پایه سورپرایز هستم
- زمان مطالعه 13 دقیقه
- سطح متوسط
دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
این فصل را میتوانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید
متن انگلیسی فصل
IN WHICH I Am in for a Surprise
I hear the latch on the root cellar door thump and close my journal. Alice must be getting something for supper. I have put off talking to her about Frightful long enough. I get to my feet.
Stepping out of the darkness of my tree into the bright light, I squint, then walk to the cellar. No one is there.
The door is closed, and the lock, which is a board that lies across two brackets, is tilted and is almost out at one end. Someone was here, but it wasn’t Alice. She’s too protective of our hard-won supplies to leave the lock ajar. It must have been Jessie Coon James. She’s always fiddling with this lock. In fact, I made it because Jessie once opened the door with her little handlike paws and helped herself to venison and nuts. From the looks of things, I had best make a better lock. She has this one all but figured out.
As I open the door, the clean scent of apples greets me. They came from the trees Great-grandfather Gribley planted. Even though they’re now old and choked by forest, they produce plenty of apples for Alice and me.
I decide to bake a squash for supper. I feel my way to the back of this cave, which I dug into the side of the hill to keep our food dark and cool. The cattail rush basket in which we store the hickory nuts is almost empty. That’s funny. Although I took some to Delhi with me, I didn’t think I’d taken that many. I wonder if that raccoon of mine did get in here after all. There might be a hole in the stone wall that I faced the cave with.
I check the other supplies. The basket of groundnuts is almost empty. It couldn’t be Jessie. She makes a complete shambles of the cellar when she gets in. So it must be Alice. She brought back a wild-food cookbook from the library last week and mentioned that one of the recipes called for lots of nuts.
I step over the jars of maple syrup that Alice and I made last February and pick up a squash. Alice planted squash seeds a year ago, and they grew as big as pumpkins—some plants like our poor soil.
After locking the door securely by wedging a stone in the brace, I carry the vegetable to my outdoor kitchen and start off for the tree house and Alice.
The trail to her house is bordered with stones she gathered and put there. She wanted to edge all the paths, but I objected. Bordered trails get too much use. The wildflowers can’t push up, and when they don’t grow, the soil erodes and is carried into the streams by the rain. The best thing to do, I told Alice, is to take different routes from place to place, or put a log across an old path and let it rest. I kick leaves onto her trail to protect it. Jessie Coon James walks up to me.
“Hello there, Jessie,” I say as my old friend greets me with a chittering purr. Gathering her up in my arms, I give her a big hug. Gently she sticks her black paws in my ears, feels my cheek, then turns around, and, hanging onto my neck with her hind legs, reaches down into my pocket with her front paws. She finds the venison.
“You’re real hungry, Jessie,” I say. “How come? Hasn’t Alice fed you today?”
Jessie moved in with Alice when the cold weather arrived last fall and never moved out. Raccoons sleep in dens in the winter. Alice’s dimly lit tree house was snug and better than a hollow tree because, when she awoke on warm days, Alice fed her. In February she left to find a mate, but hardly had a week passed before she was back in her tree house. In March she had four babies. She and Alice took care of them until they were on their own.
It’s unusual for Jessie to be so hungry. One thing Alice does not do is neglect animals.
As I mull all this, Jessie climbs up on my shoulder and eats the venison.
“Hey,” I say, “I know what’s the matter with you. Alice isn’t here. And she hasn’t been for several days, by your appetite.”
I put her down and run up the steps, notched in a log, to Alice’s front porch and push back her blanket door. The light from the Mason-jar window falls on a note lying in plain view on the furs. I have a hunch this is not one of her ordinary notes. I snatch it up. It’s not dated.
“I’m leaving. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be just fine thanks to all you have taught me.
I read the note twice more.
Alice has left.
I can’t believe it, so I read it a fourth time, then walk out on her porch and sit down, dangling my legs in the air. She must be mad at me for not converting to electricity, or because I don’t like her stone-lined paths. She might be angry about the irrigation ditch. We argued about it. She claimed it took water from her cascade and plumping mill. I insisted, in fact I thought I proved, that it didn’t.
Why is she leaving? I ask myself. She can’t just walk off this way.
Hey, Sam Gribley, I admonish. Didn’t you pack up a few belongings, tell your father you were going to leave, and take off for the adventure of your life?
“Okay, Alice,” I say out loud. “It’s your turn.”
In fact, Alice is better prepared to take care of herself than I was when I left home. I didn’t know anything about the wilderness. She can catch fish with a thorn hook and a line of braided basswood, and she knows the wild edible plants.
I back down the steps and pick up Jessie. I am feeling very sorry for myself. Frightful has been confiscated—and now Alice is gone. Even if we did argue a lot, she was good company.
“Hall-oo, the tree!”
Bando’s here! And just in time.
I run up the path, trot along the edge of the pond, then, placing my two feet together, leap goatlike down the slope to the millhouse.
“Bando!” I cry eagerly and put Jessie down.
“What’s the matter with you, Sam? You act as if you haven’t seen me for years. I was just here.” He throws some fine crooked limbs on the ground, reaches into a pocket on his vest, and hands me a pamphlet.
“Zella sent this. Alice told her you wanted it.”
“Making Electricity with Water Mills,” I read. “Alice said I wanted this?”
“Yes,” Bando answers. “And Zella said to tell you that if you do get the mill generating electricity, please bring a wire down to her.” He looks at me hopelessly. “She wants electric lights and an electric stove.” I barely hear him. That Alice can fight with me even when she’s not here. I don’t want electricity, Alice.
I stuff the pamphlet under a stone in the corner of the mill, thinking as I do so that it is good Alice has gone off on her own.
Bando walks to the pond and opens the sluice gate. The water gushes forward, the wheel turns, and he joins me, whistling some obscure tune. Running the waterwheel always puts him in high spirits. He picks up a contorted sapling.
“How do you like this piece for an arm?”
“It’s okay,” I say without much interest, for I am still arguing with Alice.
Leaving Bando at the saw, I walk back to my tree. After washing the squash in the pond, I build a fire in the stone oven I built not long after the millhouse was completed. When the fire is roaring hot, I rake the burning coals to one side, put the squash on the large sandstone slab at the bottom of the oven, and close the door. The door is another slab of sandstone.
I’ve decided to barbeque the squirrel to go with the squash, so I light a second fire in the pit under the grill. This is made from long, narrow pieces of shale laid on the top of a stone-lined pit like slats on an orange crate. There’s a reflector at the far end, which is another stone slab propped to throw heat on the grill. In winter it also throws heat into my tree. Tonight it’s too hot for that, so I lift the reflector and lay it on the ground.
While supper cooks and the waterwheel turns, I spade the ditch that will carry the pond water to the plants in the meadow. Now and then I run back to the grill and turn the squirrel. I don’t look at the path to Alice’s tree house or FrightfuPs empty perch.
Eventually Bando climbs the hill, closes the sluice gate, and comes to my outdoor kitchen. He sits down on a section of stump at my table, which is a huge sandstone slab laid on three big boulders. I sit across from him.
I want to tell him about Alice. I don’t. She has a right to her privacy. When she’s ready, she’ll tell me what she’s been up to.
Bando folds his hands on the table and clears his throat.
“I’m so sorry about Frightful,” he says.
I can’t think of what to say, so I walk over to the squirrel and turn it again. Bando sees I’m not ready to talk.
“I’ll leave you to your thoughts, Sam,” he says and gets to his feet.
Shouldering his packbasket, now filled with future chair arms and legs, he leaves.
Just before sundown the squash is cooked and the squirrel is juicy and tender. I serve myself on one of the wooden plates I carved when we were snowed in last winter.
Funny thing, I skipped breakfast and lunch today, but I’m not hungry. I think people have better appetites when they eat with someone, even if they argue. I give the squirrel to Jessie and put the squash in the root cellar for tomorrow.
When night comes, I do not go to bed in my tree but stretch out on my lounging chair and listen for Alice.
I thought she might get frightened and come home.
I should have known better than that.
At midnight, I walk to the head of the trail that leads to the bottom of the mountain. An owl hoots; a bird sleeping in a laurel bush awakes and flutters its wings.
As I amble back, I wonder if Mrs. Strawberry knows what Alice is up to. They talk a lot, so she just might. It’s not that I want to pry, but maybe Alice is not going off to find her own home. Maybe she’s just down the mountain with that pig.
As I finally crawl into my tree, I wonder what she took with her. If I knew I might figure out where she’s going. I light my deer-fat candle and go down the trail to Alice’s tree house once more. It’s a very warm night and I’m glad for that. Alice can sleep on the bare ground and be perfectly comfortable.
Inside her wigwam I see that her deerskin pants we made last spring are missing, as well as the denim jacket she came here with. Two of the four T-shirts that hung on the pegs by the door are gone. Her tennis shoes are here, but not her boots. She must be expecting rough terrain. She’s not talking to a pig, then.
She’s left all her books, as far as I can see, but has taken the maps from the orienteering, or map reading, course. Also gone are her backpack and our water carrier, a square of hide folded in fourths. It’s a great device, because it can also be used for a pillow or a hat—all of which means she will not be back soon.
I recall the nearly empty hickory nut and groundnut baskets. I didn’t notice if any of the smoked venison or fish was gone, but I’ll bet they are.
Her Swiss Army knife’s not here, which I would expect no matter where she was going. She takes it everywhere. But why aren’t her gloves on the peg? Bando said the temperature has been in the eighties by day and seventies by night. Maybe she’s going to build a stone house at her new home site and needs her gloves.
As I wander back to my tree, I think of Alice alone in the forest, as I once was. I remember my frustration as I tried to start a fire the first night, and my fear when I couldn’t catch a fish to eat. Then I remember the triumphs of making a fire, catching a fish, and sleeping on a bed of pine boughs all alone in the wilderness. I’m a bit envious of Alice. I’m also a whole lot curious. Tomorrow I’ll ask Mrs. Strawberry if she knows where Alice went. Not that I would try to find her, but I would like to know what she’s up to.
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