The Sea-Hawk HTML version

Part Two. Sakr-El-Bahr
The Captive
Sakr-el-Bahr, the hawk of the sea, the scourge of the Mediterranean and the terror of
Christian Spain, lay prone on the heights of Cape Spartel.
Above him on the crest of the cliff ran the dark green line of the orange groves of Araish-
-the reputed Garden of the Hesperides of the ancients, where the golden apples grew. A
mile or so to eastward were dotted the huts and tents of a Bedouin encampment on the
fertile emerald pasture-land that spread away, as far as eye could range, towards Ceuta.
Nearer, astride of a grey rock an almost naked goatherd, a lithe brown stripling with a
cord of camel-hair about his shaven head, intermittently made melancholy and
unmelodious sounds upon a reed pipe. From somewhere in the blue vault of heaven
overhead came the joyous trilling of a lark, from below the silken rustling of the tideless
Sakr-el-Bahr lay prone upon a cloak of woven camel-hair amid luxuriating fern and
samphire, on the very edge of the shelf of cliff to which he had climbed. On either side of
him squatted a negro from the Sus both naked of all save white loin-cloths, their muscular
bodies glistening like ebony in the dazzling sunshine of mid-May. They wielded crude
fans fashioned from the yellowing leaves of date palms, and their duty was to wave these
gently to and fro above their lord's head, to give him air and to drive off the flies.
Sakr-el-Bahr was in the very prime of life, a man of a great length of body, with a deep
Herculean torso and limbs that advertised a giant strength. His hawk-nosed face ending in
a black forked beard was of a swarthiness accentuated to exaggeration by the snowy
white turban wound about his brow. His eyes, by contrast, were singularly light. He wore
over his white shirt a long green tunic of very light silk, woven along its edges with
arabesques in gold; a pair of loose calico breeches reached to his knees; his brown
muscular calves were naked, and his feet were shod in a pair of Moorish shoes of crimson
leather, with up-curling and very pointed toes. He had no weapons other than the heavy-
bladed knife with a jewelled hilt that was thrust into his girdle of plaited leather.
A yard or two away on his left lay another supine figure, elbows on the ground, and
hands arched above his brow to shade his eyes, gazing out to sea. He, too, was a tall and
powerful man, and when he moved there was a glint of armour from the chain mail in
which his body was cased, and from the steel casque about which he had swathed his
green turban. Beside him lay an enormous curved scimitar in a sheath of brown leather
that was heavy with steel ornaments. His face was handsome, and bearded, but swarthier
far than his companion's, and the backs of his long fine hands were almost black.