Page 31 - Vladimir Bartol ALAMUT
P. 31

Fiction SANJE 33With a kind of wicked pleasure she began to explain the subject of men and women.Halima was mortified and didn’t know where to look.“Do you understand now, little one?” she asked her at last.Halima timidly nodded, even though she hadn’t heard half of it andthe half she had was still unclear.“Almighty Allah himself has commanded me to beat this exaltedwisdom into the heads of these silly geese,” she exclaimed. “Can these crickets even imagine how much skill, how much innate instinct is required if you want to fully satisfy your master and lover? Practice, prac- tice, and more practice! Only that will bring you to your goal. Thankfully, providence has robbed you of the opportunity to shame the high art of love with your coltish lust. A man is like a sensitive harp on which a woman must play hundreds and hundreds of different melodies. If she’s clumsy and stupid, then oh, what pitiful sounds will come from it. But if she’s gifted and has learned something, then with her deft hands she’ll be able to produce harmonies on the instrument that have never been heard before. Uncultured monkeys! Your desire should be to make the instru- ment given to you produce more sounds than anyone ever thought were in it. And may the good spirits never punish me by making me hear some talentless strumming, squeaking and squealing.”She proceeded to explain in detail what she referred to as her high art and learning, and Halima’s neck, ears and face flushed red with shame. Yet she couldn’t help but listen. A spine-tingling curiosity coursed through her. If it were only she and Sara, or if only it weren’t for Miriam, who was her greatest source of embarrassment, then she might have even found Apama’s descriptions entertaining. As it was, she kept her eyes cast down, for some strange reason feeling guilty and complicit.Finally Apama finished. She left the classroom with great dignity and without saying or bowing goodbye. The girls rushed outside and went walking through the gardens in groups. Sara clung to Halima, who didn’t dare to approach Miriam.But Miriam called her of her own accord. She put an arm around Halima’s waist and drew her down a path alongside her. Sara followed them like a shadow.“Are you starting to get used to our way of life?” Miriam asked. “Everything seems strange and new to me,” Halima replied.

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