That tale of Othmani's being borne anon to Fenzileh by her son was gall and wormwood
to her jealous soul. Evil enough to know that Sakr-el-Bahr was returned in spite of the
fervent prayers for his foundering which she had addressed both to the God of her
forefathers and to the God of her adoption. But that he should have returned in triumph
bringing with him heavy spoils that must exalt him further in the affection of Asad and
the esteem of the people was bitterness indeed. It left her mute and stricken, bereft even
of the power to curse him.
Anon, when her mind recovered from the shock she turned it to the consideration of what
at first had seemed a trivial detail in Othmani's tale as reported by Marzak.
"It is most singularly odd that he should have undertaken that long voyage to England to
wrest thence just those two captives; that being there he should not have raided in true
corsair fashion and packed his ship with slaves. Most singularly odd!"
They were alone behind the green lattices through which filtered the perfumes of the
garden and the throbbing of a nightingale's voice laden with the tale of its love for the
rose. Fenzileh reclined upon a divan that was spread with silken Turkey carpets, and one
of her gold-embroidered slippers had dropped from her henna-stained toes. Her lovely
arms were raised to support her head, and she stared up at the lamp of many colours that
hung from the fretted ceiling.
Marzak paced the length of the chamber back and forth, and there was silence save for
the soft swish of his slippers along the floor.
"Well?" she asked him impatiently at last. "Does it not seem odd to thee?"
"Odd, indeed, 0 my mother," the youth replied, coming to a halt before her.
"And canst think of naught that was the cause of it?"
"The cause of it?" quoth he, his lovely young face, so closely modelled upon her own,
looking blank and vacant.
"Ay, the cause of it," she cried impatiently. "Canst do naught but stare? Am I the mother
of a fool? Wilt thou simper and gape and trifle away thy days whilst that dog-descended
Frank tramples thee underfoot, using thee but as a stepping-stone to the power that should
be thine own? And that be so, Marzak, I would thou hadst been strangled in my womb."
He recoiled before the Italian fury of her, was dully resentful even, suspecting that in
such words from a woman were she twenty times his mother, there was something
dishonouring to his manhood.
"What can I do?" he cried.