The Greedy Geese





FROM IL LIBRO D'ORO (ADAPTED)



Many years ago there was near the sea a convent famed for the rich crops

of grain that grew on its farm. On a certain year a large flock of wild

geese descended on its fields and devoured first the corn, and then the

green blades.



The superintendent of the farm hastened to the convent and called the

lady abbess.



"Holy mother," said he, "this year the nuns will have to fast

continually, for there will be no food."



"Why is that?" asked the abbess.



"Because," answered the superintendent, "a flood of wild geese has

rained upon the land, and they have eaten up the corn, nor have they

left a single green blade."



"Is it possible," said the abbess, "that these wicked birds have no

respect for the property of the convent! They shall do penance for their

misdeeds. Return at once to the fields, and order the geese from me to

come without delay to the convent door, so that they may receive just

punishment for their greediness."



"But, mother," said the superintendent, "this is not a time for jesting!

These are not sheep to be guided into the fold, but birds with long,

strong wings, to fly away with."



"Do you understand me!" answered the abbess. "Go at once, and bid them

come to me without delay, and render an account of their misdeeds."



The superintendent ran back to the farm, and found the flock of

evildoers still there. He raised his voice and clapping his hands,

cried:--



"Come, come, ye greedy geese! The lady abbess commands you to hasten to

the convent door!"



Wonderful sight! Hardly had he uttered these words than the geese raised

their necks as if to listen, then, without spreading their wings, they

placed themselves in single file, and in regular order began to march

toward the convent. As they proceeded they bowed their heads as if

confessing their fault and as though about to receive punishment.



Arriving at the convent, they entered the courtyard in exact order, one

behind the other, and there awaited the coming of the abbess. All night

they stood thus without making a sound, as if struck dumb by their

guilty consciences. But when morning came, they uttered the most pitiful

cries as though asking pardon and permission to depart.



Then the lady abbess, taking compassion on the repentant birds, appeared

with some nuns upon a balcony. Long she talked to the geese, asking them

why they had stolen the convent grain. She threatened them with a long

fast, and then, softening, began to offer them pardon if they would

never again attack her lands, nor eat her corn. To which the geese bowed

their heads low in assent. Then the abbess gave them her blessing and

permission to depart.



Hardly had she done so when the geese, spreading their wings, made a

joyous circle above the convent towers, and flew away. Alighting at some

distance they counted their number and found one missing. For, alas! in

the night, when they had been shut in the courtyard, the convent cook,

seeing how fat they were, had stolen one bird and had killed, roasted,

and eaten it.



When the birds discovered that one of their number was missing, they

again took wing and, hovering over the convent, they uttered mournful

cries, complaining of the loss of their comrade, and imploring the

abbess to return him to the flock.



Now, when the lady abbess heard these melancholy pleas, she assembled

her household, and inquired of each member where the bird might be.

The cook, fearing that it might be already known to her, confessed the

theft, and begged for pardon.



"You have been very audacious," said the abbess, "but at least collect

the bones and bring them to me."



The cook did as directed, and the abbess at a word caused the bones to

come together and to assume flesh, and afterwards feathers, and, lo! the

original bird rose up.



The geese, having received their lost companion, rejoiced loudly,

and, beating their wings gratefully, made many circles over the sacred

cloister, before they flew away. Neither did they in future ever dare

to place a foot on the lands of the convent, nor to touch one blade of

grass.





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