The Borrowers

The Borrowers by Mary Norton Read Free Book Online

Book: The Borrowers by Mary Norton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mary Norton
graveled path, full of colored stones—the size of walnuts they were with, here and there, a blade of grass between them, transparent green against the light of the sun. Beyond the path she saw a grassy bank rising steeply to a tangled hedge; and beyond the hedge she saw fruit trees, bright with blossom.
    "Here's a bag," said Pod in a hoarse whisper; "better get down to work."
    Obediently Arrietty started pulling fiber; stiff it was and full of dust. Pod worked swiftly and methodically, making small bundles, each of which he put immediately in the bag. "If you have to run suddenly," he explained, "you don't want to leave nothing behind."

    "It hurts your hands," said Arrietty, "doesn't it?" and suddenly she sneezed.
    "Not my hands it doesn't," said Pod; "they're hardened like," and Arrietty sneezed again.
    "Dusty, isn't it?" she said.
    Pod straightened his back. "No good pulling where it's knotted right in," he said, watching her. "No wonder it hurts your hands. See here," he exclaimed after a moment, "you leave it! It's your first time up like. You sit on the step there and take a peek out of doors."
    "Oh, no—" Arrietty began ("If I don't help," she thought, "he won't want me again") but Pod insisted.
    "I'm better on me own," he said. "I can choose me bits, if you see what I mean, seeing as it's me who's got to make the brush."

Chapter Eight
    T HE step was warm but very steep. "If I got down on to the path," Arrietty thought, "I might not get up again," so for some moments she sat quietly. After a while she noticed the shoe-scraper.

    "Arrietty," called Pod softly, "where have you got to?"
    "I just climbed down the shoe-scraper," she called back.
    He came along and looked down at her from the top of the step. "That's all right," he said after a moment's stare, "but never climb down anything that isn't fixed like. Supposing one of them came along and moved the shoe-scraper—where would you be then? How would you get up again?"
    "It's heavy to move," said Arrietty.
    "Maybe," said Pod, "but it's movable. See what I mean? There's rules, my lass, and you got to learn."
    "This path," Arrietty said, "goes round the house. And the bank does too."
    "Well," said Pod, "what of it?"
    Arrietty rubbed one red kid shoe on a rounded stone. "It's my grating," she explained. "I was thinking that my grating must be just round the corner. My grating looks out on to this bank."

    "Your grating!" exclaimed Pod. "Since when has it been your grating?"

    "I was thinking," Arrietty went on. "Suppose I just went round the corner and called through the grating to Mother?"
    "No," said Pod, "we're not going to have none of that. Not going round corners."
    "Then," went on Arrietty, "she'd see I was all right like."
    "Well," said Pod, and then he half smiled, "go quickly then and call. I'll watch for you here. Not loud mind!"
    Arrietty ran. The stones in the path were firmly bedded and her light, soft shoes hardly seemed to touch them. How glorious it was to run—you could never run under the floor: you walked, you stooped, you crawled—but you never ran. Arrietty nearly ran past the grating. She saw it just in time after she turned the corner. Yes, there it was quite close to the ground, embedded deeply in the old wall of the house; there was moss below it in a spreading, greenish stain.

    Arrietty ran up to it. "Mother!" she called, her nose against the iron grille. "Mother!" She waited quietly and, after a moment, she called again.
    At the third call Homily came. Her hair was coming down and she carried, as though it were heavy, the screw lid of a pickle jar, filled with soapy water. "Oh," she said in an annoyed voice, "you didn't half give me a turn! What do you think you're up to? Where's your father?"
    Arrietty jerked her head sideways. "Just there—by the front door!" She was so full of happiness that, out of Homily's sight, her toes danced on the green moss. Here she was on the other side of the grating—here she was at last, on the

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