The mid-June roses were in full bloom in the garden near the manor house. Their scent filled the main floor rooms. Jillian had been given the privilege of cutting a few of the full pink blooms for the main table. She glanced up at the manor house. A frenzied chirping under the eaves told Jillian that one of the martlets was back feeding the nestlings. They were such a dark blue on their backs that they looked almost black, and their undersides were almost all white. They were acrobatic flyers, never landing on the ground. Instead, they snatched insects right out of the air. Did they even have feet? Jillian wondered.
Jillian smiled at the bird as it whisked past her again, on the hunt once more. Her father, Squire Peter, had told her how important the little birds were. He welcomed them not only because they ate so many bothersome insects but also because they were pictured on his family's coat of arms. He also admired their speed and agility. Everyone knew their nests were not to be disturbed.
Just as Jillian was headed back to the manor house with the basket of flowers, she heard terrified shrieking. She picked up her skirts and ran and was just in time to see the cook knocking down a mud nest.
"Nasty, dirty birds," he muttered as he swept the last of the mud pellets that formed the nest from the wall. Little ones in the adjoining nests cried in fear.
"No!" shouted Jillian as she dropped the basket and her mother's precious scissors. She scooped up the nest's remains and the three chicks trapped inside.