its spot. Near it two large brown dogs ran back and forth in some kind of frantic game for which only they seemed to understand the rules. The boy put his hand to the window and drew a line down the middle several inches long.He looked at it and then, ever so carefully, drew a line across the middle.After a moment of thought he drew a round thing on top.Then he stopped and shook his head. The figure was incomplete. It needed something. He stood back from the window trying to puzzle it out, but the lines blurred together, then faded.
When he turned around, Master Robin was standing in the room and beside him were the two women.
âHallo,â said the man. âWeâve brought you some clothes.â
The older woman wrinkled her nose as she looked around the room. The younger one gave a tentative smile. Then all three moved toward the boy who waited stone still.
It took them quite a while to dress him, for he had forgotten what to do and was uncomfortable with so many hands on him. And once he snarled and the women drew back. But Master Robin persevered and, at last, the boy had on short trews, a shirt, and a vest, which were the names Mag gave the clothes. And he wore as well a peculiar harness of plaited rope that went around each shoulder and across his chest and back, with a lead that Master Robin kept tight in his hand. It reminded the boy of the chain that held the cow but he did not try to pull it away. It made him feel part of the man, and he liked that now.
Then Master Robin sent the two women from the room, and they scuttled like badgers running back to the sett. The boy laughed as they closed the door behind them, and that made Master Robin laugh, too.
âSo, you can laugh and you can cry and you can speak some, too. You are no idiot, for all that Mag would have you so,â said the soft voice. âWould you like to see the birds?â
His answer was to stand.
âWell. And well.â Master Robin stood slowly and patted him, almost carelessly, on the head. âTomorrow we will do somewhat with that hair.â
He knocked on the door and there was a series of small sounds as the door was unlocked from the outside. Then they went from the safety of the room, the rope loose between them.
The birds were housed in a long low building, with horn in the small windows.
âThe mews,â Master Robin said as they entered. And he gave names to many things as they walked through the long room. âDoor, perch, bird, lamp, rafters.â And mimicking his tone, the boy repeated each with a kind of greed. In fact, his face looked as it had when he had smelled the first loaf of bread, his eyes squinting, chin up, a kind of feral anticipation.
They walked slowly through the sawdust on the floor, and the boy took it all as if it were both his very first and also his hundredth time in such a place.
At last they were before a trio of hooded birds on individual stands where the heavy sacking screens hanging from the perches moved slowly in the bit of wind like castle banners. Master Robin stood for a moment, nodding his head at the birds, hands behind his back. The boy echoed his stance.
Then, as if he could contain his excitement no longer, the boy turned to the man and whispered, âBird. Hawk. Yours?â His voice was husky, deeper than most boysâ his age.
The man was careful not to move but smiled slowly. âAye,â he said. âThey are mine. They are mine because they have given some part of themselves to me. But not all of it. And not forever. I would not want them to give me all. And every day I must earn their trust again. With wild things there is no such word as forever.â
The boy listened intently.
âI stood three nights running with the gosâthere,â said the man, nodding his head toward the bird furthest to the left. âHe was on my fist the whole time.â
âAnd tied?â the boy asked.
The boy nodded as if this