Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The Moomins and the Great Flood - 5


'But I'm so horribly hungry,' said Moomintroll. 'Me too,' said the small creature and Tulippa, and then they all looked at Moominmamma. 'Well - all right, then,' she said, and then she went up to the tower and knocked on the door. After a little while a hatch in the door opened and a boy with completely red hair looked out. 'Have you been shipwrecked?' he asked. 'Almost,' said Moominmamma. 'But we're quite certainly hungry.' Then the boy opened the door wide and invited them to come in. And when he caught sight of Tulippa, he made a deep bow, for he had never seen such beautiful blue hair before. And Tulippa curtseyed just as deeply, for she thought his red hair was quite charming. Then they all followed him up the spiral staircase, all the way to the top storey made of glass, where they could see out over the sea in all directions. In the midst of the tower-room was a table on which there was an enormous, steaming sea-pudding.

'Is it really for us?' asked Moominmamma. 'Of course,' said the boy. 'I keep look-out here when there's a storm out at sea, and all who escape into my harbour are invited to sea-pudding. That's how it's always been.' Then they sat round the table and after a very short while the whole basin was empty. (The small creature, who sometimes did not have very good manners, took the bowl with him under the table and licked it completely clean.)

'Thank you very, very much,' said Moominmamma. 'You must have invited a lot of people up here for sea-pudding, I should think.'

'Oh yes,' said the boy. 'People from every corner of the world. Snufkins, Sea-ghosts, Little Creeps and Big Folk, Snorks and Hemulens. And the odd angler fish, too.'

'I suppose you haven't seen any Moomins, by any chance?' asked Moominmmma, and she was so excited that her voice quivered.

'Yes, one,' said the boy. 'That was after the cyclone last Monday.' 'I wonder if that could have been Papa?' cried Moomintroll. 'Did he keep putting his tail in his pocket?'

'Yes, he did, actually,' said the boy. 'I remember it quite particularly, because it looked so funny.' Then Moomintroll and his mother were so happy that they fell into each other's arms, and the small creature jumped up and down and cried 'hurrah'.

'Where did he go?' asked Moominmamma. 'Did he say anything particular? Where is he? How was he?'

'Fine,' said the boy. 'He took the road to the south.'

'Then we must go after him at once,' said Moominmamma. 'Perhaps we'll catch up with him. Hurry, children. Where's my handbag?' And then she rushed down the spiral staircase so fast that they could scarcely follow her.

'Wait!' cried the boy. 'Wait a bit!' He caught up with them in the doorway. 'You must forgive us for not saying goodbye properly,' said Moominmamma, who was hopping with impatience. 'But you see...'

'It's not that,' said the boy. 'Fair Tulippa, I suppose you wouldn't like to stay with me, would you?'

'Oh yes,' replied Tulippa at once, and looked happy. 'All the time I was sitting up there, I was thinking how well my hair might shine for seafarers in your glass tower. And I'm very good at making sea-pudding.' But then she became a little anxious, and looked at Moominmamma. 'Of course I would terribly like to help you to look, as well...' she said. 'Oh, we'll manage, I expect,' said Moominmamma. 'We'll send you both a letter and tell you what happened.'

Then they all hugged one another goodbye and Moomintroll went on his way southwards with his mother and the small creature. All day they walked through the flowering landscape, which Moomintroll would have liked to explore on his own. But his mother was in a hurry and would not let him stop. 'Have you ever seen such funny trees?' asked the small creature. 'They've got such terribly long trunks and then a little puff on top. I think it they look silly.'

'It's you who's silly,' said Moominmamma, who was nervous. 'Actually, they're palm trees and they always look like that.' 'By all means!' said the small creature, and was offended.

It had become very hot late in the afternoon. Everywhere the plants drooped, and the sun shone down with a dismal red light. Even though Moomins are very fond of warmth, they felt quite limp and would have liked to rest under one of the large cactuses that grew everywhere. But Moominmamma would not stop until they had found some trace of Moomintroll's Papa. They continued on their way, even though it was already beginning to get dark, always straight southward. Suddenly the small creature stopped and listened. 'What's that pattering around us?' he asked.

And now they could hear a whispering and a rustling among the leaves. 'It's only the rain,' said Moominmamma. 'All the same, we must crawl in under the cactuses.'

All night it rained, and in the morning it was simply pouring down in bucketfuls. When they looked out, everything was grey and melancholy.

'It's no good, we must go on,' said Moominmamma. 'But here is something for you which I've been saving until it was really needed.' And then she produced a large bar of chocolate from her handbag. She had taken it with her from the old gentleman's wonderful garden. She split it in two and gave them each a piece. 'Aren't you going to have some?' asked Moomintroll.

'No,' said his mother. 'I don't like chocolate.'

(to be continued)

translated from Finland-Swedish by David McDuff

The Moomins and the Great Flood - 1
The Moomins and the Great Flood - 2
The Moomins and the Great Flood - 3
The Moomins and the Great Flood - 4

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