Page 11 of Charlotte's Web

wo great white birds with their long white necks and black bills. Nothing he had ever seen before in all his life had made him feel quite the way he felt, on that wild little pond, in the presence of those two enormous swans. They were so much bigger than any bird he had ever seen before. The nest was big, too--a mound of sticks and grasses. The female was sitting on eggs; the male glided slowly back and forth, guarding her.

When Sam reached camp, tired and hungry, he found his father frying a couple of fish for lunch.

"Where have you been?" asked Mr. Beaver.

"Exploring," replied Sam. "I walked over to a pond about a mile and a half from here. It's the one we see from the air as we're coming in. It isn't much of a place--nowhere near as big as this lake we're on."

"Did you see anything over there?" asked his father.

"Well," said Sam, "it's a swampy pond with a lot of reeds and cattails. I don't think it would be any good for fishing. And it's hard to get to--you have to cross a swamp."

"See anything?" repeated Mr. Beaver.

"I saw a muskrat," said Sam, "and a few Red-winged Blackbirds."

Mr. Beaver looked up from the wood stove, where the fish were sizzling in a pan.

"Sam," he said, "I know you like to go exploring. But don't forget--these woods and marshes are not like the country around home in Montana. If you ever go over to that pond again, be careful you don't get lost. I don't like you crossing swamps. They're treacherous. You could step into a soggy place and get bogged down, and there wouldn't be anybody to pull you out."

"I'll be careful," said Sam. He knew perfectly well he would be going back to the pond where the swans were. And he had no intention of getting lost in the woods. He felt relieved that he had not told his father about seeing the swans, but he felt queer about it, too. Sam was not a sly boy, but he was odd in one respect: he liked to keep things to himself. And he liked being alone, particularly when he was in the woods. He enjoyed the life on his father's cattle ranch in the Sweet Grass country in Montana. He loved his mother. He loved Duke, his cow pony. He loved riding the range. He loved watching guests who came to board at the Beavers' ranch every summer.

But the thing he enjoyed most in life was these camping trips in Canada with his father. Mrs. Beaver didn't care for the woods, so she seldom went along--it was usually just Sam and Mr. Beaver. They would motor to the border and cross into Canada. There Mr. Beaver would hire a bush pilot to fly them to the lake where his camp was, for a few days of fishing and loafing and exploring. Mr. Beaver did most of the fishing and loafing. Sam did the exploring. And then the pilot would return to take them out. His name was Shorty. They would hear the sound of his motor and run out and wave and watch him glide down onto the lake and taxi his plane in to the dock. These were the pleasantest days of Sam's life, these days in the woods, far, far from everywhere--no automobiles, no roads, no people, no noise, no school, no homework, no problems, except the problem of getting lost. And, of course, the problem of what to be when he grew up. Every boy has that problem.

After supper that evening, Sam and his father sat for a while on the porch. Sam was reading a bird book.

"Pop," said Sam, "do you think we'll be coming back to camp again about a month from now--I mean, in about thirty-five days or something like that?"

"I guess so," replied Mr. Beaver. "I certainly hope so. But why thirty-five days? What's so special about thirty-five days?"

"Oh, nothing," said Sam. "I just thought it might be very nice around here in thirty-five days."

"That's the craziest thing I ever heard of," said Mr. Beaver. "It's nice here all the time."

Sam went indoors. He knew a lot about birds, and he knew it would take a swan about thirty-five days to hatch her eggs. He hoped he could be at the pond to see the young ones when they came out of the eggs.

Sam kept a diary--a daybook about his life. It was just a cheap notebook that was always by his bed. Every night, before he turned in, he would write in the book. He wrote about things he had done, things he had seen, and thoughts he had had. Sometimes he drew a picture. He always ended by asking himself a question so he would have something to think about while falling asleep. On the day he found the swan's nest, this is what Sam wrote in his diary:

I saw a pair of trumpeter swans today on a small pond east of camp. The female has a nest with eggs in it. I saw three, but I'm going to put four in the picture--I think she was laying another one. This is the greatest discovery I ever made in my entire life. I did not tell Pop. My bird book says baby swans are called cygnets. I am going back tomorrow to visit the great swans again. I heard a fox bark today. Why does a fox bark? Is it because he is mad, or worried, or hungry, or because he is sending a message to another fox? Why does a fox bark?

Sam closed his notebook, undressed, crawled into his bunk, and lay there with his eyes closed, wondering why a fox barks. In a few minutes he was asleep.

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About the Author and Artists

E. B. WHITE was born in Mount Vernon, New York, and graduated from Cornell University in 1921. He was awarded the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1970 for both CHARLOTTE'S WEB, a Newbery Honor Book, and STUART LITTLE, and was commended for making "a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children." He is also the author of THE TRUMPET OF THE SWAN. Mr. White, who also authored over seventeen books of prose and poetry, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1973.

During his lifetime, many young readers asked Mr. White if his stories were true. In a letter written to one of his fans, he answered, "No, they are imaginary tales . . . but real life is only one kind of life--there is also the life of the imagination."

GARTH WILLIAMS illustrated almost 100 books for children, including the beloved STUART LITTLE, also by E. B. White, BEDTIME FOR FRANCES by Russell Hoban, and the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

ROSEMARY WELLS, author and illustrator of almost eighty books, considers Garth Williams one of the true geniuses of twentieth-century book illustration and feels that had he had today's technology available, he would have chosen to do the illustrations for CHARLOTTE'S WEB in full color. Applying a very simple palette befitting the story's setting, Ms. Wells hopes her results would have pleased Garth Williams.

Discover great authors, exclusive offers, and more at

Books by E. B. White

Charlotte's Web

Stuart Little

The Trumpet of the Swan

Essays of E. B. White

Letters of E. B. White, Revised Edition

Writings from The New Yorker 1925-1976


Cover art copyright (c) renewed 1980 by Estate of Garth Williams

Watercolors of Garth Williams artwork by Rosemary Wells

Watercolors copyright (c) 1999 by Estate of Garth Williams


CHARLOTTE'S WEB FULL COLOR EDITION. Copyright, 1952, by E. B. White. Text copyright (c) renewed 1980 by E. B. White. Illustrations copyright (c) renewed 1980 by Estate of Garth Williams. Colorizations copyright (c) 1999 by Estate of Garth Williams. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 52-9760

Full Color Edition ISBN 0-06-441093-5 (pbk.) EPub Edition (c) January 2015 ISBN 9780062406781

13 SCP 30

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E. B. White, Charlotte's Web
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