The Beduins' Gazelleby Frances Temple
But while Atiyah is studying at the great university in Fez, Halima is lost in a sandstorm. Rescued by an enemy tribe, she is told that she must marry their
When she and he were only babies, they were pledged in marriage. Now Atiyah has been sent away-a political pawn in a war between the Beduin tribes in the year 1302. He vows to return to her as soon as he can.
But while Atiyah is studying at the great university in Fez, Halima is lost in a sandstorm. Rescued by an enemy tribe, she is told that she must marry their powerful sheikh and live in his harem-never to see her people again. Halima does what she can to resist, but she has no choice. In three moons' time she will become the youngest wife of the cruel and greedy Raisulu-unless Atiyah can find her. But where in the vast sea of desert can he begin his search for his beloved?
Read an Excerpt
Halima sat with her chin resting on her knees, close enough to touch her kinspeople, yet with her mind far away. The singsong of the storyteller's voice lulled her. The lanterns threw a soft glow on the dark wall of the tent, on the red and brown embroidered cushions, on the familiar faces of the listening women and children. Halima played with her ankle bangles, her mind drifting with the story.
"There was, there was not, in the oldness of time..."
The wind sighed outside the tent, blowing the desert sand across the infinite spaces of the great sand sea, lifting it in swirls, buffeting the tent sides. Inside, Halima smiled in the shadows, resting her forehead on her knees.
Through every long day, Halima tried not to dream. People in the camp said that only a fool or a donkey let their steps be guided by love. Every Khalidi woman knew it was shameful to show what was in your heart, even toward the boy to whom you were promised from birth, your own cousin. "Girls who dream lose their strength, forget how to cook, drop their water jars," her mother, Miriam, had warned her just this morning, on the way to the well.
And it was true, of course.
But that was in daytime.
Story time was different. No one could see her 'face or read her heart. She could think whatever she wanted. Enfolded in darkness, Halima allowed herself glimpses of her cousin in her mind's eyethe arch of an eyebrow; the quick, clear glance as he asked a question; the sound of his laugh. As the stories of djinns and princesses loosed the thoughts of the women and children from their everyday worries, Halima dreamed of hercousin Atiyah, to whom she was promised, whose name meant the Gift of God.
Yawning, she pulled a big pillow to her and curled around it, its embroidery rough against her face. The pillow smelled like sheep and smoke. Halima sighed and closed her eyes, listening to the wind.
She woke with a jolt' The lantern was out, the storyteller gone. A hand was gripping her ankle, pulling hard.
"Halima, wake up. Cousin! I need to tell you something!"
Atiyah, here?! Anger swept Halima; her hair rose on her scalp like a jackal's. It was fine and wonderful to daydream of Atiyah in the privacy of the women's tent, in the hour set apart for stories. It made her furious to have him here now, shaking her foot in the dark. By what right was he so near her? Had he no respect?
"Go!" She pushed at him. He caught her hand, but she jerked it away. She was a Khalidi girl; if she and Atiyah were found alone together before marriage, she would be put to death, and rightly so, to protect the honor of the tribe. Halima imagined the cutlass's slice; the skin on her neck tingled. She kicked Atiyah, hard. "Go away!" she whispered. "Out!"
Atiyah rolled under the tent side, then stuck his head back into the tent and whispered, "Come on! Essafeh won't kill you, light of his heart, light of his eyes....
Halima shook her head in the dark and rubbed her bruised ankle. Atiyah understood nothing. If her father, Essafeh, caught her, he would have to kill her because he loved her. The rules that keep the tribe honorable are more important than a father's affection. As any fool should know.
Halima sat, her hands around her neck. "Hamdillah . . . " she murmured, "the merciful, the compassionate..."
Then suddenly curiosity got the better of her, and she wriggled after her cousin. She came out beside him, tangled in her robe, where the side of the black felt tent sheltered them from the wind.
"Majnun, " she called him. "Madman! Why?"
Atiyah's hands flew up in the dark, palms out, to fend off her anger. "Forgive me, Cousin! There was no other way. You may never see me again, not for years!" There was a flash of teeth.
Was Atiyah smiling?
"If you speak truth, you are too happy, Cousin," said Halima, wanting to twist his arm behind his back, wishing they could still fight like children. "Tell more."
"I've come to say good-bye. I've been sent away banished!"
"After all these years, my parents have come to their senses. . . " Halima murmured between her teeth. She crossed her arms. "The reason, Atiyah? "
Atiyah glanced behind him. "Passing shepherds brought a rumor. There are wars in the north. The caliph wants men...."
"You are not a man yet." She stopped. He was, almost.
Atiyah took no notice. "They say our uncle Saladeen has left the city of Fez and is riding toward our tents."
"And so Essafeh banishes you?"
"For my own safety. Essafeh trusts no one from the city, not even his own brother. He doesn't want Saladeen to find me here. Essafeh told me, 'Go, Atiyah. Go! Raid our enemies the Shummari or hunt lizards in the desert. Stay away, at least until the moon has waxed and waned again, until my brother Saladeen has left our tents.'"
"Until the moon has waxed and waned . . . ," Hallma echoed. She could see Atiyah now in the faint starlight that filtered through the blowing dust. His head cloth was in his hand, his black hair clumped with sand. He turned so that they sat facing each other, both cross-legged, knees touching. Standing or sitting, they were of a height.
Meet the Author
Frances Temple grew up in Virginia, France, and Vietnam. About her third book she wrote, "The Ramsay Scallop is about our need for adventure and motion, for throwing in with strangers, trusting and listening. The story began to take form in northern Spain along pilgrim trails; was fed by histories, stories, letters, by the testimony of a fourteenthcentury shepherd, by the thoughts of today's pilgrims. Concerns echo across years-clean water, good talk, risks welcomed, the search for a peaceful heart. Traveling in Elenor's shoes, I found out how strongly the tradition of pilgrimage continues."Ms. Temple received many honors during her distinguished career. Her other critically acclaimed books for young people include: FranceTaste of Salt A Story of Modern Haiti, winner of the 1993 Jane Addams Children's Book Award; Grab hands and Run, cited by SchoolLibrary journal as one of the Best Books of 1993; and Tonight, by Sea another novel set in Haiti.
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