Sometimes, their caravan met with another.
One always had something that the other needed—as if everything were indeed written by one hand.
As they sat around the fire, the camel drivers exchanged information about windstorms, and told stories about the desert.
At other times, mysterious, hooded men would appear; they were Bedouins who did surveillance along the caravan route.
They provided warnings about thieves and barbarian tribes.
They came in silence and departed the same way, dressed in black garments that showed only their eyes.
One night, a camel driver came to the fire where the Englishman and the boy were sitting.
"There are rumors of tribal wars," he told them. The three fell silent.
The boy noted that there was a sense of fear in the air, even though no one said anything.
Once again he was experiencing the language without words ... the universal language.
The Englishman asked if they were in danger.
"Once you get into the desert, there's no going back," said the camel driver.
"And, when you can't go back, you have to worry only about the best way of moving forward.
The rest is up to Allah, including the danger."
And he concluded by saying the mysterious word: "Maktub."
"You should pay more attention to the caravan," the boy said to the Englishman, after the camel driver had left.
"We make a lot of detours, but we're always heading for the same destination."
"And you ought to read more about the world," answered the Englishman.
"Books are like caravans in that respect."
The immense collection of people and animals began to travel faster.
The days had always been silent, but now, even the nights—when the travelers were accustomed to talking around the fires—had also become quiet.
And, one day, the leader of the caravan made the decision that the fires should no longer be lighted, so as not to attract attention to the caravan.