کتاب 02 - فصل 06

مجموعه: چهارگانه بخشنده / کتاب: پسر / فصل 22

کتاب 02 - فصل 06

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  • زمان مطالعه 8 دقیقه
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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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متن انگلیسی فصل

Six

The good-weather days continued. The sun turned the wave tips to sparkling jewels, and the fishermen filled their nets each day with their glistening catch. In Tall Andras’s field the mommet flapped its loose fabric arms and the crows, made timid by it, called out harshly and went to other fields, other crops. The gourd head began to rot in the sun and collapse upon itself, oozing and purple like a bruise. A bold starling swooped and grabbed some of the browning grass that had been its hair. One day it fell sideways into the field. When Claire walked past on her way to gather herbs, she saw only the toppled, ruined remains. The memory it had brought her was no longer there.

Andras’s mother, Eilwen, weakened and no longer left her bed. Alys tended her there, holding her head so that she could sip warm liquid made from chopped wild sunflower roots simmered in spring water. The medicine eased her cough. But it was a comfort, not a cure. “She’ll not live,” Alys told Claire.

Claire had learned about death already in her time here, for they had buried an old fisherman earlier, and she had helped Alys wash and wrap the gaunt body before his sons lifted it into the box they had built. The fisherman’s death had been sudden, though, in his sleep. Now Claire watched, day by day, as Eilwen drifted in her mind, woke less often, and seemed to shrink. Finally, early one evening, with Andras and his father there, her breath slowed and stopped.

The father and son touched her forehead gently as a goodbye and went away.

Alys squeezed cloths that she lifted from the pail of water, handed one to Claire, and together they began to wash the thin body. Clean wrappings were folded nearby, waiting.

“The day they brung you from the sea,” the old woman said, “I washed you like this.”

“Did you think I would die?”

Alys shook her head. “I could see you was strong. You fought me some.” She chuckled softly as she patted Eilwen’s arm dry and laid it back gently on the bed.

“I don’t remember.”

“No, you wasn’t yourself yet. It was your sleep self what fought me.”

“Here.” She handed Claire a dry cloth and together they dried and tidied the dead woman, folding her arms finally across her gaunt chest. Alys brushed her thin hair and they carefully wrapped her. They could hear the two men moving outside, readying the box.

“They’ll be needing a woman here,” Alys said, glancing around the crude hut. The cooking vessels were unwashed and a blanket thrown across a chair was stained and in need of mending.

“Yes,” Claire agreed. “Men don’t tend houses well, do they?”

“Tall Andras is of an age to wed,” Alys said pointedly.

Claire shrugged. “He should, then.”

“It’s you he wants.”

Claire knew it to be true. She blushed. “I’m not of a mind to wed,” she murmured.

Alys didn’t hear, or pretended not to. “He’ll want sons.”

“All men do, I expect.” It was something Claire had observed, in the village. Sons carried on the outside work; they took on the boats and the fields as their fathers grew old.

Alys busied herself with tying the cords that held the wrappings firmly in place around Eilwen’s remains. Claire, silent now, helped her. She thought how proud Eilwen must have once been, to have birthed a strong boy like Andras.

They sat back. Their work was finished. In a moment they would call the men, father and son, to lift the woman into her coffin. The village would gather in the morning to place it in the earth.

“On that day, the day I tended you,” Alys said to Claire, “I saw your wound.”

“Wound?”

“Your belly.”

Claire placed her hand there protectively. She looked at the ground. “I don’t—” she began, then faltered.

“It’s a grievous wound. Someone tended it, stitched it up. There are the marks.”

“I know,” Claire whispered.

“One day it will come back to your mind, like everything else.”

“Perhaps.”

“But I fear this: that you will not be able to give birth. I think it has been taken from you.”

Claire was silent.

Alys leaned forward and turned the flame higher in the oil lamp. It was darkening outside. “There are other ways a woman finds worth,” she said in a firm, knowing voice.

“Yes.”

“Come. We’ll bring the men inside to be with her now.”

They rose and went out into the evening where Tall Andras and his father waited in a light rain, their faces resigned.

In her mind, Claire made a list of what was new to her.

Colors, of course. She was grateful for knowing them now: the red of hollyberries, and the red ribbon of the Handfasting—she marveled at the vibrancy and vigor of it. And she had come to feel bathed in contentment when the sky was blue, as it was on these late-summer days. Sometimes the sea was quiet and blue as well, but most days it churned dark gray-green, with spumes of white blown and dissolved in the air. Claire liked that darkness as well, with its relentless motion and mystery, though she blamed the sea for hiding her past in its depths.

Yellow she loved for its playfulness. Yellow-wing, her little bird, came to her finger now when she poked it between the twigs that formed his cage. He hopped onto it and tilted his head at her with a questioning look. She wondered why she had ever been so frightened of birds.

They were added to her list of newly learned things: birds, and animals of all sorts. She still skirted the cow uneasily when she walked past, but she had become fond of Lame Einar’s sheep, especially the small ones, who frolicked in the tall meadow grass and showed their pink tongues when they bleated in excitement.

Einar told her of wolves, but she had not seen one and did not want to, ever.

She took joy in butterflies and scolded the little girls for catching them. “You’ve ruined it now,” she said, looking sadly at the crumpled spotted wings in Bethan’s outstretched hand. “It deserved to live, and to fly.” Together they buried the dead creature, but later she saw the child chasing another.

She feared bees, and most bugs.

“You’re like a wee child,” Alys said to her, laughing when Claire backed away nervously from a fat beetle on a bush where they were gathering large leaves of goldenseal. Infusion of goldenseal eased the sore throat that sometimes afflicted fishermen after long days in the boats.

“I’ve just never seen them before,” Claire explained, as she had often, of so many things.

Her list included lightning, which astonished her; thunder, which terrified her; and frogs, which made her laugh aloud. A rainbow one morning made her almost faint with delight and surprise.

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