کتاب 02 - فصل 07

مجموعه: چهارگانه بخشنده / کتاب: پسر / فصل 23

کتاب 02 - فصل 07

توضیح مختصر

  • زمان مطالعه 9 دقیقه
  • سطح خیلی سخت

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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متن انگلیسی فصل

Seven

Claire joined in the harvesting at the end of summer, and the rejoicing after. The crops were brought in and stored, and in the fields the birds picked at the strewn leavings. Apples were ripening still, but the early ones were picked and pressed into cider.

She could see that the days were shorter now. In summer the children had played barefoot into the evening, chasing one another until their shadows grew long. The men fished until there were stars, and still the sky did not darken until they brought their catch ashore. Now, though, the air turned brisk late in the afternoon. The sun seemed to topple down to the edge of the horizon and colored it crimson there until it was gulped by the sea and gone. The wind rose then, taking the brown leaves in a whirl from the trees, and smoke wafted from the chimneys of cottages as fires were fed. The smoke carried with it the scent of soups and stews: nourishment for chilly nights. Women unraveled the sweaters their children had outgrown. They rolled the yarn and started again with it, forming new patterns, bright stripes, in larger sizes. Nothing was wasted. Boys carved buttons from bone.

Tall Andras gave Claire a fringed shawl that had been his mother’s. Most days were still sunlit and warm, but in the evenings she wrapped the soft shawl around her. Lame Einar, seeing how she tied the ends to fasten it closed, created a clasp from willow twigs that he’d soaked to soften and then twisted into a curled design. Carefully he attached the two pieces to the green shawl and showed her how to fit them into each other and hold the thick fabric tight together.

She noticed one morning, early, that her breath was visible in the cold, clear air. “Like mist,” she said to Alys.

“Steam,” Alys replied.

They were on their way to the cottage at the edge of the woods where Bryn lived with her fisherman husband and their little girl. Bethan had burst into their hut just before daybreak, shivering with the cold because she had forgotten her sweater, and breathless with excitement.

“My mum’s pains have begun and my dad says come because he wants no part in it!”

“Run back, child, and tell her we’ll be there shortly.” Alys spoke in a calm voice while she rose, prodded the fire, and reached for her clothing.

“You’ll come too, won’t you, Water Claire?” Bethan begged. Claire had sat up and yawned.

“I will. Go tell your dad he’s a big baby himself.” Claire knew Bethan’s father, that he was gentle and loving. But men were not good at this.

The little girl giggled. Claire swung her bare feet to the floor and winced at the cold. She reached for the knitted socks that Alys had made for her. “Go now! Scat!” she said, and Bethan, gleeful, left the hut and scampered back along the lane.

Yellow-wing, whose cage had been brought inside at the end of summer, shifted on his perch and chirped. Alys rolled a leaf tightly and slipped it between the bars for him to nibble. Claire finished dressing. She fastened her leather sandals over the warm socks and watched as the old woman gathered things from the shelves in the corner. Suddenly, watching, she shuddered.

“Why do you need a knife?”

Alys placed the knife carefully beside the corked containers of herbal infusions. She rolled them all in a soft leather skin and placed the bundle inside her bag. She added a large stack of clean folded cloths to the bag and pulled its drawstring tight.

“Some say it eases pain to lay a knife beneath the bed.”

“Is it true?”

Alsy shrugged. “Likely not. But if the person thinks it, then the thinking eases the pain.” She wrapped her thick knitted shawl around her and hefted the bag over her shoulder. “And I need the knife for the cord.” Claire pulled her own shawl tight and fastened it with the willow clasp.

“Bring the lamp,” Alys told her.

Together they hurried along the path. Claire held the lamp high and it made their way easier. But the sky itself was lightening now. The moon was a thin sliver against the gauzy gray of earliest morning. Bryn’s child would be a daylight baby.

They could see when they arrived that Bethan in her excitement had dashed about in the shadowy dawn and wakened her friends. Now all three little girls, still in their sleeping garments, were giggling nervously in the small room where Bryn groaned and twisted on the bed. Alys firmly shooed them back outdoors.

“Don’t come back till the sun is full up. And then you come with your arms filled with flowers from the meadow, to welcome the babe.”

“They’ll find some dried asters still,” she told Claire, “and late goldenrod. And it will keep them out from underfoot.”

The coming baby’s father was nowhere in sight. Alys had told Claire that men were frightened by birthing.

She had watched Lame Einar, though, help his ewes to bear young in early spring. He was both firm and gentle with them, and unafraid. Einar hadn’t minded that she stood watching when she came upon the scene. It was the first time she had ever seen him smile, when he unfolded the damp legs of a newborn and set it wobbling on its feet so that it could nudge its mother for milk.

“They don’t really need me,” he told her gruffly. “They can birth alone unless there’s trouble.”

“But it’s nice you’re there to help,” Claire said.

Einar had shrugged, patted the rump of the nursing ewe, and reached for his sticks to hobble away. Claire watched him for a moment after he turned his back. Then she too walked on.

But that had been months before. The spring lambs were tall now, playful, and thick with wool. Einar was no longer so shy with her. Once he startled her by making a harsh cackling sound, suddenly, and then a series of soft clucks. She looked at him in surprise.

“You asked me once could I do other birds. That’s a pheasant,” he explained.

Then he looked up at something very large, soaring above the sea. He gave a long, hoarse call. “Black-backed gull,” he said.

Now he let her help when he gathered the sheep in for the evening. Together they counted. He had never lost one to wolves, he told her, and was proud of that. He loved the new lambs.

“Wash the knife,” Alys directed her, and her thoughts returned to the cottage, where Bryn gasped and gathered herself now as the child emerged. Claire saw it was a girl. She heard it cry as she turned and dipped the knife into the water that simmered on the fire. The blade was hot when she wiped it carefully dry with a clean cloth.

“Don’t cut Bryn!” she implored suddenly.

Alys frowned at her. “No need to cut the mother,” she said brusquely.

She knotted a string around the pulsing cord. The baby waved a fist in the air and wailed. “Sun’s rising,” Alys said to Bryn. “And you’ve got you a fine girl.” She waited a moment, then reached for the knife that Claire held, took it, and separated the newborn from its mother with a careful cut.

Bryn was watching wearily, and smiling. Suddenly Claire stepped forward without thinking, toward the baby that Alys was wrapping now in a cloth, and cried out, “Don’t take it from her!” Alys frowned. “Take what? What’s troubling you, girl?”

“Give Bryn her baby!”

Alys looked puzzled. She leaned forward and placed the swaddled infant in Bryn’s arms. “And what did you think I was to do, child? Put it out for the wolves? Of course it goes to its mum. Look there. Wee as she is, she knows what to do.” Like the lamb wobbling forward to suckle, Bryn’s baby turned its head against its mother’s warm skin and its mouth opened, searching. Claire stared at it. Then she began to sob, and stumbled out of the cottage into the dawn. Behind her, Alys, her face folded into puzzlement and concern, began to replace her birthing tools into the woven bag. The new mother dozed while her tiny daughter nuzzled and sucked. Outside, in the distance, the little girls were moving about in the gradually lightening meadow, their arms filled with flowers. But for Claire, who stood on the path weeping, the sunrise, perhaps all sunrises to come, was ruined by memory and loss.

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