The Sword of Islam and Other Tales of Adventure
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by Rafael Sabatini
Category: Historical Fiction/Classic Literature
Description: Rafael Sabatini (1875-1950) was an Italian/British writer who crafted some of the greatest tales of action and adventure ever written, including "Captain Blood," "The Sea Hawk," "Scaramouche," and many more. This volume collects 14 rare Sabatini short stories (most appearing for the first time in book form). Included are: "The Sword of Islam," "The Tapestried Room," "The Baker of Rousillon," "The Blackmailer," "The Curate and the Actress," "The Foster-Lover," "The Ordeal," "Wirgman's Theory," "The Wedding Gift," "Annabel's Wager," "The Dupes," "The Fool's Love Story," "Gismondi's Wage," and "Intelligence."
eBook Publisher: Wildside Press, 2008 USA
eBookwise Release Date: March 2008
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [302 KB]
Reading time: 191-267 min.
THE SWORD OF ISLAM CHAPTER I
Ordinarily Dragut Reis--who was dubbed by the Faithful "The Drawn Sword of Islam"--loved Christians as the fox loves geese. But in that summer of 1550 his feelings acquired a far deeper malignancy; they developed into a direct and personal hatred that for intensity was second only to the hatred which the Christians bore Dragut.
The allied Christian forces, under the direction of their emperor, had smoked him out of his stronghold of Mehedia; they had seized that splendid city, and were in the act of razing it to the ground as the neighbouring Carthage had been razed of old.
Dragut reckoned up his losses with a gloomy, vengeful mind. He had lost his city; and from the eminence of a budding Basha in the act of founding a kingdom he had been cast down once more to be a wanderer upon the seas.
He had lost three thousand men, and amongst them the very flower of his fiery corsairs. He had lost some twelve thousand Christian slaves--the fruit of many a desperate raid by land and water. He had lost his lieutenant and nephew, Hisar, who was even now a captive in the hands of his inveterate enemy, Andrea Doria. It is little wonder that he lost his temper, too. But he recovered it quickly, that he might set about recovering the rest. He was not the man to waste his days in brooding over what was done. Yesterday and to-day are but as pledges in the hands of destiny.
So he returned thanks to Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful, that he was still alive and free upon the seas, with three galleasses, twelve galleys, and five brigantines; and bent his energetic, resourceful, knavish mind to the matter of making good his losses. Meanwhile, he had been warned by the Sultan of Constantinople, the Exalted of Allah, that the Emperor Charles, not content with the mischief he had already wrought, had, in letters to the Grand Seignior, avowed his intent to pursue to the death "the pirate Dragut, a corsair odious to both God and man." He knew, moreover, that the emperor had entrusted the task to the greatest seaman of the day--to the terrible Admiral of Genoa, Andrea Doria, and that the Genoese was already at sea upon his quest.
Now, once already had Dragut been captured by the navy of Genoa, and for four years, which it afforded him little satisfaction to remember, he had toiled at an oar aboard the galley of the admiral's nephew, Gianettino Doria. He had known exposure to heat and cold; naked had he been broiled by the sun, and frozen by the rain; he had known aching muscles, hunger and thirst; filthy crawling things, and the festering sores begotten of the oarsman's bench; and his shoulders were still a crisscross of scars where the bo'suns' whips had lashed him to revive his flagging energies.
All this had Dragut known, and he was not minded to renew the knowledge. It behoved him, therefore, to make ready fittingly to receive the admiral.
And by way at once of replenishing his coffers, venting a little of his vengeful heat, and marking his contempt for his Christian pursuers, he had made a sudden swoop upon the south-western littoral of Sicily. Beginning at Gergenti, he carried his raid as far north as Marsala, leaving ruin and desolation behind him. At the end of a week he stood off to sea again with the spoils of six townships and some three thousand picked captives of both sexes.
He would teach the infidel Christian dog to allude to him as "the pirate Dragut, a corsair odious to both God and man." He would so, by the beard of Mahomet!
He put the captives aboard a couple of galleys, in charge of his lieutenant, Othmani, and dispatched them straight to Algiers, to be sold there in the slave market. With the proceeds Othmani was to lay down fresh keels. Until these should be ready to reinforce his little fleet, Dragut judged it well to avoid encounters with the Genoese admiral, and with this intent he kept a southward course along the coast towards Tripoli. Towards sunset of the day on which Othmani's galleys set out alone for Algiers, a fresh breeze sprang up from the north and blew into the corsair's range of vision a tiny brown-sailed felucca, as it might have blown a leaf in autumn. It was hawk-eyed Dragut himself who, lounging in the poop of his galley, first sighted this tiny craft.
He pointed it out to Biretta, the renegade Calabrian gunner, who was near him.
"In the name of Allah," quoth he, "what walnut-shell is this that comes so furiously after us?"
Biretta, a massive, sallow fellow, laughed.
"The fury is not hers, but of the wind," said he. "She goes wherever it blows her. She'll be an Italian craft." CHAPTER II
"Then the wind that blows her is the wind of Destiny. Haply she'll have news of Italy."
He turned on his heel and gave an order to a turbaned officer below. Instantly the brazen note of a trumpet rang out, clear above the creak and dip of oars. As instantly the rowers came to rest, and from the side of each galley six-and-twenty massive yellow oars stood out, their wet blades glistening in the evening sunlight.
Thus the Moslem fleet waited, rocking gently on the little swell that had arisen, and its quality was blazoned by the red and white ensign charged with a blue crescent, which floated from the masthead of Dragut's own galley.
On came the little brown-sailed felucca, hopelessly driven by what Dragut accounted the breeze of Destiny. At last, when she was in danger of being blown past them, Dragut crossed to meet her. As the galley's long prow ran alongside of her, grappling hooks were deftly flung to seize her at mast and gunwale, and but for these she must have been swept over by those gigantic oars.
From the prow, Dragut himself, a tall and handsome figure in gold-embroidered scarlet surcoat that descended to his knees, his snowy turban heightening the swarthiness of his hawk face, with its square-cut black beard, stood to challenge the crew of that ill-starred felucca.
There were aboard of her six scared knaves, something betwixt seamen and lackeys, whom the corsair's black eyes passed contemptuously over. He addressed himself to a couple who were seated in the stern-sheets--a tall and very elegant young gentleman, obviously Italian, and a girl, upon whose white, golden-headed loveliness the corsair's bold eyes glowed pleasurably.
"Who are you?" he demanded shortly in Italian.
The willowy young man answered for the twain, very composedly, as though it were a matter of everyday life with him to be held in the grappling-hooks of a Barbary pirate.
"My name is Ottavio Brancaleone. I am from Genoa on my way to Spain."
"To Spain!" quoth Dragut and he laughed. "You steer an odd course for Spain, or do you look to find it in Egypt?"
"We have lost our rudder," the gentleman explained, "and we were at the mercy of the wind."
"I trust you have found it as merciful as you hoped," said Dragut. He leered at the girl, who, in affright, shrank nearer her companion. "And the girl, sir? Who is she?"