Professor Benjamin suggested we take a walk the first part of the route this afternoon to test whether we would find our way. I don't remember it as being difficult. We sat down and rested for a while. When we were ready to start the descent, he didn't get up.
My staying would not be reasonable, he explained quietly. It was essential that I be able to guide the Gurlands back before sunrise without possible error or delay.
Above all, I had to get hold of some bread without ration stamps, and perhaps some tomatoes and black-market ersatz marmalade, to keep us going during the day.
The closer we came to the clearing the next morning, the more tense I grew. Will Benjamin be there? Will he be alive? Finally. Here is the clearing. Here is old Benjamin. Alive. He sits up and gives us a friendly look. Then I stare at his face—what has happened? Those dark purple blotches under his eyes—could they be a symptom of a heart attack?
He guessed why I stared.
My heart stopped beating in my throat and slipped back down to where it belonged.
From here on, the ascent was steeper. »