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Chapter 5 Charlotte

"Oh, yes indeed," said Wilbur. "Yes indeed! How are you? Good morning! Salutations! Very pleased to meet you. What is your name, please? May I have your name?""My name," said the spider," is Charlotte.""Charlotte what?" asked Wilbur, eagerly.

  "Charlotte A. Cavatica. But just call me Charlotte.""I think you're beautiful," said Wilbur.

  "Well, I am pretty," replied Charlotte. "There's no denying that. Almost all spiders are rather nice-looking. I'm not as flashy as some, but I'll do. I wish I could see you, Wilbur, as clearly as you can see me.""Why can't you?" asked the pig. "I'm right here."鈥淵es, but I'm near-sighted," replied Charlotte. "I've always been dreadfully near-sighted. It's good in some ways, not so good in others. Watch me wrap up this fly."A fly that had been crawling along Wilbur's trough had flown up and blundered into the lower part of Charlotte's web and was tangled in the sticky threads. The fly was beating its wings furiously, trying to break loose and free itself.

  "First," said Charlotte, " I dive at him." She plunged headfirst toward the fly. As she dropped, a tiny silken thread unwound from her rear end.

  "Next, I wrap him up." She grabbed the fly, threw a few jets of silk around it, and rolled it over and over, wrapping it so that it couldn't move. Wilbur watched in horror. He could hardly believe what he was seeing, and although he detested flies, he was sorry for this one.

  "There!" said Charlotte. "Now I knock him out, so he'll be more comfortable." She bit the fly. "He can't feel a thing now," she remarked. "He'll make a perfect breakfast for me.""You mean you eat flies?" gasped Wilbur.

  "Certainly. Flies, bugs, grasshoppers, choice beetles, moths, butterflies, tasty cockroaches, gnats, midges, daddy longlegs, centipedes, mosquitoes, crickets--anything that is careless enough to get caught in my web. I have to live, don't I?""Why, yes, of course," said Wilbur. "Do they taste good?""Delicious. Of course, I don't really eat them. I drink them--drink their blood. I love blood," said Charlotte, and her pleasant, thin voice grew even thinner and more pleasant.

  "Don't say that!" groaned Wilbur. "Please don't say things like that!""Why not ? It's true, and I have to say what is true. I am not entirely happy about my diet of flies and bugs, but it's the way I'm made. A spider has to pick up a living somehow or other, and I happen to be a trapper. I just naturally build a web and trap flies and other insects. My mother was a trapper before me. Her mother was a trapper before her. All our family have been trappers. Way back for thousands and thousands of years we spiders have been laying for flies and bugs.""It's a miserable inheritance," said Wilbur, gloomily. He was sad because his new friend was so bloodthirsty.

  "Yes, it is," agreed charlotte. "But I can't help it. I don't know how the first spider in the early days of the world happened to think up this fancy idea of spinning a web, but she did, and it was clever of her, too. And since then, all of us spiders have had to work the same trick. It's not a bad pitch, on the whole.""It's cruel," replied Wilbur, who did not intend to be argued out of his position.

  "Well, you can't talk," said Charlotte. "You have your meals brought to you in a pail. Nobody feeds me. I have to get my own living. I live by my wits. I have to be sharp and clever, lest I go hungry. I have to think things out, catch what I can, take what comes. Ant it just so happens, my friend, that what comes is flies and insects and bugs. And furthermore," said Charlotte, shaking one of her legs, "do you realize that if I didn't catch bugs and eat them, bugs would increase and multiply and get so numerous that they'd destroy the earth, wipe out everything?""Really?" said Wilbur. "I wouldn't want that to happen. Perhaps your web is a good thing after all."The goose had been listening to this conversation and chuckling to herself. "There are a lot of things Wilbur doesn't know about life," she thought. "He's really a very innocent little pig. He doesn't even know what's going to happen to him around Christmastime; he has no idea that Mr. Zuckerman and Lurvy are plotting to kill him." And the goose raised herself a bit and poked her eggs a little further under her so that they would receive the full heat from her warm body and soft feathers.

  Charlotte stood quietly over the fly, preparing to eat it. Wilbur lay down and closed his eyes. He was tired from his wakeful night and from the excitement of meeting someone for the first time. A breeze brought him the smell of clover--the sweet-smelling world beyond his fence. "Well," he thought," I've got a new friend, all right. But what a gamble friendship is! Charlotte is fierce, brutal, scheming, bloodthirsty--everything I don't like. How can I learn to like her, even though she is pretty and, of course, clever?

  Wilbur was merely suffering the doubts and fears that often go with finding a new friend. In good time he was to discover that he was mistaken about Charlotte. Underneath her rather bold and cruel exterior, she had a kind heart, and she was to prove loyal and true to the very end.

 

夜好像变长了。威伯的肚子是空的,脑子里却装得满满的。当你的肚子是空的,可脑子里却满是心事的时候,总是很难入睡的。

  这一夜,威伯醒了很多次。醒时他就拼命朝黑暗中望着,听着,想弄明白是几点钟了。谷仓从没有完全安静的时候,甚至在半夜里也还是老有响动。

  第一次醒来时,他听到坦普尔曼在谷仓里打洞的声音。坦普尔曼的牙使劲儿地嗑着木头,弄出很大的动静。“那只疯耗子!”威伯想。“为什么他整夜的在那里磨牙,破坏人们的财产?为什么他不去睡觉,像任何一只正常的动物那样?”

  第二次醒来时,威伯听到母鹅在她的窝里来回挪着,自顾自的傻笑。

  “几点了?”威伯低声问母鹅。

  “可能-能-能十一点半了吧,”母鹅说。“你为什么不睡,威伯?”

  “我脑子里的东西太多了,”威伯说。

  “唔,”母鹅说。“我没这样的麻烦。我脑子里什么东西都没有,不过我的屁股下面倒有很多东西。你试过坐在八个蛋上睡觉吗?”

  “没有,”威伯回答。“我猜那一定很不舒服,一个鹅蛋得孵多久?”

  “他们说大约-约要三十天,”母鹅回答。“可我有时会偷懒。在温暖的午后,我常衔来一些稻草把蛋盖上,一个人去散步。”

  威伯打了个哈欠,进入了梦乡。梦里他又仿佛听到了那个声音,“我将成为你的朋友。去睡吧——明早你会看见我。”

  大约在天亮前的半小时,威伯醒了,开始倾听。谷仓里还是很黑。绵羊睡得很沉。甚至那只母鹅也很安静。头上的主楼那里也没什么动静:牛正在休息,马在打盹儿。坦普尔曼也不见了,可能到别处工作去了吧。只有谷仓顶上才有些轻微的响动,那是风信鸡在风里晃来晃去。威伯很喜欢这时的谷仓——一切都那么静谧,安详,只等曙光的来临。

  “白天就要来了。”他想。

  一缕微光从小窗子里透了进来。星星们一个接一个的熄灭了。威伯现在能看清几步远的母鹅了。她的头藏到了翅膀的下面。接着,他也能看清绵羊和羊羔了。天亮了。

  “哦,美丽的白天,它终于来了!今天我会找到朋友了。”

  威伯四处搜寻着。他把家里查了个遍。他检查了窗台,又望了望天花板。但却什么新变化都没发现。最后他只好决定喊话了。尽管他不愿用自己的声音来打破这可爱的黎明时分的寂静,但他想不出还有什么别的办法可以找出那位无处可见的,神秘的新朋友。因此威伯清了清嗓子。

  “请注意!”他用特别洪亮的嗓门说,“请在昨晚就寝时友好的和我谈话的那位先生或女士给我打一个手势,或者发个信号!”

  威伯停下来,听了听。别的动物都抬起头瞪向他。威伯脸红了。但他还是决心找出这个陌生的朋友。

  “请注意!”他说。“我再重复一遍。请昨夜睡前和我亲切谈话的朋友出来说话。请告诉我你在哪里,如果你是我的朋友的话!”

  绵羊们互相交流着厌恶的表情。

  “别说胡话了,威伯!”最老的绵羊说。“如果你在这里有一个新朋友,你就是在妨害他的休息;而且在他早晨准备起床前把他吵醒,也是打破友谊的最快方法。你能确定你的朋友喜欢早起吗?”

  “各位,请原谅,”威伯的声音低了下来。“我并不想打扰别人。”

  他脸朝门委屈地躺了下来。他没想到会打扰别人,但如果他的朋友就在不远,早就该听到了。可能老羊说得对——这个朋友还没睡醒呢。

  不久鲁维来送早饭了。威伯冲出去急忙把食物吃光,还把食槽舔了个遍。绵羊们向小路走去,后面跟着摇摇摆摆的公鹅。就在威伯准备躺下来睡个早觉时,他又听到了昨夜的那种声音。

  “致敬!”那个声音说。

  威伯跳了起来。“致什么?”他问。

  “致敬!”那声音重复道。

  “这个词儿是什么意思,你又在哪儿?”威伯尖叫起来。“求求你,求求你,告诉我你在哪儿吧。还有,致敬是什么意思?”

  “致敬是句问候用语,”那个声音说道。“当我说‘致敬’,就等于对你说‘你好’或是‘早上好’。实际上,这是种愚蠢的表达方式,真奇怪我刚才怎么会用这么一个词儿。你想知道我在哪儿吗?那很容易。往门框上角看!我在这儿。看,我在挥手哩!”

  威伯终于找到了如此友善的和自己交谈的动物。门框的上方拉着一张大蜘蛛网,一只大灰蜘蛛正倒挂在网的高处。她只有一粒树胶糖丸那么大。她长着八条腿,正用其中的一条腿友好地对威伯致意呢。“现在看到我了?”她问。

  “噢,确实看见了,”威伯说。“确实看见了!你好!早上好!致敬!很高兴认识你。请问芳名?我可以问你的名字吗?”

  “我的名字,”蜘蛛说,“叫夏洛。”

  “夏洛什么?”威伯渴切地问。

  “夏洛·A·卡瓦蒂娜。你就叫我夏洛好了。”

  “我觉得你真很漂亮,”威伯说。

  “谢谢,我是很漂亮,”夏洛回答。“那是毫无疑问的。几乎所有的蜘蛛都长得相当好看。我不像别的蜘蛛那么艳丽,不过我也算可以了。我希望能看清你,威伯,就像你能看清我一样。”

  “你为什么看不清我?”小猪问。“我就在这儿呀。”

  “是的,不过我近视,”夏洛回答。“我的近视十分严重。这对我既有好处,也有坏处。你看我来抓住这只苍蝇。”

  一只刚才在威伯的食槽边上爬的苍蝇飞了起来,却愚蠢地碰上了夏洛的网,被那些粘粘的丝线缠住了。苍蝇愤怒的拍打着翅膀,想要挣脱。

  “首先,”夏洛说,“我要悄悄靠近他。”她慢慢地头朝下往苍蝇那里爬去。在她往下荡的时候,一根细丝线从她的尾部抽了出来。

  “接着,我要把他包起来。”她抓住苍蝇,往他身上缠了几道黑丝线,丝线越绕越密,直到裹得苍蝇一动也不能动。威伯惊恐地看着这一切。他几乎不敢相信他所看到的场面,尽管他也憎恨苍蝇,可还是为这只苍蝇感到难过。

  “看,”夏洛说。“现在我要把他弄晕,他就会觉得舒服点儿了。”她咬了苍蝇一口。”他现在毫无知觉了,”她说。”他将是我的一顿美味的早餐。”

  “你是说你吃苍蝇?”威伯喘了起来。

  “当然。苍蝇,小虫子,蚱蜢,漂亮的甲虫,飞蛾,蝴蝶,可口的蟑螂,蚊子,小咬儿,长脚蚊子,麻蚊子,蟋蟀——任何粗心地撞到我网上的小昆虫我都吃。我总得吃饭吧,是不是?”

  “为什么?哦,是的,当然。”威伯说。“他们的味道美吗?”

  “美妙极了。当然,我不是真的吃掉他们。我喝他们——喝他们的血。我喜欢喝血,”夏洛说。她的声音听起来越来越清脆,越来越快活了。

  “别再说下去了!”威伯呻吟。“请不要讲这件事儿了!”

  “为什么不?真的,我说的是真的。虽然我也不愿意吃苍蝇和小虫子,但那是我的生存方式。一个蜘蛛必须要设法谋生,而我恰巧可以作一名捕猎者。我生来就会织网,用它来捕食苍蝇和别的昆虫。在我之前,我的妈妈是一个捕猎者;在她之前,她的妈妈也是。我们全家都是捕猎者。千百万年以前,我们蜘蛛就靠捕食苍蝇和虫子为生了。”

  “那是多么可悲的遗传。”威伯幽幽地说。他真为新朋友的残忍难过。

  “是的,”夏洛表示同意。“但我也没办法改变这特性。我不知道世上最早的第一只蜘蛛是怎么想出织网这个奇妙的主意的,可是她却想出来了,她可真聪明。从那时起,我们所有的蜘蛛都会这么做了。总的来说,这个发明不坏。”

  “这是残酷的发明。”威伯简捷地回答。他并不打算为此而争论。

  “噢,你不能这么说,”夏洛说。“你有别人给你送饭吃。可没人喂我呀。我不得不独力谋生。我只有靠我的智力活着。为了避免挨饿,我只好变得又敏捷又聪明。我不得不想方设法,去抓住我能抓到的东西,享用他们的血。就是这么回事儿,我的朋友,我吃的就是我抓到的苍蝇和别的小昆虫。此外,”夏洛说着,挥起一条腿儿,“你明白如果我不抓小虫子吃,小虫子们就会增多,繁殖,直到多得足以破坏地球,毁灭一切吗?”

  “真的吗?”威伯说。“我可不想发生这种事。可能你的网真是个好东西吧。”

  一直听着这场对话的母鹅嘎嘎自语。“对于生活,威伯不懂的还多着呢。”她想。“他真是一头天真的小猪。他甚至都不知道圣诞节会发生什么事儿呢;他根本就不知道祖克曼先生和鲁维正在密谋杀掉他呢。”母鹅稍稍抬抬身子,把她的蛋往身下推得更近些,以便他们能更好的接收到她温暖的身体和柔软的羽毛下面的热量。

  夏洛在苍蝇的上方静停了一会儿,准备去吃它了。威伯忙闭上双眼,躺了下来。昨晚没睡好,再加上首次遇到新朋友的激动,使他感到分外的疲倦。微风把苜蓿的香味给他送了过来——他的栅栏外的世界里充满了甜香的气息。“很好,”他想,“我有了一个新朋友,真不错。但这是多危险的友谊呀!夏洛凶猛,残酷,狡诈,嗜血——这些我都不喜欢。虽然她是那么可爱,当然,也很聪明,可我怎么能让自己去试着喜欢她呢?”

  威伯像那些初交新朋友的人一样,被猜疑和恐惧困绕着。以后,他将发现自己误解了夏洛。其实,在她那可怕冷漠的外表下,有着一颗善良的心,以后发生的事情将证明,她对朋友是忠实,真诚的,每一刻都是如此。



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