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Jacob twisted away as Skin-and-Bones's arms lunged for him and clawed at his
clothing. He let the reins drop and put his arms up to protect his neck. The
bony arms were clutching at him now, and he could barely struggle against
their deathly grip. The horses pranced and galloped wildly down the road.
Jacob felt the sharp, bony fingers closing around his neck. He felt his
breath coming in short, desperate gasps. Skin-and-Bones had her face pressed
up against his. Jacob pulled together all the life he had left in his body.
With a burst of strength he tore away the hands from his neck. Skin-and-Bones
reeled back, still grinning her horrible smile. Once again, she lunged for his
throat, but Jacob caught her bony wrists in his hands. He wrenched her out of
her seat and threw her over the side of the buggy. With a bloodcurdling
scream, Skin-and-Bones fell onto the road.
Jacob slumped back in the buggy, half conscious, and let the horses run down
the road to Platkill.
"Jacob Cooper, is that you?" a voice was saying.
Jacob opened his eyes to see his friend looking at him with worried eyes.
"Jacob, what's the matter?" his friend asked. "The horses brought you here,
but you were unconscious. Are you sick?"
"Skin-and-Bones," Jacob mumbled.
"What nonsense are you talking?" his friend exclaimed.
"Skin-and-Bones," Jacob repeated. "She tried to kill me."
"Did you hear that superstitious old story?" his friend asked, pulling him to
the ground. "The local people tell that to frighten travelers."
Jacob rubbed his eyes and looked up at the moonlight. Had it all just been a
dream? Then he looked at his friend and saw the expression of horror on his
face. Jacob followed his friend's eyes to the side of the buggy.
There, dangling from the hook that had caught it as she fell, was the white,
bony hand... of Skin-and-Bones.
The Snake Charmer
Lucy Morris sat on the veranda of her parents' house outside the village of
Kampur. Servants came and went, adding ice to her lemonade or fetching her a
book or treat. Still, Lucy's mouth was set in a pout. She didn't like this
foreign place. Her father had come here to do research for three years, but
only one month had passed, and to Lucy, it had seemed like an eternity.
The heavy, humid heat made Lucy feel faint. The strong, spicy smells of the
food made her lose her appetite. And the insects that scurried about the house
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made her scream in terror.
Lucy sat on the veranda pouring out all her anger into a letter she was
writing her friend back home. Slowly, as she wrote, she became aware of a
sound she hadn't heard before. It was a tune, a low, whining tune being played
on a flute of some kind. Lucy didn't know how long the music had been playing,
but once she was aware of it, she could hear nothing else.
She threw down her pen and paper and got up from the big wicker chair where
she had been sitting. Then she walked to the end of the veranda that was near
the road. The house sat on a dusty, seldom-traveled road that led to the
nearby village. Lucy peered down over the veranda railing and caught her
breath at what she saw.
On the ground was an old man, dressed in rags, moving back and forth as he
played the flute that was making the hypnotic music she heard. The song
repeated itself over and over again in high, whining notes. Lucy was about to
call to the man to go away when she noticed the basket sitting in front of
him. From a hole in its top, a sinister, flat-headed snake was swaying back
and forth to the music.
Lucy screamed when she saw the snake. She had a deathly fear of snakes. The
man glanced up at her with his dark eyes and then went on playing the song for
his cobra.
Lucy ran back into the house and demanded that the servants tell the man to
leave at once.
But the servants shook their heads and muttered that it would bring bad luck
to them. Lucy wished her mother and father were at home, but they were gone
for three days on a research trip. So Lucy ran back out to the end of the
veranda and shouted to the old man to go away.
For a moment, he seemed not to hear her. But Lucy kept shouting and motioning
to him. Then suddenly he stopped moving and playing the flute and stared at
her with his bottomless, black eyes. The cobra suddenly stopped swaying and
turned to look at Lucy, too. The snake's evil-looking eyes seemed to be
memorizing her face. Lucy shrank back in fear and ran into the house. Once
again, the insidious music began.
The music kept up through dinner and into the evening. When Lucy went to bed,
she could still hear the song of the snake charmer's flute. In her mind, she
could see the cobra swaying back and forth to the music. After hours of
tossing and turning in the hot air, she finally fell asleep.
When Lucy woke up, she noticed a change in the air. It was silent. The music
had stopped. Lucy ran to her window that looked out onto the road. Looking
back up at her from the ground was the snake charmer. When he saw her face he
took up his flute and began to play. The music wound its way through the
window into Lucy's brain.
At breakfast she threw a temper tantrum and demanded that the servants get
rid of the snake charmer. But once again, they refused. They tried to tell her
that such a man had strange powers, but she wouldn't listen. She went to the
back of the house as far away from the music as she could get.
Lucy stayed inside the house all morning and all afternoon. But still she
could not escape the snake charmer's song. Before dinner, she walked out onto
the veranda and called to the man.
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"I will give you money," she said, "if you'll just go away. What is it you
want?"
The man played his song for several more minutes. Then he stopped and looked
up at her.
"Something that belongs to you," he said, showing chipped, yellowed teeth. "A
lock of your golden hair."
Just then, the cobra reared its head toward Lucy. She shrank back and ran
into the house, shutting the door tightly behind her. But the music started up
again, like a mad tune in her brain.
Lucy spent another restless night, tossing and turning, and covering her head
with a pillow to keep out the sound of the music. She woke so late the next
morning that the snake charmer had already started playing by the time she got
up. Lucy wasn't sure she could stand it any longer.
She sat down in front of her mirror and started to brush her long, blonde
hair. Then she remembered the snake charmer's wish. She picked up a lock of
her hair and thought how she would hate to cut it. But if that would get rid
of the man and his horrible music, perhaps it would be worth losing. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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