Page 19 - Vladimir Bartol ALAMUT
P. 19

Fiction SANJE 21and avid for learning, did you hear in the pearls of your companion and older sister what my skill, my depth of spirit has sown in the bosoms of our gentle-eyed houris and nurtured into fulsome buds? You must also blow all childishness out of your heart and listen intently to what my holy learning reveals to you, so that you can be happy both here and in the afterlife.”Then he began to dictate slowly, word by word, a new chapter from the Koran. The chalk squeaked across the tablets. Moving slightly, the girls’ lips silently repeated what their hands were writing.The lesson came to an end and Halima caught her breath. Everything had struck her as so silly and so strange, as though none of it had been real.The Moor stood up, touched his forehead to the book reverently three times, and said, “Lovely young maidens, my diligent pupils, skillful and quick, enough learning and scattering of my wisdom for now. What you’ve heard and dutifully written on your tablets you must now inscribe on your memories and learn thoroughly and by heart. As you do this, you must also instruct this sweet quail, your new companion, in the ways of holy learning and convert her ignorance into knowledge.”He smiled and a row of white teeth shone brightly. He rolled his eyes portentously, leaving the schoolroom with great dignity.The curtain had barely dropped behind him when Halima burst out laughing, and some of the others joined her. Miriam, however, said, “You must never again laugh at Adi, Halima. Maybe he seems a bit strange to you at first, but he has a heart of gold and he would do anything for us. He’s expert at many things—The Koran, worldly philosophy, poetry, rheto- ric... And he’s equally at home in both Arabic and Pahlavi. Sayyiduna also has tremendous confidence in him.”Halima felt ashamed and lowered her eyes. But Miriam stroked her cheek and added, “Don’t be concerned that you laughed. But now you know, and you’ll behave differently in the future.”She nodded to her and went out into the gardens with the other girls to rake and weave.Sara led Halima into the bath to wash her hair. First she brushed her hair out, then she undressed her down to the waist. Her hands trem- bled slightly as she did this, which made Halima slightly uncomfortable, but she tried not to think about it.

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