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متن انگلیسی فصل

IN WHICH The Dawn Breaks over Me

As we near Rensselaerville, we sit down in the shade of a white ash and plan what to do next.

I will go to the falls to see how Alice is. Bando will go to the library to find out where the hacking will be held on the vast preserve. That decided, we arise and I start off. Bando holds me back.

“You know, Sam,” he says, “I’ve been thinking about this hacking business in the paper. There’s something strange about it. First of all, six o’clock in the evening is a bad time of day to hack a bird. My friend, Steve, at the peregrine mew, puts the fledglings out early in the morning so they’ll have all day to look around and learn the environment before they fly off”.

“And secondly, the news of the hacking wasn’t on the front page like the pig show. It was in the paid personals. I think it was paid for because it’s a message for one man, Skri, whoever he is. He was probably told to watch the newspaper for the date and place to meet.” “To hack birds?”

“I don’t think they’re hacking birds. I think it’s a cover-up for something else. But I don’t know what.”

Bando turns to go, his black eyebrows pulled together in puzzlement.

“I’ll meet you at the library,” he calls.

“Okay,” I reply, and, eager to see Alice, take off at a run down a dirt road, then cut over to Tenmile Creek, passing through a forest of yellow birch and maples. I follow the stream to the falls, a beauty that splashes down an eighty-foot staircase. The water hums, whispers, and spins white threads before pooling at the bottom.

This is it, I say to myself, this has to be where Alice is.

I jump down the rock staircase, pausing on ledges to look for signs of her camp, and come upon the ruins of an old mill. I poke around briefly, then go on to the bottom of the cascade. Finding no clues, I am on my way back up the falls when I see it.

“Alice’s castle,” I say, clambering up to a ledge where a stone wall with stones placed one on two, two on one, protects a natural cave from rain and wind.

I crawl in and give out a whoop. I’ve found her at last. Who else would make a bed of boughs and put a rabbit-skin pillow on it? Who else would have a container made out of two huge sycamore leaves sewn together with wild grapevine thread and filled with daylily buds?

My heart is beating as fast as a bird’s. Alice is here, but she’s also not here. She must be out foraging. I’ll sit on the ledge and wait for her.

Now that I’ve found her what do I do?

When I started tracking her, I was only going to make sure she didn’t get into a scrape. Since I know she’s playing On the Track and we’re supposed to find each other, I think I’ll just hide until she conies back and say “Boo!” like she does when she finds me. Then I’ll hug her.

To wait out of her sight, I climb into a young hemlock with limbs that hang over the falls and sit among the dense needles. From here I can see the creek, the gorge, and a pine plantation. From whichever direction Alice comes, I’ll spot her.

As I settle in, I note that the sun has crossed the meridian. A yellow-shafted flicker chisels for an insect in a tree, and a kingfisher alights on an aspen bough. Alice has still not come back.

Suddenly the kingfisher screams his alarm note, and the forest becomes still. Wild eyes join mine, looking for the danger. Into the clearing below me slips a large eastern coyote. Gray as a wolf and almost as big, her movements are agile and swift. She lifts her head to inspect a scent on the wind. Her eyes are yellow fire.

I can’t see her too well, but I can make out a large bird in her mouth.

This is the first eastern coyote I’ve ever seen, although Miss Turner said that this nearly extinct animal is making a comeback. Before the first settlers arrived in America, the big gray coyote of the woods lived and hunted all over the Northeast. With the cutting and burning of the forests for farming, its habitat was eliminated. Without the forest foods of ruffed grouse, turkeys, raccoons, and wood rats, the eastern coyote almost died out. Only a few lived on in the Adirondacks and the Catskill Mountains.

Then things turned around for woodland creatures. Like my mountain, the tilled land eroded and grew stones, not crops, and the farms were abandoned. The forests returned and the forest animal community returned with them, including the eastern coyote, which now ranges from Canada to the Bronx in New York City.

I sit perfectly still. Miss Turner said the eastern coyote is a clever hunter. Perhaps I can learn something from her.

The kingfisher keeps screaming his alarm cry but from a safe distance. The coyote ignores him, then moving so effortlessly she seems to float, she stops directly under me and drops the bird she is carrying. She teases it with her nose.

I lean forward and a branch snaps. The coyote vanishes, gray into green. Bird feathers ride the little whirlwind her passage stirred.

Annoyed at myself for scaring her, I settle back again and wait for Alice.

The shadows grow longer. A crow flies silently into a tree across the stream and, after checking the land and sky, drops to the ground near the coyote’s prey. Cautiously it walks up to it and pecks. Suddenly there’s a gray streak of coyote, a jaw snap, and the crow is dead.

She is a clever hunter. That bird was a trap.

Well, if that isn’t neat. I’m going to do that, too. I take my sling and a stone from my pocket and move to a limb where I can swing my arm if another creature comes to the bait. I see the bird pretty well and it puzzles me. I come down lower. On its legs are jesses, swivel, and leash. Dropping to the ground, I pick up a sharp-shinned hawk.

The trappings are very professional, the bird fat and in good health. I wonder if this was one of the birds to be put at hack. It can’t be. It’s an adult. Only juveniles are hacked. It must belong to one of the hackers. He’s brought her along to fly and exercise her.

I backtrack the coyote by following feathers and find that she killed her prey in a clearing not far from the falls. Feathers are scattered everywhere. I circle the area.

Whoever was here left sometime today. The dirt that put out the fire is still warm. I look around for a hacking board. There is none, nor is there any indication that there ever was one. But there have been birds of prey here. There are holes in the ground, and a mark where a perch fell and was dragged, probably by the coyote as she went off with the sharp-shinned. All the perch holes are circled with claw marks. A tethered raptor will make marks like these. When frightened or restless, they fly to the end of the leash, drop to the ground, and tear the earth with their talons. Frightful made such a circle around her perch before she felt comfortable with me.

I find the clinching proof that raptors have been here. Falcons, hawks, and owls swallow fur, bones, and feathers as well as meat, then regurgitate, or “cast,” the unused parts in tidy pellets. There are castings near the perch holes.

This has to be the site of the hacking, but why isn’t anyone here? Did the coyote scare them off? I guess so. I’d sure move if a coyote killed one of my birds.

I go back to the falls. Alice is still not here. I’m beginning to think she’s gone fishing or berrying and will not return until dusk. It’s about four o’clock. Time to find Bando.

Putting the jesses, leash, and ring in my belt pouch, I follow Tenmile Creek to the bridge and climb the abutment. At the top I get my first look at Rensselaerville.

It’s pretty, but more so is a working water mill right across the road. Eagerly I circle it. The waterwheel itself is housed in a huge shed built against the milling room, which is two stories high.

Boy, can I learn a lot here! A huge, wonderful, operating water mill. As I round the building I find an old millstone. That tells me this is a gristmill, not a sawmill, and it tells me the mill is old. The stone is dressed with circular furrows, a design that hasn’t been used for more than a hundred years. The furrows move the ground flour out into the vat.

I walk around the mill again then go to the front door, certain I’m going to be disappointed, for I have not seen a person or heard the wheel turn since I arrived. I am right. A sign on the door reads: HOURS: 12–5 SAT–SUN, MID-MAY THROUGH LABOR DAY. GRIST MILL 1789.

“It’s Tuesday,” I say to the door and knock anyway. No one answers. It’s just as well. I haven’t time for this right now. I’ve got to tell Bando that I’ve found Alice’s camp and a site where falconers, if not the hackers, have been.

I hurry down the main street, which is lined with wooden houses painted white, yellow, blue, and red. Some look to be as old as the mill. Behind them rise the steeples of several churches. Enormous maples and spruces shade the sidewalks. Like Livingstonville, this is a very quiet town. There is no one but me on the street.

I come to a Tudor town house with RENSSELAERVILLE LIBRARY AND READING ROOM hand lettered under the gable. I open the door.

Bando is at an antique reading desk, engrossed in a book. I slip up quietly and sit down beside him.

“Find out about the hacking?” He startles and looks up.

“Not yet. I’ve been wandering around town waiting for the library to reopen. It’s not a busy place. The hours are eight to eleven and four thirty to six. The librarian just opened the doors again.” “I’ve found Alice,” I whisper.

“You have?” His face lights up.

“Well, yes and no. I’ve found her camp. She wasn’t there, but she’ll be back. She’s made a fine stone-walled camp. Quite permanent.” “In that case,” he says, closing his book, “let’s celebrate by going across the street for an early dinner. At the grocery store where I stopped for a newspaper, I heard that the chef is marvelous.” “Aw, come on Bando,” I say. “I don’t like fancy places. Besides I have dried venison and horse sorrel for dinner.” He’s unmoved. I try another temptation. “Let’s eat by the waterfall and wait for Alice.” “I can wait more patiently over good restaurant food.” He shoulders his packbasket. “We won’t be long.”

“I haven’t got any money.”

“My treat. You’ve treated me all along the way. Now it’s my turn.”

“I found where the hackers have been. Don’t you want to see?”

He looks interested when I say that.

“Are they there?”


“Then I’ll see it later.”

Reluctantly I follow Bando to the library door. As I pass the checkout desk, I stop. A book entitled Goshawk, by T. H. White, is in the return box. I thumb through it, for although I have read it many times, I can always read it again. It’s about the training and manning of the spirited, fighting goshawk.

“Would you like to take the book out?” asks the librarian, a scholarly looking man who is settling down in his chair to work.

“No, thank you,” I say. “Not today.”

“There’s been quite a bit of interest in hawks and falcons around here lately,” he says.

“Any particular reason?” Bando asks.

“There have been falconers around,” he says, stroking his beard. “Just a few weeks ago two men offered my son, Eric, a couple of hundred dollars to locate a sharp-shinned hawk nest for them.” “Did he do it?”

“No, he was afraid they would harm the birds. The conservation officer, who is rooming across the street this week—he moves around from town to town—told Eric there was a renewed interest in hawks and falcons since some of them have been designated endangered species.

“They’re precious, and precious things are worth a lot of money—like the nearly extinct white rhinos of Africa. Poachers make fortunes selling their horns. Terrible.” Bando is moving toward the door, but the librarian is not finished.

“Look at this,” he says and walks over to the community bulletin board.

“Two men put this up when I opened this morning.” He points to a card.

“Skri,” it reads. “Hacking moved to Beaver Corners, dawn of the 26th. Go to church. Bate.” In the left-hand corner are some Arabic letters.

“That’s interesting,” comments Bando.

“See that,” the librarian taps the letters. “That was put there just before eleven. A well-dressed man drove up in a green car and came in. He read the note and signed it.” “Hmm,” Bando says. “Probably acknowledging he’s read it.”

“He was chatty,” the librarian goes on. “Talked to me for quite a while—said he was from Saudi Arabia. He thumbed through the goshawk book, too. Said the sheik he worked for had a goshawk.

“The Arab sheiks prize falcons,” the librarian continues. “They’ve been practicing the art of falconry for thousands of years. I understand they’ll pay more for a falcon than a racing car, especially since that pesticide DDT got in the food chain and wiped out so many of the birds of prey.” “They’ll pay high prices?” Bando says.

“Selling falcons to Arabian sheiks,” the librarian goes on, “has always been a big business, even when Jesus lived.”

Bando opens the door. “We’re going across the street to the restaurant. If you hear or see anything more about the hacking, we’d sure like to know.” “All right. I think the two men will come back to see if their note has been read and signed. And by the way,” he goes on, “the men who put up the note are the same ones who wanted Eric to find them a sharp-shinned hawk nest. They’re in town. Eric and I saw them as we came down the road just now.” He looks at me. “You were at the mill, and they were walking up the creek, of all things.” Bando reads the posted card once more and shakes his head.

“Let’s dine,” he says. “I need to think, and I think best over food.”

“Okay,” I say, “but I sure want to surprise Alice when she comes home. Let’s eat fast.”

As I enter this restaurant, I am prepared to shrink into the furniture, but it’s nice. The room is bright and pleasant. One wall is a grocery store, where coffee, canned soups, bread, and pancake mixes are stacked on shelves. The kitchen is on the other side of a large, pass-through window. Two young men in chef hats are consulting over the stove. It’s early, around 5:00 P.M., but there are already two couples at a table near the window. The food must be good. I sit down and pick up the menu.

“Squab with sorrel sauce,” I read aloud. “Smoked eel on a bed of wild asparagus.”

“Desdemondia,” groans Bando. “Wouldn’t you know I’d hit a restaurant that specializes in game and wild foods. I’m back on the trail again.” One of the chefs, a large man with rosy jowls, comes to our table and introduces himself as Mr. Milo, the head chef and owner of the restaurant.

He addresses Bando. “The Cajun opossum with wild rice is superb.”

“I have my heart set on filet mignon,” Bando states. “Don’t you have steak?”

“Well, yes,” he answers reluctantly. “But the leg of wild rabbit with tarragon sauce is much better.” Bando rolls his eyes and orders the steak.

“I’ll take the wild rabbit,” I say, then add, “have you ever tried it on a bed of daylily buds?”

“Daylilies? No, I’ve never even tasted them, but I hear they’re a great delicacy.”

“I have some with me if you would like to try them.” I take a leaf bag from my belt pouch. “Moisten them in egg and roll them in flour—preferably acorn flour—and fry them.” “Thank you very much,” he says and sniffs their tart odor.

“Mr. Milo,” Bando says. “If you’re interested in wild foods, speak with my friend Sam here. He’s an expert.”

“He is?” He turns to me. “Can I talk to you later?” I nod and he writes down our orders.

“I’d like that steak very rare,” Bando says, and Mr. Milo turns to go, then leans down to me.

“I have mulled sumac tea,” he says. “Would you like some?”

“I sure would.”

When the marvelous meal is consumed, we step out of the restaurant and into the late afternoon light just as a pickup camper pulls up to the library. A man gets out and hurries inside, leaving another man sitting at the wheel with the motor running. They must be the two men the librarian suspected would be back to see if their note on the bulletin board had been read and initialed.

We are crossing the street when the man conies out of the library.

“Bando,” I say, pointing. “That’s Officer Longbridge!”

“That man?” he says. “He’s not Leon Longbridge.” The man hears us, looks up, and jumps in the pickup. The door slams and the car speeds off.

“He is Leon Longbridge,” I say. “He’s the man who confiscated Frightful. He has one blue eye and one brown eye.”

“He may be the man who confiscated Frightful, but he’s not Leon.”

I feel sick. I went to Delhi to find out if the conservation officer was named Leon Longbridge, but I didn’t think to look at him.

“Sam,” Bando’s voice is urgent. “That man has Frightful, and he’s about to sell her. He’s no hacker. Let’s find the conservation officer and get to Beaver Corners now.” “I’m not coming,” I say.

Bando spins around and stares at me. “Don’t you want to get Frightful back?”

“Yes, yes,” I answer. “But Alice camped near those hackers and the librarian saw them going up Tenmile Creek a little while ago. I’m going back to find her.” “Yes, do!” he says forcefully. “Go find Alice.”

I borrow the Westerlo and Altamont quadrangle maps and we separate, planning to meet at Beaver Corners at dawn if all is well.

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