At the sôk-el-Abeed it was the hour of the outcry, announced by a blast of trumpets and the thudding of tom-toms. The traders that until then had been licensed to ply within the enclosure now put up the shutters of their little booths. The Hebrew pedlar of gems closed his box and effaced himself, leaving the steps about the well clear for the most prominent patrons of the market. These hastened to assemble there, surrounding it and facing outwards, whilst the rest of the crowd was ranged against the southern and western walls of the enclosure.
Came negro water-carriers in white turbans with aspersers made of palmetto leaves to sprinkle the ground and lay the dust against the tramp of slaves and buyers. The trumpets ceased for an instant, then wound a fresh imperious blast and fell permanently silent. The crowd about the gates fell back to right and left, and very slowly and stately three tall dalals, dressed from head to foot in white and with immaculate turbans wound about their heads, advanced into the open space. They came to a halt at the western end of the long wall, the chief dalal standing slightly in advance of the other two.
The chattering of voices sank upon their advent, it became a hissing whisper, then a faint drone like that of bees, and then utter silence. In the solemn and grave demeanour of the dalals there was something almost sacerdotal, so that when that silence fell upon the crowd the affair took on the aspect of a sacrament.
The chief dalal stood forward a moment as if in an abstraction with downcast eyes; then with hands outstretched to catch a blessing he raised his voice and began to pray in a monotonous chant:
“In the name of Allah the Pitying the Pitiful Who created man from clots of blood! All that is in the Heavens and in the Earth praiseth Allah, Who is the Mighty, the Wise! His the kingdom of the Heavens and of the Earth. He maketh alive and killeth, and He hath power over all things. He is the first and the last, the seen and the unseen, and He knoweth all things.”
“Ameen,” intoned the crowd.
“The praise to Him who sent us Mahomet His Prophet to give the world the True Belief, and curses upon Shaitan the stoned who wages war upon Allah and His children.”
“The blessings of Allah and our Lord Mahomet upon this market and upon all who may buy and sell herein, and may Allah increase their wealth and grant them length of days in which to praise Him.”
“Ameen,” replied the crowd, as with a stir and rustle the close ranks relaxed from the tense attitude of prayer, and each man sought elbow-room.
The dalal beat his hands together, whereupon the curtains were drawn aside and the huddled slaves displayed — some three hundred in all, occupying three several pens.
In the front rank of the middle pen — the one containing Rosamund and Lionel — stood a couple of stalwart young Nubians, sleek and muscular, who looked on with completest indifference, no whit appalled by the fate which had haled them thither. They caught the eye of the dalal, and although the usual course was for a buyer to indicate a slave he was prepared to purchase, yet to the end that good beginning should be promptly made, the dalal himself pointed out that stalwart pair to the corsairs who stood on guard. In compliance the two negroes were brought forth.
“Here is a noble twain,” the dalal announced, “strong of muscle and long of limb, as all may see, whom it were a shameful thing to separate. Who needs such a pair for strong labour let him say what he will give.” He set out on a slow circuit of the well, the corsairs urging the two slaves to follow him that all buyers might see and inspect them.
In the foremost ranks of the crowd near the gate stood Ali, sent thither by Othmani to purchase a score of stout fellows required to make up the contingent of the galeasse of Sakr-el-Bahr. He had been strictly enjoined to buy naught but the stoutest stuff the market could afford — with one exception. Aboard that galeasse they wanted no weaklings who would trouble the boatswain with their swoonings. Ali announced his business forthwith.
“I need such tall fellows for the oars of Sakr-el-Bahr,” said he with loud importance, thus drawing upon himself the eyes of the assembly, and sunning himself in the admiring looks bestowed upon one of the officers of Oliver–Reis, one of the rovers who were the pride of Islam and a sword-edge to the infidel.
“They were born to toil nobly at the oar, O Ali–Reis,” replied the dalal in all solemnity. “What wilt thou give for them?”
“Two hundred philips for the twain.”
The dalal paced solemnly on, the slaves following in his wake.
“Two hundred philips am I offered for a pair of the lustiest slaves that by the favour of Allah were ever brought into this market. Who will say fifty philips more?”
A portly Moor in a flowing blue selham rose from his seat on the step of the well as the dalal came abreast of him, and the slaves scenting here a buyer, and preferring any service to that of the galleys with which they were threatened, came each in turn to kiss his hands and fawn upon him, for all the world like dogs.
Calm and dignified he ran his hands over them feeling their muscles, and then forced back their lips and examined their teeth and mouths.
“Two hundred and twenty for the twain,” he said, and the dalal passed on with his wares, announcing the increased price he had been offered.
Thus he completed the circuit and came to stand once more before Ali.
“Two hundred and twenty is now the price, O Ali! By the Koran, they are worth three hundred at the least. Wilt say three hundred?”
“Two hundred and thirty,” was the answer.
Back to the Moor went the dalal. “Two hundred and thirty I am now offered, O Hamet. Thou wilt give another twenty?”
“Not I, by Allah!” said Hamet, and resumed his seat. “Let him have them.”
“Another ten philips?” pleaded the dalal.
“Not another asper.”
“They are thine, then, O Ali, for two hundred and thirty. Give thanks to Allah for so good a bargain.”
The Nubians were surrendered to Ali’s followers, whilst the dalal’s two assistants advanced to settle accounts with the corsair.
“Wait wait,” said he, “is not the name of Sakr-el-Bahr good warranty?”
“The inviolable law is that the purchase money be paid ere a slave leaves the market, O valiant Ali.”
“It shall be observed,” was the impatient answer, “and I will so pay before they leave. But I want others yet, and we will make one account an it please thee. That fellow yonder now. I have orders to buy him for my captain.” And he indicated Lionel, who stood at Rosamund’s side, the very incarnation of woefulness and debility.
Contemptuous surprise flickered an instant in the eyes of the dalal. But this he made haste to dissemble.
“Bring forth that yellow-haired infidel,” he commanded.
The corsairs laid hands on Lionel. He made a vain attempt to struggle, but it was observed that the woman leaned over to him and said something quickly, whereupon his struggles ceased and he suffered himself to be dragged limply forth into the full view of all the market.
“Dost want him for the oar, Ali?” cried Ayoub-el-Samin across the quadrangle, a jest this that evoked a general laugh.
“What else?” quoth Ali. “He should be cheap at least.”
“Cheap?” quoth the dalal in an affectation of surprise. “Nay, now. ’Tis a comely fellow and a young one. What wilt thou give, now? a hundred philips?”
“A hundred philips!” cried Ali derisively. “A hundred philips for that skinful of bones! Ma’sh’-Allah! Five philips is my price, O dalal.”
Again laughter crackled through the mob. But the dalal stiffened with increasing dignity. Some of that laughter seemed to touch himself, and he was not a person to be made the butt of mirth.
“’Tis a jest, my master,” said he, with a forgiving yet contemptuous wave. “Behold how sound he is.” He signed to one of the corsairs, and Lionel’s doublet was slit from neck to girdle and wrenched away from his body, leaving him naked to the waist, and displaying better proportions than might have been expected. In a passion at that indignity Lionel writhed in the grip of his guards, until one of the corsairs struck him a light blow with a whip in earnest of what to expect if he continued to be troublesome. “Consider him now,” said the dalal, pointing to that white torso. “And behold how sound he is. See how excellent are his teeth.” He seized Lionel’s head and forced the jaws apart.
“Ay,” said Ali, “but consider me those lean shanks and that woman’s arm.”
“’Tis a fault the oar will mend,” the dalal insisted.
“You filthy blackamoors!” burst from Lionel in a sob of rage.
“He is muttering curses in his infidel tongue,” said Ali. “His temper is none too good, you see. I have said five philips. I’ll say no more.”
With a shrug the dalal began his circuit of the well, the corsairs thrusting Lionel after him. Here one rose to handle him, there another, but none seemed disposed to purchase.
“Five philips is the foolish price offered me for this fine young Frank,” cried the dalal. “Will no True–Believer pay ten for such a slave? Wilt not thou, O Ayoub? Thou, Hamet — ten philips?”
But one after another those to whom he was offered shook their heads. The haggardness of Lionel’s face was too unprepossessing. They had seen slaves with that look before, and experience told them that no good was ever to be done with such fellows. Moreover, though shapely, his muscles were too slight, his flesh looked too soft and tender. Of what use a slave who must be hardened and nourished into strength, and who might very well die in the process? Even at five philips he would be dear. So the disgusted dalal came back to Ali.
“He is thine, then, for five philips — Allah pardon thy avarice.”
Ali grinned, and his men seized upon Lionel and bore him off into the background to join the two negroes previously purchased.
And then, before Ali could bid for another of the slaves he desired to acquire, a tall, elderly Jew, dressed in black doublet and hose like a Castilian gentleman, with a ruffle at his neck, a plumed bonnet on his grey locks, and a serviceable dagger hanging from his girdle of hammered gold, had claimed the attention of the dalal.
In the pen that held the captives of the lesser raids conducted by Biskaine sat an Andalusian girl of perhaps some twenty years, of a beauty entirely Spanish.
Her face was of the warm pallor of ivory, her massed hair of an ebony black, her eyebrows were finely pencilled, and her eyes of deepest and softest brown. She was dressed in the becoming garb of the Castilian peasant, the folded kerchief of red and yellow above her bodice leaving bare the glories of her neck. She was very pale, and her eyes were wild in their look, but this detracted nothing from her beauty.
She had attracted the jew’s notice, and it is not impossible that there may have stirred in him a desire to avenge upon her some of the cruel wrongs, some of the rackings, burning, confiscations, and banishment suffered by the men of his race at the hands of the men of hers. He may have bethought him of invaded ghettos, of Jewish maidens ravished, and Jewish children butchered in the name of the God those Spanish Christians worshipped, for there was something almost of contemptuous fierceness in his dark eyes and in the hand he flung out to indicate her.
“Yonder is a Castilian wench for whom I will give fifty Philips, O dalal,” he announced. The datal made a sign, whereupon the corsairs dragged her struggling forth.
“So much loveliness may not be bought for fifty Philips, O Ibrahim,” said he. “Yusuf here will pay sixty at least.” And he stood expectantly before a resplendent Moor.
The Moor, however, shook his head.
“Allah knows I have three wives who would destroy her loveliness within the hour and so leave me the loser.”
The dalal moved on, the girl following him but contesting every step of the way with those who impelled her forward, and reviling them too in hot Castilian. She drove her nails into the arms of one and spat fiercely into the face of another of her corsair guards. Rosamund’s weary eyes quickened to horror as she watched her — a horror prompted as much by the fate awaiting that poor child as by the undignified fury of the futile battle she waged against it. But it happened that her behaviour impressed a Levantine Turk quite differently. He rose, a short squat figure, from his seat on the steps of the well.
“Sixty Philips will I pay for the joy of taming that wild cat,” said he.
But Ibrahim was not to be outbidden. He offered seventy, the Turk countered with a bid of eighty, and Ibrahim again raised the price to ninety, and there fell a pause.
The dalal spurred on the Turk. “Wilt thou be beaten then, and by an Israelite? Shall this lovely maid be given to a perverter of the Scriptures, to an inheritor of the fire, to one of a race that would not bestow on their fellow-men so much as the speck out of a date-stone? It were a shame upon a True–Believer.”
Urged thus the Turk offered another five Philips, but with obvious reluctance. The Jew, however, entirely unabashed by a tirade against him, the like of which he heard a score of times a day in the course of trading, pulled forth a heavy purse from his girdle.
“Here are one hundred Philips,” he announced. “’Tis overmuch. But I offer it.”
Ere the dalal’s pious and seductive tongue could urge him further the Turk sat down again with a gesture of finality.
“I give him joy of her,” said he.
“She is thine, then, O Ibrahim, for one hundred philips.”
The Israelite relinquished the purse to the dalal’s white-robed assistants and advanced to receive the girl. The corsairs thrust her forward against him, still vainly battling, and his arms closed about her for a moment.
“Thou has cost me dear, thou daughter of Spain,” said he. “But I am content. Come.” And he made shift to lead her away. Suddenly, however, fierce as a tiger-cat she writhed her arms upwards and clawed at his face. With a scream of pain he relaxed his hold of her and in that moment, quick as lightning she plucked the dagger that hung from his girdle so temptingly within her reach.
“Valga me Dios!” she cried, and ere a hand could be raised to prevent her she had buried the blade in her lovely breast and sank in a laughing, coughing, heap at his feet. A final convulsive heave and she lay there quite still, whilst Ibrahim glared down at her with eyes of dismay, and over all the market there hung a hush of sudden awe.
Rosamund had risen in her place, and a faint colour came to warm her pallor, a faint light kindled in her eyes. God had shown her the way through this poor Spanish girl, and assuredly God would give her the means to take it when her own turn came. She felt herself suddenly uplifted and enheartened. Death was a sharp, swift severing, an easy door of escape from the horror that threatened her, and God in His mercy, she knew, would justify self-murder under such circumstances as were her own and that poor dead Andalusian maid’s.
At length Ibrahim roused himself from his momentary stupor. He stepped deliberately across the body, his face inflamed, and stood to beard the impassive 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 dalal questioned him.
“But she was not yet delivered to me,” raved the Jew. “My hands had not touched her. Give me back my gold.”
“Thou liest, son of a dog,” was the answer, dispassionately delivered. “She was thine already. I had so pronounced her. Bear her hence, since she belongs to thee.”
The Jew, his face empurpling, seemed to fight for breath
“How?” he choked. “Am I to lose a hundred philips?”
“What is written is written,” replied the serene dalal.
Ibrahim was frothing at the lips, his eyes were blood-injected. “But it was never written that. . . . ”
“Peace,” said the dalal. “Had it not been written it could not have come to pass. It is the will of Allah! Who dares rebel against it?”
The crowd began to murmur.
“I want my hundred philips,” the Jew insisted, whereupon the murmur swelled into a sudden roar.
“Thou hearest?” said the dalal. “Allah pardon thee, thou art disturbing the peace of this market. Away, ere ill betide thee.”
“Hence! hence!” roared the crowd, and some advanced threateningly upon the luckless Ibrahim. “Away, thou perverter of Holy Writ! thou filth! thou dog! Away!”
Such was the uproar, such the menace of angry countenances and clenched fists shaken in his very face, that Ibrahim quailed and forgot his loss in 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 further mockery of summoning his slaves to bear away the lifeless body for which he had paid in lively potent gold.
Yet by the gates he paused again. “I will appeal me to the Basha,” he threatened. “Asad-ed-Din is just, and he will have my money restored to me.”
“So he will,” said the dalal, “when thou canst restore the dead to life,” and he turned to the portly Ayoub, who was plucking at his sleeve. He bent his head to catch the muttered words of Fenzileh’s wazeer. Then, in obedience to them, he ordered Rosamund to be brought forward.
She offered no least resistance, advancing in a singularly lifeless way, like a sleep-walker or one who had been drugged. In the heat and glare of the open market she stood by the dalal’s side at the head of the well, whilst he dilated upon her physical merits in that lingua franca which he used since it was current coin among all the assorted races represented there — a language which the knowledge of French that her residence in France had taught her she was to her increasing horror and shame able to understand.
The first to make an offer for her was that same portly Moor who had sought to purchase the two Nubeans. He rose to scrutinize her closely, and must have been satisfied, for the price he offered was a good one, and he offered it with contemptuous assurance that he would not be outbidden.
“One hundred philips for the milk-faced girl.”
“’Tis not enough. Consider me the moon-bright loveliness of her face,” said the dalal as he moved on. “Chigil yields us fair women, but no woman of Chigil was ever half so fair.”
“One hundred and fifty,” said the Levantine Turk with a snap.
“Not yet enough. Behold the stately height which Allah hath vouchsafed her. See the noble carriage of her head, the lustre of her eye! By Allah, she is worthy to grace the Sultan’s own hareem.”
He said no more than the buyers recognized to be true, and excitement stirred faintly through their usually impassive ranks. A Tagareen Moor named Yusuf offered at once two hundred.
But still the dalal continued to sing her praises. He held up one of her arms for inspection, and she submitted with lowered eyes, and no sign of resentment beyond the slow flush that spread across her face and vanished again.
“Behold me these limbs, smooth as Arabian silks and whiter than ivory. Look at those lips like pomegranate blossoms. The price is now two hundred philips. What wilt thou give, O Hamet?”
Hamet showed himself angry that his original bid should so speedily have been doubled. “By the Koran, I have purchased three sturdy girls from the Sus for less.”
“Wouldst thou compare a squat-faced girl from the Sus with this narcissus-eyed glory of womanhood?” scoffed the dalal.
“Two hundred and ten, then,” was Hamet’s sulky grunt.
The watchful Tsamanni considered that the time had come to buy her for his lord as he had been bidden.
“Three hundred,” he said curtly, to make an end of matters, and —
“Four hundred,” instantly piped a shrill voice behind him.
He spun round in his amazement and met the leering face of Ayoub. A murmur ran through the ranks of the buyers, the people craned their necks to catch a glimpse of this open-handed purchaser.
Yusuf the Tagareen rose up in a passion. He announced angrily that never again should the dust of the sôk of Algiers defile his slippers, that never again would he come there to purchase slaves.
“By the Well of Zem–Zem,” he swore, “all men are bewitched in this market. Four hundred philips for a Frankish girl! May Allah increase your wealth, for verily you’ll need it.” And in his supreme disgust he stalked to the gates, and elbowed his way through the crowd, and so vanished from the sôk.
Yet ere he was out of earshot her price had risen further. Whilst Tsamanni was recovering from his surprise at the competitor that had suddenly appeared before him, the dalal had lured an increased offer from the Turk.
“’Tis a madness,” the latter deplored. “But she pleaseth me, and should it seem good to Allah the Merciful to lead her into the True Faith she may yet become the light of my hareem. Four hundred and twenty philips, then, O dalal, and Allah pardon me my prodigality.”
Yet scarcely was his little speech concluded than Tsamanni with laconic eloquence rapped out: “Five hundred.”
“Y’Allah!” cried the Turk, raising his hands to heaven, and “Y’Allah!” echoed the crowd.
“Five hundred and fifty,” shrilled Ayoub’s voice above the general din.
“Six hundred,” replied Tsamanni, still unmoved.
And now such was the general hubbub provoked by these unprecedented prices that the dalal was forced to raise his voice and cry for silence.
When this was restored Ayoub at once raised the price to seven hundred.
“Eight hundred,” snapped Tsamanni, showing at last a little heat.
“Nine hundred,” replied Ayoub.
Tsamanni swung round upon him again, white now with fury.
“Is this a jest, O father of wind?” he cried, and excited laughter by the taunt implicit in that appellation.
“And thou’rt the jester,” replied Ayoub with forced calm, “thou’lt find the jest a costly one.”
With a shrug Tsamanni turned again to the dalal. “A thousand philips,” said he shortly.
“Silence there!” cried the dalal again. “Silence, and praise Allah who sends good prices.”
“One thousand and one hundred,” said Ayoub the irrepressible
And now Tsamanni not only found himself outbidden, but he had reached the outrageous limit appointed by Asad. He lacked authority to go further, dared not do so without first consulting the Basha. Yet if he left the sôk for that purpose Ayoub would meanwhile secure the girl. He found himself between sword and wall. On the one hand did he permit himself to be outbidden his master might visit upon him his disappointment. On the other, did he continue beyond the limit so idly mentioned as being far beyond all possibility, it might fare no less ill with him.
He turned to the crowd, waving his arms in furious gesticulation. “By the beard of the Prophet, this bladder of wind and grease makes sport of us. He has no intent to buy. What man ever heard of the half of such a price for a slave girl?”
Ayoub’s answer was eloquent; he produced a fat bag and flung it on the ground, where it fell with a mellow chink. “There is my sponsor,” he made answer, grinning in the very best of humours, savouring to the full his enemy’s rage and discomfiture, and savouring it at no cost to himself. “Shall I count out one thousand and one hundred philips, O dalal.”
“If the wazeer Tsamanni is content.”
“Dost thou know for whom I buy?” roared Tsamanni. “For the Basha himself, Asad-ed-Din, the exalted of Allah,” He advanced upon Ayoub with hands upheld. “What shalt thou say to him, O dog, when he calls thee to account for daring to outbid him.”
But Ayoub remained unruffled before all this fury. He spread his fat hands, his eyes twinkling, his great lips pursed. “How should I know, since Allah has not made me all-knowing? Thou shouldst have said so earlier. ’Tis thus I shall answer the Basha should he question me, and the Basha is just.”
“I would not be thee, Ayoub — not for the throne of Istambul.”
“Nor I thee, Tsamanni; for thou art jaundiced with rage.”
And so they stood glaring each at the other until the dalal called them back to the business that was to do.
“The price is now one thousand and one hundred philips. Wilt thou suffer defeat, 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 eager throng about the gates rang a crisp voice —
“One thousand and two hundred philips for the Frankish girl.”
The dalal, who had conceived that the limits of madness had been already reached, stood gaping now in fresh amazement. The mob crowed and cheered and roared between enthusiasm and derision, and even Tsamanni brightened to see another champion enter the lists who perhaps would avenge him upon Ayoub. The crowd parted quickly to right and left, and through it into the open strode Sakr-el-Bahr. They recognized him instantly, and his name was shouted in acclamation by that idolizing multitude.
That Barbary name of his conveyed no information to Rosamund, and her back being turned to the entrance she did not see him. But she had recognized his voice, and she had shuddered at the sound. She could make nothing of the bidding, nor what the purpose that surely underlay it to account for the extraordinary excitement of the traders. Vaguely had she been wondering what dastardly purpose Oliver might intend to serve, but now that she heard his voice that wonder ceased and understanding took its place. He had hung there somewhere in the crowd waiting until all competitors but one should have been outbidden, and now he stepped forth to buy her for his own — his slave! She closed her eyes a moment and prayed God that he might not prevail in his intent. Any fate but that; she would rob him even of the satisfaction of driving her to sheathe a poniard in her heart as that poor Andalusian girl had done. A wave almost of unconsciousness passed over her in the intensity of her horror. For a moment the ground seemed to rock and heave under her feet.
Then the dizziness passed, and she was herself again. She heard the crowd thundering “Ma’sh’Allah!” and “Sakr-el-Bahr!” and the dalal clamouring sternly for silence. When this was at last restored she heard his exclamation —
“The glory to Allah who sends eager buyers! What sayest thou, O wazeer Ayoub?”
“Ay!” sneered Tsamanni, “what now?”
“One thousand and three hundred,” said Ayoub with a quaver of uneasy defiance.
“Another hundred, O dalal,” came from Sakr-el-Bahr in a quiet voice.
“One thousand and five hundred,” screamed Ayoub, thus reaching not only the limit imposed by his mistress, but the very limit of the resources at her immediate disposal. Gone, too, with that bid was all hope of profit to himself.
But Sakr-el-Bahr, impassive as Fate, and without so much as deigning to bestow a look upon the quivering eunuch, said again —
“Another hundred, O dalal.”
“One thousand and six hundred philips!” cried the dalal, more in amazement than to announce the figure reached. Then controlling his emotions he bowed his head in reverence and made confession of his faith. “All things are possible if Allah wills them. The praise to Him who sends wealthy buyers.”
He turned to the crestfallen Ayoub, so crestfallen that in the contemplation of him Tsamanni was fast gathering consolation for his own discomfiture, vicariously tasting the sweets of vengeance. “What say you now, O perspicuous wazeer?”
“I say,” choked Ayoub, “that since by the favour of Shaitan he hath so much wealth he must prevail.”
But the insulting words were scarcely uttered than Sakr-el-Bahr’s great hand had taken the wazeer by the nape of his fat neck, a growl of anger running through the assembly to approve him.
“By the favour of Shaitan, sayest thou, thou sex-less dog?” he growled, and tightened his grip so that the wazeer squirmed and twisted in an agony of pain. Down was his head thrust, and still down, until his fat body gave way and he lay supine and writhing in the dust of the sôk. “Shall I strangle thee, thou father of filth, or shall I fling thy soft flesh to the hooks to teach thee what is a man’s due from thee?” And as he spoke he rubbed the too daring fellow’s face roughly on the ground.
“Mercy!” squealed the wazeer. “Mercy, O mighty Sakr-el-Bahr, as thou lookest for mercy!”
“Unsay thy words, thou offal. Pronounce thyself a liar and a dog.”
“I do unsay them. I have foully lied. Thy wealth is the reward sent thee by Allah for thy glorious victories over the unbelieving.”
“Put out thine offending tongue,” said Sakr-el-Bahr, “and cleanse it in the dust. Put it forth, I say.”
Ayoub obeyed him in fearful alacrity, whereupon Sakr-el-Bahr released his hold and allowed the unfortunate fellow to rise at last, half-choked with dirt, livid of face, and quaking like a jelly, an object of ridicule and cruel mockery to all assembled.
“Now get thee hence, ere my sea-hawks lay their talons on thee. Go!”
Ayoub departed in all haste to the increasing jeers of the multitude and the taunts of Tsamanni, whilst Sakr-el-Bahr turned him once more to the dalal.
“At one thousand and six hundred philips this slave is thine, O Sakr-el-Bahr, thou glory of Islam. May Allah increase thy victories!”
“Pay him, Ali,” said the corsair shortly, and he advanced to receive his purchase.
Face to face stood he now with Rosamund, for the first time since that day before the encounter with the Dutch argosy when he had sought her in the cabin of the carack.
One swift glance she bestowed on him, then, her senses reeling with horror at her circumstance she shrank back, her face of a deathly pallor. In his treatment of Ayoub she had just witnessed the lengths of brutality of which he was capable, and she was not to know that this brutality had been a deliberate piece of mummery calculated to strike terror into her.
Pondering her now he smiled a tight-lipped cruel smile that only served to increase her terror.
“Come,” he said in English.
She cowered back against the dalal as if for protection. Sakr-el-Bahr reached forward, caught her by the wrists, and almost tossed her to his Nubians, Abiad and Zal–Zer, who were attending him.
“Cover her face,” he bade them. “Bear her to my house. Away!”
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:54