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The swifts will be considered in their proper place. Three species of swallow are likely to be seen in the Himalayas. This bird should require no description. Its glossy purple-blue plumage, the patches of chestnut red on the forehead and throat, and the elegantly-forked tail must be familiar to every Englishman.
Perhaps more would have volunteered, for it seemed that for some reason they all longed to be bigger than they were; but three were enough for Cap'n Bill's purpose and so he promptly released all the others, who immediately flew away. The three that remained were cousins, and all were of the same brilliant plumage and in size about as large as eagles.
The woods and fields present a boundless variety of the choicest productions of nature, which gratify the senses with their fragrance and magnificence; while the branches of the trees display a brilliant assemblage of the feathered race, whose plumage, "glittering in the sun," dazzles the eye of the beholder with its unmatched loveliness and lustre, and presenting, on the whole, a scene too rich for the pencil to pourtray too glowing and animated for the feeble pen of mortal to describe with half the energy and beauty which belong to it, and without which description is unfaithful.
"Yes," he said, "I'd like to talk about it. I have a big idea, and I can't put it on paper." He hugged his knees and talked. His young voice thrilled with the majesty of his conception. Here, he said, was the idea. Once upon a time there had been a race of wonderful swans, with plumage so white that when they rested in flocks on the river banks they made a blanket of snow.
The crown of the head and hinder part of the neck are a dingy brown, which on the neck has a shade of ash colour; the bend of the wing and lesser wing-coverts are a brownish black; the whole upper surface of the plumage is of a glossy brownish-green, which is spotted on the middle wing-coverts with minute white spots, that change to a dingy yellow on the back, scapulars, and tertials, the last of which have twelve spots on the outer margin of the feathers, and six on the inner one; the tertials are very long, the longest of them reaching to within a quarter of an inch of the extreme top of the wing, which reaches to the end of the tail; the quill feathers are wholly black, as are also the secondaries; the upper part of the rump is black, and each feather is slightly tipped with white, which forms small wavy lines on that part of the plumage; the lower part of the rump and upper tail-coverts are pure white; the tail, which is even at the end, consists of twelve feathers, which are barred with black and white alternately.
Birds of all kinds abounded; but we were particularly struck with a pair of black swans, sailing majestically on the water. Their plumage was perfectly black and glossy, except the extremity of the wings, which was white. Ernest would have tried his skill again, but I forbade him to disturb the profound tranquillity of this charming region.
Behind them followed Hagen and Dankwart, their armor black as the plumage of the wild raven, their shields strong and mighty. As they approached the castle gates were flung wide open, and the liegemen of the great Queen came out to greet the strangers with words of welcome. They bid their hirelings also take the shields and chargers from their guests.
"If I had been planning to run away with Larry or he with me we would have done it months ago, plumage or no plumage. I wanted to but he wouldn't anyway," she confessed. "I like this way much, much better though. I don't want to be married anywhere except right here in the heart of the House on the Hill."
On he went again, faster and faster. He had now gone half the distance, and was getting tired. A little pool of water by the roadside caught his eye. Into it he plunged, bathed, drank, preened his plumage for a few moments, and then started homeward again. He knew his home was on the upper side of the road, for he kept his eye bent in that direction, scanning the fields.
He delighted the world with his wisdom, and made an honourable figure at the coronation of Duke Rudolphe. Count Ludwig had him inclosed in a cold roast peacock, served up in all his plumage. It was at that time one of the greatest delicacies, served up garnished all round with sucking pigs, gilded and silvered.