IV: Mr. Bajr

Ɖe wêtd peśntli fr ẃt sīmd a vri loñ tîm, stampñ in ɖ sno t cīp ɖer fīt worm. At last ɖe hŕd ɖ sǎnd v slo śuf̣lñ ftsteps aproćñ ɖ dor fṛm ɖ insd. It sīmd, az ɖ Mol rmarct t ɖ Rat, lîc smwn wōcñ in carpitsliprz ɖt wr tù larj fr him n dǎn at hìl; ẃć wz intelijnt v Mol, bcz ɖt wz xacli ẃt it wz.

Ɖr wz ɖ nôz v a bolt śot bac, n ɖ dor opnd a fy inćz, inuf t śo a loñ snǎt n a per v slīpi blincñ îz.

“Nǎ, ɖ VRI nxt tîm ɖs hapnz,” sd a gruf n sspiśs vôs, “I śl b xidñli angri. Hu z it ƉS tîm, dstrbñ ppl on sć a nît? Spīc p!”

“Ǒ, Bajr,” craid ɖ Rat, “let s in, plīz. It’s m, Rat, n mî frend Mol, n w’v lost ǎr we in ɖ sno.”

“Ẃt, Rati, mî dir litl man!” xclemd ɖ Bajr, in qt a difṛnt vôs. “Cm alñ in, bʈ v y, at wns. Ẃ, y mst b periśt. Wel I nvr! Lost in ɖ sno! N in ɖ Wîld Wŭd, tù, n at ɖs tîm v nît! Bt cm in wɖ y.”

Ɖ tū animlz tumbld ovr ć uɖr in ɖer īgrnis t gt insd, n hŕd ɖ dor śut bhnd ɖm wɖ gret jô n rlif.

Ɖ Bajr, hu wòr a loñ dresñgǎn, n huz sliprz wr indd vri dǎn at hìl, carid a flat candlstic in hiz pw n hd probbli bn on hiz we t bed ẃn ɖer sumnz sǎndd. H lct cîndli dǎn on ɖm n patd bʈ ɖer hedz. “Ɖs z nt ɖ sort v nît fr smōl animlz t b ǎt,” h sd ptrṇli. “I’m afred y’v bn p t sm v yr prancs agn, Rati. Bt cm alñ; cm intu ɖ cićn. Ɖr’z a frst-ret fîr ɖr, n supr n evrʈñ.”

H śufld on in frunt v ɖm, cariyñ ɖ lît, n ɖe foloud him, nujñ ć uɖr in an antiṣpetñ sort v we, dǎn a loñ, glūmi, n, t tel ɖ truʈ, dsîdidli śabi pasij, intu a sort v a sntṛl hōl; ǎt v ẃć ɖe cd dimli si uɖr loñ tunl-lîc paṣjz branćñ, paṣjz m’stirịs n wɖt apaṛnt end. Bt ɖr wr dorz in ɖ hōl az wel – stǎt ocn cumf̣tbl-lcñ dorz. Wn v ɖz ɖ Bajr fluñ opn, n at wns ɖe faund ɖmslvz in ol ɖ glo n wormʈ v a larj fîr-lit cićn.

Ɖ flor wz wel-wòrn red bric, n on ɖ wîd harʈ brnt a fîr v logz, btwn tū atractiv ćimnicornrz tuct awe in ɖ wōl, wel ǎt v eni sspiśn v dráft. A cupl v hî-bact setlz, fesñ ć uɖr on îɖr sîd v ɖ fîr, gev frɖr sitñ’coṃdeśnz fr ɖ soṣ́bli dspozd. In ɖ midl v ɖ rūm std a loñ tebl v plen bordz plest on treslz, wɖ benćz dǎn ć sîd. At wn end v it, ẃr an armćer std pśt bac, wr spred ɖ rmenz v ɖ Bajr’z plen bt ampl supr. Roz v spotlis plets wnct fṛm ɖ ślvz v ɖ dresr at ɖ far end v ɖ rūm, n fṛm ɖ raftrz oṿhed huñ hamz, bundlz v draid hrbz, nets v uńnz, n bascits v egz. It sīmd a ples ẃr hiroz cd fitli fīst aftr vicṭri, ẃr wiri harvistrz cd lîn p in scorz alñ ɖ tebl n cīp ɖer Harvist Hom wɖ mrʈ n soñ, or ẃr tū or ʈri frendz v simpl tests cd sit abt az ɖe plizd n īt n smoc n tōc in cumf̣t n cntntmnt. Ɖ rudi bric flor smîld p at ɖ smoci sīlñ; ɖ ocn setlz, śîni wɖ loñ wer, xćenjd ćirfl glansz wɖ ć uɖr; plets on ɖ dresr grind at pots on ɖ ślf, n ɖ meri fîrlît flicrd n pleid ovr evrʈñ wɖt dstñśn.

Ɖ cîndli Bajr ʈrust ɖm dǎn on a setl t tost ɖmslvz at ɖ fîr, n bád ɖm rmuv ɖer wet cots n būts. Ɖen h fećt ɖm dresñgǎnz n sliprz, n himslf beɖd ɖ Mol’z śin wɖ worm wōtr n mndd ɖ cut wɖ sticñplastr tl ɖ hol ʈñ wz jst az gd az ny, f nt betr. In ɖ imbresñ lît n wormʈ, worm n drî at last, wɖ wiri legz propt p in frunt v ɖm, n a sjstiv clinc v plets biyñ arenjd on ɖ tebl bhnd, it sīmd t ɖ storm-drivn animlz, nǎ in sef anc̣rij, ɖt ɖ cold n traclis Wîld Wŭd jst left ǎtsd wz mîlz n mîlz awe, n ol ɖt ɖe hd sufrd in it a haf-fgotn drīm.

Ẃn at last ɖe wr ʈuṛli tostd, ɖ Bajr sumnd ɖm t ɖ tebl, ẃr h hd bn bizi leyñ a rpast. Ɖe hd flt priti hungri bfr, bt ẃn ɖe acć̣li sw at last ɖ supr ɖt wz spred fr ɖm, riyli it sīmd onli a qsćn v ẃt ɖe śd atac frst ẃr ol wz so atractiv, n ẃɖr ɖ uɖr ʈñz wd oblîjñli wêt fr ɖm tl ɖe hd tîm t gv ɖm atnśn. Convseśn wz imposbl fr a loñ tîm; n ẃn it wz slǒli rzymd, it wz ɖt rgretbl sort v convseśn ɖt rzults fṛm tōcñ wɖ yr mǎʈ fl. Ɖ Bajr dd nt mînd ɖt sort v ʈñ at ol, nr dd h tec eni notis v elboz on ɖ tebl, or evrbdi spīcñ at wns. Az h dd nt g intu Ssayti himslf, h hd got an îdīa ɖt ɖz ʈñz b’loñd t ɖ ʈñz ɖt dd’nt riyli matr. (W nǒ v cors ɖt h wz roñ, n tc tù naro a vy; bcz ɖe d matr vri mć, ɖo it wd tec tù loñ t xplen ẃ.) H sat in hiz armćer at ɖ hed v ɖ tebl, n nodd grevli at inṭvlz az ɖ animlz tld ɖer stori; n h dd nt sīm s’prîzd or śoct at enʈñ, n h nvr sd, “I tld y so,” or, “Jst ẃt I olwz sd,” or rmarct ɖt ɖe òt t hv dn so-n-so, or òt nt t hv dn smʈñ els. Ɖ Mol bgan t fīl vri frendli twdz him.

Ẃn supr wz riyli finiśt at last, n ć animl flt ɖt hiz scin wz nǎ az tît az wz dīsntli sef, n ɖt bî ɖs tîm h dd’nt cer a hañ fr enbdi or enʈñ, ɖe gaɖrd rnd ɖ glowñ embrz v ɖ gret wŭd fîr, n ʈt hǎ joli it wz t b sitñ p SO lêt, n SO indipndnt, n SO fl; n aftr ɖe hd ćatd fr a tîm abt ʈñz in jenṛl, ɖ Bajr sd harṭli, “Nǎ ɖen! tel s ɖ nyz fṛm yr part v ɖ wrld. Hǎ’z old Tod gwñ on?”

“Ǒ, fṛm bad t wrs,” sd ɖ Rat grevli, ẃl ɖ Mol, coct p on a setl n bascñ in ɖ fîrlît, hiz hìlz hayr ɖn hiz hed, traid t lc proprli mōrnfl. “Anɖr smaś-up onli last wīc, n a bad wn. Y si, h wl insist on drîvñ himslf, n h’z hoplisli inceṗbl. F h’d onli implô a dīsnt, stedi, wel-trênd animl, pe him gd wejz, n līv evrʈñ t him, h’d gt on ol rît. Bt no; h’z cnvinst h’z a hevn-born drîvr, n nbdi cn tīć him enʈñ; n ol ɖ rest foloz.”

“Hǎ mni hz h hd?” inqîrd ɖ Bajr glūṃli.

“Smaśz, or mśīnz?” asct ɖ Rat. “Ǒ, wel, aftr ol, it’s ɖ sem ʈñ – wɖ Tod. Ɖs z ɖ sevnʈ. Az fr ɖ uɖrz – y nǒ ɖt coćhǎs v hiz? Wel, it’s pîld p – litṛli pîld p t ɖ rūf – wɖ fragmnts v motrcarz, nn v ɖm bigr ɖn yr hat! Ɖt acǎnts fr ɖ uɖr six – so far az ɖe cn b acǎntd fr.”

“H’z bn in hospitl ʈri tîmz,” pt in ɖ Mol; “n az fr ɖ fînz h’z hd t pe, it’s simpli ōfl t ʈnc v.”

“Yes, n ɖt’s part v ɖ trubl,” cntinyd ɖ Rat. “Tod’z rić, w ol nǒ; bt h’z nt a miłner. N h’z a hoplisli bad drîvr, n qt rgardlis v lw n ordr. Cild or ruind – it’s got t b wn v ɖ tū ʈñz, snr or lêtr. Bajr! w’r hiz frendz – òt’nt w t d smʈñ?”

Ɖ Bajr wnt ʈru a bit v hard ʈncñ. “Nǎ lc hir!” h sd at last, rɖr svirli; “v cors y nǒ I c’nt d enʈñ NǍ?”

Hiz tū frendz asntd, qt unḍstandñ hiz pônt. No animl, acordñ t ɖ rūlz v animl-eṭcét, z evr xpctd t d enʈñ strenẏs, or hrǒic, or īvn modṛtli activ jrñ ɖ of-sīzn v wintr. Ol r slīpi – sm acć̣li aslip. Ol r weɖr-baund, mor or les; n ol r restñ fṛm ardẏs dez n nîts, jrñ ẃć evri musl in ɖm hz bn svirli tstd, n evri eṇji cept at fl streć.

“Vri wel ɖen!” cntinyd ɖ Bajr. “BT, ẃn wns ɖ yir hz riyli trnd, n ɖ nîts r śortr, n hafwe ʈru ɖm wn rǎzz n fīlz fiɉti n wontñ t b p n dwñ bî súnrîz, f nt bfr – Y nǒ! — ”

Bʈ animlz nodd grevli. ƉE ń!

“Wel, ƉEN,” wnt on ɖ Bajr, “w – ɖt z, y n m n ǎr frend ɖ Mol hir – w’l tec Tod sirịsli in hand. W’l stand no nonsns ẃtvr. W’l brñ him bac t rīzn, bî fors f nīd b. W’l MC him b a snṣbl Tod. W’l – y’r aslip, Rat!”

“Nt m!” sd ɖ Rat, wecñ p wɖ a jrc.

“H’z bn aslip tū or ʈri tîmz sins supr,” sd ɖ Mol, lafñ. H himslf wz fīlñ qt wecfl n īvn lîvli, ɖo h dd’nt nǒ ẃ. Ɖ rīzn wz, v cors, ɖt h biyñ naćṛli an unḍgrǎnd animl bî brʈ n brīdñ, ɖ sićueśn v Bajr’z hǎs xacli sūtd him n md him fīl at hom; ẃl ɖ Rat, hu slept evri nît in a bedrūm ɖ windoz v ẃć opnd on a brīzi rivr, naćṛli flt ɖ atṃsfir stil n opresiv.

“Wel, it’s tîm w wr ol in bed,” sd ɖ Bajr, gtñ p n fećñ flat candlstics. “Cm alñ, y tū, n I’l śo y yr qortrz. N tec yr tîm tmro mornñ – brecfst at eni aur y plīz!”

H cnductd ɖ tū animlz t a loñ rūm ɖt sīmd haf bedćembr n haf loft. Ɖ Bajr’z wintr storz, ẃć indd wr viẓbl evrẃr, tc p haf ɖ rūm – pîlz v aplz, trnips, n ptetoz, bascits fl v nuts, n jarz v huni; bt ɖ tū litl ẃît bedz on ɖ rmendr v ɖ flor lct soft n invîtñ, n ɖ linn on ɖm, ɖo cōrs, wz clīn n smelt bytifli v lavndr; n ɖ Mol n ɖ Wōtŗat, śecñ of ɖer garmnts in sm ʈrti secndz, tumbld in btwn ɖ śīts in gret jô n cntntmnt.

In acordns wɖ ɖ cîndli Bajr’z injuñśnz, ɖ tū tîrd animlz cem dǎn t brecfst vri lêt nxt mornñ, n faund a brît fîr brnñ in ɖ cićn, n tū yuñ hejhogz sitñ on a benć at ɖ tebl, ītñ otmīl porij ǎt v wŭdn bolz. Ɖ hejhogz dropt ɖer spūnz, rouz t ɖer fīt, n dúct ɖer hedz rspctf̣li az ɖ tū entrd.

“Ɖr, sit dǎn, sit dǎn,” sd ɖ Rat plezntli, “n g on wɖ yr porij. Ẃr hv y yuñstrz cm fṛm? Lost yr we in ɖ sno, I s’poz?”

“Yes, plīz, sr,” sd ɖ eldr v ɖ tū hejhogz rspctf̣li. “M n litl Bili hir, w wz trayñ t fînd ǎr we t scūl – muɖr WD hv s g, wz ɖ weɖr evr so – n v cors w lost ǎrslvz, sr, n Bili h got frîtnd n tc n craid, biyñ yuñ n fent-hartd. N at last w hapnd p agnst Mr. Bajr’z bac dor, n md so bold az t noc, sr, fr Mr. Bajr h’z a cînd-hartd jntlmn, az evrwn nz — ”

“I unḍstand,” sd ɖ Rat, cutñ himslf sm raśrz fṛm a sîd v bêcn, ẃl ɖ Mol dropt sm egz intu a sōspn. “N ẃt’s ɖ weɖr lîc ǎtsd? Y nīd’nt ‘sr’ m qt so mć?” h add.

“Ǒ, teṛbl bad, sr, teṛbl dīp ɖ sno z,” sd ɖ hejhog. “No gtñ ǎt fr ɖ lîcs v y jntlṃn tde.”

“Ẃr’z Mr. Bajr?” inqîrd ɖ Mol, az h wormd ɖ cofipot bfr ɖ fîr.

“Ɖ mastr’z gn intu hiz studi, sr,” rplaid ɖ hejhog, “n h sd az hǎ h wz gwñ t b ptiklr bizi ɖs mornñ, n on no acǎnt wz h t b dstrbd.”

Ɖs xpḷneśn, v cors, wz ʈuṛli unḍstd bî evrwn preznt. Ɖ fact z, az olrdi set fʈ, ẃn y liv a lîf v intns activti fr six munʈs in ɖ yir, n v cmpaṛtiv or acćl somṇḷns fr ɖ uɖr six, jrñ ɖ latr pirịd y canot b cntińli plīdñ slīpinis ẃn ɖr r ppl abt or ʈñz t b dn. Ɖ xks gts mnotṇs. Ɖ animlz wel ń ɖt Bajr, hvñ ītn a harti brecfst, hd rtîrd t hiz studi n setld himslf in an armćer wɖ hiz legz p on anɖr n a red cotn hanc̣ćif ovr hiz fes, n wz biyñ “bizi’ in ɖ yźl we at ɖs tîm v ɖ yir.

Ɖ frunt dor bel clañd lǎdli, n ɖ Rat, hu wz vri grīsi wɖ butrd tost, snt Bili, ɖ smōlr hejhog, t si hu it mt b. Ɖr wz a sǎnd v mć stampñ in ɖ hōl, n prezntli Bili rtrnd in frunt v ɖ Otr, hu ʈrù himslf on ɖ Rat wɖ an imbres n a śǎt v afx́ṇt grītñ.

“Gt of!” splutrd ɖ Rat, wɖ hiz mǎʈ fl.

“Ʈt I śd fînd y hir ol rît,” sd ɖ Otr ćirf̣li. “Ɖe wr ol in a gret stet v alarm alñ Rivrbanc ẃn I arîvd ɖs mornñ. Rat nvr bn hom ol nît – nr Mol îɖr – smʈñ dredfl mst hv hapnd, ɖe sd; n ɖ sno hd cuvrd p ol yr tracs, v cors. Bt I ń ɖt ẃn ppl wr in eni fix ɖe mostli wnt t Bajr, or els Bajr got t nǒ v it smhǎ, so I cem stret of hir, ʈru ɖ Wîld Wŭd n ɖ sno! Mî! it wz fîn, cmñ ʈru ɖ sno az ɖ red sún wz rîzñ n śowñ agnst ɖ blac trītruncs! Az y wnt alñ in ɖ stilnis, evri nǎ n ɖen masz v sno slid of ɖ branćz sudnli wɖ a flop! mcñ y jump n run fr cuvr. Snǒcaslz n snǒcavnz hd spruñ p ǎt v nẃr in ɖ nît – n snǒbrijz, teṛsz, ramparts – I cd hv steid n pleid wɖ ɖm fr aurz. Hir n ɖr gret branćz hd bn torn awe bî ɖ śir weit v ɖ sno, n robinz prćt n hópt on ɖm in ɖer prci cnsitd we, jst az f ɖe hd dn it ɖmslvz. A ragid strñ v wîld gīs pást oṿhed, hî on ɖ gre scî, n a fy rŭcs ẃrld ovr ɖ triz, inspctd, n flapt of homẉdz wɖ a dsgustd xpreśn; bt I met no snṣbl biyñ t asc ɖ nyz v. Abt hafwe acrs I cem on a rabit sitñ on a stump, clīnñ hiz sili fes wɖ hiz pwz. H wz a priti scerd animl ẃn I crept p bhnd him n plest a hevi fōrpw on hiz śoldr. I hd t cuf hiz hed wns or twîs t gt eni sns ǎt v it at ol. At last I manijd t xtract fṛm him ɖt Mol hd bn sìn in ɖ Wîld Wŭd last nît bî wn v ɖm. It wz ɖ tōc v ɖ buroz, h sd, hǎ Mol, Mr. Rat’s ptiklr frend, wz in a bad fix; hǎ h hd lost hiz we, n ‘Ɖe’ wr p n ǎt huntñ, n wr ćiviyñ him rnd n rnd. ‘Ɖen ẃ dd’nt eni v y D smʈñ?’ I asct. ‘Y m’nt b blest wɖ brenz, bt ɖr r hundṛdz n hundṛdz v y, big, stǎt feloz, az fat az butr, n yr buroz runñ in ol d’rex́nz, n y cd hv tecn him in n md him sef n cumf̣tbl, or traid t, at ol ivnts.’ ‘Ẃt, S?’ h mirli sd: ‘D smʈñ? s rabits?’ So I cuft him agn n left him. Ɖr wz nʈñ els t b dn. At eni ret, I hd lrnt smʈñ; n f I hd hd ɖ luc t mīt eni v ‘Ɖm’ I’d hv lrnt smʈñ mor – or ƉE wd.”

“Wr’nt y at ol – ’r – nrṿs?” asct ɖ Mol, sm v yesṭde’z terr cmñ bac t him at ɖ mnśn v ɖ Wîld Wŭd.

“Nrṿs?” Ɖ Otr śoud a glīmñ set v stroñ ẃît tīʈ az h laft. “I’d gv ’m nrvz f eni v ɖm traid enʈñ on wɖ m. Hir, Mol, frî m sm slîsz v ham, lîc ɖ gd litl ćap y r. I’m frîtf̣li hungri, n I’v got eni amǎnt t se t Rati hir. Hv’nt sìn him fr an ej.”

So ɖ gd-nećrd Mol, hvñ cut sm slîsz v ham, set ɖ hejhogz t frî it, n rtrnd t hiz ǒn brecfst, ẃl ɖ Otr n ɖ Rat, ɖer hedz tgɖr, īgrli tōct rivrśop, ẃć z loñ śop n tōc ɖt z endlis, runñ on lîc ɖ baḅlñ rivr itslf.

A plet v fraid ham hd jst bn clird n snt bac fr mor, ẃn ɖ Bajr entrd, yōnñ n rubñ hiz îz, n grītd ɖm ol in hiz qayt, simpl we, wɖ cînd inqîriz fr evrwn. “It mst b gtñ on fr lunćntîm,” h rmarct t ɖ Otr. “Betr stop n hv it wɖ s. Y mst b hungri, ɖs cold mornñ.”

“Rɖr!” rplaid ɖ Otr, wncñ at ɖ Mol. “Ɖ sît v ɖz grīdi yuñ hejhogz stufñ ɖmslvz wɖ fraid ham mcs m fīl poztivli famiśt.”

Ɖ hejhogz, hu wr jst bginñ t fīl hungri agn aftr ɖer porij, n aftr wrcñ so hard at ɖer frayñ, lct timidli p at Mr. Bajr, bt wr tù śî t se enʈñ.

“Hir, y tū yuñstrz b of hom t yr muɖr,” sd ɖ Bajr cîndli. “I’l snd smwn wɖ y t śo y ɖ we. Y w’nt wont eni dinr tde, I’l b baund.”

H gev ɖm sixpns apis n a pat on ɖ hed, n ɖe wnt of wɖ mć rspctfl swññ v caps n tućñ v fōrlocs.

Prezntli ɖe ol sat dǎn t lunćn tgɖr. Ɖ Mol faund himslf plest nxt t Mr. Bajr, n, az ɖ uɖr tū wr stl dīp in rivrgosip fṛm ẃć nʈñ cd dvrt ɖm, h tc ɖ oṗtyṇti t tel Bajr hǎ cumf̣tbl n homlîc it ol flt t him. “Wns wel unḍgrǎnd,” h sd, “y nǒ xacli ẃr y r. Nʈñ cn hapn t y, n nʈñ cn gt at y. Y’r intîrli yr ǒn mastr, n y d’nt hv t cnsult enbdi or mînd ẃt ɖe se. Ʈñz g on ol ɖ sem oṿhed, n y let ’m, n d’nt boɖr abt ’m. Ẃn y wont t, p y g, n ɖr ɖ ʈñz r, wêtñ fr y.”

Ɖ Bajr simpli bīmd on him. “Ɖt’s xacli ẃt I se,” h rplaid. “Ɖr’z no s’kṛti, or pīs n tranqiḷti, xpt unḍgrǎnd. N ɖen, f yr îdīaz gt larjr n y wont t xpand – ẃ, a dig n a screp, n ɖr y r! F y fīl yr hǎs z a bit tù big, y stop p a houl or tū, n ɖr y r agn! No bildrz, no tredzmn, no rmarcs pást on y bî feloz lcñ ovr yr wōl, n, abv ol, no WEƉR. Lc at Rat, nǎ. A cupl v fīt v fludwōtr, n h’z got t muv intu hîrd lojñz; uncumf̣tbl, incnvińntli sićuetd, n hoṛbli xpnsiv. Tec Tod. I se nʈñ agnst Tod Hōl; qt ɖ bst hǎs in ɖz parts, AZ a hǎs. Bt s’pozñ a fîr brecs ǎt – ẃr’z Tod? S’pozñ tîlz r bloun of, or wōlz snc or crac, or windoz gt brocn – ẃr’z Tod? S’pozñ ɖ rūmz r dráfti – I HET a dráft mslf – ẃr’z Tod? No, p n ǎt v dorz z gd inuf t rom abt n gt wn’z livñ in; bt unḍgrǎnd t cm bac t at last – ɖt’s mî îdīa v HOM.”

Ɖ Mol asntd harṭli; n ɖ Bajr in consiqns got vri frendli wɖ him. “Ẃn lunć z ovr,” h sd, “I’l tec y ol rnd ɖs litl ples v mîn. I cn si y’l aprīśiet it. Y unḍstand ẃt dmestic arc̣tecćr òt t b, y d.”

Aftr lunćn, acordñli, ẃn ɖ uɖr tū hd setld ɖmslvz intu ɖ ćimnicornr n hd startd a hītd arğmnt on ɖ subjict v ĪLZ, ɖ Bajr lîtd a lantn n bád ɖ Mol folo him. Crosñ ɖ hōl, ɖe pást dǎn wn v ɖ prinsipl tunlz, n ɖ weṿrñ lît v ɖ lantn gev glimsz on îɖr sîd v rūmz bʈ larj n smōl, sm mir cuḅdz, uɖrz nirli az brōd n impozñ az Tod’z dînñhōl. A naro pasij at rît anglz léd ɖm intu anɖr coṛdor, n hir ɖ sem ʈñ wz rpitd. Ɖ Mol wz stagrd at ɖ sîz, ɖ xtnt, ɖ ramif̣ceśnz v it ol; at ɖ leñʈ v ɖ dim paṣjz, ɖ solid vōltñz v ɖ cramd storćembrz, ɖ mesnri evrẃr, ɖ pilrz, ɖ arćz, ɖ pevmnts. “Hǎ on rʈ, Bajr,” h sd at last, “dd y evr fînd tîm n streñʈ t d ol ɖs? It’s astoṇśñ!”

“It WD b astoṇśñ indd,” sd ɖ Bajr simpli, “f I HD dn it. Bt az a matr v fact I dd nn v it – onli clīnd ǎt ɖ paṣjz n ćembrz, az far az I hd nīd v ɖm. Ɖr’z lots mor v it, ol rnd abt. I si y d’nt unḍstand, n I mst xplen it t y. Wel, vri loñ ago, on ɖ spot ẃr ɖ Wîld Wŭd wevz nǎ, bfr evr it hd plantd itslf n groun p t ẃt it nǎ z, ɖr wz a siti – a siti v ppl, y nǒ. Hir, ẃr w r standñ, ɖe livd, n wōct, n tōct, n slept, n carid on ɖer biznis. Hir ɖe stebld ɖer horsz n fīstd, fṛm hir ɖe roud ǎt t fît or drouv ǎt t tred. Ɖe wr a pǎrfl ppl, n rić, n gret bildrz. Ɖe bilt t last, fr ɖe ʈt ɖer siti wd last fr evr.”

“Bt ẃt hz bcm v ɖm ol?” asct ɖ Mol.

“Hu cn tel?” sd ɖ Bajr. “Ppl cm – ɖe ste fr a ẃl, ɖe fluriś, ɖe bild – n ɖe g. It z ɖer we. Bt w rmen. Ɖr wr bajrz hir, I’v bn tld, loñ bfr ɖt sem siti evr cem t b. N nǎ ɖr r bajrz hir agn. W r an indyrñ lot, n w me muv ǎt fr a tîm, bt w wêt, n r peśnt, n bac w cm. N so it wl evr b.”

“Wel, n ẃn ɖe wnt at last, ɖoz ppl?” sd ɖ Mol.

“Ẃn ɖe wnt,” cntinyd ɖ Bajr, “ɖ stroñ windz n psistnt renz tc ɖ matr in hand, peśntli, sīslisli, yir aftr yir. Phps w bajrz tù, in ǎr smōl we, hlpt a litl – hu nz? It wz ol dǎn, dǎn, dǎn, graɉli – ruin n leṿlñ n dis’piṛns. Ɖen it wz ol p, p, p, graɉli, az sīdz grù t saplñz, n saplñz t forisțrīz, n brambl n frn cem crīpñ in t hlp. Līfmold rouz n obliṭretd, strīmz in ɖer wintrfreśits bròt sand n sôl t clog n t cuvr, n in cors v tîm ǎr hom wz redi fr s agn, n w muvd in. P abv s, on ɖ srfis, ɖ sem ʈñ hapnd. Animlz arîvd, lîct ɖ lc v ɖ ples, tc p ɖer qortrz, setld dǎn, spred, n fluriśt. Ɖe dd’nt boɖr ɖmslvz abt ɖ past – ɖe nvr d; ɖ’r tù bizi. Ɖ ples wz a bit humpi n hiḷci, naćṛli, n fl v houlz; bt ɖt wz rɖr an advantij. N ɖe d’nt boɖr abt ɖ fyćr, îɖr – ɖ fyćr ẃn phps ɖ ppl wl muv in agn – fr a tîm – az me vri wel b. Ɖ Wîld Wŭd z priti wel popyletd bî nǎ; wɖ ol ɖ yźl lot, gd, bad, n indifṛnt – I nem no nemz. It tecs ol sorts t mc a wrld. Bt I fansi y nǒ smʈñ abt ɖm yrslf bî ɖs tîm.”

“I d indd,” sd ɖ Mol, wɖ a slît śivr.

“Wel, wel,” sd ɖ Bajr, patñ him on ɖ śoldr, “it wz yr frst xpirịns v ɖm, y si. Ɖ’r nt so bad riyli; n w mst ol liv n let liv. Bt I’l pas ɖ wrd arnd tmoro, n I ʈnc y’l hv no frɖr trubl. Eni frend v MÎN wōcs ẃr h lîcs in ɖs cuntri, or I’l nǒ ɖ rīzn ẃ!”

Ẃn ɖe got bac t ɖ cićn agn, ɖe faund ɖ Rat wōcñ p n dǎn, vri restlis. Ɖ unḍgrǎnd atṃsfir wz opresñ him n gtñ on hiz nrvz, n h sīmd riyli t b afred ɖt ɖ rivr wd run awe f h wz’nt ɖr t lc aftr it. So h hd hiz oṿcot on, n hiz pistlz ʈrust intu hiz blt agn. “Cm alñ, Mol,” h sd añśsli, az sn az h còt sît v ɖm. “W mst gt of ẃl it’s dêlît. D’nt wont t spend anɖr nît in ɖ Wîld Wŭd agn.”

“It’l b ol rît, mî fîn felo,” sd ɖ Otr. “I’m cmñ alñ wɖ y, n I nǒ evri paʈ blîndfold; n f ɖr’z a hed ɖt nīdz t b punćt, y cn confidntli rlî upn m t punć it.”

“Y riyli nīd’nt fret, Rati,” add ɖ Bajr plasidli. “Mî paṣjz run frɖr ɖn y ʈnc, n I’v bolthoulz t ɖ éj v ɖ wŭd in sevṛl d’rex́nz, ɖo I d’nt cer fr evrbdi t nǒ abt ɖm. Ẃn y riyli hv t g, y śl līv bî wn v mî śort cuts. Mntm, mc yrslf īzi, n sit dǎn agn.”

Ɖ Rat wz nvɖles stl añśs t b of n atnd t hiz rivr, so ɖ Bajr, tecñ p hiz lantn agn, léd ɖ we alñ a damp n erlis tunl ɖt waund n dipt, part vōltd, part hỳn ʈru solid roc, fr a wiri distns ɖt sīmd t b mîlz. At last dêlît bgan t śo itslf cnfyzidli ʈru tangld groʈ oṿhaññ ɖ mǎʈ v ɖ pasij; n ɖ Bajr, bidñ ɖm a hesti gdbî, pśt ɖm huridli ʈru ɖ oṗnñ, md evrʈñ lc az naćṛl az poṣbl agn, wɖ crīprz, bruśwŭd, n ded līvz, n rtritd.

Ɖe faund ɖmslvz standñ on ɖ vri éj v ɖ Wîld Wŭd. Rocs n bramblz n trīrūts bhnd ɖm, cnfyzidli hīpt n tangld; in frunt, a gret spes v qayt fīldz, hemd bî lînz v hejz blac on ɖ sno, n, far ahd, a glint v ɖ fmiłr old rivr, ẃl ɖ wintri sún huñ red n lo on ɖ hrîzn. Ɖ Otr, az nwñ ol ɖ paɖz, tc ćarj v ɖ parti, n ɖe treld ǎt on a bìlîn fr a distnt stail. Pōzñ ɖr a momnt n lcñ bac, ɖe sw ɖ hol mas v ɖ Wîld Wŭd, dns, meṇsñ, compact, grimli set in vast ẃît srǎndñz; simlteńsli ɖe trnd n md swiftli fr hom, fr fîrlît n ɖ fmiłr ʈñz it pleid on, fr ɖ vôs, sǎndñ ćiṛli ǎtsd ɖer windo, v ɖ rivr ɖt ɖe ń n trustd in ol its mūdz, ɖt nvr md ɖm afred wɖ eni amezmnt.

Az h hurid alñ, īgrli antiṣpetñ ɖ momnt ẃn h wd b at hom agn amñ ɖ ʈñz h ń n lîct, ɖ Mol sw clirli ɖt h wz an animl v tild fīld n hejro, linct t ɖ plaud furo, ɖ fṛqentd pasćr, ɖ len v īvnñ linġrñz, ɖ cultvetd gardnplot. Fr uɖrz ɖ aspeṛtiz, ɖ stubn indyṛns, or ɖ claś v acćl conflict, ɖt wnt wɖ Nećr in ɖ ruf; h mst b wîz, mst cīp t ɖ pleznt plesz in ẃć hiz lînz wr leid n ẃć hld advnćr inuf, in ɖer we, t last fr a lîftîm.