(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As various inhabitants of the town of Riva, situated on Lake Garda, go about their apparently customary activities—shopkeeping, reading the paper, drawing water at the well, or simply idling away the time—a boat enters the harbor and ties up at the quay. Two men in dark coats with silver buttons debark, carrying what seems to be a person’s body on a cloth-draped bier. The townspeople pay them no particular attention. The boatman, who seems to be their guide, directs the two men to a nearby house. All three enter it with the bier, noticed as they go in by a boy at an upstairs window. A flock of doves arrives and alights in front of the house.

A man in mourning dress, looking somewhat troubled by the appearance of the neighborhood, approaches the house from one of the streets, knocks at the door, and is admitted at once. Some fifty little boys standing in two rows the length of the entry hall bow to him, and the boatman descends the stair and leads the visitor upstairs to a large room at the back of the house, in which the two bearers are busy placing and lighting candles at the head of the bier. The cloth has been drawn back, and on the bier lies a man with tangled hair and beard and tanned skin, looking rather like a hunter. Although his eyes are closed, and he is motionless and seems not to breathe, it is really only his surroundings that suggest that he may be dead.

The man in mourning approaches, touches the forehead of the one lying there, and kneels to pray beside him. The two bearers withdraw, and at a sign from the visitor so does the boatman. At once the man on the bier opens his eyes, turns his face to the mourner, and asks: “Who are you?” “The Burgomaster of Riva,” the other replies, getting to his feet. In fact, both know already who the other is, since a dove came to the burgomaster’s window during the night and announced to him, “Tomorrow the dead Hunter...

(The entire section is 782 words.)