Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Moomins and the Great Flood - 6


Then they walked on in the pouring rain all that day and all the next day, too. All they found to eat were a few sopping wet yams and one or two figs. On the third day it rained even harder than ever and each little rivulet had become a foaming torrent. It became more and more difficult to make any progress, the water rose ceaselessly, and at last they had to climb up on to a small rock so as not to be snatched away by the current. There they sat, watching the rushing eddies come closer and closer to them, and feeling that they were catching cold. Floating around everywhere were furniture and houses and big trees that the flood had carried with it.

'I think I want to go home!' said the small creature, but no one listened to him. The others had caught sight of something strange that was dancing and whirling towards them in the water. 'They've been shipwrecked!' cried Moomintroll, who had sharp eyes. 'A whole family! Mamma, we must rescue them!' The thing that was lurching towards them was an upholstered armchair; sometimes it got caught in the tree-tops that stuck up out of the water, but was pulled free by the current and went drifting on. In the chair sat a wet cat with five equally wet kittens around her. 'Poor mother!' cried Moominmamma, and she jumped out into the water all the way up to her waist. 'Hold on to me, and I'll try to catch them with my tail!'

Moomintroll took a steady hold of his mother, and the small creature was so excited that it did not manage to do anything at all. Now the armchair was eddying by; Moominmamma tied her tail lightning fast in a half-hitch round one of the armrests, and then she pulled. 'Heave-ho!' she cried. 'Heave-ho!' cried Moomintroll. 'Hey, hey!' squeaked the small creature. 'Don't let go!' Slowly the chair swayed in towards the rock, and then a helpful wave came and guided it up on to the land. The cat picked up her kittens by the scruff of their necks, one by one, and put them in a row to dry.

'Thank you for your kind help,' she said. 'This is the worst scrape I've ever been in. By all the cats in hell!'

And then she began to lick her children.

'I think the weather's clearing up,' said the small creature, who wanted to make them think about something else. (He was embarrassed because he had not managed to help in the rescue.) And it was true - the clouds were moving apart and one shaft of sunlight flew straight down, and then another - and all of a sudden the sun was shining over the enormous, steaming surface of the water.

'Hurrah!' cried Moomintroll. 'Now everything will be all right, you'll see!'

A small breeze arose and chased the clouds away and shook the tree-tops that were heavy with rain. The agitated water calmed down, somewhere a bird began to chirp and the cat purred in the sunshine. 'Now we can go on,' said Moominmamma, firmly.'We don't have time to wait until the water sinks away. Get up into the armchair, children, and then I'll push it out into the lake.' 'I think I'll stay here,' said the cat, and yawned. 'One should never get involved in needless fuss. When the ground is dry I'll walk home again.' And her five kittens, who had recovered in the sunshine sat up and yawned, too.

Then Moominmamma pushed the armchair out from the shore. 'Go carefully!' cried the small creature. He was sitting on the backrest and looking around, for it had occurred to him that they might find something valuable floating in the water after the flood. For example, a casket full of jewels. Why not? He kept a sharp watch, and when he suddenly saw something gleaming in the water, he shouted loudly with excitement. 'Go that way,' he cried. 'There's something shining over there!'

'We haven't got time to fish up everything that's floating around,' said Moominmamma, but she paddled that way all the same, because she was a nice Mamma.

'It's just an old bottle,' said the small creature, disappointed, when he had hauled it up with his tail. 'And no nice sweet drink in it either,' said Moomintroll.

'But don't you see?' said his mother, seriously. 'It's something very interesting, it's a message in a bottle. There's a letter inside.' And then she took a corkscrew out of her handbag and uncorked the bottle. With trembling hands she spread out the letter on her knee and read aloud:

'Dear finder, please do what you can to rescue me! My beautiful house has been swept away by the flood and now I am sitting hungry and cold in a tree while the water rises higher and higher.

An unhappy Moomin.'

'Lonely and hungry and cold,' said Moominmamma, and she cried. 'Oh, my poor dear Moomintroll, your father probably drowned long ago!'

'Don't cry,' said Moomintroll. 'He may be sitting in a tree somewhere very close. After all, the water is subsiding as fast as can be.' And so it was.

Here and there hillocks and fences and roofs were already sticking up above the surface of the water, and now the birds were singing at the tops of their voices.

The armchair bobbed slowly along towards a hill where a lot of people were running about, pulling their belongings out of the water. 'Why, there's my armchair,' cried a big Hemulen who was gathering his dining-room furniture together on the shore. 'What do you think you're doing sailing around in my armchair?'

'And a rotten boat it made, too!' said Moominmamma, crossly, and she stepped ashore. 'I wouldn't have it for anything in the world!'

'Don't annoy him,' whispered the small creature. 'He may bite!' 'Rubbish,' said Moominmamma. 'Come along now, children.' And on they walked along the shore, while the Hemulen examined the wet stuffing in his chair.

'Look!' said Moomintroll, pointing to a marabou stork who was walking around, scolding to himself. 'I wonder what he's lost - he looks even angrier than the Hemulen.'

(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
The Moomins and the Great Flood - 5

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