Snow rarely lasts very long on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands, so Algy was not surprised to find that it was soon followed by rain, and before long the landscape had been transformed again.

When he woke up the next day, Algy immediately detected a subtle change, almost as though spring might be hiding somewhere just around the corner. He found himself a bright spot beneath an isolated gorse bush on the hill, covered his legs with dry bracken to keep himself warm, and sat there in the cool morning sunshine, letting the stiff breeze blow-dry his feathers until they felt all fluffy again. There was definitely a sense of something new in the light and in the air, and Algy remembered a poem by Hilaire Belloc:

          The winter moon has such a quiet car
          That all the winter nights are dumb with rest.
          She drives the gradual dark with drooping crest,
          And dreams go wandering from her drowsy star.
          Because the nights are silent, do not wake:
          But there shall tremble through the general earth,
          And over you, a quickening and a birth.
          The sun is near the hill-tops for your sake.

          The latest born of all the days shall creep
          To kiss the tender eyelids of the year;
          And you shall wake, grown young with perfect sleep,
          And smile at the new world, and make it dear
          With living murmurs more than dreams are deep.
          Silence is dead, my Dawn; the morning’s here.

[Algy is quoting the poem February by the early 20th century Anglo-French writer Hilaire Belloc.]


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