Translation:The High Mountains/33

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An Unexpected Episode

After leaving the children, old Athanase went to visit the woodcutters. In the evening, as he was coming back from them, he passed by the children's huts again.

He stayed standing up, lit his tinder box then his cigar and jokingly scolded the dog who had let him leave. Because, seriously, he had told the children that he would give them Gkeka. A dog, he said, was always useful.

About nine o'clock in the evening, they heard a man's footsteps.

A man came up to them and said good evening. But he seemed weak.

When he came into the lamplight, they saw that he was covered in blood. Blood had run from his head down his open chest, onto his clothes and he was still bleeding.

Old Athanase rushed towards him:

—Is it you Costas? He cried.

—It's me, he said feebly. Get me a piece of cloth. And he turned around to lean on the tree.

—Not here, said old Athanase, let's go into the cabin. And he asked for water and a cloth urgently.

—The children went weak at the knees, many went white; they hadn't ever seen an injured person. Suddenly all their joy of the day vanished.

—However Andreas didn't waste time. At such a time one reacts immediately. He picked up the lamp and shone it on old Athanase and the injured man so that they could go into the cabin.

He ordered the others to run to the spring for water. Then he took a second lit lamp, ran to the larder hut, tore open a packet and took several things from it.

They were dressings, cotton wool and antiseptic, the first things needed if one goes to live in the country. With all this he returned to the cabin with the sick man.

—Andreas and Dimitrakis had learnt to use dressings. Old Athanase knew a lot about the technique, but didn't understand what antiseptic meant.

The three of them, helped by one or the other, bandaged the injured man's head. Old Athanase gave him a little water to drink and laid him down on the mattress.

This is then what they understood what had happened. He's the person who goes into town to sell origan, capers, herbs and pine resin. Either because of their trouble, either because of the little light, the children hadn't immediately recognised Costas, the harvester of the mountains!

—What happened Costas? Who did this to you?

—They're the Yeusois monsters. Once again there were two of them and they were hitting an enormous pine with axes.

Why my fellow countryman? I asked him. What has the pine done to you? You look after your herbs, he replied.

—But in the end, I said to him, you're destroying a divine thing which will take fifty years to replace. You the deforesters destroy the forest. Why don't you at least respect the law?

—The law, he replied, is what suits us. Go away from here, you and your law.

“While he was talking, one of them threatened me with his axe. The other picked up a piece of wood off the ground and hit me.

“When I came to I looked around me, both of them had flown. It was bound to happen to me.

—The monsters, cried old Athanase; until now they hit the trees, now they are going after the men.