Page 11 - Vladimir Bartol catalogue, 2019
P. 11

11that way now. My every wish was ful lled immediately. But what kind of wishes? Only those that could be satis ed with money.  e silent, secret ones that a girl’s heart loves to dream about so much had to stay buried deep inside me. You see, I’d learned the limits of human powers early on. When I wasn’t yet fourteen, a series of misfortunes befell my father, one after the other. It began with my mother’s death, which sent my father intoa period of profound grief. He didn’t seem to care about anything anymore. From his rst wife he had three sons who had become merchants in their own right. One of them lost his entire fortune and the other two stepped in to rescue him.  ey dispatched their ships to the shores of Africa and waited for their earnings. But then came the news thata storm had destroyed their vessels. All three of them turned to their father. He reunited with them and they sent more ships to the Frankish kingdom. But pirates seized them and overnight we became beggars.”“Oh, you’d have been better o  poor from the beginning!” Halima exclaimed.Miriam smiled. She drew Halima closer to her and continued.“All these misfortunes struck us before two years had passed. And then Moses, a Jew who was considered the richest man in Aleppo, came to visit my father. He said to him, ‘Look here, Simeon’—that was my father’s name. ‘You need money, and I need a wife.’ ‘Go on, get out,’ my father laughed at him. ‘You’re so old your son could be my daughter’s father.It would be more seemly for you to be thinking of death.’ Moses refused to let himself be put o —at that time, you see, the whole town was saying I was the prettiest girl in Aleppo. ‘You can borrow from me as much as you want,’ he continued. ‘Just give me Miriam.She’ll be  ne with me.’ My father took all this talk of courtship as a joke. But when my half-brothers found out about it, they begged him to strike a deal with Moses. Father’s situation was hopeless. He was also a good Christian and didn’t want to give his child toa Jew. But as frail and depressed as he was after all those misfortunes, he  nally relented and let Moses take me as his wife. No one ever asked me about it. One day they signeda contract and I had to move into the Jew’s house.”“Poor, poor Miriam,” Halima said through tears.“You know, in his way my husband loved me. I would have preferred a thousand fold for him to hate me or be indi erent. He tormented me with his jealousy—he locked me inside my chambers, and because he could tell that I found him disgusting and was coldto him, he’d gnash his teeth and threaten to stab me.  ere were times when I thought he was crazy, and I was terribly afraid of him.”Miriam fell silent, as though she had to gather her strength for what she was about to say.

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