V: Dulce Domum

Ɖ

 śīp ran huḍlñ tgɖr agnst ɖ hrdlz, blowñ ǎt ʈin nostṛlz n stampñ wɖ delic̣t fōrfīt, ɖer hedz ʈroun bac n a lît stīm rîzñ fṛm ɖ crǎdd śīp̓én intu ɖ frosti er, az ɖ tū animlz hesnd bî in hî spirits, wɖ mć ćatr n laftr. Ɖe wr rtrnñ acrs cuntri aftr a loñ de’z ǎtñ wɖ Otr, huntñ n xplorñ on ɖ wîd upḷndz ẃr srtn strīmz tribytri t ɖer ǒn Rivr hd ɖer frst smōl bginñz; n ɖ śêdz v ɖ śort wintrde wr clozñ in on ɖm, n ɖe hd stl sm distns t g. Plodñ at randm acrs ɖ plǎ, ɖe hd hŕd ɖ śīp n hd md fr ɖm; n nǎ, līdñ fṛm ɖ śīp̓én, ɖe faund a bìtn trac ɖt md wōcñ a lîtr biznis, n rspondd, morovr, t ɖt smōl inqîrñ smʈñ ẃć ol animlz cari insd ɖm, seyñ unmistecbli, “Yes, qt rît; ƉS līdz hom!”

“It lcs az f w wr cmñ t a vilij,” sd ɖ Mol smẃt dybịsli, slac̣nñ hiz pes, az ɖ trac, ɖt hd in tîm bcm a paʈ n ɖen hd dveḷpt intu a len, nǎ handd ɖm ovr t ɖ ćarj v a wel-metld rod. Ɖ animlz dd nt hold wɖ viḷjz, n ɖer ǒn hîwez, ʈicli fṛqentd az ɖe wr, tc an indipndnt cors, rgardlis v ćrć, post-ofis, or publichǎs.

“Ǒ, nvr mînd!” sd ɖ Rat. “At ɖs sīzn v ɖ yir ɖ’r ol sef indorz bî ɖs tîm, sitñ rnd ɖ fîr; men, wimin, n ćildṛn, dogz n cats n ol. W śl slip ʈru ol rît, wɖt eni boɖr or unplezntnis, n w cn hv a lc at ɖm ʈru ɖer windoz f y lîc, n si ẃt ɖ’r dwñ.”

Ɖ rapid nîtfōl v mid-Dsmbr hd qt bset ɖ litl vilij az ɖe aproćt it on soft fīt ovr a frst ʈin fōl v pǎḍri sno. Litl wz viẓbl bt sqerz v a dusci orinj-red on îɖr sîd v ɖ strīt, ẃr ɖ fîrlît or lamplît v ć cotij oṿfloud ʈru ɖ cesmnts intu ɖ darc wrld wɖt. Most v ɖ lo latist windoz wr iṇsnt v blîndz, n t ɖ lcrz-in fṛm ǎtsd, ɖ inmets, gaɖrd rnd ɖ tītebl, abzorbd in handiwrc, or tōcñ wɖ laftr n jsćr, hd ć ɖt hapi gres ẃć z ɖ last ʈñ ɖ scild actr śl capćr – ɖ naćṛl gres ẃć gz wɖ prfict unconśsnis v obẓveśn. Muvñ at wl fṛm wn ʈiytr t anɖr, ɖ tū spectetrz, so far fṛm hom ɖmslvz, hd smʈñ v wistflnis in ɖer îz az ɖe woćt a cat biyñ stroct, a slīpi ćîld pict p n hudld of t bed, or a tîrd man streć n noc ǎt hiz pîp on ɖ end v a smolḍrñ log.

Bt it wz fṛm wn litl windo, wɖ its blînd drwn dǎn, a mir blanc trnspaṛnsi on ɖ nît, ɖt ɖ sns v hom n ɖ litl crtnd wrld wɖn wōlz – ɖ larjr stresfl wrld v ǎtsd Nećr śut ǎt n fgotn – most p’lsetd. Clos agnst ɖ ẃît blînd huñ a brdcej, clirli siluétd, evri wîr, prć, n aprṭnns dstñt n recgnîzbl, īvn t yesṭde’z dul-éjd lump v śŭgr. On ɖ midl prć ɖ flufi okpnt, hed tuct wel intu feɖrz, sīmd so nir t ɖm az t b īẓli stroct, hd ɖe traid; īvn ɖ delic̣t tips v hiz plumt-ǎt plūmij pnsld plenli on ɖ iluṃnetd scrīn. Az ɖe lct, ɖ slīpi litl felo strd unīẓli, wouc, śc himslf, n rezd hiz hed. Ɖe cd si ɖ gep v hiz tîni bīc az h yōnd in a bord sort v we, lct rnd, n ɖen setld hiz hed intu hiz bac agn, ẃl ɖ rufld feɖrz graɉli sbsîdd intu prfict stilnis. Ɖen a gust v bitr wind tc ɖm in ɖ bac v ɖ nec, a smōl stñ v frozn slīt on ɖ scin wouc ɖm az fṛm a drīm, n ɖe ń ɖer toz t b cold n ɖer legz tîrd, n ɖer ǒn hom distnt a wiri we.

Wns bynd ɖ vilij, ẃr ɖ coṭjz sīst abrupli, on îɖr sîd v ɖ rod ɖe cd smel ʈru ɖ darcnis ɖ frendli fīldz agn; n ɖe brêst ɖmslvz fr ɖ last loñ streć, ɖ hom streć, ɖ streć ɖt w nǒ z baund t end, sm tîm, in ɖ ratl v ɖ dorlać, ɖ sudn fîrlît, n ɖ sît v fmiłr ʈñz grītñ s az loñ-absnt travlrz fṛm far ovr-sì. Ɖe plodd alñ steḍli n sîḷntli, ć v ɖm ʈncñ hiz ǒn ʈts. Ɖ Mol’z ran a gd dīl on supr, az it wz pić-darc, n it wz ol a strenj cuntri fr him az far az h ń, n h wz folowñ obījntli in ɖ wec v ɖ Rat, līvñ ɖ gîdns intîrli t him. Az fr ɖ Rat, h wz wōcñ a litl we ahd, az hiz habit wz, hiz śoldrz humt, hiz îz fixt on ɖ stret gre rod in frunt v him; so h dd nt notis pur Mol ẃn sudnli ɖ sumnz rīćt him, n tc him lîc an ilectric śoc.

W uɖrz, hu hv loñ lost ɖ mor sutl v ɖ fizicl snsz, hv nt īvn propr trmz t xpres an animl’z inṭcmyṇceśnz wɖ hiz srǎndñz, livñ or uɖ̇wz, n hv onli ɖ wrd “smel,” fr instns, t includ ɖ hol renj v delic̣t ʈrilz ẃć mrmr in ɖ nǒz v ɖ animl nît n de, suṃnñ, wornñ, insaitñ, rpelñ. It wz wn v ɖz m’stirịs fẹri cōlz fṛm ǎt ɖ vôd ɖt sudnli rīćt Mol in ɖ darcnis, mcñ him tngl ʈru n ʈru wɖ its vri fmiłr apil, īvn ẃl yt h cd nt clirli rmembr ẃt it wz. H stopt ded in hiz tracs, hiz nǒz srćñ hiɖr n ɖiɖr in its ef̣ts t rīcapćr ɖ fîn fiḷmnt, ɖ teḷgrafic cuṛnt, ɖt hd so stroñli muvd him. A momnt, n h hd còt it agn; n wɖ it ɖs tîm cem rec̣lex́n in fŭlist flud.

Hom! Ɖt wz ẃt ɖe mnt, ɖoz c’resñ apilz, ɖoz soft tućz woftd ʈru ɖ er, ɖoz inviẓbl litl handz pŭlñ n tugñ, ol wn we! Ẃ, it mst b qt clos bî him at ɖt momnt, hiz old hom ɖt h hd huridli fōrsecn n nvr sòt agn, ɖt de ẃn h frst faund ɖ rivr! N nǎ it wz sndñ ǎt its scǎts n its mesinjrz t capćr him n brñ him in. Sins hiz iscep on ɖt brît mornñ h hd hardli gvn it a ʈt, so abzorbd hd h bn in hiz ny lîf, in ol its pleźrz, its s’prîzz, its freś n captvetñ xpirịnsz. Nǎ, wɖ a ruś v old meṃriz, hǎ clirli it std p bfr him, in ɖ darcnis! Śabi indd, n smōl n purli frniśt, n yt hiz, ɖ hom h hd md fr himslf, ɖ hom h hd bn so hapi t gt bac t aftr hiz de’z wrc. N ɖ hom hd bn hapi wɖ him, tù, evidntli, n wz misñ him, n wontd him bac, n wz telñ him so, ʈru hiz nǒz, sorofl, rproćf̣li, bt wɖ no bitrnis or angr; onli wɖ plentiv rmîndr ɖt it wz ɖr, n wontd him.

Ɖ cōl wz clir, ɖ sumnz wz plen. H mst obe it instntli, n g. “Rati!” h cōld, fl v jôfl xîtmnt, “hold on! Cm bac! I wont y, qc!”

“Ǒ, CM alñ, Mol, d!” rplaid ɖ Rat ćirf̣li, stl plodñ alñ.

“PLĪZ stop, Rati!” plīdd ɖ pur Mol, in anḡś v hart. “Y d’nt unḍstand! It’s mî hom, mî old hom! I’v jst cm acrs ɖ smel v it, n it’s clos bî hir, riyli qt clos. N I MST g t it, I mst, I mst! Ǒ, cm bac, Rati! Plīz, plīz cm bac!”

Ɖ Rat wz bî ɖs tîm vri far ahd, tù far t hír clirli ẃt ɖ Mol wz cōlñ, tù far t cać ɖ śarp not v penfl apil in hiz vôs. N h wz mć tecn p wɖ ɖ weɖr, fr h tù cd smel smʈñ – smʈñ sspiśsli lîc aproćñ sno.

“Mol, w ms’nt stop nǎ, riyli!” h cōld bac. “W’l cm fr it tmoro, ẃtvr it z y’v faund. Bt I der’nt stop nǎ – it’s lêt, n ɖ sno’z cmñ on agn, n I’m nt śr v ɖ we! N I wont yr nǒz, Mol, so cm on qc, ɖr’z a gd felo!” N ɖ Rat prest fwd on hiz we wɖt wêtñ fr an ansr.

Pur Mol std alon in ɖ rod, hiz hart torn asundr, n a big sob gaɖ̇rñ, gaɖ̇rñ, smẃr lo dǎn insd him, t līp p t ɖ srfis prezntli, h ń, in paśṇt iscep. Bt īvn undr sć a tst az ɖs hiz loylti t hiz frend std frm. Nvr fr a momnt dd h drīm v abandnñ him. Mnẃl, ɖ wofts fṛm hiz old hom plīdd, ẃisprd, cunjrd, n fîṇli clemd him impirịsli. H derd nt tari longr wɖn ɖer majic srcl. Wɖ a renć ɖt tòr hiz vri hartstrñz h set hiz fes dǎn ɖ rod n foloud sbmisivli in ɖ trac v ɖ Rat, ẃl fent, ʈin litl smelz, stl dogñ hiz rtritñ nǒz, rproćt him fr hiz ny frendśp n hiz caḷs fgetflnis.

Wɖ an ef̣t h còt p t ɖ unsspctñ Rat, hu bgan ćaṭrñ ćirf̣li abt ẃt ɖe wd d ẃn ɖe got bac, n hǎ joli a fîr v logz in ɖ parlr wd b, n ẃt a supr h mnt t īt; nvr noṭsñ hiz cmpańn’z sîḷns n dstresfl stet v mînd. At last, hvr, ẃn ɖe hd gn sm cnsidṛbl we frɖr, n wr pasñ sm trīstumps at ɖ éj v a cops ɖt bordrd ɖ rod, h stopt n sd cîndli, “Lc hir, Mol old ćap, y sīm ded tîrd. No tōc left in y, n yr fīt dragñ lîc led. W’l sit dǎn hir fr a minit n rest. Ɖ sno hz hld of so far, n ɖ bst part v ǎr jrni z ovr.”

Ɖ Mol sbsîdd f’lornli on a trīstump n traid t cntrol himslf, fr h flt it śrli cmñ. Ɖ sob h hd fòt wɖ so loñ rfyzd t b bìtn. P n p, it forst its we t ɖ er, n ɖen anɖr, n anɖr, n uɖrz ʈic n fast; tl pur Mol at last gev p ɖ strugl, n craid frīli n hlplisli n opnli, nǎ ɖt h ń it wz ol ovr n h hd lost ẃt h cd hardli b sd t hv faund.

Ɖ Rat, astoniśt n dsmeid at ɖ vayḷns v Mol’z paṛxizm v grīf, dd nt der t spīc fr a ẃl. At last h sd, vri qaytli n simṗʈeticli, “Ẃt z it, old felo? Ẃtvr cn b ɖ matr? Tel s yr trubl, n let m si ẃt I cn d.”

Pur Mol faund it dificlt t gt eni wrdz ǎt btwn ɖ uphīvlz v hiz ćst ɖt foloud wn upn anɖr so qcli n hld bac spīć n ćoct it az it cem. “I nǒ it’s a – śabi, dinji litl ples,” h sobd fʈ at last, brocnli: “nt lîc – yr cozi qortrz – or Tod’z bytifl hōl – or Bajr’z gret hǎs – bt it wz mî ǒn litl hom – n I wz fond v it – n I wnt awe n fgot ol abt it – n ɖen I smelt it sudnli – on ɖ rod, ẃn I cōld n y wd’nt lisn, Rat – n evrʈñ cem bac t m wɖ a ruś – n I WONTD it! – Ǒ dir, Ǒ dir! – n ẃn y WD’NT trn bac, Rati – n I hd t līv it, ɖo I wz smelñ it ol ɖ tîm – I ʈt mî hart wd brec. – W mt hv jst gn n hd wn lc at it, Rati – onli wn lc – it wz clos bî – bt y wd’nt trn bac, Rati, y wd’nt trn bac! Ǒ dir, Ǒ dir!”

Rec̣lex́n bròt freś wevz v soro, n sobz agn tc fl ćarj v him, privntñ frɖr spīć.

Ɖ Rat stérd stret in frunt v him, seyñ nʈñ, onli patñ Mol jntli on ɖ śoldr. Aftr a tîm h mutrd glūṃli, “I si it ol nǎ! Ẃt a PIG I hv bn! A pig – ɖt’s m! Jst a pig – a plen pig!”

H wêtd tl Mol’z sobz bcem graɉli les stormi n mor riɖmicl; h wêtd tl at last snifs wr frīqnt n sobz onli inṭmitnt. Ɖen h rouz fṛm hiz sīt, n, rmarcñ cerlisli, “Wel, nǎ w’d riyli betr b gtñ on, old ćap!” set of p ɖ rod agn, ovr ɖ tôlsm we ɖe hd cm.

“Ẃrvr r y (hic) gwñ t (hic), Rati?” craid ɖ tirfl Mol, lcñ p in alarm.

“W’r gwñ t fînd ɖt hom v yrz, old felo,” rplaid ɖ Rat plezntli; “so y hd betr cm alñ, fr it wl tec sm fîndñ, n w śl wont yr nǒz.”

“Ǒ, cm bac, Rati, d!” craid ɖ Mol, gtñ p n huriyñ aftr him. “It’s no gd, I tel y! It’s tù lêt, n tù darc, n ɖ ples z tù far of, n ɖ sno’z cmñ! N – n I nvr mnt t let y nǒ I wz fīlñ ɖt we abt it – it wz ol an axidnt n a mstec! N ʈnc v Rivrbanc, n yr supr!”

“Hañ Rivrbanc, n supr tù!” sd ɖ Rat harṭli. “I tel y, I’m gwñ t fînd ɖs ples nǎ, f I ste ǎt ol nît. So ćir p, old ćap, n tec mî arm, n w’l vri sn b bac ɖr agn.”

Stl snuf̣lñ, plīdñ, n rluctnt, Mol sufrd himslf t b dragd bac alñ ɖ rod bî hiz impirịs cmpańn, hu bî a flo v ćirfl tōc n aṇcdot indevrd t bgîl hiz spirits bac n mc ɖ wiri we sīm śortr. Ẃn at last it sīmd t ɖ Rat ɖt ɖe mst b nirñ ɖt part v ɖ rod ẃr ɖ Mol hd bn “hld p,” h sd, “Nǎ, no mor tōcñ. Biznis! Yz yr nǒz, n gv yr mînd t it.”

Ɖe muvd on in sîḷns fr sm litl we, ẃn sudnli ɖ Rat wz conśs, ʈru hiz arm ɖt wz linct in Mol’z, v a fent sort v ilectric ʈril ɖt wz pasñ dǎn ɖt animl’z bodi. Instntli h disingejd himslf, fél bac a pes, n wêtd, ol atnśn.

Ɖ signlz wr cmñ ʈru!

Mol std a momnt rijid, ẃl hiz upliftd nǒz, qiṿrñ slîtli, flt ɖ er.

Ɖen a śort, qc run fwd – a fōlt – a ćec – a trî bac; n ɖen a slo, stedi, confidnt advans.

Ɖ Rat, mć xîtd, cept clos t hiz hìlz az ɖ Mol, wɖ smʈñ v ɖ er v a slīpwōcr, crost a drî dić, scrambld ʈru a hej, n nozd hiz we ovr a fīld opn n traclis n bér in ɖ fent starlît.

Sudnli, wɖt gvñ wornñ, h dîvd; bt ɖ Rat wz on ɖ alrt, n promtli foloud him dǎn ɖ tunl t ẃć hiz unŕñ nǒz hd feʈf̣li léd him.

It wz clos n erlis, n ɖ rʈi smel wz stroñ, n it sīmd a loñ tîm t Rat e’r ɖ pasij endd n h cd stand irect n streć n śec himslf. Ɖ Mol struc a mać, n bî its lît ɖ Rat sw ɖt ɖe wr standñ in an opn spes, nītli swept n sandd unḍft, n d’recli fesñ ɖm wz Mol’z litl frunt dor, wɖ “Mol End’ pentd, in Goʈic leṭrñ, ovr ɖ bel-pl at ɖ sîd.

Mol rīćt dǎn a lantn fṛm a nêl on ɖ wōl n lit it… n ɖ Rat, lcñ rnd him, sw ɖt ɖe wr in a sort v fōrcort. A gardnsīt std on wn sîd v ɖ dor, n on ɖ uɖr a rolr; fr ɖ Mol, hu wz a tîdi animl ẃn at hom, cd nt stand hvñ hiz grǎnd cict p bî uɖr animlz intu litl runz ɖt endd in rʈ-hīps. On ɖ wōlz huñ wîr bascits wɖ frnz in ɖm, olṭnetñ wɖ bracits cariyñ plastr staćụri – Garibōldi, n ɖ inf̣nt Saḿl, n Qīn Victoria, n uɖr hiroz v modn Iṭli. Dǎn on wn sîd v ɖ fōrcort ran a skitl-ali, wɖ benćz alñ it n litl wŭdn teblz marct wɖ rñz ɖt hintd at birmugz. In ɖ midl wz a smōl rǎnd pond cntenñ goldfiś n srǎndd bî a coclśel bordr. Ǎt v ɖ sntr v ɖ pond rouz a fansifl irex́n cloɖd in mor coclśelz n topt bî a larj silvrd glas bōl ɖt rflectd evrʈñ ol roñ n hd a vri plizñ ifct.

Mol’z fes bīmd at ɖ sît v ol ɖz objicts so dir t him, n h hurid Rat ʈru ɖ dor, lit a lamp in ɖ hōl, n tc wn glans rnd hiz old hom. H sw ɖ dust layñ ʈic on evrʈñ, sw ɖ ćirlis, dzrtd lc v ɖ loñ-nglectd hǎs, n its naro, mīgr dmnśnz, its wòrn n śabi contents – n c’lapst agn on a hōlćer, hiz nǒz t hiz pwz. “Ǒ Rati!” h craid dizṃli, “ẃ evr dd I d it? Ẃ dd I brñ y t ɖs pur, cold litl ples, on a nît lîc ɖs, ẃn y mt hv bn at Rivrbanc bî ɖs tîm, tostñ yr toz bfr a blezñ fîr, wɖ ol yr ǒn nîs ʈñz abt y!”

Ɖ Rat peid no hīd t hiz dǒlfl slf-rproćz. H wz runñ hir n ɖr, oṗnñ dorz, inspctñ rūmz n cuḅdz, n lîtñ lamps n candlz n sticñ ɖm p evrẃr. “Ẃt a capitl litl hǎs ɖs z!” h cōld ǎt ćiṛli. “So compact! So wel pland! Evrʈñ hir n evrʈñ in its ples! W’l mc a joli nît v it. Ɖ frst ʈñ w wont z a gd fîr; I’l si t ɖt – I olwz nǒ ẃr t fînd ʈñz. So ɖs z ɖ parlr? Splendid! Yr ǒn îdīa, ɖoz litl slīpñbuncs in ɖ wōl? Capitl! Nǎ, I’l feć ɖ wŭd n ɖ colz, n y gt a dustr, Mol – y’l fînd wn in ɖ dror v ɖ cićntebl – n trî n smartn ʈñz p a bit. Busl abt, old ćap!”

Incurijd bî hiz inspiṛtñ cmpańn, ɖ Mol rǎzd himslf n dustd n poliśt wɖ eṇji n hartinis, ẃl ɖ Rat, runñ t n fro wɖ armflz v fyl, sn hd a ćirfl blêz rorñ p ɖ ćimni. H hêld ɖ Mol t cm n worm himslf; bt Mol promtli hd anɖr fit v ɖ bluz, dropñ dǎn on a cǎć in darc dsper n beriyñ hiz fes in hiz dustr. “Rat,” h mond, “hǎ abt yr supr, y pur, cold, hungri, wiri animl? I’v nʈñ t gv y – nʈñ – nt a crum!”

“Ẃt a felo y r fr gvñ in!” sd ɖ Rat rproćf̣li. “Ẃ, onli jst nǎ I sw a sardīn-oṗnr on ɖ cićndresr, qt dstñtli; n evrbdi nz ɖt mīnz ɖr r sardīnz abt smẃr in ɖ nebrhd. Rǎz yrslf! pl yrslf tgɖr, n cm wɖ m n forij.”

Ɖe wnt n forijd acordñli, huntñ ʈru evri cuḅd n trnñ ǎt evri dror. Ɖ rzult wz nt so vri dpresñ aftr ol, ɖo v cors it mt hv bn betr; a tin v sardīnz – a box v captin’z biscits, nirli fl – n a Jrmn sosij incest in silvr pepr.

“Ɖr’z a banqit fr y!” obzrvd ɖ Rat, az h arenjd ɖ tebl. “I nǒ sm animlz hu wd gv ɖer irz t b sitñ dǎn t supr wɖ s tnît!”

“No bred!” grond ɖ Mol dolṛsli; “no butr, no — ”

“No pate d’ fwa gra, no śampen!” cntinyd ɖ Rat, grinñ. “N ɖt rmîndz m – ẃt’s ɖt litl dor at ɖ end v ɖ pasij? Yr sélr, v cors! Evri lux̣́ri in ɖs hǎs! Jst y wêt a minit.”

H md fr ɖ sélrdor, n prezntli ri’pird, smẃt dusti, wɖ a botl v bir in ć pw n anɖr undr ć arm, “Slf-induljnt begr y sīm t b, Mol,” h obzrvd. “Dnî yrslf nʈñ. Ɖs z riyli ɖ joliist litl ples I evr wz in. Nǎ, ẃrvr dd y pic p ɖoz prints? Mc ɖ ples lc so homlîc, ɖe d. No wundr y’r so fond v it, Mol. Tel s ol abt it, n hǎ y cem t mc it ẃt it z.”

Ɖen, ẃl ɖ Rat bizid himslf fećñ plets, n nîvz n forcs, n musṭd ẃć h mixt in an egcup, ɖ Mol, hiz bŭzm stl hīvñ wɖ ɖ stres v hiz rīsnt imośn, rletd – smẃt śîli at frst, bt wɖ mor frīdm az h wormd t hiz subjict – hǎ ɖs wz pland, n hǎ ɖt wz ʈt ǎt, n hǎ ɖs wz got ʈru a windfōl fṛm an ānt, n ɖt wz a wundrfl fînd n a bargin, n ɖs uɖr ʈñ wz bòt ǎt v l’borịs sevñz n a srtn amǎnt v “gwñ wɖt.” Hiz spirits fîṇli qt rstord, h mst nīdz g n c’res hiz pześnz, n tec a lamp n śo of ɖer pônts t hiz vizitr n xpeśiet on ɖm, qt fgetfl v ɖ supr ɖe bʈ so mć nīdd; Rat, hu wz despṛtli hungri bt strov t cnsil it, nodñ sirịsli, xaṃnñ wɖ a pucrd brǎ, n seyñ, “wundrfl,” n “most rmarcbl,” at inṭvlz, ẃn ɖ ćans fr an obẓveśn wz gvn him.

At last ɖ Rat s’xidd in dīcoyñ him t ɖ tebl, n hd jst got sirịsli t wrc wɖ ɖ sardīn-oṗnr ẃn sǎndz wr hŕd fṛm ɖ fōrcort wɖt – sǎndz lîc ɖ scuf̣lñ v smōl fīt in ɖ gravl n a cnfyzd mrmr v tîni vôsz, ẃl brocn sntnsz rīćt ɖm – ’Nǎ, ol in a lîn – hold ɖ lantn p a bit, Tomi – clir yr ʈrots frst – no cofñ aftr I se wn, tū, ʈri. – Ẃr’z yuñ Bil? – Hir, cm on, d, w’r ol a-wêtñ — ”

“Ẃt’s p?” inqîrd ɖ Rat, pōzñ in hiz lebrz.

“I ʈnc it mst b ɖ fīldmîs,” rplaid ɖ Mol, wɖ a tuć v prîd in hiz manr. “Ɖe g rnd caṛlsññ reğlrli at ɖs tîm v ɖ yir. Ɖ’r qt an insttyśn in ɖz parts. N ɖe nvr pas m ovr – ɖe cm t Mol End last v ol; n I yst t gv ɖm hot drincs, n supr tù smtmz, ẃn I cd aford it. It wl b lîc old tîmz t hír ɖm agn.”

“Let’s hv a lc at ɖm!” craid ɖ Rat, jumpñ p n runñ t ɖ dor.

It wz a priti sît, n a sīzṇbl wn, ɖt met ɖer îz ẃn ɖe fluñ ɖ dor opn. In ɖ fōrcort, lit bî ɖ dim rez v a horn lantn, sm et or ten litl fīldmîs std in a semisrcl, red wŭstid cumf̣trz rnd ɖer ʈrots, ɖer fōrpwz ʈrust dīp intu ɖer pocits, ɖer fīt jigñ fr wormʈ. Wɖ brît bīdi îz ɖe glanst śîli at ć uɖr, sniġrñ a litl, snifñ n aplayñ cotslīvz a gd dīl. Az ɖ dor opnd, wn v ɖ eldr wnz ɖt carid ɖ lantn wz jst seyñ, “Nǎ ɖen, wn, tū, ʈri!” n fʈwʈ ɖer śril litl vôsz uprouz on ɖ er, sññ wn v ɖ old-tîm caṛlz ɖt ɖer fōrfaɖrz cmpozd in fīldz ɖt wr falo n hld bî frost, or ẃn sno-baund in ćimnicornrz, n handd dǎn t b suñ in ɖ mîri strīt t lamp-lit windoz at Yūltîm.

CAṚL

Vilijrz ol, ɖs frosti tîd,

Let yr dorz swñ opn wîd,

Ɖo wind me folo, n sno bsd,

Yt drw s in bî yr fîr t bîd;

Jô śl b yrz in ɖ mornñ!

Hir w stand in ɖ cold n ɖ slīt,

Blowñ fngrz n stampñ fīt,

Cm fṛm far awe y t grīt –

Y bî ɖ fîr n w in ɖ strīt –

Bidñ y jô in ɖ mornñ!

Fr e’r wn haf v ɖ nît wz gn,

Sudn a star hz léd s on,

Renñ blis n benisn –

Blis tmoro n mor anon,

Jô fr evri mornñ!

Gdmn Jozif tôld ʈru ɖ sno –

Sw ɖ star ’r a stebl lo;

Mẹri ś mt nt frɖr g –

Welcm ʈać, n litr b’lo!

Jô wz hrz in ɖ mornñ!

N ɖen ɖe hŕd ɖ enjlz tel

“Hu wr ɖ frst t crî NOEL?

Animlz ol, az it bfel,

In ɖ stebl ẃr ɖe dd dwel!

Jô śl b ɖerz in ɖ mornñ!”

Ɖ vôsz sīst, ɖ sñrz, baśfl bt smîlñ, xćenjd sîdloñ glansz, n sîḷns s’xidd – bt fr a momnt onli. Ɖen, fṛm p abv n far awe, dǎn ɖ tunl ɖe hd so lêtli travld wz bòrn t ɖer irz in a fent ḿzicl hum ɖ sǎnd v distnt belz rññ a jôfl n clangṛs pìl.

“Vri wel suñ, bôz!” craid ɖ Rat harṭli. “N nǎ cm alñ in, ol v y, n worm yrslvz bî ɖ fîr, n hv smʈñ hot!”

“Yes, cm alñ, fīldmîs,” craid ɖ Mol īgrli. “Ɖs z qt lîc old tîmz! Śut ɖ dor aftr y. Pl p ɖt setl t ɖ fîr. Nǎ, y jst wêt a minit, ẃl w – Ǒ, Rati!” h craid in dsper, plumpñ dǎn on a sīt, wɖ tirz impndñ. “Ẃtvr r w dwñ? W’v nʈñ t gv ɖm!”

“Y līv ol ɖt t m,” sd ɖ mastrfl Rat. “Hir, y wɖ ɖ lantn! Cm ovr ɖs we. I wont t tōc t y. Nǎ, tel m, r ɖr eni śops opn at ɖs aur v ɖ nît?”

“Ẃ, srtnli, sr,” rplaid ɖ fīldmǎs rspctf̣li. “At ɖs tîm v ɖ yir ǎr śops cīp opn t ol sorts v aurz.”

“Ɖen lc hir!” sd ɖ Rat. “Y g of at wns, y n yr lantn, n y gt m — ”

Hir mć mutrd convseśn insyd, n ɖ Mol onli hŕd bits v it, sć az – “Freś, mînd! – no, a pǎnd v ɖt wl d – si y gt Buginz’z, fr I w’nt hv eni uɖr – no, onli ɖ bst – f y c’nt gt it ɖr, trî smẃr els – yes, v cors, hom-md, no tind stuf – wel ɖen, d ɖ bst y cn!” Fîṇli, ɖr wz a ćnc v côn pasñ fṛm pw t pw, ɖ fīldmǎs wz pṛvîdd wɖ an ampl bascit fr hiz prć̣sz, n of h hurid, h n hiz lantn.

Ɖ rest v ɖ fīldmîs, prćt in a ro on ɖ setl, ɖer smōl legz swññ, gev ɖmslvz p t injômnt v ɖ fîr, n tostd ɖer ćilblenz tl ɖe tngld; ẃl ɖ Mol, felñ t drw ɖm intu īzi convseśn, plunjd intu faṃlihisṭri n md ć v ɖm rsît ɖ nemz v hiz ńmṛs bruɖrz, hu wr tù yuñ, it apird, t b alaud t g ǎt a-caṛlñ ɖs yir, bt lct fwd vri śortli t winñ ɖ p’rentl cnsnt.

Ɖ Rat, mnẃl, wz bizi xaṃnñ ɖ lebl on wn v ɖ birbotlz. “I psiv ɖs t b Old Brtn,” h rmarct apruvñli. “SNṢBL Mol! Ɖ vri ʈñ! Nǎ w śl b ebl t mul sm el! Gt ɖ ʈñz redi, Mol, ẃl I drw ɖ corcs.”

It dd nt tec loñ t priper ɖ bru n ʈrust ɖ tin hītr wel intu ɖ red hart v ɖ fîr; n sn evri fīldmǎs wz sipñ n cofñ n ćocñ (fr a litl muld el gz a loñ we) n wîpñ hiz îz n lafñ n fgetñ h hd evr bn cold in ol hiz lîf.

“Ɖe act plez tù, ɖz feloz,” ɖ Mol xplend t ɖ Rat. “Mc ɖm p ol bî ɖmslvz, n act ɖm aftwdz. N vri wel ɖe d it, tù! Ɖe gev s a capitl wn last yir, abt a fīldmǎs hu wz capćrd at sì bî a Barḅri corser, n md t ro in a gali; n ẃn h iscept n got hom agn, hiz lediluv hd gn intu a convnt. Hir, Y! Y wr in it, I rmembr. Gt p n rsît a bit.”

Ɖ fīldmǎs adrest got p on hiz legz, gigld śîli, lct rnd ɖ rūm, n rmend abṣlutli tuñ-taid. Hiz comredz ćird him on, Mol cǒxt n incurijd him, n ɖ Rat wnt so far az t tec him bî ɖ śoldrz n śec him; bt nʈñ cd oṿcm hiz stejfrît. Ɖe wr ol biẓli ingejd on him lîc wōtrṃn aplayñ ɖ Royl Hymen Ssayti’z reğleśnz t a ces v loñ sbmrśn, ẃn ɖ lać clict, ɖ dor opnd, n ɖ fīldmǎs wɖ ɖ lantn ri’pird, staġrñ undr ɖ weit v hiz bascit.

Ɖr wz no mor tōc v ple-actñ wns ɖ vri riyl n solid contents v ɖ bascit hd bn tumbld ǎt on ɖ tebl. Undr ɖ jenṛlśp v Rat, evrbdi wz set t d smʈñ or t feć smʈñ. In a vri fy minits supr wz redi, n Mol, az h tc ɖ hed v ɖ tebl in a sort v a drīm, sw a lêtli baṛn bord set ʈic wɖ sêṿri cumf̣ts; sw hiz litl frendz’ fesz brîtn n bīm az ɖe fél t wɖt dle; n ɖen let himslf lūs – fr h wz famiśt indd – on ɖ provndr so majicli pṛvîdd, ʈncñ ẃt a hapi hom-cmñ ɖs hd trnd ǎt, aftr ol. Az ɖe ét, ɖe tōct v old tîmz, n ɖ fīldmîs gev him ɖ locl gosip p t det, n ansrd az wel az ɖe cd ɖ hundṛd qsćnz h hd t asc ɖm. Ɖ Rat sd litl or nʈñ, onli tecñ cer ɖt ć gest hd ẃt h wontd, n plenti v it, n ɖt Mol hd no trubl or añzayti abt enʈñ.

Ɖe clatrd of at last, vri gretfl n śǎrñ wśz v ɖ sīzn, wɖ ɖer jacitpocits stuft wɖ rmembṛnsz fr ɖ smōl bruɖrz n sistrz at hom. Ẃn ɖ dor hd clozd on ɖ last v ɖm n ɖ ćnc v ɖ lantnz hd daid awe, Mol n Rat cict ɖ fîr p, drù ɖer ćerz in, brùd ɖmslvz a last nîtcap v muld el, n dscust ɖ ivnts v ɖ loñ de. At last ɖ Rat, wɖ a tṛmnḍs yōn, sd, “Mol, old ćap, I’m redi t drop. Slīpi z simpli nt ɖ wrd. Ɖt yr ǒn bunc ovr on ɖt sîd? Vri wel, ɖen, I’l tec ɖs. Ẃt a ripñ litl hǎs ɖs z! Evrʈñ so handi!”

H clambrd intu hiz bunc n rold himslf wel p in ɖ blancits, n slumbr gaɖrd him fʈwʈ, az a sweɖ v barli z foldd intu ɖ armz v ɖ rīpñ mśīn.

Ɖ wiri Mol olso wz glad t trn in wɖt dle, n sn hd hiz hed on hiz pilo, in gret jô n cntntmnt. Bt e’r h clozd hiz îz h let ɖm wondr rnd hiz old rūm, melo in ɖ glo v ɖ fîrlît ɖt pleid or restd on fmiłr n frendli ʈñz ẃć hd loñ bn unconśsli a part v him, n nǎ smîlñli rsivd him bac, wɖt rancr. H wz nǎ in jst ɖ frem v mînd ɖt ɖ tactfl Rat hd qaytli wrct t brñ abt in him. H sw clirli hǎ plen n simpl – hǎ naro, īvn – it ol wz; bt clirli, tù, hǎ mć it ol mnt t him, n ɖ speśl valy v sm sć anc̣rij in wn’z xistns. H dd nt at ol wont t abandn ɖ ny lîf n its splendid spesz, t trn hiz bac on sún n er n ol ɖe ofrd him n crīp hom n ste ɖr; ɖ upr wrld wz ol tù stroñ, it cōld t him stl, īvn dǎn ɖr, n h ń h mst rtrn t ɖ larjr stej. Bt it wz gd t ʈnc h hd ɖs t cm bac t; ɖs ples ẃć wz ol hiz ǒn, ɖz ʈñz ẃć wr so glad t si him agn n cd olwz b cǎntd upn fr ɖ sem simpl welcm.