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      "She's a wild bird,"I reminded her."We have to let her go.if she wants to."
      And Gertie did go.For several days she flew here and there around the lake,a bit ungracefuly at first,gradually improving as her wings strengthened,but with her head bent at an angle to see better,and one leg trailing behind the other.Several times she landed near the house and Lila fed her,but as fall approached.her visits to us became less frequent.
      I heard the distant honking of a flock one evening.just after I'd come in from combining,and I called Lila to listen.It was almost dark,and though they weren't very high,we could barely see them.They were veeomh southward over us,and I thought they might stop for the night,but they never hesitated in their filght.
      A sudden loud honk from just below us startled me.Gertie had heard the geese too.She  circled the lake once,twice,calling loudly to them,then flew after the retreating flock.Soon the dusk hid them all.
      I heard Lila snlffing eside me and held her close."I hope she makes it,"she whispered."She doesn't know how to look out for hunters."
      "She'll remember.She'll make it,"I assure her,though of course I wasn't sure of that at all.
      When next spring arrived,I began watching the flocks of geese as they passed overhead,and I knew that Lila was,too.The first day that a dozen or so landed on the lake,she trained the binoculars on them,trying to pick out Gertie.
      "You won't know her,"I cautioned,"even if she did happen to come this way again."
      But I was wrong once more.They very next evening a small flock flew down at the far conrner of the lake,"talking"contentedly as they settled down for the night and began searching for food.And suddenly,a single goose left the flock,circled over the house,honked once as if to say"Hello!It's me!"and flew back down to the lake.Her head was cocked a little to oen side,one foot trailed slightly,and one wing looked a little crooked.
      By morning the flock had gone,but we knew it had been our Gertie.
      "Yes ,"Lila nodded."I remember Gertie."
      "And we let her use her wings,didn't we?"
      Lila nodded again.
      "Even though it hurt.Even Though you wanted to hold onto her.Even though she was handicapped,too,in a way,and we were afraind she might not make it."
      "And she did come back,didn't she?Not only that spring,but for several springs,and a couple of falls,too."
      "But never to stay..."
      "No,Never to stay."I agreed."And that's the way it is with children too,once they're grown and gone."
      There were teas in Lila's eyes again,but her voice was firm as she stood up."Let's go and find Andy.We'll tell him be can go and test his wings."


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