Page 14 - Vladimir Bartol ALAMUT
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16 Vladimir Bartol ALAMUT“Who was my master?” she repeated when Miriam had finished coloring her lips. She inspected herself in the mirror with obvious satis- faction and continued. “The merchant Ali, an old and good man.”“Why did he sell you if he was good?” Zainab asked.“He was penniless. He’d lost all his money. We didn’t even have anything left to eat. He had two daughters, but their suitors cheated him out of them. They didn’t pay him a thing. He had a son too, but he disap- peared, probably killed by robbers or soldiers.” Her eyes filled with tears. “I was supposed to become his wife.”“Who were your parents?” Fatima asked.“I never knew them and I don’t know anything about them. As far back as I can remember, I lived in the house of the merchant Ali. As long as his son was still at home, we managed to get by. But then the bad times came. The master would moan, pull out his hair, and pray. His wife told him to take me to Bukhara and sell me there. He put me on a donkey and we went to Bukhara. He asked all the merchants where they’d take me and who they’d sell me to, until he met one who worked for your master. This one swore by the beard of the Prophet that I would live like a princess. Ali settled on a price, and when they took me away he started crying out loud. So did I. But now I can see that the merchant was right. I really do feel like a princess here.”Misty-eyed, the girls glanced at each other and smiled.“My master cried, too, when he sold me,” Zainab said. “I wasn’t born a slave. When I was little some Turks abducted me and took me to their grazing lands. I learned to ride and shoot with a bow and arrow like a boy. They were all curious because I had blue eyes and golden hair. People would come from far away to look at me. They said that if some powerful chieftain found out about me, he’d probably buy me. Then the sultan’s army came and my master was killed. I was about ten years old at the time. We were retreating from the sultan’s soldiers, and we lost a lot of people and livestock. The master’s son took over the leader- ship of the tribe. He fell in love with me and took me into his harem as a real wife. But the sultan took everything away from us, and my master went wild. He beat us every day, but he refused to submit to the sul- tan. Then the chieftains made peace. Merchants came and started to trade. One day an Armenian noticed me and started to dog my master about me. He offered him livestock and money. Finally the two of them

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