In the marshes of Essex, one of the last wild places left in England, a disfigured artist lives alone in an abandoned lighthouse. Shunned by society, he spends his days painting scenes of the coast and the birds that migrate to the meadowlands every winter. His days are solitary until one November afternoon, a young girl from a nearby village comes to his door carrying a wounded snow goose in her arms. The unlikely pair develop a friendship that deepens over the ensuing years, waiting together for the arrival of the birds every autumn.
In 1940, with England at war, the birds depart early from the shores. The man, too, is called away by his duty as an Englishman to help evacuate the soldiers stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk. A moving tale of love, war, bravery, and sacrifice.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||2 MB|
|Age Range:||10 - 17 Years|
About the Author
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One November afternoon, three years after Rhayander had come to the Great Marsh, a child approached the lighthouse studio by means of the sea wall. In her arms she carried a burden.
She was no more than twelve, slender, dirty, nervous and timid as a bird, but beneath the grime as eerily beautiful as a marsh faery. She was pure Saxon, large-boned, fair, with a head to which her body was yet to grow, and deep-set, violet-coloured eyes.
She was desperately frightened of the ugly man she had come to see, for legend had already begun to gather about Rhayader, and the native wild-fowlers hated him for interfering with their sport.
But greater than her fear was the need of that which she bore. For locked in her child’s heart was the knowledge, picked up somewhere in the swampland, that this ogre who lived in the lighthouse had magic that could heal injured things.
She had never seen Rhayader before and was close to fleeing in panic at the dark apparition that appeared at the studio door, drawn by her footsteps — the black head and beard, the sinister hump, and the crooked claw. She stood there staring, poised like a disturbed marsh bird for instant flight.
But his voice was deep and kind when he spoke to her.
‘What is it child?’
She stood her ground, and then edged timidly forward. The thing she carried in her arms was a large white bird, and it was quite still. There were stains of blood on its whiteness and on her kirtle where she had held it to her.
The girl placed it in his arms. ‘I found it, sir. It’s hurted. Is it still alive?’
‘Yes. Yes, I think so. Come in, child, come in.’
Rhyander went inside, bearing the bird, which he placed upon a table, where it moved feebly. Curiosity overcame fear. The girl followed and found herself in a room warmed by a coal fire, shining with many coloured pictures that covered the walls, and full of a strange but pleasant smell.
The bird fluttered. With his good hand Rhayader spread on of its immense white pinions. The end was beautifully tipped with black.
Rhayader looked and marvelled, and said: ‘Child: where did you find it?’
‘In t’ marsh, sir, where fowlers had been. What — what is it, sir?’
‘It’s a snow goose from Canada. But how in all heaven came it here?’
The name seemed to mean nothing to the little girl. Her deep violet eyes, shining out of the dirt on her thin face, were fixed with concern on the injured bird.
She said: ‘Can ‘ee heal it, sir?’
‘Yes, yes,’ said Rhayader. ‘We will try. Come, you shall help me.’
There were scissors and bandages and splints on a shelf, and he was marvelously deft, even with the rooked claw that managed to hold things.
He said: ‘Ah, she has been shot, poor thing. Her leg is broken, and the wing tip! but not badly. See, we will clip her primaries, so that we can bandage it, but in the spring the feathers will grow and she will be able to fly again. We’ll bandage it close to her body, so that she cannot move it until it has set, and then make a splint for the poor leg.’
Her fears forgotten, the child watched, fascinated, as he worked, and all the more so because while he fixed a fine splint to the shattered leg he told her the most wonderful story.