And the falcon became his. He bent his head forward to listen, his eyes calm and watchful, when the frosty twigs cracked under Renaud’s step in the silence of the morning. He sprang lightly down from his cage and stretched himself toward his hand and flapped his wings as if to fly—this was merely a reminder—and so they hastened out to the expanses of the moors, which were gradually becoming light.
Their eyes gazed sharply at the dark red sky. Black lay the hills and the sparse thickets, and the trees slept on, their boughs heavy with silent birds. But the sky became brighter, flaming with gold and red, and the lines of the fields became blue, and the owl flew low over the ground seeking her hiding-place, and the day-birds stretched their wings and chirped gently on account of the cold, and their flight stood black against the glimmering air. But Reriaud and his falcon hastened past, for these were sparrows and thrushes—no prey for them.
Grew smaller against
Down toward the marshes the herons were already shrieking and flying with long strokes of the wing in wide circles; there was their prey. There the falcon was cast aloft, his breast already distended and his wings ready to beat, and Renaud saw him turn to gold in the sunshine, stood with blind eyes and whirling brain, whilst the bird grew smaller against the deep azure, and he heard how the sound of his bells mocked the cries of the herons.
They circled like wheels in their fear. Now they thought to dart down to the shore and hide their long necks and stupid, terrified heads with the backward-leaning crests under the dark trees; now they tried in hesitating uncertainty to rise up in a spiral, relying on their broad wings to carry them higher than the enemy could pursue, and they wavered like reeds with the pale terror of their hearts.
But the falcon from the beginning picked out one of the strongest, one of those which at once flew aloft, for he loved to try his strength and feel keen, light air beneath his wings, and he raised himself as quickly and unswervingly as if he had circled about a sunbeam. Soon he was highest. Less than a sparrow he seemed, but something in the position of his wings, in the concentrated strength of his body, gave one an idea of the flashing wildness of his eyes and of his extended claws— and suddenly he fell, heavy as steel, on the neck of his defenseless, upward-turning prey, and the two sank like a stone, hardly whirling even a wing’s breadth.
Then Renaud ran and swam and waded to get there quickly, before the heron, stupefied by the blow, could pull itself together and in the wildness of despair use its keen beak; but the falcon dealt the death-blow sharply and quickly, and turned his large eyes, already calmed, toward his master, for he did not love to stain his feathers with blood, and waited to have the warm heart given him.