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Chapter 18 The Cool of the Evening

In the cool of the evening, when shadows darkened the Fair Grounds, Templeton crept from the carte and looked around. Wilbur lay asleep in the straw. Charlotte was building a web. Templeton's keen nose detected many fine smells in the air. The rat was hungry and thirsty. He decided to go exploring. Without saying anything to anybody, he started off.

  "Bring me back a word!" Charlotte called after him. "I shall be writing tonight for the last time."The rat mumbled something to himself and disappeared into the shadows. He did not like being treated like a messenger boy.

  After the heat of the day, the evening came as a welcome relief to all. The Ferris wheel was lighted now. It went round and round in the sky and seemed twice as high as by day. There were lights on the midway, and you could hear the crackle of the gambling machines and the music of the merry-go-round and the voice of the man in the beano booth calling numbers.

  The children felt refreshed after their nap. Fern met her friend Henry Fussy, and he invited her to ride with him in the Ferris wheel. He even bought a ticket for her, so it didn't cost her anything. When Mrs. Arable happened to look up into the starry sky and saw here little daughter sitting with Henry Fussy and going higher and higher into the air, and saw how happy Fern looked, she just shook her head. "My, my!" she said. "Henry Fussy. Think of that!"Templeton kept out of sight. In the tall grass behind the cattle barn he found a folded newspaper. Inside it were leftleftovers from somebody's lunch: a deviled ham sandwich, a piece of Swiss cheese, part of a hard-boiled egg, and the core of a wormy apple. The rat crawled in and ate everything. Then he tore a word out of the paper, rolled it up, and started back to Wilbur's pen.

  Carlotte had her web almost finished when Templeton returned, carrying the newspaper clipping. She had left a space in the middle of the web. At this hour, no people were around the pigpen, so the rat and the spider and the pig were by themselves.

  "I hope you brought a good one," Charlotte said. "It's the last word I shall ever write.""Here," said Templeton, unrolling the paper.

  "What does it say?" asked Charlotte. "You'll have to read it for me.""It says 'Humble'" replied the rat.

  "Humble?" said Charlotte. "'Humble' has two meanings. It means 'not proud' and it means 'near the ground.' That's Wilbur all over. He's not proud and he's near the ground.""Well, I hope you're satisfied," sneered the rat. "I'm not going to spend all my time fetching and carrying. I came to this Fair to enjoy myself, not to deliver papers.""You've been very helpful," Charlotte said. "Run along, if you want to see more of the Fair."The rat grinned. "I'm going to make a night of it," he said. "The old sheep was right--this Fair is a rat's paradise. What eating! And what drinking! And everywhere good hiding and good hunting. Bye, bye, my humble Wilbur! Fare thee well, charlotte, you old schemer! This will be a night to remember in a rat's life."He vanished into the shadows.

  Charlotte went back to her work. It was quite dark now. In the distance, fireworks began going off--ro............

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