stepped forward carrying the game. They laid it out on the grass in careful
rows—a long line of pheasant, a line of partridge, a line of a kind of game I
didn't know and then the line of hares. No one had shot a fox. Then they
stepped back. The hunters with the horns played a melody, lowered their horns
and then played another one. They did that four times.
stepped in front of the hunters and stood there with his hand on the head of
his dog. He didn't say anything for a long time. When he began to speak
everyone bowed his head. What he said could have been in any language at all,
and anyone could have understood it. It was a prayer of thanksgiving. When he
was finished we all stood in silence with only half of the sun showing behind
Then it was over.
Everyone gave a cheer when Riehle waved and started off down the road. The
hunters moved out into the clearing and picked up the game they had shot, the
drivers began to drift their different ways and I looked around for Stefan.
He was there, off
a way, leaning against an apple tree. I walked over to him.
I said. "What were those different songs they played on the horns?"
"They are the
signatures," he said, and I was so tired I started to think about everybody
who would have to sign a new law of nature.
what?" I said.
"They are the
songs of the animals, the game, each has its song and each is different. They
play for the animals."
I nodded, shook
hands, thanked him for all he had told me and started down the road back to
Gottenheim, first through the orchard, then up the little hill, and when I got
to the top I heard the horns again, and I turned around.
Back under the
apple trees, alone except for Stefan leaning against his tree, the horn players
were playing again. They had moved out into the clearing and now they stood in