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Chapter 19 The Egg Sac

Next morning when the first light came into the sky and the sparrows stirred in the trees, when the cows rattled their chains and the rooster crowed and the early automobiles went whispering along the road, Wilbur awoke and looked for Charlotte. He saw her up overhead in a corner near the back of his pen. she was very quiet. Her eight legs were spread wide. She seemed to have shrunk during the night. Next to her, attached to the ceiling, Wilbur saw a curious object. It was a sort of sac, or cocoon. It was peach-colored and looked as though it were made of cotton candy.

  "Are you awake, Charlotte?" he said softly.

  "Yes," came the answer.

  "What is that nifty little thing? Did you make it?""I did indeed," replied Charlotte in a weak voice.

  "Is it a plaything?""Plaything? I should say not. It is my egg sac, my magnum opus.""I don't know what a magnum opus is," said Wilbur.

  "That Latin," explained Charlotte. "It means 'great work.' This egg sac i smy great work--the finest thing I have ever made.""What's inside it?" asked Wilbur. "Eggs?""Five hundred and fourteen of them," she replied.

  "Five hundred and fourteen? said Wilbur. "You're kidding.""No, I'm not. I counted them. I got started counting, so I kept on--just to keep my mind occupied.""It's a perfectly beautiful egg sac," said Wilbur, feeling as happy as though he had constructed it himself.

  "Yes, it is pretty," replied Charlotte, patting the sac with her two front legs. "Anyway, I can guarantee that it is strong. It's made out of the toughest material I have. It's made out of the toughest material I have. It is also waterproof. The eggs are inside and will be warm and dry.""Charlotte," said Wilbur dreamily, "are you really going to have five hundred and fourteen children?""If nothing happens, yes," she said. "Of course, they won't show up till next spring." Wilbur noticed that Charlotte's voice sounded sad.

  "What makes you sound so down-hearted? I should think you'd be terribly happy about this.""Oh, don't pay any attention to me," said Charlotte. "I just don't have much pep any more. I guess I feel sad because I won't ever see my children.""What do you mean you won't see your children! Of course you will. We'll all see them. It's going to be simply wonderful next spring in the barn cellar with five hundred and fourteen baby spiders running around all over the place. and the geese will have a new set of goslings, and the sheep will have their new lambs...""Maybe," said Charlotte quietly. "However, I have a feeling I'm not going to see the results of last night's efforts. I don't feel good at all. I think I'm languishing, to tell you the truth."Wilbur didn't understand the word "languish" and he hated to bother Charlotte by asking her to explain. But he was so worried he felt he had to ask.

  "What does 'languishing' mean?""It means I'm slowing up, feeling my age. I'm not young any more, Wilbur. But I don't want you to worry about me. This is your big day today. Look at my web--doesn't it show up well with the dew on it?""Charlotte's web never looked more beautiful than it looked this morning. Each strand held dozens of bright drops of early morning dew. The light from the east struck it and made it plain and clear. It was a perfect piece of designing and building. In another hour or two, a steady stream of people would pass by, admiring it, and reading it, and looking at Wilbur, and marveling at the miracle.

  As Wilbur was studying the web, a pair of whiskers and a sharp face appeared. Slowly Templeton dragged himself across the pen and threw himself down in a corner.

  "I'm back," he said in a husky voice. "What a night!"The rat was swollen to twice his normal size. His stomach was as big around as a jelly jar.

  "What a night!" he repeated, hoarsely. "What feasting and carousing! A real gorge! I must have eaten the remains of thirty lunches. Never have I seen such leavings, and everything well-ripened and seasoned with the passage of time and the heat of the day. Oh, it was rich, my friends, rich!""You ought to be ashamed of yourself," said Charlotte in disgust. "It would serve you right if you had an acute attack of indigestion.""Don't worry about my stomach," snarled Templeton. "It can handle anything. and by the way, I've got some bad news. As I came past that pig next door--the one that calls himself Uncle--I noticed a blue tag on the front of his pen. That means he has won first prize. I guess you're licked, Wilbur. You might as well relax--nobody is going to hang any medal on you. Furthermore, I wouldn't be surprised if Zuckerman changes his mind about you. wait till he gets hankering for some fresh pork and smoked ham and crisp bacon! He'll take the knife to you, my boy.""Be still, Templeton!" said Charlotte. "You're too stuffed and bloated to know what you're saying. Don't pay any attention to him, Wilbur!"Wilbur tried not to think about what the rat had just said. He decided to change the subject.

  "Templeton," said Wilbur, "if you weren't so dopey, you would have noticed that Charlotte has made an egg sac. She is going to become a mother. For your information, there are five hundred and fourteen eggs in that peachy little sac.""Is this true?" asked the rat, eyeing the sac suspiciously.

  "Yes, it's true," sighed Charlotte.

  "Congratulations1" murmured Templeton. "This has been a night!" He closed his eyes, pulled some straw over himself, and dropped off into a deep sleep. Wilbur and Charlotte were glad to be rid of him for a while.

  At nine o'clock, Mr. Arable's truck rolled into the Fair Grounds and came to a stop at Wilbur's pen. Everybody climbed out.

  "Look!" cried Fern. "Look at Charlotte's web1 Look what it says!"The grownups and the children joined hands and stood there, studying the new sign.

  "'Humble,'" said Mr. Zuckerman. "Now isn't that just the word for Wilbur!"Everyone rejoiced to find that the miracle of the web had been repeated. Wilbur gazed up lovingly into their faces. He looked very humble and very grateful. Fern winked at Charlotte. Lurvy soon got busy. He poured a bucket of warm slops into the trough, and while Wilbur ate his breakfast Lurvy scratched him gently with a smooth stick.

  "Wait a minute!" cried Avery. "Look at this!" he pointed to the blue tag on Uncle's pen. "this pig has won first prize already."The Zuckermans and the Arables stared at the tag. Mrs. Zuckerman began to cry. Nobody said a word. the just stared at the tag. Then they stared at Uncle. Then they stared at the tag again. Lurvy took out an enormous handkerchief and blew his nose very loud--so loud, in fact, that the noise was heard by stableboys over at the horse barn.

  "Can I have some money?" asked Fern. "I want to go out on the midway.""You stay right where you are1" said her mother. Tears came to Fern's eyes.

  "What's everybody crying about?" asked Mr. Zuckerman. "Let's get busy! Edith, bring the buttermilk!"Mrs. Zuckerman wiped her eyes with her handkerchief. She went to the truck and came back with a gallon jar of buttermilk.

  "Bath time!" said Zuckerman, cheerfully. He and Mrs. Zuckerman and Avery climbed into Wilbur's pen. Avery slowly poured buttermilk on Wilbur's head and back, and as it trickled down his sides and cheeks, Mr. and Mrs. Zuckerman rubbed it into his hair and skin. Passersby stopped to watch. Pretty soon quite a crowd had gathered. Wilbur grew beautifully white and smooth. The morning sun shone through his pink ears.

  "He isn't as big as that pig next door," remarked one bystander, "but he's cleaner. That's what I like.""So do I," said another man.

  "He's humble, too," said a woman, reading the sign on the web.

  "Everybody who visited the pigpen had a good word to say about Wilbur. Everyone admired the web. And of course nobody noticed Charlotte.

  Suddenly a voice was heard on the loud speaker.

  "Attention, please!" it said. "Will Mr. Homer Zuckerman bring his famous pig to the judges' booth in promptly!"For a moment after this announcement, the Arables and the Zuckermans were unable to speak or move. Then Avery picked up a handful of straw and threw it high in the air and gave a loud yell. The straw fluttered sown like confetti into Fern's hair. Mr. Zuckerman hugged Mrs. Zuckerman. Mr. Arable kissed Mrs. Avery kissed Wilbur. Lurvy shook hands with everybody. Fern hugged her mother. Avery hugged Fern. Mrs. Arable hugged Mrs. Zuckerman.

  Up overhead, in the shadows of the ceiling, Charlotte crouched unseen, her front legs encircling her egg sac. Her heart was not beating as strongly as usual and she felt weary and old, but she was sure at last that she had saved Wilbur's life, and she felt peaceful and contented.

  "We have no time to lose!" shouted Mr. Zuckerman. "Lurvy, help with the crate!""Can I have some money?" asked Fern.

  "You wait!" said Mrs. Arable. "Can't you see everybody is busy?""Put that empty buttermilk jar into the truck!" commanded Mr. Arable. Avery grabbed the jar and rushed to the truck.

  "Does my hair look all right?" asked Mrs. Zuckerman.

  "Looks fine," snapped Mr. Zuckerman, as he and Lurvy set the crate down in front of Wilbur.

  "You didn't even look at my hair!" said Mrs. Zuckerman.

  "You're all right, Edith," said Mrs. Arable. "Just keep calm."Templeton, asleep in the straw, heard the commotion and awoke. He didn't know exactly what was going on, but when he saw the men shoving Wilbur into the crate he made up his mind to go along. He watched his chance and when no one was looking he crept into the crate and buried himself in the straw at the bottom.

  "All ready, boys!" cried Mr. Zuckerman. "Let's go!" He and Mr. Arable and Lurvy and Avery grabbed the crate and boosted it over the side of the pen and up into the truck. Fern jumped aboard and sat on top of the crate. She still had straw in her hair and looked very pretty and excited. Mr. Arable started the motor. Everyone climbed in, and off they drove to the judge's booth in front of the grandstand.

  As they passed the Ferris wheel, Fern gazed up at it and wished she were in the topmost car with Henry Fussy at her side.

 

  第二天早晨,当第一缕晨光从天空出现,麻雀们开始在树上叫时;当母牛把身上的链子摇得直响,公鸡也开始啼叫时;当早行的汽车从路边呼啸而过时,威伯醒了,开始寻找夏洛。他在猪圈后面上方的一个角落里看到了她。她显得很安详,八条腿都松松地张在那里。她似乎在一夜之间缩小了。在她身旁,威伯看到了一个奇怪的东西,就粘在猪圈的顶层上。那是一种囊,或者说是茧。看起来是桃红色的,好像是用棉花糖做出来的。

  “你醒了吗,夏洛?”他轻声问。

  “是的。”她回答。

  “那漂亮的小东西是什么?是你造的吗?”

  “是我造的。”夏洛用微弱的声音回答。

  “那是个玩具吗?”

  “玩具?应该说不是。这是我的卵囊,我的Magnum opus。”

  “我不懂Magnum opus 是什么意思。”威伯说。

  “那是一句拉丁语,”夏洛解释说,“它的意思就像'最伟大的作品'。这个卵囊就是我最伟大的作品——是我曾经造出的最好的东西。

  “里面装的是什么?”威伯问,“卵吗?”

  “514枚卵。”她回答。

  “514枚?”威伯说,“你在骗我。”

  “不,我没有,我数过的。我先是一个一个地数着,然后就一直数到完——这正好可以消磨时间。”

  “这是一个完美的卵囊。”威伯骄傲地说,好像这个卵囊是他自己造的一样。

  “是的,它是很完美,”夏洛用她的两条前腿拍着卵囊说,“此外,我还能保证,它是非常结实的。它是用我最粗的丝线造出来的。它还能防水。这些卵在里面会时刻保持温暖、干燥的。”

  “夏洛,”威伯做梦般地说,“你真的会有514个孩子吗?”

  “如果没有意外的话,会有的,”她说,“可是,他们得明年春天才会孵出来。”

  威伯注意到夏洛的语调显得很悲伤。

  “是什么使你的声音听起来那么伤心?我想你该为此狂喜才对。”

  “噢,不用在意我,”夏洛说,“我只是没有力气了。我感到悲伤,是因为我将看不到我的孩子们了,我想。”

  “你为什么认为你看不到你的孩子们!你当然能了。我们都会看见他们的。到了明天春天,看着514只小蜘蛛在谷仓地窖跑来跑去,一定是很开心的。那时,母鹅将孵出又一群小鹅,绵羊也会生出新的羊羔来……"

  “可能吧,”夏洛轻轻地说,“不管怎样,我都有一个预感,我将不会看到我昨夜努力的成果了。我现在的感觉很糟。告诉你实话吧,我想我正在衰残下去。”

  威伯不明白“衰残”的意思,也不好意思总请夏洛来做解释。但由于极度的担心,他觉得还是有必要问个清楚。

  “‘衰残’是什么意思?”

  “就是说我的行动正在变得迟缓,岁月已经不饶人了。我不再年轻了,威伯。但我不要你为我担忧。今天是你的好日子。看我的网——在里面有露珠时,看起来效果不是很好吗?”

  夏洛今天早上织的网,看起来比以往任何时候织出来的都要美。每根丝线上都缀饰着光闪闪的晨露。从东边照过来的阳光使里面的字显得格外的清晰、美丽。那是一张无论构思还是织工都十分完美的网。一、两个小时后,如流的人群将会涌过来,赞美着,读着,对威伯看着,为眼中出现的奇迹而惊叹。

  当威伯正在观赏那张网时,几缕小胡子和一张尖尖的面孔出现了。坦普尔曼慢慢地蹭回猪圈,躺到了角落里。

  “我回来了,”他哑着嗓子说,“多美的一夜!”

  老鼠胀得比平时足足胖了两倍。他的肚子就像一个大圆果酱瓶子。

  “多美的一夜!”他沙哑地重复道,“多么丰盛的酒宴!真正的狂吃!我一定吃下了整整三十份剩下来的午餐。我从没见过这么好的剩饭,白天的火热和这么长时间的烘烤恰好使得这些东西变得格外的够味。噢,太丰盛了,我的朋友,太丰盛了!”

  “你该为你的行为感到羞耻,”夏洛厌恶地说,“如果你得了严重的消化不良,那可是活该。”

  “用不着你为我的肚子操心,”坦普尔曼咆哮,“它可以容纳任何东西。顺便说一句,我得到一个坏消息。当我从那头猪旁边经过时——就是叫伯伯的那头猪——我看到他的猪圈前面贴着一个蓝标签。那表示他得了头奖。我猜你输了,威伯。你可要尽量想开呀——没人会来给你挂什么奖章了。此外,如果祖克曼先生对你改了主意,我也不会吃惊的。活到他想吃鲜猪肉和薰火腿、脆腌肉的时候为止吧!那时他会对你挥舞起刀子来的,我的宝贝。”

  “住嘴,坦普尔曼!”夏洛说,“你吃得太多了吧,撑得你都开始说胡话了。别听他的,威伯!”

  威伯尽力使自己不去回想刚才老鼠说过的话。他决定换个话题,来分散注意力。

  “坦普尔曼,”威伯说,“如果你不是吃傻了,就该注意到夏洛已经造了个卵囊。她要做妈妈了。告诉你一个消息,那个桃色的小卵囊里有514枚卵呢。”

  “那是真的吗?”老鼠的眼睛好奇地盯着卵囊问。

  “是的,真的。”夏洛轻声道。

  “恭喜!”坦普尔曼嘟囔道,“这是个不平凡的夜晚!”他闭上眼,拖过一些稻草盖到身上,美美地睡了。威伯和夏洛很高兴能暂时摆脱老鼠的纠缠。


  九点钟,阿拉贝尔先生的卡车开回展览会场,停到威伯的猪圈旁。每个人都下了车。

  “看!”芬叫,“看夏洛的网!看上面说什么!”

  大人和孩子们手牵着手站在那里,观察着这个新织的字。

  “谦恭,”祖克曼先生说,“这个词对威伯太合适了!”

  每个人都说蜘蛛网里又出现了奇迹。威伯神情可爱地望着人们的脸。他看起来既谦恭,又讨人喜欢。芬会意地朝夏洛眨了眨眼。不久鲁维开始忙起来。他把一桶温乎的猪食倒进食槽,又在威伯吃早饭时,用一根光滑的小棍子轻轻地给他抓痒。

  “等一下!”埃弗里说,“看这个!”他指着“伯伯”的猪圈上的蓝标签说:”这头猪已经赢得了大奖。”

  祖克曼一家与阿拉贝尔一家盯住了那张标签。祖克曼太太开始哭起来。没人再说一句话。他们只是呆呆地看着那标签。然后他们看看“伯伯”,再看看标签。鲁维掏出一方特别大的手绢大声地擤着鼻子——这声音很大,大得连那边马厩里的马夫都听见了。

  “能给我点儿钱吗?”芬问,“我想去游乐场。”

  “你就在这儿呆着!”她的母亲说。泪水开始在芬的眼里打转。

  “你们都哭什么?”祖克曼先生说,“让我们忙起来!伊迪丝,拿酸奶来!”

  祖克曼太太用手绢擦擦眼睛。她走向卡车,带回一个装着一加仑酸奶的瓶子。

  “洗澡时间!”祖克曼先生欢叫。他和祖克曼太太,埃弗里走进威伯的猪圈。埃弗里慢慢地往威伯的头和背上倒着酸奶,当酸奶流到威伯身上时,祖克曼夫妇就把它往威伯的毛发和皮肤上抹。过路的人都停下来参观。不久,一头漂亮的猪出现了。威伯又白又光滑,变得非常漂亮。早晨的阳光映过了他粉红色的耳朵。

  “他不像那个圈里的猪那么大,”一个旁观者说,“但他更干净。这就是我喜欢他的地方。”

  “我也这么想。”另一个男人说。

  “他也很谦恭。”一个女人读着网里的字说。

  每个来参观的人都对威伯说了些赞美的话。大家都对那张网感到惊奇。当然,没人注意到夏洛。

  突然,扩音器里传出了声音。

  “请注意!”那里面说,“请霍默·祖克曼先生把他的名猪带到大看台上的裁判场来。二十分钟后,将在那里颁发一项特别奖。每个人都被邀请参加。请把你的猪装进箱子,祖克曼先生,立即向裁判场报到!”

  在这通告发布完的一瞬间里,阿拉贝尔一家与祖克曼一家几乎什么也说不出,也不能动了。然后,埃弗里抓起一大把稻草兴奋地大叫着向空中撒去。这些稻草就像婚礼上撒的五彩纸般,飘上了芬的头发。阿拉贝尔先生吻了阿拉贝尔太太。埃弗里吻了威伯。鲁维对大家挥手示意。芬紧紧抱住了她的母亲。埃弗里抱住了芬。阿拉贝尔太太抱住了祖克曼太太。

  在猪圈顶层上的阴影里,无人察觉的夏洛正蹲在那里,前腿激动地紧抱着她的卵囊。她的心不象以前跳得那么有力了,她感觉自己现在既衰老又无力,但她相信,最后她终于救了威伯的命,所以她的心里非常的满足。

  “我们不要浪费时间了!”祖克曼先生喊,“鲁维,帮我抬箱子!”

  “可以给我点钱吗?”芬问。

  “你等等!”阿拉贝尔说,“你看不到大家都在忙着吗?”

  “把空酸奶瓶送回卡车上去!”阿拉贝尔先生命令。埃弗里抱着瓶子冲上了卡车。

  “我的头发看起来还好吧?”祖克曼太太说。

  “还好。”祖克曼先生敷衍道,在他和鲁维把板条箱放到威伯面前的时候。

  “你根本就没看我的头发!”祖克曼太太说。

  “你很好,伊迪丝,”阿拉贝尔先生说,“只要你保持镇静。”

  睡在稻草里的坦普尔曼,听到响动,醒了过来。他根本就不知道发生了什么事,但他看到男人们正在把威伯往板条箱里抬,就也决定跟着去。他找个没人看到的时机溜进了板条箱,藏到稻草的最下面。

  “孩子们,准备!”祖克曼先生喊,“我们走!”他和阿拉贝尔先生、鲁维、埃弗里扛起箱子往卡车走去。芬跳上车,坐到了箱子上。她的头发上还粘着稻草,显得格外的俏皮可爱。阿拉贝尔先生发动了引擎。大家都上了车,往裁判场那里驶去。

  当他们经过费里斯大转轮时,芬望了大转轮一眼,希望她能和亨利一起坐到大转轮最高处的座位里。



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