Saints: Saint Kentigern and the Robin (cont.)

This story is part of the Saints and Animals unit. Story source: The Book of Saints and Friendly Beasts by Abbie Farwell Brown (1900).

Saint Kentigern and the Robin (cont.)

But meanwhile the boys hated him more than ever when they saw how much better Saint Servan loved him every day. And once more they planned to bring him into disgrace. But this time it was an even more cruel thing which they meant to do. For if they succeeded it would not only cause Kentigern to be punished and make Saint Servan unhappy, but it would cost the life of an innocent little creature who never had done any harm to a single one of them.

Saint Servan was a kind-hearted old man, and he had a Robin Redbreast of which he was very fond — a black-eyed fellow who ate his breakfast out of the Saint's hand. And when the master chanted the Psalms the little chorister would perch on Servan's shoulder and flap his wings, twittering as if he were trying to join in the songs of praise.

Now one morning when the coast was clear, the boys killed the little Redbreast and pulled off his head. And then the biggest boy of them all took the dead bird in his hand, and followed by all the rest ran screaming to Saint Servan himself, pretending to feel very sorry.

"Oh Father!" cried the Big Boy; "just see what the wicked Kentigern has done! Look at your Robin whom Kentigern has killed!"

Then they all began to cry out against Kentigern, and some even declared that they had seen him do the wicked deed, which was a horrid story, and their tongues must have smarted well as they spoke it.

Of course Saint Servan was very sad and angry. He tenderly took the little limp body in his hand and went to seek Kentigern, the other boys tiptoeing after him to see the fun. And by and by they came upon him in a window bending over a big book which he was studying. Saint Servan strode up to him and laid a heavy hand upon his shoulder.

"Look at this, boy," he cried with a sad voice, "look at this cruel deed, and tell me what shall be done to punish the slayer? Did I not love the Robin, even as I loved you, ungrateful boy!"

Kentigern turned quite pale with surprise and sorrow, and the tears came into his eyes. "Oh, the dear little bird," he said. "Did I not love him too? Who has killed him, Father?"

"You did, you did; we saw you!" cried all the boys in a chorus.

Kentigern turned and looked at them in astonishment. He did not say a word, but his checks grew red and his eyes flashed. This was more than even his patience could stand.

"Well, what have you to say for yourself?" queried Saint Servan sternly.

Kentigern turned to him sadly. "Oh Father!" he said; "how can you believe that I would do such a cruel thing, to hurt the bird and to make you sad? I did not do it, Father."

"Can you prove it?" asked Saint Servan still more sternly, for he thought the boy was telling a falsehood to hide his guilt.

"Give me the Robin, Father," said Kentigern, holding out his hand. "I will prove that it was not this hand which cowardly used so small a thing as a tiny bird."

Then holding the limp body in one hand and the downy head in the other, he stood before them all, looking up towards heaven, and made his little prayer. "O Father in heaven," he said, "prove to my dear Father on earth that I have not done this cruel thing. If I am innocent, give me power to undo the wrong and restore life to the little singer who loved to praise Thee with his sweet voice."

Then gently he set the head in place where it should be and, as his tears fell upon the Robin's neck, it seemed to grow again to the body. The feathers ruffled and the limp wings fluttered feebly; the black eyes opened, and out of the bill came a little chirp. Then the Robin hopped out of Kentigern's hands and across the floor to Saint Servan's feet, and flew up on his master's shoulder. There he sat and sang such a carol of joy as made the great hall ring again.

But all the guilty boys put their fingers in their ears and turned pale, as if they understood what he was saying, and as if it told the truth about their jealousy and their cruelty and their falsehood.

So Saint Servan learned that Kentigern was innocent and saw how it had all happened. The real culprits were severely punished. But Kentigern became even dearer than before to his master, who helped him in every way to become the great and famous Saint he afterwards was. And the Robin was another fond and faithful friend. For the bird seemed never to forget that Kentigern had restored his life, and always sang his sweetest song for the boy.

You may be sure that after this the boys gave up trying to get the better of Kentigern. They had learned that lesson, and thenceforth they were more kind and respectful to a boy over whom some kind Power seemed to keep special charge.

(900 words)

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