The next installment of Beatrice Allen Page’s unpublished manuscript, Landscape with Figures:
“Arrived early for a dental appointment. Sitting in the waiting room was a man somewhere in his 50’s, absorbed in the Reader’s Digest. There was nothing particularly noticeable about him except his short, smooth, very black hair. I wondered idly if it was a wig. He reminded me vaguely of someone I must have met sometime, somewhere.
When he was called into the dentist’s office, he stretched out his arm, offering me the magazine as he stood up. The hair and the outstretched arm came together, so to speak, to make me recall an incident of twenty-odd years ago.
It was in Munich. There was a man staying at the same pension as I, whom I used to pass occasionally going in and out. The only thing about him that struck me was the obvious black wig which didn’t fit his head properly and sometimes looked slightly askew.
One noon as I was having lunch in the little garden of the pension, he stepped out on a balcony overlooking the garden, stretched out his arm, and gave a short, two-syllable whistle. Immediately a little bird – a finch of some kind, I think – flew from a tree out beyond the garden directly to the man’s hand, took some tidbit from it, and flew back into the tree. The man went back inside the house.
I never saw him again. I never learned his name or where he came from, or what his nationality was, or his walk in life. I don’t know if he was aware of my watching him from the garden below.
Odd how some casual encounters stick to the mind. It was the bird flying to his hand that impressed me, of course. I’ve always had the feeling that if I could ever persuade a wild bird to eat from my hand*, it would prove I still had a streak of innocence or virtue of some kind left in my character.”
*Emily’s note: She actually did manage that. It was one of my favorite things about her. She fed birds at her window every day, and several of the chickadees would actually eat right out of her hand like she was Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.