György Dragomán


The silent forest ranger’s table of stone is to be found somewhere beyond the wild sour-cherry trees, and the blackberry bushes, and even beyond the raspberry canes. Those who have managed to find it say it is more or less where the forest of turkey oaks melds into the plantation of younger oaks. It is a big, round table that must once have been a millstone; those who have seen it say that the moss growing on it follows the lines of its ancient grooves.

Many people have encountered the silent ranger; he spends all his time roaming the trees and the glades, the fields and the hills, silently contemplating the scene, watching the grasses and the trees grow, the buds bursting open, and the leaves acquiring their autumn colours. No one has any idea of how old he might be: there are those who say he has been there for a hundred years or more, that he is as old as the hills he roams. If anyone should say hello to him, he touches his hat, then hurries away; at such times it is worth following in his wake, even though you’ll never catch up with him, but anyone on his trail can often fill their cap with the fruits of the forest, or even morels.

Only those will find the silent ranger’s table of stone who have encountered great joy or endured great sorrow, but have not had anyone they could tell about it.

They stop by the table, sit down on the stone bench and, cupping their chin in their hands, contemplate the patterns on the millstone, reflecting on the nature of time itself, and feel a reassuring warmth emanating from the stone. When they look up, the silent ranger has already joined them, sitting on the far side of the table. He pushes a glass in front of them, and pours some wine, for them as well as for himself. They nod, drink, the silent ranger puts down his glass, gives a sigh of quiet satisfaction, and smooths down the moss-covered body of the millstone with his hand.

When this happens, those sitting with him have the feeling that time has come to a standstill, and putting their palms on the stone let its warmth penetrate their arms and shoulders; it occurs to them that the stone has been absorbing the heat of the sun since the beginning of time, and now this warmth was streaming into them, the warmth of days long gone by, and they feel the light of days long gone by, too, shining from their eyes; they glance at the ranger, take another sip of wine, and slowly start to speak, haltingly at first, then gradually get into their stride, and say what they have to say. Things they have never before told anyone. They sit and drink the wine, and as they tell their tales, they slowly realise that it is not in fact to the silent ranger that they are saying what they have to say, but to themselves, and by the time the glasses are empty they know, too, that once it is time for them to get up from the table and set off for home, all the warmth of days long gone by will enshroud them like some invisible cloak, and this will make everything right, and then all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

English translation © Peter Sherwood 2019