The Sea-Hawk HTML version
The Subtlety Of Fenzileh
Oliver considered the woman for a long moment as she sat half-crouching on the divan,
her hands locked, her face set and stony, her eyes lowered. He sighed gently and turned
away. He paced to the parapet and looked out upon the city bathed in the white glare of
the full risen moon. There arose thence a hum of sound, dominated, however, by the
throbbing song of a nightingale somewhere in his garden and the croaking of the frogs by
the pool in the valley.
Now that truth had been dragged from its well, and tossed, as it were, into Rosamund's
lap, he felt none of the fierce exultation which he had conceived that such an hour as this
must bring him. Rather, indeed, was he saddened and oppressed. To poison the unholy
cup of joy which he had imagined himself draining with such thirsty zest there was that
discovery of a measure of justification for her attitude towards him in her conviction that
his disappearance was explained by flight.
He was weighed down by a sense that he had put himself entirely in the wrong; that in his
vengeance he had overreached himself; and he found the fruits of it, which had seemed so
desirably luscious, turning to ashes in his mouth.
Long he stood there, the silence between them entirely unbroken. Then at length he
stirred, turned from the parapet, and paced slowly back until he came to stand beside the
divan, looking down upon her from his great height.
"At last you have heard the truth," he said. And as she made no answer he continued: "I
am thankful it was surprised out of him before the torture was applied, else you might
have concluded that pain was wringing a false confession from him." He paused, but still
she did not speak; indeed, she made no sign that she had heard him. "That," he
concluded, "was the man whom you preferred to me. Faith, you did not flatter me, as
perhaps you may have learnt."
At last she was moved from her silence, and her voice came dull and hard. "I have learnt
how little there is to choose between you," she said. "It was to have been expected. I
might have known two brothers could not have been so dissimilar in nature. Oh, I am
learning a deal, and swiftly!"
It was a speech that angered him, that cast out entirely the softer mood that had been
growing in him.
"You are learning?" he echoed. "What are you learning?"
"Knowledge of the ways of men."
His teeth gleamed in his wry smile. "I hope the knowledge will bring you as much
bitterness as the knowledge of women--of one woman--has brought me. To have believed