Page 23 - Vladimir Bartol ALAMUT
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Fiction SANJE 25because I’m not learned like Adi. Come on, come to Halima, who’s pret- ty and young and likes the sweet little gazelle ...”She had to laugh at her own eloquence. The gazelle stepped lightly toward her with its muzzle outstretched and started sniffing and licking her face. It tickled pleasantly, and she began to laugh and offer playful resistance as the animal nudged at her more and more forcefully, until she suddenly felt something else just as live touching her earlobe from behind and breathing into it. She looked around and was petrified with fear. Yellow-furred Ahriman stood right up beside her, eagerly compet- ing with the gazelle in expressions of kindness. She fell backwards, bare- ly landing on her hands. She couldn’t scream and she couldn’t get up. Her eyes full of fear, she stared at the long-legged cat and waited for it to leap at her. But evidently Ahriman had no intention of attacking. Soon he began to ignore her completely and tease the gazelle, catching it by the ear or craning with open jaws toward its neck. They had to know each other well and were obviously friends. Halima regained her cour- age and put an arm around each animal’s neck. The leopard started to purr and knead like an ordinary housecat, and the gazelle put its tongue against her face again. Halima fawned on them with the sweetest words. She couldn’t grasp how a leopard and a gazelle could be friends in this world when the Prophet had said that Allah was reserving that miracle for the inhabitants of paradise.She heard her name being called. She arose and went in the direc- tion of the voice. Ahriman padded along behind her. The gazelle kept him company, periodically ramming into him like a baby goat. He didn’t pay much attention to it, only from time to time snapping at its ear.Her companions were waiting for her and told her it was time for a dance lesson. They tied her hair up on top of her head and led her into the glass hall.Their dance teacher was a eunuch named Asad, a young man of average height with smooth cheeks and supple, almost feminine limbs. He was a dark-skinned African, but not as black as Adi. Halima thought he was cute and silly at the same time. When he came in, he took off his long cloak and stood before them in nothing but his short yellow trou- sers. He bowed slightly with a gracious smile and contentedly rubbed his hands. He called on Fatima to play the harp, and at the sound of the in- strument began to twist and turn expertly.

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