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Chapter 19 The Egg Sac

Next morning when the first light came into the sky and the sparrows stirred in the trees, when the cows rattled their chains and the rooster crowed and the early automobiles went whispering along the road, Wilbur awoke and looked for Charlotte. He saw her up overhead in a corner near the back of his pen. she was very quiet. Her eight legs were spread wide. She seemed to have shrunk during the night. Next to her, attached to the ceiling, Wilbur saw a curious object. It was a sort of sac, or cocoon. It was peach-colored and looked as though it were made of cotton candy.

  "Are you awake, Charlotte?" he said softly.

  "Yes," came the answer.

  "What is that nifty little thing? Did you make it?""I did indeed," replied Charlotte in a weak voice.

  "Is it a plaything?""Plaything? I should say not. It is my egg sac, my magnum opus.""I don't know what a magnum opus is," said Wilbur.

  "That Latin," explained Charlotte. "It means 'great work.' This egg sac i smy great work--the finest thing I have ever made.""What's inside it?" asked Wilbur. "Eggs?""Five hundred and fourteen of them," she replied.

  "Five hundred and fourteen? said Wilbur. "You're kidding.""No, I'm not. I counted them. I got started counting, so I kept on--just to keep my mind occupied.""It's a perfectly beautiful egg sac," said Wilbur, feeling as happy as though he had constructed it himself.

  "Yes, it is pretty," replied Charlotte, patting the sac with her two front legs. "Anyway, I can guarantee that it is strong. It's made out of the toughest material I have. It's made out of the toughest material I have. It is also waterproof. The eggs are inside and will be warm and dry.""Charlotte," said Wilbur dreamily, "are you really going to have five hundred and fourteen children?""If nothing happens, yes," she said. "Of course, they won't show up till next spring." Wilbur noticed that Charlotte's voice sounded sad.

  "What makes you sound so down-hearted? I should think you'd be terribly happy about this.""Oh, don't pay any attention to me," said Charlotte. "I just don't have much pep any more. I guess I feel sad because I won't ever see my children.""What do you mean you won't see your children! Of course you will. We'll all see them. It's going to be simply wonderful next spring in the barn cellar with five hundred and fourteen baby spiders running around all over the place. and the geese will have a new set of goslings, and the sheep will have their new lambs...""Maybe," said Charlotte quietly. "However, I have a feeling I'm not going to see the results of last night's efforts. I don't feel good at all. I think I'm languishing, to tell you the truth."Wilbur didn't understand the word "languish" and he hated to bother Charlotte by asking her to explain. But he was so worried he felt he had to ask.

  "What does 'languishing' mean?""It means I'm slowing up, feeling my age. I'm not young any more, Wilbur. But I don't want you to worry about me. This is your big day today. Look at my web--doesn't it show up well with the dew on it?""Charlotte's web never looked more beautiful than it looked this morning. Each strand held dozens of bright drops of early morning dew. The light from the east struck it and made it plain and clear. It was a perfect piece of designing and building. In another hour or two, a steady stream of people would pass by, admiring it, and reading it, and looking at Wilbur, and marveling at the miracle.

  As Wilbur was studying the web, a pair of whiskers and a sharp face appeared. Slowly Templeton dragged himself across the pen and threw himself down in a corner.

  "I'm back," he said in a husky voice. "What a night!"The rat was swollen to twice his normal size. His stomach was as big around as a jelly jar.

  "What a night!" he repeated, hoarsely. "What feasting and carousing! A real gorge! I must have eaten the remains of thirty lunches. Never have I seen such leavings, and everything well-ripened and seasoned with the passage of time and the heat of the day. Oh, it was rich, my friends, rich!""You ought to be ashamed of yourself," said Charlotte in disgust. "It would serve you right if you had an acute attack of indigestion.""Don't worry about my stomach," snarled Templeton. "It can handle anything. and by the way, I've got some bad news. As I came past that pig next door--the one that calls himself Uncle--I noticed a blue tag on the front of his pen. That means he has won first prize. I guess you're licked, Wilbur. You might as well relax--nobody is going to hang any medal on you. Furthermore, I wouldn't be surprised if Zuckerman changes his mind about you. wait till he gets hankering for some fresh pork and smoked ham and crisp bacon! He'll take the knife to you, my boy.""Be still, Templeton!" said Charlotte. "You're too stuffed and bloated to know what you're saying. Don't pay any attention to him, Wilbur!"Wilbur tried not to think about what the rat had just said. He decided to change the subject.

  "Templeton," said Wilbur, "if you weren't so dopey, you would have noticed that Charlotte has made an egg sac. She is goin............

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