Chapter Two – Forbidden Love

Today, Adnan Bey, after leaving the yellow mansion, had leapt into his mahogany boat with a great lightness in his heart. This application, which had wearied him with unresolvable doubts for months, had finally been made, the weight that crushed his heart like a boulder had finally lifted from his bosom; but, finding himself alone in his boat, he felt a slight palpitation amid this lightness. Today, unusually, here he was alone in the boat, Nihal and Bülent were not accompanying their father; nevertheless, in their empty spaces quivered the shadows of two innocent, surprised faces, two little, two shy, uncertain children’s voices were saying, ‘papa, where are you coming from? What did you do?’

Yes, what had he done? Now, watching the distant hills, their verdure smiling in the last glow of evening, he asked himself the same question. Then, the doubts and battles that had continued for months before he resolved on this application, woke again within him in a single minute; mentally, he drew a history of this struggle, a summary of all the details of that war. At this minute, more than at any other, he felt a need to show himself justified against his conscience. Then, once again, his conscience stifling under the onslaught of all the reasons and proofs prepared to ensure he reached his goal, he heard that uproar of attack drowning out the small protesting voice rising in answer to these thousand reasons and proofs, overpowering his own voice.

Yes, how much longer could he continue like this? For the last four years, he had dedicated his life to his children, and, in order to keep their tiny little souls, as far as possible, unaware of the disappearance of their mother, he had become a mother to his children; but now he no longer saw any sense in continuing with this sacrifice. Bülent was leaving for school, after all, and Nihal would be a bride in a few years. His children’s ties would slowly unravel from him, and finally the chasm that opened between all children and their fathers would open between them too, and would leave an even larger hole in proportion to the current intimacy of their bonds. Then, alone by this rift, his abandoned heart unable to warm itself with the charitable smiles bestowed by his children on their occasional visits to console his loneliness, all the snowflakes of that solitude would cover the barren sacrifices of his life with a thick pall, and yes, he would be utterly desolate.

After all, wasn’t his whole past life made up entirely of self-sacrifice? To find a weapon of supremacy over his doubts, he was abjuring all the memories of poetry and love of his marriage, desperate to line the cradle of this second planned attachment, he was pulling and tearing the flowers from the grave of his dead love.

He had lived a life of comparative innocence until his thirtieth year; his greatest love affair was his marriage. Now in reminiscing, the memory of his sixteen years of marriage stretched out in the shape of a long, naked piece of desert, deprived of the cheer of even one weak daisy. These sixteen years had left memories composed only of his wife’s endless, interminable maladies. He had tried for years to save the mother of his children, who for years had battled illnesses; finally, the expected conclusion had rendered his efforts useless, and left his children thus motherless. Those time-consuming labours were now calling, with voices that awaited their reward, among his memories. What had once been performed as a duty, was now decreed a right. But it was not possible to silence the palpitation in his heart, and he couldn’t decide how he would render these reasonings acceptable to Nihal and Bülent’s thoughts. He wished that it would be possible for these arguments, which cleared him in his own conscience, to earn the forgiveness of his children.

Suddenly he took his eyes off the far hills. They were nearing Kalender; he thought he might chance upon them, upon Bihter. With a slight bump on the rudder he moved closer; there, from afar he had seen the white boat; with another slight bump he once more drew a small curve. The two boats had passed each other with barely enough room to avoid collision.

‘Now, in ten minutes they will have the news,’ Adnan Bey was saying to himself. He was sure Bihter would accept him, he had already read this plainly in the young girl’s eyes, had even noticed in her gaze something like a complaint that he delayed his application.

To himself, like a refrain, ‘yes’ he was saying, ‘now in ten minutes…’ when suddenly he remembered Nihal and Bülent. When he returned home, he too had a job to do. Today, he wanted to prepare the children, and was in haste to quiet the palpitations that would hinder his happiness from being complete.

While the mahogany boat sped onward, slicing through the waves as if it now had nothing more to do, these palpitations were increasing. He had still found no easy way, and had not been able to settle on any one of the solutions that occurred to him. At intervals he thought of Şakire Hanım – his wife’s bridal halayık, [1] who since Nihal’s birth had been made a servant, and had since remained in the house as one of the family – and at other times he said to himself, ‘no, it would be better to make the governess an intermediary.’ When the boat drew up to the quay and little Abyssinian Beşir, who had been waiting in front of the door, ran up, Adnan Bey asked at once, ‘haven’t the children come?’

When he learned that they had not, he felt relieved; he wanted to see them now, and at the same time was trying to delay the time of meeting. Today, in order to be alone, he had sent the children with their governess to the Bebek Gardens.

He undressed and put on the thin serge trousers he wore in the house, and after slipping into his white satin shirt, he looked for his black alpaca jacket. With angry hands he pulled open the door of the mirrored wardrobe; he looked at the suit hanger that stood in one corner of the room; he couldn’t find his jacket. He rang the bell and vented his anger on Nesrin.

‘Everything is a mess,’ he was saying, ‘no one attends to my needs, here I’ve been searching for my black jacket for an hour.’

The sleeve of the black jacket was hanging over the edge of the chair. Adnan Bey had thrown over it the clothes he later took out. Nesrin stepped forward and pulled the jacket out from under the clothes.

‘Do you see?’ she was saying. ‘You left it on the chair. You never put anything back in its place…’

For a while now, she had fallen into the habit of complaining that her service counted for nought, that nothing was looked after, that in a house without a mistress it was impossible, however much care one took, to direct the servants.

As she was leaving, Nesrin asked, ‘haven’t the children come?’

He went downstairs and for a while looked out of the hall window at the sea; now he was growing impatient. Then he went into his room, his study; he wanted to be busy with something. His chief interest was wood engraving. He spent all of his free time carving letter openers, inkwells, matchboxes, and paperweights [2] with raised images. For the last few days he had been trying to work a little plate with Nihal’s profile in its centre. He wanted to take this in his hand, wanted to work; he couldn’t work. He rang the bell again. Nesrin came in once more.

‘Haven’t Nihal and Bülent arrived?’

This time Nesrin smiled as she answered. ‘They haven’t, sir, but they will be here any minute now.’

When the girl had gone out, Adnan Bey felt a clear fear in his heart. Yes, they would be here any minute, and then, what would he do then?

He was thinking chiefly of Nihal. Among the reasons he had invented to get the better of his doubts, there was a fear that he had never been successful in silencing, a fear that was born of considering the effects that this situation would have on Nihal. He was certain that a girl so gentle and delicate, who resembled a flower grown in water, could not remain indifferent to another body, another heart, creating an obstruction between herself and her father. She felt keenly, for the pains of that mourning that left her motherless when she was still quite a child, that she had not felt completely then, she later felt one by one when she began to grow and think, and these had drawn on her face the ever-deepening melancholy of the persecuted orphan. She had a smiling way of looking at her father that seemed to hide, far behind her eyes, far behind that smile, a lament for the mother she had not been given time to love, whose face could not even be recalled. Now they would take this father, this second mother, a little from her hands. With what a painful wound would her poor heart tear itself from this second separation! When he thought of this, a vein would throb painfully in his heart for Nihal; but in his eyes this was now judged a hurt that was unavoidable, and even one that should be allowed to develop.

As Adnan Bey sat back in the roan armchair next to his work desk, stretching out his legs, diving into the depths of the semi-darkness under the room’s long, brown curtains, his whole friendship with Nihal came alive before his eyes in fragmentary tableaux. He was seeing, first of all, the child’s petulance when she first lost her mother, those crying fits that lasted for hours, for which a thousand unconvincing excuses were invented. In those days no one but her father could quiet her. And she also had a nervous disorder that at irregular intervals crushed and harrowed her tiny, frail body in bouts that lasted for hours. He thought of the anguished nights he had spent during that mourning period, next to the little bed in those hours of nervous attacks. Now he remembered: one night, as he slept, he had heard the child, after who knew what sort of dream, say, ‘father! Father!…’ in a fearful voice, trying to wake him. He had risen from his bed and gone to her side and asked, ‘what do you want, my child?’ Then, seeing her father next to her, she had smiled in relief and had spoken for the first time since her mother’s death.

‘Will she come tomorrow?’

She used to speak this way of her mother, without mentioning her by name, or indicating who she meant.

‘No, my child!…’

While she had always made do with this answer, this night she had pursued the subject that had probably begun with a dream.

‘Has she gone very far? Is it difficult to come back from there, papa?’

He had not answered, but had affirmed both questions with a nod. With that stubbornness peculiar to children she insisted on desiring an answer.

‘If that is the case, we can go there, can’t we? Don’t you see she isn’t coming, not ever, not even for a day…’ [3]

Then, seeing that her father remained silent, she had suddenly taken her small, naked arms out of the blanket, pulled his head to her, stuck her mouth to his ear, and under the lamp’s trembling and darkling light, as if she were keeping a secret, with a voice like that of a bird’s breath had said, ‘or is she dead?’ This truth was escaping her lips for the first time. Afterwards, extending a little finger and wiping away each shy teardrop trickling from her father’s eyes, she had added, ‘but don’t you die, father dear, you won’t die, will you?’

He had calmed the child, had somewhat forcibly laid her back in her bed, and had pulled the covers over her, but unable to leave her side, he had waited silently for hours for her to fall asleep. The child had breathed sighingly all that night.

At nights he couldn’t part from her for a while, but lay by her side. Even now, Nihal and Bülent slept in a side room whose communicating door was always ajar; further on was the room of their governess – the elderly Mlle de Courton. Solitude had bound this father and daughter with such strong ties that they could only take pleasure living in each other’s sphere; the governess was more a friend to Bülent than to Nihal. Nights, Nihal waits for Bülent to sleep, then leaving with the woman, finds a strange zest in being alone with her father. Apparently, in the seemingly unfillable void of her life, spending time thus in solitude with her father won her an intimacy that could crowd all of the desolate corners of her heart with happiness.

As he viewed the particulars of this life of companionship, he was looking around at his room, at the silent witnesses of the quiet hours spent with his daughter. There, covering one wall of the study from side to side was the library with its high, wide doors of carved walnut and whole-pane glass, full of large, grave volumes. Over there, opposite the door and to one side, the wall was covered with a rich collection of calligraphy, collected once with interest; a jumble, but arranged with taste so that it was pleasing to the eye. Then, on the other wall, the relics of his latest hobby: little shelves, picture frames, handkerchief boxes, fans threaded through with ribbon to hold them together, all of engraved wood, and right in the middle an old man’s head carved in relief on a root. Today, these things seemed to look at him with a strange gaze.

He was watching the carvings on the wall a long, long while. These bits and pieces were the products of all those hours full of loving and compassionate conversation spent beside Nihal, there, under the lamp with the green shade.

Adnan Bey stretched out his hand, picked up the unfinished portrait of Nihal. This had not yet been completed, neither the waves of her hair that made a silken frame around her face, nor the unhealthy gauntness of her frail countenance. But he could clearly see, among those vague lines, the ailing face that gave him the urge to cry whenever he beheld it.

Ah! Nihal’s sorrowful, jaundiced face that seemed to complain of being alive; and in its yellow  hue the deceptive joy of a fugitive pink, trembling with the delicacy of a rose that will fade at once. Those eyes that tried to fool you with their smile when she was ill, that tried to lull those around her into contentment, that laughed while deep within, her sickening soul wept. He saw the meaning behind all of these. He remembered at that time, his daughter’s illnesses, the nervous fits, the headaches that began all the way at the nape of her neck and continued for weeks…

Suddenly, he thought he saw Nihal’s sad, weeping face looking at him. For a minute he wished to have this day erased from his life. Yes, today should be erased, today, like all other days, should be spent in unsuccessful battles; he ought not to be defeated. But now the application looked like a step that could not be retracted; he could find no opportunity in his heart to change or to yield the distance he had covered. Behind that ill visage was another, one with dark hair, long lashes, and large, sleepy eyes, full of poetry and youth, that smiled at him maddeningly.

Nesrin appeared at the door to give the news.

‘They’ve arrived, sir!…’

From behind Nesrin came Nihal’s voice.

‘Father,’ she was saying, ‘did you arrive before us?’

She ran in. Her ungirdled, light blue dress made her slender body look tall for its age, and her gaunt face was reminiscent of the thin aspect of a dainty kid. She grasped her father’s hands in hers, and standing up on the tips of her half-boots, lifted her forehead to his lips.

‘You would get us out of the way and run away, would you,’ she was saying. ‘And now, where did you go? Why did you not want to tell us that you were going out? We just had the news from Beşir. Oh! My little, itty bitty Beşir tells me all the news…’

Her father listened smiling as she spoke, adding, in that restless, tireless, fidgety manner peculiar to children, a movement to every word that left her lips; now touching something on the table, now slapping her skirts.

‘If you only knew how much fun we had. Mademoiselle was at her strangest today. She was telling Bülent the story of a beggar whom she knew when she herself was a child. So strange! So strange!… This was an old man who had a large piece of bread…’

As Nihal narrated, she put her hands together – hands so thin that one might think the sun could shine right through them – and lifting them to her mouth pretended to eat a huge piece of bread with her colourless lips.

‘Like this! You must see Mademoiselle do it… You know, Bülent? When he was laughing with that bell-like laugh of his, everyone in the garden was looking at us. Let us tell Mademoiselle to do it for you at the dinner table, father dear…’

Now she was kneeling on the carpet, leaning on her father’s knees, and relating the sights she had seen in the Bebek Gardens down to the smallest detail, like a capricious butterfly flitting here and there. Then suddenly, between her chatter she asked with a serious face, ‘where did you go, now tell me, where did you go secretly from us?’

Without thinking he said, ‘nowhere’. But as soon as this answer, this lie, was out of his lips, he flushed with an uncontrollable shame, and felt the need to explain.

‘To Kalender!…’

With the strange ability of sensitive children, she immediately discovered this lie.

‘No, father dear, there, there you’re reddening. So you want to keep something from us.’

She stood up, and stood looking sidelong at her father with an appearance of mock-sullenness, bending her head, and pouting her lips. Now, in this moment, without any preparation, without any attempt to hold back, before this innocent child, as if to purify his conscience in the presence of this sublime creature, he felt an ineluctable need to tell all, to throw at the feet of this poor, weak girl the truth that lay like a heavy rock on his breast. He reached out his hand and grasped Nihal’s wrist; he pulled her towards him, this fragile child, who was like a delicate branch, out of whom no one could suspect that one day would emerge the body of a woman. He twined his fingers in the hair that resembled a silken cloud on her little head. A second ago she had been happily twittering away, but now, with the acuteness of her nerves, like a bird who feels that a wintry breath will blow through the peace of her nest, she was waiting with a worried look on her face. At that moment he couldn’t help himself. He asked, ‘Nihal! You love me, don’t you? You love me quite, quite a lot, don’t you?’

With a child’s guile she didn’t want to answer before she knew the meaning at the heart of this question.

Her father continued: ‘Nihal, I’m thinking of something for you.’ As he was telling this lie, a vice was squeezing his heart. ‘But now promise me, swear that you won’t object, that you will accept. Because you love me, yes, because you love me…’

He couldn’t conclude. He had noticed something in his voice that made his body shiver with fear. Like a culpable coward unable to find the strength to confess to a murder, he remained silent before this child. Nihal had gently removed her hand; she took a step back from her father, and looked at him, silent, yellow, the hesitant breath of a question trembling on her lips. She didn’t voice this question. Why? It cannot be known. Without assuming anything, without working to discover any significance in her father’s words, she had felt at once that in this minute this man, whom she loved more than anything else in the world, this father, for the first time wished to deceive her, not with the usual little lie told for no reason, but with a fantastic lie that could break her life right there and then.

Now the room was dark. They saw each other through a shadow. Between them seemed to blow the cold wind that froze the nerves at night. Father and daughter, without saying a word, without moving, were looking at each other with a feeling of anxious evasion. This discussion that once begun must absolutely be completed, had stopped with a snap, and was cut short. But he had to quit this silence. Adnan Bey was now criticising himself; yes, today, right away, before anything was done, before even an answer was received, why had he thought it necessary to speak?

Suddenly they heard Bülent running in the hallway, with his bell-like laugh. Someone was chasing him. Bülent ran; now his laughter and the noise of his little feet came rolling to the edge of a disaster, now it was lost in the far corners of the hall. In order to say something, Adnan Bey spoke.

‘I think Behlül is chasing Bülent again.’

‘I think so,’ said Nihal. ‘I will tell him to stop. The child is tired, we walked all day…’

Nihal was doubtless looking for a reason to escape. But this conversation could not be left there. Adnan Bey, finding it worse to halt at that point, decided in that moment to tell, if not Nihal, then someone else.

‘Nihal,’ he said, ‘will you tell your governess I want to see her?’

Nihal went out lightly, erased like a white shadow in the darkness. The noise in the hall was continuing. Bülent, his tired breathing no longer sufficient for laughter, would hide in the corners, behind chairs, and wait excitedly for his pursuer’s to make a move. When the move came, with a scream he once again began touring the hall.

As soon as she came out, Nihal called to Bülent in a serious voice, ‘Bülent!… Enough, you’re going to get sweaty again. It’s the fault of those who provoke you like this!…’

This was an open protest against Behlül. Nihal was not looking at Behlül’s face. They – these two cousins – were two enemies in this house. Again for the past three days Nihal, for no real cause, hadn’t been speaking to Behlül after a huge fight caused by his objection to the governess’s hat.

When Behlül saw her he stopped. He was casting her a mocking, sidelong glance, sticking his tongue out from between his teeth to moisten his thin, yellow moustache. As Nihal caught Bülent by the hand and was taking him upstairs, Behlül, scratching his nose, shouted after her,  ‘give Mlle de Courton my regards.’ Drawing out the syllables, he added, ‘and to the beautiful flowers of her delightful hat.’

Nihal made no reply. While normally such a taunt would have been enough to quarrel for hours, this time she contented herself with a delicate sneer that was doubtless an expression of her inner response. She was running up the stairs, still holding Bülent’s wrist to keep him from getting loose. Bülent, his blood now fresh afire and impossible to restrain, was jumping in his sister’s hand, and hopping up the steps. When he got up to the hallway upstairs he freed his wrist and all at once began to run around with the joy of a freed pony. Nesrin was lighting one or two candles on the chandelier; she had stood on a chair in order to reach.

‘Careful, paşam, [4] if you bump into me I’ll fall,’ she was saying.

Bülent wasn’t replying to her. He had seen Beşir, who had followed them silently upstairs, and ran to him, and with his little arms that only just reached the boy’s waist, hugged the body of the elegant, slender Abyssinian, striking for the fresh, fourteen-year-old gracefulness more suited to a girl. He begged, looking up at Beşir with the little squinty eyes that Peyker so liked, waiting for an assenting answer in that thin, gentle face that gave one the fancy to kiss it.

‘Come on,’ he was saying, ‘let’s get in the carriage again. Ah, you know, how we ran around the other day!… Come on, my dear Beşir, come on!…’

He was still begging and trying to climb him, to rise up enough to cover this face – that looked like relenting – with kisses. Beşir, his eyes now fixed on the glass covers of the chandelier that Nesrin had just lighted, now on Nihal – who, in her mind’s confusion, was searching for the reason she had come upstairs – awaited an order or a small sign from her.

He had a submissive way of looking Nihal with eyes that were happy to obey, to be commanded, to have his life taken in hand, as if expecting permission to breathe, that spread this poor creature’s soul under the young girl’s feet.

Suddenly Nihal remembered, and said to herself, ‘mademoiselle!…’

Nesrin, candlelighter in hand,  had now finished her work upstairs, but delayed going down. To Bülent, who had dragged the vacated chair in front of Beşir, she was saying, ‘Oh, paşam, I need that chair. I still have to light the chandelier downstairs’, but in fact she was grinning in anticipation of watching the carriage game. Nihal passed on – through a door in the hall there was a passageway that led to the bedrooms. She knocked on the third door.

After any outing, the governess, having changed the children’s clothes, would shut herself in her room in order to undress, wash, and redress, and would stay there for hours. During this time the old girl’s private room was closed to the children, and to everyone else.

Nihal called, ‘mademoiselle! Will you go to my father? He wants to see you…’ Then, without hearing her reply, she escaped and came back out into the hall.

Now a carriage tour had begun, and the audience had grown: Nesrin was still holding the candlelighter and waiting for the chair to be vacated; Şakire Hanım’s daughter, Cemile – a child of just ten – was waiting with eager eyes to join the game; Şayeste – head of the halayık since Şakire Hanım’s marriage – had come upstairs to call Nesrin, but was watching Bülent’s romping and now and again throwing out the question, ‘girl, what are you standing here for? It’s pitch dark downstairs, what will the master say?’

Nihal sat down. Beşir, who had hesitated and paused in the game, seeing that she didn’t object, once more began to pull the chair with Bülent on it.

Occasionally Mlle de Courton would take the children down to Beyoğlu and would wander with them from shop to shop so that they might freely slake their thirst for buying a thousand things from here and there. During these trips what enraptured Bülent most was riding in the carriage. To be able to get away from the yalı life in which they were trapped summer and winter, and to travel in the carriage on these rare occasions was for him a holiday.

Now together with Beşir they were enjoying just such a carriage ride in Beyoğlu, stopping in front of the sofas to buy this or that from the shops.

‘Coachman,’ Bülent was saying, ‘now to Bon Marché! [5] Ah! Have we arrived? Yes, here we are! There is a sword in the shop window!… Look here, how much is this sword? Five lira?… No, too dear! Fifteen kuruş… But wrap it well? Is it ready? How long it is! It won’t fit in the carriage…’

Who knows how long this sword was that had grown in his imagination such that Bülent could not find a place to put the package he supposedly held in his hand. Then finally squeezing it into a corner of the carriage, with a breath to make sure, he would order the coachman again.

‘Now to the confectioner’s, Löbon!… You know, coachman, Löbon, the confectioners!…’ [6]

The carriage moved. Cemile could no longer resist, but was interfering in the game with the excuse of pushing the chair from behind. Nesrin, saying, “honestly, paşam, you’ve kept me from my work!’ had given up the chair and gone downstairs. Şayeste was calling from the other side, ‘Beşir, don’t run too fast!… The child will fall.’

Nihal was sitting still and silent, her nerves loosened, and was listening to Bülent’s chatter with a far-away look in her eyes. Bülent was now saying to the confectioner, ‘no, no! You misunderstood. Not that, the other basket, don’t you see?’ There, it has a sachet on top, and a bird among the ribbons… I’m going to take that to my older brother. You know who I mean? Behlül Bey… You know he always brings me chocolates… Did you put fondant inside? And put in ten apricots… There!… Careful, don’t upset it…’

He would then make as if to take the basket from the confectioner’s hand with great care, and say, ‘it can stay here, on my lap.’ After which he would once again order the  coachman.

‘The Bridge! To the Bridge!…[7] There is nothing more left to buy… Quick, or we won’t make the ferry, run, run… If we’re late what will we say to my father?…’

From the other side of the room Şayeste was still shouting, ‘now you’re going to run into the chest of drawers. Oh you!… Listening to what the child says.’

Bülent was now imitating Mlle de Courton, holding his head with two hands and saying, with the old girl’s French, ‘oh! Oh my god! One would think we were rolling around in a tempest!’ Then suddenly switching to Turkish, but translating to Mlle de Courton’s Turkish, he was calling to the coachman: ‘cochmen, ’alt! ’alt!’

Bülent was imitating the old governess’s gestures, her demeanour, her haste so beautifully that a smile was appearing on Nihal’s thin lips. Suddenly she heard Mlle de Courton’s voice at her side.

‘Nihal! You knocked on my door, did you not?’

She started and stood for a second unable to answer, as if she had been abruptly woken from a deep dream. But remembering, and with the fearful premonition of an unknown affliction in her heart, she gave the news.

‘I had told you to go down to my father, he wishes to see you…’

She was pausing as if she wanted to add something, but being unable to find what to add, she tore her eyes from Mlle de Courton’s face and sat down.

As the old girl went down, she once again sat down to watch Bülent. Bülent had forgotten that he had ordered the coachman to the Bridge, for they were now going down Taksim Street.

‘Ah, let us get off here,’ he was saying. ‘We can go around the garden.’

Nihal’s eyes were still on Bülent’s carriage, but she no longer heard what her brother was saying; it was as if a black cloud had been pulled to pieces in her mind, and drowned everything in night.

Tonight they were all silent at the dinner table, except for Behlül. Bülent was tired. He had grown sleepy earlier than usual and was sulking. Behlül was perhaps relating a strange story… As he spoke, he laughed, and his laughter reached even to Beşir, standing behind Nihal.

Nihal wasn’t looking at his face. At one point she made an effort to lift her eyes; she saw her father, smiling so as to appear to be listening to Behlül, but instead regarding her with a strange expression that seemed to pour forth his compassion. This look troubled her; she turned her eyes but could still feel its weight.

‘My child! Why aren’t you eating your meat this evening?’

This was a refrain that was repeated at every mealtime. She ate meat perforce. For Adnan Bey this was a perpetual worry.

She answered, choking, ‘I’m eating, father dear!…’

The morsel was growing in her mouth and it was impossible for her to find the strength to swallow it. She lifted her eyes and looked at Mlle de Courton seated opposite her. The old girl was watching her absently with such a sorrowful look that one might think she was lamenting a disaster. All at once, Nihal felt an undefinable frailty, a deep, oppressive sadness born from being the focus of pitying looks from either side, from her father and from this old girl. Those looks that seemed to weep for her, these two gazes, seemed to be the result of her father’s conference with the governess; in them she had read the clear evidence of the catastrophe whose nature she had not been able to discover. She still could not swallow her morsel. Suddenly, something got stuck in her throat, and she collapsed there on the table and with tears that gushed out before she found an opportunity to control them, and with violent hiccups, she sobbed…

The next day, in the morning, she went into her father’s study.

‘Father!…’ she said, ‘will you work on my portrait today?’ Then, not waiting for a reply to this question, which was only an excuse to enter the room, she ran, threw her arms around her father’s neck, and laid her head on his shoulder.

‘Father!…’ she said. ‘You will love me, you will love me just the way you do now, won’t you?’

Her father kissed the soft hair that brushed his lips and murmured, ‘of course!…’

Nihal stopped for a second, as if trying to find the strength to say what she was going to say. Then, without lifting her head from her father’s shoulder, as if it were a point of support whose light she was afraid to lose, ‘if that is so, there’s no harm. Let her come!’ she said.

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[1] – A halayık was a female slave.
[2] – I have interpreted ‘kağıt baskıları’ as paperweights.
[3] – Nihal uses the formal, plural ‘you’ (‘siz’) in addressing her father, as was common until recently.
[4] – A paşa was a high-ranking civil servant or army officer in the Ottoman Empire. Nesrin uses the term as a gently-mocking endearment, rather like ‘your lordship’.
[5] – A large shop on Istiklal founded by the Bartoli brothers.
[6] – A sweet shop near the Tunnel on Istiklal.
[7] – The Galata Bridge, whence ferries still depart.

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Roses, book & quill
Roses, book & quill
Lady Writer

I write about literature, language, love, and living off your pen. Also, fortifying fiction, personal amelioration, and tea.

Roses, book & quill
Roses, book & quill
Learn from a master
Roses, book & quill


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