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Chapter 1 Before Breakfast

"Where's Papa going with the ax?" said Fern to her mother asthey were setting the table for breakfast.

  "Out to the hoghouse," replied Mrs. Arable. "Some pigs were bornlast night.""I don't see why he needs an ax," continued Fern, who was onlyeight.

  "Well," said her mother, "one of the pigs is a runt. It's verysmall and weak, and it will never amount to anything. So your fatherhas decided to do away with it.""Do away with it?" shrieked Fern. "You mean kill it? Justbecause it's smaller than the others?"Mrs. Arable put a pitcher of cream on the table. "Don't yell,Fern!" she said. "Your father is right. The pig would probably dieanyway."Fern pushed a chair out of the way and ran outdoors. The grasswas wet and the earth smelled of springtime. Fern's sneakers weresopping by the time she caught up with her father.

  "Please don't kill it!" she sobbed. "It's unfair."Mr. Arable stopped walking.

  "Fern," he said gently, "you will have to learn to controlyourself.""Control myself?" yelled Fern. "This is a matter of life anddeath, and you talk about controlling myself." Tears ran down hercheeks and she took hold of the ax and tried to pull it out of herfather's hand.

  "Fern," said Mr. Arable, "I know more about raising a litter ofpigs than you do. A weakling makes trouble. Now run along!""But it's unfair," cried Fern. "The pig couldn't help being bornsmall, could it? If I had been very small at birth, would you havekilled me?"Mr. Arable smiled. "Certainly not," he said, looking down at hisdaughter with love. "But this is different. A little girl is onething, a little runty pig is another.""I see no difference," replied Fern, still hanging on to theax. "This is the most terrible case of injustice I ever heard of."A queer look came over John Arable's face. He seemed almostready to cry himself.

  "All right," he said." You go back to the house and I will bringthe runt when I come in. I'll let you start it on a bottle, like ababy. Then you'll see what trouble a pig can be."When Mr. Arable returned to the house half an hour later, hecarried a carton under his arm. Fern was upstairs changing hersneakers. The kitchen table was set for breakfast, and the roomsmelled of coffee, bacon, damp plaster, and wood smoke from thestove.

  "Put it on her chair!" said Mrs. Arable. Mr. Arable set thecarton down at Fern's place. Then he walked to the sink and washedhis hands and dried them on the roller towel.

  Fern came slowly down the stairs. Her eyes were red from crying.

  As she approached her chair, the carton wobbled, and there was ascratching noise.. Fern looked at her father. Then she lifted thelid of the carton. There, inside, looking up at her, was the newbornpig. It was a white one. The morning light shone through its ears,turning them pink.

  "He's yours," said Mr. Arable. "Saved from an untimely death.

  And may the good Lord forgive me for this foolishness."Fern couldn't take her eyes off the tiny pig. "Oh," shewhispered. "Oh, look at him! He's absolutely perfect."She closed the carton carefully. First she kissed her father,then she kissed her mother. Then she opened the lid again, liftedthe pig out, and held it against her cheek. At this moment herbrother Avery came into the room. Avery was ten. He was heavilyarmed--an air rifle in one hand, a wooden dagger in the other.

  "What's that?" he demanded. "What's Fern got?""She's got a guest for breakfast," said Mrs. Arable. "Wash yourhands and face, Avery!""Let's see it!" said Avery, setting his gun down. "You call thatmiserable thing a pig? That's a fine specimen of a pig--it's nobigger than a white rat.""Wash up and eat your breakfast, Avery!" said his mother. "Theschool bus will be along in half an hour.""Can I have a pig, too, Pop?" asked Avery.

  "No, I only distribute pigs to early risers," said Mr.

  Arable. "Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid world of injustice.

  As a result, she now has a pig. A small one, to be sure, butnevertheless a pig. It just shows what can happen if a person getsout of bed promptly. Let's eat!"But Fern couldn't eat until her pig had had a drink of milk.

  Mrs. Arable found a baby's nursing bottle and a rubber nipple. Shepoured warm milk into the bottle, fitted the nipple over the top,and handed it to Fern. "Give him his breakfast!" she said.

  A minute later, Fern was seated on the floor in the corner ofthe kitchen with her infant between her knees, teaching it to suckfrom the bottle. The pig, although tiny, had a good appetite andcaught on quickly.

  The school bus honked from the road.

  "Run!" commanded Mrs. Arable, taking the pig from Fern andslipping a doughnut into her hand. Avery grabbed his gun and anotherdoughnut.

  The children ran out to the road and climbed into the bus. Ferntook no notice of the others in the bus. She just sat and stared outof the window, thinking what a blissful world it was and how luckyshe was to have entire charge of a pig. By the time the bus reachedschool, Fern had named her pet, selecting the most beautiful nameshe could think of.

  "Its name is Wilbur," she whispered to herself.

  She was still thinking about the pig when the teacher said:"Fern, what is the capital of Pennsylvania?""Wilbur," replied Fern, dreamily. The pupils giggled. Fernblushed.

 

  “爸爸拿着斧子去哪儿了?”在他们收拾桌子准备吃早饭时,芬问她的母亲。

  “去猪圈了,”阿拉贝尔太太回答。“昨晚生了几只小猪。”

  “我不明白他为什么需要一把斧子,”只有八岁的芬继续说。

  “哦,”她的母亲说,“其中的一头是个小个子。它长得又小又弱,没有任何可留下来的价值了。所以你爸爸决定去消灭它。”

  “消灭它?”芬尖叫。“你是说杀死它?就因为他比别人的个子小?”

  阿拉贝尔太太把一罐乳酪放到桌上。“别嚷,芬!”她说。“你爸做的对。那头猪不论如何都会死的。”

  芬推开挡在面前的椅子就往门外跑。草地湿漉漉的,泥土里散发着春天的气息。等芬赶上她的爸爸时,她的运动胶鞋全都湿透了。

  “请别杀它!”她呜咽道。“这不公平!”

  阿拉贝尔先生止住了脚。

  “芬,”他温柔的说,“你该学会自我控制。”

  “自我控制?”芬哭叫道,“这可是一件生死大事!你却对我说什么自我控制!”泪水流到芬的面颊上。她抓住了斧头柄,想把它从父亲手中抢下来。

  “芬,”阿拉贝尔先生说,“养小猪的事我比你知道的多。一个体质差的小猪很难养活的。现在你该放我走了!”

  “可是这不公平,”芬哭叫着。“这头猪愿意让自己生下来就小吗,它愿意吗?如果我生下来时也很瘦小,你就会杀死我吗?”

  阿拉贝尔先生微笑了。“当然不会了,”他说着,低下头慈爱地望着女儿。“但这是不一样的。一个小女孩是一码事儿,一个小瘦猪是另一码事儿。”

  “我看没什么不一样,”芬回答着,仍死抓着斧柄不放,“这是我曾经听到过的最恐怖的案件!”

  约翰·阿拉贝尔先生的脸上出现了某种奇特的表情。他好像也要哭了。

  “好吧,”他说。“你先回家吧。等我回家,我会把那头小猪带回来。我将让你用奶瓶喂他,象喂婴儿一样。那时你就会明白一头小猪会多么麻烦了。”

  半小时后,阿拉贝尔先生胳膊下夹着一个纸板盒回了家。芬正在楼上换她的运动鞋。厨房的桌子上摆好了早餐,房间里都是咖啡,薰肉的香味,湿湿的灰泥味儿,还有从炉子里荡出来的柴火烟味儿。

  “把它放到她的椅子上!”阿拉贝尔太太说。阿拉贝尔先生把纸板盒放到芬的位子上。然后他到洗手池洗了手,用池边滚筒上的毛巾把手擦干。

  芬慢慢地下了楼。因为刚刚哭过,她的眼还是红红的。当她走近她的椅子,纸板盒开始晃动起来,里面传出了抓搔声。芬看了看她的父亲。然后她掀起了盒盖。从那里面打量着她的,正是那新生的小猪。它是白色的。早晨的阳光把它的耳朵映得粉红。

  “他是你的了,” 阿拉贝尔先生说,“是你使他免于一死。愿上帝能原谅我这愚蠢的行为。”

  芬不错眼珠地看着这头小小猪。“哦,”她轻声赞美,“哦,看他呀!他漂亮极了。”

  她小心的关上了盖子。她先吻了爸爸,又吻了妈妈。然后她又揭开盖子,把小猪举起来,让他贴到自己的脸上。这时,她的哥哥埃弗里走了进来。埃弗里十岁了。他的身上可是全副武装呢——一只手里拿着气枪,一只手里攥着一把木制匕首。

  “那是什么?”他问。“芬得了什么了?”

  “她有了一位来吃早餐的客人,” 阿拉贝尔太太说。“埃弗里,去洗手洗脸!”

  “让我看看它嘛!”埃弗里说着,放下他的枪。“你说这可怜的小东西是一头猪?这不过是一头猪的小型复制品而已——他还没有一只白老鼠大呢。”

  “去洗脸吃饭,埃弗里!”他的妈妈说。“半小时内校车就要来了。”

  “我也能有一头小猪吗,爸?”埃弗里问。

  “不,我只把小猪送给早起的人,” 阿拉贝尔先生说,“为了制止这世界上的不公正行为,芬天刚亮就起床了。结果,她现在有了一头小猪。当然了,他的确是特别小,可不管怎么说这都是一头小猪。这只是表明,如果一个人能迅速地从床上爬起来,会有什么样的事情发生。让我们开饭吧!”

  但是芬要等到她的小猪喝完牛奶后才肯吃饭。阿拉贝尔太太找出了一个婴儿用的奶瓶和奶嘴儿。她把温乎乎的牛奶倒进奶瓶里,又把奶嘴儿安上,才把奶瓶递给了芬。“给他吃早餐吧!”她说。

  一分钟后,芬坐在厨房角落里的地板上,把她的小宝贝抱在膝头,开始教他如何从瓶中喝奶。这小猪虽然那么小,却有一个好胃口,而且也学得很快。

  路上响起了校车的喇叭声。

  “快跑!” 阿拉贝尔太太命令着,把小猪从芬那里抱下来,将一张油煎圈饼放到她的手上。埃弗里赶忙抓起他的枪和另一张油煎圈饼。

  孩子们跑到路边,上了校车。在车里,芬没有注意其他的人。她只是坐在那里朝车窗外看,想着这是个多美好的世界,自己又是多么幸运,居然可以拥有一头小猪。在车开到学校的那一刻,芬已经给她的宝贝起好了名字,选的是她能想到的最漂亮的名字。

  “它的名字是威伯。”她喃喃的自语。

  当老师在课堂里问她:“芬,宾夕法尼亚洲的首府叫什么?”时,她还在想着那头小猪。

  “威伯。”芬出神的回答。同学们格格地笑起来。芬脸红了。



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