You Intrigue Me
By Sally Madison
One evening after several meals in the castle dinning room, the two lieutenants were absent and the General, still in uniform, but with buttons undone and with his tankard of port wine, was relaxed. Sitting in the master seat, with his back to the kitchen, he stretched out his legs and swung one arm around the back of the chair. He looked across the table at the Countess in her simple blue dress. He began, “You intrigue me, Countess. You are obviously a Christian woman, who knows our Ottoman language, and customs and also those of the Hindu and Buddhist. When we arrived you spoke not your greetings, nor mine. Why did you choose that of the Hindus?” inquired the General.
“I wanted to give you reason to pause and consider us as individuals,” Alexandria explained.
Your education and training must be exceptional,” the General continued.
“My father traveled extensively, and insisted that I have a tutor of different ethnicity each year. Consequently, I had extraordinary exposure to other cultures,” replied Alexandria.
“We have been your guests here for some time, and you have been most hospitable. So tell me, since you seem to know so much about the Turkish culture, what is your favorite Hodja story, Countess?” asked the General.
Alexandria, relaxed at having found common ground with the General, began, “One of the more humorous stories is about the minarets. ‘On the way to Konya, Hodja met a friend who had never been there before. They started walking together and as they got closer to the town, his friend noticed the tall minarets and was very impressed by them. ‘How do they build them so tall?’ he asked. Hodja was in a mischievous mood. He smiled and said ‘they turn deep wells inside out.’”
“And you, General, which one do you like?”
“I have always preferred ‘The Turban and the Robe’,” he began, “An illiterate Iranian gave Hodja a letter he had received from a friend back home, and asked Hodja to read it to him. Hodja looked at the letter. It was written in Persian and the handwriting was terrible. So, he told the man, ‘have somebody else read it.’ But, the man insisted. Hodja retorted, ‘Listen! I don’t know Persian, and even if it were in Turkish, the writing is so bad that I still wouldn’t be able to read it for you,’ Hodja explained. The Iranian got mad and said, ‘You are wearing a huge robe and a turban, but can’t read a simple letter! You should be ashamed of yourself!’ Hodja took off his turban and robe and gave them to the Iranian. ‘If one can do anything by wearing a robe and a turban, then here, you wear them and read the letter yourself.’”
The General smiled at the humor. Alexandria smiled because her plan was progressing devilishly.