SAINT KENTIGERN AND THE ROBIN
NCE upon a time Saint Servan kept
a school near Glasgow in Scotland,
and many boys, big and little, came
there to study. Now of all these boys there
was one who surpassed the rest in everything
that makes a good scholar. Kentigern was
one of the smallest boys in the school, and
yet he stood at the head of all his classes. It
was Kentigern who found the answer to the
knottiest problem, and who read off the hardest
passages of Latin when no one else was
able to make sense of them. It was Kentigern
who learned his lessons first and who
recited them best. It was Kentigern who
sang the loudest and was never off the pitch;
and good Saint Servan loved him best of all
For all these reasons, and for several more
like them, the other boys were jealous of
Kentigern and did everything they could to
trouble him and make him unhappy. They
tried to make him fail in his lessons by talking
and laughing when it was his turn to
re-  cite. But this was a useless trick; his answers
were always ready, so they had to give this
up. They teased him and called him names,
trying to make him lose his temper so that
he would be punished. But he was too good-natured
to be cross with them; so they had
to give this up. They tried to coax him into
mischief and lead him do something which
would make Saint Servan angry with him.
But Kentigern loved his master too well to
do anything to trouble him. So the boys
had finally to give this up also.
There was only one way to bring Kentigern
into disgrace. They must plan a trap,
and make him fall into it For weeks they
racked their brains trying to think what they
should do; but at last they thought they had
hit upon a plan.
It was all concerned with a fire. in those
days there were no matches with which to
strike a light in a second. Matches had not
been invented in the year 600, nor indeed
for many centuries afterwards. Their way of
making a fire was by rubbing two dry sticks
together until they grew hot and a spark fell
out upon the wood which was to be kindled.
 And this was a very difficult and tiresome
thing to do, especially in the winter when
there were few dry sticks to be found. So
the fire which was kept burning night and
day in the great fireplace of Saint Servan's
school was tended carefully, and it would be
a very serious thing to let this go out. For
how would the breakfast be cooked, and the
rooms warmed, and the candles lighted for
the morning service in the chapel if there
were no fire on the great hearth?
So for a week at a time the boys had to
take turns in tending the fire; and the boy
whose turn it was had to rise at midnight and
put on wood enough to keep the blaze bright
until morning. And oh! how angry Saint
Servan would be with any boy who was so
careless as to let the fire go out in the night.
Now it was Kentigern's week to tend the
fire; and for several days he did tend it faithfully.
But the boys were waiting for a chance
to play their mean trick. On the fourth night
Kentigern rose as the chapel clock boomed
"twelve!" and went down to the kitchen to
give the hungry fire its midnight lunch of
snappy wood. But as soon as he stepped
 into the great empty hall he knew something
was wrong. Br-r-r! The air was damp and
chilly, and there was no crimson glow on the
hearthstones. Kentigern shivered and ran to
the fireplace, peering into the black cavern.
There was nothing but a heap of white ashes
and half-burnt wood!
Then Kentigern's heart sank, for he knew
he should be blamed for carelessness, although
he suspected that some one had thrown water
on the fire and put it out. And he guessed
that it was the other boys who had done this
spiteful thing to bring him into trouble. He
did not know what to do. But a sudden
courage came to him. He took up a log of
wood from the corner and laid it on the heap
of ashes. Then bending down he blew gently
on the pile. And oh, wonderful to say! It
was as if he had scratched a dozen cards of
matches and had touched them to a pile of
paper. Hardly had his breath stirred the
ashes and made the moss shiver on the great
log, when the whole fireplace was filled with
dancing flames, and the wood began to snap
and crack in the best kind of a blaze. Kentigern
laughed softly to himself as he stole
 back to bed, and said never a word to the
sleeping boys who had tried to make mischief for him.
When they woke in the morning they
began to chuckle and nudge one another,
expecting every moment to see Saint Servan
come frowning in search of the careless Kentigern.
And every boy was ready to declare
that the fire was burning brightly when he
went to bed, and that Kentigern had forgotten
to go down and tend it at midnight. But
they were prevented from telling this falsehood.
For the bell rang as usual for breakfast,
and down they all went to find a beautiful
fire burning on the hearth, and Kentigern
going with his taper to light the chapel
candelabra. They did not know how it
had happened till long, long afterwards when
Kentigern had made many other wonders
come to pass, and when he was known far
and wide as a Saint even wiser than Servan
But meanwhile the boys hated him more
than ever, when they saw how much better
Saint Servan loved him every day. And
once more they planned to bring him into
 disgrace. But this time it was an even more
cruel thing which they meant to do. For if
they succeeded it would not only cause
Kentigern to be punished and make Saint
Servan unhappy, but it would cost the life
of an innocent little creature who never had
done any harm to a single one of them.
Saint Servan was a kind-hearted old man,
and he had a Robin Redbreast of which he
was very fond,—a black-eyed fellow who ate
his breakfast out of the Saint's hand. And
when the master chanted the Psalms the little
chorister would perch on Servan's shoulder
and flap his wings, twittering as if he were
trying to join in the songs of praise.
Now one morning when the coast was
clear, the boys killed the little Redbreast and
pulled off his head. And then the biggest
boy of them all took the dead bird in his
hand, and followed by all the rest ran screaming
to Saint Servan himself, pretending to
feel very sorry.
"Oh Father!" cried the Big Boy, "just see
what the wicked Kentigern has done! Look
at your Robin whom Kentigern has killed!"
Then they all began to cry out against
 Kentigern, and some even declared that they
had seen him do the wicked deed; which was
a horrid story, and their tongues must have
smarted well as they spoke it.
Of course Saint Servan was very sad and
angry. He tenderly took the little limp body
in his hand and went to seek Kentigern, the
other boys tiptoeing after him to see the fun.
And by and by they came upon him in a
window bending over a big book which he
was studying. Saint Servan strode up to him
and laid a heavy hand upon his shoulder.
"Look at this, boy," he cried with a sad
voice, "look at this cruel deed, and tell me
what shall be done to punish the slayer? Did
I not love the Robin, even as I loved you,
Kentigern turned quite pale with surprise
and sorrow, and the tears came into his
"Oh, the dear little bird," he said. "Did
I not love him too? Who has killed him,
"You did, you did; we saw you!" cried
all the boys in a chorus.
Kentigern turned and looked at them in
 astonishment. He did not say a word, but
his checks grew red and his eyes flashed.
This was more than even his patience could
"Well, what have you to say for yourself?"
queried Saint Servan sternly. Kentigern turned
to him sadly.
"Oh Father!" he said, "how can you believe
that I would do such a cruel thing, to
hurt the bird and to make you sad? I did
not do it, Father."
"Can you prove it?" asked Saint Servan
still more sternly, for he thought the boy was
telling a falsehood to hide his guilt.
"Give me the Robin, Father," said Kentigern,
holding out his hand. "I will prove that
it was not this hand which cowardly used so
small a thing as a tiny bird." Then holding
the limp body in one hand and the downy
head in the other, he stood before them all,
looking up towards heaven, and made his
SAINT KENTIGERN AND THE ROBIN
"O Father in heaven," he said, "prove
to my dear Father on earth that I have not
done this cruel thing. If I am innocent,
give me power to undo the wrong and restore
 life to the little singer who loved to praise
Thee with his sweet voice." Then gently he
set the head in place where it should be and,
as his tears fell upon the Robin's neck, it
 seemed to grow again to the body. The
feathers ruffled and the limp wings fluttered
feebly; the black eyes opened, and out of
the bill came a little chirp. Then the Robin
hopped out of Kentigern's hands and across
the floor to Saint Servan's feet, and flew up
on his master's shoulder. There he sat and
sang such a carol of joy as made the great hall
ring again. But all the guilty boys put their
fingers in their ears and turned pale, as if they
understood what he was saying, and as if it
told the truth about their jealousy and their
cruelty and their falsehood.
So Saint Servan learned that Kentigern
was innocent, and saw how it had all happened.
The real culprits were severely punished.
But Kentigern became even dearer
than before to his master, who helped him in
every way to become the great and famous
Saint he afterwards was. And the Robin was
another fond and faithful friend. For the
bird seemed never to forget that Kentigern
had restored his life, and always sang his
sweetest song for the boy.
You may be sure that after this the boys
gave up trying to get the better of
Kenti-  gern. They had learned that lesson, and
thenceforth they were more kind and respectful
to a boy over whom some kind
Power seemed to keep special charge.