Saturday, October 20, 2012

Jean Grave, The Adventures of Nono — Chapter VII

THE ADVENTURES OF NONO

by JEAN GRAVE
 [continued from Chapter VI]

VII

LABOR IN AUTONOMIE

It was broad daylight, the next day, when Nono was awakened by a band of his comrades who had invaded his bedroom.
“Boo! lazybones,” said Mab, mocking him. “the idler who still sleeps and the sun that dazzles him. Yoo-hoo!
“Come on! Get up,” said Hans, “we came to get you to go gardening.”
“No,” said Mab, he promised last night to come with me and see the cows milked. I’ll take him”.
Nono rose briskly, put on his trousers, dressing in the blink of an eye. — the boys had turned down the blankets and sheets, fluffed the mattress and made the bed, while the little girls dusted, swept and tidied up everywhere.
When this was finished, the children led him to one of the rooms in the basement, set up as a bathroom. Two large pools took up the largest part of the room. One contained cool water, and the other lukewarm water for those sensitive to the cold. Around the room were all sorts of devices for all sorts of showers. To undress and jump into the water was the work of a moment for the whole playful band.
Then when they were dried off, they went into another large room that served as dining room where the children were having breakfast: some drinking warm milk, some chocolate, and others coffee. Biquette, who had lined up in the kitchen, came back with a full pot of hot chocolate, from which he poured a large glass for Nono.
“Here,” she said,we have prepared this for you.”
“And here is a good, well-buttered pancake,” said Sacha who had spent the last minute spread the butter on the very hot hotcake.
Nono thanked his friends and began to eat with gusto, while the others did the same.
When they were all fed, the group dispersed. Mab, taking Nono by the hand, led him towards the stables. But the cows had already gone out to the pasture.
Crossing the stables, Mab remarked to his companion how clean and neat they were, and how different from those they had seen in the country. Those were always dark, dirty, and foul-smelling, the bedding looking more like manure than straw.
There was nothing like that here. There were large, spacious rooms, well lit, and paved with large stones, tightly joined and cemented together, at a slight slope to channel liquid into small channels that carried it outside.
Solid partitions, of elegantly hewn boards, separated each animal, forming a stall for it where it could move at its ease. The racks were full of hay, and a bedding of fresh straw covered the ground. A pretty marble plaque on each box gave the name of its tenant.
“You see how well our animals are treated here,” remarked Mab. Here, this is the stall of my favorite; this is the one that I like to take care of.” Indicating the plaque, she said: “You see, her name is Blanchette. Come now, we will find them in the field.”
And exiting the barn, they opened a door to a large meadow where cows grazed and gamboled in the open air.
Some of the Autonomians were in the process of milking them.
“There is my Blanche,” said Mab, running to one of the cows, which made a joyful mooing at seeing his young mistress rush up, and Mab, putting both arms around its neck, kissed it on the nose.
“See how clean she is. We are friends, the two of us. She also knows that I bring her treats.”
And she drew from her pocket a handful of salt, which the beast seemed to savor with delight.
Then, grabbing a pail and stool, Mab set about milking the cow.
At the end of a minute of this exercise, she proposed to Nono to try his turn. Nono took her place, but his inexperienced fingers servant badly served his good intentions, and he was unable to extract a single drop of milk; to his great displeasure, for having seen the ease with which Mab made it pour into the pail, nothing had seemed easier to him.
However, through experiment and explanations from his friend, he managed to get a few drops. This brought transports of joy on the part of the two children, as if they had accomplished a miracle, et Nono, who had started to be discouraged, regained some enthusiasm for the task. But Mab, always restless, took his place and only stopped when the bucket was full.
Nono, who was no longer amused to be a spectator, began to pick some of the flower that covered the pasture. Having an ample harvest, and wanting to surprise his friends Mab et Sacha, who had been so thoughtful towards him, he went to sit in the shade of an enormous walnut tree, and there he began to weave, with the flowers he had picked, some pretty garlands, matching the colors in the way that seemed most harmonious.
He had finished his second garland, and was beginning a third, when, looking up, he saw Mab looking at him.
“My goodness! You’ve been very busy,” she said. “Who are those pretty garlands for?”
“One of them is for you,” said Nono, arranging it in her hair.
“For me, this pretty garland?” said Mab, excitedly, running to admire herself in the brook which qui flowed on the edge of the field. Then, returning: “I could kiss you.” And she applied two great big kisses on his cheeks.
“This one,” said Nono, who had just finished, is for Sacha, and the other is for Biquette. And placing them around his neck, so as not to crumple them, he fetched Mab’s pail, to bring it to the dairy. Then they began looking for their two friends.
They went to the garden, and found Hans who, with some other comrades, digging up a bit of land where they were proposing to do some experiments.
They had read in a book on gardening that by grafting trees of the same species, you could make the same trunk bear different sorts of fruits, roses of different colors on the same rosebush. Desiring to learn if this was true, they wanted to make some plantings that they would graft. Nono admired the ardor with which they worked the earth, digging, furrowing, preparing the fertilizer that had been indicated to them as most suitable to the species with which they intended to experiment.
Hans did not know where to find Biquette and Sacha.
Nono and Mab went on. The found Biquette in one of the greenhouses, tending to the plants cultivated there.
At the sight of the pretty garland, she clapped her hands, jumping for joy. All her companions dropped their work to come and admire it as well, and Nono had to promise to teach them how to make some like them.
Asked where to find Sacha, Biquette assure them that they would find her in the part of the garden assigned to the culture of seeds.
Mab and Nono were quick to run there; they found Sacha, a little brush in her main, taking, with that brush, a fine yellow dust that more than one of you has doubtless noticed in flowers when they are in full bloom.
With the same brush, Sacha daubed the calyxes of different flowers with that same yellow powder.
“What are you up to?” said Mab and Nono, intrigued.
Sacha said that their teacher Botanicus had explained to them that by breeding certain plants together, they could obtain seeds different in shape and color. These are called hybrids.
And as Nono did not understand, never having opened a book of natural history, she explained to him how seeds are formed in flowers.
The yellow dust that she collected came from a little pocket called the anther, and it was collected by another part of the flower called the stigma; for most often, the two organs are in the same flower; but there are certain species where these organs or on separate stalks.
In the first case, the plant is called a hermaphrodite, in the second case, the stalks with the anthers are called male, and those that collect the powder are the females. And it is only the latter that produce the seeds.
The stigma carries the grains of yellow dust that it collects into a gland that is called the ovary, and it grows there, while the organ that has collected it also grows. This is what forms fruit, like apples and pears; the pips inside are the seeds produced by the grains of yellow powder.
In the free state it is insects that, coming to seek their food in the flowers, transport that yellow powder from one flower to another. Here, Sacha fulfilled, with her brush, the role of the insects, only instead of carrying the yellow powder, called pollen, in identical flowers, she brought it to flowers of different sorts, in order to create a new variety.
But while giving these explanations, and showing Nono, in a flower she had picked, the organs that she named, Sacha cast admiring glances at the garland that Mab wore, and the one that Nono had on his arm.
“This is for you,” said Nono placing it on her head.
Sacha was no less enthusiastic than Mab and Biquette. To the friends who clocked around, Nono also promised to teach the method of their construction.
This was a real success; for eight hours, in Autonomie, no one thought of anything but making garlands. The fields, in the end, no longer furnished enough flowers, the gardens were looted a bit, and I do not know that the greenhouses would have been spared, if a new game had not provided a diversion, making the children abandon their garlands.
But with all this, lunchtime came. The tables were still set up outside on the plaza, because it was beautiful weather.
Nono, who was hungry this time, could taste not only the fruits that he liked, but a bunch of others that he did not know. And, no longer being able to eat, as if he was afraid of missing them, he stuffed in his pockets a half-dozen fruits almost like applies, whose name he did not know, but which seemed excelled, and, when they rose from the table, he ran to carry them to his room.


[Continued in Chapter VIII]

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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