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VII. THE EAGLE'S NEST

From the mountain-path came a joyous sound of some person whistling, and it betokened good humor and undaunted courage. It was Rudy, going to meet his friend Vesinaud. "You must come and help," said he. "I want to carry off the young eaglet from the top of the rock. We will take young Ragli with us."

"Had you not better first try to take down the moon? That would be quite as easy a task," said Vesinaud. "You seem to be in good spirits."

"Yes, indeed I am. I am thinking of my wedding. But to be serious, I will tell you all about it, and how I am situated."

Then he explained to Vesinaud and Ragli what he wished to do, and why.

"You are a daring fellow," said they; "but it is no use; you will break your neck."

"No one falls, unless he is afraid," said Rudy.

So at midnight they set out, carrying with them poles, ladders, and ropes. The road lay amidst brushwood and underwood, over rolling stones, always upwards higher and higher in the dark night. Waters roared beneath them, or fell in cascades from above. Humid clouds were driving through the air as the hunters reached the precipitous ledge of the rock. It was even darker here, for the sides of the rocks almost met, and the light penetrated only through a small opening at the top. At a little distance from the edge could be heard the sound of the roaring, foaming waters in the yawning abyss beneath them. The three seated themselves on a stone, to await in stillness the dawn of day, when the parent eagle would fly out, as it would be necessary to shoot the old bird before they could think of gaining possession of the young one. Rudy sat motionless, as if he had been part of the stone on which he sat. He held his gun ready to fire, with his eyes fixed steadily on the highest point of the cliff, where the eagle's nest lay concealed beneath the overhanging rock.

The three hunters had a long time to wait. At last they heard a rustling, whirring sound above them, and a large hovering object darkened the air. Two guns were ready to aim at the dark body of the eagle as it rose from the nest. Then a shot was fired; for an instant the bird fluttered its wide-spreading wings, and seemed as if it would fill up the whole of the chasm, and drag down the hunters in its fall. But it was not so; the eagle sunk gradually into the abyss beneath, and the branches of trees and bushes were broken by its weight. Then the hunters roused themselves: three of the longest ladders were brought and bound together; the topmost ring of these ladders would just reach the edge of the rock which hung over the abyss, but no farther. The point beneath which the eagle's nest lay sheltered was much higher, and the sides of the rock were as smooth as a wall. After consulting together, they determined to bind together two more ladders, and to hoist them over the cavity, and so form a communication with the three beneath them, by binding the upper ones to the lower. With great difficulty they contrived to drag the two ladders over the rock, and there they hung for some moments, swaying over the abyss; but no sooner had they fastened them together, than Rudy placed his foot on the lowest step.

It was a bitterly cold morning; clouds of mist were rising from beneath, and Rudy stood on the lower step of the ladder as a fly rests on a piece of swinging straw, which a bird may have dropped from the edge of the nest it was building on some tall factory chimney; but the fly could fly away if the straw were shaken, Rudy could only break his neck. The wind whistled around him, and beneath him the waters of the abyss, swelled by the thawing of the glaciers, those palaces of the Ice Maiden, foamed and roared in their rapid course. When Rudy began to ascend, the ladder trembled like the web of the spider, when it draws out the long, delicate threads; but as soon as he reached the fourth of the ladders, which had been bound together, he felt more confidence,- he knew that they had been fastened securely by skilful hands. The fifth ladder, that appeared to reach the nest, was supported by the sides of the rock, yet it swung to and fro, and flapped about like a slender reed, and as if it had been bound by fishing lines. It seemed a most dangerous undertaking to ascend it, but Rudy knew how to climb; he had learnt that from the cat, and he had no fear. He did not observe Vertigo, who stood in the air behind him, trying to lay hold of him with his outstretched polypous arms.

When at length he stood on the topmost step of the ladder, he found that he was still some distance below the nest, and not even able to see into it. Only by using his hands and climbing could he possibly reach it. He tried the strength of the stunted trees, and the thick underwood upon which the nest rested, and of which it was formed, and finding they would support his weight, he grasped them firmly, and swung himself up from the ladder till his head and breast were above the nest, and then what an overpowering stench came from it, for in it lay the putrid remains of lambs, chamois, and birds. Vertigo, although he could not reach him, blew the poisonous vapor in his face, to make him giddy and faint; and beneath, in the dark, yawning deep, on the rushing waters, sat the Ice Maiden, with her long, pale, green hair falling around her, and her death-like eyes fixed upon him, like the two barrels of a gun. "I have thee now," she cried.

In a corner of the eagle's nest sat the young eaglet, a large and powerful bird, though still unable to fly. Rudy fixed his eyes upon it, held on by one hand with all his strength, and with the other threw a noose round the young eagle. The string slipped to its legs. Rudy tightened it, and thus secured the bird alive. Then flinging the sling over his shoulder, so that the creature hung a good way down behind him, he prepared to descend with the help of a rope, and his foot soon touched safely the highest step of the ladder. Then Rudy, remembering his early lesson in climbing, "Hold fast, and do not fear," descended carefully down the ladders, and at last stood safely on the ground with the young living eaglet, where he was received with loud shouts of joy and congratulations.

 

7.鹰窠

山路上有一阵愉快的歌声飘来。这歌声很洪亮,表示出勇气和快乐的心情。唱的人就是洛狄。他正要去看他的朋友维西纳得。

“你得帮我一下忙!我们得把拉格利找来,因为我想要取下崖顶上的那个鹰窠!”

“你还不如去取月亮里的黑点子。这比取那个鹰窠难不了多少!”维西纳得说。“我看你的心情倒蛮快活呢!”

“对啦,因为我要结婚了!不过,讲老实话,我得把实情告诉你!”

不一会儿维西纳得和拉格利就知道了洛狄的用意。

“你真是个固执的家伙,”他们说。“事情不能这样办!你会跌断你的脖子的!”

“只要你不怕跌下来,你就决不去跌下来的!”洛狄说。

半夜里,他们带着竿子、梯子和绳子出发了。路伸进灌木林,通过松散滚动的石子;他们一直向山上爬,爬了一整夜。他们下面的水在潺潺地流,他们上面的水在不停地滴,半空浮着的是漆黑的云块。这队猎人到达了一个峻峭的石壁;这儿比什么地方还要阴暗。两边的石崖几乎要碰到一起了,只有一条很狭的罅缝露出一片天来。石崖下面是一个深渊,里面有潺潺的流水。

这三个人静静地坐着。他们等待天明。如果他们想捉住小鹰的话,他们必须等母鹰在天明飞出时一枪把她打死。洛狄一声也不响,好像他变成了他坐着的那块石头的一部分似的。他把枪放在面前,扳上了枪机;他的眼睛注视着石崖的顶——鹰窠就藏在那儿一块突出的石头底下。这三个猎人需要等一段相当长的时间呢!

忽然间,他们听到头上有一阵骚动的飕飕声。一只庞大的物体在飞动,把天空遮暗了。这黑影刚一离开窠,两杆猎枪就瞄准它了。有一枪打了出去;那双张着的翅膀拍了几下。接着就有一只鸟慢慢地坠落下来,这只鸟和它张着的翅膀几乎可以把整个的深渊填满,甚至把这几个猎人也打下去。最后这鸟儿在深渊里不见了。它降落的时候折断了许多树枝和灌木林。

这几个猎人现在开始工作了。他们把三把最长的梯子头抵头地绑在一起;这样,这梯子就可以达到很高的地方。但是梯子最高的一级所能达到的地方,离鹰窠还有相当距离。鹰窠是藏在一块突出的石头底下,而通到这窠的石壁却光滑得像一堵墙。经过一番商议以后,这几个人决定再接上两把梯子,从崖顶上放下来,跟下面的三把梯子衔接起来。他们花了好大一番气力才找来了两把梯子,把它们头抵头地用绳子绑好,然后再把它们沿着那个突出的石头放下来,这样梯子就悬在深渊的半空,而洛狄则坐在它们最低的一个横档上。这是一个寒冷的清晨;云雾正从这个漆黑的深渊里升上来。洛狄好像是一只坐在雀子在筑巢时放在工厂烟囱边上的一根干草上的苍蝇,而这根草正在飘动。如果这根草掉下来,只有苍蝇可以展开翅膀,逃出性命。但是洛狄却没有翅膀,只会跌断脖子。风在他身边呼呼地吹。深渊底下的水正从融化着的冰河——冰姑娘的宫殿——里轰轰地向外流。

他把这梯子前后摇摆,正如一个蜘蛛要网住物件时摇摆它的细长的蛛丝一样。当他在第四次接触到下面的梯子时,他就牢牢地钩住下面的梯顶,用他的能干的手把悬着的和搭着的梯子绑在一起;但是梯子仍然在摇摆,好像它们的铰链全都松了似的。

这连在一起的五根长梯子,像一根飘摇的芦苇似的,撞着垂直的石壁。现在最危险的工作开始了:他得像一只猫似的爬上去。洛狄做起这种事来当然是不难的,因为猫已经教会了他怎样爬。他一点也不知道昏迷的女神就浮在他后面的空中,而且正向他伸出珊瑚虫一样的手来。当他爬到梯子顶上的时候,他才发现他的高度还不足以使他看到鹰窠里的情景。他只能用手够到它。他把鹰窠底下那些密密的枝条用手摸了一下,看这些枝条够不够结实。他抓住了一根牢固的枝条以后,顺势一跃,就离开了梯子,于是他的头和胸部就升到鹰窠上面。这时他就闻到一股死尸的臭味,因为鹰窠里有许多腐烂了的羚羊、雀子和绵羊。

昏迷之神因为控制不了他,只好把这些有毒的臭味朝他的脸上吹来,好叫他昏过去。在下边张着大口的黑色深渊里,冰姑娘披着淡绿色的长发,坐在翻腾的水上。她的一对死冰冰的眼睛像两个枪眼似的盯着洛狄。

“现在我可要捉住你了!”

洛狄在鹰窠的一角看到了小鹰。虽然它现在还不能飞,它已经是一只庞大、凶恶的鸟了。洛狄聚精会神地盯着它。他使尽气力用一只手来稳住自己的身体,同时用另一只手把绳子的活结套在这小鹰的身上。这只鸟现在算是活生生地被捉住了。洛狄把它的腿牢牢地系在活结里,然后把它向肩上一扔,使它低低地悬在他下面。这时有一根绳子从上面放下来了。他紧紧地握着这根绳子,徐徐下落,直到他的脚尖触到梯子最高的一根横档为止。

“扶稳!只要你不害怕跌下来,你就永不会跌下来的!”他很早就有这种认识;现在他就照这种认识办事。他稳稳地扶着梯子向下爬。因为他相信他不会跌下来,所以他就没有跌下来。

这时我们听到一阵强有力的喝彩声。洛狄拿着小鹰,站在坚实的石地上,安然无恙。