[You may recall from the last chapter that the Summer family was watching a fierce storm. The story continues.]
A small brown sparrow, caught in the wet gusts of wind found herself being blown hopelessly farther from her shelter in the eaves of Mr. Groves barn. Her name was Margalo, and she had come from New York city to the countryside several months before, where she had befriended Mr. Grove’s pigeons who invited her to stay with them. This morning Margalo had gone out before the storm to visit her friend Cosette the mourning dove, who lived in a snug little clump of white pines near the river. Cosette was nesting and had sat comfortably on her single egg in its sparse nest of twigs while she and Margalo conversed. They had exchanged bits of poetry (they were both proficient poets) and Margalo had brought a tidy bunch of grass seed stalks as a gift for her friend. Cosette was very grateful for these, as she had been sitting on her egg and was able to go out less and less in recent days.
“I do believe - though of course not meaning to alarm you” Cosette had said in her meek, cooing voice, “that there is a hawk in our – our vicinity. I espied him swooping low above the tops of the pines yesterday afternoon, as the sun sank below the western horizon,
‘cov’ring the land,
with bountiful hand,
in tinctures of amber from regions sublime’.
Cosette paused, savouring this new poetic utterance and continued. “And I do believe, not discounting the ‘tinctures of amber’ in the air, that it was a red-tailed hawk. Oh dear!”
“Oh dear,” echoed Margalo. Then she had looked at the sky and said, “Oh dear!” again, for dark clouds had begun to roll the light out of the sky. “I really must return to Mr. Grove’s barn without delay!”
“Do be careful, my cherished friend!” Cosette had said mournfully, as Margalo fluttered her wings with a final “Goodbye” and rose through the whispering pine branches into the damp, darkening air. The wind had begun to blow in fierce gusts before Margalo had gotten very far, driving her from her course, and then the rain had begun, making her way even more obscure. Now, Margalo did not know where she was. The Grove’s farm was nowhere in sight. She could see, however, the wide gray river in the distance, hazy and tossing in the rain, and knew that she must get her bearings and a proper command of her now soggy wings before she got too close to it. Rivers were nice to follow when flying north or south, or to perch in twiggy tree branches above the water where it flowed quietly. But the river was not quiet now, and if Margalo could not find a landing place, her weary, wet wings would give out - and she must not be above the rushing, deep river if that happened.
Margalo realized that she was rapidly approaching a large spruce tree. It was waving its shaggy wet branches in the wind and looked like a formidable giant, but Margalo knew that inside the spruce tree there would be shelter and some degree of dryness, so she made a desperate effort to fly toward it. Fortunately, the tree was in the general direction of the wind, so the desperate effort was not very desperate after all, and soon Margalo was resting safely within the prickly gray green boughs where only a few drops of rain plopped through now and then. She fluffed out her sodden feathers and huddled close to the trunk, where, lulled by the darkness and gentle swaying of the spruce tree, she fell asleep.