And clear was the paley moon
When his shadow passed him by;
Below the hill was the brightest star
When he heard the houlet cry, saying
Why do you ride this way,
And wharfore cam' ye here?
I seek the Witch of the West-mer-lands
That dwells by the winding mere.
The call was like a high, soft whinny coming from high up in the trees. As if someone were calling without wanting to be heard. A quiet, cascade of notes that floated out on the evening air.
I swiveled, trying to locate the new sound's source, and narrowed it to the thick of the locust tree about thirty feet overhead, right near my front door. I scanned the leaves, looking for interruptions in patterns of color or form. Locust leaves are small and make distinctive, fan-like silhouettes against a bright sky. Nothing seemed to break their symmetries. My eyes shifted to the bark, where rivulets of black shadow carve through the brown.
Suddenly, there against the trunk I noticed two yellow eyes, luminous and round, looking directly into mine. With ear tufts pricked up and small head bobbing to follow movements, it looked much like a grey kitten. There were four of them.
Over several days, I watched them watching me come and go from the house. Watched the first fluttering moves from one branch to another. Watched the big one urp an owl pellet, and feed something fluffy in bits to the others. Found the fallen, still-damp pellet full of beetle bits. Heard the big one call sharply from the power line through darkest dusk to bring the other three back after the day's adventures. Another evening: suspiciously raucous activity high in the box elder where the starlings nest.
Haven't seen them at all the last few days. They've left a song running in my head.
And she's bound his wound with the golden rod;
Full fast in her arms he lay,
And he has risen hale and soond
Wi' the sun high in the day. She said:
Ride with you brindled hounds at heel
And your good grey hawk in hand.
There's nane can harm a knight wha's lain
With the Witch of the West-mer-land.