Page 6 - Vladimir Bartol ALAMUT
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8 Vladimir Bartol ALAMUTfor a charge. A man on a short brown horse separated from the attackers and came close enough to the caravan that his voice was audible. He called out a password and received a response from the caravan leader. The two men galloped toward each other and exchanged courteous greetings, and then the new troop took over leadership. The caravan turned off the trail and headed into the brush, traveling this way until well into the night. Eventually they made camp on the floor of a small valley, from where they could hear the distant drumming of a mountain torrent. They built fires, ate hastily, and then fell asleep like the dead.When dawn came they were back on their feet. The caravan leader approached the shelter, which the drivers had unfastened from the cam- el’s back the night before and set down on the ground. He pushed the curtain aside and called out in a gruff voice, “Halima!”The frightened little face appeared at the window; then the low, narrow door opened. The leader’s firm hand grabbed the girl by her wrist and pulled her out of the shelter.Halima’s whole body was shaking. Now I’m done for, she thought. The commander of the strangers who had joined the caravan the previ- ous day held a black bandage in his hand. The caravan leader signaled to him, and the man wordlessly put the kerchief over the girl’s eyes and knotted it tightly at the back of her head. Then he mounted his horse, pulled the girl up into the saddle with him, and covered her in his vast cloak. He and the caravan leader exchanged a few words. Then he spurred his horse into a gallop. Halima shrank into a tiny ball and clung fearfully to the rider.The sound of the torrent grew closer and closer. At one point they stopped and the rider briefly spoke to someone. Then he spurred his horse again. But soon he was riding more slowly and cautiously, and Halima thought that the path must be very narrow and lead right along the edge of the mountain stream. Cool air wafted up from below, and terror once again constricted her heart.They stopped again. Halima heard shouting and clanking, and when they set off at a gallop again, there was a muffled rumbling beneath the horse’s hooves. They had crossed a bridge over the rapids.What followed seemed like a terrible nightmare. She heard a tumult of shouting, as though an entire army of men were quarreling. The rider dismounted without letting her out of his cloak. He raced with her first

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