en-fr  Isaac_Asimov_Youth_chapter1
ttp://www.gutenberg.org/files/31547/31547-h/31547-h.htm. (Licence Gutenberg).

Isaac Azimov : Ah! Jeunesse — Chapitre 1

Red et Slim trouvèrent les deux petits animaux étranges, au matin, après avoir entendu des bruits de tonnerre. Ils savaient qu'ils ne montreraient jamais leurs animaux de compagnie à leurs parents.

Des cailloux cognèrent contre la fenêtre, le plus jeune se retourna dans son sommeil. Un autre et il fut réveillé.

Il s'assit tout droit sur son lit. Quelques secondes passèrent pendant qu'il analysait l'étrangeté de ce qui l'entourait. Il n'était pas dans sa maison, bien entendu. C'était au dehors, dans le pays. Il faisait plus froid qu'il n'aurait dû, et il y avait du vert à la fenêtre.

— Slim !

L'appel était un murmure rauque et insistant, et le plus jeune bondit vers la fenêtre ouverte.

Slim n'était pas son vrai nom, mais le nouvel ami qu'il avait rencontré la veille n'avait eu besoin que d'un regard sur sa petite silhouette pour dire : — Tu es Slim. Il ajouta : — Je suis Red.

Red n'était pas son vrai nom, non plus, mais son bien-fondé était évident. Leur amité fut instantanée, de cette amitié incontestablement spontanée propre à la jeunesse, mais pas encore tout à fait l'adolescence, avant même que les premiers signes de l'âge adulte ne commencent à faire leur apparition.

Slim cria : — Salut Red ! et s'agita gaiement, les yeux encore pleins de sommeil.

Red garda son chuchotement rauque : — Tais-toi ! Tu veux réveiller quelqu'un ?

Slim nota tout à coup que le soleil dépassait à peine les petites collines de l'est, que les ombres étaient longues et douces et que l'herbe était humide.

Slim dit, plus doucement : — Que se passe-t-il ?

Red lui indiqua seulement d'un signe de la main de sortir.

Slim s'habilla rapidement, limitant avec plaisir sa toilette matinale en s'aspergeant brièvement d'un peu d'eau tiède. En sortant, il laissa l'air sec sécher les parties exposées de son corps, pendant que sa peau nue se mouillait au contact de l'herbe humide.

Red dit : — Tu dois te taire. Si maman ou papa se réveille ou ton père ou même qui que ce soit, alors ce sera : — Rentre ou tu vas attraper froid.

Il imita si fidèlement la voix et le ton, que Slim rigola et pensa qu'il n'avait jamais eu de copain aussi marrant que Red.

Slim dit avec enthousiasme : — Tu sors ici tous les jours comme cela Red ? Très tôt ? C'est comme si le monde entier t'appartenait, n'est-ce pas Red ? Personne d'autre aux alentours et tout comme ça. Il se sentit fier d'avoir la permission d'entrer dans ce monde secret.

Red le regarda fixement de côté. Il dit négligemment : je suis debout depuis des heures. Ne l'as-tu pas entendu la nuit dernière ?

— Entendu quoi ?

— Le tonnerre.

— Y avait-il un orage ? Slim ne dormait jamais quand il y avait un orage.

— Je suppose que non. Mais il y avait du tonnerre. Je l'ai entendu et quand je suis allé à la fenêtre il ne pleuvait pas. C'était plein d'étoiles et le ciel commençait juste à devenir presque gris. — Tu sais ce que je pense ?

Slim n'avait jamais vu cela, mais il fit un signe de tête.

— Alors j'ai simplement pensé que j'allais sortir, dit Red.

Ils marchèrent le long de la partie herbeuse de la voie bétonnée qui coupait le panorama en plein milieu, jusqu'au bout, là où elle disparait parmi les collines.

C'était si ancien que le père de Red n'en avait pas parlé à Red lorsqu'il l'a acheté. Il n'y avait pas une crevasse ou la moindre irrégularité à sa surface.

Red dit : — Peux-tu garder un secret ?

— Bien sûr, Red. Quelle sorte de secret ?

— Juste un secret. Peut-être que je te le dirai et peut-être pas. Je ne sais pas encore. Red prit une longue tige souple de fougère en passant et lui enleva méthodiquement ses petites feuilles et balança ce qu'il en restait à la manière d'un fouet.

Un instant il fut sur un cheval sauvage qui se cabrait et piaffait sous son strict contrôle. Puis il en a eut assez, jeta le fouet sur le côté et rangea le destrier plus loin, dans un coin de son imagination, pour une future utilisation.

— Il y aura un cirque dans les parages, dit-il.

— Ce n'est pas un secret, dit Slim Je savais ça. Mon papa me l'a même dit avant que nous venions ici — Ce n'est pas le secret. Joli secret ! Déjà vu un cirque ?

— Oh, bien sûr. Tu paries.

— Comme ça ?

— Dire qu'il n'y a rien que j'aime autant.

Red observait, à nouveau, du coin de l'œil. — Ne penses-tu jamais que tu voudrais vivre dans un cirque ? Et pour de bon ?

Slim réfléchit : — Je suppose que non. Je pense que je serai astronome comme papa. Je pense qu'il veut que je le sois.

— Huh ! Astronome ! dit Red.

Slim sentit les portes de l'inconnu, de l'univers réservé se refermer sur lui et l'astronomie devint une configuration d'espace vide, d'étoiles noires et mortes.

Il dit, de manière placide : — Un cirque serait plus amusant.

— C'est toi qui le dis.

— Non, je ne plaisante pas. Je suis sérieux.

Red devint chicaneur. — Supposons que tu aies l'opportunité de rejoindre le cirque tout de suite. Tu ferais quoi ?

— Je...je...Voyons ! Red afficha un rire méprisant.

Slim en fut blessé. — Je m'engagerais.

— Vas-y.

—Teste-moi

Red tourbillona près de lui, étrange et vif. — Tu le pensais vraiment ? Tu veux y aller avec moi ?

Qu'en penses-tu ? Slim recula un peu, surpris par ce problème inattendu.

— J'ai quelque chose qui peut nous faire entrer dans le cirque. Peut-être qu'un jour nous pourrons même avoir notre propre cirque. Nous pourrons être la plus grande compagnie de cirque au monde.

Ce s'ra comme ça, si tu veux y'aller avec moi. Sinon... je pense que je peux faire tout seul. Je pensais juste : faut donner une chance à ce bon vieux Slim.

L'univers était étrange et séduisant, et Slim dit : — Bien sûr, Red. J'te suis ! C'est quoi, hein, Red ? Dis-moi ce que c'est.

— Comprends ça. Quelle est la chose la plus importante dans les cirques ?

Slim réfléchit intensément. Il voulait donner la bonne réponse. Enfin il dit : Les acrobates ?

— Ah la vache ! Je ne ferais pas un pas pour voir des acrobates.

— Alors, je sais pas.

— Les animaux, ce sont les animaux ! Quelle est la meilleure attraction ? Où trouve-t-on les plus grandes foules ? Même sur les plus importantes pistes, les meilleurs numéros sont des numéros avec des animaux. La voix de Red ne laissait place à aucun doute.

— Tu crois ?

— Tout le monde le croit. Demande autour de toi. En tout cas, j'ai trouvé des animaux ce matin. Deux.

— Et tu les as ?

— Bien sûr. C'est le secret. Ça te la coupe ?

— Pas du tout.

— D'accord. Ils sont dans la grange. Tu veux les voir ?

Ils étaient presque arrivés à la grange ; son énorme porte noire était ouverte. Trop noire. Ils étaient tout le temps fourrés là. Slim s'arrêta net.

Il s'efforça de prendre un ton détaché. — Ils sont grands ?

— J'aurais joué avec eux s'ils avaient été grands ? Ils ne peuvent pas te faire de mal. Ils sont à peu près grands comme ça. Je les ai mis dans une cage.

À présent, ils étaient dans la grange et Slim vit la grande cage suspendue au plafond par un crochet. Elle était recouverte d'une toile raide.

Red ajouta : — Autrefois nous avions un oiseau ici ou un truc dans le genre. Quoi qu'il en soit, ils ne peuvent pas s'enfuir de là. Viens, allons au grenier.

Ils grimpèrent les escaliers en bois et Red accrocha la cage face à eux.

Slim en désignant, dit : — Il y a une espèce de trou dans la toile.

Red fronça les sourcils. — Comment ça s'est produit ? Il souleva la toile, regarda à l'intérieur, et dit d'un air soulagé : — Ils sont toujours là.

— La toile semble être brûlée, s'inquiéta Slim.

— Tu veux voir, ou pas ?

Slim acquiesça lentement. Il n'était pas sûr de le souhaiter, après tout. Ce pourraient être... — bien que la toile ait été déchirée, ils étaient là. deux d'entre eux, dit Red d'une voix particulière. Ils étaient petits et plutôt dégoûtants. Les animaux se déplacèrent rapidement au fur et à mesure que la toile se soulevait et se trouvèrent sur le côté où se tenaient les jeunes. Red avança un doigt prudent en leur direction.

— Fais gaffe, dit Slim, anxieux.

— Ils ne te feront pas de mal, dit Red. — Tu en as déjà vu des comme ça ?.

— Non.

— Tu imagines comme un cirque sauterait sur l'occasion d'en posséder des comme eux ?

— Ils sont peut-être trop petits pour un cirque.

Red semblait ennuyé. Il relâcha la cage qui se balança d'avant en arrière comme un pendule. — Tu veux changer d'avis, c'est ça ?

— Non, pas du tout. C'est juste... — Ils ne sont pas trop petits, t'inquiète. En ce moment, je n'ai qu'un souci.

— Lequel ?

— Eh bien, je dois les garder jusqu'à ce que le cirque arrive, n'est-ce pas ? Je dois trouver ce qu'il faut pour les nourrir en attendant.

La cage se balançait et les petites créatures piégées s'accrochaient aux barreaux, faisant signe aux jeunes avec des gestes étranges et rapides : presque comme s'ils étaient intelligents.
unit 1
ttp://www.gutenberg.org/files/31547/31547-h/31547-h.htm.
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(Gutenberg License).
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Isaac Asimov: YOUTH_chapter_1.
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Red and Slim found the two strange little animals the morning after they heard the thunder sounds.
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They knew that they could never show their new pets to their parents.
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There was a spatter of pebbles against the window and the youngster stirred in his sleep.
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Another, and he was awake.
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He sat up stiffly in bed.
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Seconds passed while he interpreted his strange surroundings.
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He wasn't in his own home, of course.
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This was out in the country.
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It was colder than it should be and there was green at the window.
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"Slim!"
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The call was a hoarse, urgent whisper, and the youngster bounded to the open window.
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He added, "I'm Red."
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Red wasn't his real name, either, but its appropriateness was obvious.
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Slim cried, "Hi, Red!"
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and waved cheerfully, still blinking the sleep out of himself.
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Red kept to his croaking whisper, "Quiet!
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You want to wake somebody?"
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Slim said, more softly, "What's the matter?"
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Red only waved for him to come out.
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Red said, "You've got to be quiet.
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Slim said, eagerly, "Do you come out here every day like this, Red?
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Real early?
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It's like the whole world is just yours, isn't it, Red?
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No one else around and all like that."
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He felt proud at being allowed entrance into this private world.
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Red stared at him sidelong.
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He said carelessly, "I've been up for hours.
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Didn't you hear it last night?"
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"Hear what?"
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"Thunder."
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"Was there a thunderstorm?"
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Slim never slept through a thunderstorm.
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"I guess not.
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But there was thunder.
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I heard it, and then I went to the window and it wasn't raining.
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It was all stars and the sky was just getting sort of almost gray.
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You know what I mean?"
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Slim had never seen it so, but he nodded.
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"So I just thought I'd go out," said Red.
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It was so old that Red's father couldn't tell Red when it had been built.
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It didn't have a crack or a rough spot in it.
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Red said, "Can you keep a secret?"
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"Sure, Red.
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What kind of a secret?"
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"Just a secret.
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Maybe I'll tell you and maybe I won't.
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I don't know yet."
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For a moment, he was on a wild charger, which reared and champed under his iron control.
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He said, "There'll be a circus around."
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Slim said, "That's no secret.
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I knew that.
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My Dad told me even before we came here—" "That's not the secret.
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Fine secret!
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Ever see a circus?"
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"Oh, sure.
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You bet."
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"Like it?"
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"Say, there isn't anything I like better."
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Red was watching out of the corner of his eyes again.
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"Ever think you would like to be with a circus?
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I mean, for good?"
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Slim considered, "I guess not.
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I think I'll be an astronomer like my Dad.
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I think he wants me to be."
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"Huh!
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Astronomer!"
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said Red.
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He said, placatingly, "A circus would be more fun."
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"You're just saying that."
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"No, I'm not.
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I mean it."
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Red grew argumentative.
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"Suppose you had a chance to join the circus right now.
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What would you do?"
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"I—I—" "See!"
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Red affected scornful laughter.
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Slim was stung.
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"I'd join up."
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"Go on."
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"Try me."
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Red whirled at him, strange and intense.
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"You meant that?
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You want to go in with me?"
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"What do you mean?"
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Slim stepped back a bit, surprised by the unexpected challenge.
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"I got something that can get us into the circus.
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Maybe someday we can even have a circus of our own.
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We could be the biggest circus-fellows in the world.
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That's if you want to go in with me.
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Otherwise—Well, I guess I can do it on my own.
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I just thought: Let's give good old Slim a chance."
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The world was strange and glamorous, and Slim said, "Sure thing, Red.
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I'm in!
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What is it, huh, Red?
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Tell me what it is."
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"Figure it out.
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What's the most important thing in circuses?"
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Slim thought desperately.
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He wanted to give the right answer.
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Finally, he said, "Acrobats?"
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"Holy Smokes!
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I wouldn't go five steps to look at acrobats."
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"I don't know then."
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"Animals, that's what!
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What's the best side-show?
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Where are the biggest crowds?
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Even in the main rings the best acts are animal acts."
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There was no doubt in Red's voice.
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"Do you think so?"
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"Everyone thinks so.
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You ask anyone.
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Anyway, I found animals this morning.
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Two of them."
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"And you've got them?"
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"Sure.
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That's the secret.
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Are you telling?"
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"Of course not."
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"Okay.
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I've got them in the barn.
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Do you want to see them?"
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They were almost at the barn; its huge open door black.
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Too black.
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They had been heading there all the time.
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Slim stopped in his tracks.
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He tried to make his words casual.
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"Are they big?"
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"Would I fool with them if they were big?
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They can't hurt you.
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They're only about so long.
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I've got them in a cage."
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They were in the barn now and Slim saw the large cage suspended from a hook in the roof.
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It was covered with stiff canvas.
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Red said, "We used to have some bird there or something.
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Anyway, they can't get away from there.
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Come on, let's go up to the loft."
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They clambered up the wooden stairs and Red hooked the cage toward them.
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unit 152
Slim pointed and said, "There's sort of a hole in the canvas."
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unit 153
Red frowned.
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unit 154
"How'd that get there?"
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unit 155
He lifted the canvas, looked in, and said, with relief, "They're still there."
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unit 156
"The canvas appeared to be burned," worried Slim.
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unit 157
"You want to look, or don't you?"
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unit 158
Slim nodded slowly.
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unit 159
He wasn't sure he wanted to, after all.
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unit 160
They might be— But the canvas had been jerked off and there they were.
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unit 161
Two of them, the way Red said.
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unit 162
They were small, and sort of disgusting-looking.
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unit 163
The animals moved quickly as the canvas lifted and were on the side toward the youngsters.
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unit 164
Red poked a cautious finger at them.
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unit 165
"Watch out," said Slim, in agony.
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unit 166
"They don't hurt you," said Red.
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unit 167
"Ever see anything like them?"
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unit 168
"No."
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unit 169
"Can't you see how a circus would jump at a chance to have these?"
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unit 170
"Maybe they're too small for a circus."
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unit 171
Red looked annoyed.
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unit 172
He let go the cage which swung back and forth pendulum-fashion.
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unit 173
"You're just trying to back out, aren't you?"
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unit 174
"No, I'm not.
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unit 175
It's just—" "They're not too small, don't worry.
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unit 176
Right now, I've only got one worry."
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unit 177
"What's that?"
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unit 178
"Well, I've got to keep them till the circus comes, don't I?
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unit 179
I've got to figure out what to feed them meanwhile."
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ttp://www.gutenberg.org/files/31547/31547-h/31547-h.htm. (Gutenberg License).

Isaac Asimov: YOUTH_chapter_1.

Red and Slim found the two strange little animals the morning after they heard the thunder sounds. They knew that they could never show their new pets to their parents.

There was a spatter of pebbles against the window and the youngster stirred in his sleep. Another, and he was awake.

He sat up stiffly in bed. Seconds passed while he interpreted his strange surroundings. He wasn't in his own home, of course. This was out in the country. It was colder than it should be and there was green at the window.

"Slim!"

The call was a hoarse, urgent whisper, and the youngster bounded to the open window.

Slim wasn't his real name, but the new friend he had met the day before had needed only one look at his slight figure to say, "You're Slim." He added, "I'm Red."

Red wasn't his real name, either, but its appropriateness was obvious. They were friends instantly with the quick unquestioning friendship of young ones not yet quite in adolescence, before even the first stains of adulthood began to make their appearance.

Slim cried, "Hi, Red!" and waved cheerfully, still blinking the sleep out of himself.

Red kept to his croaking whisper, "Quiet! You want to wake somebody?"

Slim noticed all at once that the sun scarcely topped the low hills in the east, that the shadows were long and soft, and that the grass was wet.

Slim said, more softly, "What's the matter?"

Red only waved for him to come out.

Slim dressed quickly, gladly confining his morning wash to the momentary sprinkle of a little lukewarm water. He let the air dry the exposed portions of his body as he ran out, while bare skin grew wet against the dewy grass.

Red said, "You've got to be quiet. If Mom wakes up or Dad or your Dad or even any of the hands then it'll be 'Come on in or you'll catch your death of cold.'"

He mimicked voice and tone faithfully, so that Slim laughed and thought that there had never been so funny a fellow as Red.

Slim said, eagerly, "Do you come out here every day like this, Red? Real early? It's like the whole world is just yours, isn't it, Red? No one else around and all like that." He felt proud at being allowed entrance into this private world.

Red stared at him sidelong. He said carelessly, "I've been up for hours. Didn't you hear it last night?"

"Hear what?"

"Thunder."

"Was there a thunderstorm?" Slim never slept through a thunderstorm.

"I guess not. But there was thunder. I heard it, and then I went to the window and it wasn't raining. It was all stars and the sky was just getting sort of almost gray. You know what I mean?"

Slim had never seen it so, but he nodded.

"So I just thought I'd go out," said Red.

They walked along the grassy side of the concrete road that split the panorama right down the middle all the way down to where it vanished among the hills.

It was so old that Red's father couldn't tell Red when it had been built. It didn't have a crack or a rough spot in it.

Red said, "Can you keep a secret?"

"Sure, Red. What kind of a secret?"

"Just a secret. Maybe I'll tell you and maybe I won't. I don't know yet." Red broke a long, supple stem from a fern they passed, methodically stripped it of its leaflets and swung what was left whip-fashion.

For a moment, he was on a wild charger, which reared and champed under his iron control. Then he got tired, tossed the whip aside and stowed the charger away in a corner of his imagination for future use.

He said, "There'll be a circus around."

Slim said, "That's no secret. I knew that. My Dad told me even before we came here—"

"That's not the secret. Fine secret! Ever see a circus?"

"Oh, sure. You bet."

"Like it?"

"Say, there isn't anything I like better."

Red was watching out of the corner of his eyes again. "Ever think you would like to be with a circus? I mean, for good?"

Slim considered, "I guess not. I think I'll be an astronomer like my Dad. I think he wants me to be."

"Huh! Astronomer!" said Red.

Slim felt the doors of the new, private world closing on him and astronomy became a thing of dead stars and black, empty space.

He said, placatingly, "A circus would be more fun."

"You're just saying that."

"No, I'm not. I mean it."

Red grew argumentative. "Suppose you had a chance to join the circus right now. What would you do?"

"I—I—"

"See!" Red affected scornful laughter.

Slim was stung. "I'd join up."

"Go on."

"Try me."

Red whirled at him, strange and intense. "You meant that? You want to go in with me?"

"What do you mean?" Slim stepped back a bit, surprised by the unexpected challenge.

"I got something that can get us into the circus. Maybe someday we can even have a circus of our own. We could be the biggest circus-fellows in the world.

That's if you want to go in with me. Otherwise—Well, I guess I can do it on my own. I just thought: Let's give good old Slim a chance."

The world was strange and glamorous, and Slim said, "Sure thing, Red. I'm in! What is it, huh, Red? Tell me what it is."

"Figure it out. What's the most important thing in circuses?"

Slim thought desperately. He wanted to give the right answer. Finally, he said, "Acrobats?"

"Holy Smokes! I wouldn't go five steps to look at acrobats."

"I don't know then."

"Animals, that's what! What's the best side-show? Where are the biggest crowds? Even in the main rings the best acts are animal acts." There was no doubt in Red's voice.

"Do you think so?"

"Everyone thinks so. You ask anyone. Anyway, I found animals this morning. Two of them."

"And you've got them?"

"Sure. That's the secret. Are you telling?"

"Of course not."

"Okay. I've got them in the barn. Do you want to see them?"

They were almost at the barn; its huge open door black. Too black. They had been heading there all the time. Slim stopped in his tracks.

He tried to make his words casual. "Are they big?"

"Would I fool with them if they were big? They can't hurt you. They're only about so long. I've got them in a cage."

They were in the barn now and Slim saw the large cage suspended from a hook in the roof. It was covered with stiff canvas.

Red said, "We used to have some bird there or something. Anyway, they can't get away from there. Come on, let's go up to the loft."

They clambered up the wooden stairs and Red hooked the cage toward them.

Slim pointed and said, "There's sort of a hole in the canvas."

Red frowned. "How'd that get there?" He lifted the canvas, looked in, and said, with relief, "They're still there."

"The canvas appeared to be burned," worried Slim.

"You want to look, or don't you?"

Slim nodded slowly. He wasn't sure he wanted to, after all. They might be—

But the canvas had been jerked off and there they were. Two of them, the way Red said. They were small, and sort of disgusting-looking. The animals moved quickly as the canvas lifted and were on the side toward the youngsters. Red poked a cautious finger at them.

"Watch out," said Slim, in agony.

"They don't hurt you," said Red. "Ever see anything like them?"

"No."

"Can't you see how a circus would jump at a chance to have these?"

"Maybe they're too small for a circus."

Red looked annoyed. He let go the cage which swung back and forth pendulum-fashion. "You're just trying to back out, aren't you?"

"No, I'm not. It's just—"

"They're not too small, don't worry. Right now, I've only got one worry."

"What's that?"

"Well, I've got to keep them till the circus comes, don't I? I've got to figure out what to feed them meanwhile."

The cage swung and the little trapped creatures clung to its bars, gesturing at the youngsters with queer, quick motions—almost as though they were intelligent.