SAINT BRIDGET AND THE KING'S WOLF
VERY one has heard of Bridget, the little girl saint of Ireland.
Her name is almost as well known as that of Saint Patrick,
who drove all the snakes from the Island. Saint Bridget had
long golden hair; and she was very beautiful. Many
wonderful things happened to her that are written in famous
books. But I suspect that you never heard what she did
about the King's Wolf. It is a queer story.
This is how it happened. The King of Ireland had a tame
wolf which some hunters had caught for him when it was a wee
baby. And this wolf ran around as it pleased in the King's
park near the palace, and had a very good time. But one
morning he got over the high wall which surrounded the
park, and strayed a long distance from home, which was a
foolish thing to do. For in those days wild wolves were
hated and feared by the people, whose cattle they often
stole; and if a man could kill a wicked wolf he thought
himself a very smart fellow indeed.
More-  over, the King
himself had offered a prize to any man who should bring him
a dead wolf. For he wanted his kingdom to be a peaceful,
happy one, where the children could play in the woods all
day without fear of big eyes or big teeth.
Of course you can guess what happened to the King's wolf? A
big, silly country fellow was going along with his bow and
arrows, when he saw a great brown beast leap over a hedge
and dash into the meadow beyond. It was only the
King's wolf running away from home and feeling very frisky
because it was the first time that he had done such a thing.
But the country fellow did not know all that.
"Aha!" he said to himself. "I'll soon have you, my fine
wolf, and the King will give
me a gold piece that will buy me a hat and a new suit of
clothes for the holidays." And without stopping to think
about it or to look closely at the wolf, who had the King's
mark upon his ear, the fellow shot his arrow straight as a
string. The King's wolf gave one great leap into the air
and then fell dead on the grass, poor fellow.
 The countryman was much pleased. He dragged his prize
straight up to the King's palace and thumped on the gate.
"Open!" he cried. "Open to the valiant hunter who has
shot a wolf for the King. Open, that I may go in to receive
So, very respectfully, they bade him enter; and the Lord
Chamberlain escorted him before the King himself, who sat on
a great red velvet throne in the Hall. In came the fellow,
dragging after him by the tail the limp body of the King's
"What have we here?" growled the King, as the Lord
Chamberlain made a low bow and pointed with his staff to the
stranger. The King had a bad temper and did not like to
receive callers in the morning. But the silly countryman
was too vain of his great deed to notice the King's
"You have here a wolf, Sire," he said proudly. "I have shot
for you a wolf, and I come to claim the promised reward."
But at this unlucky moment the King started up with an angry
cry. He had noticed his mark on the wolf's right ear.
 "Ho! Seize the villain!" he shouted to his soldiers. "He
has slain my tame wolf; he has shot my pet! Away with him
to prison; and to-morrow he dies."
It was useless for the poor man to scream and cry and try to
explain that it was all a mistake. The King was furious.
His wolf was killed, and the murderer must die.
In those days this was the way kings punished men who
displeased them in any way. There were no delays; things
happened very quickly. So they dragged the poor fellow off
to a dark, damp dungeon and left him there howling and
tearing his hair, wishing that wolves had never been saved
from the flood by Noah and his Ark.
Now not far from this place little Saint Bridget lived.
When she chose the beautiful spot for her home there were no
houses near, only a great oak-tree, under which she built
her little hut. It had but one room and the roof was
covered with grass and straw. It seemed almost like a
doll's playhouse, it was so small; and Bridget herself was
like a big, golden-haired wax doll,—the prettiest doll you
 She was so beautiful and so good that people wanted to live
near her, where they could see her sweet face often and hear
her voice. When they found where she had built her cell,
men came flocking from all the country round about with
their wives and children and their household goods, their
cows and pigs and chickens; and camping on the green grass
under the great oak-tree they said, "We will live here, too,
where Saint Bridget is."
So house after house was built, and a village grew up about
her little cell; and for a name it had Kildare, which in
Irish means "Cell of the Oak." Soon Kildare became so
fashionable that even the King must have a palace and a park
there. And it was in this park that the King's wolf had
Now Bridget knew the man who had shot the wolf, and when she
heard into what terrible trouble he had fallen she was very
sorry, for she was a kind-hearted little girl. She knew he
was a silly fellow to shoot the tame wolf; but still it was
all a mistake, and she thought he ought not to be punished
so severely. She wished that she could do
some-  thing to help him, to save him if possible. But this seemed
difficult, for she knew what a bad temper the King had; and
she also knew how proud he had been of that wolf. who was
the only tame one in all the land.
Bridget called for her coachman with her chariot and pair of
white horses, and started for the King's palace, wondering
what she should do to satisfy the King and make him release
the man who had meant to do no harm,
But lo and behold! as the horses galloped along over the
Irish bogs of peat, Saint Bridget saw a great white shape
racing towards her. At first she thought it was a dog. But
no: no dog was as large as that. She soon saw that it was a
wolf, with big eyes and with a red tongue lolling out of his
mouth. At last he overtook the frightened horses, and with
a flying leap came plump into the chariot where Bridget sat,
and crouched at her feet, quietly as a dog would. He was no
tame wolf, but a wild one, who had never before felt a human
being's hand upon him. Yet he let Bridget pat and stroke
him, and say nice things into his great ear. And he
 kept perfectly still by her side until the chariot rumbled up to
the gate of the palace.
Then Bridget held out her hand and called to him; and the
great white beast followed her quietly through the gate and
up the stair and down the long hall until they stood before
the red-velvet throne, where the King sat looking stern and
They must have been a strange-looking pair, the little maiden
in her green gown with her golden hair falling like a shower
down to her knees; and the huge white wolf standing up
almost as tall as she, his yellow eyes glaring fiercely
about, and his red tongue panting. Bridget laid her hand
gently on the beast's head which was close to her shoulder,
and bowed to the King. The King only sat and stared, he was
so surprised at the sight; but Bridget took that as a
permission to speak.
"You have lost your tame wolf, O King," she said. "But I
have brought you a better. There is no other tame wolf in
all the land, now yours is dead. But look at this one!
There is no white wolf to be found anywhere, and he is both
tame and white. I have tamed him, my King. I, a little
maiden, have tamed
 him so that he is gentle as you see.
Look, I can pull his big ears and he will not snarl. Look,
I can put my little hand into his great red mouth, and he
will not bite. Sire, I give him to you. Spare me then the
life of the poor, silly man who unwittingly killed your
beast. Give his stupid life to me in exchange for this
dear, amiable wolf," and she smiled pleadingly.
The King sat staring first at the great white beast,
wonderfully pleased with the look of him, then at the
beautiful maiden whose blue eyes looked so wistfully at him.
And he was wonderfully pleased with the look of them, too.
Then he bade her tell him the whole story, how she had come
by the creature, and when, and where. Now when she had
finished he first whistled in surprise, then he laughed.
That was a good sign,—he was wonderfully pleased with Saint
Bridget's story, also. It was so strange a thing for the
King to laugh in the morning that the Chamberlain nearly
fainted from surprise; and Bridget felt sure that she had
won her prayer. Never had the King been seen in such a good
humor. For he was a vain man, and it
 pleased him mightily
to think of owning all for himself this huge beast, whose
like was not in all the land, and whose story was so
And when Bridget looked at him so beseechingly, he could not
refuse those sweet blue eyes the request which they made,
for fear of seeing them fill with tears. So, as Bridget
begged, he pardoned the countryman, and gave his life to
Bridget, ordering his soldiers to set him free from prison.
Then when she had thanked the King very sweetly, she bade
the wolf lie down beside the red velvet throne, and
thenceforth be faithful and kind to his new master. And
with one last pat upon his shaggy head, she left the wolf
and hurried out to take away the silly countryman in her
chariot, before the King should have time to change his
The man was very happy and grateful. But she gave him a
stern lecture on the way home, advising him not to be so
hasty and so wasty next time.
"Sirrah Stupid," she said as she set him down by his
cottage gate, "better not kill at all than take the lives of
poor tame creatures.
 I have saved your life this once, but
next time you will have to suffer. Remember, it is better
that two wicked wolves escape than that one kind beast be
killed. We cannot afford to lose our friendly beasts,
Master Stupid. We can better afford to lose a blundering
fellow like you." And she drove away to her cell under the
oak, leaving the silly man to think over what she had said,
and to feel much ashamed.
But the King's new wolf lived happily ever after in the
palace park; and Bridget came often to see him, so that he
had no time to grow homesick or lonesome.