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The Sea-Hawk

Marzak-Ben-Asad
It took no less than forty camels to convey the cargo of that Dutch argosy from the mole
to the Kasbah, and the procession--carefully marshalled by Sakr-el-Bahr, who knew the
value of such pageants to impress the mob--was such as never yet had been seen in the
narrow streets of Algiers upon the return of any corsair. It was full worthy of the greatest
Muslim conqueror that sailed the seas, of one who, not content to keep to the tideless
Mediterranean as had hitherto been the rule of his kind, had ventured forth upon the
wider ocean.
Ahead marched a hundred of his rovers in their short caftans of every conceivable colour,
their waists swathed in gaudy scarves, some of which supported a very arsenal of
assorted cutlery; many wore body armour of mail and the gleaming spike of a casque
thrust up above their turbans. After them, dejected and in chains, came the five score
prisoners taken aboard the Dutchman, urged along by the whips of the corsairs who
flanked them. Then marched another regiment of corsairs, and after these the long line of
stately, sneering camels, shuffling cumbrously along and led by shouting Saharowis.
After them followed yet more corsairs, and then mounted, on a white Arab jennet, his
head swathed in a turban of cloth of gold, came Sakr-el-Bahr. In the narrower streets,
with their white and yellow washed houses, which presented blank windowless walls
broken here and there by no more than a slit to admit light and air, the spectators huddled
themselves fearfully into doorways to avoid being crushed to death by the camels, whose
burdens bulging on either side entirely filled those narrow ways. But the more open
spaces, such as the strand on either side of the mole, the square before the sôk, and the
approaches of Asad's fortress, were thronged with a motley roaring crowd. There were
stately Moors in flowing robes cheek by jowl with half-naked blacks from the Sus and
the Draa; lean, enduring Arabs in their spotless white djellabas rubbed shoulders with
Berbers from the highlands in black camel-hair cloaks; there were Levantine Turks, and
Jewish refugees from Spain ostentatiously dressed in European garments, tolerated there
because bound to the Moor by ties of common suffering and common exile from that
land that once had been their own.
Under the glaring African sun this amazing crowd stood assembled to welcome Sakr-el-
Bahr; and welcome him it did, with such vocal thunder that an echo of it from the mole
reached the very Kasbah on the hilltop to herald his approach.
By the time, however, that he reached the fortress his procession had dwindled by more
than half. At the sôk his forces had divided, and his corsairs, headed by Othmani, had
marched the captives away to the bagnio--or banyard, as my Lord Henry calls it--whilst
the camels had continued up the hill. Under the great gateway of the Kasbah they padded
into the vast courtyard to be ranged along two sides of it by their Saharowi drivers, and
there brought clumsily to their knees. After them followed but some two score corsairs as
a guard of honour to their leader. They took their stand upon either side of the gateway
 
 
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