THE CIRCLE OF LESSER BRETHREN
Presently Janet, who had been skimming along and humming to herself said, “Do you notice anything, Bernard?”
“Anything new?” I asked. “No.”
“We are not alone any more.”
“Why, have you caught sight of some of our friends already?” I was surprised, for so vast is the land that one rarely encounters others on the way.
“No,” said Janet. “Look around you !”
I did so (for my gaze had been directed downward for some time) and then I laughed. It seemed so queer – there were birds flying around us. “Well, I always wondered what it was like to be a sea-gull, an eagle or a wren.”
“No difference,” Janet commented.
“Oh no,” I said. “Very similar. But I wonder where these birds come from?”
“Perhaps we are over the Circle of Lesser Brethren. Wouldn’t that be grand?”
“It would, indeed.” I extended my sight so that my glance penetrated the thick branches of the topmost trees. Sure enough, there were nests with young ones, and parent birds bringing them food!
“Oh, do let us visit here,” Janet pleaded, when I told her of this discovery. Of course, I was nothing loth and we began to descend rapidly, dropping away from the region of the clouds.
As soon as the birds saw our intention they became quite excited. At first I thought they were annoyed at our intrusion, but presently I realised that they were preparing a welcome. Some of them still lingered about us, even riding on our heads or shoulders and winking at us with their bright little eyes. The rest flew swiftly down, alighting on the trees to impart their news, or dropping into the tall grass which clothed the valley.
By the time we alighted a perfect storm of noise broke forth. Multitudes of birds flocked around us, carpeting the ground, perching on every available branch nearby. When we extended our arms they raced to alight on them, pecking playfully at us, and chirping.
“I believe they want to sing!” Janet cried joyfully. “Let us sing to their King and ours, and let them join in.”
“What shall it be’ I asked, and Janet immediately began:
“Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the heights.
Praise ye Him, all His angels; praise ye Him, all His hosts.
Praise ye Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all ye stars of light.
Praise Him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens.
Let them praise the Name of the Lord; for He commanded, and they were created.
He hath also established them for ever and ever; He hath made a decree which shall not pass.
Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps; Fire and hail, snow and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling His word; Mountains and all hills; fruitful trees and all cedars; Beasts and all cattle; creeping things and flying fowl.
Let them praise the Name of the Lord, for his Name alone is excellent; His glory is above the earth and heaven
Praise ye the Lord!”
As soon as the psalm began, the birds became mute and still. Then, one by one they began to sing. Some only chirped in low, throaty chords, others soared up in happy harmony. Above them all, the lark’s exultant song poured forth. In this orchestra it seemed as though each one knew and loved the King to whom they sang.
Janet was in an ecstasy. She lifted up her hands and began to beat time and it seemed that all the bright eyes watched, and understood. Certainly, they hushed at her gentle signal and burst into rapturous chords of power as her arms swung wide.
When it was ended they rested, ruffling their feathers contentedly. We sat down at the foot of a tree, feasting our eyes on our “lesser brethren”, caressing some of the babies who ventured out of their nests in the lower branches. At one time Janet cradled a couple of baby sparrows; a young eagle perched on her shoulder and a robin on her head. She bent over them, whispering to them lovingly, but her words were constantly drowned by the triumphant squawks of a gawky parrot who insisted on making a perch on my right hand
After a time, a blackbird and a pheasant began to fly around us, first alighting to look at us with inquiring eyes, then to fly off among the trees. A moment later they were back again to repeat the performance.
“This is very strange,” I said at last. “They seem to want us to follow.”
We concentrated for a while, watching the birds and trying to get into their attitude of mind.
“It seems to me,” Janet said slowly, “that they want us to visit the rest of the Circle.”
“That is the impression I had! I believe they are telling us of animals who want to see us, and there is something else
“Then you feel it too?” Janet was looking puzzled, stretching out her hand to caress the glossy head of the blackbird. It little bright eyes darted from one to the other of us as though wondering if we had understood. “Let us follow anyway,” Janet suggested.
Immediately we stood up the birds showed every sign of satisfaction, flying straightway into the wood. We followed slowly.