Alla inlägg under maj 2011

Av kaceyhanxu kaceyhanxu - 31 maj 2011 04:53

WHEN Jill woke next morning and found herself in a cave, she thought for one horrid moment that she was back in the Underworld. But when she noticed that she was lying on a bed of heather with a furry mantle over her, and saw a cheery fire crackling (as if newly lit) on a stone hearth and, farther off, morning sunlight coming in through the cave's mouth, she remembered all the happy truth. They had had a delightful supper, all crowded into that cave, in spite of being so sleepy before it was properly over. She had a vague impression of Dwarfs crowding round the fire with frying-pans rather bigger than themselves, and the hissing, and delicious smell of sausages, and more, and more, and more sausages. And not wretched sausages half full of bread and soya bean either, but real meaty, spicy ones, fat and piping hot and burst and just the tiniest bit burnt. And great mugs of frothy chocolate, and roast potatoes and roast chestnuts, and baked apples with raisins stuck in where the cores had been, and then ices just to freshen you up after all the hot things. Jill sat up and looked around. Puddleglum and Eustace were lying not far away, both fast asleep. "Hi, you two!" shouted Jill in a loud voice. "Aren't you ever going to get up?" "Shoo, shoo!" said a sleepy voice somewhere above her. "Time to be settling down. Have a good snooze, do, do. Don't make a to-do. Tu-whoo!" "Why, I do believe," said Jill, glancing up at a white bundle of fluffy feathers which was perched on top of a grandfather clock in one corner of the cave, "I do believe it's Glimfeather!" "True, true," whirred the Owl, lifting its head out from under its wing and opening one eye. "I came up with a message for the Prince at about two. The squirrels brought us the good news. Message for the Prince. He's gone. You're to follow too. Good-day -" and the head disappeared again. As there seemed no further hope of getting any information from the Owl, Jill got up and began looking round for any chance of a wash and some breakfast. But almost at once a little Faun came trotting into the cave with a sharp click-clack of his goaty hoofs on the stone floor. "Ah! You've woken up at last, Daughter of Eve," he said. "Perhaps you'd better wake the Son of Adam. You've got to be off in a few minutes and two Centaurs have very kindly offered to let you ride on their backs down to Cair Paravel." He added in a lower voice. "Of course, you realize it is a most special and unheard-of honour to be allowed to ride a Centaur. I don't know that I ever heard of anyone doing it before. It wouldn't do to keep them waiting." "Where's the Prince?" was the first question of Eustace and Puddleglum as soon as they had been wakened. "He's gone down to meet the King, his father, at Cair Paravel," answered the Faun, whose name was Orruns. "His Majesty's ship is expected in harbour any moment. It seems that the King met Aslan - I don't know whether it was in a vision or face to face - before he had sailed far, and Aslan turned him back and told him he would find his long-lost son awaiting him when he reached Narnia." Eustace was now up and he and Jill set about helping Orruns to get the breakfast. Puddleglum was told to stay in bed. A Centaur called Cloudbirth, a famous healer, or (as Orruns called it) a 'leech', was coming to see to his burnt foot. "Ah!" said Puddleglum in a tone almost of contentment, "he'll want to have the leg off at the knee, I shouldn't wonder. You see if he doesn't." But he was quite glad to stay in bed. Breakfast was scrambled eggs and toast and Eustace tackled it just as if he had not had a very large supper in the middle of the night. "I say, Son of Adam," said the Faun, looking with a certain awe at Eustace's mouthfuls. "There's no need to hurry quite so dreadfully as that. I don't think the Centaurs have quite finished their breakfasts yet." "Then they must have got up very late," said Eustace. "I bet it's after ten o'clock." "Oh no," said Orruns. "They got up before it was light." "Then they must have waited the dickens of a time for breakfast," said Eustace. "No, they didn't," said Orruns. "They began eating the minute they awoke." "Golly!" said Eustace. "Do they eat a very big breakfast?" "Why, Son of Adam, don't you understand? A Centaur has a man-stomach and a horse-stomach. And of course both want breakfast. So first of all he has porridge and pavenders and kidneys and bacon and omelette and cold ham and toast and marmalade and coffee and beer. And after that he attends to the horse part of himself by grazing for an hour or so and finishing up with a hot mash, some oats, and a bag of sugar. That's why it's such a serious thing to ask a Centaur to stay for the week-end. A very serious thing indeed." At that moment there was a sound of horse-hoofs tapping on rock from the mouth of the cave, and the children looked up. The two Centaurs, one with a black and one with a golden beard flowing over their magnificent bare chests, stood waiting for them, bending their heads a little so as to look into the cave. Then the children became very polite and finished their breakfast very quickly. No one thinks a Centaur funny when he sees it. They are solemn, majestic people, full of ancient wisdom which they learn from the stars, not easily made either merry or angry; but their anger is terrible as a tidal wave when it comes. "Good-bye, dear Puddleglum," said Jill, going over to the Marsh-wiggle's bed. "I'm sorry we called you a wet blanket." "So'm I," said Eustace. "You've been the best friend in the world." "And I do hope we'll meet again," added Jill. "Not much chance of that, I should say," replied Puddleglum. "1 don't reckon I'm very likely to see my old wigwam again either. And that Prince - he's a nice chap - but do you think he's very strong? Constitution ruined with living underground, I shouldn't wonder. Looks the sort that might go off any day." "Puddleglum!" said Jill. "You're a regular old humbug. You sound as doleful as a funeral and I believe you're perfectly happy. And you talk as if you were afraid of everything, when you're really as brave as-as a lion." "Now, speaking of funerals," began Puddleglum, but Jill, who heard the Centaurs tapping with their hoofs behind her, surprised him very much by flinging her arms round his thin neck and kissing his muddy-looking face, while Eustace wrung his hand. Then they both rushed away to the Centaurs, and the Marsh-wiggle, sinking back on his bed, remarked to himself, "Well, I wouldn't have dreamt of her doing that. Even though I am a good-looking chap."

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It's quite t-t-t-true. D-d-don't be so silly," said Jill. She spoke like that because her teeth were now chattering with the cold. Immediately one of the Dryads flung round her a furry cloak which some Dwarf had dropped when he rushed to fetch his mining tools, and an obliging Faun trotted off among the trees to a place where Jill could see firelight in the mouth of a cave, to get her a hot drink. But before it came, all the Dwarfs reappeared with spades and pick-axes and charged at the hillside. Then Jill heard cries of "Hi! What are you doing? Put that sword down," and "Now, young 'un: none of that," and, "He's a vicious one, now, isn't he?" Jill hurried to the spot and didn't know whether to laugh or cry when she saw Eustace's face, very pale and dirty, projecting from the blackness of the hole, and Eustace's right hand brandishing a sword with which he made lunges at anyone who came near him. For of course Eustace had been having a very different time from Jill during the last few minutes. He had heard Jill cry out and seen her disappear into the unknown. Like the Prince and Puddleglum, he thought that some enemies had caught her. And from down below he didn't see that the pale, blueish light was moonlight. He thought the hole would lead only into some other cave, lit by some ghostly phosphorescence and filled with goodness-knows-what evil creatures of the Underworld. So that when he had persuaded Puddleglum to give him a back, and drawn his sword, and poked out his head, he had really been doing a very brave thing. The others would have done it first if they could, but the hole was too small for them to climb through. Eustace was a little bigger, and a lot clumsier, than Jill, so that when he looked out he bumped his head against the top of the hole and brought a small avalanche of snow down on his face. And so, when he could see again, and saw dozens of figures coming at him as hard as they could run, it is not surprising that he tried to ward them off. "Stop, Eustace, stop," cried Jill. "They're all friends. Can't you see? We've come up in Narnia. Everything's all right." Then Eustace did see, and apologized to the Dwarfs (and the Dwarfs said not to mention it), and dozens of thick, hairy, dwarfish hands helped him out just as they had helped Jill out a few minutes before. Then Jill scrambled up the bank and put her head in at the dark opening and shouted the good news in to the prisoners. As she turned away she heard Puddleglum mutter. "Ah, poor Pole. It's been too much for her, this last bit. Turned her head, I shouldn't wonder. She's beginning to see things." Jill rejoined Eustace and they shook one another by both hands and took in great deep breaths of the free midnight air. And a warm cloak was brought for Eustace and hot drinks, for both. While they were sipping it, the Dwarfs had already got all the snow and all the sods off a large strip of the hillside round the original hole, and the pickaxes and spades were now going as merrily as the feet of Fauns and Dryads had been going in the dance ten minutes before. Only ten minutes! Yet already it felt to Jill and Eustace as if all their dangers in the dark and heat and general smotheriness of the earth must have been only a dream. Out here, in the cold, with the moon and the huge stars overhead (Narnian stars are nearer than stars in our world) and with kind, merry faces all round them, one couldn't quite believe in Underland. Before they had finished their hot drinks, a dozen or so Moles, newly waked and still very sleepy, and not well pleased, had arrived. But as soon as they understood what it was all about, they joined in with a will. Even the Fauns made themselves useful by carting away the earth in little barrows, and the Squirrels danced and leaped to and fro in great excitement, though Jill never found out exactly what they thought they were doing. The Bears and Owls contented themselves with giving advice, and kept on asking the children if they wouldn't like to come into the cave (that was where Jill had seen the firelight) and get warm and have supper. But the children couldn't bear to go without seeing their friends set free. No one in our world can work at a job of that sort as Dwarfs and Talking Moles work in Narnia; but then, of course, Moles and Dwarfs don't look on it as work. They like digging. It was therefore not really long before they had opened a great black chasm in the hillside. And out from the blackness into the moonlight - this would have been rather dreadful if one hadn't known who they were came, first, the long, leggy, steeple-hatted figure of the Marsh-wiggle, and then, leading two great horses, Rilian the Prince himself. As Puddleglum appeared shouts broke out on every side: "Why, it's a Wiggle - why, it's old Puddleglum - old Puddleglum from the Eastern Marshes - what ever have you been doing, Puddleglum? - there've been search-parties out for you - the Lord Trumpkin has been putting up notices there's a reward offered!" But all this died away, all in one moment, into dead silence, as quickly as the noise dies away in a rowdy dormitory if the Headmaster opens the door. For now they saw the Prince. No one doubted for a moment who he was. There were plenty of Beasts and Dryads and Dwarfs and Fauns who remembered him from the days before his enchanting. There were some old ones who could just remember how his father, King Caspian, had looked when he was a young man, and saw the likeness. But I think they would have known him anyway. Pale though he was from long imprisonment in the Deep Lands, dressed in black, dusty, dishevelled, and weary, there was something in his face and air which no one could mistake. That look is in the face of all true kings of Narnia, who rule by the will of Aslan and sit at Cair Paravel on the throne of Peter the High King. Instantly every head was bared and every knee was bent; a moment later such cheering and shouting, such jumps and reels of joy, such hand-shakings and kissings and embracings of everybody by everybody else broke out that the tears came into Jill's eyes. Their quest had been worth all the pains it cost. "Please it your Highness," said the oldest of the Dwarfs, "there is some attempt at a supper in the cave yonder, prepared against the ending of the snow-dance -" "With a good will, Father," said the Prince. "For never had any Prince, Knight, Gentleman, or Bear so good a stomach to his victuals as we four wanderers have tonight." The whole crowd began to move away through the trees towards the cave. Jill heard Puddleglum saying to those who pressed round him. "No, no, my story can wait. Nothing worth talking about has happened to me. I want to hear the news. Don't try breaking it to me gently, for I'd rather have it all at once. Has the King been shipwrecked? Any forest fires? No wars on the Calormen border? Or a few dragons, I shouldn't wonder?" And all the creatures laughed aloud and said, "Isn't that just like a Marshwiggle?" The two children were nearly dropping with tiredness and hunger, but the warmth of the cave, and the very sight of it, with the firelight dancing on the walls and dressers and cups and saucers and plates and on the smooth stone floor, just as it does in a farmhouse kitchen, revived them a little. All the same they went fast asleep while supper was being got ready. And while they slept Prince Rilian was talking over the whole adventure with the older and wiser Beasts and Dwarfs. And now they all saw what it meant; how a wicked Witch (doubtless the same kind as that White Witch who had brought the Great Winter on Narnia long ago) had contrived the whole thing, first killing Rilian's mother and enchanting Rilian himself. And they saw how she had dug right under Narnia and was going to break out and rule it through Rilian: and how he had never dreamed that the country of which she would make him king (king in name, but really her slave) was his own country. And from the children's part of the story they saw how she was in league and friendship with the dangerous giants of Harfang. "And the lesson of it all is, your Highness," said the oldest Dwarf, "that those Northern Witches always mean the same thing, but in every age they have a different plan for getting it."

Av kaceyhanxu kaceyhanxu - 31 maj 2011 04:50

All this takes a long time to tell, but of course it took a very short time to see. Jill turned almost at once to shout down to the others, "I say! It's all right. We're out, and we're home." But the reason she never got further than "I say" was this. Circling round and round the dancers was a ring of Dwarfs, all dressed in their finest clothes; mostly scarlet with fur-lined hoods and golden tassels and big furry top-boots. As they circled round they were all diligently throwing snowballs. (Those were the white things that Jill had seen flying through the air.) They weren't throwing them at the dancers as silly boys might have been doing in England. They were throwing them through the dance in such perfect time with the music and with such perfect aim that if all the dancers were in exactly the right places at exactly the right moments, no one would be hit. This is called the Great Snow Dance and it is done every year in Narnia on the first moonlit night when there is snow on the ground. Of course it is a kind of game as well as a dance, because every now and then some dancer will be the least little bit wrong and get a snowball in the face, and then everyone laughs. But a good team of dancers, Dwarfs, and musicians will keep it up for hours without a single hit. On fine nights when the cold and the drum-taps, and the hooting of the owls, and the moonlight, have got into their wild, woodland blood and made it even wilder, they will dance till daybreak. I wish you could see it for yourselves. What had stopped Jill when she got as far as the say of "I say" was of course simply a fine big snowball that came sailing through the dance from a Dwarf on the far side and got her fair and square in the mouth. She didn't in the least mind; twenty snowballs would not have damped her spirits at that moment. But however happy you are feeling, you can't talk with your mouth full of snow. And when, after considerable spluttering, she could speak again, she quite forgot in her excitement that the others, down in the dark, behind her, still didn't know the good news. She simply leaned as far out of the hole as she could, and yelled to the dancers. "Help! Help! We're buried in the hill. Come and dig us out." The Narnians, who had not even noticed the little hole in the hillside, were of course very surprised, and looked about in several wrong directions before they found out where the voice was coming from. But when they caught sight of Jill they all came running towards her, and as many as could scrambled up the bank, and a dozen or more hands were stretched up to help her. And Jill caught hold of them and thus got out of the hole and came slithering down the bank head first, and then picked herself up and said: "Oh, do go and dig the others out. There are three others, besides the horses. And one of them is Prince Rilian." She was already in the middle of a crowd when she said this, for besides the dancers all sorts of people who had been watching the dance, and whom she had not seen at first, came running up. Squirrels came out of the trees in showers, and so did Owls. Hedgehogs came waddling as fast as their short legs would carry them. Bears and Badgers followed at a slower pace. A great Panther, twitching its tail in excitement, was the last to join the party. But as soon as they understood what Jill was saying, they all became active. "Pick and shovel, boys, pick and shovel. Off for our tools!" said the Dwarfs, and dashed away into the woods at top speed. "Wake up some Moles, they're the chaps for digging. They're quite as good as Dwarfs," said a voice. "What was that she said about Prince Rilian?" said another. "Hush!" said the Panther. "The poor child's crazed, and no wonder after being lost inside the hill. She doesn't know what she's saying." "That's right," said an old Bear. "Why, she said Prince Rilian was a horse!" "No, she didn't," said a Squirrel, very pert. "Yes, she did," said another Squirrel, even perter.

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If your Highness wants to see your father while he's still alive, which I think he'd prefer," said Puddleglum, "it's about time we were getting on to that road to the diggings." "And I won't go down that hole, whatever anyone says," added Jill. "Why, if your Honours are really set to go back to Overworld," said Golg, "there is one bit of the road that's rather lower than this. And perhaps, if that flood's still rising -" "Oh, do, do, do come on!" begged Jill. "I fear it must be so," said the Prince with a deep sigh. "But I have left half of my heart in the land of Bism." "Please!" begged Jill. "Where is the road?" asked Puddleglum. "There are lamps all the way," said Golg. "Your Honour can see the beginning of the road on the far side of the chasm." "How long will the lamps burn for?" asked Puddleglum. At that moment a hissing, scorching voice like the voice of Fire itself (they wondered afterwards if it could have been a salamander's) came whistling up out of the very depths of Bism. "Quick! Quick! Quick! To the cliffs, to the cliffs, to the cliffs!" it said. "The rift closes. It closes. It closes. Quick! Quick!" And at the same time, with ear-shattering cracks and creaks, the rocks moved. Already, while they looked, the chasm was narrower. From every side belated gnomes were rushing into it. They would not wait to climb down the rocks. They flung themselves headlong and, either because so strong a blast of hot air was beating up from the bottom, or for some other reason, they could be seen floating downwards like leaves. Thicker and thicker they floated, till their blackness almost blotted out the fiery river and the groves of live gems. "Good-bye to your Honours. I'm off," shouted Golg, and dived. Only a few were left to follow him. The chasm was now no broader than a stream. Now it was narrow as the slit in a pillarbox. Now it was only an intensely bright thread. Then, with a shock like a thousand goods trains crashing into a thousand pairs of buffers, the lips of rock closed. The hot, maddening smell vanished. The travellers were alone in an Underworld which now looked far blacker than before. Pale, dim, and dreary, the lamps marked the direction of the road. "Now," said Puddleglum, "it's ten to one we've already stayed too long, but we may as well make a try. Those lamps will give out in five minutes, I shouldn't wonder." They urged the horses to a canter and thundered along the dusky road in fine style. But almost at once it began going downhill. They would have thought Golg had sent them the wrong way if they had not seen, on the other side of the valley, the lamps going on and upwards as far as the eye could reach. But at the bottom of the valley the lamps shone on moving water. "Haste," cried the Prince. They galloped down the slope. It would have been nasty enough at the bottom even five minutes later for the tide was running up the valley like a mill-race, and if it had come to swimming, the horses could hardly have won over. But it was still only a foot or two deep, and though it swished terribly round the horses' legs, they reached the far side in safety. Then began the slow, weary march uphill with nothing ahead to look at but the pale lamps which went up and up as far as the eye could reach. When they looked back they could see the water spreading. All the hills of Underland were now islands, and it was only on those islands that the lamps remained. Every moment some distant light vanished. Soon there would be total darkness everywhere except on the road they were following; and even on the lower part of it behind them, though no lamps had yet gone out, the lamplight shone on water. Although they had good reason for hurrying, the horses could not go on for ever without a rest. They halted: and in silence they could hear the lapping of water. "I wonder is what's his name - Father Time - flooded out now," said Jill. "And all those queer sleeping animals." "I don't think we're as high as that," said Eustace. "Don't you remember how we had to go downhill to reach the sunless sea? I shouldn't think the water has reached Father Time's cave yet." "That's as may be," said Puddleglum. "I'm more interested in the lamps on this road. Look a bit sickly, don't they?" "They always did," said Jill. "Aye," said Puddleglum. "But they're greener now." "You don't mean to say you think they're going out?" cried Eustace. "Well, however they work, you can't expect them to last for ever, you know," replied the Marsh-wiggle. "But don't let your spirits down, Scrubb. I've got my eye on the water too, and I don't think it's rising so fast as it did." "Small comfort, friend," said the Prince. "If we cannot find our way out. I cry you mercy, all. I am to blame for my pride and fantasy which delayed us by the mouth of the land of Bism. Now, let us ride on." During the hour or so that followed Jill sometimes thought that Puddleglum was right about the lamps, and sometimes thought it was only her imagination. Meanwhile the land was changing. The roof of Underland was so near that even by that dull light they could now see it quite distinctly. And the great, rugged walls of Underland could be seen drawing closer on each side. The road, in fact, was leading them up into a steep tunnel. They began to pass picks and shovels and barrows and other signs that the diggers had recently been at work. If only one could be sure of getting out, all this was very cheering. But the thought of going on into a hole that would get narrower and narrower, and harder to turn back in, was very unpleasant. At last the roof was so low that Puddleglum and the Prince knocked their heads against it. The party dismounted and led the horses. The road was uneven here and one had to pick one's steps with some care. That was how Jill noticed the growing darkness. There was no doubt about it now. The faces of the others looked strange and ghastly in the green glow. Then all at once (she couldn't help it) Jill gave a little scream. One light, the next one ahead, went out altogether. The one behind them did the same. Then they were in absolute darkness. "Courage, friends," came Prince Rilian's voice. "Whether we live or die Aslan will be our good lord." "That's right, Sir," said Puddleglum's voice. "And you must always remember there's one good thing about being trapped down here: it'll save funeral expenses." Jill held her tongue. (If you don't want other people to know how frightened you are, this is always a wise thing to do; it's your voice that gives you away.) "We might as well go on as stand here," said Eustace; and when she heard the tremble in his voice, Jill knew how wise she'd been not to trust her own. Puddleglum and Eustace went first with their arms stretched out in front of them, for fear of blundering into anything; Jill and the Prince followed, leading the horses. "I say," came Eustace's voice much later, "are my eyes going queer or is there a patch of light up there?" Before anyone could answer him, Puddleglum called out: "Stop. I'm up against a dead end. And it's earth, not rock. What were you saying, Scrubb?" "By the Lion," said the Prince, "Eustace is right. There is a sort of -" "But it's not daylight," said Jill. "It's only a cold blue sort of light." "Better than nothing, though," said Eustace. "Can we get up to it?" "It's not right overhead," said Puddleglum. "It's above us, but it's in this wall that I've run into. How would it be, Pole, if you got on my shoulders and saw whether you could get up to it?" THE patch of light did not show up anything down in the darkness where they were standing. The others could only hear, not see, Jill's efforts to get on to the Marsh-wiggle's back. That is, they heard him saying, "You needn't put your finger in my eye," and, "Nor your foot in my mouth either," and, "That's more like it," and, "Now, I'll hold on to your legs. That'll leave your arms free to steady yourself against the earth." Then they looked up and soon they saw the black shape of Jill's head against the patch of light. "Well?" they all shouted up anxiously. "It's a hole," called Jill's voice. "I could get through it if I was a little bit higher." "What do you see through it?" asked Eustace. "Nothing much yet," said Jill. "I say, Puddleglum, let go my legs so that I can stand on your shoulders instead of sitting on them. I can steady myself all right against the edge." They could hear her moving and then much more of her came into sight against the greyness of the opening; in fact all of her down to the waist. "I say -" began Jill, but suddenly broke off with a cry: not a sharp cry. It sounded more as if her mouth had been muffled up or had something pushed into it. After that she found her voice and seemed to be shouting out as loud as she could, but they couldn't hear the words. Two things then happened at the same moment. The patch of light was completely blocked up for a second or so; and they heard both a scuffling, struggling sound and the voice of the Marsh-wiggle gasping: "Quick! Help! Hold on to her legs. Someone's pulling her. There! No, here. Too late!" The opening, and the cold light which filled it, were now perfectly clear again. Jill had vanished. "Jill! Jill!" they shouted frantically, but there was no answer. "Why the dickens couldn't you have held her feet?" said Eustace. "I don't know, Scrubb," groaned Puddleglum. "Born to be a misfit, I shouldn't wonder. Fated. Fated to be Pole's death, just as I was fated to eat Talking Stag at Harfang. Not that it isn't my own fault as well, of course." "This is the greatest shame and sorrow that could have fallen on us," said the Prince. "We have sent a brave lady into the hands of enemies and stayed behind in safety." "Don't paint it too black, Sir," said Puddleglum. "We're not very safe except for death by starvation in this hole." "I wonder am I small enough to get through where Jill did?" said Eustace. What had really happened to Jill was this. As soon as she got her head out of the hole she found that she was looking down as if from an upstairs window, not up as if through a trap-door. She had been so long in the dark that her eyes couldn't at first take in what they were seeing: except that she was not looking at the daylit, sunny world which she so wanted to see. The air seemed to be deadly cold, and the light was pale and blue. There was also a good deal of noise going on and a lot of white objects flying about in the air. It was at that moment that she had shouted down to Puddleglum to let her stand up on his shoulders. When she had done this, she could see and hear a good deal better. The noises she had been hearing turned out to be of two kinds: the rhythmical thump of several feet, and the music of four fiddles, three flutes, and a drum. She also got her own position clear. She was looking out of a hole in a steep bank which sloped down and reached the level about fourteen feet below her. Everything was very white. A lot of people were moving about. Then she gasped! The people were trim little Fauns, and Dryads with leafcrowned hair floating behind them. For a second they looked as if they were moving anyhow; then she saw that they were really doing a dance - a dance with so many complicated steps and figures that it took you some time to understand it. Then it came over her like a thunderclap that the pale, blue light was really moonlight, and the white stuff on the ground was really snow. And of course! There were the stars staring in a black frosty sky overhead. And the tall black things behind the dancers were trees. They had not only got out into the upper world at last, but had come out in the heart of Narnia. Jill felt she could have fainted with delight; and the music - the wild music, intensely sweet and yet just the least bit eerie too, and full of good magic as the Witch's thrumming had been full of bad magic - made her feel it all the more.

Av kaceyhanxu kaceyhanxu - 31 maj 2011 04:43

There never was a sun," said the Witch. "No. There never was a sun," said the Prince, and the Marsh-wiggle, and the children. For the last few minutes Jill had been feeling that there was something she must remember at all costs. And now she did. But it was dreadfully hard to say it. She felt as if huge weights were laid on her lips. At last, with an effort that seemed to take all the good out of her, she said: "There's Aslan." "Aslan?" said the Witch, quickening ever so slightly the pace of her thrumming. "What a pretty name! What does it mean?" "He is the great Lion who called us out of our own world," said Scrubb, "and sent us into this to find Prince Rilian." "What is a lion?" asked the Witch. "Oh, hang it all!" said Scrubb. "Don't you know? How can we describe it to her? Have you ever seen a cat?" "Surely," said the Queen. "I love cats." "Well, a lion is a little bit - only a little bit, mind you like a huge cat - with a mane. At least, it's not like a horse's mane, you know, it's more like a judge's wig. And it's yellow. And terrifically strong." The Witch shook her head. "I see," she said, "that we should do no better with your lion, as you call it, than we did with your sun. You have seen lamps, and so you imagined a bigger and better lamp and called it the sun. You've seen cats, and now you want a bigger and better cat, and it's to be called a lion. Well, 'tis a pretty makebelieve, though, to say truth, it would suit you all better if you were younger. And look how you can put nothing into your make-believe without copying it from the real world, this world of mine, which is the only world. But even you children are too old for such play. As for you, my lord Prince, that art a man full grown, fie upon you! Are you not ashamed of such toys? Come, all of you. Put away these childish tricks. I have work for you all in the real world. There is no Narnia, no Overworld, no sky, no sun, no Aslan. And now, to bed all. And let us begin a wiser life tomorrow. But, first, to bed; to sleep; deep sleep, soft pillows, sleep without foolish dreams." The Prince and the two children were standing with their heads hung down, their cheeks flushed, their eyes half closed; the strength all gone from them; the enchantment almost complete. But Puddleglum, desperately gathering all his strength, walked over to the fire. Then he did a very brave thing. He knew it wouldn't hurt him quite as much as it would hurt a human; for his feet (which were bare) were webbed and hard and coldblooded like a duck's. But he knew it would hurt him badly enough; and so it did. With his bare foot he stamped on the fire, grinding a large part of it into ashes on the flat hearth. And three things happened at once. First, the sweet heavy smell grew very much less. For though the whole fire had not been put out, a good bit of it had, and what remained smelled very largely of burnt Marsh-wiggle, which is not at all an enchanting smell. This instantly made everyone's brain far clearer. The Prince and the children held up their heads again and opened their eyes. Secondly, the Witch, in a loud, terrible voice, utterly different from all the sweet tones she had been using up till now, called out, "What are you doing? Dare to touch my fire again, mud-filth, and I'll turn the blood to fire inside your veins." Thirdly, the pain itself made Puddleglum's head for a moment perfectly clear and he knew exactly what he really thought. There is nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic. "One word, Ma'am," he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. "One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things - trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a playworld which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's a small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say." "Oh, hurrah! Good old Puddleglum!" cried Scrubb and Jill. But the Prince shouted suddenly, "Ware! Look to the Witch." When they did look their hair nearly stood on end. The instrument dropped from her hands. Her arms appeared to be fastened to her sides. Her legs were intertwined with each other, and her feet had disappeared. The long green train of her skirt thickened and grew solid, and seemed to be all one piece with the writhing green pillar of her interlocked legs. And that writhing green pillar was curving and swaying as if it had no joints, or else were all joints. Her head was thrown far back and while her nose grew longer and longer, every other part of her face seemed to disappear, except her eyes. Huge flaming eyes they were now, without brows or lashes. All this takes time to write down; it happened so quickly that there was only just time to see it. Long before there was time to do anything, the change was complete, and the great serpent which the Witch had become, green as poison, thick as Jill's waist, had flung two or three coils of its loathsome body round the Prince's legs. Quick as lightning another great loop darted round, intending to pinion his sword-arm to his side. But the Prince was just in time. He raised his arms and got them clear: the living knot closed only round his chest - ready to crack his ribs like firewood when it drew tight. The Prince caught the creature's neck in his left hand, trying to squeeze it till it choked. This held its face (if you could call it a face) about five inches from his own. The forked tongue flickered horribly in and out, but could not reach him. With his right hand he drew back his sword for the strongest blow he could give. Meanwhile Scrubb and Puddleglum had drawn their weapons and rushed to his aid. All three blows fell at once: Scrubb's (which did not even pierce the scales and did no good) on the body of the snake below the Prince's hand, but the Prince's own blow and Puddleglum's both on its neck. Even that did not quite kill it, though it began to loosen its hold on Rilian's legs and chest. With repeated blows they hacked off its head. The horrible thing went on coiling and moving like a bit of wire long after it had died; and the floor, as you may imagine, was a nasty mess. The Prince, when he had breath, said, "Gentlemen, I thank you." Then the three conquerors stood staring at one another and panting, without another word, for a long time. Jill had very wisely sat down and was keeping quiet; she was saying to herself, "I do hope I don't faint or blub - or do anything idiotic." "My royal mother is avenged," said Rilian presently. "This is undoubtedly the same worm that I pursued in vain by the fountain in the forest of Narnia, so many years ago. All these years I have been the slave of my mother's slayer. Yet I am glad, gentlemen, that the foul Witch took to her serpent form at the last. It would not have suited well either with my heart or with my honour to have slain a woman. But look to the lady." He meant Jill. "I'm all right, thanks," said she. "Damsel," said the Prince, bowing to her. "You are of a high courage, and therefore, I doubt not, you come of a noble blood in your own world. But come, friends. Here is some wine left. Let us refresh ourselves and each pledge his fellows. After that, to our plans." "A jolly good idea, Sir," said Scrubb.

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TWO Earthmen entered, but instead of advancing into the room, they placed themselves one on each side of the door, and bowed deeply. They were followed immediately by the last person whom anyone had expected or wished to see: the Lady of the Green Kirtle, the Queen of Underland. She stood dead still in the doorway, and they could see her eyes moving as she took in the whole situation - the three strangers, the silver chair destroyed, and the Prince free, with his sword in his hand. She turned very white; but Jill thought it was the sort of whiteness that comes over some people's faces not when they are frightened but when they are angry. For a moment the Witch fixed her eyes on the Prince, and there was murder in them. Then she seemed to change her mind. "Leave us," she said to the two Earthmen. "And let none disturb us till I call, on pain of death." The gnomes padded away obediently, and the Witch-queen shut and locked the door. "How now, my lord Prince," she said. "Has your nightly fit not yet come upon you, or is it over so soon? Why stand you here unbound? Who are these aliens? And is it they who have destroyed the chair which was your only safety?" Prince Rilian shivered as she spoke to him. And no wonder: it is not easy to throw off in half an hour an enchantment which has made one a slave for ten years. Then, speaking with a great effort, he said: "Madam, there will be no more need of that chair. And you, who have told me a hundred times how deeply you pitied me for the sorceries by which I was bound, will doubtless hear with joy that they are now ended for ever. There was, it seems, some small error in your Ladyship's way of treating them. These, my true friends, have delivered me. I am now in my right mind, and there are two things I will say to you. First - as for your Ladyship's design of putting me at the head of an army of Earthmen so that I may break out into the Overworld and there, by main force, make myself king over some nation that never did me wrong - murdering their natural lords and holding their throne as a bloody and foreign tyrant - now that I know myself, I do utterly abhor and renounce it as plain villainy. And second: I am the King's son of Narnia, Rilian, the only child of Caspian, Tenth of that name, whom some call Caspian the Seafarer. Therefore, Madam, it is my purpose, as it is also my duty, to depart suddenly from your Highness's court into my own country. Please it you to grant me and my friends safe conduct and a guide through your dark realm." Now the Witch said nothing at all, but moved gently across the room, always keeping her face and eyes very steadily towards the Prince. When she had come to a little ark set in the wall not far from the fireplace, she opened it, and took out first a handful of a green powder. This she threw on the fire. It did not blaze much, but a very sweet and drowsy smell came from it. And all through the conversation which followed, that smell grew stronger, and filled the room, and made it harder to think. Secondly, she took out a musical instrument rather like a mandolin. She began to play it with her fingers - a steady, monotonous thrumming that you didn't notice after a few minutes. But the less you noticed it, the more it got into your brain and your blood. This also made it hard to think. After she had thrummed for a time (and the sweet smell was now strong) she began speaking in a sweet, quiet voice. "Narnia?" she said. "Narnia? I have often heard your Lordship utter that name in your ravings. Dear Prince, you are very sick. There is no land called Narnia." "Yes there is, though, Ma'am," said Puddleglum. "You see, I happen to have lived there all my life." "Indeed," said the Witch. "Tell me, I pray you, where that country is?" "Up there," said Puddleglum, stoutly, pointing overhead. "I - I don't know exactly where." "How?" said the Queen, with a kind, soft, musical laugh. "Is there a country up among the stones and mortar of the roof?" "No," said Puddleglum, struggling a little to get his breath. "It's in Overworld." "And what, or where, pray is this . . . how do you call it. . . Overworld?" "Oh, don't be so silly," said Scrubb, who was fighting hard against the enchantment of the sweet smell and the thrumming. "As if you didn't know! It's up above, up where you can see the sky and the sun and the stars. Why, you've been there yourself. We met you there." "I cry you mercy, little brother," laughed the Witch (you couldn't have heard a lovelier laugh). "I have no memory of that meeting. But we often meet our friends in strange places when we dream. And unless all dreamed alike, you must not ask them to remember it." "Madam," said the Prince sternly, "I have already told your Grace that I am the King's son of Narnia." "And shalt be, dear friend," said the Witch in a soothing voice, as if she was humouring a child, "shalt be king of many imagined lands in thy fancies." "We've been there, too," snapped Jill. She was very angry because she could feel enchantment getting hold of her every moment. But of course the very fact that she could still feel it, showed that it had not yet fully worked. "And thou art Queen of Narnia too, I doubt not, pretty one," said the Witch in the same coaxing, half-mocking tone. "I'm nothing of the sort," said Jill, stamping her foot. "We come from another world." "Why, this is a prettier game than the other," said the Witch. "Tell us, little maid, where is this other world? What ships and chariots go between it and ours?" Of course a lot of things darted into Jill's head at once: Experiment House, Adela Pennyfather, her own home, radio-sets, cinemas, cars, aeroplanes, ration-books, queues. But they seemed dim and far away. (Thrum thrum - thrum - went the strings of the Witch's instrument.) Jill couldn't remember the names of the things in our world. And this time it didn't come into her head that she was being enchanted, for now the magic was in its full strength; and of course, the more enchanted you get, the more certain you feel that you are not enchanted at all. She found herself saying (and at the moment it was a relief to say): "No. I suppose that other world must be all a dream." "Yes. It is all a dream," said the Witch, always thrumming. "Yes, all a dream," said Jill. "There never was such a world," said the Witch. "No," said Jill and Scrubb, "never was such a world." "There never was any world but mine," said the Witch. "There never was any world but yours," said they. Puddleglum was still fighting hard. "I don't know rightly what you all mean by a world," he said, talking like a man who hasn't enough air. "But you can play that fiddle till your fingers drop off, and still you won't make me forget Narnia; and the whole Overworld too. We'll never see it again, I shouldn't wonder. You may have blotted it out and turned it dark like this, for all I know. Nothing more likely. But I know I was there once. I've seen the sky full of stars. I've seen the sun coming up out of the sea of a morning and sinking behind the mountains at night. And I've seen him up in the midday sky when I couldn't look at him for brightness." Puddleglum's words had a very rousing effect. The other three all breathed again and looked at one another like people newly awaked. "Why, there it is!" cried the Prince. "Of course! The blessing of Aslan upon this honest Marsh-wiggle. We have all been dreaming, these last few minutes. How could we have forgotten it? Of course we've all seen the sun." "By Jove, so we have!" said Scrubb. "Good for you, Puddleglum! You're the only one of us with any sense, I do believe." Then came the Witch's voice, cooing softly like the voice of a wood-pigeon from the high elms in an old garden at three o'clock in the middle of a sleepy, summer afternoon; and it said: "What is this sun that you all speak of? Do you mean anything by the word?" "Yes, we jolly well do," said Scrubb. "Can you tell me what it's like?" asked the Witch (thrum, thrum, thrum, went the strings). "Please it your Grace," said the Prince, very coldly and politely. "You see that lamp. It is round and yellow and gives light to the whole room; and hangeth moreover from the roof. Now that thing which we call the sun is like the lamp, only far greater and brighter. It giveth light to the whole Overworld and hangeth in the sky." "Hangeth from what, my lord?" asked the Witch; and then, while they were all still thinking how to answer her, she added, with another of her soft, silver laughs: "You see? When you try to think out clearly what this sun must be, you cannot tell me. You can only tell me it is like the lamp. Your sun is a dream; and there is nothing in that dream that was not copied from the lamp. The lamp is the real thing; the sun is but a tale, a children's story." "Yes, I see now," said Jill in a heavy, hopeless tone. "It must be so." And while she said this, it seemed to her to be very good sense. Slowly and gravely the Witch repeated, "There is no sun." And they all said nothing. She repeated, in a softer and deeper voice. "There is no sun." After a pause, and after a struggle in their minds, all four of them said together. "You are right. There is no sun." It was such a relief to give in and say it.

Av kaceyhanxu kaceyhanxu - 31 maj 2011 04:39

The children huddled close together on each side of Puddleglum. They had thought him a wet blanket while they were still above ground, but down here he seemed the only comforting thing they had. Then the pale lantern was hung up amidships, the Earthmen sat to the oars, and the ship began to move. The lantern cast its light only a very short way. Looking ahead, they could see nothing but smooth, dark water, fading into absolute blackness. "Oh, whatever will become of us?" said Jill despairingly. "Now don't you let your spirits down, Pole," said the Marsh-wiggle. "There's one thing you've got to remember. We're back on the right lines. We were to go under the Ruined City, and we are under it. We're following the instructions again." Presently they were given food - flat, flabby cakes of some sort which had hardly any taste. And after that, they gradually fell asleep. But when they woke, everything was just the same; the gnomes still rowing, the ship still gliding on, still dead blackness ahead. How often they woke and slept and ate and slept again, none of them could ever remember. And the worst thing about it was that you began to feel as if you had always lived on that ship, in that darkness, and to wonder whether sun and blue skies and wind and birds had not been only a dream. They had almost given up hoping or being afraid about anything when at last they saw lights ahead: dreary lights, like that of their own lantern. Then, quite suddenly, one of these lights came close and they saw that they were passing another ship. After that they met several ships. Then, staring till their eyes hurt, they saw that some of the lights ahead were shining on what looked like wharfs, walls, towers, and moving crowds. But still there was hardly any noise. "By Jove," said Scrubb. "A city!" and soon they all saw that he was right. But it was a queer city. The lights were so few and far apart that they would hardly have done for scattered cottages in our world. But the little bits of the place which you could see by the lights were like glimpses of a great seaport. You could make out in one place a whole crowd of ships loading or unloading; in another, bales of stuff and warehouses; in a third, walls and pillars that suggested great palaces or temples; and always, wherever the light fell, endless crowds - hundreds of Earthmen, jostling one another as they padded softly about their business in narrow streets, broad squares, or up great flights of steps. Their continued movement made a sort of soft, murmuring noise as the ship drew nearer and nearer; but there was not a song or a shout or a bell or the rattle of a wheel anywhere. The City was as quiet, and nearly as dark, as the inside of an ant-hill. At last their ship was brought alongside a quay and made fast. The three travellers were taken ashore and marched up into the City. Crowds of Earthmen, no two alike, rubbed shoulders with them in the crowded streets, and the sad light fell on many sad and grotesque faces. But no one showed any interest in the strangers. Every gnome seemed to be as busy as it was sad, though Jill never found what they were so busy about. But the endless moving, shoving, hurrying, and the soft pad-pad-pad went on. At last they came to what appeared to be a great castle, though few of the windows in it were lighted. Here they were taken in and made to cross a courtyard, and to climb many staircases. This brought them in the end to a great murkily lit room. But in one corner of it - oh joy! - there was an archway filled with a quite different sort of light; the honest, yellowish, warm light of such a lamp as humans use. What showed by this light inside the archway was the foot of a staircase which wound upward between walls of stone. The light seemed to come from the top. Two Earthmen stood one on each side of the arch like sentries, or footmen. The Warden went up to these two, and said, as if it were a password: "Many sink down to the Underworld." "And few return to the sunlit lands," they answered, as if it were the countersign. Then all three put their heads together and talked. At last one of the two gnomes-in-waiting said, "I tell you the Queen's grace is gone from hence on her great affair. We had best keep these top dwellers in strait prison till her homecoming. Few return to the sunlit lands." At that moment the conversation was interrupted by what seemed to Jill the most delightful noise in the world. It came from above, from the top of the staircase; and it was a clear, ringing, perfectly human voice, the voice of a young man. "What coil are you keeping down there, Mullugutherum?" it shouted. "Overworlders, ha! Bring them up to me, and that presently." "Please it your Highness to remember," began Mullugutherum, but the voice cut him short. "It pleases my Highness principally to be obeyed, old mutterer. Bring them up," it called. Mullugutherum shook his head, motioned to the travellers to follow and began going up the staircase. At every step the light increased. There were rich tapestries hanging on the walls. The lamplight shone golden through thin curtains at the staircase-head. The Earthmen parted the curtains and stood aside. The three passed in. They were in a beautiful room, richly tapestried, with a bright fire on a clean hearth, and red wine and cut glass sparkling on the table. A young man with fair hair rose to greet them. He was handsome and looked both bold and kind, though there was something about his face that didn't seem quite right. He was dressed in black and altogether looked a little bit like Hamlet. "Welcome, Overworlders," he cried. "But stay a moment! I cry you mercy! I have seen you two fair children, and this, your strange governor, before. Was it not you three that met me by the bridge on the borders of Ettinsmoor when I rode there by my Lady's side?" "Oh . . . you were the black knight who never spoke?" exclaimed Jill. "And was that lady the Queen of Underland?" asked Puddleglum, in no very friendly voice. And Scrubb, who was thinking the same, burst out, "Because if it was, I think she was jolly mean to send us off to a castle of giants who intended to eat us. What harm had we ever done her, I should like to know?" "How?" said the Black Knight with a frown. "If you were not so young a warrior, Boy, you and I must have fought to the death on this quarrel. I can hear no words against my Lady's honour. But of this you may be assured, that whatever she said to you, she said of a good intent. You do not know her. She is a nosegay of all virtues, as truth, mercy, constancy, gentleness, courage, and the rest. I say what I know. Her kindness to me alone, who can in no way reward her, would make an admirable history. But you shall know and love her hereafter. Meanwhile, what is your errand in the Deep Lands?"

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I am the Warden of the Marches of Underland, and with me stand a hundred Earthmen in arms," came the reply. "Tell me quickly who you are and what is your errand in the Deep Realm?" "We fell down by accident," said Puddleglum, truthfully enough. "Many fall down, and few return to the sunlit lands," said the voice. "Make ready now to come with me to the Queen of the Deep Realm." "What does she want with us?" asked Scrubb cautiously. "I do not know," said the voice. "Her will is not to be questioned but obeyed." While he said these words there was a noise like a soft explosion and immediately a cold light, grey with a little blue in it, flooded the cavern. All hope that the speaker had been idly boasting when he spoke of his hundred armed followers died at once. Jill found herself blinking and staring at a dense crowd. They were of all sizes, from little gnomes barely a foot high to stately figures taller than men. All carried three-pronged spears in their hands, and all were dreadfully pale, and all stood as still as statues. Apart from that, they were very different; some had tails and others not, some wore great beards and others had very round, smooth faces, big as pumpkins. There were long, pointed noses, and long, soft noses like small trunks, and great blobby noses. Several had single horns in the middle of their foreheads. But in one respect they were all alike: every face in the whole hundred was as sad as a face could be. They were so sad that, after the first glance, Jill almost forgot to be afraid of them. She felt she would like to cheer them up. "Well!" said Puddleglum, rubbing his hands. "This is just what I needed. If these chaps don't teach me to take a serious view of life, I don't know what will. Look at that fellow with the walrus moustache - or that one with the -" "Get up," said the leader of the Earthmen. There was nothing else to be done. The three travellers scrambled to their feet and joined hands. One wanted the touch of a friend's hand at a moment like that. And the Earthmen came all round them, padding on large, soft feet, on which some had ten toes, some twelve, and others none. "March," said the Warden: and march they did. The cold light came from a large ball on the top of a long pole, and the tallest of the gnomes carried this at the head of the procession. By its cheerless rays they could see that they were in a natural cavern; the walls and roof were knobbed, twisted, and gashed into a thousand fantastic shapes, and the stony floor sloped downward as they proceeded. It was worse for Jill than for the others, because she hated dark, underground places. And when, as they went on, the cave got lower and narrower, and when, at last, the light-bearer stood aside, and the gnomes, one by one, stooped down (all except the very smallest ones) and stepped into a little dark crack and disappeared, she felt she could bear it no longer. "I can't go in there, I can't! I can't! I won't," she panted. The Earthmen said nothing but they all lowered their spears and pointed them at her. "Steady, Pole," said Puddleglum. "Those big fellows wouldn't be crawling in there if it didn't get wider later on. And there's one thing about this underground work, we shan't get any rain." "Oh, you don't understand. I can't," wailed Jill. "Think how 1 felt on that cliff, Pole," said Scrubb. "You go first, Puddleglum, and I'll come after her." "That's right," said the Marsh-wiggle, getting down on his hands and knees. "You keep a grip of my heels, Pole, and Scrubb will hold on to yours. Then we'll all be comfortable." "Comfortable!" said Jill. But she got down and they crawled in on their elbows. It was a nasty place. You had to go flat on your face for what seemed like half an hour, though it may really have been only five minutes. It was hot. Jill felt she was being smothered. But at last a dim light showed ahead, the tunnel grew wider and higher, and they came out, hot, dirty, and shaken, into a cave so large that it scarcely seemed like a cave at all. It was full of a dim, drowsy radiance, so that here they had no need of the Earthmen's strange lantern. The floor was soft with some kind of moss and out of this grew many strange shapes, branched and tall like trees, but flabby like mushrooms. They stood too far apart to make a forest; it was more like a park. The light (a greenish grey) seemed to come both from them and from the moss, and it was not strong enough to reach the roof of the cave, which must have been a long way overhead. Across the mild, soft, sleepy place they were now made to march. It was very sad, but with a quiet sort of sadness like soft music. Here they passed dozens of strange animals lying on the turf, either dead or asleep, Jill could not tell which. These were mostly of a dragonish or bat-like sort; Puddleglum did not know what any of them were. "Do they grow here?" Scrubb asked the Warden. He seemed very surprised at being spoken to, but replied, "No. They are all beasts that have found their way down by chasms and caves, out of Overland into the Deep Realm. Many come down, and few return to the sunlit lands. It is said that they will all wake at the end of the world." His mouth shut like a box when he had said this, and in the great silence of that cave the children felt that they would not dare to speak again. The bare feet of the gnomes, padding on the deep moss, made no sound. There was no wind, there were no birds, there was no sound of water. There was no sound of breathing from the strange beasts. When they had walked for several miles, they came to a wall of rock, and in it a low archway leading into another cavern. It was not, however, so bad as the last entrance and Jill could go through it without bending her head. It brought them into a smaller cave, long and narrow, about the shape and size of a cathedral. And here, filling almost the whole length of it, lay an enormous man fast asleep. He was far bigger than any of the giants, and his face was not like a giant's, but noble and beautiful. His breast rose and fell gently under the snowy beard which covered him to the waist. A pure, silver light (no one saw where it came from) rested upon him. "Who's that?" asked Puddleglum. And it was so long since anyone had spoken, that Jill wondered how he had the nerve. "That is old Father Time, who once was a King in Overland," said the Warden. "And now he has sunk down into the Deep Realm and lies dreaming of all the things that are done in the upper world. Many sink down, and few return to the sunlit lands. They say he will wake at the end of the world." And out of that cave they passed into another, and then into another and another, and so on till Jill lost count, but always they were going downhill and each cave was lower than the last, till the very thought of the weight and depth of earth above you was suffocating. At last they came to a place where the Warden commanded his cheerless lantern to be lit again. Then they passed into a cave so wide and dark that they could see nothing of it except that right in front of them a strip of pale sand ran down into still water. And there, beside a little jetty, lay a ship without mast or sail but with many oars. They were made to go on board her and led forward to the bows where there was a clear space in front of the rowers' benches and a seat running round inside the bulwarks. "One thing I'd like to know," said Puddleglum, "is whether anyone from our world - from up-a-top, I mean has ever done this trip before?"

Av kaceyhanxu kaceyhanxu - 29 maj 2011 05:20

the phone to his mouth so he can cough." Her voice is calm and steady. I hold the phone near Grayer's mouth and within a second he has erupted into a deep cough. I feel the vibrations of this effort where his chest is pressed to mine. "Oh, God, Mom, I don't know what to-" "Nanny, that's the croup. He has the croup. And you need to take a deep breath. You may not fall apart right now. Breathe with me, in..." I focus on her voice, taking a deep breath in for Grayer and myself. "And out. Listen, he's okay. You are okay. He just has a lot of fluid in his chest. Where are you right now?" "Seven twenty-one Park Avenue." "No, where in the apartment?" "In the hall." "Is this a cordless phone?" "No, she doesn't like the way they look." I can feel the panic start to well up again as he whimpers. "Okay, I want you to go into his bathroom, turn on the shower so it's comfortably warm-not too hot, just warm, and then sit on the side of the bathtub with him in your lap. Keep the door closed so it gets nice and steamy. Stay in there until he stops wheezing. You'll see, the steam will help. His fever is trying to break and it will be down by morning. Everything is going to be just fine. Call back in an hour, okay? I'll be waiting." I feel somewhat soothed knowing that there is something I can do for him. "Okay, Mom. I love you." I hang up and carry him back though the darkness to his bathroom. "I'm going to flick the light on, Grayer. Close your eyes." He turns his sweaty face into my neck. The light is blinding after being up for so long in the dark and I have to blink a few times before I can focus in on the gleaming silver of the faucet. I grip his body as I lean over to turn on the shower and then sit down, balancing on the edge of the tub with him on my lap. When the water hits our legs he really begins to cry. "I know, sweetie, I know. We are going to sit here until this wonderful steam makes your chest feel good. Do you want me to sing?" He just leans against me and cries and coughs as the steam fills the bright tile around us. "I... want... my mommmmmm." He shudders with the effort, seemingly unaware that I am here. My pajama pants soak in the warm water. I drop my head against his, rocking slowly. Tears of exhaustion and worry drip down my face and into his hair. "Oh, Grove, I know. I want my mom, too." The sun shines in through the shutters as we munch on cinnamon toast among Graver's stuffed animals. "Say it again, Nanny. Say it-ciwomen toast." I laugh and poke him gently in the tummy. His eyes are bright and clear and my relief at his 98.6 has made us both giddy. "No, G, cinnamon, come on-say it with me." "Call it 'women toast.' You say it with me-" His hand pats my hair absentmindedly as the crumbs dribble around us. "Women toast? You crazy kid, what's next? Men eggs?" He giggles deeply at my joke. "Yeah! Men eggs! I'm so hungry, Nanny, I'm dying. Can I have some eggs-men eggs?" I crawl over him, grabbing his plate as I stand. "Hello! Hello, Mommy's home!" I freeze. Grayer looks up at me and, like an excited puppy, scrambles to get down from the bed. He runs past me and meets her as she comes to his door. "Hello! What are those crumbs doing all over your face?" She spatulas him and turns to me. I see the room through her eyes. Pillows, blankets, and wet towels all lying on the floor where I finally crashed when Grayer fell asleep at six this morning. "Grayer's been pretty sick. We were up late last night and-" "Well, he looks just fine now, except for those crumbs. Grayer, go in the bathroom and wash your face so I can show you your present." He turns to me with wide eyes and skips to the bathroom. I'm amazed he can even set foot in there. "Didn't he take his medicine?" "Yes, well, he has two more days to go. But his cough got really bad. I tried to call you." She bristles. "Well, Nanny, I think we've discussed where we prefer for Grayer to eat. You can go now, I've got it covered." I focus on smiling. "Okay, I'll just go and get changed." I walk past her with the plate in my hand, hardly recognizing the apartment filled with sunlight. I stuff everything into my bag, pull on jeans and a sweater and leave the bed unmade as my one act of rebellion. "Bye!" I call out, opening the door. I hear Grayer's naked feet hitting the marble as he runs out in his pajamas beneath a cowboy hat that is much too big. "Bye, Nanny!" He throws his arms open for a hug and I hold him tight, amazed at the difference a few hours have made in his breathing. "Mrs. X? He still has two more days of antibiotics so-" She emerges at the other end of the hall. "Well, we have a big day planned-we've got to get a haircut and go to Barneys to pick up a present for Daddy. Come on, Grayer, let's get dressed. Good-bye, Nanny." My shift is over-point taken. He follows her to his-room and I stand alone in the hall for a moment, pick up my bag, and override the temptation to put the antibiotics by her cell phone. "Bye, partner." I pull the door closed quietly behind me. The old nurse went upstairs exulting with knees toiling, and pat' ter of slapping feet, to tell the mistress of her lord's return.

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I grunt, heaving the machine into my arms and letting myself out into the kitchen. I refill all ten water tanks, schlepping them back and forth to the laundry room, while Ella keeps right on trucking from "It Was Just One of Those Things," through "Why Can't You Behave?" and "I'm Always True to You, Darlin', in My Fashion." My mind is reeling. This is not her house. This is not her family. And that most definitely was not her bedroom that she came out of. "Are you done yet?" she asks as I plug in the last one. "Because I was wondering if you could run to the shop for me." She follows me to the door as I grab my coat. "Pierre forgot to get heavy cream. Thanks." She hands me a twenty as I open the door. I look down at the money and then at Grayer's little frog umbrella in the stand, the one that has two big frog eyes that pop up when he opens it. I hold the money out to her. "I can't-I have, um, an appointment, a doctor thing." I catch a glimpse of myself in the gilt mirror. "Actually ... I just can't." Her smile strains. "Keep it, then," she says evenly. The elevator door opens, while she attempts to look casual leaning against the door frame. I put the bill down on the hall table. Her eyes flash. "Look, Nanny, is it? You run home and tell your boss that you found me here and all you'll be doing is saving me the trouble of leaving behind a pair of panties." She steps back into the apartment, letting the door slam shut behind her. "Like, literally panties?" Sarah asks me the next day as she tries on yet another shade of pink lipstick at the Stila counter. "I don't know! Do I have to look for them? I feel like I have to look for them." "How much are these people paying you? I mean, do you have a line? Is there a line they could cross?" Sarah is furiously puckering. "Too pink?" "Baboon butt," I say. "Try one of the plummy shades," the makeup artist behind the counter suggests. Sarah reaches for a tissue and starts over. "Mrs. X is coming back tomorrow. I feel like there's something I'm supposed to be doing," I say, leaning against the counter in exasperation. "Um, quitting?" "No, out here in the real world, where I pay rent." "TOOOOOTS!!!!!" Sarah and I freeze and look across the atrium to where two piles of shopping bags are calling Sarah's high-school nifkname, which rhymes with "boots." The bags make their way around the balcony toward us, parting to reveal Alexandra and Langly, two of our classmates from Chapin. Sarah and I exchange glances. In high school they lived in Birkenstocks and followed the Dead. Now they stand before us, Alexandra at nearly six feet and Langly at barely five, in shearling coats, cashmere turtlenecks, and a shitload of Cartier. "TOOTS!" they cry again as Alexandra envelops Sarah in a big hug, nearly clonking her on the head with one of her shopping bags. "Toots, what's up?" Alexandra asks. "So, do you have a man?" Sarah's eyelids lift. "No. Well, I mean there was someone, but..." She's starting to sweat, foundation beading on her brow. "I have a faaabulous man-he's Greek. He's soo gorgeous. We're going to the Riviera next week," Alexandra coos. "So, what are you up to?" she asks me. "Oh, same old, same old. Still working with kids." "Huh," Langly says quietly. "What're you gonna do next year?" "Well, I'm hoping to work with an after-school program." Their eyes narrow, as if I had just switched languages unexpectedly. "Focusing on using creative arts? As a tool for self-expression? And, um, building community?" I am getting completely blank looks. "Kathie Lee's really involved?" I offer as a last-ditch effort to ... what? "Right. What about you?" Langly almost whispers to Sarah. "I'm going to work at Allure." "Oh, my God!!" they squeal. "Well," Sarah continues, "I'm only going to be answering the phones, but-" "No, that's awesome. I. Love. Allure," Alexandra says. "What are you guys doing next year?" I ask. "Following my man," Alexandra says. "Ganja," Langly says softly. "Well, we better run-we're meeting my mom at Cote Basque at one. Oh, Toots!" Sarah is once again molested by Alexandra and they head off to poke at their seafood salads. "You're too funny," I say to Sarah. "Allure?" "Fuck 'em. Come on, let's go eat somewhere fabulous." We decide to treat ourselves to a chic lunch of red wine and robiola cheese pizzas at Fred's. "I mean, would you actually leave your underwear in someone's house?" "Nan," Sarah says, shutting me up. "I just don't understand why you care. Mrs. X works you like a mule and gave you dead-animal headgear for a bonus! What is your loyalty?" "Sarah, regardless of what kind of a whackjob employer she might be, she's still Grayer's mom and this woman is having sex with her husband in her bed. And in Grayer's home. It makes me heartsick. Nobody deserves that. And that freak! She wants to get caught! What's up with that?" "Well, if my married boyfriend was dawdling about leaving his wife I guess I might want him to get caught, too." "So, if I tell, Ms. Chicago wins and Mrs. X will be devastated. If I don't tell it's humiliating for Mrs. X-" "Nan, this is not even within a million miles of your responsibility. You don't have to be the one to tell her. Trust me-it's not in your job description." "But if I don't and the panties are floating around and she finds out that way ... Ugh! How awful! Oh, my God, what if Grayer finds them? She's so evil I bet she'd put them somewhere he'd find them." "Nan, get a grip. How would he even know they were hers?" "Because they're probably black and lacy and thonged and he might not get it now, but one day he'll be in therapy and it'll just kill him. Get your coat." Sarah greets Josh in the front hall with a glass of wine. "Welcome to Hunt the Panties!, where we play for fabulous prizes, including earmuffs and a trip to the broom closet. Who's our first contestant?" "Ooh, me, me!" Josh says as he takes off his jacket. I am on my hands and knees in the front hall closet, looking through every coat pocket and boot. Nothing. "Jesus, Nan, this place is amazing-it's like the fucking Metropolitan Museum." "Yup, and about as cozy," Sarah says, as I run frantically into the living room. "We don't have time to shoot the breeze!" I call over my shoulder. "Pick a room!" "So, do we get points for any undergarments, or must they have a scarlet A on them?" Josh asks. "Extra points for crotchless and edible." Sarah explains the rules for the game I am not finding amusing. "All right!" I say. "Listen up! We are going to be methodical. We are going to start in the rooms that get the most use, where the panties would be uncovered the soonest. Joshua, you take the master bedroom, Mrs. X's dressing room, and her office. Sarah Anne!" "Reporting for duty, sir!" "Kitchen, library, maid's rooms. I'll take the living room, the dining room, the study, and the laundry room. Okay?" "What about Grayer's room?" Josh asks me. "Right. I'll start there." I turn on each light as I pass, even the rarely used overheads, illuminating the darkest corners of the Xes' home. "Nan, you can't say we didn't try," Josh says, passing me a cigarette as we sit by the recycling bins in the back stairwell. "She was probably bluffing, hoping you'd tell Mrs. X so she can start redecorating." Sarah lights another cigarette. "Besides, whoever finds them in this apartment deserves to find them-they're so well hidden. Are you sure this woman works with Mr. X and not the CIA?" She passes me back the lighter. Josh is still holding the porcelain Pekingeser dog he picked up on his search. "Tell me again." "I don't know, two, maybe three thousand dollars," Sarah says. "Unbelievable! Why? Why? What am I missing?" He looks down at the dog in complete disbelief. "Wait, I'm gonna go get something else." "You better put that back exactly where you found it," I say, too tired to chase after him to be sure he does. "I'm sorry I made you waste your night looking for panties," I say, stubbing out the cigarette on the metal railing. "Hey," she says, putting her arm around my shoulder. "You'll be fine. The Xes have jewelry that has jewelry-they'll be fine." "What about Grayer?" "Well, he has you. And you've got H. H." "Okay, I don't got nuthin'. I have an answering-machine tape in my jewelry box and a plastic spoon I carry around in ray purse as a souvenir and that might be as far as it goes." "Yeah, yeah, sure. Can I mention the plastic spoon at the wedding?" "Honey, if we make it that far you can carry the plastic spoon at the wedding. Come on, let's get Josh and wipe our fingerprints on our way out of here." When I get home the answering machine is blinking. "Hi, Nanny, it's Mrs. X. I don't know if you've left for Paris yet. I couldn't reach you on your cell phone again. We may have to get you a new one with better coverage. I'm calling because Mr. X gave me a week at the Golden Door for Christmas. Isn't that wonderful? Lyford Cay is so awful and I still haven't recovered from the holidays-I'm just exhausted, so I've decided to go next week. Mr. X will be around, but I was wondering if you'll be back, just so I can tell him you'll be available if he needs you. Just so we know it's covered. I'll be in my room this evening. Call me." My first instinct is to call her and tell her never to leave her house again. "Mrs. X? Hi, it's Nanny." "Yes?" I take a deep breath. "So, will that work?" she asks. "Of course," I say, relieved that she isn't asking about my housecall. "Great. So, I'll see you Monday morning-a week from tomorrow. My flight's at nine, so if you could arrive by seven that would be great. Actually, we better say six forty-five, just to be on the safe side." I roll over for the eighth time in the last fifteen minutes. I'm so tired that my body feels weighted, but every time I'm about to drift off, Grayer's hacking cough echoes through the apartment. I reach over to pull the clock back toward me and the red numbers read 2:36 A.M Jesus. I hit the mattress with my hand and roll onto my back. Staring up at the Xes' guest-room ceiling, I try to add up the few hours of sleep I've managed to get in the past three nights and the total makes me even heavier. I'm bone tired from spending twenty-four/seven keeping Grayer entertained as his mood has blackened and fever risen. When I arrived she greeted me at the elevator with a list in her hand, her bags already waiting in the limo downstairs. She just wanted to "mention" that Grayer had a "tiny bit of an earache" and that his medicine was by the sink, along with his pediatrician's number-"just in case." And the kicker: "We really prefer that Grayer not sit in front of the television. You two have fun!" I knew "fun" was hardly going to be the word for it as soon as I found him lying on the floor next to his trafen set, listlessly rolling a caboose on his arm. "Any idea when Mr. X will be home tonight?" I had asked Connie, dusting nearby. "Hope you brought your pajamas," she replied, wagging her head in disgust. I've come to look forward to Connie's arrival over the past few days; it's a relief to have another person in the apartment, even if she is only a whir of dusting and vacuuming. As the temperature has held steady at seven degrees Fahrenheit, we've been under house arrest since my arrival. This would have been bearable, ideal even, if H. H. hadn't had to go right back up to school for reading period. He said I could take Grayer upstairs to pet Max, but I don't think either one of them is up to it. Grayer's "tiny" earache may have improved, but his cough has only worsened. And, needless to say, his father has been completely MIA-he simply failed to return home my first night. Numerous phone calls to Justine have unearthed only the voice mail of a suite at the Four Seasons in Chicago. Meanwhile the reception desk at the spa is screening Mrs. X's calls as if she were Sharon Stone. I took Grayer back to the doctor this afternoon, but his only advice was for Grayer to finish the pink amoxicillin and wait it out. Another round of raspy coughs-he's even more congested now than he sounded at dinnertime. It's so dark and so late and this place is just so big that I'm starting to feel as if no one will ever come back to get us. I get up, draping the cashmere throw around my shoulders like a cape, and shuffle over to the window. Pulling the heavy chintz drapes to the side, I let the streetlight from Park Avenue spill into the room and rest my forehead against the cold windowpane. A cab pulls up to the building across the street and a boy and girl stumble out. She's in tall boots and a skimpy jacket, leaning against him as they swerve past the doorman and into the building. She must be freezing. My forehead chills quickly from the glass and I pull back, touching it with my hand. The curtain falls closed, taking the light with it. "Naaanny?" Grayer's small, scratchy voice calls out. "Yes, Grover, I'm coming." My voice echoes in the big room. I shuffle through the darkness of the apartment, lit up in weird shadows from passing cars outside. The warm glow of his Grover night-light greets me along with the whir of his Supersonic 2000 air filter. The minute I step through his doorway my stomach drops-he is not okay. His breathing is labored and his eyes are watering. I sit on the corner of the bed. "Hey, sweetheart, I'm here." I put my hand on his forehead. It's boiling. The moment my fingers touch him he starts to whimper. "It's okay, Grover, you're just real sick and I know it's yucky." But I don't know any more. His wheezing alarms me. "I'm going to pick you up now, Grover." I reach my arms under him, the cashmere wrap dropping to the floor. He starts to cry fully, the movement agitating him as I pull him up to me. I go into automatic pilot, running through options. The pediatrician. The emergency room. Mom. I carry him to the hall extension and lean against the wall for support as I dial. My mother answers on the second ring. "Where are you? What's wrong?" "Mom, I can't get into it, but I'm with Grayer and he's been sick with an ear infection and this cough and they've had him on antibiotics, but the cough keeps getting worse and I can't get a message through to Mrs. X because the receptionist says she's been in some sort of sensory-deprivation tank all day and he can't seem to breathe and I don't know if I should take him to the hospital because his fever won't go down and I haven't slept in two nights and-" "Let me hear him cough."

Av kaceyhanxu kaceyhanxu - 29 maj 2011 05:19

Well, while it would be an honor to be related to you, I am here to do a job, and if I'm going to be able to keep doing it then I know you'll be more conscious of respecting my boundaries from now on." Dad claps loudly. I fall back on the floor. "That'll never work," I groan. "Nan, this woman's not God! She's just a person. You need a mantra. You need to go in there like Lao-tzu ... Say no to say yes. Say it with me!" "I say no to say yes. I say no to say yes," I murmur with her as I stare up at the floral wallpaper on the ceiling. Just as we hit a fever pitch, the door flies open and music floods the room. I roll my head to see my grandmother, cheeks flushed to match her layers of red satin, leaning against the door frame. "Darlings! Another masterpiece of a party and my son's hiding in the closet at his fiftieth, just like he did at his fifth. Come, dance with me." In a cloud of perfume, she sashays over to my father and kisses him on the cheek. "Come on, birthday boy, you can leave your tie and cummerbund here, but at least dance a mambo with your mother before the clock strikes twelve!" He rolls his eyes at the rest of us, but the champagne has worn him down. He pulls off his tie and stands up. "And you, lady." She looks down on me sprawled at her feet. "Bring the mink and let's boogie." "Sorry to disappear, Gran. It's just this whole earmuffs thing." "Good lord! Between your father and his tuxedo and you and your earmuffs, I don't want to discuss apparel with this family again until next Christmas! Up and at 'em, gorgeous, the dance floor awaits." Mom helps me to my feet, whispering in my ear as we follow them back to the party. "See, no to say yes. Your dad's chanting it right now." Many dances and bottles of champagne later I float back to my apartment in a bubbly haze. George slides up to my heels as soon as I unlock the door and I carry him back to my corner of the room. "Happy New Year, George," I mumble as he purrs under my chin. Charlene left this morning for Asia and I am giddy with the three weeks of little freedoms this affords me. As I kick off my heels I see the light on my answering machine flashing in a soft blur. Mrs. X. "What do you think, George, shall we risk it?" I bend over to let him down before pressing the "new message" button. "Hi, Nan? Um, this is a message for Nan. I think this is the right number . .." H. H.'s slurred voice fills the apartment. "Oh, my God!" I scream, turning to check my appearance in the mirror. "Right. So um, yeah.. . I'm just calling to say 'Happy New Year.' Um, I'm in Africa. And-wait-what time is it there? Seven hours, that's ten . .. eleven ... twelve. Right. So I'm with my family and we're about to head into the bush. And we've been having some beers with the guides. And it's the last outpost with a phone . .. But I just wanted to say that I bet you had a hard week. See! I know how you've been working hard and I just wanted you to know, um ...that I know ... that you do ... work hard, that is. Um, and that you have a happy New Year. Okay, so then-I hope this is your machine. Right. So that's all, just wanted you to know. Um ... bye." I stumble to my bed in utter euphoria. "Oh, my God," I mumble again in the darkness, before passing out with a grin plastered to my face. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. "Hi, you've reached Charlene and Nan. Please leave a message." Beep. "Hi, Nanny, I hope you're in. I'm sure you're probably in. Well, Happy New Year." I crack one eye open. "It's Mrs. X. I hope you've had a good vacation. I'm calling because .. ." Jesus, it's eight o'clock in the morning! "Well, there's been a change of plans. Mr. X apparently needs to go back to Illinois for work. And I, well, Grayer's- we're all very disappointed. So, anyway, we won't be going to Aspen and I wanted to see what you're up to for the rest of the month." On New Year's Day! I stick my hand outside the covers and start flailing for the phone. I unplug the receiver and throw it on the floor. There. I pass out again. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. "Hi, you've reached Charlene and Nan. Please leave a message." Beep. "Hi, Nanny, it's Mrs. X. I left you a message earlier." I crack one eye open. "I don't know if I mentioned, but if you could let me know today ..." Jesus, it's nine-thirty in the morning! On New Year's Day! I stick my hand outside the covers and start flailing for the phone and this time actually manage to pull the right plug out. Ahh, peace. "Hi, you've reached Charlene and Nan. Please leave a message." Beep. "Hi, Nanny, it's Mrs. X," Jesus! It's ten o'clock in the morning! What is wrong with you people? This time I can hear Grayer crying in the background. Not my problem, not my problem, earmuffs. I stick my hand outside the covers and start flailing for the answering machine. I find the volume. "Because you didn't say if you had any plans and I just thought-" Ahh, silence. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.

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Oh dear -- I have just returned from one of Kitty Coleman's At Homes with such a headache. In January something happened that I had always dreaded might one day. Kitty Coleman changed her At Homes to Wednesday afternoons so that she could attend some sort of meeting in Highgate on Tuesdays. (At least that means she will not be coming to my At Homes!) Now I have felt obliged to go -- not every week, I should hope, but at least once or twice a month. I managed to get out of the first few, saying I had a chill, or that the girls were unwell, but I couldn't use that excuse every time. So today I went along, taking Lavinia and Ivy May with me for support. When we arrived the room was already full of women. Kitty Coleman welcomed us and then flitted across the room without making introductions. I must say it was the loudest At Home I have ever attended. Everyone was talking at once, and I am not sure anyone was actually listening. But I listened, and as I did my eyes grew big and my mouth small. I didn't dare say a word. The room was full of suffragettes. Two were discussing a meeting they were to attend in Whitechapel. Another was passing around a design for poster of a woman waving a sign from a train window that read 'Votes for Women'. When I saw it I turned to my daughters. 'Lavinia,' I said, 'go and help Maude.' Maude was serving tea across the room, and looked as miserable as { felt. 'And don't listen to what anyone around you is saying' I added. Lavinia was staring hard at Kitty Coleman. 'Did you hear me, Lavinia?' I asked. She shook her head and shrugged, as if to shake away my words, then made a face and crossed the room to Maude. 'Ivy May,' I said, 'would you like to go downstairs and ask the cook if she needs help, please.' Ivy May nodded and disappeared. She is a good girl. A woman next to me was saying she had just been speaking at a rally in Manchester and had rotten tomatoes thrown at her. 'At least it wasn't rotten eggs!' another woman cried, and everyone laughed. Well, almost everyone laughed. A few women like myself were very quiet, and looked just as shocked as I felt. They must have been Kitty's old friends who came to the At Home expecting pleasant conversation and Mrs Baker's excellent scones. One of them, less timid than me, finally spoke. 'What is it that you speak about at these rallies in Manchester?' The tomato woman gave her an incredulous look. 'Why, for women to have the vote, of course!' The poor woman turned bright red, as if she herself had been hit by a tomato, and I was mortified for her. To her credit, Caroline Black came to her rescue. 'The Women's Social and Political Union is campaigning to have a bill brought before Parliament that would allow women the right to vote in government elections, just as men do,' she explained. 'We are rallying the support of women and men all over the country by speaking publicly, writing to newspapers, lobbying MPs, and signing petitions. Have you seen the WSPU's pamphlet? Do take one and read it -- it is so informative. You can place a donation for it on the table by the door when you go. And don't forget to pass on the pamphlet when you are done -- it is really surprising how much life there is in a little pamphlet when you hand it on to others.' She was in her element, speaking so smoothly and gently and yet also forcefully that several women indeed took away pamphlets and left coins by the door -- myself included, I am ashamed to admit. When the pile of pamphlets reached me, Caroline Black was watching me with such a sweet smile on her face that I had to take one. I could not bring myself to hide it down the back of the sofa as I might have liked. I did that later, at home. Kitty Coleman did not take the floor in quite the same way as Caroline Black, but she was still in an excited state, her eyes glittering, her cheeks flushed as if she were at a ball and had not stopped dancing once. She did not look entirely healthy. I know I should not say this, but I wish she and Caroline Black had never met. Kitty's transformation has been dramatic, and undoubtedly it has pulled her out of the bad way she was in, but she has not gone back to her old self. She has changed into something altogether more radical. Not that I was greatly enamoured of her old self, but I prefer that to her present state. Even when she is not at her At Homes with suffragettes everywhere, she still talks incessantly about politics and women this and women that till I want to cover my ears. She has bought herself a bicycle and goes around even in the wind and rain, getting grease marks all down her skirts - if they are not already covered in chalk from all the signs she has been drawing on pavements about meetings and rallies and such. Whenever I find her crouched somewhere with a bit of chalk, I cross the road and pretend not to see her. She is never at home now in the afternoons, but always at a meeting, and neglects poor Maude shamelessly. Sometimes I think of Maude as my third daughter, she is at our house so often. Not that I am complaining - Maude is very thoughtful, helping me with tea or Ivy May with her schoolwork. She sets a good example for Lavinia, who I am sorry to say never seems to take it up. It is very peculiar that one daughter can have a mother who pays her no attention and yet turns out well, while the other gets all the attention in the world and yet is so difficult and selfish. It was a relief to leave Kitty's At Home. Lavinia seemed eager to come away as well. Back at home she was very kind to me, sending me off to bed to nurse my head while she insisted on making supper. I don't even mind that she burned the soup. JENNY WHITBY Lord, I hope these At Homes don't last. Since the missus switched 'em to Wednesdays I'm run off my feet. At least I've got Maude to help - though I don't know that she'll stick it. The whole afternoon she looked like she wanted to bolt, even when Lavinia came to keep her company. That one makes me laugh. When she's here she watches the missus with an outraged look on her face. And when the master's home, she looks at him all puzzled and sorrowful. She hasn't said nothing, though, nor tried to send another letter - I've kept an eye out. I've no intention of letting her wreck this house - I need my wages. As it is I'm not managing to pay for Jack. Or I am, but I've had to do something I never thought I'd stoop to - taking spoons to sell from an old silver set in the sideboard what the missus' mum left her. They don't use it, and no one but me ever polishes it. It ain't right, I know, but I don't have no choice. I finally listened to them suffragettes today as I passed round the scones. What I heard made me want to spit. They talk about helping women but it turns out they're choosy about who exactly gets the help. They ain't fighting for my vote -- only for women who own property or went to university. But that Caroline Black had the nerve to ask me to donate some of my wages 'for the cause'. I told her I wouldn't give a penny until the cause had anything to do with me! I were so mad I had to tell Mrs Baker about it when we were washing up afterwards. 'What did she say to that?' Mrs Baker asked. 'Oh, that men would never agree to give the vote to everyone all at once, that they had to start with some women and once they'd secured that they would fight for everyone. But ain't it always the way that they put themselves first? Why can't they fight for us first, I say. Let working women decide what's what.' Mrs Baker chuckled. 'You wouldn't know who to vote for if they bit you on your arse, and you know it.' 'I would!' I cried. 'I ain't that stupid. Labour, of course. Labour for a labouring woman. But these ladies upstairs won't vote Labour, or even Liberal. They're all Tories like their husbands, and them Tories'll never give the vote to women, no matter what they say.' Mrs Baker didn't say nothing. Maybe she was surprised I was talking politics. To be honest, I were surprised at myself. I've been round too many suffragettes -- they're starting to make me talk a load of rubbish.

Av kaceyhanxu kaceyhanxu - 29 maj 2011 05:12

Seven years was a long time to be away from one's clan. A man's place was not always there, waiting for him. As soon as he left, someone else rose and filled it. The clan was like a lizard, if it lost its tail it soon grew another. Okonkwo knew these things. He knew that he had lost his place among the nine masked spirits who administered justice in the clan. He had lost the chance to lead his warlike clan against the new religion, which, he was told, had gained ground. He had lost the years in which he might have taken the highest titles in the clan. But some of these losses were not irreparable. He was determined that his return should be marked by his people. He would return with a flourish, and regain the seven wasted years. Even in his first year in exile he had begun to plan for his return. The first thing he would do would be to rebuild his compound on a more magnificent scale. He would build a bigger barn than he had had before and he would build huts for two new wives. Then he would show his wealth by initiating his sons into the ozo society. Only the really great men in the clan were able to do this. Okonkwo saw clearly the high esteem in which he would be held, and he saw himself taking the highest title in the land. As the years of exile passed one by one it seemed to him that his chi might now be making amends for the past disaster. His yams grew abundantly, not only in his motherland but also in Umuofia, where his friend gave them out year by year to sharecroppers. Then the tragedy of his first son had occurred. At first it appeared as if it might prove too great for his spirit. But it was a resilient spirit, and in the end Okonkwo overcame his sorrow. He had five other sons and he would bring them up in the way of the clan. He sent for the five sons and they came and sat in his obi. The youngest of them was four years old. "You have all seen the great abomination of your brother. Now he is no longer my son or your brother. I will only have a son who is a man, who will hold his head up among my people. If any one of you prefers to be a woman, let him follow Nwoye now while I am alive so that I can curse him. If you turn against me when I am dead I will visit you and break your neck." Okonkwo was very lucky in his daughters. He never stopped regretting that Ezinma was a girl. Of all his children she alone understood his every mood. A bond of sympathy had grown between them as the years had passed. Ezinma grew up in her father's exile and became one of the most beautiful girls in Mbanta. She was called Crystal of Beauty, as her mother had been called in her youth. The young ailing girl who had caused her mother so much heartache had been transformed, almost overnight, into a healthy, buoyant maiden. She had, it was true, her moments of depression when she would snap at everybody like an angry dog. These moods descended on her suddenly and for no apparent reason. But they were very rare and short-lived. As long as they lasted, she could bear no other person but her father. Many young men and prosperous middle-aged men of Mbanta came to marry her. But she refused them all, because her father had called her one evening and said to her: "There are many good and prosperous people here, but I shall be happy if you marry in Umuofia when we return home." That was all he had said. But Ezinma had seen clearly all the thought and hidden meaning behind the few words. And she had agreed. "Your half-sister, Obiageli, will not understand me," Okonkwo said. "But you can explain to her." Although they were almost the same age, Ezinma wielded a strong influence over her half-sister. She explained to her why they should not marry yet, and she agreed also. And so the two of them refused every offer of marriage in Mbanta. "I wish she were a boy," Okonkwo thought within himself. She understood things so perfectly. Who else among his children could have read his thoughts so well? With two beautiful grown-up daughters his return to Umuofia would attract considerable attention. His future sons-in-law would be men of authority in the clan. The poor and unknown would not dare to come forth. Umuofia had indeed changed during the seven years Okonkwo had been in exile. The church had come and led many astray. Not only the low-born and the outcast but sometimes a worthy man had joined it. Such a man was Ogbuefi Ugonna, who had taken two titles, and who like a madman had cut the anklet of his titles and cast it away to join the Christians. The white missionary was very proud of him and he was one of the first men in Umuofia to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, or Holy Feast as it was called in Ibo. Ogbuefi Ugonna had thought of the Feast in terms of eating and drinking, only more holy than the village variety. He had therefore put his drinking-horn into his goatskin bag for the occasion.

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One short phone call later and Grayer is not only dancing and singing the actual "Here we come a wassailing among the leaves so green," which is infinitely less painful, but I have been inspired with a delicious plan. As I give Grayer's wassailing outfit (green and red striped turtle-neck, felt reindeer antlers, candy-cane suspenders) a final once-over for "ultra wassailyness," Mrs. X comes bustling in, Ramon in tow, laden with boxes. Her cheeks are rosy, her eyes are glistening. "Oh, it is a zoo out there, a zoo! I nearly got into a fight with a woman at Hammacher Schlemmer-put them down over there, Ramon-over the last ScrewPull, but I just let her have it, I thought there is no point descending to her level. I think she was from out of town. Oh, I found the most darling wallets at Gucci. Does Cleveland understand Gucci? I wonder-thank you, Ramon. Oh, I hope they like them- Grayer what have you been up to?" "Nothing," he says, while practicing his soft-shoe by the umbrella stand. "Before lunch we made unsweetened cookies and decorated them and then we've been practicing carols and I read him The Night Before Christmas in French," I say, trying to jog his memory. "Oh, wonderful. I wish someone would read to me." She takes off her mink and nearly hands it to Ramon. "Oh, that's all, Ramon, thank you." She claps her hands together. "So, what are you up to now?" "I was going to let Grayer practice his caroling-" "WASSAILING!" "-on some of the elderly in the building, who might appreciate a little holiday cheer!" Mrs. X is beaming. "Oh, excellent! What a good boy you are and that'll keep him o-c-c-u-p-i-e-d. I have so much to do! Have fun!" I let Grayer press for the elevator. "Which floor, Nanny?" "Let's start with your friend on eleven." We have to buzz three times before we hear "Coming!" from inside the apartment. As soon as the door opens it's apparent the hour and a half of "practicing" was well worth it. H. H. leans against the door frame in faded Christmas-tree boxers and a well-worn Andover T-shirt, rubbing sleep out of his eyes. "HERE WE COME A-WASSAILING.' AMONG THE LEAVES SO GREEN.'.'/" Grayer is red faced, swaying back and forth, with his jazz hands splayed and antlers waving. For a split second it crosses my mind that he might literally sing his heart out. "LOVE AND JOY COME TO YOU.'.'.'" His voice ricochets around the vestibule, bouncing off every surface so that it sounds as if he's a chorus of emphatic wassailers. A wassailing riot. When it appears he has reached his conclusion, H. H. bends down and opens his mouth. "AND GOD BLESS YOU.'.'.'" This move mistakenly places him at ground zero to be blasted with the spit and sweat of Grayer's effort, which is then followed by an even louder finale. "Well, good morning to you, too, Grayer!" Grayer collapses onto the vestibule floor, panting to catch his breath. I smile beguilingly. Make no bones about it; I am a girl with a mission. I am here to get a Date. A Real Date with a plan and a location and everything. "We're caroling-" I begin. "Wassailing," a small exasperated voice pipes in from the floor. "Wassailing around the building." "Can I have a cookie now?" Grayer sits up, ready to be rewarded for his efforts. H. H. turns into his apartment. "Sure. Come on in. Don't mind my pajamas." Oh, if you insist. We follow his boxer-clad body into what is essentially the Xes' apartment, only two floors higher, and one would never guess that we were even in the same building. The walls in the front hall are painted a deep brick red and are decorated with National Geographic type black-and-white photographs between kilim tapestries. There are sneakers lining the floor and dog hair on the carpet. We make our way into the kitchen where we practically trip over a huge, graying yellow Lab lying on the floor. "Grayer, you know Max, right?" Grayer hunkers down and with uncharacteristic gentleness rubs Max's ears. Max's tail animatedly pounds the tiles in response. I look around; instead of the large island that Mrs. X has in the middle of the room, there's an old refectory table piled high at one end with the Times. "Cookies? Anyone want cookies?" H. H. asks, brandishing a Christmas tin of David's cookies that he has pulled from a teetering pile of holiday baked goods on the sideboard. Grayer runs over to help himself and I force myself to focus. "Just one, Grover." "Oh, man." "Do you want milk with that?" He heads to the fridge and returns with a full glass. "Thank you so much," I say. "Hey, Grayer, anything you want to say to our host?" "Thanks!" he mumbles, his mouth full of cookie. "No, man, thank you! It's the least I can do after such a powerful performance." He smiles over at me. "I can't remember the last time someone sang to me when it wasn't my birthday." "I can do that! I can do 'Happy Birthday'-" He puts his glass down on the floor and places his hands into the jazz position in preparation. "Whoa! We have done our fair share of wassailing already-" I put my hand out to shield us from another round. "Grayer, it's not my birthday today. But I promise I'll let you know when it is." Teamwork, I love it. "Okay. Let's go, Nanny. Got to wassail. Let's go now." Grayer hands H. H. his empty glass, wipes his gloved hand across his lips, and heads for the door. I stand up from the table, not really wanting to leave. "I'm sorry I never caught up with you that night; their party ran really late." "That's all right, you didn't miss anything. The Next Thing was having a private party, so we just ended up getting pizza at Ruby's." As in the Ruby's that is exactly twenty feet from my front stoop. The irony. "How long are you home for?" I ask without batting an eyelash. "NA-NNY. The elevator's here!" "Just a week and then we go to Africa." The elevator door waiting, my heart pounding. "Well, I'm around if you want to hang out this weekend," I say as I step in beside Grayer. "Yeah, great," he says from the doorway. "Great." I nod my head as the door slides closed. "GREAT!" Grayer sings as a warm-up to our next performance. Short of writing my number on a piece of paper and shoving it under his door, I leave 721 Park on Friday night knowing there is no way I am going to see H. H. before he leaves for Africa. Ugh. That night I make Sarah, who's home for Christmas vacation, accompany me to a holiday party being given downtown by some guys in my class. The whole apartment is festively decorated in glowing jalapeno-pepper lights and someone has glued a cutout of a large penis onto the picture of Santa in the living room. It takes less than five minutes to decide that we don't want a Bud Light from the bathtub, a fistful of corn chips from a filmy bowl, or to take any of the frat boys up on their gracious offers of quick oral sex. We head Josh off on the stairs. "No fun?" he asks. "Well," Sarah says, "I love to play strip quarters as much as the next girl, but-" "Sarah!" Josh cries, giving her a hug. "Lead on!" Several hours later find me doing a martini-sodden rendition of the wassailing story for Sarah in a corner booth at the Next Thing while Josh hits on some fashionista at the bar. "And then ... he gave him a cookie! That must mean something, right?" We do an interpretive dance of every subtle nuance of the entire five-minute exchange until we have completely wrung the encounter of any meaning it might possibly have had. "So then he said 'Great' and then I said 'Great.'" Saturday morning I wake with my shoes still on, a killer hangover, and only one day to buy presents for my entire family, the Xes, and the many little people I've taken care of over the years. The Gleason girls have already sent over two glitter pens and a rock with my name painted on it-I've got to get my act together. I wolf down tomato sauce on toast, drink a liter of water, grab a double shot of espresso on the corner, and ba-da-bing, I am alive with the Holiday Spirit. An hour later I emerge from Barnes and Noble Junior a good $ 150 lighter, prompting me to do a little math as I walk down Park. Forget Paris, I'm going to need that stupid bonus just to pay off Christmas. I walk down Madison to Bergdorf s to get a Rigaud candle for Mrs. X. It may be tiny, but at least she'll know it wasn't cheap. As I stand on line for the all-important stiver gift wrap I try to figure out what to get the four-year-old who has everything. What would make him really happy, short of his father actually making an appearance to do the high-ups? Well... a night-light, because he's scared of the dark. And maybe a bus-pass holder that could keep that card protected before it completely disintegrates. As I'm on Fifty-eighth and Fifth, the logical thing would be to cross the street to FAO Schwarz's enormous Sesame Street section to find him a Grover night-light, but I can't, can't, can't. I debate which would be faster, taking the train to a Toys "R" Us in Queens or navigating a few thousand square feet of bedlam just a block away. Against my better judgment, I drag myself across Fifth to wait in line with the entire population of Nebraska in the cold for over half an hour before being ushered into the revolving doors by a tall toy soldier. "Welcome to our world. Welcome to our world. Welcome to our world of toys," blasts relentlessly from mysteriously placed speakers, making it sound as if the eerie, childlike singing is coming from within my own head. Yet it cannot drown out the tortured cries of "But I waaaant it!! I neeeeed it!!" that also fill the air. And this is only the stuffed-animal floor. Upstairs is total chaos; children are firing ray guns, throwing slime, sports equipment, and siblings. I look around at parents who share my "let's just get through this" expression and employees trying to make it to lunch without sustaining serious bodily injury. I slither to Sesame Street Corner where a little girl of about three has prostrated herself on the floor and is sobbing for injustice everywhere. "Maybe Santa will bring you one, Sally."

Av kaceyhanxu kaceyhanxu - 29 maj 2011 05:05

Nanny! I'm waiting. Come onnnn!" I follow his voice around the maze of floor-to-ceiling cages lining the walls. Some are more packed than others, but each has the requisite luggage, ski equipment, and random pieces of bubble-wrapped furniture. I round the bend and see Grove lying on his stomach atop his skateboard under a sign that says 132, pulling himself along the wired wall by his hands. "Oh, man, it's gonna be so fun when Daddy comes home and does the tree. Caitlin gets us started and Daddy does the high-ups and we have hot chocolate in the living room." "Sounds pretty cool. Here, I have the key," I say, holding it out toward him. He jumps up and down as I unlock the cage and then proceeds to deftly make his way in around the boxes. I let him lead as he's clearly made this trek before and I wouldn't know a storage locker from an Easy-Bake oven. I sit down on the cold cement and lean back on the cage door facing that of the Xes. My parents used to daydream about storage space, sitting with both feet up on the trunk packed to bursting with our summer clothes that served as our coffee table. On occasion, we'd allow ourselves to talk about what we could do with one extra closet-much as a family in Wyoming might fantasize about winning the lottery. "Do you know what you're looking for, Grove?" I call into the piles, as I haven't heard anything in a few minutes. Loud clanging noises break the silence. "Grayer! What's going on in there?" I start to stand up as his flashlight comes rolling out of the darkness and stops at my feet. "Just getting my stuff out, Nanny! Turn the light on me, I'm going to get the blue box!" I click the high beam on and point it into the cage as directed, illuminating two dirtied socks and a little khaki rear end tunneling into the middle of the pile. "Are you sure that's safe, Grayer? I think maybe I should ..." What, crawl in behind him? "I got it. Oh, man, there's lotsa stuff back here. My skis! These are my skis, Nanny, for when we go to Aspirin." "Aspen?" "Aspen. Found it! Going to pass 'em out. Get ready. You get ready, Nanny, here they come." He is far into the boxes. I hear fumbling and then a glass ball comes flying out of the darkness at me. I drop the flashlight and catch it. It is handblown and has a Steuben mark on it, along with a red hook. Before I can look up another one comes flying out. "GRAYER! FREEZE!" With the flashlight rolling around on the floor, casting a weird light on Grayer's boxes, I realize I've been letting Mickey Mouse run the show. "Back it up, mister, back it right on up. It's your turn to hold the flashlight." "N oooooo." "Gray-er!" It's the Wicked Witch voice. "FINE!" He tunnels back out. I hand him the flashlight. "Now let's try this again, only this time you'll be me and I'll be you." When we get back up to the apartment Grayer marches ahead to establish a plan of attack while I gingerly set the box of ornaments down in the front hall. "Nanny?" I hear a small voice call for me. "Yes, G?" I follow him into the living room where a flamboyant Johnny Cash is on a ladder, decorating Grayer's tree. "Pass me that box of doves," he says, not even turning to look at us. Grayer and I, standing safely by the door, survey the living room floor, which is littered with doves, gold leaves, Victorian angels, and strings of pearls. "Get down. My dad does the high-ups." "Hold on a sec, Grayer," I say as I pass off the birds to the man in black. "I'll be right back." "You better get down or my daddy's gonna be mad at you," I hear Grayer challenge as I knock on Mrs. X's office door. "Come in." "Hi, Mrs. X? Sorry to bother you-" The room, ordinarily pristine, has been taken over by her "elfing" and stacks and stacks of Christmas cards. "No, no, come in-what is it?" I open my mouth. "Have you met Julio? Isn't he a genius? I'm so lucky I got him-he is the the tree expert. You should see what he did at the Egglestons-it was just breathtaking." "While I've got you, can I ask? Is a plaid taffeta skirt just too cliche for a Scottish Christmas party? I can't decide-" "Oh! You should see-I bought the cutest twinsets today for Mr. X's nieces. I hope they're the right color. Would you wear winter-weight cashmere pastels?" She pulls out a TSE shopping bag. "I might exchange them-" "I was just wondering," I cut in, "Grayer was really looking forward to decorating the tree. He said it was something he did with Caitlin last year and I was wondering if maybe I could just get him a small tree for his room that he could hang a couple of ornaments on, just for fun-" "I really don't think it would be a good idea to be traipsing needles all over that part of the house." She searches for a solution. "If he wants a tree activity, why don't you take him to Rockefeller Center?" "Well... Yeah, no, yeah, that's a great idea," I say as I open the door. "Thanks-I'm just so overwhelmed!" When I get back in the living room Grayer is holding a silver baby spoon on a string and tapping on Julio's ladder. "Hey! How about this? Where does this go?" he asks. Julio looks down in disgust at the spoon. "That doesn't really gel with my vision-" Grayer's eyes start to well up. "Well, if you must. In the back. On the bottom." "G, I've got a plan. Grab Al, I'll get your coat." "Grandma, Grayer. Grayer, this is Grandma." My grandmother crouches down in her black satin pajama pants, her pearls clicking together as she extends her hand. "Pleased to meet you, Grayer. And darling, you must be Al." Grayer blushes deeply. "Well, are we doing Christmas or what? Everybody in who wants rugelach." "Thanks so much, Gran. We were in desperate need of a surface to decorate." The doorbell rings behind us as I reach to take off Grayer's coat. "A surface! Don't be ridiculous." She reaches over Grayer's head to open the door and there stands a huge tree with two arms wrapped around it. "Right this way!" she says. "Now, Grayer," she whispers, "you cover Al's eyes. It's all about the surprise." We kick off our boots and follow closely behind them into the apartment. I've got to hand it to her-she has the deliveryman place it squarely in the middle of the living room. She sees him out and returns to join us. "Grandma, you really didn't have to get a-" "If you're going to do something, darling, then do it all the way. Now, Grayer, let me hit the special effects and we'll get this soiree started." Grayer holds his hands carefully over Al's eyes as my grandmother turns on Frank Sinatra-"Can't find Bing," she mouths- and hits the lights. She's lit candles all about the room, setting a beautiful glow around our family pictures, and as Frank croons "The Lady Is a Tramp," it's breathtaking. She leans down to Grayer. "Well, sir, whenever you're ready, I believe Al should meet his tree." We both make drum-roll noises as Grayer takes his hands off Al's eyes and asks him exactly where he would like to hang out first. An hour later the two of us are lounging on cushions beneath the green boughs, sipping hot chocolate, while Grayer relocates Al at whim. "So, how's the drama with your H. H.?" "I can't get a read on him. I want him to be different from those boys, but there's really no good reason why he would be. Of course, if I never see him again it's pretty irrelevant." "Keep riding the elevator, dear. He'll show up. So, how are finals going?" she asks. "Only one more and I'm done. It's been insane-the Xes have been out at Christmas parties every night. I only study after Grayer goes to sleep, which, ultimately, is probably better than trying to concentrate over the sounds of Charlene and her hairy boyfriend-" She looks at me. "Don't even get me started." "Well, just don't wear yourself out. It's not worth it." "I know. But the bonus is bound to be good this year-she's mentioned Paris." "Oh la la, tres bien." "Nanny, Al wants to know why Daddy isn't doing the high-ups," Grayer asks quietly from behind the tree. I look over at her, unsure how to answer him. "Grayer"-she smiles at me reassuringly-"has Nan told you about wassailing?" He emerges. "What did you say?" He comes up close to her and puts his hand on her knee.

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'Doesn't matter -- I can have them cleaned afterwards. How do you climb down -- with a ladder?' 'No, no, no ladder,' our Pa says. 'With a deep un like this we got all this wood stuck in, see, every foot or two, to keep the sides from caving in. We climbs up and down it. But don't you go doing that,' he adds, but too late, 'cause Livy's climbing down already. All I can see of her is her two legs sticking out from a dress and petticoats. 'Don't come down, Livy,' I say, but I don't mean it. She's climbing down the wood frame like she's done it all her life. Then she's down on the coffin with me. There,' she says. 'Are you pleased to see me?' 'Course.' Livy looks round and shivers. 'It's cold down here. And so muddy!' What'd you expect? It's a grave, after all.' Livy scrapes her toe in the clay on the coffin. 'Who's in there?' I shrug. 'Dunno. Who's in the coffin, our Pa?' I call up. No, let me guess,' Livy says. 'It's a little girl who caught Pneumonia. Or a man who drowned in one of the Heath ponds trying to save his dog. Or ' 'It's an old man,' our Pa calls down. 'Nat'ral causes.' Our Pa likes to find out something about who we bury, usually from listening to the mourners at the graveside. Livy looks disappointed. 'I think I shall lie down,' she says. 'You don't want to do that,' I say. 'It's muddy, like you said.' She don't listen to me. She sits down on the coffin lid and then she stretches out, her hair getting mud in it and all. 'There,' she says, crossing her hands over her chest like she's dead. She looks up at the sky. I can't believe she don't mind the mud. Maybe she's gone doolally. 'Don't do that, Livy,' I say. 'Get up.' She still lies there, her eyes closed, and I stare at her face. It's strange seeing something so pretty lying there in the mud. She's got a mouth makes me think of some chocolate-covered cherries Maude gave me once. I wonder if her lips taste like that. 'Where's Maude?' I say to stop thinking of it. Livy makes a face but keeps her eyes shut. 'Over at the library with her mother.' 'Mrs C.'s out and about?' I shouldn't have said nothing, nor sounded surprised. Livy) opens her eyes, like a dead un suddenly come to life. 'what do you know about Maude's mother?' 'Nothing,' I say quickly. 'Just that she was ill. That's all-I've said it too quickly. Livy notices. It's funny -- she's no like Ivy May, who sees everything. But when she wants to she notices things. 'Mrs Coleman was ill, but that was over two months ago' she says. 'She does look dreadful but there's something else wrong. I just know it.' Livy sits up. 'And you know it-' I shift from one foot to the other. 'I don't know nothing.' 'You do.' Livy smiles. 'You're hopeless at lying, Simon. now, what do you know about Maude's mother?' 'Nothing I'm going to tell you.' Livy looks pleased and I wish I hadn't said even that. 'I knew there was something,' she says. 'And I know that you're going to tell me.' 'Why should I tell you anything?' 'Because I'm going to let you kiss me if you do.' I stare at her mouth. She's just licked her lips and they're all glistening like rain on leaves. She's trapped me. I move towards her, but she pulls her face back. Tell me first.' I shake my head. I hate to say it but I don't trust Livy. I have to have my kiss before I'll say a word. 'I'll only tell you after.' 'No, kiss after.' I shake my head again, and Livy sees I'm serious. She lies back down on the mud. 'All right, then. But I must pretend I'm Sleeping Beauty and you're the prince who wakes me.' She closes her eyes and crosses her hands over her chest again like she's dead. I look up. Our Pa ain't hanging over the grave -- he must've sat down to wait with the bottle. I don't know how long I'll be lucky, so I lean over quick and Press my mouth against Livy's. She stays still. Her lips are soft. I touch them with my tongue -- they don't taste like chocolate cherries, but like salt. I move back onto my heels and Livy opens her eyes. We look at each other but don't Say nothing. She smiles a little. Simon, get yourself going, lad. We've another to dig after this our Pa calls down. He's standing up top leaning over like he's going to fall in. I don't know if he saw us kissing - he don't say. 'You need help up, missie?' he says. I don't want him coming down here when Livy's with me. Three people is too much in a grave. 'Leave her 'lone,' I call up. 'I'll bring her out.' 'I'll come up myself as soon as Simon answers my question' Livy says. Our Pa looks like he's going to climb down, so I has to say it quick. 'Mrs C. visited our Ma,' I whisper. 'What, on a charity visit?' 'Who says we need charity?' Livy don't answer. 'Anyhow, it were business, not charity.' 'Your mother is a midwife, isn't she?' 'Yes, but-' 'Do you mean she's had another child?' Livy's eyes get big. 'Maude has a secret brother or sister somewhere? How exciting! I do hope it's a brother.' 'It weren't that,' I say quickly. 'She don't have a brother nor suchlike. It were the other. Getting rid of the brother or sister before it's born. Else it would've been a bastard, see.' 'Oh!' Livy sits up straight and stares at me, her eyes still big. I wish I'd never said a thing. Some people's meant to be innocent of life, and Livy's one of 'em. 'Oh!' she says again, and starts to cry. She lays back down on the mud. 'It's all right, Livy. Our Ma was gentle. But it took her a time to recover.' 'What will I tell Maude?' she sobs. 'Don't tell her nothing,' I say quickly, not wanting it to get worse. 'She don't need to know.' 'But she can't possibly live with her mother in those circumstances.' not?' 'She can come and live with us. I'll ask Mama. I'm sure she'll say yes, especially when she's heard why.' Livy's stopped crying now. 'Don't tell her nothing, Livy,' I say. Then I hear a scream overhead and look up. Livy's mother is looking down at us with Maude peeking over her shoulder. Ivy May's standing by herself on the other side of the grave. 'Lavinia, what on earth are you doing lying down there?' her mother cries. 'Get out at once!' 'Hello, Mama,' Livy says calmly, like she ain't just been crying. She sits up. 'Were you looking for me?' Livy's mum sinks to her feet and starts to cry, not quiet like Livy did, but noisy with lots of gasping. 'It's all right, Mrs Waterhouse,' Maude says, patting her shoulder. 'Lavinia's fine. She's coming right up, aren't you, Lavinia?' She glares at us. Livy smiles a funny smile, and I know she's thinking about Maude's ma. 'Don't you dare tell her, Livy,' I whisper. Livy don't say nothing, nor look at me. She just climbs up the wood fast and is gone before I can say more. Ivy May drops a clod of clay into the grave. It falls at my feet. It's quiet when they're all gone. I start scraping mud into the cracks round the coffin. Our Pa comes and sits down at the side of the grave, dangling his legs over the edge. I can smell the bottle. 'You going to help me or what, our Pa?' I say. 'You ear, bring the Lamb's box over now.' Our Pa shakes his head. 'It's no use kissing girls like her; he says. So he did see. 'Why not?' I say. Our Pa shakes his head again. Them girls is not for you, boy. You know that. They like you 'cause you're different from them, is all. They'll even let you kiss 'em, once. But you won't get nowhere with 'em.' 'I'm not trying to get nowhere with 'em.' Our Pa starts to chuckle. 'Sure you're not, boy. Sure you're not.' 'Hush, our Pa. You just hush.' I go back to my mud -it's easier than talking to him. LAVINIA WATERHOUSE At last I have reached a decision. I have felt sick ever since Simon told me. Mama thinks I caught a chill down in the grave, but it is not that. I am suffering from Moral Repulsion. Even Simon's kiss -- which I shall never tell a soul about - could not make up for the horror of the news about Kitty Coleman. When they came to get me at the cemetery, I could hardly look at Maude. I knew that she was annoyed with me, but I genuinely felt ill and could not speak. Then we returned to the library and I felt even worse when I saw Maude's mother. Luckily she paid no attention to me -- she was in the clutches of a frightening woman who Maude told me is a local suffragette. (I don't understand what all the fuss is about with voting. Politics are so dull -- what woman would want to vote anyway?) They walked home arm in arm, talking intimately as if they had known each other for years, and ignored me, which is just as well. It is truly astonishing how brazen Maude's mother is, given what she has done. I have not been comfortable with Maude since that day, and, indeed, for a time felt too ill to see her or go to school I know she thought I was simply pretending, but I felt so burdened. Then, thank goodness, it was half term, and Maude went off to see her aunt in Lincolnshire, and so [ could avoid her for a time. Now she is back, though, and the burden of my knowledge is greater than ever. I hate to keep such a secret from her, and indeed, from everyone, and that has made me sick. I have not told Mama, for I cannot bring myself to shock her. I am feeling quite fond of dear Mama and Papa, and even of Ivy May. They are simple people, unlike myself, who am rather more complicated, but at least I know that they are honest. This is not a House of Secrets. I must do something. I cannot sit by and watch the contamination at the heart of the Coleman house spread to dear Maude. So, after three weeks of soul-searching, I sat down this afternoon in my room and wrote, in a disguised hand, the following letter: Dear Mr Coleman, It is my Christian duty to inform you of Unbecoming Conduct that has taken place in your household concerning your wife. Sir, you are encouraged to ask your wife about the true nature of her illness earlier this year. I think you will be profoundly shocked. I am writing this as behoves someone concerned with the moral welfare of your daughter, Miss Maude Coleman. I have only her best interests at heart.


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