He moved through the brush, holding the rod close to him. The line caught on a branch. Nick stopped and cut the leader and reeled the line up. He went through the brush now easily, holding the rod out before him.
Ahead of him he saw a rabbit, flat out on the trail. He stopped, grudging. The rabbit was barely breathing. There were two ticks on the rabbit’s head, one behind each ear. They were gray, tight with blood, as big as grapes. Nick pulled them off, their heads tiny and hard, with moving feet. He stepped on them on the trail.
Nick picked up the rabbit, limp, with dull button eyes, and put it under a sweet fern bush beside the trail. He felt its heart beating as he laid it down. The rabbit lay quiet under the bush, it might come to, Nick thought. Probably the ticks had attached themselves to it as it crouched in the grass. Maybe after it had been dancing in the open. He did not know.
He went on up the trail to the camp. He was holding something in his head.
An Alpine Idyll
It was hot coming down into the valley even in the early morning. The sun melted the snow from the skis we were carrying and dried the wood. It was spring in the valley but the sun was very hot. We came along the road into Galtur carrying our skis and rucksacks. As we passed the churchyard a burial was just over. I said, “Grüss Gott,” to the priest as he walked past us coming out of the churchyard. The priest bowed.
“It’s funny a priest never speaks to you,” John said.
“You’d think they’d like to say ‘Grüss Gott.’ “
“They never answer,” John said.
We stopped in the road and watched the sexton shoveling in the new earth. A peasant with a black beard and high leather boots stood beside the grave. The sexton stopped shoveling and straightened his back. The peasant in the high boots took the spade from the sexton and went on filling in the grave—spreading the earth evenly as a man spreading manure in a garden. In the bright May morning the grave-filling looked unreal. I could not imagine anyone being dead.
“Imagine being buried on a day like this,” I said to John.
“I wouldn’t like it.”
“Well,” I said, “we don’t have to do it.”
We went on up the road past the houses of the town to the inn. We had been skiing in the Silvretta for a month, and it was good to be down in the valley. In the Silvretta the skiing had been all right, but it was spring skiing, the snow was good only in the early morning and again in the evening. The rest of the time it was spoiled by the sun. We were both tired of the sun. You could not get away from the sun. The only shadows were made by rocks or by the hut that was built under the protection of a rock beside a glacier, and in the shade the sweat froze in your underclothing. You could not sit outside the hut without dark glasses. It was pleasant to be burned black but the sun had been very tiring. You could not rest in it. I was glad to be down away from snow. It was too late in the spring to be up in the Silvretta. I was a little tired of skiing. We had stayed too long. I could taste the snow water we had been drinking melted off the tin roof of the hut. The taste was a part of the way I felt about skiing. I was glad there were other things besides skiing, and I was glad to be down, away from the unnatural high mountain spring, into this May morning in the valley.
The innkeeper sat on the porch of the inn, his chair tipped back against the wall. Beside him sat the cook.
“Ski-heil!” said the innkeeper.
“Heil!” we said and leaned the skis against the wall and took off our packs.
“How was it up above?” asked the innkeeper.
“Schön. A little too much sun.”