بخش 02کتاب: تار شارلوت / فصل 2
- زمان مطالعه 73 دقیقه
- سطح سخت
دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
این فصل را میتوانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید
متن انگلیسی فصل
“Let’s build a tree house,” suggested Avery. “I want to live in a tree, with my frog.”
“I’m going to visit Wilbur,” Fern announced.
They climbed the fence into the lane and walked lazily toward the pigpen. Wilbur heard them coming and got up.
Avery noticed the spider web, and, coming closer, he saw Charlotte.
“Hey, look at that big spider!” he said. “It’s tremenjus.”
“Leave it alone!” commanded Fern. “You’ve got a frog - isn’t that enough?”
“That’s a fine spider and I’m going to capture it,” said Avery. He took the cover off the candy box. Then he picked up a stick. “I’m going to knock that ol’ spider into this box,” he said.
Wilbur’s heart almost stopped when he saw what was going on.
This might be the end of Charlotte if the boy succeeded in catching her.
“You stop it, Avery!” cried Fern.
Avery put one leg over the fence of the pigpen. He was just about to raise his stick to hit Charlotte when he lost his balance. He swayed and toppled and landed on the edge of Wilbur’s trough. The trough tipped up and then came down with a slap. The goose egg was right underneath. There was a dull explosion as the egg broke, and then a horrible smell.
Fern screamed. Avery jumped to his feet. The air was filled with the terrible gases and smells from the rotten egg. Templeton, who had been resting in his home, scuttled away into the barn.
“Good night!” screamed Avery. “Good night! What a stink!
Let’s get out of here!”
Fern was crying. She held her nose and ran toward the house. Avery ran after her, holding his nose.
Charlotte felt greatly relieved to see him go. It had been a narrow escape.
Later on that morning, the animals came up from the pasture - the sheep, the lambs, the gander, the goose, and the seven goslings. There were many complaints about the awful smell, and Wilbur had to tell the story over and over again, of how the Arable boy had tried to capture Charlotte, and how the smell of the broken egg drove him away just in time. “It was that rotten goose egg that saved Charlotte’s life,” said Wilbur.
The goose was proud of her share in the adventure. “I’m delighted that the egg never hatched,” she gabbled.
Templeton, of course, was miserable over the loss of his beloved egg.
But he couldn’t resist boasting. “It pays to save things,” he said in his surly voice. “A rat never knows when something is going to, come in handy. I never throw anything away.”
“Well,” said one of the lambs, “this whole business is all well and good for Charlotte, but what about the rest of us? The smell is unbearable.
Who wants to live in a barn that is perfumed with rotten egg?”
“Don’t worry, you’ll net used to it,” said Templeton. He sat up and pulled wisely at his long whiskers, then crept away to pay a visit to the dump.
When Lurvy showed up at lunchtime carrying a pail of food for Wilbur, he stopped short a few paces from the pigpen. He sniffed the air and made a face.
“What in thunder?” he said. Setting the pail down, he picked up the stick that Avery had dropped and pried the trough up. “Rats! “ he said. “Fhew! I might a’known a rat would make a nest under this trough. How I hate a rat!”
And Lurvy dragged Wilbur’s trough across the yard and kicked some dirt into the rat’s nest, burying the broken egg and all Templeton’s other possessions. Then he picked up the pail. Wilbur stood in the trough, drooling with hunger. Lurvy poured. The slops ran creamily down around the pig’s eyes and ears. Wilbur grunted. He gulped and sucked, and sucked and gulped, making swishing and swooshing noises, anxious to get everything at once. It was a delicious meal - skim milk, wheat middlings, leftover pancakes, half a doughnut, the rind of a summer squash, two pieces of stale toast, a third of a gingersnap, a fish tail, one orange peel, several noodles from a noodle soup, the scum off a cup of cocoa, an ancient jelly roll, a strip of paper from the lining of the garbage pail, and a spoonful of raspberry jello.
Wilbur ate heartily. He planned to leave half a noodle and a few drops of milk for Templeton. Then he remembered that the rat had been useful in saving Charlotte’s life, and that Charlotte was trying to save his life. So he left a whole noodle, instead of a half.
Now that the broken egg was buried, the air cleared and the barn smelled good again. The afternoon passed, and evening came.
Shadows lengthened. The cool and kindly breath of evening entered through doors and windows. Astride her web, Charlotte sat moodily eating a horsefly and thinking about the future. After a while she bestirred herself.
She descended to the center of the web and there she began to cut some of her lines. She worked slowly but steadily while the other creatures drowsed. None of the others, not even the goose, noticed that she was at work. Deep in his soft bed, Wilbur snoozed. Over in their favorite corner, the goslings whistled a night song.
Charlotte tore quite a section out of her web, leaving an open space in the middle. Then she started weaving something to take the place of the threads she had removed. When Templeton got back from the dump, around midnight, the spider was still at work.
The next day was foggy. Everything on the farm was dripping wet. The grass looked like a magic carpet. The asparagus patch looked like a silver forest.
On foggy mornings, Charlotte’s web was truly a thing of beauty. This morning each thin strand was decorated with dozens of tiny beads of water. The web glistened in the light and made a pattern of loveliness and mystery, like a delicate veil. Even Lurvy, who wasn’t particularly interested in beauty, noticed the web when he came with the pig’s breakfast. He noted how clearly it showed up and he noted how big and carefully built it was. And then he took another look and he saw something that made him set his pail down. There, in the center of the web, neatly woven in block letters, was a message. It said: SOME PIG!
Lurvy felt weak. He brushed his hand across his eyes and stared harder at Charlotte’s web.
“I’m seeing things,” he whispered. He dropped to his knees and uttered a short prayer. Then, forgetting all about Wilbur’s breakfast, he walked back to the house and called Mr. Zuckerman.
“I think you’d better come down to the pigpen,” he said.
“What’s the trouble?” asked Mr. Zuckerman. “Anything wrong with the pig?”
“N-not exactly,” said Lurvy. “Come and see for yourself.”
The two men walked silently down to Wilbur’s yard. Lurvy pointed to the
spider’s web. “Do you see what I see?” he asked.
Zuckerman stared at the writing on the web. Then he murmured the words
“Some Pig.” Then he looked at Lurvy. Then they both began to tremble.
Charlotte, sleepy after her night’s exertions, smiled as she watched.
Wilbur came and stood directly under the web.
“Some pig!” muttered Lurvy in a low voice.
“Some pig!” whispered Mr. Zuckerman. They stared and stared for a long time at Wilbur. Then they stared at Charlotte.
“You don’t suppose that that spider …” began Mr. Zuckerman - but he shook his head and didn’t finish the sentence. Instead, he walked solemnly back up to the house and spoke to his wife. “Edith, something has happened,” he said, in a weak voice. He went into the living room and sat down, and Mrs. Zuckerman followed.
“I’ve got something to tell you, Edith,” he said. “You better sit down.”
Mrs. Zuckerman sank into a chair. She looked pale and frightened.
“Edith,” he said, trying to keep his voice steady, “I think you had best be told that we have a very unusual pig.”
A look of complete bewilderment came over Mrs. Zuckerman’s face.
“Homer Zuckerman, what in the world are you talking about?” she said.
“This is a very serious thing, Edith,” he replied. “Our pig is completely out of the ordinary.”
“What’s unusual about the pig?” asked Mrs. Zuckerman, who was beginning to recover from her scare.
“Well, I don’t really know yet,” said Mr. Zuckerman. “But we have received a sign, Edith - a mysterious sign. A miracle has happened on this farm. There is a large spider’s web in the doorway of the barn cellar, right over the pigpen, and when Lurvy went to feed the pig this morning, he noticed the web because it was foggy, and you know how a spider’s web looks very distinct in a fog. And right spang in the middle of the web there were the words ‘Some Pig.” The words were woven right into the web. They were actual part of the web, Edith. I know, because I have been down there and seen them. It says, ‘Some Pig,’ justas clear as clear can be. There can be no mistake about it. A miracle has happened and a sign has occurred here on earth, right on our farm, and we have no ordinary pig.”
“Well,” said Mrs. Zuckerman, “it seems to me you’re a little off. It seems to me we have no ordinary spider.”
“Oh, no,” said Zuckerman. “It’s the pig that’s un usual. It says so, right there in the middle of the web.”
“Maybe so,” said Mrs. Zuckerman. “Just the same, I intend to have a look at that spider.”
“It’s just a common grey spider,” said Zuckerman.
They got up, and together they walked down to Wilbur’s yard.
“You see, Edith? It’s just a common grey spider.”
Wilbur was pleased to receive so much attention. Lurvy was still standing there, and Mr. and Mrs. Zuckerman all three, stood for about an hour, reading the words on the web over and over, and watching Wilbur.
Charlotte was delighted with the way her trick was working.
She sat without moving a muscle, and listened to the conversation of the people. When a small fly blundered into the web, just beyond the word pig,” Charlotte dropped quickly down, rolled the fly up, and carried it out of the way.
After a while the fog lifted. The web dried off and the words didn’t show up so plainly. The Zuckermans and Lurvy walked back to the house.
Just before they left the pigpen, Mr. Zuckerman took one last look at Wilbur.
“You know,” he said, in an important voice, “I’ve thought all along that that pig of ours was an extra good one. He’s a solid pig. That pig is as solid as they come. You notice how solid he is around the shoulders, Lurvy?”
“Sure. Sure I do,” said Lurvy. “I’ve always noticed that pig. He’s quite a pig.”
“He’s long, and he’s smooth,” said Zuckerman.
“That’s right,” agreed Lurvy. “He’s as smooth as they come.
He’s some pig.”
When Mr. Zuckerman got back to the house, he took off his work clothes and put on his best suit. Then he got into his car and drove to the minister’s house. He stayed for an hour and explained to the minister that a miracle had happened on the farm.
“So far,” said Zuckerman, “only four people on earth know about this miracle - myself, my wife Edith, my hired man Lurvy, and you.”
“Don’t tell anybody else,” said the minister. “We don’t know what it means yet, but perhaps if I give thought to it, I can explain it in my sermon next Sunday. There can be no doubt that you have a most unusual pig. I intend to speak about it in my sermon and point out the fact that this community has been visited with a wondrous animal. By the way, does the pig have a name?”
“Why, yes,” said Mr. Zuckerman. “My little niece calls him Wilbur.
She’s a rather queer child - full of notions. She raised the pig on a bottle and I bought him from her when he was a month old.”
He shook hands with the minister, and left.
Secrets are hard to keep. Long before Sunday came, the news spread all over the county. Everybody knew that a sign had appeared in a spider’s web on the Zuckerman place. Everybody knew that the Zuckermans had a wondrous pig. People came from miles around to look at Wilbur and to read the words on Charlotte’s web. The Zuckermans’ driveway was full of cars and trucks from morning till night - Fords and Chevvies and Buick roadmasters and GMC pickups and Plymouths and Studebakers and Packards and De Sotos with gyromatic transmissions and Oldsmobiles with rocket engines and Jeep station wagonsand Pontiacs. The news of the wonderful pig spread clear up into the hills, and farmers came rattling down in buggies and buckboards, to stand hour after hour at Wilbur’s pen admiring the miraculous animal. All said they had never seen such a pig before in their lives.
When Fern told her mother that Avery had tried to hit the Zuckermans’ spider with a stick, Mrs. Arable was so shocked that she sent Avery to bed without any supper, as punishment.
In the days that followed, Mr. Zuckerman was so busy entertaining visitors that he neglected his farm work. He wore his good clothes all the time now -got right into them when he got up in the morning. Mrs.
Zuckerman prepared special meals for Wilbur. Lurvy shaved and got a haircut; and his principal farm duty was to feed the pig while people looked on.
Mr. Zuckerman ordered Lurvy to increase Wilbur’s feedings from three meals a day to four meals a day. The Zuckermans were so busy with visitors they forgot about other things on the farm.
The blackberries got ripe, and Mrs. Zuckerman failed to put up any blackberry jam. The corn needed hoeing, and Lurvy didn’t find time to hoe it.
On Sunday the church was full. The minister explained the miracle. He said that the words on the spider’s web proved that human beings must always be on the watch for the coming of wonders.
All in all, the Zuckermans’ pigpen was the center of attraction. Fern was happy, for she felt that Charlotte’s trick was working and that Wilbur’s life would be saved. But she found that the barn was not nearly as pleasant - too many people. She liked it better when she could be all alone with her friends the animals.
One evening, a few days after the writing had appeared in Charlotte’s web, the spider called a meeting of all the animals in the barn cellar.
“I shall begin by calling the roll. Wilbur?”
“Here!” said the pig.
“Here, here, here!” said the gander.
“You sound like three ganders,” muttered Charlotte. “Why can’t you just say ‘here’? Why do you have to repeat everything?”
“It’s my idio-idio-idiosyncrasy,” replied the gander.
“Goose?” said Charlotte.
“Here, here, here!” said the goose. Charlotte glared at her.
“Goslings, one through seven?”
“Bee-bee-bee!” said the goslings.
“This is getting to be quite a meeting,” said Charlotte.
“Anybody would think we had three ganders, three geese, and twenty one goslings. Sheep?”
“He-aa-aa!” answered the sheep all together.
“He-aa-aa!” answered the lambs all together.
“Well, we are all here except the rat,” said Charlotte. “I guess we can proceed without him. Now, all of you must have noticed what’s been going on around here the last few days. The message I wrote in my web, praising Wilbur, has been received. The Zuckermans have fallen for it, and so has everybody else.
Zuckerman thinks Wilbur is an unusual pig, and therefore he won’t want to kill him and eat him. I dare say my trick will work and Wilbur’s life can be saved.
“Hurray!” cried everybody.
“Thank you very much,” said Charlotte. “Now I called this meeting in order to get suggestions. I need new ideas for the web. People are already getting sick of reading the words ‘Some Pig!” If anybody can think of another message, or remark, I’ll be glad to weave it into the web. Any suggestions for a new slogan?”
“How about ‘Pig Supreme’?” asked one of the lambs.
“No good,” said Charlotte. “It sounds like a rich dessert.”
“How about ‘Terrific, terrific, terrific’?” asked the goose.
“Cut that down to one ‘terrific’ and it will do very nicely,” said Charlotte. “I think ‘terrific’ might impress Zuckerman.”
“But Charlotte,” said Wilbur, “I’m not terrific.”
“That doesn’t make a particle of difference,” replied Charlotte. “Not a particle. People believe almost anything they see in print. Does anybody here know how to spell ‘terrific’?”
“I think,” said the gander, “it’s tee double ee double rr double rr double eye double ff double eye double see see see see see.”
“What kind of an acrobat do you think I am?” said Charlotte in disgust.
“I would have to have St. Vitus’s Dance to weave a word like that into my web.”
“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” said the gander.
Then the oldest sheep spoke up. “I agree that there should be something new written in the web if Wilbur’s life is to be saved. And if Charlotte needs help in finding words, I think she can get it from our friend Templeton. The rat visits the dump regularly and has access to old magazines. He can tear out bits of advertisements and bring them up here to the barn cellar, so that Charlotte can have something to copy.”
“Good idea,” said Charlotte. “But I’m not sure Templeton will be willing to help. You know how he is - always looking out for himself, never thinking of the other fellow.”
“I bet I can get him to help,” said the old sheep. “I’ll appeal to his baser instincts, of which he has plenty. Here he comes now.
Everybody keep quiet while I put the matter up to him!”
The rat entered the barn the way he always did - creeping along close to the wall.
“What’s up? “ he asked, seeing the animals assembled.
“We’re holding a directors’ meeting,” replied the old sheep.
“Well, break it up! “ said Templeton. “Meetings bore me.”
And the rat began to climb a rope that hung against the wall.
“Look,” said the old sheep, “next time you go to the dump, Templeton, bring back a clipping from a magazine. Charlotte needs new ideas so she can write messages in her web and save Wilbur’s life.”
“Let him die,” said the rat. “I should worry.”
“You’ll worry all right when next winter comes,” said the sheep. “You’ll worry all right on a zero morning next January when Wilbur is dead and nobody comes down here with a nice pail of warm slops to pour into the trough. Wilbur’s leftover food is your chief source of supply, Templeton. You know that. Wilbur’s food is your food; therefore Wilbur’s destiny and your destiny are closely linked. If Wilbur is killed and his trough stands empty day after day, you’ll grow so thin we can look right through your stomach and see objects on the other side.”
Templeton’s whiskers quivered.
“Maybe you’re right,” he said gruffly. “I’m making a trip to the dump tomorrow afternoon. I’ll bring back a magazine clipping if I can find one.”
“Thanks,” said Charlotte. “The meeting is now adjourned. I have a busy evening ahead of me. I’ve got to tear my web apart and write ‘Terrific.””
Wilbur blushed. “But I’m not terrific, Charlotte. I’m just about average for a pig.”
“You’re terrific as far as I’m concerned,” replied Charlotte, sweetly, “and that’s what counts. You’re my best friend, and I think you’re sensational. Now stop arguing and go get some sleep!
Far into the night, while the other creatures slept, Charlotte worked on her web. First she ripped out a few of the orb lines near the center.
She left the radial lines alone, as they were needed for support. As she worked, her eight legs were a great help to her. So were her teeth.
She loved to weave and she was an expert at it. When she was finished
ripping things out, her web looked something like this: Note: Similar to a wagon wheel with spokes
A spider can produce several kinds of thread. She uses a dry, tough thread for foundation lines, and she uses a sticky thread for snare lines - the ones that catch and hold insects.
Charlotte decided to use her dry thread for writing the new message.
“If I write the word ‘Terrific’ with sticky thread,” she thought, “every bug that comes along will get stuck in it and spoil the effect.”
“Now let’s see, the first letter is T.”
Charlotte climbed to a point at the top of the left hand side of the web. Swinging her spinnerets into position, she attached her thread and then dropped down. As she dropped, her spinning tubes went into action and she let out thread. At the bottom, she attached the thread. This formed the upright part of the letter T. Charlotte was not satisfied, however. She climbed up and made another attachment, right next to the first. Then she carried the line down, so that she had a double line instead of a single line. “It will show up better if I make the whole thing with double lines.”
She climbed back up, moved over about an inch to the left, touched her spinnerets to the web, and then carried a line across to the right, forming the top of the T. She repeated this, making it double. Her eight legs were very busy helping.
“Now for the E! “ Charlotte got so interested in her work, she began to talk to herself, as though to cheer herself on. If you had been sitting quietly in the barn cellar that evening, you would have heard something
“Now for the R! Up we go! Attach! Descend! Pay out line!
Whoa! Attach! Good! Up you go! Repeat! Attach! Descend! Pay out line. Whoa, girl! Steady now! Attach! Climb! Attach! Over to the right! Pay out line! Attach! Now right and down and swing that loop and around and around! Now in to the left! Attach! Climb!
Repeat! O.K.! Easy, keep those lines together! Now, then, out and down for the leg of the R! Pay out line! Whoa! Attach! Ascend!
Repeat! Good girl!”
And so, talking to herself, the spider worked at her difficult task.
When it was completed, she felt hungry. She ate a small bug that she had been saving. Then she slept.
Next morning, Wilbur arose and stood beneath the web. He breathed the morning air into his lungs. Drops of dew, catching the sun, made the web stand out clearly. When Lurvy arrived with breakfast, there was the handsome pig, and over him, woven neatly in block letters, was the word
TERRIFIC. Another miracle.
Lurvy rushed and called Mr. Zuckerman. Mr. Zuckerman rushed and called Mrs. Zuckerman. Mrs. Zuckerman ran to the phone and called the
Arables. The Arables climbed into their truck and hurried over.
Everybody stood at the pigpen and stared at the web and read the word, over and over, while Wilbur, who really felt terrific, stood quietly swelling out his chest and swinging his snout from side to side.
“Terrific!” breathed Zuckerman, in joyful admiration. “Edith, you better phone the reporter on the _Weekly _Chronicle and tell him what has happened. He will want to know about this.
He may want to bring a photographer. There isn’t a pig in the whole state that is as terrific as our pig.”
The news spread. People who had journeyed to see Wilbur when he was “some pig” came back again to see him now that he was “terrific.”
That afternoon, when Mr. Zuckerman went to milk the cows and clean out the tie-ups, he was still thinking about what a wondrous pig he owned.
“Lurvy! “ he called. “There is to be no more cow manure thrown down into that pigpen. I have a terrific pig. I want that pig to have clean, bright straw every day for his bedding. Understand?”
“Yes, sir,” said Lurvy.
“Furthermore,” said Mr. Zuckerman, “I want you to start building a crate for Wilbur. I have decided to take the pig to the County Fair on September sixth. Make the crate large and paint it green with gold letters!”
“What will the letters say?” asked Lurvy.
“They should say Zuckerman’s Famous Pig.”
Lurvy picked up a pitchfork and walked away to get some clean straw.
Having such an important pig was going to mean plenty of extra work, he could see that.
Below the apple orchard, at the end of a path, was the dump where Mr. Zuckerman threw all sorts of trash and stuff that nobody wanted any more. Here, in a small clearing hidden by young alders and wild raspberry bushes, was an astonishing pile of old bottles and empty tin cans and dirty rags and bits of metal and broken bottles and broken hinges and broken springs and dead batteries and last month’s magazines and old discarded dishmops and tattered overalls and rusty spikes and leaky pails and forgotten stoppers and useless junk of all kinds, including a wrong-size crank for a broken ice-cream freezer.
Templeton knew the dump and liked it. There were good hiding places there - excellent cover for a rat. And there was usually a tin can with food still clinging to the inside.
Templeton was down there now, rummaging around. When he returned to the barn, he carried in his mouth an advertisement he had torn from a crumpled magazine.
“How’s this?” he asked, showing the ad to Charlotte. “It says ‘Crunchy.” ‘Crunchy’ would be a good word to write in your web.”
“Just the wrong idea,” replied Charlotte. “Couldn’t be worse. We don’t want Zuckerman to think Wilbur is crunchy. He might start thinking about crisp, crunchy bacon and tasty ham. That would put ideas into his head. We must advertise Wilbur’s noble qualities, not his tastiness. Go get another word, please, Templeton!”
The rat looked disgusted. But he sneaked away to the dump and was back in a while with a strip of cotton cloth. “How’s this?” he asked. “It’s a label off an old shirt.”
Charlotte examined the label. It said PRESHRUNK.
“I’m sorry, Templeton,” she said, “but ‘Pre-shrunk’ is out of the question. We want Zuckerman to think Wilbur is nicely filled out, not all shrunk up. I’ll have to ask you to try again.”
“What do you think I am, a messenger boy?” grumbled the rat.
“I’m not going to spend all my time chasing down to the dump after advertising material.”
“Just once more - please!” said Charlotte.
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” said Templeton. “I know where there’s a package of soap flakes in the woodshed. It has writing on it. I’ll bring you a piece of the package.”
He climbed the rope that hung on the wall and disappeared through a hole in the ceiling. When he came back he had a strip of blue-and-white cardboard in his teeth.
“There!” he said, triumphantly. “How’s that?”
Charlotte read the words: “With New Radiant Action.”
“What does it mean?” asked Charlotte, who had never used any soap flakes in her life.
“How should I know?” said Templeton. “You asked for words and I brought them. I suppose the next thing you’ll want me to fetch is a dictionary.”
Together they studied the soap ad. “‘With new radiant action,’” repeated Charlotte, slowly. “Wilbur!” she called.
Wilbur, who was asleep in the straw, jumped up. “Run around!” commanded Charlotte. “I want to see you in action, to see if you are radiant.”
Wilbur raced to the end of his yard.
“Now back again, faster!” said Charlotte.
Wilbur galloped back. His skin shone. His tail had a fine, tight curl in it.
“Jump into the air!” cried Charlotte.
Wilbur jumped as high as he could.
“Keep your knees straight and touch the ground with your ears!” called Charlotte.
“Do a back flip with a half twist in it!” cried Charlotte.
Wilbur went over backwards, writhing and twisting as he went.
“O.K., Wilbur,” said Charlotte. “You can go back to sleep. O.K., Templeton, the soap ad will do, I guess. I’m not sure Wilbur’s action is exactly radiant, but it’s interesting.”
“Actually,” said Wilbur, “I feel radiant.”
“Do you?” said Charlotte, looking at him with affection. “Well, you’re a good little pig, and radiant you shall be. I’m in this thing pretty deep now - I might as well go the limit.”
Tired from his romp, Wilbur lay down in the clean straw. He closed his eyes. The straw seemed scratchy - not as comfortable as the cow manure, which was always delightfully soft to lie in. So he pushed the straw to one side and stretched out in the manure. Wilbur sighed. It had been a busy day - his first day of being terrific. Dozens of people had visited his yard during the afternoon, and he had had to stand and pose, looking as terrific as he could. Now he was tired. Fern had arrived and seated herself quietly on her stool in the corner.
“Tell me a story, Charlotte!” said Wilbur, as he lay waiting for sleep to come. “Tell me a story!”
So Charlotte, although she, too, was tired, did what Wilbur wanted.
“Once upon a time,” she began, “I had a beautiful cousin who managed to build her web across a small stream. One day a tiny fish leaped into the air and got tangled in the web. My cousin was very much surprised, of course. The fish was thrashing wildly. My cousin hardly dared tackle it. But she did. She swooped down and threw great masses of wrapping material around the fish and fought bravely to capture it.”
“Did she succeed?” asked Wilbur.
“It was a never-to-be-forgotten battle,” said Charlotte. “There was the fish, caught only by one fin, and its tail wildly thrashing and shining in the sun. There was the web, sagging dangerously under the weight of the fish.”
“How much did the fish weigh?” asked Wilbur eagerly.
“I don’t know,” said Charlotte. “There was my cousin, slipping in, dodging out, beaten mercilessly over the head by the wildly thrashing fish, dancing in, dancing out, throwing her threads and fighting hard.
First she threw a left around the tail. The fish lashed back. Then a left to the tail and a right to the mid section. The fish lashed back.
Then she dodged to one side and threw a right, and another right to the fin. Then a hard left to the head, while the web swayed and stretched.”
“Then what happened?” asked Wilbur.
“Nothing,” said Charlotte. “The fish lost the fight. My cousin wrapped it up so tight it couldn’t budge.”
“Then what happened?” asked Wilbur.
“Nothing,” said Charlotte. “My cousin kept the fish for a while, and then, when she got good and ready, she ate it.”
“Tell me another story!” begged Wilbur.
So Charlotte told him about another cousin of hers who was an aeronaut.
“What is an aeronaut?” asked Wilbur.
“A balloonist,” said Charlotte. “My cousin used to stand on her head and let out enough thread to form a balloon. Then she’d let go and be lifted into the air and carried upward on the warm wind.”
“Is that true?” asked Wilbur. “Or are you just making it up?”
“It’s true,” replied Charlotte. “I have some very remarkable cousins.
And now, Wilbur, it’s time you went to sleep.”
“Sing something!” begged Wilbur, closing his eyes.
So Charlotte sang a lullaby, while crickets chirped in the grass and the barn grew dark. This was the song she sang.
“Sleep, sleep, my love, my only, Deep, deep, in the dung and the dark; Be not afraid and be not lonely!
This is the hour when frogs and thrushes
Praise the world from the woods and the rushes.
Rest from care, my one and only,
Deep in the dung and the dark!”
But Wilbur was already asleep. When the song ended, Fern got up and went home.
The next day was Saturday. Fern stood at the kitchen sink drying the breakfast dishes as her mother washed them. Mrs. Arable worked silently. She hoped Fern would go out and play with other children, instead of heading for the Zuckermans’ barn to sit and watch animals.
“Charlotte is the best storyteller I ever heard,” said Fern, poking her dish towel into a cereal bowl.
“Fern,” said her mother sternly, “you must not invent things. You know spiders don’t tell stories. Spiders can’t talk.”
“Charlotte can,” replied Fern. “She doesn’t talk very loud, but she talks.”
“What kind of story did she tell?” asked Mrs. Arable.
“Well,” began Fern, “she told us about a cousin of hers who caught a fish in her web. Don’t you think that’s fascinating?”
“Fern, dear, how would a fish get in a spider’s web?” said Mrs. Arable.
“You know it couldn’t happen. You’re making this up.”
“Oh, it happened all right,” replied Fern. “Charlotte never fibs. This cousin of hers built a web across a stream. One day she was hanging around on the web and a tiny fish leaped into the air and got tangled in the web. The fish was caught by one fin, Mother; its tail was wildly thrashing and shining in the sun. Can’t you just see the web, sagging dangerously under the weight of the fish? Charlotte’s cousin kept slipping in, dodging out, and she was beaten mercilessly over the head by the wildly thrashing fish, dancing in, dancing out, throwing …”
“Fern!” snapped her mother. “Stop it! Stop inventing these wild tales!”
“I’m not inventing,” said Fern. “I’m just telling you the facts.”
“What finally happened?” asked her mother, whose curiosity began to get
the better of her.
“Charlotte’s cousin won. She wrapped the fish up, then she ate him when she got good and ready. Spiders have to eat, the same as the rest of us.”
“Yes, I suppose they do,” said Mrs. Arable, vaguely.
“Charlotte has another cousin who is a balloonist. She stands on her head, lets out a lot of line, and is carried aloft on the wind. Mother, wouldn’t you simply love to do that?”
“Yes, I would, come to think of it,” replied Mrs. Arable. “But Fern, darling, I wish you would play outdoors today instead of going to Uncle Homer’s barn. Find some of your playmates and do something nice outdoors. You’re spending too much time in that barn - it isn’t good for you to be alone so much.”
“Alone?” said Fern. “Alone? My best friends are in the barn cellar. It is a very sociable place. Not at all lonely.”
Fern disappeared after a while, walking down the road toward Zuckermans’. Her mother dusted the sitting room. As she worked she kept thinking about Fern. It didn’t seem natural for a little girl to be so interested in animals. Finally Mrs. Arable made up her mind she would pay a call on old Doctor Dorian and ask his advice. She got in the car and drove to his office in the village.
Dr. Dorian had a thick beard. He was glad to see Mrs. Arable and gave her a comfortable chair.
“It’s about Fern,” she explained. “Fern spends entirely too much time in the Zuckermans’ barn. It doesn’t seem normal. She sits on a milk stool in a corner of the barn cellar, near the pigpen, and watches animals, hour after hour. She just sits and listens.”
Dr. Dorian leaned back and closed his eyes.
“How enchanting!” he said. “It must be real nice and quiet down there.
Homer has some sheep, hasn’t he?”
“Yes,” said Mrs. Arable. “But it all started with that pig we let Fern raise on a bottle. She calls him Wilbur. Homer bought the pig, and ever since it left our place Fern has been going to her uncle’s to be near it.”
“I’ve been hearing things about that pig,” said Dr. Dorian, opening his eyes. “They say he’s quite a pig.”
“Have you heard about the words that appeared in the spider’s web?” asked Mrs. Arable nervously.
“Yes,” replied the doctor.
“Well, do you understand it?” asked Mrs. Arable.
“Do you understand how there could be any writing in a spider’s web?”
“Oh, no,” said Dr. Dorian. “I don’t understand it. But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.”
“What’s miraculous about a spider’s web?” said Mrs. Arable. “I don’t see why you say a web is a miracle - it’s just a web.”
“Ever try to spin one?” asked Dr. Dorian.
Mrs. Arable shifted uneasily in her chair. “No,” she replied. “But I can crochet a doily and I can knit a sock.”
“Sure,” said the doctor. “But somebody taught you, didn’t they?”
“My mother taught me.”
“Well, who taught a spider? A young spider knows how to spin a web without any instructions from anybody. Don’t you regard that as a miracle?”
“I suppose so,” said Mrs. Arable. “I never looked at it that way before. Still, I don’t understand how those words got into the web. I don’t understand it, and I don’t like what I can’t understand.”
“None of us do,” said Dr. Dorian, sighing. “I’m a doctor. Doctors are supposed to understand everything. But I don’t understand everything, and I don’t intend to let it worry me.”
Mrs. Arable fidgeted. “Fern says the animals talk to each other. Dr. Dorian, do you believe animals talk?”
“I never heard one say anything,” he replied. “But that proves nothing.
It is quite possible that an animal has spoken civilly to me and that I didn’t catch the remark because I wasn’t paying attention. Children pay better attention than grownups. If Fern says that the animals in Zuckerman’s barn talk, I’m quite ready to believe her. Perhaps if people talked less, animals would talk more. People are incessant talkers - I can give you my word on that.”
“Well, I feel better about Fern,” said Mrs. Arable.
“You don’t think I need worry about her?”
“Does she look well?” asked the doctor.
“Oh, yes, she’s always hungry.”
“Sleep well at night?”
“Then don’t worry,” said the doctor.
“Do you think she’ll ever start thinking about something besides pigs and sheep and geese and spiders?”
“How old is Fern?”
“Well,” said Dr. Dorian, “I think she will always love animals. But I doubt that she spends her entire life in Homer Zuckerman’s barn cellar.
How about boys - does she know any boys?”
“She knows Henry Fussy,” said Mrs. Arable brightly.
Dr. Dorian closed his eyes again and went into deep thought.
“Henry Fussy,” he mumbled. “Hmm. Remarkable. Well, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Let Fern associate with her friends in the barn if she wants to. I would say, offhand, that spiders and pigs were fully as interesting as Henry Fussy. Yet I predict that the day will come when even Henry will drop some chance remark that catches Fern’s attention. It’s amazing how children change from year to year.
How’s Avery?” he asked, opening his eyes wide.
“Oh, Avery,” chuckled Mrs. Arable. “Avery is always fine. Of course, he gets into poison ivy and gets stung by wasps and bees and brings frogs and snakes home and breaks everything he lays his hands on. He’s fine.”
“Good!” said the doctor.
Mrs. Arable said goodbye and thanked Dr. Dorian very much for his advice. She felt greatly relieved.
The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad, monotonous song. “Summer is over and gone,” they sang.
“Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.”
The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year - the days when summer is changing into fall the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.
Everybody heard the song of the crickets. Avery and Fern Arable heard it as the walked the dusty road. They knew that school would soon begin again. The young geese heard it and knew that they would never be little goslings again. Charlotte heard it and knew that she hadn’t much time left. Mrs. Zuckerman, at work in the kitchen, heard the crickets, and a sadness came over her, too. “Another summer gone,” she sighed.
Lurvy, at work building a crate for Wilbur, heard the song and knew it was time to dig potatoes.
“Summer is over and gone,” repeated the crickets. “How many nights till frost?” sang the crickets. “Good-bye, summer, good-bye, good-bye!”
The sheep heard the crickets, and they felt so uneasy they broke a hole in the pasture fence and wandered up into the field across the road.
The gander discovered the hole and led his family through, and they walked to the orchard and ate the apples that were lying on the ground. A little maple tree in the swamp heard the cricket song and turned bright red with anxiety.
Wilbur was now the center of attraction on the farm. Good food and regular hours were showing results: Wilbur was a pig any man would be proud of. One day more than a hundred people came to stand at his yard and admire him. Charlotte had written the word RADIANT, and Wilbur really looked radiant as he stood in the golden sunlight. Ever since the spider had befriended him, he had done his best to live up to his reputation. When Charlotte’s web said SOME PIG, Wilbur had tried hard to look like some pig. When Charlotte’s web said TERRIFIC, Wilbur had tried to look terrific. And now that the web said RADIANT, he did everything possible to make himself glow.
It is not easy to look radiant, but Wilbur threw himself into it with a will. He would turn his head slightly and blink his long eye-lashes.
Then he would breathe deeply. And when his audience grew bored, he would spring into the air and do a back flip with a half twist. At this the crowd would yell and cheer. “How’s that for a pig? “ Mr. Zuckerman would ask, well pleased with himself. “That pig is radiant.”
Some of Wilbur’s friends in the barn worried for fear all this attention would go to his head and make him stuck up. But it never did. Wilbur was modest; fame did not spoil him. He still worried some about the future, as he could hardly believe that a mere spider would be able to save his life. Sometimes at night he would have a bad dream. He would dream that men were coming to get him with knives and guns. But that was only a dream. In the daytime, Wilbur usually felt happy and confident. No pig ever had truer friends, and he realized that friendship is one of the most satisfying things in the world. Even the song of the crickets did not make Wilbur too sad. He knew it was almost time for the County Fair, and he was looking forward to the trip.
If he could distinguish himself at the Fair, and maybe win some prize money, he was sure Zuckerman would let him live.
Charlotte had worries of her own, but she kept quiet about them. One morning Wilbur asked her about the Fair.
“You’re going with me, aren’t you,, Charlotte?” he said “Well, I don’t know,” replied Charlotte. “The Fair comes at a bad time for me. I shall find it inconvenient to leave home, even for a few days.”
“Why?” asked Wilbur.
“Oh, I just don’t feel like leaving my web. Too much going on around here.”
“Please come with me!” begged Wilbur. “I need you, Charlotte. I can’t stand going to the Fair without you. You’ve just got to come.”
“No,” said Charlotte, “I believe I’d better stay home and see if I can’t get some work done.”
“What kind of work?” asked Wilbur.
“Egg laying. It’s time I made an egg sac and filled it with eggs.”
“I didn’t know you could lay eggs,” said Wilbur in amazement.
“Oh, sure,” said the spider. “I’m versatile.”
“What does ‘versatile’ mean - full of eggs?” asked Wilbur.
“Certainly not,” said Charlotte. “‘Versatile’ means I can turn with ease from one thing to another. It means I don’t have to limit my activities to spinning and trapping and stunts like that.”
“Why don’t you come with me to the Fair Grounds and lay your eggs there?” pleaded Wilbur. “It would be wonderful fun.”
Charlotte gave her web a twitch and moodily watched it sway.
“I’m afraid not,” she said. “You don’t know the first thing about egg laying, Wilbur. I can’t arrange my family duties to suit the management of the County Fair. When I get ready to lay eggs, I have to lay eggs, Fair or no Fair. However, I don’t want you to worry about it - you might lose weight. We’ll leave it this way: I’ll come to the Fair if I possibly can.”
“Oh, good! “ said Wilbur. “I knew you wouldn’t forsake me just when I need you most.”
All that day Wilbur stayed inside, taking life easy in the straw.
Charlotte rested and ate a grasshopper. She knew that she couldn’t help
Wilbur much longer. In a few days she would have to drop everything and
build the beautiful little sac that would hold her eggs.
Off to the Fair
The night before the County Fair, everybody went to bed early. Fern and
Avery were in bed by eight. Avery lay dreaming that the Ferris wheel had stopped and that he was in the top car.
Fern lay dreaming that she was getting sick in the swings.
Lurvy was in bed by eight-thirty. He lay dreaming that he was throwing baseballs at a cloth cat and winning a genuine Navajo blanket. Mr. and Mrs. Zuckerman were in bed by nine. Mrs. Zuckerman lay dreaming about a deep freeze unit. Mr. Zuckerman lay dreaming about Wilbur. He dreamt that Wilbur had grown until he was one hundred and sixteen feet long and ninety-two feet high and that he had won all the prizes at the Fair and was covered with blue ribbons and even had a blue ribbon tied to the end of his tail.
Down in the barn cellar, the animals, too, went to sleep early, all except Charlotte. Tomorrow would be Fair Day. Every creature planned to get up early to see Wilbur off on his great adventure.
When morning came, everybody got up at daylight. The day was hot. Up the road at the Arables’ house, Fern lugged a pail of hot water to her room and took a sponge bath. Then she put on her prettiest dress because she knew she would see boys at the Fair. Mrs. Arable scrubbed the back of Avery’s neck, and wet his hair, and parted it, and brushed it down hard till it stuck to the top of his head - all but about six hairs that stood straight up. Avery put on clean underwear, clean blue jeans, and a clean shirt. Mr. Arable dressed, ate breakfast, and then went out and polished his truck. He had offered to drive everybody to the Fair, including Wilbur.
Bright and early, Lurvy put clean straw in Wilbur’s crate and lifted it into the pigpen. The crate was green. In gold letters it said: ZUCKERMAN’S FAMOUS PIG
Charlotte had her web looking fine for the occasion. Wilbur ate his breakfast slowly. He tried to look radiant without getting food in his ears.
In the kitchen, Mrs. Zuckerman suddenly made an announcement.
“Homer,” she said to her husband, “I am going to give that pig a buttermilk bath.”
“A what?” said Mr. Zuckerman.
“A buttermilk bath. My grandmother used to bathe her pig with buttermilk when it got dirty I just remembered.”
“Wilbur’s not dirty,” said Mr. Zuckerman proudly.
“He’s filthy behind the ears,” said Mrs. Zuckerman. “Every time Lurvy slops him, the food runs down around the ears. Then it dries and forms a crust. He also has a smudge on one side where he lays in the manure.”
“He lays in clean straw,” corrected Mr. Zuckerman.
“Well, he’s dirty, and he’s going to have a bath.”
Mr. Zuckerman sat down weakly and ate a doughnut. His wife went to the woodshed. When she returned, she wore rubber boots and an old raincoat, and she carried a bucket of buttermilk and a small wooden paddle.
“Edith, you’re crazy,” mumbled Zuckerman.
But she paid no attention to him. Together they walked to the pigpen.
Mrs. Zuckerman wasted no time. She climbed in with Wilbur and went to work. Dipping her paddle in the buttermilk, she rubbed him all over.
The geese gathered around to see the fun, and so did the sheep and lambs. Even Templeton poked his head out cautiously, to watch Wilbur get a buttermilk bath. Charlotte got so interested, she lowered herself on a dragline so she could see better. Wilbur stood still and closed his eyes. He could feel the buttermilk trickling down his sides. He opened his mouth and some buttermilk ran in. It was delicious. He felt radiant and happy. When Mrs. Zuckerman got through and rubbed him dry, he was the cleanest, prettiest pig you ever saw. He was pure white, pink around the ears and snout, and smooth as silk.
The Zuckermans went up to change into their best clothes. Lurvy went to shave and put on his plaid shirt and his purple necktie. The animals were left to themselves in the barn.
The seven goslings paraded round and round their mother.
“Please, please, please take us to the Fair!” begged a gosling. Then all seven began teasing to go.
“Please, please, please, please, please, please …” They made quite a racket.
“Children! “ snapped the goose. “We’re staying quietly-ietly-ietly at home. Only Wilbur-ilbur-ilbur is going to the Fair.”
Just then Charlotte interrupted.
“I shall go, too,” she said, softly. “I have decided to go with Wilbur.
He may need me. We can’t tell what may happen at the Fair Grounds.
Somebody’s got to go along who knows how to write. And I think Templeton better come, too - I might need somebody to run errands and do general work.”
“I’m staying right here,” grumbled the rat. “I haven’t the slightest interest in fairs.”
“That’s because you’ve never been to one,” remarked the old sheep.
“A fair is a rat’s paradise. Everybody spills food at a fair. A rat can creep out late at night and have a feast. In the horse barn you will find oats that the trotters and pacers have spilled. In the trampled grass of the infield you will find old discarded lunch boxes containing the foul remains of peanut butter sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, cracker crumbs, bits of doughnuts, and particles of cheese. In the hard packed dirt of the midway, after the glaring lights are out and the people have gone home to bed, you will find a veritable treasure of popcorn fragments, frozen custard dribblings, candied apples abandoned by tired children, sugar fluff crystals, salted almonds, popsicles, partially gnawed ice cream cones, and the wooden sticks of lollypops.
Everywhere is loot for a rat - in tents, in booths, in hay lofts - why, a fair has enough disgusting leftover food to satisfy a whole army of rats.”
Templeton’s eyes were blazing.
“Is this true?” he asked. “Is this appetizing yarn of yours true? I like high living, and what you say tempts me.”
“It is true,” said the old sheep. “Go to the Fair, Templeton. You will find that the conditions at a fair will surpass your wildest dreams.
Buckets with sour mash sticking to them, tin cans containing particles of tuna fish, greasy paper bags stuffed with rotten …”
“That’s enough!” cried Templeton. “Don’t tell me any more. I’m going.”
“Good,” said Charlotte, winking at the old sheep. “Now then - there is no time to be lost. Wilbur will soon be put into the crate. Templeton and I must get in the crate right now and hide ourselves.”
The rat didn’t waste a minute. He scampered over to the crate, crawled
between the slats, and pulled straw up over him so he was hidden from sight.
“All right,” said Charlotte, “I’m next.” She sailed into the air, let out a dragline, and dropped gently to the ground. Then she climbed the side of the crate and hid herself inside a knothole in the top board.
The old sheep nodded. “What a cargo! “ she said. “That sign ought to say ‘Zuckerman’s Famous Pig and Two Stowaways’.”
“Look out, the people are coming-oming-oming!” shouted the gander.
“Cheese it, cheese it, cheese it!”
The big truck with Mr. Arable at the wheel backed slowly down toward the barnyard. Lurvy and Mr. Zuckerman walked alongside. Fern and Avery were standing in the body of the truck hanging on to the sideboards.
“Listen to me,” whispered the old sheep to Wilbur. “When they open the crate and try to put you in, struggle! Don’t go without a tussle. Pigs always resist when they are being loaded.”
“If I struggle I’ll get dirty,” said Wilbur.
“Never mind that - do as I say! Struggle! If you were to walk into the crate without resisting, Zuckerman might think you were bewitched.
He’d be scared to go to the Fair.”
Templeton poked his head up through the straw. “Struggle if you must,” said he, “but kindly remember that I’m hiding down here in this crate and I don’t want to be stepped on, or kicked in the face, or pummeled, or crushed in any way, or squashed, or buffeted about, or bruised, or lacerated, or scarred, or biffed. Just watch what you’re doing, Mr. Radiant, when they get shoving you in!”
“Be quiet, Templeton!” said the sheep. “Pull in your head they’re coming. Look radiant, Wilbur! Lay low, Charlotte! Talk it up, geese!”
The truck backed slowly to the pigpen and stopped. Mr. Arable cut the motor, got out, walked around to the rear, and lowered the tailgate. The geese cheered. Mrs. Arable got out of the truck. Fern and Avery jumped to the ground. Mrs. Zuckerman came walking down from the house.
Everybody lined up at the fence and stood for a moment admiring Wilbur and the beautiful green crate. Nobody realized that the crate already contained a rat and a spider.
“That’s some pig!” said Mrs. Arable.
“He’s terrific,” said Lurvy.
“He’s very radiant,” said Fern, remembering the day he was born.
“Well,” said Mrs. Zuckerman, “he’s clean, anyway. The buttermilk certainly helped.”
Mr. Arable studied Wilbur carefully. “Yes, he’s a wonderful pig,” he said. “It’s hard to believe that he was the runt of the litter. You’ll get some extra good ham and bacon, Homer, when it comes time to kill that pig.”
Wilbur heard these words and his heart almost stopped. “I think I’m going to faint,” he whispered to the old sheep, who was watching.
“Kneel down!” whispered the old sheep. “Let the blood rush to your head!”
Wilbur sank to his knees, all radiance gone. His eyes closed.
“Look!” screamed Fern. “He’s fading away!”
“Hey, watch me!” yelled Avery, crawling on all fours into the crate.
“I’m a pig! I’m a pig!”
Avery’s foot touched Templeton under the straw. “What a mess!” thought the rat. “What fantastic creatures boys are! Why did I let myself in for this?”
The geese saw Avery in the crate and cheered.
“Avery, you get out of that crate this instant!” commanded his mother.
“What do you think you are?”
“I’m a pig!” cried Avery, tossing handfuls of straw into the air. “Oink, oink, oink!”
“The truck is rolling away, Papa,” said Fern.
The truck, with no one at the wheel, had started to roll downhill. Mr.
Arable dashed to the driver’s seat and pulled on the emergency brake.
The truck stopped. The geese cheered. Charlotte crouched and made herself as small as possible in the knothole, so Avery wouldn’t see her.
“Come out at once!” cried Mrs. Arable. Avery crawled out of the crate on hands and knees, making faces at Wilbur. Wilbur fainted away.
“The pig has passed out,” said Mrs. Zuckerman. “Throw water on him!”
“Throw buttermilk!” suggested Avery.
The geese cheered.
Lurvy ran for a pail of water. Fern climbed into the pen and knelt by Wilbur’s side.
“It’s sunstroke,” said Zuckerman. “The heat is too much for him.”
“Maybe he’s dead,” said Avery.
“Come out of that pigpen immediately!” cried Mrs. Arable. Avery obeyed his mother and climbed into the back of the truck so he could see better. Lurvy returned with cold water and dashed it on Wilbur.
“Throw some on me!” cried Avery. “I’m hot, too.”
“Oh, keep quiet!” hollered Fern. “Keep qui-ut!” Her eyes were brimming with tears. Wilbur, feeling the cold water, came to. He rose slowly to his feet, while the geese cheered.
“He’s up!” said Mr. Arable. “I guess there’s nothing wrong with him.”
“I’m hungry,” said Avery. “I want a candied apple.”
“Wilbur’s all right now,” said Fern. “We can start. I want to take a ride in the Ferris wheel.”
Mr. Zuckerman and Mr. Arable and Lurvy grabbed the pig and pushed him
headfirst toward the crate. Wilbur began to struggle.
The harder the men pushed, the harder he held back. Avery jumped down and joined the men. Wilbur kicked and thrashed and grunted.
“Nothing wrong with this pig,” said Mr. Zuckerman cheerfully, pressing his knee against Wilbur’s behind. “All together, now, boys! Shove!”
With a final heave they jammed him into the crate. The geese cheered.
Lurvy nailed some boards across the end, so Wilbur couldn’t back out.
Then, using all their strength, the men picked up the crate and heaved it aboard the truck. They did not know that under the straw was a rat, and inside a knothole was a big grey spider. They saw only a pig.
“Everybody in!” called Mr. Arable. He started the motor. The ladies climbed in beside him. Mr. Zuckerman and Lurvy and Fern and Avery rode in back, hanging onto the sideboards. The truck began to move ahead.
The geese cheered. The children answered their cheer, and away went everybody to the Fair.
When they pulled into the Fair Grounds, they could hear music and see the Ferris wheel turning in the sky. They could smell the dust of the race track where the sprinkling cart had moistened it; and they could smell hamburgers frying and see balloons aloft. They could hear sheep blatting in their pens. An enormous voice over the loudspeaker said: “Attention, please!
Will the owner of a Pontiac car, license number H-2439, please move your car away from the fireworks shed!”
“Can I have some money?” asked Fern.
“Can I, too?” asked Avery.
“I’m going to win a doll by spinning a wheel and it will stop at the right number,” said Fern.
“I’m going to steer a jet plane and make it bump into another one.”
“Can I have a balloon?” asked Fern.
“Can I have a frozen custard and a cheeseburger and some raspberry soda pop?” asked Avery.
“You children be quiet till we get the pig unloaded,” said Mrs. Arable.
“Let’s let the children go off by themselves,” suggested Mr. Arable.
“The Fair only comes once a year.” Mr. Arable gave Fern two quarters and two dimes. He gave Avery five dimes and four nickels. “Now run 27 日 along!” he said. “And remember, the money has to last all day. Don’t spend it all the first few minutes. And be back here at the truck at noontime so we can all have lunch together. And don’t eat a lot of stuff that’s going to make you sick to your stomachs.”
“And if you go in those swings,” said Mrs. Arable, you hang on tight!
You hang on very tight. Hear me?”
“And don’t get lost! “ said Mrs. Zuckerman.
“And don’t get dirty!”
“Don’t get overheated!” said their mother.
“Watch out for pickpockets!” cautioned their father.
“And don’t cross the race track when the horses are coming!” cried Mrs. Zuckerman.
The children grabbed each other by the hand and danced off in the direction of the merry-go-round, toward the wonderful music and the wonderful adventure and the wonderful excitement, into the wonderful midway where there would be no parents to guard them and guide them, and where they could be happy and free and do as they pleased. Mrs. Arable stood quietly and watched them go. Then she sighed. Then she blew her nose.
“Do you really think it’s all right?” she asked.
“Well, they’ve got to grow up some time,” said Mr. Arable.
“And a fair is a good place to start, I guess.”
While Wilbur was being unloaded and taken out of his crate and into his new pigpen, crowds gathered to watch. They stared at the sign ZUCKERMAN’S FAMOUS PIG. Wilbur stared back and tried to look extra good. He was pleased with his new home. The pen was grassy, and it was shaded from the sun by a shed roof.
Charlotte, watching her chance, scrambled out of the crate and climbed a post to the under side of the roof. Nobody noticed her.
Templeton, not wishing to come out in broad daylight, stayed quietly under the straw at the bottom of the crate. Mr. Zuckerman poured some skim milk into Wilbur’s trough, pitched clean straw into his pen, and then he and Mrs. Zuckerman and the Arables; walked away toward the cattle barn to look at purebred cows and to see the sights. Mr. Zuckerman particularly wanted to look at tractors. Mrs. Zuckerman wanted to see a deep freeze. Lurvy wandered off by himself, hoping to meet friends and have some fun on the midway.
As soon as the people were gone, Charlotte spoke to Wilbur.
“It’s a good thing you can’t see what I see,” she said.
“What do you see?” asked Wilbur.
“There’s a pig in the next pen and he’s enormous. I’m afraid he’s much bigger than you are.”
“Maybe he’s older than I am, and has had more time to grow,” suggested
Wilbur. Tears began to come to his eyes.
“I’ll drop down and have a closer look,” Charlotte said. Then she crawled along a beam till she was directly over the next pen. She let herself down on a dragline until she hung in the air just in front of the big pig’s snout.
“May I have your name?” she asked, politely.
The pig stared at her. “No name,” he said in a big, hearty voice. “Just call me Uncle.”
“Very well, Uncle,” replied Charlotte. “What is the date of your birth?
Are you a spring pig?”
“Sure I’m a spring pig,” replied Uncle. “What did you think I was, a spring chicken? Haw, haw - that’s a good one, eh, Sister.”
“Mildly funny,” said Charlotte. “I’ve heard funnier ones, though. Glad to have met you, and now I must be going.”
She ascended slowly and returned to Wilbur’s pen. “He claims he’s a spring pig,” reported Charlotte, “and perhaps he is. One thing is certain, he has a most unattractive personality. He is too familiar, too noisy, and he cracks weak jokes. Also, he’s not anywhere near as clean as you are, nor as pleasant. I took quite a dislike to him in our brief interview. He’s going to be a hard pig to beat, though, Wilbur, on account of his size and weight. But with me helping you, it can be done.”
“When are you going to spin a web?” asked Wilbur.
“This afternoon, late, if I’m not too tired,” said Charlotte. “The least thing tires me these days. I don’t seem to have the energy I once had. My age, I guess.”
Wilbur looked at his friend. She looked rather swollen and she seemed listless.
“I’m awfully sorry to hear that you’re feeling poorly, Charlotte,” he said. “Perhaps if you spin a web and catch a couple of flies you’ll feel better.”
“Perhaps,” she said, wearily. “But I feel like the end of a long day.”
Clinging upside down to the ceiling, she settled down for a nap, leaving Wilbur very much worried.
All morning people wandered past Wilbur’s pen. Dozens and dozens of strangers stopped to stare at him and to admire his silky white coat, his curly tail, his kind and radiant expression. Then they would move on to the next pen where the bigger pig lay. Wilbur heard several people make favorable remarks about Uncle’s great size. He couldn’t help overhearing these remarks, and he couldn’t help worrying. “And now, with Charlotte not feeling well …” he thought. “Oh, dear!”
All morning Templeton slept quietly under the straw. The day grew fiercely hot. At noon the Zuckermans and the Arables returned to the pigpen. Then, a few minutes later, Fern and Avery showed up. Fern had a monkey doll in her arms and was eating Crackerjack. Avery had a balloon tied to his ear and was chewing a candied apple. The children were hot and dirty.
“Isn’t it hot?” said Mrs. Zuckerman.
“It’s terribly hot,” said Mrs. Arable, fanning herself with an advertisement of a deep freeze.
One by one they climbed into the truck and opened lunch boxes. The sun beat down on everything. Nobody seemed hungry.
“When are the judges going to decide about Wilbur?” asked Mrs. Zuckerman.
“Not till tomorrow,” said Mr. Zuckerman.
Lurvy appeared, carrying an Indian blanket that he had won.
“That’s just what we need,” said Avery. “A blanket.”
“Of course it is,” replied Lurvy. And he spread the blanket across the sideboards of the truck so that it was like a little tent. The children sat in the shade, under the blanket, and felt better.
After lunch, they stretched out and fell asleep.
The Cool of the Evening
In the cool of the evening, when shadows darkened the Fair Grounds, Templeton crept from the crate and looked around. Wilbur lay asleep in the straw. Charlotte was building a web. Templeton’s keen nose detected many fine smells in the air. The rat was hungry and thirsty. He decided to go exploring. Without saying anything to anybody, he started off.
“Bring me back a word!” Charlotte called after him. “I shall be writing tonight for the last time.”
The rat mumbled something to himself and disappeared into the shadows.
He did not like being treated like a messenger boy.
After the heat of the day, the evening came as a welcome relief to all.
The Ferris wheel was lighted now. It went round and round in the sky and seemed twice as high as by day. There were lights on the midway, 27 日 and you could hear the crackle of the gambling machines and the music of the merry-go-round and the voice of the man in the beano booth calling numbers. The children felt refreshed after their nap. Fern met her friend Henry Fussy, and he invited her to ride with him in the Ferris wheel. He even bought a ticket for her, so it didn’t cost her anything.
When Mrs. Arable happened to look up into the starry sky and saw her little daughter sitting with Henry Fussy and going higher and higher into the air, and saw how happy Fern looked, she just shook her head.
“My, my!” she said. “Henry Fussy. Think of that!”
Templeton kept out of sight. In the tall grass behind the cattle barn he found a folded newspaper. Inside it were leftovers from somebody’s lunch: a deviled ham sandwich, a piece of Swiss cheese, part of a hard-boiled egg, and the core of a wormy apple.
The rat crawled in and ate everything. Then he tore a word out of the paper, rolled it up, and started back to Wilbur’s pen.
Charlotte had her web almost finished when Templeton returned, carrying the newspaper clipping. She had left a space in the middle of the web.
At this hour, no people were around the pigpen, so the rat and the spider and the pig were by themselves.
“I hope you brought a good one,” Charlotte said. “It is the last word I shall ever write.”
“Here,” said Templeton, unrolling the paper.
“What does it say?” asked Charlotte. “You’ll have to read it for me.”
“It says ‘Humble,’” replied the rat.
“Humble?” said Charlotte. “‘Humble’ has two meanings. It means ‘not proud’ and it means ‘near the ground.” That’s Wilbur all over. He’s not proud and he’s near the ground.”
“Well, I hope you’re satisfied,” sneered the rat. “I’m not going to spend all my time fetching and carrying. I came to this Fair to enjoy myself, not to deliver papers.”
“You’ve been very helpful,” Charlotte said. “Run along, if you want to see more of the Fair.”
The rat grinned. “I’m going to make a night of it,” he said. “The old sheep was right - this Fair is a rat’s paradise. What eating! And what drinking! And everywhere good hiding and good hunting. Bye, bye, my humble Wilbur! Fare thee well, Charlotte, you old schemer! This will be a night to remember in a rat’s life.”
He vanished into the shadows.
Charlotte went back to her work. It was quite dark now. In the distance, fireworks began going off - rockets, scattering fiery balls in the sky. By the time the Arables and the Zuckermans and Lurvy returned from the grandstand, Charlotte had finished her web. The word HUMBLE was woven neatly in the center. Nobody noticed it in the darkness.
Everyone was tired and happy.
Fern and Avery climbed into the truck and lay down. They pulled the Indian blanket over them. Lurvy gave Wilbur a forkful of fresh straw.
Mr. Arable patted him. “Time for us to go home,” he said to the pig.
“See you tomorrow.”
The grownups climbed slowly into the truck and Wilbur heard the engine start and then heard the truck moving away in low speed. He would have felt lonely and homesick, had Charlotte not been with him. He never felt lonely when she was near. In the distance he could still hear the music of the merry-go-round.
As he was dropping off to sleep he spoke to Charlotte.
“Sing me that song again, about the dung and the dark,” he begged.
“Not tonight,” she said in a low voice. “I’m too tired.”
Her voice didn’t seem to come from her web.
“Where are you?” asked Wilbur. “I can’t see you. Are you on your web?”
“I’m back here,” she answered. “Up in this back corner.”
“Why aren’t you on your web?” asked Wilbur. “You almost never leave your web.”
“I’ve left it tonight,” she said.
Wilbur closed his eyes. “Charlotte,” he said, after a while, “do you really think Zuckerman will let me live and not kill me when the cold weather comes? Do you really think so?”
“Of course,” said Charlotte. “You are a famous pig and you are a good pig. Tomorrow you will probably win a prize. The whole world will hear about you. Zuckerman will be proud and happy to own such a pig.
You have nothing to fear, Wilbur nothing to worry about. Maybe you’ll live forever - who knows?
And now, go to sleep.”
For a while there was no sound. Then Wilbur’s voice: “What are you doing up there, Charlotte?”
“Oh, making something,” she said. “Making something, as usual.”
“Is it something for me?” asked Wilbur.
“No,” said Charlotte. “It’s something for me, for a change.”
“Please tell me what it is,” begged Wilbur.
“I’ll tell you in the morning,” she said. “When the first light comes into the sky and the sparrows stir and the cows rattle their chains, when the rooster crows and the stars fade, when early cars whisper along the highway, you look up here and I’ll show you something. I will show you my masterpiece.”
Before she finished the sentence, Wilbur was asleep. She could tell by the sound of his breathing that he was sleeping peacefully, deep in the straw.
Miles away, at the Arables’ house, the men sat around the kitchen table eating a dish of canned peaches and talking over the events of the day.
Upstairs, Avery was already in bed and asleep. Mrs. Arable was tucking Fern into bed.
“Did you have a good time at the Fair?” she asked as she kissed her daughter.
Fern nodded. “I had the best time I have ever had anywhere or any time in all of my whole life.”
“Well!” said Mrs. Arable. “Isn’t that nice!”
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