Chapter Five – Forbidden Love

‘You are too obstinate, Nihal!’ Mlle de Courton was saying. ‘You have been studying that étude of Cerni’s for an hour now. This is a new interest. In six years I have never seen you practice for an hour without pause. I will not allow you to tire yourself so much, do you understand?’

Nihal abruptly spun around on her stool.

‘You are strange, Mademoiselle,’ she said. ‘You were always telling me that piano could not be learned without practice. Just when I am eager to practice, this rule is brought forth.’

Since their return from the Island, Nihal had begun now and again to answer her governess with these extraordinary, unchecked blows of her anger. The old girl would react to these answers only with a look of reproach. Today she said, ‘Nihal, I beg you, let us be reasonable. Isn’t the goal to practice piano? To play the same étude without pause for an hour is nothing but uselessly wearying…’

Nihal objected. ‘Another contradiction… You were the one who always told me that fingers could not gain strength in any other way.’

‘If I knew you would be so set on disobeying me, I would have seen no reason to warn you,’ the old girl said, in her peevish manner.

Nihal was silent. She was looking straight ahead, then with a sidelong glance at her governess she said, ‘Mademoiselle! Do you no longer love me?… See, you don’t answer…’

She stood up from her stool and sat down next to Mlle de Courton on the couch. ‘Mademoiselle! When are we starting our lessons? Isn’t the hot weather over? Do you know how bored I am of idleness? Now I wish that we could read and read in our room from morning until evening. Read forever.’

Now in Nihal there had begun a fervour for staying apart in the house, looking for solitary corners, finding tasks that would keep her in her room for hours. This fervour held sway at times when her father was at home. After he left, Nihal would once again be the old fidgety child, would wander about the house, and in point of fact, would never leave Bihter’s side. Through some strange emotional circumstance, she had directed all of the bitterness of this marriage towards her father, and had not placed any coldness between herself and Bihter. Since that day she had been running away from her father, and her wretched soul was seeking to take revenge for the treason of that heart that had apparently betrayed her, by staying away from it.

She no longer went into her father’s room in the morning to get him up out of bed. These morning frolics were completely at an end. Once, Nihal would wake, and while Bülent was still sleeping, quietly slip her bare feet into her slippers, enter her father’s room, and generally find him in his bed. As he persisted in demurring to get up, Nihal would invent some mischief.

She was still a child. Not understanding her father’s myopia or being able to figure out the importance of wearing glasses, one day when he once again tarried in bed, she had told him: ‘it’s morning, look at the sun… Or can’t you see it? Shall I bring your glasses?’

That day she had spoken in all earnest. After that, this had become a joke that was repeated daily. Nihal would pick up the glasses, hold them to her father’s eyes, and say, ‘look, now do you see the sun?’ and Adnan Bey, who never tired of this joke, would jump out of bed with a chuckle. Then Nihal would begin with her little offices: she would hold her father’s towel, open the lid of his toothpaste, and scatter a fragrant rain on Adnan Bey’s hair – its whites lost in the brown – by pumping the ball of the lilac water bottle. All these things would be done in between endless jokes and laughter. It was one of their chief jests: Nihal had a special halayık name for her morning services: Pervin!… Nihal would purse her lips, try not to laugh, hold her head a little seriously, and become a little Pervin. She would run around in the person of Pervin, serve in the person of Pervin, and then, with the roar of a laughter, Nihal’s radiant face would appear from inside Pervin, and she would embrace him with her thin arms, and as if afraid of being stuck as Pervin forever, she would rush to find herself with a kiss. Sometimes he would be annoyed with Pervin, knit his brows and furiously scold her.

‘Pervin! Girl, didn’t I tell you? Why didn’t you wash this soap dish? What am I to do with you? Tell me, shall I pull your ears? Shall I pinch your lips?…’

Adnan Bey would play this game of fury so well that as Nihal listened, stunned and as if afraid, she would suddenly start, forget that this was a game and whether she felt compassion for the imagined Pervin or whether her frail spirit could not endure, even in a game, even in jest, to have her ears pulled or her lips pinched, or whether for some other reason, she would suddenly nestle up to her father and chuckle hesitantly in order to break the seriousness of the game. One day she had both laughed, and cried.

Now, now among these jokes, who knows how, there was a door whose key had been lost after it was locked. This door… It stood between them like a cold tombstone. It is possible she would have entirely forgiven him this marriage, if such a wall had not been built between herself and her father.

She had unclear ideas about marriage. In her reasoning, beyond the knowledge that husband and wife were a man and a woman who called each other ‘hanım!’ and ‘bey!’, all else would get so lost in clouds of confusion that she found it impossible to follow any inferences. For her, only one thing was important: while a door was closing between herself and her father, an elegant door decorated with blue satin and white tulle had opened between herself and a strange woman…

After that day, she had never entered those rooms again; but she could not forget the white shawl that Bülent had found. When she heard footsteps and giggles from beyond the door, she always imagined the white shawl. Ah, God, what is it? This shawl that so haunted the child’s mind, that intruded in her sleep?…

In particular, she could not bear to see the two of them together. The necessity of being with them at the table was an unavoidable torment. Those first days, Nihal had determined not to break her habit, to again fill the hours spent at the table with her usual chatter; but in the small talk she found, in the laughter she scattered between the small talk, and even in the silence of those who obligingly listened to her, in their smiles, she had noticed such a false tone, as if caused by pressing down on the wrong fret, that one day she had invented an unwarranted petulance and left the table. Since that day, she preferred a persistent silence at the table.

Adnan Bey noticed the signs of these sulks and from his point of view, it was not yet time to facilitate a peace with Nihal. He knew that as Nihal drew away from him, she would grow closer to Bihter. This was what he truly wanted.

Bihter and Nihal were two friends. When her father left, Nihal would escape that society that once belonged to her, from the juvenile society comprised of Bülent, Beşir and Cemile, and somewhat with that desire peculiar to girls between twelve and fourteen, of growing up, of being in the company of adults, she would come to Bihter’s side.

She had not yet found a way to address Bihter. She would not call her, ‘mother!’, she had decided with herself on this. And she could find no other name. When they were together, she would be greatly bothered by being unable to address her by this name. One day she was going to say something to her, it was her habit, when she began chattering to someone she would begin with a word of address. She could not find it, and because she could not find it, she forgot what she was going to say.

Bihter had noticed, and laughing, she said, ‘see, you couldn’t find a name to give me. Wait, let us make a pact: simply call me, Bihter, won’t that do? I would have just called you Nihal. Then all worry between us would be lifted.’

Nihal turned bright red. ‘Oh! Impossible….’

Bihter was insistent. She wanted to put a final end to Nihal’s agony over being unable to find her a name.

‘No, no, since it will please me. Say it, “Bihter!… Bihter!…”’

Nihal laughed. ‘Bihter,’ she said.

After that day they were informal, there was no longer anything to worry about between them, they were taking on the quality of two friends of one age. Bihter was adding to this companionship, with a small and imperceptible sense of protectiveness. One day she inspected all of Nihal’s dresses, linens and bits and pieces; she liked them all, as Nihal showed them one by one, and said with her head, ‘very well’.

When the inspection was over, she said, ‘Nihal! Do you know? The time is now coming to throw all of these away. I would like you to be, not a child, but a young girl. These short skirts… These are all very well until you’re twelve. But after twelve…’

The idea of finally becoming a young girl surprised Nihal by its pleasure. She looked at her governess’s face. The old girl was opposed to this. She was saying to Bihter, ‘but Madam, I think it is too early… In France, children this age would be out in the street trundling hoops. It is necessary to wait at least another two years to lengthen Nihal’s skirts.’

Bihter replied, laughing, ‘yes, in France, in general in Europe, and even in Beyoğlu; but with us Nihal will no longer even be able to go out into the street. Isn’t that so, Nihal? A stylish sheet…’

Nihal went mad at the idea of the sheet. She was clapping her hands. She ran to her governess.

‘Oh, a sheet, a sheet…’

Then in the middle of this excitement, something escaped her lips.

‘You will tell my father, won’t you?’ she said.

Bihter wanted to change the arrangement of the house. Nowadays she and Nihal always talked about this. She made Nihal a party to all her thoughts, and for whatever was to be done, told her, ‘don’t you think? We’ll do it like that, won’t we?’

They were to wander about together. Bihter was to supervise everything to do with Nihal’s clothing; when this winter had passed, one day in spring they would go to Kağıthane in their yashmaks. Bihter was describing this yashmak that had all at once been born in her imagination to Nihal, who was listening with the first opening of those senses that were beginning to awaken wholly to womanhood. These pretty things that intoxicated her soul took on something different when described by the melodious voice in that beautiful mouth with its little, uniform teeth, with the smile of its thin red lips that warmed one with a strange fever. And then there was such a fugitive scent of spring, an easy air of violets surrounding the young woman that Nihal’s frail identity would melt, like a dewdrop ready to evaporate, and be absorbed in her. Whereupon this young woman and the child who was still to become a young girl would kiss among the ornate visions that threw their souls, suddenly, with one wingbeat, towards a happy horizon.

‘Your father is coming…’

As soon as Nesrin’s voice threw forth this news, a cold shiver would shake Nihal; she would purse her lips, with the fear of a bird fallen on a strange horizon, she would want to escape the redolent air that intoxicated her, and would hurry as if to escape a poisoning wind.

It was near the end of September. One day, at the table, Adnan Bey said:

‘Nihal! I heard from Mademoiselle that you have long since begun your lessons. When are we going to start Turkish? Remember how we had so many intentions that you seem to have forgotten…’

Nihal’s Turkish had been taught entirely by Adnan Bey. This year she was to write selections of old and new pieces of poetry and prose, create a notebook of various works which she would read, which would be explained to her, and at the same time a remedy was to be found for Nihal’s spelling which had proved impossible to correct. Adnan Bey had for a long time drawn excerpts from their reading, and had accounted for this corpus in Nihal’s proposed notebook.

For days, Nihal looked to have forgotten these words of her father’s, and Adnan Bey seemed to have forgotten too; but the possibility of once again being left alone with her father for hours in that little study was such a thing that from that evening it never left her thoughts. In this aloofness from her father that she had seen necessary, Nihal was once again like a canary who spends the black days of a long winter in her cage, thinking of suns. One night, after dinner, Adnan Bey and Bihter saw Nihal enter the study that they had felt for so long that she shunned.

Adnan Bey laughed. ‘A lesson?’

‘Yes, if you like,’ Nihal answered.

Lessons started that night, but there was not that old familiarity, that old informality; now it was as if something had been abstracted from between them; no, more correctly, it was added. There was a third…

Those first nights the lessons were progressing with both their efforts to find that old familiar warmth, as Nihal tried to read a little poem in her small, wavering voice, they were all even laughing. She could never understand the musical movement of the verse. Adnan Bey was saying:

‘But, Nihal, I’m astonished, why can’t you understand? You read French verse very well, you are very musical. In verse, metre is nothing but the result of the music of the juxtaposition of words.’

Then he would begin explaining efail and tefail

, and as he spoke Bihter and Nihal would glance at each other from a distance and giggle. Nihal’s incompetence thereby occasionally scattered happy moments that broke up the dull seriousness of the lessons. One night, when Nihal began reading with a naturally measured progression, there was chiefly nothing left to laugh about. Little by little, an air began to blow over the lessons, that gave one the urge to yawn. Who caused this? Adnan Bey, who now looked at Bihter every so often and rushed to finish; Bihter, who sometimes held up the book she had picked in order to pass the time to her mouth and yawned, or Nihal, who now felt her superfluity in this room that was at one time her soul’s sanctum, and kept feeling the urge to just throw away her notebook and flee? The lessons began to limp, to crawl like a weak, ailing child. One night, a slight headache of Adnan Bey’s was the cause; ‘the lesson can stand for tonight,’ it was said, and after that the lessons were forgotten.

Children who are about to become young girls go through a phase during which, in these fragile, delicate creatures, the indistinct bourgeoning of a life of preparation for womanhood can be seen. This phase begins with material and immaterial changes. A timidity towards others, an evasion, a wildness is noticed in the child. Within her awakens the ferocity of a kitten whose time for play has passed; she no longer holds out her hand to you with childish joy as of old; no longer nestles against you with the same old surrender; even in the way she reaches out her lips to her father there is the flood of a cold shiver; she is a little more reserved in her chatter; flushes unexpectedly when she laughs; in the air she breathes there are the waves of a new wind that gives strangeness and foreignness; then she runs away, seeks solitary corners; she thinks long and long, feels a difference in herself, but does not know its meaning, only understands that she is no longer a child. A new character trait wishes, with the force of an uncontrollable growth, to tear apart and overflow this child’s body, to come out with a powerful eruption and finally to rule. This event is a thing outside of the child’s willpower, her understanding, her choosing, that follows by itself the path of change assigned by nature. The child feels that something strange, an illness whose nature cannot be understood is moving, progressing in her body; she feels it circulating her entire identity; then in her walk, in her speech, in her laughter, in all of her relations with the outside world, there come to her fears and ineptitudes. Suddenly one thinks that something of grace and naturalness is missing in her manner. Her height seems to be taller than it ought, her body thin out of proportion; when she walks, she has the appearance of a bird with a disproportionate body, walking on its thin legs; in the way she reaches out her hand, holds her head, that old, pleasant harmony is lost. She is sentenced to a body that has deserted the demeanour particular to itself, and not yet found a demeanour to suit. There are sudden flushes among her chatter, their cause unknown, and she cannot gain victory over these worries that overflow of their own accord. Then she wishes to be away from everyone; she does not have the courage to remain next to adults, she is ashamed to remain among the children.

There are nightmares, fits in her sleep, in her night-time awakenings she thinks of death, is afraid, hides beneath the blanket and shivers.

This is such a phase that it opens up new horizons in children’s learning. Without saying anything to anyone, without having seen any clue anywhere, suddenly, by themselves, thousands of things that had not been understood until that time gain a broader explanation, and they thereby grasp many truths. How does this learning come about, through inferences, in a period of just a few months? This is impossible to describe; it may be said that the new identity that develops at this moment is the young girl’s identity; that old child’s identity has brought fresh, new wisdom, with its voice that says, ‘this is it’, has shed a magical light on the pages that have hitherto been only glanced at under clouds.

Nihal was in this phase of her life. When the lessons thus stalled, along with feeling a bitterness that her father did not say anything to begin them again, she felt a secret satisfaction. She now felt something, next to Bihter and her father, in particular when there was no one but herself, almost like shame, not resembling the strain of the first days.

Winter, with its rains and snows, had arrived. Bihter and Nihal were waiting for a clear day. They were to go to Beyoğlu, the things that had been envisioned for months, chiefly, fabric for Nihal’s first sheet, were to be bought. It was now nearly time to receive news from the pale yellow yalı. Bihter had promised Nihal that when the news came and they had to go there to see Peyker’s itty bitty baby, Nihal would go, not as a child, but in the guise of a young girl. For days Nihal had been wondering, and was afraid that if they were to stay at home every day, on the pretext of rain, that her sheet would not be ready in time.

Today, there was finally a break in the weather. They were to go down at last: Adnan Bey had been smiling since morning, and saying, with a strange look, ‘oh, let us not forget Nihal Hanım’s sheet.’

Behlül was adding his thoughts to his uncle’s sentence:

‘We have our work cut out now. A new hanım will appear in the house; Nihal Hanım!… We must change the way we behave: especially me… We will no longer be able to quarrel, that old, naughty child cannot be scolded at every turn. Now what’s necessary is the flattery towards a lady that draws liking to oneself, isn’t that so, Nihal? Ah! Forgive me, isn’t that so, little hanımefendi

?… Behlül was standing up, bowing in amusing attitudes in front of Nihal, and asking with a falsely attentive tone:

‘Is the little hanımefendi well today? Will the little hanımefendi allow me to kiss the tips of her fingers? Would the little hanımefendi be gracious enough to show her enjoyment of my attentions with an itty bitty smile?’

Nihal was blushing and smiling.

‘Will the little hanımefendi have the goodness to still come to my room occasionally and quarrel a little bit?’ Behlül added.

Then he turned to Bihter:

‘Aunt! What colour will the sheet be? Look, what an idea is coming to me: this will be the first sheet; in that case, one should find something striking, a colour such that it will forcibly turn the gazes of passersby. Perhaps yellow, but bright yellow, loud, you know, a yellow that hurts the eyes. Let us gift Istanbul an elegant canary. Mlle de Courton has a particular interest in this colour, doesn’t she, Nihal? You remember, one summer she made a shirt out of a bright yellow fabric…’

Nihal answered, with a spark of belligerence in her eyes:

‘No, let us consult your taste in this matter. Red, bright red, let us choose a red that scratches at one’s eyes. You remember, a while back you had such a voluminous, bright red cravat, that with your green enamel pin on top, it used to look like a giant tomato.’

‘The fight begins,’ Adnan Bey said.

Behlül retaliated without hesitation. ‘If you liked that cravat so much, let us gift it to Mlle de Courton. She can wear it over her yellow shirt.’

‘What a great sacrifice,’ Nihal said. ‘It would be a pity, it becomes you so well, and it so rarely chances that something becomes you…’

Bihter interfered in this fight that was taking a nasty turn. ‘Nihal! If you don’t get ready, we’ll miss the ferry! Beşir is coming with us, isn’t he?’

Today, now that the idea of wearing a sheet had taken root in her mind, Nihal, in her navy blue serge dress and her long coat that reached all the way down past her knees, felt herself naked on the street. For the first time, with her tall figure that was nearing Bihter’s height, she felt nervous about being open outside. She could not gauge her walk next to Bihter’s, found herself too far ahead, then as she tried to separate from her side, a fault, the measurelessness of a tune that has fallen out of fashion, spread from Bihter’s orderly step to her own walk, and these clumsinesses that were born of suddenly becoming a young girl too soon, gave her a wild beauty, a strange allure.

They had many things to buy: Nihal did not wish to keep any of her old dresses; everything was to be made anew, and in particular, last year’s things that had all at once grown too short would all be given to Cemile. An eagerness to be a woman was awakening in Nihal, and making her desire things that she had until that time never thought about. Shyly, she asked Bihter for scents, could not hide her fancy for orris root sachets for her linen. As they wandered from shop to shop, new desires manifested, the little packets in Beşir’s hands were reaching an unmanageable state. As these beautiful things were bought for Nihal, the pleasure of a contentment was awakening in Beşir, he was giving Nihal ideas with his eyes. At one point he indicated a parasol with tulle and ribbons that resembled a large, black rose.

‘A parasol,’ he said gently, ‘little hanım, you did not buy a parasol!…’

Then, when they were standing, thinking before the fabrics for the sheet, he kept interfering in these thoughts with his ever-timid voice, with apprehensive touches of his cowardly hands, leaning and pointing over there, to the other stand, where some other ladies had decided on a fabric of light navy with pale, lemon yellow stripes.

‘Look, how beautiful, won’t you buy some of that?’ he was saying quietly to Nihal.

Suddenly Nihal lost her patience. ‘But Beşir, will you be quiet? We are thinking of something for a sheet…’

Beşir drew back. In the way he had of retreating, there was the skittishness of a cat who had been slapped on the head, and all of a sudden Nihal found such pity in this skittishness that she was instantly regretful. Looking at Beşir, she said, ‘if you like it so much, we will make the dress from that.’

Bihter did not think that fabric was too bad either. ‘Well done, Beşir,’ she was saying.

Before the sheet, they decided on that. Finally, they also agreed that the sheet should be of that black with little, shiny spots. Beşir wanted to bear all of the packages, but they would not acquiesce; a carriage was brought, there were still so many places to visit…

‘Isn’t that so, Nihal?’ Bihter was saying. ‘After the tailor we can get some ideas from Patriano

about the large drawing room…’

They only just caught the last ferry, Nihal had never before been happy to this degree, to go down to Beyoğlu. The packages next to them created a huge pile. Almost everything that Nihal wanted had been bought. Bihter had been content only to order an elegant cradle of blue plush from Patriano, to gift to Peyker’s child. In an interval when they were left alone in the cabin, with a sudden stroke of her overflowing happiness, Nihal nestled up to Bihter and kissing her right by her lips, above her chin, said, ‘today I love you more than ever.’

Nihal’s rite of passage into her young girl’s outfit was performed in the manner of an opening ceremony.

Finally, the expected news had arrived from the pale yellow-painted yalı. Today, Bihter and Nihal were to go there. It was one of those November days that has memories of spring. Adnan Bey and Behlül were waiting below, in the large drawing room. This preparation had taken so long that they were both growing impatient. At one point, Bülent’s voice was heard from above. He was asking those downstairs:

‘Are you ready? We’re coming… Oh! Don’t look at my sister…’

Upstairs there was a little bustle, whispers between laughter, Nesrin’s voice saying, ‘oh my dear! Who knew she had grown into such a big girl!..’ then Bülent was heard running.

‘Let go, Şayeste!’ Bülent was shouting. ‘I’m going to make a flag with that, how can you have a parade without a flag?…’

At last the stair creaked. Bülent was at the front, opening the parade, holding the flag that had been born in his little brain, trying to walk with the mien of a sturdy standard-bearer by puffing himself up. This flag had been created by attaching the short dress that Nihal had taken off, to one of Adnan Bey’s walking sticks. Bülent had slung it over his shoulder and let it wave as he marched.

‘Let no one be left. Don’t crowd the way, the parade is coming through. Ah! If only there were a trumpet…’

Nihal and Bihter were following behind, then came Beşir, with Nihal’s sheet over one arm, and that parasol that resembled a large, black rose, and then with wide smiles on all their faces, Şayeste, Nesrin, and Cemile. With Bülent’s noise, even Şakire Hanım was leaving Hacı Necip in front of the revolving cupboard and looking out through the drawing room door, and, touched by seeing Nihal in this assembly, now in the attire of a young girl, was dabbing at the corners of her eyes.

Adnan Bey and Behlül had stood up, and were waiting with smiles on their faces. When Nihal stopped on the last stair, as if afraid to take another step, Behlül said, ‘oh, who is this? Who is this little, slender, elegant lady? I assure you, I do not recognise her…’

Bihter laughed. ‘Allow me to introduce you: Nihal Hanım,’ she said.

Bülent was now going mad with excitement. Throwing the flag to one side and the stick to the other, he was hopping around his sister, shouting, ‘Nihal Hanım! Nihal Hanım!…’

Then, glancing around him, he was adding with the highest pitch of his little voice, as if he were a herald’s trumpet wishing to give the whole world the news:

‘From now on you will always say, Nihal Hanım, do you understand? Whoever says just Nihal will have to write Nihal Hanım five hundred times in their notebook. Isn’t that so, Mademoiselle?’

Mlle de Courton, all the way at the back, still on the stairs, was smiling. Nihal took two steps, now she was in the empty part of the drawing room, free of any obstacle, fully in view with all the gracefulness of her tall, slender figure. Behlül was right in not being able to recognise her: she had changed in Bihter’s artful hands. An outfit had been found that could not wholly be called a young girl, nor yet a child, in her skirt had been left a slight, imperceptible shortness that gave her excessive height the lightness of a child. Laces laid over pale lemon gauze, beginning all the way from her back and looping around her arms, had hidden Nihal’s as yet undeveloped torso and chest in the looseness of a bolero. Flowing in spirals from her collar and merging here and there with the bolero, under more folds of pale lemon gauze the difference of her yet childish breast was hidden. The artistic games of all these silks made one notice vague fullnesses. Nihal’s long hair had been flung behind her as a memory to her childhood, only a section from either side, cut straight, made a little chignon at the top, just enough for something to hold her veil and sheet.

Nihal held out her forehead to her father, to Behlül she only gave her hand.

He objected. ‘Is this all,’ he was saying, ‘so now there will be no kissing the little hanımefendi at bayram.’

Nihal curled her lips, and tilting her head a little, said with her eyes, ‘just so’.

Bihter had put on her sheet. ‘Come on, Nihal,’ she said. ‘Let them see your sheet, your proper sheet.’

Now Beşir had run. Şayeste, Nesrin, crowded around Nihal, Şakire Hanım advanced two more steps into the drawing room, Bülent was hurrying with Nihal’s veil in his hand. Bihter came to help, bunching the veil a little over her forehead, she fluffed it up and attached it; Nesrin was buttoning Nihal’s glove with a hairpin; then they all stepped back, and this time Nihal was left standing under the deceptive stripes of the sheet, no longer as a child, but with all the fortitude of a slender, young girl’s demeanour. Then Behlül ran to her. Now bowing,  presenting his greetings with many amusing poses of his arms and legs, he wanted to proffer her his arm. Bülent was jumping, insisting on wrapping his arms around her neck and kissing her in this company. Nihal bent down, and paying no heed to her new sheet getting disarranged, her veil wrinkled, she and Bülent kissed, lips to lips, long and long, mauling each other.

Şakire Hanım was now crying outright.

Behlül was saying, ‘let us see her walk, don’t you think, Aunt? In particular she needs to be able to walk in the sheet, this is such a fine art that it shows all of the singular elegance of a woman.’

Nihal advanced with her parasol in her hand. ‘But you are all looking at me, of course I will get muddled.’

Behlül had now put in his monocle and was bending, following Nihal with wide, almost dancing steps, as he inspected her.

‘It isn’t working, poor Nihal, it isn’t working,’ he was saying.

There was a little too much haste, a little too much length in the duration of her stride that broke the proportionality; she looked as if she were wondering where to put her hands. Behlül imitated her; he was pulling in his arms, letting his hands hang loose, walking with a strange, amusing posture, in a parody that borrowed all of the incompetencies of Nihal’s walk.

‘This is how you’re walking,’ he was saying. Then he wanted to make his Aunt walk. ‘Oh! Look,’ he was saying. ‘This art has reached its final pinnacle in my Aunt.’

‘Thank you,’ said Bihter, ‘but we have no time to make ourselves agreeable to you… Beşir, do you have the bags? Where is Şayeste? Did she go to put on her sheet?’

Then she turned to Adnan Bey and Behlül. ‘You are coming too, aren’t you?…’

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Notes

[1] Efail & tefail – Words used to scan the sounds of the quantitative metres of Arabic poetry, somewhat similar to the use of ‘ti tum’ in qualitative English verse.
[2] Hanımefendi – a polite form of address for women. Beyefendi is the equivalent for men.
[3] Patriano – a furniture shop on Istiklal Street.


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