فصل 07

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فصل 07

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CHAPTER SEVEN

A Loving Family

‘This cat’s been in the water for a long time,” he said.

“He’s very weak. Shall we try to save him?”

Many kilometers down the river there was a small cabin, with beautiful red flowers in the windows, and a blue front door. Vegetables grew in the yard, and there were apple trees and green fields around the house.

Reino Nurmi and his wife lived here. They came from Finland and had a ten-year-old daughter, Helvi. Life was hard in this wild place near the forest. But the Nurmis were strong people. They worked hard and had a good, simple life. They ate the food that they grew. They caught fish in the river and sold wood.

Unlike her parents, Helvi was born in Canada. Every day she walked through the lonely country to the school bus. And every afternoon, when she came home, she told her parents about life outside their small farm.

One Sunday afternoon, Helvi was playing down by the river. She was throwing stones across the water. She was lonely and wanted a friend to play with. Suddenly, a big wave came past. Helvi was safe because she wasn’t standing in the river. She stood and watched, then saw something strange. What was it? It looked like a small, wet body! It turned round and round in the water, and was then pushed onto the rocks.

Helvi ran along by the water to look more closely. Then she shouted out to her mother.

“Mother! Mother! Come here quickly! There’s a strange animal in the river! It’s caught in the rocks!”

Mrs. Nurmi was out in the yard, planting vegetables. She hurried down to the side of the river, calling to her husband at the same time.

He followed her, walking calmly with a quiet, thoughtful face. They all looked down in silence at the small, thin body on the rocks. Then Mr. Nurmi put his hand lightly on it and pulled back the skin above and below one eye.

He turned and saw Helvi’s worried face close to his. “This cat’s been in the water for a long time,” he said. “He’s very weak. Shall we try to save him?”

Helvi and her mother both wanted to save the poor animal. So Mr. Nurmi picked up the wet cat and walked back to the cabin.

He put the cat down in a sunny place by the fire and dried him. Then Helvi’s mother opened his teeth and Helvi poured a little warm milk into his mouth. The cat shook, coughed, and some milk came out of his mouth. Mr. Nurmi pressed his body. The cat coughed again and a stream of river water came out of his mouth. Then he lay down and went to sleep.

Mr. Nurmi smiled happily. “Keep him warm and quiet,” he told Helvi. “But are you sure you want a cat?”

“Oh, yes!” answered Helvi, as she looked down at the sleeping animal by the fire.

Her mother went into the kitchen to make supper. Her father left to feed the chickens. Helvi sat by the cat and watched patiently. Sometimes she put her hand near the fire and touched the soft, warm body. After about half an hour the cat woke up. Helvi looked closely into the bright blue eyes. The cat looked back and slowly started to move. Very excited, Helvi called to her parents.

After another half hour, she was holding the Siamese cat in her arms.

Then she gave him some milk. He usually hated milk, but he drank it quickly. Then he started washing himself from head to foot. As the Nurmi family ate their supper, he finished a bowl of meat. Then he walked around the table legs, asking for more food, his tail straight in the air. Helvi thought he was wonderful.

That night the Nurmis were having fresh fish. It was cooked in the country way with the head still on, in a soup with potatoes. Helvi put the head with

some soup and potatoes into a bowl and placed it on the floor. The cat ate everything, holding the bowl down with his paws. Happy at last, he lay down near Helvi s feet and went to sleep. For the first time in her life, Helvi had her own pet.

Helvi carried the cat up to bed with her. He lay on her shoulder as she climbed the steep stairs to her little room at the top of the house. She put him into the old wooden bed that she slept in as a baby. He went to sleep there happily.

Late in the night she woke up when the cat climbed on her back. The weather outside was cold, wet, and windy. Helvi got up to shut the window. Then she lay down again and felt the warm, comfortable body of the cat on her bed.

When Helvi left in the morning for the long walk and ride to school, the cat lay by the window. His hair shone in the sun as he washed himself sleepily. His eyes followed Mrs. Nurmi as she moved about the cabin. She went outside with the washing and looked back at the cat. He was standing on his back legs, looking out at her. His mouth was opening and shutting behind the window. She ran back, opened the door, and he followed her to the washing line. He sat by her and then followed her around the cabin and yard all morning. When she shut him in the cabin once by mistake, he cried out loudly.

He followed the Nurmis around all day.

“Why is he watching us all the time?” Mrs. Nurmi asked her husband. “Maybe he needs to be near people.”

But her husband noticed the worried look in the cat’s blue eyes. When a bird flew near him, he didn’t look up.

“No, it’s because he can’t hear,” Mr. Nurmi said. “I think the poor cat’s deaf!”

Helvi ran most of the way home across the fields. When she saw the cat, she picked him up. He sat on her shoulder while she helped her mother with the supper. She saw that her father was right. The cat was deaf and his ears didn’t turn toward any sound.

After supper her parents sat by the fire and Helvi read to them. Because they were Finnish, they couldn’t read English. But Helvi learned English every day at school, so she helped them with the new language. They sat and rested, with the cat near their feet, and listened to the child’s soft voice. She had a book about Siamese cats: great, proud Siamese cats from all over the world. As they listened, they looked down at their visitor. He lay in front of the fire with his tail sometimes moving. His beautiful blue eyes watched their daughter’s hand as she turned the pages of the book. They touched his soft body and wonderful tail. Then Helvi gave him a bowl of milk. He drank it proudly, like a king, before she carried him upstairs to bed.

That night, and for one more night, the cat lay happily in Helvi’s arms. In the daytime, while she was at school, he followed her parents everywhere. He walked close to her mother as she looked for wood in the forest. He sat at her feet on the front steps as she prepared vegetables in the sun. He followed Mr. Nurmi and his work horse across the fields. And in the late afternoons, when Helvi came back from school, he was waiting for her. He was one of the family.

But on the fourth night he changed. He didn’t seem comfortable on Helvi’s bed. He shook his head and cried out unhappily. At last he lay down and pushed his head into her hand. She noticed that his ears were moving; he could hear every sound in the night outside! She was happy that he wasn’t deaf any more. Soon she fell asleep.

When she woke up later in the night, the bed felt cold. She saw the cat near the open window, looking out over the pale fields at the tall, dark trees below.

His long tail moved from side to side. She put out her hand, but he suddenly jumped out of the window onto the soft ground below.

She looked down and called out. His head turned for the first time to her voice. His eyes shone in the moonlight and then he turned away. She realized sadly that he was leaving. He didn’t need her now. Crying, she watched him go into the night. He walked toward the river. Soon the running shadow of the cat was lost in the other shadows.

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