- faraway – 멀리 떨어진
- corridors – 복도
- incomprehensible – 이해할 수 없는
- scattered – 흩어진
- subsiding – 가라앉는
- irrelevantly – 관계없이
Mrs Frisby spelled it out slowly: The Plan of the Rats of Nimh. What, or where, was Nimh? The name had a strange and faraway sound. Had these rats, then, come here from somewhere else? Did that explain why they had books and electric lights and wires and an electric motor? Yet they had been here -or at least there had been rats here – for as long as she could remember. Still, that was not so very long.
She wondered what other things they had. Suddenly she had an almost overwhelming desire to look around – to see what was behind the other doors and down the other corridors. She went to the door, opened it, and looked out into the hall. It was entirely deserted and silent, except that when she listened carefully she could hear a faint humming in the distance, as if something were running – another motor?
She started out into the hall, and then changed her mind. Better not. Nicodemus had been friendly – they had all been friendly – but explicit. He had said she was to wait in the library. And she was not there to pry but to get help. She went back into the library, closed the door, and sat on one of the benches. The books on the table were mostly paperbacks – small enough so that the rats could handle them easily enough, but too’big for her; so she sat in front of the blackboard and looked at it again.
Beneath the title across the top, in neatly chalked handwriting, were columns of words and figures:
Group 1 (10): Oats. 30 loads = 2 bu.
Group 2 (10): Wheat. 30 loads = 2 bu.
Group 3 (10): Corn. 20 loads = 1 1/2 bu.
Group 4 (10): Misc. seeds Est. 10 loads total
The rest of the blackboard was filled with more rows of figures, each headed by the name of a month: February, March, April, May, and so on until the end of July. At the bottom a separate square was ruled off:
Ploughs (Arthur’s group) (14)
Plough No. 2. Complete: Jan. 1
Plough No. 3. Complete: Feb. 10
Plough No. 4. Complete: Mar. 30
Mrs Frisby stared at all this, trying to make head or tail of it, but she could not. It was quite incomprehensible.
She was still puzzling over it when the door opened and a rat came in. It was a girl-rat, small and quite young, judging by her looks. She was carrying a pencil and some papers and looking at the papers as she walked, so that she did not see Mrs Frisby at first. When she did she gasped and dropped the papers, scattering them on the floor. Her eyes opened wide.
‘Who are you?’ she asked. ‘I don’t know you. How did you get in?’ She backed towards the door.
‘It’s all right,’ said Mrs Frisby. ‘I’m a friend of Mr Ages.’ The rat was very young indeed, only a child.
‘But why are you in here? Who let you in?’
‘Nicodemus. He told me to wait here.’
The girl-rat looked doubtful. ‘You might be a spy.’
‘A spy! How could I be? A spy from where?’
‘I don’t know. From outside. Maybe from Nimh?’
‘I don’t even know what Nimh is.’
‘That’s what you say.’
‘But I don’t. What is it?’ asked Mrs Frisby, feeling slightly annoyed.
‘It’s a place.’ The girl-rat, her alarm apparently subsiding, began picking up her scattered papers. ‘I’m supposed to be practising my reading.’
‘What kind of a place?’
‘It’s where we came from. I don’t know too much about it. I’ve never been there.’
‘How can you come from there if you’ve never been there?’
‘My father and mother did. I was born afterwards. I think it’s white. Anyway, I know one thing. We don’t want to go back. We don’t want to get caught.’
So, Mrs Frisby thought – that sounds as if, whatever Nimh was, the rats had escaped from it to come here. But she realized that she was not likely to get very clear information from such a child. Again, she hoped that Nicodemus would explain it.
‘Did Nicodemus come from Nimh, too?’
‘Yes. You know Justin?’
‘I suppose you’re not a spy,’ said the girl-rat. She sounded mildly disappointed. Then she added irrelevantly: ‘Justin’s not married.’ She climbed on one of the benches and opened a book. ‘He’s the best one of all. He’s not even afraid of Dragon.’ She read in the book for perhaps thirty seconds, picked up her pencil, then put it down again. ‘I’m too young to get married.’
‘I suppose so,’ said Mrs Frisby. ‘For a while yet. But that won’t last long.’
‘That’s what my mother says. But it seems long. And Justin might marry somebody else.’
‘Maybe not,’ said Mrs Frisby, who could see beyond the tip of her nose. ‘He’s pretty young himself yet. What’s your name?’
‘It’s a pretty name.’
‘It’s all right. Only my brother calls me Izzy. I don’t like that.’
‘I don’t wonder. Where’s your brother?’
‘At the meeting. He’s older. All the men are at the meeting. But my mother didn’t go. The mothers don’t always go. She’s in the grain room, packing grain.’
‘For the Plan. She doesn’t like the Plan, though.’
The Plan again.
‘What is the Plan? Why doesn’t she like it?’
‘It’s just – the Plan. For where we’re going to live and all that. She doesn’t like it because she says it’s too hard – no more electric lights, no more refrigerator, no more running water. But she isn’t deserting or anything. Not like Jenner. We didn’t like Jenner.’
‘He was in the group, but he quit. Maybe he went back to Nimh. We don’t know.’
Mrs Frisby was gradually getting a picture of life in the rat colony – a somewhat confusing one because Isabella was a child, but nonetheless certain things were apparent: They had a grain room (presumably for food storage); the females sometimes went to meetings and sometimes not; Nicodemus seemed to be the leader; they had a Plan for the future that some rats did not like; and one, named Jenner, had deserted. Or had others gone with him? She was about to ask Isabella when the library door opened and Nicodemus, Justin, and Mr Ages entered. Another rat came with them, a stranger.
Paul Hoets is a freelance maker who lives in South Korea. If you liked this article and would like to contribute to his empire of dirt, silicon and tech. education, buy him a coffee!