Page 18 - Vladimir Bartol ALAMUT
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20 Vladimir Bartol ALAMUTFor breakfast they had milk and sweet pastries made with dried fruit and honey. Then each of them was given an orange.Lessons began after breakfast. They went into the glass-ceilinged hall with the pool that Halima had admired the day before. They sat around on pillows, each of them with a black tablet resting on her crossed legs. They got their slate pencils ready and waited. Miriam pointed to a place for Halima to sit and handed her her writing implements.“Hold it like you see the others doing, even though you don’t know how to write yet. I’ll teach you later, but for now you can at least get used to the tablet and pencil.”Then she went to the doorway and with a mallet struck a gong that hung on the wall.A giant Moor holding a thick book entered the room. He was dressed in short striped trousers and a cloak that reached to his feet but was left open in front. He was shod in plain sandals and had a thin red turban wrapped around his head. He let himself down onto a pillow prepared for him and sat facing the girls, his weight resting on his knees.“Today, my sweet little doves, we continue with passages from the Koran,” he said, piously touching his forehead to the book, “in which the Prophet speaks of the joys of the afterlife and the delights of para- dise. I see a new young student among you, clear-eyed and avid for learn- ing, hungry for knowledge and pleasing to the spirit. So that no drop of wisdom and holy learning escapes her, let’s have Fatima, clear-witted and sharp, repeat and interpret what your careful gardener Adi has so far managed to plant and cultivate in your little hearts.”This was the same Adi who had brought her to these gardens yester- day. Halima recognized his voice immediately. The whole time he spoke she valiantly resisted an urge to laugh.Fatima lifted her lovely, rounded chin to face the teacher and began reciting in a sweet, almost singing voice, “In the fifteenth sura, in vers- es forty-five to forty-eight we read, ‘Behold, the god-fearing shall come to these gardens and to the springs: enter in peace, for indeed we shall take the ire from their hearts and they shall sit down on pillows with each other. They will feel no fatigue and we shall never cause them to leave...’”Adi praised her. Then she recited several other passages by heart. When she finished, he said to Halima, “So, my silver doe, fleet-footed

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