When Margalo woke, the dripping had stopped and bits of early morning sunlight were winking through the spruce boughs. She noticed that the spruce tree was also very noisy. Many birds had taken refuge in the tree during the long, wet night and this morning they were all going on at once - singing, chirping, chattering and whistling. One of them was chattering rather more loudly than the others. It was a blue jay.
“Yes siree, I tell you,” he was saying, “I wasn’t a bit afraid of that fella, though he was twice my size. Were the wife and I about to let that hawk have a look at our nest and young’uns? No, sirree! We went a flying at him like all get-out, and he was mighty surprised. Yes siree, I tell you, mighty surprised. He turned that red tail right around and went back from a-whence he came!”
“And the crow,” mentioned a similar, but softer voice - the jay’s wife.
“Oh, yes, the crow,” the jay continued. “Well, he did help a little - not being our friend you know, but common enemies with the hawk - he came along and made a con-tree-bution to our chasing the hawk.”
“We couldn’t have done it without him, I think,” said the jay’s wife.
“Couldn’t have done it!” the jay exclaimed. “I won’t argue he was useful, but really now...”
Margalo shuddered. They were talking about that hawk again. She hoped she might never meet him - being less than half the size of even a blue-jay, and having no mate to help protect her. But there was nothing to do about that now - except to take care of this disgracefully matted plumage! Margolo fluffed her light brown feathers and began to preen herself discreetly, keeping near the trunk so as not to be noticed. When her feathers were once more sleek and tidy, she decided to have a look around and hopped a few inches out on the limb, turning her head and tiny bright black eyes this way and that. The birds were still chattering away.
Then, from high up in the spruce, there was a loud sound of feathers being shaken - loud, because they were LARGE, rough, rustling feathers. Margalo froze. The other birds froze. The chattering stopped. A dozen feathered heads tilted upward, and a dozen sets of small shining eyes gazed warily into the topmost boughs of the spruce. Most of them had forgotten the fact that little birds were not the only kind of birds to hide from storms in giant trees. In the stillness, they all sensed a trembling in the treetop and felt the branches quiver lightly as two large clawed feet sprang from the spruce’s height, and two great brown wings flapped crisply upward into the morning air.
Another small brown finch besides Margalo had slept in the tree that stormy night. His name was Benedict. Benedict slept in the spruce tree every night – not just when there were storms. He had not seen Margalo, because he was perched several branches higher, but he did notice when the hawk had first landed in the tree late in the rainy evening. The hawk seemed more interested in resting at the moment than in looking for small birds to attack, for which Benedict was grateful. Besides, Benedict (who was sensible as well as courageous) knew there was no use in getting away on such a night, so he remained where he was and went promptly back to sleep. But he was relieved when the hawk flew off in the morning, taking his sharp eyes and sharp talons with him.
After the hawk had gone, Benedict ventured out from the dim, damp inside of the tree to the wet and prickly outside which glistened gently in the morning sun. The clouds, having spent themselves on the land, were floating loose and lacy in the blue sky. Everything was fresh and delicious and bright again. Benedict decided to have a good hearty sing. So he did.
“Swee-e-et is the morn!
A new day is born!
A new day is born!
Swee-e-et is the air!
The sunshine is fair!”
Then Benedict saw Margalo on a branch below him. She too, had hopped out into the sunshine and was refreshing herself by drinking beads of rain from the dripping spruce needles, pausing now and then to delicately shake the moisture from her brown feathers. Benedict thought she was very beautiful, and was sure he hadn’t seen her before. “Perhaps she is lost” he thought, “and will need my help.” So he flew down to Margalo’s branch. “Good morning,” he said.
“Good morning,” Margalo replied.
“Have you spent a pleasant night?” asked Benedict.
“Pleasant enough,” Margalo answered. “I would much rather have spent the night in Mr. Grove’s barn, but I lost my way in the storm, so I was glad for the shelter of this tree.”
“I am familiar with Mr. Grove’s barn,” said Benedict. “Would you like me to show you the way back?”
“Oh, yes, please – and thank you very much” said Margalo, which Benedict thought was quite proper, and he said “You are welcome” then turned toward the sun. “Follow me,” he said and with a flutter of wings rose into the air. Margalo with a flutter of her own was not far behind.
Benedict guided Margalo safely to Mr. Grove’s barn, where a cluster of worried pigeons greeted her with much relief and chortles of pleasure. Margalo thanked him again very cordially, and Benedict replied, “I am glad to be of service.” Then, having accomplished his mission, he flew back into the morning air and headed south towards the rye fields.