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SAINT BLAISE AND HIS BEASTS
HIS is the story of a Saint who loved
all animals and whom the animals
therefore loved in return.
Saint Blaise was the son of wealthy people
in Sebaste, a town of Armenia near Turkey,
in the days when it was fashionable to be a
heathen. He was not like the other boys, his
playmates, for he was a Christian, full of sympathy
for everything that lived. More than
all things he longed to learn how to help the
creatures that he loved,—men and women,
the children, the dumb beasts, and everything
that suffered and was sick. So he went to
school and studied medicine; and by and
by he grew up to be a wise man with a big,
tender heart. Every one loved him, for he did
great good among the people of his village,
tending their children and healing their cattle
and household pets.
Nor did he neglect even the wild beasts.
For Saint Blaise loved to go away into the
woods and fields where he could learn about
the untamed creatures and teach them to be
 his friends. The birds and beasts and fishes
grew to love him because he never hurt them,
but talked to them kindly and healed them
when they were sick or wounded. The timid
creatures were brave in his presence, and the
fierce ones grew tame and gentle at the sound
of his voice. The little birds brought him
food, and the four-footed beasts ran errands
and were his messengers. The legends say
that they used to visit him in his forest home,
which was a cave on Mount Argus near the
city of Sebaste. Every morning they came
to see how their master was faring, to receive
his blessing and lick his hands in gratitude.
If they found the Saint at his prayers they
never disturbed him, but waited in a patient,
wistful group at the door of his cave until he
rose from his knees.
One day a poor woman came to him in
great distress because a wolf had carried
away her pig. Saint Blaise was sorry to hear
that one of his friends had done so wicked
a thing. He bade the woman go home, and
said he would see what could be done. He
called the Wolf up to him and shook his head
gravely at the culprit.
 "You bad Wolf!" he said. "Don't you
know that the Pig was a friend of mine, too?
He is not handsome, but he is nice and
plump; and he is the only pig of a poor,
lone woman. How could you be so selfish?
Go straight home and get my friend Pig,
and drive him down to the woman's house."
Then the Wolf went sheepishly away, and
did what the good Saint had told him to do;
for the Pig had not yet been made into pork.
And when the poor woman saw the Pig run
grunting into her yard, chased by the repentant
Wolf, she fell upon his fat neck and wept
tears of joy. Then the Wolf went back to
Saint Blaise, who told him he was a good
wolf, and gave him a dish of fresh milk to
cool his throat.
Saint Blaise was chosen Bishop by the
Christians who loved him for his piety and
his charity. And the wood-beasts were glad
of this honor done to their dear master. But
the poor creatures did not know how dangerous
it was to be a Christian in those days,
and especially to be a Bishop who had much
power over the people. For the heathen
were jealous of him, and feared that he would
 make all the people Christians too, when
they saw the wonderful cures which his medicines
made. But they could not find him, for
he was living in his forest cave.
This was 316 years after Christ's birth, and
the cruel Emperor Licinius was causing many
Christians to be killed. Agricola was the
governor whom Licinius had appointed in
Sebaste, and he sent his soldiers into the
mountains to get some wild beasts for the
games in the arena, where the Christians
were to be put to death. But they could not
find any beasts at all in the mountains, or in
the fields, or valleys, or woods. They thought
this very strange. But by and by they came
by accident to the cave where Saint Blaise
And there were the animals, all the fierce
beasts whom they feared; lions, tigers, leopards,
bears, and wolves, making their morning call
upon Saint Blaise and sitting quietly about.
In the midst was Blaise himself,
praying so earnestly that he never noticed the
men with nets and spears who had come to
entrap the beasts. Although the creatures
were frightened they did not move nor growl
 for fear of disturbing their master, but kept
quite still, glaring at the soldiers with big
yellow eyes. The men were so astonished at
the sight that they stole away without capturing
an animal or saying a word to Saint
Blaise, for they thought he must be Orpheus
or some heathen god who charmed wild
beasts. They went to the Governor and told
him what they had seen, and he said,—
"Ho! I know he is a Christian. The
Christians and the beasts are great friends.
Go and bring him to me straightway."
And this time the soldiers went in the
afternoon when the animals were taking their
after-dinner nap. So they found Saint Blaise
quite alone, again at his devotions. They
told him he must come with them; but instead
of being frightened he said joyfully,
"I am ready, I have long expected you."
For he was a holy man willing to die for his
faith, and holy men often knew what was
going to happen to them.
It was on his way to prison that Saint
Blaise cured his last patient,—a sick child
whose mother brought him to the holy man's
feet begging help. The child had swallowed
 a bone and was choking to death, poor little
thing. But Saint Blaise touched the baby's
throat and the trouble was gone. This is why
in olden times people with sore throats always
prayed to Saint Blaise to make them well.
The good Bishop was put in prison. And
after that they tortured him, trying to make
him promise not to be a Christian any longer.
But Saint Blaise refused to become a heathen
and to sacrifice to the gods. And so they
determined that he must die. They would
have put him in the arena with the wild
beasts, but they knew that these faithful
creatures would not harm their friend. The
beasts could not save him from the cruel
men, but at least they would not do anything
to hurt him. Those which were still left in
the forest howled and moaned about his deserted
cave, and went sniffing and searching
for him everywhere, like stray dogs who have
lost their master. It was a sad day for the
wood-creatures when Saint Blaise was taken
from them forever.
The soldiers were told to drown Saint
Blaise in the neighboring lake. But he made
the sign of the Cross as they cast him from
 the boat, and the water bore him up, so that
he walked upon it as if it were a floor, just
as Christ did once upon the sea of Galilee.
When the soldiers tried to do the same, however,
thinking to follow and recapture him,
they sank and were drowned. At last of his
own free will Saint Blaise walked back to
the shore, clothed in light and very beautiful
to look upon; for he was ready and eager to
die. He let the heathen seize him, and soon
after this was beheaded.
In very old times it used to be the custom
in England on the third of February to light
great bonfires on all the hills,—blazes in
honor of his name.
And we can well believe that all the little
animals came out of their dens and burrows
and nests at the sight of these fires, and
thought with loving hearts of the dear old
Saint who so many years ago used to be kind
to their ancestors, the beasts in the forests of