کتاب: ماتیلدا / فصل 12


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  • زمان مطالعه 7 دقیقه
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In the middle of the first week of Matilda’s first term, Miss

Honey said to the class, “I have some important news for you, so listen carefully. You too, Matilda. Put that book down for a moment and pay attention.”

Small eager faces looked up and listened.

“It is the Headmistress’s custom”, Miss Honey went on, “to take over the class for one period each week. She does this with every class in the school and each class has a fixed day and a fixed time. Ours is always two o’clock on Thursday afternoons, immediately after lunch. So tomorrow at two o’clock Miss Trunchbull will be taking over from me for one lesson. I shall be here as well, of course, but only as a silent witness. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Miss Honey,” they chirruped.

“A word of warning to you all,” Miss Honey said. “The

Headmistress is very strict about everything. Make sure your clothes are clean, your faces are clean and your hands are clean. Speak only when spoken to. When she asks you a question, stand up at once before you answer it. Never argue with her. Never answer back. Never try to be funny. If you do, you will make her angry, and when the Headmistress gets angry you had better watch out.”

“You can say that again,” Lavender murmured.

“I am quite sure”, Miss Honey said, “that she will be testing

you on what you are meant to have learnt this week, which is your two-times table. So I strongly advise you to swot it up when you get home tonight. Get your mother or father to hear you on it.”

“What else will she test us on?” someone asked.

“Spelling,” Miss Honey said. “Try to remember everything you have learned these last few days. And one more thing. A jug of water and a glass must always be on the table here when the Headmistress comes in. She never takes a lesson without that. Now who will be responsible for seeing that it’s there?”

“I will,”Lavender said at once.

“Very well, Lavender,” Miss Honey said. “It will be your job to go to the kitchen and get the jug and fill it with water and put it on the table here with a clean empty glass just before the lesson starts.”

“What if the jug’s not in the kitchen?” Lavender asked.

“There are a dozen Headmistress’s jugs and glasses in the kitchen,” Miss Honey said. “They are used all over the school.”

“I won’t forget,” Lavender said. “I promise I won’t.”

Already Lavender’s scheming mind was going over the possibilities that this water-jug job had opened up for her. She longed to do something truly heroic. She admired the older girl Hortensia to distraction for the daring deeds she had performed in the school. She also admired Matilda who had sworn her to secrecy about the parrot job she had brought off at home, and also the great hair-oil switch which had bleached her father’s hair. It was her turn now to become a heroine if only she could come up with a brilliant plot.

On the way home from school that afternoon she began to mull over the various possibilities, and when at last the germ of a brilliant idea hit her, she began to expand on it and lay her plans with the same kind of care the Duke of Wellington had done before the Battle of Waterloo. Admittedly the enemy on this occasion was not Napoleon. But you would never have got anyone at Crunchem Hall to admit that the

Headmistress was a less formidable foe than the famous

Frenchman. Great skill would have to be exercised, Lavender told herself, and great secrecy observed if she was to come out of this exploit alive.

There was a muddy pond at the bottom of Lavender’s garden and this was the home of a colony of newts. The newt, although fairly common in English ponds, is not often seen by ordinary people because it is a shy and murky creature. It is an incredibly ugly gruesome-looking animal, rather like a baby crocodile but with a shorter head. It is quite harmless but doesn’t look it. It is about six inches long and very slimy, with a greenish-grey skin on top and an orange-coloured belly underneath. It is, in fact, an amphibian, which can live in or out of water.

That evening Lavender went to the bottom of the garden determined to catch a newt. They are swiftly-moving animals and not easy to get hold of. She lay on the bank for a long time waiting patiently until she spotted a whopper. Then, using her school hat as a net, she swooped and caught it. She had lined her pencil-box with pond-weed ready to receive the creature, but she discovered that it was not easy to get the newt out of the hat and into the pencil-box. It wriggled and squirmed like quicksilver and, apart from that, the box was only just long enough to take it. When she did get it in at last, she had to be careful not to trap its tail in the lid when she slid it closed. A boy next door called Rupert Entwistle had told her that if you chopped off a newt’s tail, the tail stayed alive and grew into another newt ten times bigger than the first one. It could be the size of an alligator. Lavender didn’t quite believe that, but she was not prepared to risk it happening.

Eventually she managed to slide the lid of the pencil-box right home and the newt was hers. Then, on second thoughts, she opened the lid just the tiniest fraction so that the creature could breathe.

The next day she carried her secret weapon to school in her satchel. She was tingling with excitement. She was longing to tell Matilda about her plan of battle. In fact, she wanted to tell the whole class. But she finally decided to tell nobody. It was better that way because then no one, even when put under the most severe torture, would be able to name her as the culprit.

Lunchtime came. Today it was sausages and baked beans, Lavender’s favourite, but she couldn’t eat it.

“Are you feeling all right, Lavender?” Miss Honey asked from the head of the table.

“I had such a huge breakfast”, Lavender said, “I really couldn’t eat a thing.”

Immediately after lunch, she dashed off to the kitchen and found one of the Trunchbull’s famous jugs. It was a large bulging thing made of blue-glazed pottery. Lavender filled it half-full of water and carried it, together with a glass, into the classroom and set it on the teacher’s table. The classroom was still empty. Quick as a flash, Lavender got her pencil-box from her satchel and slid open the lid just a tiny bit. The newt was lying quite still. With great care, she held the box over the neck of the jug and pulled the lid fully open and tipped the newt in. There was a plop as it landed in the water, then it thrashed around wildly for a few seconds before settling down. And now, to make the newt feel more at home, Lavender decided to give it all the pond-weed from the pencil-box as well.

The deed was done.

All was ready. Lavender put her pencils back into the rather damp pencil- box and returned it to its correct place on her own desk. Then she went out and joined the others in the playground until it was time for the lesson to begin.

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