Saints: The Wonders of Saint Berach (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).

The Wonders of Saint Berach (cont.)

It was many years after this, again a hard and cruel winter, when Saint Berach made another wonder come to pass. Meantime he had grown older and even wiser. He had himself been made Abbot and had built a monastery of his own in a lonely place far away from Glendalough. But he had an enemy. There was a rich man who wanted the land which Berach had chosen, and who was so envious that he tried to do him spite in every way he could. He even sought to destroy the monastery. Then Berach appealed to the King for protection, and both men were summoned to the court.

The rich man went in a chariot, splendid in his fine robes of fur, with a gold chain about his neck. And the guards hurried to let down the portcullis for him, and with low bows bade him enter. But when Saint Berach came he wore only his gray monk's robe, all torn and tattered. He was shivering with cold, and weak from having walked so far. So they thought him a mere beggar and would not let him in.

As he stood outside the gate, friendless and alone, some rude boys who had gathered there began to laugh and jeer at his bare sandaled feet and the rents in his robe through which the cold winds blew. They made snowballs and rushed upon him in a crowd, like the cowards they were, pelting the poor man most cruelly. But suddenly, what do you think? Their arms stiffened as they raised them to throw the balls; their legs stuck fast in the snow; the grins froze on their faces; and they were almost choked by the shouts which turned to ice in their throats. What had happened? Well, Saint Berach had merely breathed upon them, and they were as if turned into ice, so that they could not stir. Br-r-r! How cold they were!

Then the Saint made ready to warm himself. A drift of snow had fallen from the palace gate when it opened to let in the rich man. And going up to this he blew upon it. He blew a warm breath this time. Instantly the whole heap burst into flame, and snapped and crackled like the fire in the chimney-place of the dining-hall at home. In front of this merry blaze the good Saint stood, warming his hands and thawing out his poor frozen feet. But the group of boys stood like statues of snow; so cold, so cold, but unable to come nearer to the fire, so frightened, so frightened, but unable to run away.

This is what the King's guards saw when, terrified by the crackling of the fire and the great light which shone through the chinks of the gate, they came to see what it all meant. They ran to the King and told him of the strange sight. And he himself with a crowd of courtiers came out to look. When he saw the ragged beggar who had done all this he was filled with amazement. He immediately suspected that this must be a holy man and powerful. So he invited Berach into the palace hall, and there listened to his story.

Now when all was done the rich man was bundled away in disgrace, for daring to meddle with the good works of so wonderful a Saint. But Berach was honored and admired.

Before he went back to his monastery they begged him to restore the naughty boys to life and motion. Now Berach had wanted only to teach there a lesson, not to punish them too severely, for he was too kind-hearted to injure any living creature. So going out into the courtyard he blew upon the snow figures, and once more they became live boys. You can imagine how glad they were when they found they were able to move their legs and arms again.

Now Berach went back to his monastery in one of the King's chariots, with a robe of fur and a gold chain about his neck. And you may be sure he carried with him many other gifts and precious things from the King, who never thereafter suffered him to be troubled in his far-off retreat.

(700 words)

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