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فصل 12

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chapter two

Friends

Now the two men had stopped trying to get free. Ulrich tried with his partially free arm to pull out his wine-flask. After a few minutes he finally succeeded. Then after another few minutes he succeeded in pulling off the stopper. He drank a little. It was truly wonderful. In this cold weather the wine warmed his body. Then he looked with pity at Georg, who was fighting not to scream in pain.

‘Can you reach the flask if I throw it to you?’ Ulrich asked suddenly. ‘There’s good wine in it and there’s no reason why we should suffer. Let us drink, even if tonight one of us dies.’

‘No, I can’t see anything because I have dried blood on my eyes,’ said Georg. ‘And in any case I don’t drink wine with an enemy.’ Ulrich was silent for a few minutes, listening to the sound of the wind. An idea was gradually formulating in his brain. This idea grew clearer every time he looked at Georg fighting against his pain. In the pain that Ulrich was feeling the old hate was beginning to die.

‘Neighbour,’ Ulrich said, ‘you can do what you want if your men come first. It was a fair agreement. But I’ve changed my mind. If my men come first, they will help you first, as though you were my guest. We have fought all our lives over this stupid portion of forest. Tonight lying here thinking, I have come to the conclusion that we have been fools. What is so important about this portion of forest? Neighbour, if you help me end this fight, I’ll ask you to be my friend.’

Georg Znaeym was silent for a long time. Ulrich began to think that he had fainted because of the pain. Then Georg spoke slowly.

‘Everyone would be shocked if we rode into town together. Nobody can remember a Znaeym and a von Gradwitz talking to each other as friends. And there will be peace among the forest guards and their families if we end the fight tonight. And if we choose to make peace among our families, there is no one who will interfere, no interlopers from outside. You could come to my house at Christmas and I could come to your castle on other holidays. I would never hunt on your land, if you didn’t invite me; and you could come and hunt ducks in my marshes. There is nobody around here who can stop us if we want to make peace. I have always thought that I wanted to hate you. But I changed my mind when you offered me your wine-flask. Ulrich von Gradwitz, I will be your friend.’

Then they were both silent. They were thinking about the wonderful changes this new peace would bring. In the cold, dark forest, with the wind blowing, they waited for the help that would free both of them. And each man wanted his men to come first, so that he could be the first to help his new friend.

Then the wind stopped for a moment and Ulrich spoke.

‘Let’s shout for help,’ he said. ‘Now that the wind has stopped, they might hear us.’

‘It will be difficult in this forest,’ replied Georg, ‘but let’s try. Together, then.’

The two men shouted together for help.

‘Together again,’ said Ulrich a few minutes later.

‘I heard something that time, I think,’ said Ulrich.

‘I only heard the wind,’ said Georg.

There was silence again for a few minutes, and then Ulrich shouted joyfully.

‘I can see people coming through the forest.’

Both men shouted again.

‘They can hear us! They’ve stopped. Now they’ve seen us. They’re running down the hill toward us,’ cried Ulrich.

‘How many are there?’ asked Georg who could not see because of the dried blood on his eyes.

‘I can’t see distinctly,’ said Ulrich; ‘nine or ten.’

‘Then they’re your men,’ said Georg. ‘I only had seven men with me tonight.’

‘They are running quickly. What brave men! said Ulrich gladly.

‘Are they your men?’ asked Georg. ‘Are they your men?’ he repeated impatiently as Ulrich did not answer.

‘No,’ said Ulrich with a laugh. But it was the idiotic laugh of a man who is very afraid.

‘Who are they?’ asked George quickly, trying to see what the other man would have preferred not to see.

‘Wolves.’

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