• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 07

Les femmes de Sourie, elles sourient

He sketched them quickly, quill scratching furiously on the page – drawing just the women, their clothing. Trying to capture that quality of grace.

He would add in the landscape later. An imaginary but typical piece of scenery would do it. No, what he needed to concentrate on were the two women standing before him: their poise, their robes, that gossamer veil.

They had agreed to pose for the foreigner that afternoon under the pulsing sun of Apamea, without really understanding his purpose, he was sure. Flattered, he imagined, by the intimation of beauty in the request.

Of course, the father of the younger one had to be persuaded with a few coins and, once he had returned satisfied to the group of men keeping watch nearby, the husband of the older one with a few coins more. The two women, he noticed, averted their gaze while these transactions took place, speaking to each other in lowered voices.

He felt he ought to explain himself to these women, his women of Syria. To sow within them an idea of what he hoped his picture would show those who would leaf through his books, in libraries a thousand miles west. But he had tried too many times, in too many broken and mangled sentences, to explain his project. Too many times he had failed to convey his vision, stymied by his reliance on a tongue that never could wrap itself around the sounds and syllables of these corners of the Earth.

So he simply asked, with gestures and signs and paid off their men. He bowed deeply to the women, to show his gratitude. He hoped they understood. When he showed them the sketch, they smiled.

He would add the colours later, from memory. Sun-rich, jewel-like, regal. The damned paint box was inadequate. He spent three hours mixing indigo and violet until he was satisfied.