As I loosened the ropes from around his legs, I found that they were terribly bruised. I wondered whether he had been doing a lot of hiking, but with more of it falling than climbing. His woolen socks were either brown or saturated with dirt. If his smell was any indication, then it was the latter. An older gentleman like him ought to have cared for himself better– or been cared for by someone else. I got the feeling that he was no ordinary gentleman.
“I am terribly grateful to you,” he said once he was able to move freely. His voice sounded strained, I noticed.
“Well,” I began, “I didn’t intend to catch anything bigger than a rabbit, so you’re better off being let go.”
“This is your trap, is it, then?” He asked as he began to brush the dirt from his robe and get to his feet.
“It is,” I admitted, though I was nervous that he would be upset with me. Still, it did not seem like a good enough reason to lie to him just then.
” I see, I see,” he muttered, as though thinking to himself at the same time. “Say, do you happen to have anything that I could eat? I daresay that I regret having interfered with your trap, but it has been so long that I have eaten. Besides that,” he added after a moment of thought, “I do not believe that I know my way out of these woods. ”
I had to think really hard about that. Aside from small jobs, men usually wanted one thing and one thing only from me, and I wasn’t interested. Still, he was an old man, and he looked so haggard that he could not possibly have done me any harm. I had already gotten one small pheasant, and I had a few more traps to check, so I held out hope that there would be a rabbit or something that I could cook and share with him.
“You can come with me,” I finally told him, making sure that I sounded neither too eager nor too begrudging. “You’re not too hurt to walk?”
“These old legs can still impress, young lady,” he insisted. He reached for his knotted staff, and used it to support his weight and pull himself up to a standing position. He seemed unsteady at first, but I dared not interfere, for he seemed to value his independence. Within a couple of minutes, he was walking as right as rain, and I felt confident in leading him through the woods to my next trap.