The Heathen Creed
Sakr-el-Bahr was shut up in a black hole in the forecastle of the Silver Heron to await the
dawn and to spend the time in making his soul. No words had passed between him and
Sir John since his surrender. With wrists pinioned behind him, he had been hoisted
aboard the English ship, and in the waist of her he had stood for a moment face to face
with an old acquaintance--our chronicler, Lord Henry Goade. I imagine the florid
countenance of the Queen's Lieutenant wearing a preternaturally grave expression, his
eyes forbidding as they rested upon the renegade. I know--from Lord Henry's own pen--
that no word had passed between them during those brief moments before Sakr-el-Bahr
was hurried away by his guards to be flung into those dark, cramped quarters reeking of
tar and bilge.
For a long hour he lay where he had fallen, believing himself alone; and time and place
would no doubt conduce to philosophical reflection upon his condition. I like to think that
he found that when all was considered, he had little with which to reproach himself. If he
had done evil he had made ample amends. It can scarcely be pretended that he had
betrayed those loyal Muslimeen followers of his, or, if it is, at least it must be added that
he himself had paid the price of that betrayal. Rosamund was safe, Lionel would meet the
justice due to him, and as for himself, being as good as dead already, he was worth little
thought. He must have derived some measure of content from the reflection that he was
spending his life to the very best advantage. Ruined it had been long since. True, but for
his ill-starred expedition of vengeance he might long have continued to wage war as a
corsair, might even have risen to the proud Muslim eminence of the Bashalik of Algiers
and become a feudatory prince of the Grand Turk. But for one who was born a Christian
gentleman that would have been an unworthy way to have ended his days. The present
was the better course.
A faint rustle in the impenetrable blackness of his prison turned the current of his
thoughts. A rat, he thought, and drew himself to a sitting attitude, and beat his slippered
heels upon the ground to drive away the loathly creature. Instead, a voice challenged him
out of the gloom.
It startled him for a moment, in his complete assurance that he had been alone.
"Who's there?" the voice repeated, querulously to add: "What black hell be this? Where
And now he recognized the voice for Jasper Leigh's, and marvelled how that latest of his
recruits to the ranks of Mohammed should be sharing this prison with him.
"Faith," said he, "you're in the forecastle of the Silver Heron; though how you come here
is more than I can answer."