“Threatened men live long,” the captain said. “The sultan has been talking of attacking them for years, and something has always happened to prevent his carrying out his intention. It may be the same again.”
“I will take him,” the Arab said shortly. “Here is a purse with the sum you named; count it, and see that it is right.” As he stood apart while the pirate counted out the money, the eight released slaves came up in a body, and one of them, bowing low before the merchant, said,
“My lord, we have long been slaves of the Christian knights at Rhodes, and have worked in their galleys. We were rescued the other day when this knight was taken prisoner. Our life has been a hard one. We have borne toil, and hardship, and blows, the heat of the sun by day, and the damp by night, but we would humbly represent to you that since we were placed in the galley commanded by this knight our lot has been made bearable by his humanity and kindness. He erected an awning to shade us from the sun’s rays, and to shelter us from the night dews. He provided good food for us. He saw that we were not worked beyond our strength, and he forbade us being struck, unless for good cause. Therefore, my lord, now that misfortune has fallen upon him, we venture to represent to you the kindness with which he has treated us, in the hope that it may please you to show him such mercy as he showed to us.”
“You have done well,” the Arab said, “and your words shall not be forgotten. When you land tomorrow, inquire for the house of Isaac Ben Ibyn. You are doubtless penniless, and I may be able to obtain employment for those of you who may stop at Tripoli, and to assist those who desire to take passage to their homes elsewhere. We are commanded to be grateful to those who befriend us, and as you have shown yourselves to be so, it is right that I, an humble servant of the Great One, should in His name reward you.”
Motioning to Gervaise to follow him, the Arab stepped into his boat. Gervaise turned to the men, and said in Italian, “Thanks, my friends, you have well discharged any debt that you may think you owe me. Will you tell that villain” — and he pointed to the captain threateningly — “I warn him that some day I will kill him like a dog!” Then, turning, he stepped into the bow of the boat, and the two men who rowed it at once pushed off.
When the boat reached the shore the Arab handed a long bernouse to Gervaise, signed to him to pull the hood well over his head, and then led the way through the streets until he stopped at a large house, standing in a quiet quarter of the town. He struck on the door with his hand, and it was at once opened by a black slave.
“Call Muley,” the Arab said.
The slave hurried away, and returned in a minute with a man somewhat past middle age, and dressed in a style that indicated that he was a trusted servant.