It was near noon
as we walked down the road. The trees were green and gold, but up and off to
the right, as far as you could see, they were darker with black and a deep
russet brown. And sometimes in the middle of those miles of black pines, there
were groves of rust, sage green, crocus and honey yellow, and once I saw a
single tree of some kind that was tangerine and ginger set in the dark firs. We
walked slowly and small birds flew around us and sang from the trees, and a
little below us to the left as we walked there were flowers, white like
snowflakes. And above us there was the perfect blue sky.
one," I said, but not to Stefan, not to anybody.
"What did you
say, George?" Stefan said.
"A new law of
nature," I said. "We need one."
"In the last years here in Europe we have concerned ourselves with the
problems ecologic. It is now that all the countries of the Federal Republic are
unified in this new law of nature. It is part of our constitution."
hunters, the beaters, Stefan and I turned off the road and into a pine grove
with open space between the trees. The ground was all needles and the light
came down through the pines like yellow perfume. We went along on the soft
ground for 50 yards and then there were long wooden tables all around and women
putting plates on them and the smell of soup. It was lunchtime.
I was ready to
eat. I could have eaten a M�mmelmann if I had to, and then I remembered where I
was and thought that maybe I might have to eat a M�mmelmann, but the soup
smelled so good in the cold German air that it didn't make much difference to
me what was in those bowls. But we were all just standing around. Nobody was
sitting down. The plates full of steaming soup were there on the tables with
big spoons next to them, there were three tall green bottles of wine on each
table, and there were baskets full of chunks of bread that looked as if they'd
been cut off Siegfried's loaf with a chain saw.
Just then the
hunting horns went off again. The seven of them were a little way into the
woods in their half circle and the yellow sunlight coming down through the
black pines flashed on the horns. They played through one song and stopped, and
Riehle stepped out and faced everyone.
He made another
speech, only this time he had a big cock pheasant in one hand and a glass of
wine in the other. It was a very short speech. When he stopped, he raised the
pheasant, took a sip of wine and the horns played again. Everyone cheered and
clapped. Then we sat down to lunch.
I was the first
one to sit down and I ate my way through the bowl of pea soup and sausage,
licked the spoon clean, set it down beside my plate and picked up one of the
wine bottles. It wasn't a wine you were going to find in a liquor store in
Hightstown, N.J. It came from Baden in 1974 and was a white called
Kiechlinsberger. I poured myself a glass and took a sip of something that
tasted like cool sunshine. I poured another glass, cleaned my soup plate with a
piece of bread and settled back, hoping that the ladies doing the serving would
think they forgot my plate the first time around.