IN THE SIGHT OF ALLAH
Sakr-el-Bahr stood lost in thought after she had gone. Again he weighed her
every word and considered precisely how he should meet Asad, and how refuse him,
if the Basha's were indeed such an errand as Fenzileh had heralded.
Thus in silence he remained waiting for Ali or another to summon him to the
presence of the Basha. Instead, however, when Ali entered it was actually to
announce Asad-ed-Din, who followed immediately upon his heels, having insisted
in his impatience upon being conducted straight to the presence of Sakr-el-Bahr.
"The peace of the Prophet upon thee, my son, was the Basha's greeting.
"And upon thee, my lord." Sakr-el-Bahr salaamed. "My house is honoured." With
a gesture he dismissed Ali.
"I come to thee a suppliant," said Asad, advancing.
"A suppliant, thou? No need, my lord. I have no will that is not the echo of
The Basha's questing eyes went beyond him and glowed as they rested upon
"I come in haste," he said, "like any callow lover, guided by my every
instinct to the presence of her I seek—this Frankish pearl, this pen-faced
captive of thy latest raid. I was away from the Kasbah when that pig Tsamanni
returned thither from the sôk; but when at last I learnt that he had failed to
purchase her as I commanded, I could have wept for very grief. I feared at first
that some merchant from the Sus might have bought her and departed; but when I
heard—blessed be Allah!—that thou wert the buyer, I was comforted again. For
thou'lt yield her up to me, my son."
He spoke with such confidence that Oliver had a difficulty in choosing the
words that were to disillusion him. Therefore he stood in hesitancy a moment.
"I will make good thy, loss," Asad ran on. "Thou shalt have the sixteen
hundred philips paid and another five hundred to console thee. Say that will
content thee; for I boil with impatience."
Sakr-el-Bahr smiled grimly. "It is an impatience well known to me, my lord,
where she is concerned," he answered slowly. "I boiled with it myself for five
interminable years. To make an end of it I went a distant perilous voyage to
England in a captured Frankish vessel. Thou didst not know, O Asad, else thou
"Bah!" broke in the Basha. "Thou'rt a huckster born. There is none like thee,
Sakr-el-Bahr, in any game of wits. Well, well, name thine own price, strike
thine own profit out of my impatience and let us have done."
"My lord," he said quietly, "it is not the profit that is in question. She is
not for sale."
Asad blinked at him, speechless, and slowly a faint colour crept into his
"Not... not for sale?" he echoed, faltering in his amazement.
"Not if thou offered me thy Bashalik as the price of her," was the solemn
answer. Then more warmly, in a voice that held a note of intercession—"Ask
anything else that is mine," he continued, "and gladly will I lay it at thy feet
in earnest of my loyalty and love for thee."
"But I want nothing else." Asad's tone was impatient, petulant almost. "I
want this slave."
"Then," replied Oliver, "I cast myself upon thy mercy and beseech thee to
turn thine eyes elsewhere."
Asad scowled upon him. "Dost thou deny me?" he demanded, throwing back his
"Alas!" said Sakr-el-Bahr.
There fell a pause. Darker and darker grew the countenance of Asad, fiercer
glowed the eyes he bent upon his lieutenant. "I see," he said at last, with a
calm so oddly at variance with his looks as to be sinister. "I see. It seems
that there is more truth in Fenzileh than I suspected. So!" He considered the
corsair a moment with his sunken smouldering eyes.
Then he addressed him in a tone that vibrated with his suppressed anger.
"Bethink thee, Sakr-el-Bahr, of what thou art, of what I have made thee. Bethink
thee of all the bounty these hands have lavished on thee. Thou art my own
lieutenant, and mayest one day be more. In Algiers there is none above thee save
myself. Art, then, so thankless as to deny me the first thing I ask of thee?
Truly is it written 'Ungrateful is Man.'"
"Didst thou know," began Sakr-el-Bahr, "all that is involved for me in
"I neither know nor care," Asad cut in. "Whatever it may be, it should be as
naught when set against my will." Then he discarded anger for cajolery. He set a
hand upon Sakr-el-Bahr's stalwart shoulder. "Come, my son. I will deal
generously with thee out of my love, and I will put thy refusal from my mind."
"Be generous, my lord, to the point of forgetting that ever thou didst ask me
"Dost still refuse?" The voice, honeyed an instant ago, rang harsh again.
"Take care how far thou strain my patience. Even as I have raised thee from the
dirt, so at a word can I cast thee down again. Even as I broke the shackles that
chained thee to the rowers' bench, so can I rivet them on thee anew."
"All this canst thou do," Sakr-el-Bahr agreed. "And since, knowing it, I
still hold to what is doubly mine—by right of capture and of purchase—thou
mayest conceive how mighty are my reasons. Be merciful, then, Asad...."
"Must I take her by force in spite of thee?" roared the Basha.
Sakr-el-Bahr stiffened. He threw back his head and looked the Basha squarely
in the eyes.
"Whilst I live, not even that mayest thou do," he answered.
"Disloyal, mutinous dog! Wilt thou resist me—me?"
"It is my prayer that thou'lt not be so ungenerous and unjust as to compel
thy servant to a course so hateful."
Asad sneered. "Is that thy last word?" he demanded.
"Save only that in all things else I am thy slave, O Asad."
A moment the Basha stood regarding him, his glance baleful. Then
deliberately, as one who has taken his resolve, he strode to the door. On the
threshold he paused and turned again. "Wait!" he said, and on that threatening
Sakr-el-Bahr remained a moment where he had stood during the interview, then
with a shrug he turned. He met Rosamund's eyes fixed intently upon him, and
invested with a look he could not read. He found himself unable to meet it, and
he turned away. It was inevitable that in such a moment the earlier stab of
remorse should be repeated. He had overreached himself indeed. Despair settled
down upon him, a full consciousness of the horrible thing he had done, which
seemed now so irrevocable. In his silent anguish he almost conceived that he had
mistaken his feelings for Rosamund; that far from hating her as he had supposed,
his love for her had not yet been slain, else surely he should not be tortured
now by the thought of her becoming Asad's prey. If he hated her, indeed, as he
had supposed, he would have surrendered her and gloated.
He wondered was his present frame of mind purely the result of his discovery
that the appearances against him had been stronger far than he imagined, so
strong as to justify her conviction that he was her brother's slayer.
And then her voice, crisp and steady, cut into his torture of consideration.
"Why did you deny him?"
He swung round again to face her, amazed, horror-stricken.
"You understood?" he gasped.
"I understood enough," said she. "This lingua franca is none so different
from French." And again she asked—"Why did you deny him?"
He paced across to her side and stood looking down at her.
"Do you ask why?"
"Indeed," she said bitterly, "there is scarce the need perhaps. And yet can
it be that your lust of vengeance is so insatiable that sooner than willingly
forgo an ounce of it you will lose your head?"
His face became grim again. "Of course," he sneered, "it would be so that
you'd interpret me."
"Nay. If I have asked it is because I doubt."
"Do you realize what it can mean to become the prey of Asad-ed-Din?"
She shuddered, and her glance fell from his, yet her voice was composed when
she answered him—"Is it so very much worse than becoming the prey of Oliver-Reis
or Sakr-el-Bahr, or whatever they may call you?"
"If you say that it is all one to you there's an end to my opposing him," he
answered coldly. "You may go to him. If I resisted him—like a fool, perhaps—it
was for no sake of vengeance upon you. It was because the thought of it fills me
"Then it should fill you with horror of yourself no less," said she.
His answer startled her.
"Perhaps it does," he said, scarcely above a murmur. "Perhaps it does."
She flashed him an upward glance and looked as if she would have spoken. But
he went on, suddenly passionate, without giving her time to interrupt him. "O
God! It needed this to show me the vileness of the thing I have done. Asad has
no such motives as had I. I wanted you that I might punish you. But he...O God!"
he groaned, and for a moment put his face to his hands.
She rose slowly, a strange agitation stirring in her, her bosom galloping.
But in his overwrought condition he failed to observe it. And then like a ray of
hope to illumine his despair came the counsel that Fenzileh had given him, the
barrier which she had said that Asad, being a devout Muslim, would never dare to
"There is a way," he cried. "There is the way suggested by Fenzileh at the
promptings of her malice." An instant he hesitated, his eyes averted. Then he
made his plunge. "You must marry me."
It was almost as if he had struck her. She recoiled. Instantly suspicion
awoke in her; swiftly it drew to a conviction that he had but sought to trick
her by a pretended penitence.
"Marry you!" she echoed.
"Ay," he insisted. And he set himself to explain to her how if she were his
wife she must be sacred and inviolable to all good Muslimeen, that none could
set a finger upon her without doing outrage to the Prophet's holy law, and that,
whoever might be so disposed, Asad was not of those, since Asad was perfervidly
devout. "Thus only," he ended, "can I place you beyond his reach."
But she was still scornfully reluctant.
"It is too desperate a remedy even for so desperate an ill," said she, and
thus drove him into a frenzy of impatience with her.
"You must, I say," he insisted, almost angrily. "You must—or else consent to
be borne this very night to Asad's hareem—and not even as his wife, but as his
slave. Oh, you must trust me for your own sake! You must!"
"Trust you!" she cried, and almost laughed in the intensity of her scorn.
"Trust you! How can I trust one who is a renegade and worse?"
He controlled himself that he might reason with her, that by cold logic he
might conquer her consent.
"You are very unmerciful," he said. "In judging me you leave out of all
account the suffering through which I have gone and what yourself contributed to
it. Knowing now how falsely I was accused and what other bitter wrongs I
suffered, consider that I was one to whom the man and the woman I most loved in
all this world had proven false. I had lost faith in man and in God, and if I
became a Muslim, a renegade, and a corsair, it was because there was no other
gate by which I could escape the unutterable toil of the oar to which I had been
chained." He looked at her sadly. "Can you find no excuse for me in all that?"
It moved her a little, for if she maintained a hostile attitude, at least she
put aside her scorn.
"No wrongs," she told him, almost with sorrow in her voice, "could justify
you in outraging chivalry, in dishonouring your manhood, in abusing your
strength to persecute a woman. Whatever the causes that may have led to it, you
have fallen too low, sir, to make it possible that I should trust you."
He bowed his head under the rebuke which already he had uttered in his own
heart. It was just and most deserved, and since he recognized its justice he
found it impossible to resent it.
"I know," he said. "But I am not asking you to trust me to my profit, but to
your own. It is for your sake alone that I implore you to do this." Upon a
sudden inspiration he drew the heavy dagger from his girdle and proffered it,
hilt foremost. "If you need an earnest of my good faith," he said, "take this
knife with which to-night you attempted to stab yourself. At the first sign that
I am false to my trust, use it as you will—upon me or upon yourself."
She pondered him in some surprise. Then slowly she put out her hand to take
the weapon, as he bade her.
"Are you not afraid," she asked him, "that I shall use it now, and so make an
"I am trusting you," he said, "that in return you may trust me. Further, I am
arming you against the worst. For if it comes to choice between death and Asad,
I shall approve your choice of death. But let me add that it were foolish to
choose death whilst yet there is a chance of life."
"What chance?" she asked, with a faint return of her old scorn. "The chance
of life with you?"
"No," he answered firmly. "If you will trust me, I swear that I will seek to
undo the evil I have done. Listen. At dawn my galeasse sets out upon a raid. I
will convey you secretly aboard and find a way to land you in some Christian
country—Italy or France—whence you may make your way home again."
"But meanwhile," she reminded him, "I shall have become your wife."
He smiled wistfully. "Do you still fear a trap? Can naught convince you of my
sincerity? A Muslim marriage is not binding upon a Christian, and I shall
account it no marriage. It will be no more than a pretence to shelter you until
we are away."
"How can I trust your word in that?"
"How?" He paused, baffled; but only for a moment. "You have the dagger," he
She stood considering, her eyes upon the weapon's lividly gleaming blade.
"And this marriage?" she asked. "How is it to take place?"
He explained to her then that by the Muslim law all that was required was a
declaration made before a kadi, or his superior, and in the presence of
witnesses. He was still at his explanation when from below there came a sound of
voices, the tramp of feet, and the flash of torches.
"Here is Asad returning in force," he cried, and his voice trembled. "Do you
"But the kadi?" she inquired, and by the question he knew that she was won to
his way of saving her.
"I said the kadi or his superior. Asad himself shall be our priest, his
followers our witnesses."
"And if he refuses? He will refuse!" she cried, clasping her hands before her
in her excitement.
"I shall not ask him. I shall take him by surprise."
"It... it must anger him. He may avenge himself for what he must deem a
"Ay," he answered, wild-eyed. "I have thought of that, too. But it is a risk
we must run. If we do not prevail, then—"
"I have the dagger," she cried fearlessly.
"And for me there will be the rope or the sword," he answered. "Be calm! They
But the steps that pattered up the stairs were Ali's. He flung upon the
terrace in alarm.
"My lord, my lord! Asad-ed-Din is here in force. He has an armed following
"There is naught to fear," said Sakr-el-Bahr, with every show of calm. "All
will be well."
Asad swept up the stairs and out upon that terrace to confront his rebellious
lieutenant. After him came a dozen black-robed janissaries with scimitars along
which the light of the torches rippled in little runnels as of blood.
The Basha came to a halt before Sakr-el-Bahr, his arms majestically folded,
his head thrown back, so that his long white beard jutted forward.
"I am returned," he said, "to employ force where gentleness will not avail.
Yet I pray that Allah may have lighted thee to a wiser frame of mind."
"He has, indeed, my lord," replied Sakr-el-Bahr.
"The praise to Him!" exclaimed Asad in a voice that rang with joy. "The girl,
then!" And he held out a hand.
Sakr-el-Bahr stepped back to her and took her hand in his as if to lead her
forward. Then he spoke the fateful words.
"In Allah's Holy Name and in His All-seeing eyes, before thee, Asad-ed-Din,
and in the presence of these witnesses, I take this woman to be my wife by the
merciful law of the Prophet of Allah the All-wise, the All-pitying."
The words were out and the thing was done before Asad had realized the
corsair's intent. A gasp of dismay escaped him; then his visage grew inflamed,
his eyes blazed.
But Sakr-el-Bahr, cool and undaunted before that royal anger, took the scarf
that lay about Rosamund's shoulders, and raising it, flung it over her head, so
that her face was covered by it.
"May Allah rot off the hand of him who in contempt of our Lord Mahomet's holy
law may dare to unveil that face, and may Allah bless this union and cast into
the pit of Gehenna any who shall attempt to dissolve a bond that is tied in His
It was formidable. Too formidable for Asad-ed-Din. Behind him his janissaries
like hounds in leash stood eagerly awaiting his command. But none came. He stood
there breathing heavily, swaying a little, and turning from red to pale in the
battle that was being fought within him between rage and vexation on the one
hand and his profound piety on the other. And as he yet hesitated perhaps
Sakr-el-Bahr assisted his piety to gain the day.
"Now you will understand why I would not yield her, O mighty Asad," he said.
"Thyself hast thou oft and rightly reproached me with my celibacy, reminding me
that it is not pleasing in the sight of Allah, that it is unworthy a good
Muslim. At last it hath pleased the Prophet to send me such a maid as I could
take to wife."
Asad bowed his head. "What is written is written," he said in the voice of
one who admonished himself. Then he raised his arms aloft. "Allah is
All-knowing," he declared. "His will be done!"
"Ameen," said Sakr-el-Bahr very solemnly and with a great surge of thankful
prayer to his own long-forgotten God.
The Basha stayed yet a moment, as if he would have spoken. Then abruptly he
turned and waved a hand to his janissaries. "Away!" was all he said to them, and
stalked out in their wake.