Page 16 - Vladimir Bartol ALAMUT
P. 16

18 Vladimir Bartol ALAMUTwere covered with tastefully embroidered pillows. Beside each bed was an artfully carved dressing table with a large silver mirror affixed to it. A five-candled gilt candelabra with strange, twisted shapes hung from the ceiling.The girls dressed Halima in a long white gown of delicate silk. They tied a red cord around her waist and sat her down in front of the mirror. She could hear them whispering about how sweet and pretty she was. They’re right, she thought, I really am pretty. Like a real princess. She lay down on her bed and the girls put pillows under her head. They covered her with a feather quilt and left on tiptoe. She buried her head in the soft pillows and, in a state of fairy-tale happiness, fell blissfully to sleep.The first rays of daylight shining through the window awoke her. She opened her eyes and saw the designs on the wall hangings, woven in bright colors. At first she thought she was still with the caravan. On the wall she saw a lance-bearing hunter on horseback chasing an ante- lope. Beneath him a tiger and a buffalo faced off, while a black man carrying a shield shoved the point of his spear at a raging lion. Beside them a leopard stalked a gazelle. Then she remembered the previous day and realized where she was.“Good morning, sleepyhead,” Zainab, who had just propped herself up in bed, called to her.Halima looked at her and was astonished. Her hair poured over her shoulders in ample locks and shone in the sunlight like pure gold. She’s more beautiful than a fairy, she thought. Enraptured, she returned her greeting.She looked toward the other bed, where Sara was sleeping, half naked, her full dark limbs shining like ebony. The conversation woke her too, and she slowly began to open her eyes. They glinted like two dark, white-irradiated stars. She fixed them on Halima and smiled at her oddly. Then she lowered them again quickly, like a feline confused by a human stare. She got up, went over to Halima’s bed, and sat down on it.“Last night when Zainab and I went to bed, you didn’t notice us,” she said. “We kissed you, but you just murmured something ill-tempered and turned your back.”Halima laughed, though she was almost frightened by the other’s gaze. She could also see the light down that covered her upper lip.“I didn’t hear you at all,” she replied.

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