The year drew to its close, the weather became colder, and an irresistible desire for long-continued rest took possession of Kweek. His appetite was more easily satisfied than hitherto; hour after hour, by night as well as by day, he drowsed in the snug corner where lay the remains of the nest in which he had been born. Winter, weary and monotonous to most of the wildlings of the field, passed quickly over his head. Scarce-broken sleep and forgetfulness, when skies are grey and tempests rage — such are Nature's gifts to the snake, the bee, and the flower, as well as to the squirrel in the wood and the vole in the burrow beneath the moss. Occasionally, it is true, when at noon the sun was bright and spring seemed to have come to the Valley of Olwen, the snake would stir in his retreat beneath the leaves, the bee would crawl to and fro in her hidden nest, the flower would feel the stir of rising sap, the squirrel would venture forth to stretch cramped limbs by a visit to some particular storehouse—the existence of which, as one among many filled with nuts and acorns, he happened to remember —and the vole would creep to the entrance of his burrow, and sit in the welcome warmth till the sun declined and hunger sent him to his granary for a hearty meal. These brief, spring-like hours, when the golden furze blossomed in the hedge-bank near the field-vole's home, and the lark, exultant, rose from the barren stubble, were, however, full of danger to Kweek if he but dared to lift his head above the opening of his burrow.

On the outskirts of the wood, in a rough, ivy-grown ridge where, years ago, some trees had been felled, a flourishing colony of bank-voles—little creatures nearly akin, and almost similar in shape and size, to the field-voles —dwelt among the roots and the undergrowth. These bank-voles, probably because they lived in a sheltered place screened from the bitter wind by a wall of gorse and pines, moved abroad in the winter days far more frequently than did the field-voles. For several years a pair of kestrels had lived in the valley, and had reared their young in a nest built on a ledge of rock above the Cerdyn brook and safe beyond the reach of marauding schoolboys. The hen - kestrel, when provender became scarce, would regularly at noon beat her way across the hill-top to the ridge where the red voles lived, and, watching and waiting, with keen eyes and ready talons, would remain in the air above the burrow as if poised at the end of an invisible thread. Chiefly she was the terror of the bank-voles; but often, impatient of failure, she would slant her fans and drift towards the burrows in the mossy pasture, hoping to find that the grey voles had awakened for an hour from their winter sleep.

Once, when the breeze blew gently from the south and the sun was bright, Kweek, sitting on a grassy mound, saw a shadow rapidly approaching, and heard a sharp swish of powerful wings. Though drowsy and stiff from his winter sleep, he was roused for the moment by the imminence of danger, and, barely in time, scurried to his hole. A fortnight afterwards, when, again tempted out of doors by the mildness of the weather, the vole was peeping through an archway of matted grass, the hawk, with even greater rapidity than before, shot down from the sky. Had it not been that the long grass screened an entrance on the outskirts of the burrow, Kweek would then have met his fate. He fell, almost without knowing what was happening, straight down the shaft; and the sharp talons of the hawk touched nothing but grass and earth, and the end of a tail already scarred by the claws of the owl. Next day, as, moving along the galleries to his favourite exit, the vole passed beneath the shaft, he saw, straight overhead, the shadowy wings outstretched, quivering, lifting, gliding, pausing, while beneath those spreading fans the baleful eyes gleamed yellow in the slant of the south-west sun, and the cruel claws, indrawn against the keel-shaped breast, were clenched in readiness for the deadly "stoop." Fascinated, the vole stayed awhile to look at the hovering hawk. Then, as the bird passed from the line of sight, he continued his way along the underground passage to the spot where he usually left his home by one of the narrow, clean-cut holes which, in a field-vole's burrow, seem to serve a somewhat similar purpose to that of the " bolts" in a rabbit's warren; and there he again looked out. The hawk still hovered in the calm winter air, so Kweek did not venture that day to bask in the sun outside his door. As soon as he had fed, and shaken every speck of loose loam from his fur, and washed himself clean with his tiny red tongue, he once more sought his cosy corner and fell asleep.

Presently a pink and purple sunset faded in the gloom of night, and a heavy frost, beginning a month of bitter cold, lay over the fields. In continuous slumber Kweek passed that dreary month, till the daisies peeped in the grass, the snowdrops and the daffodils thrust forth their sword-shaped leaves above the water-meadows, and the earliest violet unfolded its petals by the pathway in the woods.