Page 12 - Vladimir Bartol catalogue, 2019
P. 12

12Halima sensed a secret approaching and she trembled. She pressed her cheeks, burning like white-hot iron, to Miriam’s breast and she held her breath.“My husband,” Miriam resumed presently, “had a habit that deeply injured my modesty.  e fact that I had  nally become his property after all completely impaired his faculties. He would tell his business associates about me, describe my virtues, my modesty, my physical features in the most vivid terms, and boast that he had become master ofthe greatest beauty far and wide. Obviously he wanted them to envy him. You see, he would tell me repeatedly of an evening about how his friends had gone green with envy when he described my virtues and his enjoyment of them. You can imagine, Halima, how much I hated him then, and how revolting I found him. When I had to go to him, I felt as though I were going to my execution. But he would laugh and make fun ofthe greenhorns, as he called his younger associates, and say, ‘Ah, but for money everything is available, my dear. Even an old hen won’t look twice at a poor man, no matter how handsome he is.’ All this talking made me terribly angry and bitter. Oh, if I’d known just one of those greenhorns then, I would have shown Moses how much he was deluding himself ! But what happened was the last thing I would have expected. One day one of my maid servants pressed a tiny letter into my hand. I unrolled it and my heart began to race at its very  rst words. Even today I remember it down to the last syllable. Listen and I’ll tell you what it said.”Halima trembled in rapt attention, and Miriam continued.“ e letter said: ‘Sheik Mohammed to Miriam, the  ower of Aleppo, the silver-shining moon delighting the night and illuminating the world! I love you and have loved you endlessly ever since I heard Moses, your accursed jailer, exalt your beauty and virtues to the heavens. Just as wine goes to an in del’s head and intoxicates him, so has word of your perfection intoxicated my heart. Oh, silver-shining moon. If you knew how many nightsI have spent in the desert dreaming of your virtues, how vividly you’ve stepped beforemy eyes, and how I’ve watched you like the rosy dawn ascending. I thought that distance would cure me of longing for you, but it has only intensi ed it. Now I have returned and bring you my heart. Know,  ower of Aleppo, that sheik Mohammed is a man and does not fear death. And that he comes close to inhale the air that you exhale. Farewell!’“At  rst I thought the letter was a trap. I called the servant who had delivered the letterto me and insisted that she tell me everything honestly. She started crying and showedme the silver piece that some son of the desert had given her as payment for deliveringthe letter to me. What sort of son of the desert? I asked. Young, and handsome too. My

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