The File on H.

Free The File on H. by Ismaíl Kadaré

Book: The File on H. by Ismaíl Kadaré Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ismaíl Kadaré
Tags: Fiction, Literary
his eyes with the palms of his hands.
    â€œIs there fog on the plain, or am I just seeing things?” he asked.
    â€œIt really is foggy,” said Max.
    Bill sighed with relief. I must stop worrying about that, he thought. Ever since they had left the town, it had seemed as if his sight was veiled once again by a wispy shroud. But the shroud was covering the plain, not his retina. It cheered him up, and he began to whistle.
    â€œBeautiful, isn’t it?” he said after a while. “It feels as if today is the real beginning of our adventure.”
    Max nodded gaily.
    Above the half-dismantled and rain-sodden haystacks, black birds were wheeling, their wings seeming weighed down by the enormous raindrops.
    â€œThe farther away the inn is from here, the better for us," Bill said. “We’ll be able to get on with the work in peace. Otherwise we’ll have half our time taken up by small-town society calls."
    â€œI bet they’ll come out all this way to get hold of us.”
    â€œYou think so? Then we’ll just have to be absolute bores.”
    â€œEasy to say," Max replied. “But I think we have to do the opposite and be extremely accommodating. They could give us a load of trouble.”
    â€œMaybe if we told them more about the work we’re planning to do, they’d leave us in peace," said Bill. “After all, it’s in their national interest.”
    â€œDo you think they give a damn?”
    â€œHow should I know? Maybe you’re right. Looking at a country from afar, you imagine that every inhabitant is eager to slave away for it, but when you get nearer… Actually, I guess it’s the same with us. Hey, look, more haystacks.”
    â€œI’ve never seen such haystacks — they look like ragged beggars,” said Max.
    â€œMaybe because they’ve been in use. It
is
the end of winter…. What were we saying?”
    â€œAbout local society…”
    â€œOh, right! If we get involved with those people, that’s the end of our work. I think I even heard them talking about a ball….”
    â€œReally?”
    Max burst out laughing. They joked about being invited to a provincial ball, then Max teased his friend about the governor’s wife.
    â€œI thought I saw her making eyes at you.”
    â€œYou think so?” Bill rocked with laughter,
    â€œBuffalo Inn … Buffalo Inn," Bill chanted, to the rhythm of the carriage’s creaking wheels. A proper medieval name for an inn. The longer the journey continued., the safer they felt from the dangers of bridge games and dances. The ruts and potholes on the road, which bounced the carriage about, offered supplementary protection against provincial cardplayers.
    The inn stood by the roadside. Even before the carriage had come to a halt, they noticed the roof of flat stones, then a blackish balcony with a wooden balustrade, and finally the main door, which the wind blew back and forth on its hinges.
    A tall boy with a jutting chin and wet, chilblained hands hobbled out on wooden clogs, whose clacking made it seem that he was moving faster than he really was.
    Then a man came out to greet them. “I am the innkeeper,” he said. “My name is Shtjefen. And this is my lad, Martin," he added, pointing to the boy. “I am happy for my inn to house such unusual guests.”
    His eyes looked sincerely glad, even if his mustache drooped at the tips as if mortified by some unknown offense.
    â€œInn of the Bone of the Buffalo,” Bill spelled out from the sheet-metal sign nailed onto one of the swinging doors. “That’s a very old name, isn’t it?”
    â€œIndeed it is,” the innkeeper replied. “It’s been handed down from generation to generation. They say it’s been in existence for nearly a thousand years.”
    Max whistled in admiration and cast his eyes over the soot-blackened beams above their heads.
    They ascended the

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