Ahmad Khalil: The Story of a Palestinian Refugee and his Family (Part 3)

The author of the story being serialised herein under –the late MARYAM JAMEELAH – originally of Jewish parents, later converted to Islam and went on to become one of the most prolific writers of the last century on Islam. She was also a leading critic of modern Western civilization and culture. She passed away in October 2012 at the age of 74. (See obituary published in YmD at http://www.youngmuslimdigest.com/profile/01/2013/remembering-maryam-jameelah/). One of the last detailed interviews she offered the press was in 2005 which was conducted by – and published in – Young Muslim Digest. The same can be read online at http://www.youngmuslimdigest.com/interview/07/2005/despair-and-hopelessness-forbidden-tread-the-future-with-caution-maryam-jameelah/. The story, Ahmed Khalil: The Story of a Palestinian Refugee and his Family, was her first attempt while still in her teens and while not yet a Muslim, to portray the plight of the Palestinians who were deprived of their homeland in 1948. Here, the story is being serialized as abridged by ZAYD ZAKIULLAH. The first part of the story was published in the August 2018 issue of Young Muslim Digest, while the second part came in the October 2018 issue.

 

Chapter VIII

For several months the typhus epidemic ravaged Iraq al-Manshiya with more devastating destructiveness than any raids either from Negba or from the Bedu. Negba was unaffected since the Jew colonists immediately took the necessary hygienic and medical precautions.

The Governor of Gaza, under the orders of the mandatory authorities, immediately placed the village under the strictest quarantine to prevent the pestilence from spreading to other parts of the country. But the authorities in Negba did everything they could to prevent any medical aid from being extended to Iraq al-Manshiya itself. Harassed by frequent raids, constant thefts and random killings almost every day, the colonists swore to exterminate the tribe to the last woman and child. But this presented a problem since the British had imposed upon them an arms embargo. Thus, when reports of pestilence in the village reached Negba, the colonists regarded it as a God-sent boon. Rather than waste valuable ammunition at the risk of their lives and limbs, how much easier and more efficient it was just to wait and permit the deadly microbes to do their dirty work! Before the epidemic had passed, more than a third of the tribe had perished.

More and more illegal immigrants from many European countries were pouring into Negba and other settlements now, encircling Iraq al-Manshiya more tightly than ever in their incessant demands for more and more land.

As the months passed, Ahmad Khalil began to wonder about his two-year-old brother who did not seem even to recognize him and had begun to act so strange, his father said he ought to be taken to a doctor. He was too apathetic to laugh and play, like other children. All day he would sit in the same corner of the room, unresponsive to everything around him.

As soon as the children had sufficiently convalesced, Yusuf Malik gave Ahmad Khalil and his cousins the responsibility of caring for the flocks of sheep and goats in the hope they would recover their health. Ahmad Khalil liked this work very much for he had plenty of time to play in the open, pure fresh air and could run and shout carefree with his cousins from morning to night and drink as much milk as he wanted. The pasture was the boundary between Iraq al-Manshiya and Negba.

“Now, Asma,” demanded Ahmad Khalil, “Stay behind me. I’m going to shoot the Jews like they shoot at us. Look!” he exclaimed. “They are all dead! Now we must find more to shoot!”

Shrieking war-cries in pursuit of the enemy, the four children raced to the top of the hill.

“There they are!” shouted little Rashid. He raised his small black arm to point at them. “Look!”

They stared and gaped while a hiking troupe of bright-eyed and happy Jewish children with knapsacks on their backs, all dressed alike in blue shorts and white shirts, exposing their sturdy arms and legs, filed past them. Ahmad Khalil looked to see if they were armed or wore the insignia of the Gadna, the dreaded para-military Zionist organization for children, but these boys and girls were obviously not old enough to join. The younger ones were munching fruit and chocolate bars out of paper bags as they walked. Some of the smallest of them, their mouths smeared with chocolate, their rosy faces bright with the innocence of little children who had not yet learned to hate.

Sheer curiosity combined with the lure of a place where something to eat could always be found, made Negba an irresistible attraction where Ahmad Khalil would wander alone for hours at a stretch. Here the Jews were so accustomed to the sight of Arabs, they regarded him as unworthy of any notice. Their colourless eyes looked through him without seeing. It was as if they were lofty beings examining a miserable vermin. This look, reminding him of who he was and never permitting him to forget his place in the society of Iraq al-Manshiya, this contemptuous stare to degrade him to the level of the subhuman, had become a familiar experience to Ahmad Khalil but no matter how many times it happened, he never grew less sensitive to the pain.

He passed pretty white houses with slanting red-tile roofs surrounded by shady trees, cool grass and bright flowers. Finding one of the doors open, he wandered through rooms tastefully furnished with beds, tables, chairs and well-fitted book-cases. He had never before seen such a profusion of books. Before he knew where he was going, he found himself in the nursery. The plump babies were enjoying their sunbath in their cribs and playpens. Some of the infants were cuddled in the nurse’s arms, being fed with oatmeal, milk, orange-juice, soft-boiled eggs and cod-liver oil.

In the children’s dormitory, he could only gape at the framed portraits of the esteemed founders of Zionism­—Theodor Herzl and Chaim Weizmann looking down on him from the walls and pull on the flowered print curtains at the windows, leaving grimy smudges behind. The [Jewish] children took no notice of him. They were laughing and shouting and jumping up and down all over the beds, throwing pillows at each other and making a deafening noise. Everything was in turmoil and disorder but no elders reprimanded them, restrained them or punished them for their insolence, disobedience and shockingly rude manners. Such unruliness, lack of discipline and ill-bred ways would never for a moment be tolerated in his family, where it was unheard of for a child to talk back to a parent. He was shocked to see that the young had no respect for the old or for Tradition or Authority of any kind. What queer ways!

To protect themselves against both heat and cold, all the adults he knew were sensible enough to wrap themselves up in layers of clothing as much as possible, leaving only their bare feet. In Iraq al-Manshiya, nakedness was only for babies and tiny children but here in Negba grown boys and girls with uncovered heads and naked arms and legs freely mixed in the fields under the hottest sun without any shame! They seemed to consider play more important than work and there was much organized entertainments’ and recreation for adults as well as for children.

His favourite place was the fruit orchard where he could satisfy his hunger by eating the rotten and over-ripe oranges that had been thrown away as unfit for the market. Twice he stealthily broke into the chicken-house and stole six eggs, devouring them raw one after the other. Sometimes a loaf of bread would fall into the middle of the street from an overloaded truck and at once Ahmad Khalil would snatch it up from the dusty pavement and run home to share the delicacy with his cousins, carefully dividing it into even portions for each of them. Huddled together, squatting against the wall, oblivious to all else, the four children would devour it down as fast as their jaws could chew.

Several months later, the carefree days on the pasture among the flocks of sheep and goats came to an abrupt end. Abdul Aziz, ill and feverish, now hardly ever left the house but squatted silently bedside his sister, Asma, helping her to weave baskets plait new reed mats, spin thread on the distaff and patch the family’s ragged clothing. Ahmad Khalil was needed on the fields now, more than ever. His aunts taught him how to wash and mend his clothes and cook his own food when they were too busy with other tasks to do this for him. Although he was barely ten years old he could do a full day’s work.

Chapter IX

“How would you like to learn to read and write? Now there is no other work to be done. I have the time to teach you…,” asked Malak Wahab to his son. Ahmad Khalil only stared back at his father in sullen silence, a trace of suspicion and even hostility in his gaze. He always knew his father was ashamed of him to grow up to work with his hands on the land, that he dreamed oh him to become a prosperous professional man in the city. And, to do that, he would have to attend a modern school.

“I have always dreamed of sending you to school, not to the conventional traditional kind where the boys merely memorize Qur’an, mechanically repeating it like parrots without the least understanding of its meaning but a modern school—where the best of teachers would introduce you to the treasures of all that is fine and beautiful. Only then could you escape from the dreary routine of drudgery and toil on this soil which is so barren even with the hardest labours, it requires a miracle to coax any crops to grow—and you would come to know that life can rich and full and not just a desperate struggle foe bare subsistence. The latest scientific knowledge would be yours and you would then understand as I have always known that the Qur’an and teaching of our Holy Prophet is always in harmony with Truth wherever it is to be found. Oh! I wanted so much to find a school like this for you Khalifa, Rashid and Asma. No, I would not forget Asma, for education is the birth-right for girls as well as boys. How pretty she would look going to her classes in her brand-new shoes, starched white uniform, blue-tie, with her hair combed and neatly tied with bright ribbons! Nothing but the best school for you in the city would satisfy me. I could not be content with anything less…”

Ahmad Khalil steadily gazed at his father in silence; he had no desire to fulfill his father’s ambitions. He did not want to leave the land to which he felt as intensely bound as did his mother and her people before her. He was not ashamed to dirty his hands with the cultivation of the soil, no matter how much contempt others may regard lowly menial labour, for here, on the land, carefully tending the green growing plants upon which his existence depended—he found the meaning of his life and the supreme satisfaction which his mother knew so well but his father could never appreciate—of closeness to the very source of all life, to nature and to God.

But his father had an education while he knew he was entirely ignorant and illiterate. Awakened by his father to the disadvantage of these deficiencies, he realized there were, indeed, many things he yearned to know and which his father was now ready to teach him. He wanted to be able to read the Qur’an for himself and achieve much deeper understanding of it on his own. He wanted to learn much more about his faith—especially the teachings of the Prophet in the Hadith. He wanted to learn in detail about the Sahabah, the Companions of the Prophet, and why they were the best of all the Muslims. He wanted to read about the wonderful and inspiring lives of all the great Muslims in history, past and present. He wanted to know the history of his people. His father had even awakened in him a keen curiosity of learn about the Jews and British. He wanted to be able to the newspapers for himself to be informed about the important events happening now which he knew would directly affect his life and his future. And to satisfy this thirst for knowledge, he must learn reading and writing.

The hostile and suspicious stare vanished, now that he was ready, willing and eager to learn what his father wanted to teach him. Malak Wahab urged him to come to him and for the first time, the boy’s face lit up with a radiant smile and he sat down cross-legged on the mat beside him while his father traced out on the wooden board the beautiful letters of the Arabic alphabet which he then showed him how to combine into words and finally sentences. This required infinite patience, for Ahmad Khalil was slow to learn and his father had to repeat his instructions and explanations several times over before he understood.

Little Khalifa, his great black eyes unnaturally bright, took an eager interest and watched everything, carefully tracing the letters of the alphabet under his father’s watchful eye on the wooden board after his brother had finished his work for the day. Malak Wahab was astonished to see how quick and bright Khalifa was at his lessons; although he was scarcely older than a baby of four, his handwriting was so much better than his brother’s! Malak Wahab had wanted to teach Rashid too, only to find this child hopelessly uncooperative, unruly and stubborn.

Hour after hour, as his father read to him from the Quran, the strange black characters gradually became familiar. At last, came the day when the inert signs suddenly sprang to life! At last,Malak Wahab turned to the back of the Qur’an to a Surah he was certain his son did not know. He pointed to the place, “Go ahead, Ahmad Khalil,” he urged, “I think you can do it now without mistakes. READ!”

And his black face glowed with pride and joy when he heard the verses read aloud slowly and haltingly but without any errors…

“When the sun is overthrown,
And when the stars fall
And the hills are moved,
And when the camels big with young are abandoned,
When the wild beasts are herded together;
When the seas rise;
And the souls are reunited;
And that girl-child who was buried alive is asked for what sin she was slain?
And when the sky is torn away;
When the Hell is lighted and the Garden is brought nigh—
Then every soul shall know its fate……”

Chapter X

“…Allahu Akbar…”

The melodious Adhan from the mosque awoke Ahmad Khalil. He stretched his arms and sat upright. Then he peered down at his little brother and cousin who were still sleeping soundly beside him. When he threw aside his father’s woollen robe that covered them, the cold desert air awoke them immediately. Needing no reminders from their parents, the three children obediently performed their ablutions with a mixture of sand and dust and after they finished their Salat, they squatted against the wall, three pairs of expectant dark eyes intently watching Halimah stir the pot of lentils on the fire-place.

At last, she took the pot off the fire and set it on the floor before them. “Bismillah,” they murmured and then hungrily scooped up handful of dried beans with pieces of stale unleavened barley bread, scraping the pot and licking their fingers until not a trace of food remained. “Alhamdullilah!” exclaimed Mansur. “Praise be unto Allah Who has given us to eat and to drink and has made us Muslims!” Halimah then extinguished the little fire and shoved the empty cooking pot into a corner.

Suddenly turning to his elder son, Malak Wahab ordered: “Before you go to the fields, you must fetch us water from the well. Halimah is too busy with other work to go today. Here is the jug. And take Khalifa, I have too much work to do so I cannot watch him. And he is too small to look after himself…”

Ahmad Khalil glared at his little brother angrily and with bitter resentment as if he meant to say that he wished Khalifa had never been born. When he had prayed to Allah to send him a brother or sister, he wanted a playmate, companion and friend. Instead, he received only this annoying burden. The responsibility of his care since he had been weaned fell heavily upon him. More than seven years separated them. Ahmad Khalil was now a rapidly growing boy of eleven, almost twelve years as tall as his aunt Halimah. Khalifa seemed to him hardly more than a baby who looked and acted even younger than he was. The little boy stared back at his brother, impassively, almost indifferent. He did not seem to mind his brother’s hostile glance as at this time, they had little feeling for each other.

Down upon hands and knees, Ahmad Khalil and Rashid loosened the hard-cracked earth around each plant, fertilized it with dried manure and then uprooted the numerous weeds. The sky was a clear blue without any trace of clouds, the sun shone upon them bright and very hot. Now and then the two cousins paused to wipe dry the perspiration that streamed down their dark faces. Halimah brought them both skins of water and they drank it down thirstily. Then Ahmad Khalil looked down with pride and happiness at his handiwork. The plants he was tending everyday were growing straight and tall, their green leaves crisp, bright and thriving with health and vigour. Inshallah, the harvest would be good this year.

Iraq al-Manshiya was on the very edge of the desert beyond which stretched as far as the eye could see, the most arid desolate land, yet the fellaheen knew how to coax their crops to grow where the stranger would not believe that anything could live, for any soil that could yield even the most meagre sustenance, was guarded by them with the most meticulous care. To his father, the work on the land meant only dreary drudgery, dirt and back-breaking toil in addition to being scorned with contempt by all society outside the village. Malak Wahab could never understand why Ahmad Khalil preferred the work in the fields above anything else.

Suddenly the roar of a motor car startled them. At the sight of the automobile, Khalifa ran screaming in terror to his aunt and clung to her skirts. Open-mouthed, Ahmad Khalil stared as the old and battered car stopped at the edge of the fields and short, fat man in a rumpled English suit and a red fez, approached his father.

Mustafa Effendi called out to Malak Wahab with the loud, demanding voice of man accustomed to giving orders and receiving instant obedience, did he look up from his work, his face filled with a mixture of embarrassment, hostility and shame.

Malak Wahab climbed out of the ditch, his torn gown covered with dirt, his hands and feet caked with mud.

“I understand, Effendi, that you never wanted to see me again, that you forced me to live here and work for you in this wretched place because you no longer were willing to maintain me as your slave. Well now, are you pleased with what you have done to me? What more troubles have you come here to inflict on us. Are you not satisfied?”

“You could at least be civil, Malak Wahab, but then it seems to be your nature to be rude even to your blood relations. I have been informed that you have two sons.” He pointed to Ahmad Khalil with a pudgy finger.

“That must be your elder one,” he said contemptuously. “Not much to look at, I admit, but he seems healthy enough…”

Moments of strained silence followed. Ahmad Khalil stared at the Effendi, and at first sight hated him instantly and thoroughly. He stared at the yellow-pock-marked face, the jaundiced, blood-shot eyes filled with guile, greed and cunning, the hooked nose, the fleshy sensual mouth, the double-chin. Never before had he seen a man so ugly—an ugliness both repulsive and fascinating.

The Effendi stared back—his gaze both hard and cruel. He stared at the boy as if he deserved no better treatment or consideration than vermin.

“What do you want with my children?” demanded Malak Wahab fiercely.

“I need another servant, a servant to clean the house, scrub the floors—he looks strong enough for the work…”

“Then you must look for one elsewhere! I will not permit you to enslave my son. You forget that the Turks have gone and the Mandate has outlawed slavery! You dare touch him and I send word to the police in Gaza and you will be thrown into prison!”

Mustafa Effendi smiled complacently. “The British officials in Gaza are my personal friends. As for the police, I can always bribe them to silence. This village, this land and all the fellaheen on it are my property, with whom I can do what I please. You forget that mother was one of my father’s slave-concubines. You make him do as I say or I double the taxes of grain that must be paid to me from here and nobody but you will be to blame!”

“No!” shouted Malak Wahab defiantly. “I won’t let you do this! I will kill you first!”

Terrified, Ahmad Khalil tensed, poised to flee for his life, but before he could run away, another pair of hands gripped him by the shoulders, hands obviously unaccustomed to physical labour but nevertheless powerful and tenacious.

Then he saw the two other men who had emerged from the car, huge and muscular.

“Arif!Auni!” called Mustafa Effendi. “Put him inside the car!”

The boy tried to struggle. “None of that!” a strange gruff voice threatened. “You stop that or we’ll tie you up!”

“Father! Father!” screamed Ahmad Khalil.

A big hairy hand covered his mouth and then he was roughly shoved under the seat.

The car drove away…….

Chapter XI

Loneliness crept upon Ahmad Khalil until the isolation grew more acute than he could bear. From the first day he was brought here forcibly, he yearned for a chance to run away, but Mustafa Effendi kept him under constant surveillance. He was not permitted any contact with his family. Despite desperate pleas, his father was not allowed to see him or send him any food or clothes. He knew nothing of news from his village or what went on there. He was alone among hostile strangers, confined to the house and compelled to scrub the floors, sweep the rugs, polish the furniture, and weed the garden. If he slackened his pace of work even for a moment, he was beaten mercilessly. One night he tried to escape but Mustafa Effendi’s fierce watch-dog sprang upon him and barked. He was badly beaten and had the landowner not come that moment to his rescue and driven the animal away, he would have been torn to pieces. When the Effendi threatened to put chains on him at night, the eleven-year-old boy was terrified into submission.

Ahmad Khalil liked the occasions when Mustafa Effendi invited British officials to the house. With envious eyes he watched the men help themselves to the fruit, cheese, olives, hard-boiled stuffed eggs, roast chicken, rice and slices of broiled lamb, heaped high on trays for the guests, impatiently waiting for them to finish. If they left anything, he would eat well.

Whenever somewhat relieved from the pangs of hunger, Ahmad Khalil tried to overhear the conversation in the drawing-room between the Effendi and his British friends who held out an Arabic newspaper with such large bold headlines, he could easily read it over their shoulders. Germany had surrendered and Hitler had committed suicide. The second Great European War had come to an end but although Ahmad Khali knew this was a very important event, he felt no excitement or joy, for it all seemed very remote to him and did not affect him or change his life in any way. He overheard that the terrorists were creating more violence and atrocities every day and the Government was powerless to restrain them. Neither were they able to find a solution which satisfied either the Arabs or the Jews. If the situation deteriorated further, England would end the mandate, withdraw her troops and leave Palestine’s Arab and Jewish inhabitants to fight it out for themselves.

In the darkness, Ahmad Khalil felt safe only when he felt for his knife which he kept hidden under his clothes. If the Effendi dare molest him again, he knew how to defend himself. Suddenly he felt a solemn presence hovering over him. He thought of Rashid and then of his little brother. He promised Allah that if he could only be released and allowed to return home, he would never tease Khalifa or say mean things to him again. Through the mist of his imagination, he could see the fields. It was time to plough the land. Soon tender green shoots would sprout from the warm moist earth. When he was scarcely old enough to walk, his mother had taken him to the fields pointing to every kind of plant, telling him their names and making him identify them over and over again until she was certain he would not forget.

Fighting to keep back the tears, he crept quietly into the empty kitchen. He turned on the tap and carefully washed his face, hands, arms and feet. And after he finished his Salat, he knew that he was not alone. He might forget Allah but Allah never forgot him.

Chapter XII

One morning, Mustafa Effendi surprised Ahmad Khalil by calling him and telling him he would not work in the house today. The boy trembled with excitement and thought that he was being released, but it turned out that he wanted Ahmad Khalil to run an errand for him.

Once Ahmad Khalil reached the main street of the town, it seemed Gaza was not like Cairo. It was not the kind of city which his father never wearied of glorifying and embellishing in his ecstatic reveries of the modern life he wanted him to lead. The Gaza he found was little more than an overgrown village with the addition of the shops in the bazaar, the market-place—small, poor, filled with dust and squalor. There were few trucks or automobiles to be seen. Most of the traffic on the narrow unpaved roads were underfed but sturdy little donkeys overburdened with gasoline tins and often carrying riders three times their weight. But after the oppressive confinement indoors for nearly a year, it was a great treat to be out under the open sky in the fresh air away from the torture of constant surveillance and the threat of beating and he revelled in the freedom of the bustling street.

Finally, he stopped and timidly peered inside a tiny shop. In the dark corner sat the merchant, IssaBarakat, bareheaded, and shirt-sleeved, on a low stool, contentedly puffing his water-pipe and listening to the shrill music from Cairo which blared from his little radio. Suddenly he glanced up at Ahmad Khalil with heavy watery eyes.

“I want Turkish tobacco for the water pipe and fifty small cakes with honey and raisins.” Laboriously the boy untied the knotted rag and placed the silver and copper coins into the brown palm of the merchant’s hand.

“Too little!” growled the merchant. “And how much tobacco do you want?”

“Enough for six waterpipes all afternoon,” responded Ahmad Khalil. Not clever at bargaining, he cried out in despair, “But this is all the money I have!”

“Here, take the sweet cakes and tobacco,” he said gently. “But don’t go yet. You have come a long way.” He pulled out another stool. “Sit down,” he entreated, “and rest for a while.”

Lifting an elaborate coffee pot with a long pout, he poured Ahmad Khalil a cup of the potent hot drink. When he sat down, the rickety stool creaked beneath the weight of his corpulent body. “Now tell me, my child, who are you?”

“I am the son of Malak Wahab……”

“Malak Wahab?” exclaimed the merchant. “Your father and I were such good friends we felt almost as close to each other as brothers. At that time, my house was next door to Mustafa Effendi’s. We used to play together as children. How can I ever forget the long hours, Malak Wahab would sit here with me bargaining with the customers and reciting poetry aloud to me after which I would compose extemporaneous verses of my own for I always loved to compose poetry. When the Christmas season arrived, he would go with me through the bazaar while I bought gifts for my brothers, sisters and cousins. I would have so much liked to take him with me to Bethlehem. We make the pilgrimage every year…”

“Are you a Haji?” asked Ahmad Khalil curiously. “Have you ever been to Mecca or Medina?”

“No, my child! I can never go to Mecca or Medina because only Muslims are allowed there. You see, I am a Christian, but your father recited some of the Qur’an to me and I know that you too, revere Jesus Christ and his mother… I have travelled all over Palestine and visited all the holy places in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Ramallah, Hebron, al-Khalil and Nablus with their worn reddish stone houses warmed by the sun among the fruit orchards and olive groves, the grapes and the pomegranates—everything so quiet and peaceful. I love my religion and I love every part of the country because Jesus, the Prophets and Patriarchs lived here and made it a sacred and holy land. You can feel this even today and that is why I never would want to live anywhere else…”

“Have you ever seen my village?” asked Ahmad Khalil. “It is not far from here.”

“No, but I will now tell what happened before that. Mustafa and your father were both tutored privately and received a fine education. Mustafa’s father, Fu’ad Effendi intended to send both boys to England for advanced studies but was compelled to keep putting this off because of the First Great European War. At last, after the war was over, they took a rigorous examination but before they could know the results, the father, Fu’ad Effendi, fell sick during the terrible epidemic of influenza. Just after he died, Malak Wahab was accepted as a student by Oxford University, but Mustafa’s application was rejected. Mustafa hated your father so bitterly after that humiliation that he could no longer endure the sight of him, sent him and his brother away and made them work for him among the fellaheen of Iraq al-Manshiya. I always knew that he was a servant in the family but I never suspected that he was a slave. I was so shocked, I did not know what to do. If only I could have spared him the suffering he has had to endure, I would have gladly taken his place…”

Ahmad Khalil stood up, insisting he was getting late and left.

Clutching the package tightly under his arms and darting through the crowds, Ahmad Khalil ran as fast as he would down the street for he knew if he were late, Mustafa Effendi would be furious and beat him severely. Later, extremely tired, he stopped and leaned against the stone wall to catch his breath.

He sees a woman, frail, emaciated, bent with age, clad in rags insufficient to cover her, struggling to carry to market a load of onions in a burlap sack. The burden was too heavy for her. She stumbled and fell, unnoticed and ignored by the crowds of passers-by. He went to her, helped her to her feet and led her to the quiet courtyard of the nearest mosque so that she might rest and recover. He reached for the last copper coins Mustafa Effendi had given him, stopped a sherbet vendor and let her take her fill of the cool, refreshing drink. Hastily he untied his package and dropped into her withered hands three of the honey cakes and then hurried away.

___________

(To be completed)