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مجموعه: سهم من از کوهستان / کتاب: کوهستانِ شگفت انگیز / فصل 5

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  • زمان مطالعه 19 دقیقه
  • سطح خیلی سخت

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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متن انگلیسی فصل

IN WHICH Frightful Peregrinates

When a light snow covered the Schoharie River Valley, Frightful’s bird sense urged her one last time to leave or die. She took a reading on the sun’s rays, listened to her internal compass, and started south.

She covered only ten miles before she turned back. She was hungry. She would find Mole.

When she was over the pine woods where she had been held captive, she flew faster. Mole’s farm was ahead. Speeding swiftly, she overshot the farm. It had changed. The weedy fields where the game lived had been leveled and their black soil turned over in neat rows. The dense bushes along the fences, where many birds lived, had been clipped. She circled the culvert. It, too, was changed. The bushes that covered its entrance were gone. The culvert was a round, bare hole.

“Creee, creee, creee,” she called.

Mole did not come out.

Frightful circled the farm again but did not find the yellow hound. She flew to the silo. The air was bumpy where warm currents met cold. She rode the waves to the ledge of the silo and stepped under the jutting roof. The veins of her flight feathers were split and dry. She oiled them, then snapped them back in line by running her beak down the shafts from base to tip. She let go with a flick that triggered the veins to fall neatly into place. This done, she was sleek and ready to hunt.

Frightful surveyed the landscape. Even the woods were different. The leaves had fallen, and the red-tailed hawk nest was empty. The parents and young had migrated to warmer lands.

Weak from hunger, she left the silo and flew back over the culvert. She waited on for Mole. The wind tossed her. She matched each burst with a twist to stay in place, but Mole did not come out.

Behind her, purple-red and blue-gray clouds forecast rain and wind. It was urgent that she find food. Swooping along fencerows to scare up game, she searched intently. Nothing stirred.

Twilight sent her back to the silo ledge, her hunger raging.

Hours later she was awakened by thunder shaking the old silo. The dark night was lit by flashes of lightning. With each flash she saw dancing trees and wild water pouring across the barnyard. It gushed out of Mole’s culvert. The flashes became almost continuous, then stopped. The rain pummeled, swished, pattered, and was over. She went back to sleep.

At sunrise the sky was white-yellow and pale blue, the colors of a rain-cleansed day. The woods and farm sparkled with freshness. Frightful flew over the culvert and waited on. Mole did not make an appearance.

She was growing weaker. Spotting a distant harvested cornfield, she flew to a tree at its edge. She waited for something to move. Finally she caught a mouse. The storm had driven the bigger game into their shelters and burrows. In the late afternoon Frightful flew back to the culvert.

Out of the sky plunged a bald eagle. He aimed right at her. She back-flipped, and he missed. The eagle beat his wings and got above her for another strike. He dove. She rolled to her back, threw up her feet, and raked him with her sharp talons. He flew up to strike again. Frightful dropped to the ground and, as the eagle dove once more, ran into Mole’s culvert. He lost sight of her. He climbed, circled the culvert once, then boarded an air current that carried him off toward the Hudson River. He would spend the winter fishing there.

Safe inside the culvert, Frightful panted from fright, then quickly became calm. Bird emotions are intense but short. She glanced at her surroundings. The gushing storm water of last night had slowed to a trickle. She drank. Refreshed, she walked to the mouth of the culvert, saw no eagle, and sprang onto her wings. She climbed high and fast over the tilled field.

When she was high enough to feel safe, she leveled off. An undulating wind rocked her southward over a brushy meadow. She came down on a fence post and watched for food. She was growing feeble as hunger weakened her.

Suddenly she was in deep trouble. The sun was setting. In mere minutes the light would be too low for her to find a roost. She flew up into the last light. It illuminated the bell tower of the abandoned church at Beaver Corners. She headed for it.

Winging to its weathered and rotting peak, she landed gracefully. The churchyard was thick with weeds. A farm and a woods lay nearby. She had been here. She shifted her weight nervously as the condor face of the man who had taken her from Sam flashed into her visual memory. She felt fear, but it was too late in the day to move on. She forgot him.

Snow patches lay under trees where the sun did not fall. A migrating Cooper’s hawk dropped into the nearby woods for the night. Like Frightful he, too, was late.

The sun set. The sky turned a twilight purple. Frightful could see only light and dark shapes. She flew down to the sill of one of the four glassless windows in the church bell tower. Lifting her wings, she walked into a square, moldy room and jumped up onto a rusted bell lying on its side. Every window was black with night. She shook her feathers and, weak from hunger, fell into a restless sleep.

Last night’s thunderstorm had preceded a cold front. The temperature dropped below freezing, and the migration of the birds stopped. The robins and wood thrushes and other small birds that navigated by the stars at night fluttered down into the trees. They sought the warmth of the wind-breaking woods to wait for the cold front to pass. At dawn they tittered among the trees. They called to each other and ate insects numbed by the cold.

It was also too cold for hunger-weakened Frightful to fly on her way. She must eat.

She took off from the tower and flew out over a weedy I meadow. A rabbit jumped up and ran toward a thicket of spiny hawthorn trees. Hunger sharpened her skills, and Frightful was upon it before it reached the fortress.

No migrating eagle passed overhead; no barred owl saw her. She ate, her strength returning quickly. The leftovers she carried back to the bell tower.

The cold did not let up for days. Frightful and the thrushes stayed on at Beaver Corners.

In the middle of one night the warmth returned. Wings rustled like taffeta as the birds lifted themselves out of the woods and continued their migration. Frightful opened her eyes. Ribbons of birds were flying across the yellow face of . the moon. The birds were navigating by the shining light of stars.

In the morning the haze of an Indian-summer day erased trees, fields, and roads. Frightful could not see well enough , to fly. She shifted her feet restlessly. The one mountain among thousands, the one tree among millions, and Sam , were coming more vividly to mind the longer she lingered. On an unusually warm day in early November, she stepped to the open sill of the bell tower. She had caught no food for two days. She must move south.

Frightful tried to read the angle of the sun’s rays, but a gray-blue haze cut them out, and she could not get their message. She turned her head from right to left. She felt tiny iron particles in her brain lining up with the earth’s magnetic field. She needed both the sun’s rays and the magnetic field to plot her course. She had only one. She took off anyway. Frightful headed southwest.

She flew over the town of Berne and the steeples of North Blenheim. She chased a night heron up the Schoharie River, lost him, pursued a mallard duck, and lost her. She was not trained for birds. She stopped chasing them and came down to rest on a spruce tree on the banks of the Schoharie Reservoir.

The air was dense with moisture; clouds thickened and darkened the sky. Around noon they let go. Rain poured down. Tree trunks became rivers and spruce needles waterfalls. Frightful was her own tent. Water ran off her head and shoulders, her beak, and her tail. No wetness seeped through her feathers. When the rain blurred her eyes, she cleared them by flashing her nictitating membranes like windshield wipers. She sat calmly in the deluge.

A lost great blue heron took shelter on a limb below her. Frightful looked at it only because it moved. The bird was too big for her to take.

A wind hit the forest in strong gusts in the afternoon. Clouds circled clockwise. The edge of the last tropical storm of the year had twisted up from the south and was drenching the Schoharie Valley and Reservoir.

Rain fell for two nights and three days. Frightful dropped lower on the spruce tree and waterproofed her feathers with the oil from her tail gland.

The deluge slowed, the clouds circled counterclockwise, and a flock of spotted sandpipers blew in from the coast. They ran the shore edges like windup toys and snatched minute bits of food. Frightful turned her head away. Her natural prey, the waterbirds, still did not interest her. Sam’s training had faded somewhat under Chup’s menu, but game from the upland meadows was still very much her idea of food.

The sun came out. Frightful flew to the top of the tallest spruce. Although the day was windy, all the guideposts she needed to orient herself were readable. She found the longitude of the Atlantic flyway, the migrating route of the birds of the east, and the magnetic field of the earth. She flew. She was going away from the one mountain among thousands, the one tree among millions, and Sam. She was going south to warm weather and food.

Catching an air current that took her up and over a mountain, she looked down on acres of open fields, meadows, and grassy clearings. Here lived the food she liked. She coasted down to the roof of a small cabin. It was Woodchuck Lodge, the mountain home of nature writer John Burroughs. Before Frightful could gather her wits, a chipmunk, abroad on the nice day, snatched some grass seeds and ran under a mammoth boulder and was gone.

Around the rock were drifts of snow, now sodden from the tropical storm. A plaque marked John Burroughs’s grave.

Frightful brought herself to attention. She must eat. Concentrating, she looked at every twisting grass blade and bobbing seed head. Suddenly she drew in her feathers and stretched her neck. The mountain laurel by the lodge was shaking. Frightful lowered her body to strike.

Out from under the porch came Mole. His ears and coat were plastered with autumn’s burrs and Spanish needles. Around his neck was a collar. Mole had been on an adventure.

The adventure had taken him far from the culvert. While Frightful was watching the young peregrines learn to hunt, Mole’s run-down farm had been sold. The new owners were aunt and uncle to Hanni and Hendrik Van Sandtford, friends of Sam and Alice Gribley. Hanni and Hendrik had come over to Altamont to help their relatives restore the neglected farm. They had cleared brush, tilled the abandoned fields, and leveled the overgrown fencerows.

Their work done, they were driving home in Hendrik’s pickup when they saw a dog slinking along the side of the road. He wore no collar to say he was a pet. Hendrik stopped the truck, and Hanni jumped out. Mole vanished into a culvert. After many kind words and tasty food offerings, Mole finally trusted Hanni enough to creep into the cab. He cringed at her feet all the way back to the Van Sandtford farm.

At the farm, Hendrik combed the burrs from Mole’s hair and gave him a bath. Mole was embarrassed. He put his tail between his legs and hung his head. Next Hendrik put a collar around his neck, snapped a leash to it, and dragged him, protesting, all the way to the barn. A bed of sweet straw, water, and ample food were put down. Mole dug under the straw and hid. He refused to eat. Hendrik sat with him late into the night, talking softly.

Mole heard “good dog” many times and then his new name, General. He listened to the kindness in Hendrik’s voice and finally ate and fell asleep as the sun was coming up.

Two nights later he chewed through his leash and jogged west. He crossed the bridge at Gilboa and climbed into the forested mountains.

He hunted, slept, and came out of the trees at Wood-chuck Lodge. The layout looked good to Mole. Weeds, briers, and the grasses told him there would be rabbits, pheasants, woodchucks, and mice. He sniffed around the lodge, found no scents to say the house was occupied by people, and squeezed under the porch. Near the chimney base he clawed out a cozy wolf bed and settled in.

Although Mole was happy to be away from people and bedded down in his own home, he was faced with a problem. The cold had sent the woodchucks into their burrows for the winter. After a few days of fruitless searching, he trotted across the field, headed for the town dump he had passed on his way up the mountain. “Creee, creee, creee.” Mole stopped. Sniffing the air, he looked up. Frightful was sitting on top of the lodge, feathers shining in the autumnal light. He stared at her.

She cocked her head and stared at Mole. She did not wonder at finding him again, just opened her wings and flew out over the field. Mole broke into a run and, nose to the ground, worked the grasses and dead goldenrod spikes. A rabbit burst up. Swift as light, Frightful was upon it. She pumped her wings and carried it away without coming down to the ground. When she was almost to the lodge, a great horned owl saw rabbit and falcon, sped silently out of the woods, and sank her talons into the food. Thrown off balance, Frightful fanned her flight feathers, regained her equilibrium, and went after the owl. Owl and rabbit vanished into the woods. Frightful, a falcon of the open skies, did not follow. She pushed down on her wings and up with her tail and came to rest on the porch railing of Wood-chuck Lodge. Mole was right behind her.

The two looked at each other, then the old hound turned and went back to his hunting field. On the second try they caught a pheasant. This time Frightful scanned the sky for thieves before flying with it to the rooftop. Daintily she ate choice pieces.

Mole sat on his haunches, looking up at her, his tongue hanging out, his mouth drooling. He wanted his share of that food. Suddenly he growl-barked so viciously that he scared Frightful. She took off, leaving the food behind. The bird rolled down the shingles and fell to the ground. Mole picked it up and, tail wagging, carried it under the lodge. There he feasted.

Frightful had eaten enough to bring back her strength. She flew to a tall tree and perched. The bright sun was warming the fields and meadows, creating a twisting and invisible bubble. On it rode a lonely peregrine tiercel. He circled up and up. Frightful opened her wings. Lift took her into the thermal. She spiraled to its ceiling. The tiercel peeled off and shot south like a missile.

Frightful was next. She circled the top of the bubble, tipped her wing, and spread her tail. Everything was right — the angle of the sun’s rays, the wind, the temperature, and the magnetic field of the earth. She ripped through the sky like a meteor.

Her wings spread in glorious flight, she looked down on the vast landscape.

And there it was. The one mountain among thousands of mountains, the one tree among millions of trees, and somewhere there, the one boy.

Frightful turned abruptly west and in minutes was over the mountain. Snow lay on its highest levels. Food would be scarce here.

She flew back to Woodchuck Lodge. There the last weak messages from the environment pointed her southward again.

But she had seen the mountain.

Confused, she kakak-ed in distress and flew into the spruce tree for the night.

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