Page 35 - Vladimir Bartol ALAMUT
P. 35

Fiction SANJE 37tried to shake off such ugly thoughts and convince herself that it couldn’t be true.They had supper right before sunset, then they went for a walk. Suddenly darkness settled on the gardens and the first stars came out above them.Halima walked down a path hand in hand with Sara and Zainab, conversing with them in half-whispers. The sound of the rapids grew steadily closer as the alien and eerie landscape stretched boundless- ly before them. Halima felt a twinge of emotion, bitter and sweet at the same time, as though she were a tiny creature who had gotten lost in a strange, magical world. Everything struck her as mysterious, almost too much so for her to grasp.A light flickered through the thickets. The small flame started moving, and Halima timidly clung to her companions. The flame got closer and closer, until at last a man carrying a burning torch stepped before her.“That’s Mustafa,” Sara said, “The garden keeper.”Mustafa was a big, round-faced Moor dressed in a colorful cloak reaching almost to his feet and tied at the waist with a thick cord. When he saw the girls, he gave a good-natured grin.“So this is the new little bird that the wind blew in yesterday,” he said amiably, looking at Halima. “What a tiny, fragile creature.”A dark shadow danced around the flickering torch. A huge moth had started circling around the fire. They all watched as it nearly grazed the flame, then darted in a broad upward arc and vanished in the darkness. But then it would come back, and each time its dance became wilder. Its circuits around the flame grew narrower and narrower, until finally the fire caught its wings. They crackled, and, like a shooting star, the moth hit the ground.“Poor thing,” Halima exclaimed. “But why was it so stupid?” “Allah gave it a passion to attack fire,” Mustafa said. “Good night.” “That’s strange,” Halima mused, half to herself.They returned and went to their bedchambers, undressed, and layon their beds. Halima’s head spun from the day’s events. That ridiculous Adi with his rhyming sentences, the agile dance master Asad, tarted-up Apama with her shameless learning, mysterious Miriam, the girls, and the eunuchs. And here she was in the midst of all this, Halima, who for

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