The Sea-Hawk HTML version

The Lion Of The Faith
Asad-ed-Din, the Lion of the Faith, Basha of Algiers, walked in the evening cool in the
orchard of the Kasbah upon the heights above the city, and at his side, stepping daintily,
came Fenzileh, his wife, the first lady of his hareem, whom eighteen years ago he had
carried off in his mighty arms from that little whitewashed village above the Straits of
Messina which his followers had raided.
She had been a lissom maid of sixteen in those far-off days, the child of humble peasant-
folk, and she had gone uncomplaining to the arms of her swarthy ravisher. To-day, at
thirty-four, she was still beautiful, more beautiful indeed than when first she had fired the
passion of Asad-Reis--as he then was, one of the captains of the famous Ali-Basha. There
were streaks of red in her heavy black tresses, her skin was of a soft pearliness that
seemed translucent, her eyes were large, of a golden-brown, agleam with sombre fires,
her lips were full and sensuous. She was tall and of a shape that in Europe would have
been accounted perfect, which is to say that she was a thought too slender for Oriental
taste; she moved along beside her lord with a sinuous, languorous grace, gently stirring
her fan of ostrich plumes. She was unveiled; indeed it was her immodest habit to go
naked of face more often than was seemly, which is but the least of the many undesirable
infidel ways which had survived her induction into the Faith of Islam--a necessary step
before Asad, who was devout to the point of bigotry, would consent to make her his wife.
He had found her such a wife as it is certain he could never have procured at home; a
woman who, not content to be his toy, the plaything of his idle hour, insinuated herself
into affairs, demanded and obtained his confidences, and exerted over him much the
same influence as the wife of a European prince might exert over her consort. In the years
during which he had lain under the spell of her ripening beauty he had accepted the
situation willingly enough; later, when he would have curtailed her interferences, it was
too late; she had taken a firm grip of the reins, and Asad was in no better case than many
a European husband--an anomalous and outrageous condition this for a Basha of the
Prophet's House. It was also a dangerous one for Fenzileh; for should the burden of her at
any time become too heavy for her lord there was a short and easy way by which he
could be rid of it. Do not suppose her so foolish as not to have realized this--she realized
it fully; but her Sicilian spirit was daring to the point of recklessness; her very
dauntlessness which had enabled her to seize a control so unprecedented in a Muslim
wife urged her to maintain it in the face of all risks.
Dauntless was she now, as she paced there in the cool of the orchard, under the pink and
white petals of the apricots, the flaming scarlet of pomegranate blossoms, and through
orange-groves where the golden fruit glowed and amid foliage of sombre green. She was
at her eternal work of poisoning the mind of her lord against Sakr-el-Bahr, and in her
maternal jealousy she braved the dangers of such an undertaking, fully aware of how dear
to the heart of Asad-ed-Din was that absent renegade corsair. It was this very affection of
the Basha's for his lieutenant that was the fomenter of her own hate of Sakr-el-Bahr, for it
was an affection that transcended Asad's love for his own son and hers, and it led to the
common rumour that for Sakr-el-Bahr was reserved the high destiny of succeeding Asad
in the Bashalik.