SAINT KENETH OF THE GULLS
NCE upon a time, more than a thousand years ago, a great white
sea-gull was circling above the waves which roll between
South England and Wales. He was pretending that he was doing
this just for fun; and he seemed very lazy and dozy as
he poised and floated without much trouble to move his wings.
But really he was looking for a dinner, though he did not
want any one to suspect it. And he hoped that some unwary
fish would swim up near the surface of the water within
diving reach of his great claws. His keen gray
eyes were open all the while unsleepily, and
not much that was going on down below on
the water escaped his notice.
Suddenly his eye caught sight of a little
black speck on the waves. "Aha!" he said
to himself, "I think I see my dinner!" and
with a great swoop down he pounced. You
could hardly think how anything which
looked so lazy and quiet could dart so like
a flash of lightning. But a gull is an air-ship
 that can sink whenever it chooses. And when he gives a fish a
sudden invitation to step in for dinner, the fish is hardly
able to refuse.
But this was no fish which the hungry gull had spied. Before
he reached the water he saw his mistake, and wheeling swiftly
as only a gull can, he flapped back again into the air,
uttering a screech of surprise.
"Cree-e-e!" he cried. " 'T is no scaly water-fish such as
I like to eat. 'T is one of
those smooth land-fishes with yellow seaweed
growing on its head. What is it doing here?
I must see to this. Cree-e-e!"
No wonder the great bird circled and
swooped curiously over the wicker basket
which was floating on the waves. For on a
piece of purple cloth lay a tiny pink-and-white baby,
sound asleep, his yellow hair
curling about the dimpled face, and one
thumb thrust into the round red mouth.
"Well, well!" said the sea-gull to himself
when he had examined the strange floating
thing all he wished. "I must go and tell the
others about this. Something must be done.
There is a storm brewing, and this boat will
not bear much rough weather. This little
 land-fish cannot swim. We must take care of him, Cree-e-e!"
So off he flapped, and as he went he gave the family cry to call
the gulls about him, wherever they might be.
Soon they came, circling carelessly, swooping sulkily,
floating happily, darting eagerly, according to their
various dispositions; and as they came they gave the Gull cry.
"Cree-e-e!" said they, "what is the matter?" "Follow
me," said the White Gull to the
great fleet of gray-winged air-ships. "Follow me, and you
shall see" (which is Gull poetry).
Then he led the flock over the spot where
the wicker cradle tossed on the growing
waves. "Lo," said he, "a land-fish in danger
of being drowned among the Scaly Ones.
Let us save it. See how pink it is. Its eyes
are a piece of the sky, and its voice is not
For by this time the baby had wakened,
and feeling cold and hungry and wet with
the dashing spray, opened his pink mouth,
and began to cry lustily. "E-e-e-e-e!" wailed
the baby; and as the White Gull had said,
that sounds very like the chief word of the
SAINT KENETH OF THE GULLS
 "Poor little thing!" said all the mother
gulls in chorus. "He talks our language, he
must be saved. Come, brothers and sisters,
and use your beaks and talons before the
 clumsy nest in which he lies is sunk beneath the waves,
Cree-e-e, little one, cree-e-e! We will save you."
Now, I don't know what cree-e-e means in Gull.
But the baby
must have understood. For he stopped crying instantly, and
looked up laughing at the white wings which fanned his face
and the kind gray eyes which peered into his own blue ones.
So the strong gulls seized the corners of the purple cloth
on which the baby lay, some
with their claws, some with their hooked
beaks. And at a signal from the White Gull
they fluttered up and away, bearing the baby
over the waves as if he were in a little hammock.
The White Gull flew on before and
guided them to land,—a high shelf which
hung over the sea roaring on the rocks below,
the nicest kind of a gull home. And
here they laid the baby down, and sat about
wondering what they must do next. But the
"We must build him a nest," said the
White Gull. "These rocks are too hard and
too sharp for a little land-fish. I know how
they sleep in their home nests, for I have
 Now the gulls lay their eggs on the bare
rocks, and think these quite soft enough for the young gull
babies. But they all agreed that this would never do for
the little stranger. So they pulled the downy feathers from
their breasts till they had a great pile; and of this they
made the softest bed in which they laid the baby. And he
This is how little Saint Keneth was saved from the waves by
the kind sea-gulls, And it goes to show that birds are
kinder than human folk. For Keneth was
the Welsh Prince's little son. But no one
loved him, and his cruel mother had put him
into the wicker basket and set him afloat on
the waves, not caring what became of him
nor hoping to see him again. But this in
after years she did, when Keneth was become
a great and famous Saint whom all, even the
Prince and Princess, honored. She did not
know him then because she believed that he
was dead. How proud she would have been
if she could have called him "Son!" But
that was many years later.
Now when the gulls had made Keneth
this comfortable nest, they next wondered
 what they should do to get him food. But
the White Gull had an idea. He flew away
over the land and was gone for some time.
When at last he returned he had with him a
kind forest doe,—a yellow mother Deer who
had left her little ones, at the White Gull's
request to come and feed the stranger baby.
So Keneth found a new mother who loved
him far better than his own had done,—a
new mother who came every morning and
every night and fed him with her milk. And
he grew strong and fat and hearty, the happy
baby in his nest upon the rocks, where his
friends, the sea-gulls, watched over him, and
the mother Deer fed and cared for him, and
washed him clean with her warm crash-towel
Now when Keneth had lived in the sea-gulls'
home for some months, one day the
flock of guardian gulls left him while they
went upon a fishing trip. The mother Deer
had not yet come with his breakfast, but was
at home with her own little ones, so that for
the first time Keneth was quite alone. He
did not know this, but was sleeping peacefully
on his purple quilt, when a strange face
 came peering over the edge of the rocks. It was a Shepherd
from the nearest village who had clambered up to seek
gulls' eggs for his breakfast. But his eyes bulged out of
his head, and he nearly fell over backward into the sea with
surprise when he saw Keneth lying in his nest of feathers.
"The Saints preserve us!" he cried "what is this?" But
when he had climbed nearer and saw what it really was, he
was delighted with the treasure which he had
found. "A beautiful little baby!" he exclaimed.
"I will take him home to my wife,
who has no child of her own." And forthwith
he took up Keneth, wrapped in the purple
cloth, and started down over the rocks towards
But Keneth wakened at the stranger's
touch and began to wail. He had no mind
to go with the Shepherd; he wanted to stay
where he was. So as they went he screamed
at the top of his lungs, hoping some of his
friends would come. And the mother Deer,
who was on her way thither, heard his voice.
She came running in a fright, but she could
do nothing to protect him, being a gentle,
 weaponless creature. However, she followed anxiously to see
what would happen to her darling. So they went down the
rocks, Keneth and the Shepherd with the Deer close behind.
And all the way Keneth shrieked loudly, "E-e-e-e!"
Now at last a messenger breeze carried the baby voice out
over the water of the Bristol Channel where the gulls were
"What is that?" they said, stopping
their work to listen. "Is it not our little
land-fish calling us in Gull? He is in trouble
or danger. Brothers, to the rescue!
So the flock of gulls left their fishing and
swooped back to the rock where they had
left the baby. Dreadful! The nest was
empty. They flapped their wide wings and
screamed with fear, "What shall we do?"
But just then up the rocky hill came panting
the mother Deer. Her glossy hide was
warm and wet, and her tongue lolled out
with weariness, she had run so fast.
"He is down there," she panted. "The
Shepherd has carried him to his hut and laid
 him in a nest such as human-folk make. The Shepherd's wife
loves him and would keep him there, but he is unhappy and
cries for us. You must bring him back."
"We will, we will!" screamed the gulls in chorus. "Guide
us to the place, mother Deer." And without another word they
rose on their great, strong wings, and followed
where she led. Back down the hill she took
the path over the moor and up the lane to
a little white cottage under the rosebushes.
"Here is the place," said the Deer, and she
But the flock of gulls with a great whirring
and rustling and screaming swooped in
at the little low door, straight up to the cradle
where Keneth lay crying "E-e-e-e!" as if his
heart would break.
The Shepherd's wife was sitting by the
cradle saying, "Hush!" and "Bye-lo!" and
other silly things that Keneth did not understand.
But when she heard the rushing of
the gulls' wings, she gave a scream and
started for the door.
"Cree-e-e!" cried the gulls fiercely.
"Give us our little one." And they perched
 on the edge of the cradle and looked tenderly at Keneth. Then
he stopped his crying and began to laugh, for these were the
voices he knew and loved. And in another minute the
gulls had fastened their beaks and claws into the purple
cloth, and once more bore him away as they had done when
they saved him
from the sea,
Out of the door they flew, right over the Shepherd's
astonished head, while his wife stared wildly at the empty
cradle. And soon
Keneth was lying in his own nest on the ledge above the roaring
After this no one tried again to bring the gulls' adopted baby back among
human folk. Little Keneth tarried and thrived with his feathered brothers,
growing fat and strong. When he came to walk he was somewhat lame
to be sure; one of his legs was shorter than the other, and he limped like
a poor gull who has hurt his foot. But this troubled Keneth
very little, and the gulls were kind. He was always happy and
contented, full of singing and laughter and kind words for all.
And here in his wild, spray-sprinkled nest above the Atlantic
breakers, Keneth dwelt
 all his life. The Welsh peasants of the Gower
peninsula revered him as their Saint, knowing him to be a
holy man beloved by the gulls and the deer and all the wild
creatures of shore and forest, who did their kindly best to
make him happy.