The young man hopes that Sylvia will show him the nesting place of a rare white heron he has spotted in the area. The man is an ornithologist, or someone who studies birds. His hobby is to find different species of birds, kill them, and stuff them for his "collection". The young man, a hunter, already has "dozens and dozens" of birds in his "collection". He is excited by his discovery of the rare heron, and hopes he will be able to add it to the samples he has already caught and preserved.
Sylvia is interested in the heron as well, but for a far different reason. She is a shy child who does not have the opportunity to share the company of other people very often, but she is completely at home with nature. She recognizes the heron the hunter is seeking from his description, for the heron has awed her with its majesty and beauty. Sylvia goes deep into the woods and, from the top of a towering tree, sees the place where the heron makes its home. In the final analysis, however, she cannot betray her beloved bird to the hunter. Although she longs for his friendship and approval, and despite the much-needed monetary reward he offers, her loyalty to the natural world as represented by the heron is stronger than any inducements he can offer.
The hunter wants Sylvia to help him locate the white heron that he wants for his collection. If she sees it, she is to let him know so he can come shoot it and have it for his collection.