Saki's "The Interlopers" is an engaging short story of rivalry and suspense. Its famous twist ending packs a lot of power, especially for a younger reader. This is one of the first stories with a surprise ending that I can remember reading.
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It's set in the Carpathian mountains in Eastern Europe, possibly in Romania. It's told by an omniscient narrator.
Summary of "The Interlopers"Ulrich Von Gradwitz patrols his territory in the forest of the eastern Carpathians. Gradwitz's grandfather had obtained the legal rights to the land long ago. It was taken from the Znaeym family, but they've never accepted the ruling. The feud was passed down three generations to Ulrich and his rival, Georg Znaeym.
Ulrich is out with his men, keeping watch for Georg and any of his men. There's more movement than usual from the deer, suggesting to Ulrich that unlawful hunters are on his land.
He leaves his men in ambush on a hill to walk down into the undergrowth. He's hoping to catch Georg Znaeym. As he steps around a huge tree, they come face to face.
They glare at each other, but neither one fires his rifle. Before either one can act, the storm sends a huge mass of beech tree down on them. Ulrich is pinned under the tree with slashes on his face. Georg is pinned helplessly near him with similar injuries.
They revel in each other's misfortune. Each threatens to leave the other to die when his men comes to rescue him. They're glad they'll be able to fight their quarrel to the death without any outside interference. Neither is confident their men will arrive first.
They stop struggling to escape. Ulrich manages to get a drink from his flask. The wine revives him. Ulrich is moved with pity by Georg's pain to offer his flask, but he's rebuffed.
As he lies helplessly, Ulrich's hatred for his long time enemy wanes. He tells Georg that if his men arrive first they will help him. They've been fools to quarrel so long. He asks Georg to be his friend.
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There's a long silence. Georg talks about how shocked people would be to see them interact as friends. They could visit each other on special days and hunt as invited guests on each other's land. No one could interfere with them if they made peace. He accepts the offer of friendship.