“Come over here,” Fada beckoned them. Raichatou and Takat ran over to the faucets and splashed water over their faces, hands and feet. Near the faucets were six troughs; each filled with the same miraculously crystalline water. Drinking contentedly at these troughs, their donkeys stood in the midst of cows, sheep and goats. Mouheini would have happily jumped into one of the troughs to take a bath. Instead, she became mesmerized by the magical scene of her cousins and Fada playing in the water fountains. Filled with an overwhelming sense of amazement, she wondered why she had never heard of the existence of this very special well, or this village, before now. She could not have imagined such a perfect scene in her wildest dreams. This village and its “borehole” would provide material for future stories, that was for sure!!
Mouheini’s reveries were interrupted by the cheikh, who appeared from beyond the hill, trailing behind him a herd of sheep. As he came nearer, he waived the girls towards him, “Come now, young ladies. Did you rest well?” he asked. They nodded, respectfully looking downward. “You should begin your journey home quickly,” he said. “Tomorrow is the Tabaski festival. Your parents will want you near them. And they will also want their water.”
“How can we ever repay you?” asked Mouheini. “You need not repay me,” he replied. “Water is a gift from God. This borehole was a gift from God. Come here whenever you need water. Be safe and careful, and always remember to thank Allah! Now, follow me.” Mouheini did not want to leave Fada, so she waved for him to follow. He did, but kept at a distance. He too was confused about his feelings; why was he so sad knowing that the girls would be leaving soon?
Cheikh Almoustapha guided the three cousins to Housseina, who gently handed a parcel of food to Mouheini, “Be safe, my friends,” she said, “I pray that you arrive before dark, so that you can be with your families for the festivities tomorrow!”
“Before you leave, take these,” the cheikh handed over three sheep, one for each girl. “It is my gift to you for the Tabaski. Many villages were attacked last night. The genies of protection must have followed you into our village. May Allah protect you as you protected us.”
“Leave in peace,” he added. “I have decided to send Fada to accompany you home. Fada knows how to get just about anywhere in all of the Azawak, so I know you will be in good hands. Wasselkou is explaining the shortest route to him as we speak.” Mouheini’s heart skipped a beat upon hearing this news. She glanced back to Fada and Wasselkou, and smiled.
“What is going on with Mouheini?” Raichatou asked Takat. “I’m going to tell Aunt Sadouan how they look at each other, and she won’t be happy.” Takat snapped, “Just keep quiet, you have no idea what’s going on. Leave Mouheini alone, she’ll be fine without your help!”