cover image The Widow and the Parrot

The Widow and the Parrot

Virginia Woolf. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $12.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-296783-3

Mrs. Gage hears of her brother's death and journeys to collect her inheritance, a house and some 3000 sterling. Her dog was left behind; she is devoted to him and the other animals, despite her poverty. Her brother, on the other hand, was not only miserly but cruel to animalsshe had seen him with her own eyes, as children, ""trim a hairy caterpillar with a pair of scissors.'' The widow arrives to find a small shack with all but worthless contents, and a gray parrot called James that shrieks ``Not at home!'' The money is nowhere to be found. Mrs. Gage feeds James some sugar and talks to him, as her brother used to, ``as if he were a rational being.'' As she returns home from the solicitors she loses her way in the dark and is saved by the light of a huge fireher brother's house. She worries about the bird and tries to save him. Instead, he saves herhe had ignited the fire and now leads her to her brother's hidden money. The story behind this lighthearted tale of heroism, mystery and kindness to animals is that Woolf had contributed this piece to her nephews' family newspaper. Bell, her grand-nephew, has illustrated the story with watercolors that are, in most scenes, dusky with twilight. All ages. (April)