The Sea-Hawk HTML version

The Sign
From behind her lattice, still breathless from the haste she had made, and with her whelp
Marzak at her side, Fenzileh had witnessed that first angry return of the Basha from the
house of Sakr-el-Bahr.
She had heard him bawling for Abdul Mohktar, the leader of his janissaries, and she had
seen the hasty mustering of a score of these soldiers in the courtyard, where the ruddy
light of torches mingled with the white light of the full moon. She had seen them go
hurrying away with Asad himself at their head, and she had not known whether to weep
or to laugh, whether to fear or to rejoice.
"It is done," Marzak had cried exultantly. "The dog hath withstood him and so destroyed
himself. There will be an end to Sakr-el-Bahr this night." And he had added: "The praise
to Allah!"
But from Fenzileh came no response to his prayer of thanksgiving. True, Sakr-el-Bahr
must be destroyed, and by a sword that she herself had forged. Yet was it not inevitable
that the stroke which laid him low must wound her on its repercussion? That was the
question to which now she sought an answer. For all her eagerness to speed the corsair to
his doom, she had paused sufficiently to weigh the consequences to herself; she had not
overlooked the circumstance that an inevitable result of this must be Asad's appropriation
of that Frankish slave-girl. But at the time it had seemed to her that even this price was
worth paying to remove Sakr-el-Bahr definitely and finally from her son's path--which
shows that, after all, Fenzileh the mother was capable of some self-sacrifice. She
comforted herself now with the reflection that the influence, whose waning she feared
might be occasioned by the introduction of a rival into Asad's hareem, would no longer
be so vitally necessary to herself and Marzak once Sakr-el-Bahr were removed. The rest
mattered none so much to her. Yet it mattered something, and the present state of things
left her uneasy, her mind a cockpit of emotions. Her grasp could not encompass all her
desires at once, it seemed; and whilst she could gloat over the gratification of one, she
must bewail the frustration of another. Yet in the main she felt that she should account
herself the gainer.
In this state of mind she had waited, scarce heeding the savagely joyous and entirely
selfish babblings of her cub, who cared little what might betide his mother as the price of
the removal of that hated rival from his path. For him, at least, there was nothing but
profit in the business, no cause for anything but satisfaction; and that satisfaction he
voiced with a fine contempt for his mother's feelings.
Anon they witnessed Asad's return. They saw the janissaries come swinging into the
courtyard and range themselves there whilst the Basha made his appearance, walking
slowly, with steps that dragged a little, his head sunk upon his breast, his hands behind
him. They waited to see slaves following him, leading or carrying the girl he had gone to
fetch. But they waited in vain, intrigued and uneasy.