The Sea-Hawk HTML version

The Truth
The sun was dipping swiftly to the world's rim when Sakr-el-Bahr with his Nubians and
his little retinue of corsairs came to the gates of that white house of his on its little
eminence outside the Bab-el-Oueb and beyond the walls of the city.
When Rosamund and Lionel, brought in the wake of the corsair, found themselves in the
spacious courtyard beyond the dark and narrow entrance, the blue of the sky contained
but the paling embers of the dying day, and suddenly, sharply upon the evening stillness,
came a mueddin's voice calling the faithful unto prayer.
Slaves fetched water from the fountain that played in the middle of the quadrangle and
tossed aloft a slender silvery spear of water to break into a myriad gems and so shower
down into the broad marble basin. Sakr-el-Bahr washed, as did his followers, and then he
went down upon the praying-mat that had been set for him, whilst his corsairs detached
their cloaks and spread them upon the ground to serve them in like stead.
The Nubians turned the two slaves about, lest their glances should defile the orisons of
the faithful, and left them so facing the wall and the green gate that led into the garden
whence were wafted on the cooling air the perfumes of jessamine and lavender. Through
the laths of the gate they might have caught a glimpse of the riot of colour there, and they
might have seen the slaves arrested by the Persian waterwheel at which they had been
toiling and chanting until the call to prayer had come to strike them into statues.
Sakr-el-Bahr rose from his devotions, uttered a sharp word of command, and entered the
house. The Nubians followed him, urging their captives before them up the narrow stairs,
and so brought them out upon the terrace on the roof, that space which in Eastern houses
is devoted to the women, but which no woman's foot had ever trodden since this house
had been tenanted by Sakr-el-Bahr the wifeless.
This terrace, which was surrounded by a parapet some four feet high, commanded a view
of the city straggling up the hillside to eastward, from the harbour and of the island at the
end of the mole which had been so laboriously built by the labour of Christian slaves
from the stones of the ruined fortress--the Peñon, which Kheyr-ed-Din Barbarossa had
wrested from the Spaniards. The deepening shroud of evening was now upon all,
transmuting white and yellow walls alike to a pearly greyness. To westward stretched the
fragrant gardens of the house, where the doves were murmuring fondly among the
mulberries and lotus trees. Beyond it a valley wound its way between the shallow hills,
and from a pool fringed with sedges and bullrushes above which a great stork was
majestically sailing came the harsh croak of frogs.
An awning supported upon two gigantic spears hung out from the southern wall of the
terrace which rose to twice the height of that forming the parapet on its other three sides.
Under this was a divan and silken cushions, and near it a small Moorish table of ebony
inlaid with mother-of-pearl and gold. Over the opposite parapet, where a lattice had been