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فصل 08

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  • زمان مطالعه 6 دقیقه
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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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chapter two

Teast

The next day at breakfast Mrs De Ropp turned to Conradin and said, ‘Yesterday the gardener took your hen away and sold it.’

She waited for him to say something, to become angry; then she could explain why the chicken was taken away ‘for his good’. But Conradin said nothing.

Perhaps Mrs De Ropp felt a little guilty because at tea that afternoon there was toast on the table. Normally Conradin was not permitted to eat toast, even though it was his favourite food. This time, however, he did not eat the toast.

‘I thought you liked toast,’ she said.

‘Sometimes,’ said Conradin.

In the shed that evening he changed his manner of worshipping the ferret. Before this, he had only praised his god; now he asked it for a favour.

‘Do one thing for me, Sredni Vashtar.’

The thing was not specified. But Sredni Vashtar was a god, and so he knew. Conradin looked at the place where the chicken had lived and almost cried. Then he went back to the world he hated.

And every night in the darkness of his bedroom and every evening in the shed Conradin said the same thing: ‘Do one thing for me, Sredni Vashtar.’

Mrs De Ropp saw that Conradin continued to go to the shed; one day she decided to see why.

‘What do you keep in that hutch?’ she asked. ‘I think you have some guinea pigs. I will tell the gardener to take them away.’

The woman then went to Conradin’s bedroom to find the key to the hutch. When she found it she went directly to the hutch to complete her discovery. From a window of the dining room Conradin could see the door of the shed. He saw that the Woman entered. He imagined that she was opening the door of the sacred hutch and trying to see what was hidden inside. Perhaps she would put her hand inside. Conradin said his prayer for the last time. But he knew as he prayed that he did not really believe that the polecat-ferret was a god.

‘I’m sure that she will come out in a minute,’ Conradin thought, ‘with the hutch in her hand. She will have a smile on her face. I hate her smile! Then she will call the gardener and tell him to take away my wonderful god, who is not even a real god. She will win because she always wins, and I will grow sicker and sicker. And she will be right and the doctor will be right. And I will die.’

Conradin began to sing loudly to his god:

Sredni Vashtar went forth, His thoughts were red thoughts and his teeth were white. His enemies called for peace, but he brought them death.

Sredni Vashtar the Beautiful.

And then he stopped singing and went near the window. He could see that the door of the shed was still open. Time went very slowly, one minute, two minutes, three minutes…, but it went. He watched the birds in the garden. They flew in little groups from tree to tree. He counted them, one, two, three, four, five…, and then he counted them again. A maid came in with the table for tea, and still Conradin watched. Minutes were moving and there was hope for the first time. Perhaps victory was near. He started singing again, ‘Sredni Vashtar went forth, His thoughts were red thoughts and…’ And then he saw what he wanted to see: the long yellow-and-brown beast came out from the shed into the bright sunlight. Its fur was dark with blood. Conradin fell on his knees. The great polecat-ferret went to a small stream in the garden. It drank, crossed a little bridge, and then vanished.

‘Tea is ready,’ said the maid. ‘Where is Mrs De Ropp?’

‘She went down to the shed a half an hour ago,’ said Conradin. The maid left the room to call Mrs De Ropp. When she had gone Conradin opened a drawer, pulled out a toasting fork, and started to toast a piece of bread. While he was toasting the bread and putting enormous quantities of delicious butter on it, he listened to the noises that came from downstairs. He heard the maid screaming, people running in and out, and, finally, he heard men carrying some heavy object into the house.

Then he heard the maid say, ‘Who will tell the boy the terrible news. I can’t. Oh it’s just too horrible.’ And while the servants debated the matter, Conradin made himself another piece of toast.

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