Falcon part 5

They formed a semi-circle, plume by plume, shoulder by shoulder, round a bush where the prisoner was tied. As the horse-cloths fluttered in the wind, red penetrated deep into the shadow, gloomy like hopeless longing, and red burned in the sunshine, light as victorious jubilation. The noble ladies’ supple necks leaned forward out of the carriage, and their conical hoods formed one line with the sloping contours of their shoulders.

They were like herons, Renaud thought, and he almost expected them to utter shrill cries when the notes of the horns fell far away like projected stones, and all grew silent. But when he saw them more clearly, with their thin, straight lips and strangely dreamy eyes, which were always directed in cold ecstasy toward something infinitely distant, and the indolent white hands in their laps and the long folds of their robes, then they seemed to him wondrously beautiful like the richest images of saints with dimly burning candle flames at their feet, and it pained him that they should see him bound. He let his eyes run on, past the damsels—pretty, shy birds, whom he would have liked to frighten with a whistle—past the retainer’s red faces and mouths gaping with curiosity, past the brown plain, where he had run until he was tired and dreamed until he was weary.

Long sunny day

He knew the fate that awaited him, but when the Iceland falcon was brought forward, and he understood that this was the bird which was to execute the punishment, he laughed with joy. His heart throbbed with pride, as when they were his—the bird and the long sunny day and the fields with listening winds and swaying trees with the yellow leaves of autumn. When the falcon had again beheld the light and accustomed himself to seeing, he gathered his strength for flight and waited to be cast aloft from the bearer, whilst his eyes sought for prey in the air—they were keen and fierce with hunger and flamed as with sparks, and they had no memories in their depths, they recognized none.

But Renaud’s eyes looked anxiously inquiring into the bird’s and were moistened with sorrow not to meet their gaze. They should have reflected his days of daring and longing, his contempt and his dreams on the red heather, but they merely waited greedily for prey, cold and cruel, like the curiosity of the people or the jest on Sir Enguerrand’s thin lips. He felt the pang of grief more bitterly than before, and turned his head aside to recollect himself, with his eyelids closed about fluttering thoughts.

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