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مجموعه: سهم من از کوهستان / کتاب: کوهستانِ شگفت انگیز / فصل 12

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متن انگلیسی فصل

IN WHICH There Are Three

At dawn the next day Leon Longbridge wedged the .wooden scrape into a fork in the sycamore tree and wired it in place. He climbed down and hurried to his car to watch what came next. Frightful was too broody to notice what was going on below her, but not 426. He sat on the bridge top in the cold dawn, watching Leon climb down from the tree and Jon Wood grab the iron bow and climb toward him.

When Jon was too close, 426 took off with a loud snap of his wings, climbed high, and dove at the man. Jon ducked and climbed on.

Sam in his lean-to was also watching.

“That ought to work,” he said to himself. “The eggs are so close to hatching, she won’t abandon them.” Frightful snapped out of her trance when Jon Wood swung down to the horizontal girder. She got to her feet.

“Hello, Destiny,” he whispered. “I’d know you anywhere.”

Frightful recognized him.

“Psee,” she called, and stepped back over her eggs.

He inched slowly toward her.

screamed the alarm of the peregrine. The penetrating call touched Frightful’s survival instinct, and she flew off the eggs.

The air was cold. Jon carefully wrapped the warm eggs in bubble plastic and lowered them onto a hot-water bottle in his backpack. He shouldered the pack, grabbed the bow, swung up onto it, and backed down its curved slope to the bridge.

Frightful flew back to her scrape. Her eggs were gone.

“Kek, kek, kek,” she cried. 426 answered her distress call and dropped down beside her. The empty nest stunned and confused them.

Movement at the foot of the sycamore caught Frightful’s eye, and she saw Jon Wood. She screamed and dove. He was the one who had taken her eggs. He saw her coming and covered his head with his hands. A talon scraped him. Quickly he scaled the tree to the artificial scrape and, fending off Frightful with one arm, he gently lay the eggs in the box. He climbed down, ran across the bridge, and joined Leon Longbridge in his car.

Frightful circled and swooped to a limb in the sycamore tree. 426 joined her.

Sam watched. Leon and Jon watched.

Minutes passed. The air was cool.

Frightful flew from the tree back to the bridge. She circled once and flew back to the tree.

She cried her worried call.

answered. Agitated, he flew over the town. Frightful followed him.

An hour passed. The pair did not come back.

“Okay,” said Jon Wood. “This isn’t working. The eggs have been uncovered for sixty minutes, and at forty-five degrees Fahrenheit, that’s not good. I’m going to put them back.” He climbed to the box, wrapped up the eggs once more, and returned them to the scrape on the bridge.

He was backing away when Frightful lit on the girder and, putting one foot in front of the other, ran to the eggs. She sat down and pressed her brood patch against them. She stood up. The eggs were cold. She sat down again.

An hour later she got up and walked away. The chicks in the shells had not moved. She walked back, turned, and snuggled them against her brood patch. She called wistfully.

Dan Martin arrived early for work. He looked up at the gray-blue sky and put on his rain gear. Seeing Leon Long-bridge and Jon Wood, he asked about the falcons. Jon told him they had tried unsuccessfully to move the eggs.

“We’ve got to somehow postpone the bridge painting,” Jon said. “I guess there is nothing you can do. I’ll try calling Albany again.” The rain was beginning to fall when Joe Cassini arrived. Dan Martin greeted him as he got out of his car.

“We can’t paint today,” he said. “Bad rainstorm coming.”

“We can sandblast,” Joe Cassini said. “Is there any reason why we can’t start cleaning up rust spots in the rain?” “No,” said Dan Martin. “Rain shouldn’t make any difference.”

Then Joe Cassini turned to Dan and put his hand on his shoulder.

“When we get to the webs,” he said, “I want you to paint the ones near the nest. You seem to know something about peregrine falcons.“ “Enough to ask this: Do we still have to go ahead with the work? The bridge won’t fall down now.”

“We still have to go ahead,” Joe Cassini said. “I checked with Albany myself. The governor is relentless. Said the tourists were beginning to come to the Catskills, and he wants the work done on time.” “I’ve just been talking to Leon Longbridge and Jon Wood,” Dan Martin said. “They tried to move the eggs to another site this morning.” “Yeah?”

“It didn’t work. They had to put them back before they froze.”

Joe Cassini glanced at the aerie. “Funny,” he said, “but I like those birds. They’re real spunky.” Two hours later, when Frightful again turned the eggs, there was still no movement.

426 arrived with a pigeon. He pulled off a morsel to feed Frightful. The sandblasting machine started up. 426 dove onto his wings and sped away.

Sam left his lean-to and walked partway down the mountain. Frightful had not eaten for eleven hours. The high-pitched noise of the sanders had driven 426 away. The tiercel, he knew, wouldn’t come back until the workers went home. And that was too late.

Frightful had to be fed, but how? The crewmen were all over the bridge, hanging work platforms and blasting rust. There was no way he could climb to the aerie without being seen, and he did not want to be seen. Not now. He had worked with Frightful for two weeks, and he didn’t want to be stopped. Best to keep out of sight. He was known in Delhi to a few people—Miss Turner, the librarian; Leon Longbridge; and some of the kids. They referred to him as Thoreau, the boy who lived on Peaks Brook Mountain. That was just fine, but climbing a bridge made him obvious, and that was something Sam didn’t want.

Just before noon, the rain poured down in torrents. The crew got into their cars or ran to the cafe. Sam’s deerskin jacket repelled water like a nor’easter coat. He lifted his binoculars.

Frightful was off the eggs. She was standing on the food 426 had brought, eating heartily. When she was satisfied, she brooded again.

“She must have brought the eggs back to temperature,” he said. “Even in this rain. What a noble bird.” Sam walked down the mountain, crossed the river on rocks, and took the long trail to his hemlock tree. He lit a fire in his fireplace and stretched out on his bed.

“Four or five more days,” he said. “I wonder what else can happen?”

At that moment Frightful felt the chicks move vigorously inside their shells. A burst of rain struck the bow and rushed down the vertical webs. Water spilled on her. She sat calmly, a tent over her precious eggs.

Day twenty-nine dawned cold. A snow flurry powdered the mountains and dropped white crystals on the town. Frightful cocked her head and stood up. One egg was vibrating. Inside, the chick’s neck was twitching spasmodically, then its little body stiffened. A sharp egg tooth on the top of its beak pierced the inner membrane, and its nostrils pushed into the pocket of air at the top of the egg. The chick’s lungs filled. It breathed.

“Cheep.”

Frightful lifted her body so that she had very little weight on the hatching chick. Her warm feathers fell around it. As the chick breathed, the oxygen inside the egg was replaced by the chick’s carbon dioxide. The gas twitched her muscles. The head wobbled, the body stiffened. A fragment of shell lifted, and fresh air rushed in. The chick lay still. Hours passed. The other two chicks went through the same ordered sequence of hatching. Each step was vital to their safe entrance into the world.

After struggling another day, the first chick cut a larger hole and thrust her beak and egg tooth into the air. She breathed freely.

She rested, letting her lungs became fully functional.

While she was quiet, Frightful stepped off the eggs and 426 stood over them.

On day thirty-one, the chicks’ heads were circling inside their shells, cutting through them.

The sandblasters screamed below; work platforms clanged in the wind. Frightful and 426 heard nothing. They were hatching the chicks.

The little female cut through two-thirds of the shell top, then pushed the cap with her shoulders. It popped open. She stuck her head out.

A cherry picker rolled out onto the bridge and lifted Dan Martin to the top of the bow. He sanded the rust by hand, checking to make sure he wasn’t disturbing the peregrines. Frightful was on the nest, her feathers draped around the hatching chicks.

Once her head was out, the first chick, a wet little female, easily kicked herself free of the shell.

A peregrine falcon was born. She was Oksi, the wide-eyed.

Frightful let her feathers fall over Oksi while the little bird rested from her great struggle. 426 perched quietly by.

In about an hour the chick was dry and fuzzy white. Her wings were stubs, her eyes closed. Her beak and feet were enormous. She wobbled.

Finally the workers quit for the day. The other two chicks hatched to the peaceful sound of wind playing on the webs of the Delhi Bridge.

That second day of June was cold. Snow clouds hung over the river and valley. The mountain laurel tightened their leaves, and the apple blossoms froze.

Frightful did not feel the grip of the arctic cold. Her chicks were under her breast feathers, nestled against her brood patch; her wings were around them like insulating blankets.

Sam was back in his lean-to. He put down his binoculars.

“Good girl,” he said.

Below him in the Victorian house, the falcon fan club was peering through the spotting scope in Molly’s room.

“Three babies,” Molly said. Her eyes twinkled. “I saw them when the mom stood up.”

“Lemme see,” said Maria, and adjusted the focus on the scope. “Aw, phooey, she’s sitting on them.” “Three babies!” said Hughie. “They can’t paint the bridge now.”

“Wanna bet?” asked Jose.

“No,” Hughie answered, “I don’t.”

“Let’s write the governor again,” Maria said. “We’ll tell him about the babies. He loves babies. He said so.” “Tell him we’ll name them after his kids if he stops the work,” said Molly. “That might do it.”

“Wanna bet?” asked Jose.

Over the wind that was piping among the webs of the bridge, Frightful heard Sam’s whistle. It came from the mountainside. She turned her head his way but did not answer. The three chicks were nestled under her. She was part of them. She moved as they moved. She slept when they slept. For the first time, Frightful felt the all-consuming oneness of motherhood.

The bridge was quiet. 426 flew in and perched near Frightful.

The three eyases did not eat.

The kids in Molly’s room worried. Sam worried.

Frightful did nothing about it. She bellied up to the little peregrines and looked admiringly at each individual.

Oksi, the falcon and the first hatched, was bigger than the two tiercels. Her eyes were large and penetrating.

“Pseee,” Oksi called late in the afternoon. 426 pulled off a tiny bite of meat and fed her. The chick was still living on egg-sac food and did not need the morsel of liver, but it started her digestive tract working.

“Kak, kak, kak, kak, kak.” This call came from Screamer. Frightful fed him a bite.

Before dusk, Blue Bill, a spunky tiercel with an unusually dark beak, called to his parents, and a snip of liver started his system working.

Sunday the bridge was quiet. Sam planted potatoes for Mrs. Strawberry and went back to his home in the hemlock tree.

Frightful mothered her chicks. The fumes from tourist traffic rose as the sun warmed the roads. Frightful blinked as it burned her eyes, but she did not leave.

Around noon, 426 circled over the courthouse park, eyes on all movements. A child wheeled his tricycle down the sidewalk, sending the pigeons into the sunlight like water-splash. 426 swooped, caught one on the wing, and brought it back to the aerie. He gave bites to Frightful, who, ever so precisely, placed the bites into the open mouths of the eyases.

On Monday morning, Joe Cassini and Dan Martin arrived at the bridge early.

“The Transportation Department still says I must go ahead with the painting,” Joe said to Dan. “So the plan is this: First we’ll paint all the webs but number five. Then we’ll do the big horizontal girder and the bow. By the time we get that far, the babies’ll be about ten days old.” “Then what do we do? They can’t fly then, can they?”

“No, not according to Leon Longbridge,” Joe Cassini said, looking up at the aerie. “But he did say that when they were ten days old and pretty well feathered, he could move them to the box in the sycamore tree. Said their parents will feed them for sure.” “Maybe this mother won’t do that,” said Dan Martin. “She’s a funny bird. She’s not too motherly when she’s not on her aerie. I’ve seen her flying off toward that mountain upriver and staying a long time.” “Dan,” Joe Cassini said, “you get up there and paint the webs, but don’t scare them away. I’ve got a soft spot for that family.” Joe Cassini looked at the top of the bow. “I’ll give you a cherry picker if you need one.” “I don’t,” Dan said, and walked along the bridge to study the complex webbing.

A dark-green pickup truck pulled up to the roadblock on the town side of the bridge, and a lean man in a green uniform got out. He surveyed the webs and bow of the bridge, then walked over to Joe and Dan.

“Good morning,” he said. “I’m Flip Pearson from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

They shook hands.

“I understand you have a peregrine falcon nesting on this bridge,” Flip Pearson said.

“Yeah,” Joe Cassini answered. “A pair.”

“I’ve been sent by Washington to move the eyases to another site.” A second man got out of the pickup and joined him. “This is Dr. Werner, our peregrine expert.” “Pleased to meet you,” Joe Cassini said. The doctor nodded but did not acknowledge the greeting. His dark hair almost covered thick black eyebrows that shadowed a thin face. He did not even speak.

“It’s important to save those birds,” Flip said.

“It sure is,” said Joe Cassini. “There’s an awful lot of opinion around here to do just that.”

“Think you can move them?” Dan Martin asked. “The state tried once. But it didn’t work.”

“That’s what I understand,” said Flip Pearson. “But they moved eggs, not eyases.” Dr. Werner glanced up at the bridge.

“Eyases are a whole different ball game,” Flip Pearson went on. “Once the chicks are hatched, the parents will take care of them wherever you move them.” “Are you going to put them in the sycamore tree?” asked Joe Cassini.

“No,” Flip answered. “That’s too low. No peregrine would come that low and that close to the traffic.” “Is that so?” said Joe Cassini. “I guess the conservation officer didn’t think of that.”

“That’s why the falcons didn’t come back to the eggs,” Flip said. “Too low.”

“Well,” said Joe Cassini, “what can we do to help you?”

“The faster we move, the better,” said Flip Pearson. “Could you bring the cherry picker up to the nest?” “Dan,” said Joe Cassini, “you can operate the cherry picker, can’t you?”

“Yeah,” he said. “But won’t it freak them out?”

“The quicker we take them, the quicker the birds will adjust,” said Flip. Dr. Werner nodded a strong affirmative.

“There’ll be some panic,” Flip said. “But when we relocate the eyases, the parents will calm down.” “You sure?”

“Yes, I am.”

Dan Martin started the cherry picker and drove it under the aerie. He lowered the bucket; Flip got in and was hoisted to the nest.

Molly was watching from her bedroom window. She focused the spotting scope on the door of the green pickup. “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” she read, and got on the phone.

“Hughie,” she said. “Call the kids and tell them to come down to the bridge right away. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is finally doing something about the peregrines.” “What?”

“Moving them, I think.” She hung up.

Frightful did not see the cherry picker until Flip’s head and arm came up over the horizontal girder. She took off in panic. 426 followed her. They climbed above the bridge and swooped down on the man. Frightful struck his head as he reached into the scrape and grabbed the eyases.

“Lower away,” Flip yelled when he had the little falcons in a canvas pack. Dan Martin brought the cherry picker back to the ground. Flip climbed out and hurried toward the pickup truck with the pack.

“Let’s see the babies,” Molly called from the bridge barricades. Hughie was standing beside her with his mouth wide open. Maria arrived, then Jose. They pushed toward Flip.

“Can we see the babies?” Jose asked excitedly. Flip held the bag against his chest and shoved the kids back. Joe Cassini stepped up to him.

“Let them take one peek,” he said. “These are the kids that have been holding parades and writing letters to save the peregrines.“ Flip Pearson looked at the falcon expert. He nodded but still said nothing.

“Okay,” said Flip. “Step close, and I’ll let you see.”

He opened the bag. Molly looked in.

“There’re only two,” she said.

“That’s all there were—two.”

“I saw three,” insisted Molly.

“Mortality is high during the first few days of a bird’s life,” said Flip. “There were only two.” Screamer let out a terrible cry, and Flip closed the bag.

“Okay, kids, back off,” Flip said angrily. “We’ve got to get these birds to their new home before they die, too.” He followed Dr. Werner to the pickup. Molly was close behind.

“Where are you taking them?” she asked.

“I can’t tell you,” Flip said. “Against regulations. These birds are protected by federal law.” Dr. Werner started the motor.

The truck pulled away and sped down Elm Street, turned right at the T, and disappeared behind the bank and the cafe.

“Where’s Leon Longbridge?” Hughie asked suddenly.

“Didn’t you call him?” Molly asked.

“I thought he would know. The Feds must have told him they were coming.”

The kids looked at each other. Their eyes widened.

“You see Leon Longbridge?” Jose asked Joe Cassini.

“Not this morning,” he said.

“He’ll sure be glad to know someone finally moved those birds,” said Dan Martin.

“Wanna bet?” said Jose as he started running for Leon Longbridge’s office.

The school bell rang.

“Cree, cree, cree, kak, kak, kak.”

High above the Delhi Bridge, Frightful screamed and spiraled, her pointed wings cutting frantic patterns in the sky.

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