealmost of unconsciousness passed over her in the intensity of herhorror. For a moment the ground seemed to rock and heave under her feet.

  Then the dizziness passed, and she was herself again. She heard thecrowd thundering "Ma'sh'Allah!" and "Sakr-el-Bahr!" and the dalalclamouring sternly for silence. When this was at last restored she heardhis exclamation--

  "The glory to Allah who sends eager buyers! What sayest thou, O wazeerAyoub?"

  "Ay!" sneered Tsamanni, "what now?"

  "One thousand and three hundred," said Ayoub with a quaver of uneasydefiance.

  "Another hundred, O dalal," came from Sakr-el-Bahr in a quiet voice.

  "One thousand and five hundred," screamed Ayoub, thus reaching not onlythe limit imposed by his mistress, but the very limit of the resourcesat her immediate disposal. Gone, too, with that bid was all hope ofprofit to himself.

  But Sakr-el-Bahr, impassive as Fate, and without so much as deigning tobestow a look upon the quivering eunuch, said again--

  "Another hundred, O dalal."

  "One thousand and six hundred philips!" cried the dalal, more inamazement than to announce the figure reached. Then controlling hisemotions he bowed his head in reverence and made confession of hisfaith. "All things are possible if Allah wills them. The praise to Himwho sends wealthy buyers."

  He turned to the crestfallen Ayoub, so crestfallen that in thecontemplation of him Tsamanni was fast gathering consolation for his owndiscomfiture, vicariously tasting the sweets of vengeance. "What say younow, O perspicuous wazeer?"

  "I say," choked Ayoub, "that since by the favour of Shaitan he hath somuch wealth he must prevail."

  But the insulting words were scarcely uttered than Sakr-el-Bahr's greathand had taken the wazeer by the nape of his fat neck, a growl of angerrunning through the assembly to approve him.

  "By the favour of Shaitan, sayest thou, thou sex-less dog?" he growled,and tightened his grip so that the wazeer squirmed and twisted in anagony of pain. Down was his head thrust, and still down, until his fatbody gave way and he lay supine and writhing in the dust of the sok."Shall I strangle thee, thou father of filth, or shall I fling thy softflesh to the hooks to teach thee what is a man's due from thee?" And ashe spoke he rubbed the too daring fellow's face roughly on the ground.

  "Mercy!" squealed the wazeer. "Mercy, O mighty Sakr-el-Bahr, as thoulookest for mercy!"

  "Unsay thy words, thou offal. Pronounce thyself a liar and a dog."

  "I do unsay them. I have foully lied. Thy wealth is the reward sent theeby Allah for thy glorious victories over the unbelieving."

  "Put out thine offending tongue," said Sakr-el-Bahr, "and cleanse it inthe dust. Put it forth, I say."

  Ayoub obeyed him in fearful alacrity, whereupon Sakr-el-Bahr releasedhis hold and allowed the unfortunate fellow to rise at last, half-chokedwith dirt, livid of face, and quaking like a jelly, an object ofridicule and cruel mockery to all assembled.

  "Now get thee hence, ere my sea-hawks lay their talons on thee. Go!"

  Ayoub departed in all haste to the increasing jeers of the multitude andthe taunts of Tsamanni, whilst Sakr-el-Bahr turned him once more to thedalal.

  "At one thousand and six hundred philips this slave is thine, OSakr-el-Bahr, thou glory of Islam. May Allah increase thy victories!"

  "Pay him, Ali," said the corsair shortly, and he advanced to receive hispurchase.

  Face to face stood he now with Rosamund, for the first time since thatday before the encounter with the Dutch argosy when he had sought her inthe cabin of the carack.

  One swift glance she bestowed on him, then, her senses reeling withhorror at her circumstance she shrank back, her face of a deathlypallor. In his treatment of Ayoub she had just witnessed the lengthsof brutality of which he was capable, and she was not to know that thisbrutality had been a deliberate piece of mummery calculated to striketerror into her.

  Pondering her now he smiled a tight-lipped cruel smile that only servedto increase her terror.

  "Come," he said in English.

  She cowered back against the dalal as if for protection. Sakr-el-Bahrreached forward, caught her by the wrists, and almost tossed her to hisNubians, Abiad and Zal-Zer, who were attending him.

  "Cover her face," he bade them. "Bear her to my house. Away!"

Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up