Raphael Sabatini’s classic tale of nautical adventure set in the late 16th century is the story of Sir Oliver Tressilian who is villainously betrayed by a jealous half-brother. Being forced into slavery aboard a Spanish galley, Sir Oliver is subsequently freed by Barbary pirates whom he joins and gains the name “Sakr-el-Bahr”, or the hawk of the sea. A gripping tale of action and adventure set aboard the high seas, The Sea Hawk is one of Sabatini’s most loved and classic works.
472 pages, with a reading time of ~7.25 hours (118,241 words), and first published in 1915. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2010.
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Sir Oliver Tressilian sat at his ease in the lofty dining-room of the handsome house of Penarrow, which he owed to the enterprise of his father of lamented and lamentable memory and to the skill and invention of an Italian engineer named Bagnolo who had come to England half a century ago as one of the assistants of the famous Torrigiani.
This house of such a startlingly singular and Italianate grace for so remote a corner of Cornwall deserves, together with the story of its construction, a word in passing.
The Italian Bagnolo who combined with his salient artistic talents a quarrelsome, volcanic humour had the mischance to kill a man in a brawl in a Southwark tavern. As a result he fled the town, nor paused in his headlong flight from the consequences of that murderous deed until he had all but reached the very ends of England. Under what circumstances he became acquainted with Tressilian the elder I do not know. But certain it is that the meeting was a very timely one for both of them. To the fugitive, Ralph Tressilian–who appears to have been inveterately partial to the company of rascals of all denominations–afforded shelter; and Bagnolo repaid the service by offering to rebuild the decaying half-timbered house of Penarrow. Having taken the task in hand he went about it with all the enthusiasm of your true artist, and achieved for his protector a residence that was a marvel of grace in that crude age and outlandish district. There arose under the supervision of the gifted engineer, worthy associate of Messer Torrigiani, a noble two-storied mansion of mellow red brick, flooded with light and sunshine by the enormously tall mullioned windows that rose almost from base to summit of each pilastered facade. The main doorway was set in a projecting wing and was overhung by a massive balcony, the whole surmounted by a pillared pediment of extraordinary grace, now partly clad in a green mantle of creepers. Above the burnt red tiles of the roof soared massive twisted chimneys in lofty majesty.
But the glory of Penarrow–that is, of the new Penarrow begotten of the fertile brain of Bagnolo–was the garden fashioned out of the tangled wilderness about the old house that had crowned the heights above Penarrow point. To the labours of Bagnolo, Time and Nature had added their own. Bagnolo had cut those handsome esplanades, had built those noble balustrades bordering the three terraces with their fine connecting flights of steps; himself he had planned the fountain, and with his own hands had carved the granite faun presiding over it and the dozen other statues of nymphs and sylvan gods in a marble that gleamed in white brilliance amid the dusky green. But Time and Nature had smoothed the lawns to a velvet surface, had thickened the handsome boxwood hedges, and thrust up those black spear-like poplars that completed the very Italianate appearance of that Cornish demesne.
Sir Oliver took his ease in his dining-room considering all this as it was displayed before him in the mellowing September sunshine, and found it all very good to see, and life very good to live. Now no man has ever been known so to find life without some immediate cause, other than that of his environment, for his optimism. Sir Oliver had several causes. The first of these–although it was one which he may have been far from suspecting–was his equipment of youth, wealth, and good digestion; the second was that he had achieved honour and renown both upon the Spanish Main and in the late harrying of the Invincible Armada–or, more aptly perhaps might it be said, in the harrying of the late Invincible Armada–and that he had received in that the twenty-fifth year of his life the honour of knighthood from the Virgin Queen; the third and last contributor to his pleasant mood–and I have reserved it for the end as I account this to be the proper place for the most important factor–was Dan Cupid who for once seemed compounded entirely of benignity and who had so contrived matters that Sir Oliver’s wooing Of Mistress Rosamund Godolphin ran an entirely smooth and happy course.
So, then, Sir Oliver sat at his ease in his tall, carved chair, his doublet untrussed, his long legs stretched before him, a pensive smile about the firm lips that as yet were darkened by no more than a small black line of moustachios. (Lord Henry’s portrait of him was drawn at a much later period.) It was noon, and our gentleman had just dined, as the platters, the broken meats and the half-empty flagon on the board beside him testified. He pulled thoughtfully at a long pipe–for he had acquired this newly imported habit of tobacco-drinking–and dreamed of his mistress, and was properly and gallantly grateful that fortune had used him so handsomely as to enable him to toss a title and some measure of renown into his Rosamund’s lap.