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The Sea-Hawk

The Pannier
He was still pacing there when an hour or so before sunset--some fifteen hours after
setting out--they stood before the entrance of a long bottle-necked cove under the shadow
of the cliffs of Aquila Point on the southern coast of the Island of Formentera. He was
rendered aware of this and roused from his abstraction by the voice of Asad calling to
him from the poop and commanding him to make the cove.
Already the wind was failing them, and it became necessary to take to the oars, as must in
any case have happened once they were through the coves narrow neck in the becalmed
lagoon beyond. So Sakr-el-Bahr, in his turn, lifted up his voice, and in answer to his
shout came Vigitello and Larocque.
A blast of Vigitello's whistle brought his own men to heel, and they passed rapidly along
the benches ordering the rowers to make ready, whilst Jasper and a half-dozen Muslim
sailors set about furling the sails that already were beginning to flap in the shifting and
intermittent gusts of the expiring wind. Sakr-el-Bahr gave the word to row, and Vigitello
blew a second and longer blast. The oars dipped, the slaves strained and the galeasse
ploughed forward, time being kept by a boatswain's mate who squatted on the waist-deck
and beat a tomtom rhythmically. Sakr-el-Bahr, standing on the poop-deck, shouted his
orders to the steersmen in their niches on either side of the stern, and skilfully the vessel
was manoeuvred through the narrow passage into the calm lagoon whose depths were
crystal clear. Here before coming to rest, Sakr-el-Bahr followed the invariable corsair
practice of going about, so as to be ready to leave his moorings and make for the open
again at a moment's notice.
She came at last alongside the rocky buttresses of a gentle slope that was utterly deserted
by all save a few wild goats browsing near the summit. There were clumps of broom,
thick with golden flower, about the base of the hill. Higher, a few gnarled and aged olive
trees reared their grey heads from which the rays of the westering sun struck a glint as of
silver.
Larocque and a couple of sailors went over the bulwarks on the larboard quarter, dropped
lightly to the horizontal shafts of the oars, which were rigidly poised, and walking out
upon them gained the rocks and proceeded to make fast the vessel by ropes fore and aft.
Sakr-el-Bahr's next task was to set a watch, and he appointed Larocque, sending him to
take his station on the summit of the head whence a wide range of view was to be
commanded.
Pacing the poop with Marzak the Basha grew reminiscent of former days when roving the
seas as a simple corsair he had used this cove both for purposes of ambush and
concealment. There were, he said, few harbours in all the Mediterranean so admirably
suited to the corsairs' purpose as this; it was a haven of refuge in case of peril, and an
unrivalled lurking-place in which to lie in wait for the prey. He remembered once having
lain there with the formidable Dragut-Reis, a fleet of six galleys, their presence entirely
 
 
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