The bird soared skyward and hovered there a moment, splashing the shifting screen of passing clouds with a spray of burnished gold. The morning star flashed out and twinkled briefly above the tip of his right wing. Then he turned and flew off toward the wooded rise, the boy and I following at a brisk pace up the sloping shore, listening all the while to the song of the children as it rose from the distant reaches of the forest. The grade was steep but unobstructed, grassy rather than rocky. Everywhere around us were the freshness of the morning dew and the intermittent glitter of the sunlight dancing on the tips of the green grass.
Up and up we climbed toward the belt of pines, their Christmas scent floating down to us on the back of the rippling breeze. Halfway to our goal I stopped and turned to look out over the swelling breast of the sighing sea. Gone from that spot at the edge of the lapping waters were the three ladies. In their place I saw three birds spring into the sky and go winging their way toward the fragrant land. In the next moment the canopied cradle, wherein lay the wondrous child, rose slowly into the air, bathed in its own soft light. Then it, too, soared up over the strand, disappearing at last among the green and bristling trees.
At the sight of these wonders my friend and I quickened our gait. A minute more and we had broken into a run. Not long after, shouting and laughing, we crashed through a fringe of columbine and sweet meadow grass, splashed through the cold trickle of a tiny brook, and ducked beneath the shadows of the first overhanging boughs. From somewhere beyond the dark trunks and boles of the trees we heard the voices of the children fading away into the heart of the forest:
Come, all who are able!
Come, come to the cradle!
We pushed on.