At daybreak I awoke again, and the basket was sitting near a window sill. I pulled the cloth down enough to find that I was alone, before I rolled out. I filled my pocket with blackberries for a later dinner, and moved toward the edge of the table I was on.
The drop was not that far, but it was far enough that I knew jumping was out of the question. I began looking for a rope or another item to help me down, but the door began to open.
I hid behind the spice rack, watching the door with interest. Through it came a large man, carrying a sack and a pair of boots over his shoulder. The sack moved with a startling animation, and my ears detected things beating together within.
The sack was dropped on the table, and I suddenly knew what was inside, for a squawk escaped the top of the bag. It had been birds wings I had heard.
The man set his boots beside the table, and, grunting, stepped out the same door he had come in.
Cautiously, I approached the bag. It was of a heavy canvas, so I couldn't open it from the side. My jacknife wouldn't cut the fabric.
I stepped around to the front of the bag. Another squawk was heard, as well as the beating of wings.
"Master Bird?" I called into the opening. "Can you answer?"
"I can get you out, Master Bird."
For a moment, I was confused. I knew the birds wanted out; their struggles against the bag when it was brought in were evidence of this. Yet the bird refused to answer.
It was then that I recalled the words of my uncle: "A bird will never speak to you unless you have fed it. Once you have done that, you will have a friend for life, and he will take care of you to the end of his days."
I dug into my pockets, and pulled out the blackberries I had taken from the basket. For a moment, I thought about dumping them in, but I knew that if I did that, the bird would not know who had fed him. In a moment of decision, I thrust my hand in and waited.
The bag stilled completely for a moment, but soon a rustling began at the bottom of the sack. I held my breath, praying that the bird would not take my hand with the berries, but I knew that was a thin hope.
The sounds of feather on fabric drew nearer the mouth of the bag, and I closed my eyes. I felt the bird's breath on my fingers, and then I felt his beak press against my hand. Another moment of tortured stillness occurred.
The bird then gently took one blackberry from my hand. He waited a moment, swallowed, and came back for another. Things continued in just this way until he had taken each one.
I slowly withdrew my hand, and waited.
"Boy, will you let me out?" came an unsure voice from within.
"I will, Master Bird."
"And you will not cook me? I should not like to be eaten." Hope began to creep into his voice.
"I will not cook you, Master Bird."
"Nor pluck me nor bake me into a pie nor cage me?" the bird asked.
"I will not pluck your beautiful feathers, I will not bake you into a pie where your handsome face is covered in pastry, nor will I cage you where your wings will be useless. I will only release you."
"Then get to it, Boy! The Giant will return shortly, and he means to do at least one of those things!"
I was unsure what to do. "My knife will not cut the sack, Master Bird."
"Then cut the string, Boy. Be quick about it!"
How could I have not thought of that first? My jacknife cut the string easily, and I pulled the bag open.
The bird poked his black head out of the bag. He was a blackbird, obviously, and his feathers were truly beautiful. "I thank you Boy. You are a true friend." He pulled the rest of his body out, and shook himself clean. "At the end of the table you will find your way out."
"But I have looked there, Master Bird. There is nothing but the giant's boots, and I fear they are too large for me!"
The bird looked at me. "Did the giant wear them when he came in the door?"
"He did not."
Master Bird looked at me expectantly. "Why would a man who had just come from outside not wear his boots?"
"He was afraid of walking too far in them?"
"Exactly!" shouted the bird, a little too loud for my comfort. "There is your answer. Now, as I am not keen on being cooked, I must go. Good luck, Boy!"
With that, he flew through the window.
To be continued. . .
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V
Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII