The smell of sweet clover filled Elizabeth’s nose at dawn. She was awake with the bird’s lively morning chorus. They were especially happy today. Something in their song bid farewell to the last frost on the ground, and welcomed every bud pushing forth from every tree. It was spring!
“My favorite time of year,” thought Elizabeth.
She was grateful for spring and what it had brought her. She looked at each of her new babies, all asleep, unaware of the noisy celebration filtering down into their warm nest. A feeling of love and pride filled Elizabeth, as she softly spoke each new name.
“Jeremiah, James, Michael, Rachel,” she whispered, “Mommy has to leave you for a little while, but I’ll be back soon.”
The four little ones slept on as though they had no cares. They were warm and fed and had no need to awaken. Elizabeth, however, knew that she must have food and have it soon or lose her strength; the strength she relied on to feed and care for her precious new babies.
She scampered out of the hole under the thorny bush, which housed her family. A warm breeze greeted her; it carried the sweet scent that had awakened her. She let her nose lead her to the top of the bank, at the edge of the farmer’s field. Some of the soil had already been turned over in preparation for planting, and the birds swooped down to feed on the worms and insects that were exposed.
It was the aroma of new clover that Elizabeth was unable to resist. Her instincts told her to stay in the long grass where she would be less visible, but soon she was chewing on the dark green herb that she loved most. The delicious clover at the edge of the field was so satisfying that she did not notice the large boot beside her.
The farmer’s loud voice rang out across the field, scattering the birds, ending their morning feast. Elizabeth was frozen, unable to move a muscle. The farmer grabbed her by the back of her neck, and held her out like a prize to behold.
“You’re perfect!” He exclaimed, and thrust her into a burlap sack. Elizabeth squirmed desperately to be free. But the farmer tied the sack securely with twine and placed it in his wagon.
“Get up Grey!” He called to his horse, and the old mare started off slowly toward the barnyard. The farmer whistled a tune, a tune Elizabeth recognized.
“The Lord’s My Shepherd, I Shall Not Want.”
Elizabeth had heard the words so many times, coming from the little white chapel on the knoll. The joyful congregation singing together on Sunday had always given her a peaceful feeling. But now the farmer’s triumphant tune filled her with panic.
“Jeremiah, James, Michael, Rachel!” She thought wildly, “What will happen to my babies?”
Elizabeth let out a cry, a rabbits’ cry. The sound of it was like that of a child, frantic with fear. The farmer might have heard it and taken pity on her, because he was a father himself. But her desperation went unnoticed next to the ‘clippity-clop’ of Old Grey’s hooves, and the slow squeaky turn of the wagon’s wheel.