The girl brought the menu. John woke up. The menu was written in ink on a card and the card slipped into a wooden paddle.
“There’s the Speisekarte,” I said to John. He looked at it. He was still sleepy.
“Won’t you have a drink with us?” I asked the innkeeper. He sat down. “Those peasants are beasts,” said the innkeeper.
“We saw that one at a funeral coming into town.”
“That was his wife.”
“He’s a beast. All these peasants are beasts.”
“How do you mean?”
“You wouldn’t believe it. You wouldn’t believe what just happened about that one.”
“You wouldn’t believe it.” The innkeeper spoke to the sexton. “Franz, come over here.” The sexton came, bringing his little bottle of wine and his glass.
“The gentlemen are just come down from the Wiesbadenerhütte,” the innkeeper said. We shook hands.
“What will you drink?” I asked.
“Nothing,” Franz shook his finger.
“Another quarter litre?”
“Do you understand dialect?” the innkeeper asked.
“What’s it all about?” John asked.
“He’s going to tell us about the peasant we saw filling the grave, coming into town.”
“I can’t understand it, anyway,” John said. “It goes too fast for me.”
“That peasant,” the innkeeper said, “today he brought his wife in to be buried. She died last November.”
“December,” said the sexton.
“That makes nothing. She died last December then, and he notified the commune.”
“December eighteenth,” said the sexton.
“Anyway, he couldn’t bring her over to be buried until the snow was gone.”
“He lives on the other side of the Paznaun,” said the sexton. “But he belongs to this parish.”
“He couldn’t bring her out at all?” I asked.
“No. He can only come, from where he lives, on skis until the snow melts. So today he brought her in to be buried and the priest, when he looked at her face, didn’t want to bury her. You go on and tell it,” he said to the sexton. “Speak German, not dialect.”
“It was very funny with the priest,” said the sexton. “In the report to the commune she died of heart trouble. We knew she had heart trouble here. She used to faint in church sometimes. She did not come for a long time. She wasn’t strong to climb. When the priest uncovered her face he asked Olz, ‘Did your wife suffer much?’ ‘No,’ said Olz. ‘When I came in the house she was dead across the bed.’
“The priest looked at her again. He didn’t like it.
“ ‘How did her face get that way?’
“ ‘I don’t know,’ Olz said.
“ ‘You’d better find out,’ the priest said, and put the blanket back. Olz didn’t say anything. The priest looked at him. Olz looked back at the priest. ‘You want to know?’
“ ‘I must know,’ the priest said.”
“This is where it’s good,” the innkeeper said. “Listen to this. Go on Franz.”
“ ‘Well,’ said Olz, ‘when she died I made the report to the commune and I put her in the shed across the top of the big wood. When I started to use the big wood she was stiff and I put her up against the wall. Her mouth was open and when I came into the shed at night to cut up the big wood, I hung the lantern from it.’
“ ‘Why did you do that?’ asked the priest
“ ‘I don’t know,’ said Olz.
“ ‘Did you do that many times?’
“ ‘Every time I went to work in the shed at night.’
“ ‘It was very wrong,’ said the priest. ‘Did you love your wife?’
“ ‘Ja, I loved her,’ Olz said. ‘I loved her fine.’ ”
“Did you understand it all?” asked the innkeeper. “You understand it all about his wife?”
“I heard it.”
“How about eating?” John asked.
“You order,” I said. “Do you think it’s true?” I asked the innkeeper.
“Sure it’s true,” he said. “These peasants are beasts.”
“Where did he go now?”
“He’s gone to drink at my colleague’s, the Löwen.”
“He didn’t want to drink with me,” said the sexton.
“He didn’t want to drink with me, after he knew about his wife,” said the innkeeper.