Once & Future King 05 - The Book of Merlyn

Once & Future King 05 - The Book of Merlyn by T. H. White

Book: Once & Future King 05 - The Book of Merlyn by T. H. White Read Free Book Online
Authors: T. H. White
White-Fronted Geese, whom, once a man has seen them, he will never forget.
    Long before the sun came, they were making ready for their flight. Family parties of the previous year's breeding were coming together in batches, and these batches were themselves inclined to join up with other ones, possibly under the command of a grandfather, or of a greatgrandfather, or else of some noted leader in the host. When the drafts were complete, there came a faint tone of excitement into their speech. They began moving their heads from side to side in jerks. And then, turning into the wind, suddenly they would all be in the air together, fourteen or forty at a time, with wide wings scooping the blackness and a cry of triumph in their throats. They would wheel round, climbing rapidly, and be gone from sight. Twenty yards up, they were invisible in the dark. The earlier departures were not vocal: they were inclined to be taciturn before the sun came, only making occasional remarks, or crying their single warning-note if danger threatened. Then, at the warning, they would all rise vertically to the sky.
    He began to feel an uneasiness in himself. The dim squadrons about him, setting out minute by minute, infected him with a tendency. He became restless to embrace their example, but he was shy. Perhaps their family groups, he thought, would resent his intrusion: yet he wanted not to be lonely: he wanted to join in, and to enjoy the exercise of morning flight, which was so evidently a pleasure to them. They had a comradeship, a free discipline and a joie-de-vivre.
    When the goose next to him spread her wings and leaped, he did so automatically. Some eight of those nearby had been jerking their bills, which he had imitated as if the act were catching, and now, with these same eight, he found himself on pinion in the horizontal air. The moment he had left the earth, the wind had vanished: its restlessness and brutality had dropped away as if cut off by a knife: he was in it, and at peace.
    The eight geese spread out in line astern, evenly spaced, with him behind. They made for the east, where the poor lights had been, and now, before them, the bold sun began to rise. A crack of orange broke the black cloud-bank far beyond the land; the glory spread, the salt marsh growing visible below. He saw it like a featureless moor or bogland, which had become maritime by accident; its heather, still looking like heather, having mated with the seaweed until it was a salt wet heather, with slippery fronds. The burns which should have run through the moorland were of sea-water on blueish mud. There were long nets here and there, erected on poles, into which unwary geese might fly. These, he now guessed, had been the occasions of those warning-notes. Two or three widgeon hung in one of them, and, far away to the eastward, a fly-like man was plodding over the slob in tiny persistence, to collect his bag.
    The sun, as it rose, tinged the quicksilver of the creeks and the gleaming slime itself with flame. The curlew, who had been piping their mournful plaints since long before the light, flew now from weed-bank to weed-bank: the widgeon, who had slept on water, came whistling their double notes, like whistles from a Christmas cracker the mallard toiled from land, against the wind: the redshanks scuttled and prodded like mice: a cloud of tiny dunlin, more compact than starlings, turned in the air with the noise of a train: the black-guard of crows rose from the pine trees on the dunes with merry cheers: shore birds of every sort populated the tide line, filling it with business and beauty.
    The dawn, the sea-dawn and the mastery of ordered flight, were of such intense beauty that he was almost moved to sing. All the sorrow of his thoughts about man, the miserable wishes for peace which had beset him in the Combination Room so lately, these fell from him for the moment in the glory of his wings. He would have liked to cry a chorus to life, and, since a thousand

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