فصل 01

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کتاب های ساده

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فصل 01

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CHAPTER ONE

The Three Friends

One of the pages of Longridge’s note to Mrs. Oakes flew into the air.

It sailed across the room and landed on the fire.

The journey took place in Canada, in the northwest of Ontario. This part of the country is wild, with woods, lakes, and fast rivers. There are thousands of kilometers of narrow country roads, a few small towns, and lonely farms.

Men from the big paper companies cut down trees deep in the forests. There are Indians and hunters. But most of the time there are no human beings, only wild animals. And silence.

For almost half the year the area is covered in snow, and the temperature falls below zero for weeks. The seasons are different in north Ontario. The plants and flowers do not grow slowly in spring. There is a sudden, short summer when everything grows fast. Then it is fall again with clear blue skies, sunny days, and wonderful, richly colored leaves on the trees: gold and yellow and red.

Through this wild, lonely country, in the fall, the three travelers made their incredible journey.

John Longridge lived alone a long way from one of the small towns, in an old stone house that belonged to his family. He was a tall man of about forty, serious but kind. He was a writer of history books and traveled a lot. But he always returned to the comfortable old stone house to write his books. Mrs. Oakes and her husband Bert lived about a kilometer away. Mrs. Oakes went to Longridge’s home every day. She looked after the house and cooked his main meals. Bert looked after the backyard. They understood Longridge very well. While he was writing, they worked quietly around the place.

On the evening before the incredible journey, toward the end of September, Longridge was reading a newspaper by a warm wood fire in his comfortable library. He couldn’t turn the pages easily because a Siamese cat with bright blue eyes was sitting on his knees. From time to time, the cat moved his brown front paws as he looked into the fire.

On the floor, with his head on one of Longridge s feet, lay an old white bull terrier. His eyes were closed and his tail moved in his sleep. Some people think bull terriers are strange, ugly dogs. But Longridge loved him: he was a friendly family pet and, at the same time, a strong, brave fighter. The man always enjoyed the look of happiness in the old dog s little eyes.

By the door lay another dog with his nose on his paws. This was a large red-gold Labrador retriever, a young dog with a strong body. His brown eyes were wide open, watching everything. When Longridge got up from his chair, the dog lifted his proud head.

Longridge put the cat on the floor and carefully moved his foot from under the old dog’s head. He walked across the room and looked out the window. A huge orange moon was coming up just above the trees at the far end of the yard. It was bright outside from the light of the moon. Longridge could see the leaves on the grass. There were a few colorful flowers, still there from the summer.

He turned, crossed the room, and turned on another light. Next he opened a narrow cupboard halfway up the wall. Inside were a lot of guns. He took one out and looked at it carefully. The Labrador sat up when he saw the gun. He looked at it with excitement and great interest. When Longridge put the gun back in the cupboard, the young dog lay down again. He turned his head away, his eyes unhappy.

Suddenly, the telephone rang and broke the silence of the quiet room. Woken by the noise, the cat jumped angrily off the chair. The old bull terrier struggled to his feet. Longridge answered the phone. He could hear Mrs. Oakes, but her voice was not very clear.

“Speak louder, Mrs. Oakes,” he said. “I can’t hear you.”

“I can’t hear you very well either,” said Mrs. Oakes. “Is that better? I’m shouting now! What time are you leaving in the morning, Mr. Longridge?

Excuse me? Could you talk louder, please?”

“About seven o’clock. I want to get to Heron Lake before dark,” he shouted. “But you don’t have to be here at that time, Mrs. Oakes.”

“What did you say? Seven? Will it be all right if I come at about nine? My daughter’s arriving on the early bus and I’d like to meet her. But I don’t want to leave the dogs alone too long…”

“Of course you must meet her,” John shouted. “The dogs will be fine. I’ll take them out before I leave and…”

“Oh, thank you, Mr. Longridge. I’ll be there at about nine, I promise.

What did you say about the animals? Don’t worry about them. Bert and I will…”

But Longridge couldn’t hear her. He put down the phone, walked over to the outside door, and opened it wide. The three animals followed him and ran out into the cold night air. Longridge stood at the door, quietly smoking his pipe. The animals did the same thing every night. For the first few minutes they stayed in the yard, then they all ran into the fields. As they disappeared into the darkness (the old bull terrier far behind the other two), Longridge turned back into the house.

Longridge and his brother owned a cabin on Heron Lake, over three hundred kilometers away. Twice a year they went there together for two or three weeks to fish and hunt. Mrs. Oakes and Bert looked after the house and the three animals while Longridge was away on vacation. Bert worked in the yard, so the animals could be outside most of the time. Mrs. Oakes fed them while she was working in the house.

Longridge finished packing and went into the library. He sat down and wrote a note.

Dear Mrs. Oakes, he wrote, I’ve taken some coffee and sugar with me. Please buy some more. I will take the dogs (and the cat too, of course!)…

Here he came to the end of the small square of paper. He took another piece and continued:

… out for a run before I leave. I will give them something to eat, too. Don’t worry about them. I know they will be fine with you and Bert.

He left the note on the desk, then opened the outside door. The old dog and the cat hurried in to greet him. They brought the fresh smell of the fields with them. The young dog followed behind, walking calmly. The old dog wagged his tail against Longridge’s legs. The cat pressed against him, too. He moved his tail politely from side to side when the man softly touched him.

The Labrador stood near them and watched quietly.

The cat then walked into the library to lie down in front of the warm fire. Every night he lay there first, and later moved upstairs to Longridge’s bed. The cat could go everywhere in the house because he could open all the doors himself!

The young dog walked over to his bed on the kitchen floor, and the bull terrier started climbing up the stairs to Longridge’s bedroom. Longridge followed him, undressed, and got into bed. But he couldn’t sleep. He lay awake and thought about his trip the next day, and about the animals. He was unhappy about the sad look in the young dog’s eyes. He really didn’t want to leave them all alone when he went away.

The three strange, lovable animals belonged to the family of an old and dear college friend. This friend, Jim Hunter, was a professor of English in a small college about four hundred kilometers away. Longridge often stayed with him, his wife, and their two children, Elizabeth and Peter.

When the professor was invited to teach at a college in England for nine months, Elizabeth and Peter wanted to go with their parents. But they couldn’t take their pets. Longridge could see that the children were very unhappy about the animals. He loved Elizabeth and Peter and he could understand their feelings.

The cat, Tao, belonged to nine-year-old Elizabeth. She looked after him, fed him, took him for walks, and he slept at the bottom of her bed. Eleven-year-old Peter couldn’t remember a day in his life without Bodger, the terrier, a gift to him on his first birthday. The Labrador, Luath, belonged to their father. The young dog often went hunting with his master.

Longridge sat and watched the family. Everybody was very quiet, thinking about the animals. Then he suddenly heard a voice, his own voice! “Don’t worry,” the voice said. “I’ll look after the animals while you’re in England. I know them well already. And I’ve got a big house and a large yard. Mrs. Oakes will love them. Everything will be wonderful! Before you leave for England, you can bring them to me. You can see where they’ll sleep. And you can give me a list of things that they like to eat. I’ll look after them until you come back.”

So one day the Hunter family drove to Longridge’s house and left their three pets. Elizabeth cried when she had to say goodbye to Tao. Peter gave Longridge a long list of Bodger’s needs.

During the first few days the animals looked unhappy and Longridge was worried about them. But soon, with the help of Mrs. Oakes’s delicious food, the old terrier and the cat seemed happy and comfortable. They started to love their new master.

Then Bodger started disappearing in the afternoons. Longridge didn’t know where he went. Finally, one day, he saw the terrier in the school playground. The dog walked over the fields every afternoon to play with the school children!

But the young Labrador, Luath, was very different. He ate well and looked healthy, but he never stopped missing his home and master. He didn’t come close to Longridge like the other two, and he seemed nervous. He was always listening and waiting for something far away. Longridge felt sorry for Luath and worried about him.

Longridge fell asleep at last. Downstairs the dreaming, curious moon shone through the window and woke the cat. He got up, his huge blue eyes wide open, sat near the window, and looked out at the yard. Only his tail moved. Then he turned and jumped onto the desk. One of the pages of Longridge’s note to Mrs. Oakes flew into the air. It sailed across the room and landed on the fire. As it slowly burned, the writing disappeared.

The pale light from the moon reached the young dog in the kitchen. He moved uncomfortably in his sleep, then sat up. He was listening for a sound that never came: his master’s voice.

Finally, the moon lit the upstairs bedroom. There Longridge lay asleep in his bed with the old bull terrier, warm and happy, against his back.

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