Trampled Grapes

We have taken, each night, to talking beside the fire. Since her pretended revelation of boy-love, I have felt unable to enquire more deeply into her intentions, her reasons for undertaking this trip. It is odd, she, a woman pretending to be a man, seeks to fend me off by claiming pederastic intentions. I, a man, pretending to be unaware of her sex, must feign a lack of interest in her in order to escape the reproach of same-sex love.

What, then, do we discuss? Dreams, mostly.

“I dreamt of a field full of grapes, being trampled underfoot. ‘He loves it, yes, he loves to turn them to wine,’ I was told, I cannot remember by whom, for this was the last of many changes in the dream.”

Not my dream, no, not this time – hers. “Have you ever tasted wine?”

“Your question is indiscreet. If I say, ‘yes,’ I reveal that I have broken this one of God’s commandments; if I say ‘no,’ I throw doubt on the truth of my dream.”

“Unless we are honest with each other, there is little point in this discussion of dreams.”

“You are a ferenghi, a Frank. Perhaps for you the dream is serious, but for me, I speak to pass the time, to while away the dark night until we can sleep.”

I don’t believe her. She hangs upon these discussions, and notes anxiously the interpretations I venture of her sparing dream-symbols. Of course, no real progress is possible when she will not reveal to me anything of her past (or indeed, the very truth of her nature), but a strange kind of communication is going on even so. She is telling me, I am hurt, and desperate – hence, I suppose, the valley of the trampled grapes. I am saying to her, I too, am drowning. Perhaps we can help each other. Perhaps.

“The images of your dream come from the scriptures, but they speak of war. Is there war in your heart?”

“Perhaps there is.”

“And yet there should be no war among strangers, wanderers in the same desert,” came a new, utterly unexpected intrusion into the conversation.

In our new-found interest in talk, we had neglected the duty of keeping a lookout in these wild regions. Smiling down upon us now we saw the face of a

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