SAINT LAUNOMAR'S COW
AINT LAUNOMAR had once been a shepherd boy in the meadows
of sunny France, and had lived among the
gentle creatures of the fold and byre. So he understood them
and their ways very well, and they knew him for their
friend. For this is a secret which one cannot keep from the
animals whose speech is silent.
Saint Launomar had a cow of whom he
was fond, a sleek black and white beauty,
who pastured in the green meadows of
Chartres near the monastery and came home
every evening to be milked and to rub her
soft nose against her master's hand, telling
him how much she loved him. Mignon was
a very wise cow; you could tell that by the
curve of her horns and by the wrinkles in her
forehead between the eyes; and especially by
the way she switched her tail. And indeed,
a cow ought to be wise who has been brought
up by a whole monastery of learned men,
with Launomar, the wisest person in all the
country, for her master and friend.
 It was a dark night after milking time;
Launomar had put Mignon in her stall with
a supper of hay before her, and had bade her
good-night and a pleasant cud-time. Then
he had shut the heavy barn door and had
gone back to his cell to sleep soundly till
But no sooner had his lantern disappeared
through the gate of the monastery, than out
of the forest came five black figures, creeping,
creeping along the wall and across the yard
and up to the great oak door. They were all
muted in long black cloaks, and wore their
caps pulled down over their faces, as if they
were afraid of being recognized. They were
wicked-looking men, and they had big knives
stuck in their belts quite convenient to their
hands. It was a band of robbers; and they
had come to steal Launomar's cow, who was
known to be the handsomest in all that part
of the world.
Very softly they forced open the great
door, and very softly they stole across the
floor to Mignon's stall and threw a strong
halter about her neck to lead her away. But
first they were careful to tie up her mouth
 a piece of cloth so that she could not low
and tell the whole monastery what danger
she was in. Mignon was angry, for that was
just what she had meant to do as soon as she
saw that these were no friends, but wicked
men who had come for no good to her or to
But now she had to go with them dumbly,
although she struggled and kicked and made
all the noise she could. But the monks were
already sound asleep and snoring on their
hard pallets, and never suspected what was
going on so near to them. Even Launomar,
who turned over in his sleep and murmured,
"Ho, Mignon, stand still!" when he dimly
recognized a sound of kicking,—even Launomar
did not waken to rescue his dear
Mignon from the hands of those villains who
were taking her away.
The robbers led her hurriedly down the
lane, across the familiar meadows and into
the dense woods, where they could hide from
any one who happened to pass by. Now it
was dark and they could see but dimly where
they were going. The paths crossed and
crisscrossed in so many directions that they
 soon began to quarrel about which was the
right one to take. They did not know this
part of the country very well, for they were
strangers from a different province, who had
come to Launomar's home because they had
heard of his famous cow and were bound to
have her for themselves.
Very soon the robbers were lost in the
tangle of trees and bushes and did not know
where they were, or in which direction they
ought to go. One said, "Go that way,"
pointing towards the north. And one said,
"No, no! Go that way," pointing directly
south. The third grumbled and said, "Ho,
fellows! Not so, but this way," and he strode
towards the east. While the fourth man
cried, "You are all wrong, comrades. It is
there we must go," and he started to lead
Mignon towards the west. But the fifth robber
confessed that indeed he did not know.
"Let us follow the cow," he cried; "she is
the only one who can see in the dark. I have
always heard that animals will lead you aright
if you leave the matter to them." Now as the
other robbers really did not have the least
idea in the world as to which was the right
 direction, this seemed to them as sensible a
plan as any. So they stripped the halter from
Mignon's head and said, "Hi, there! Get
along, Cow, and show us the way."
Mignon looked at them through the dark
with her big brown eyes, and laughed inside.
It seemed too good to be true! They had
left her free, and were bidding her to guide
them on their way out of the forest back to
their own country. Mignon chuckled again,
so loudly that they thought she must be
choking, and hastily untied the cloth from
her mouth. This was just what she wanted,
for she longed to chew her cud again. She
tossed her head and gave a gentle "Moo!"
as if to say, "Come on, simple men, and I
will show you the way." But really she was
thinking to herself, "Aha! my fine fellows.
Now I will lead you a pretty chase. And
you shall be repaid for this night's work,
Mignon was a very wise cow. She had
not pastured in the meadows about Chartres
with blind eyes. She knew the paths north
and south and east and west through the
forest and the fern; and even in the dark of
 the tangled underbrush she could feel out
the way quite plainly. But she said to herself,
"I must not make the way too easy for
these wicked men. I must punish them all
I can now that it is my turn."
So she led them roundabout and roundabout,
through mud and brambles and
swamps; over little brooks and through big
miry ponds where they were nearly drowned,—roundabout
and roundabout all night long.
They wanted to rest, but she went so fast
that they could not catch her to make her
stand still. And they dared not lose sight
of her big whiteness through the dark, for
now they were completely lost and could
never find their way out of the wilderness
without her. So all night long she kept them
panting and puffing and wading after her, till
they were all worn out, cold and shivering
with wet, scratched and bleeding from the
briars, and cross as ten sticks.
But when at last, an hour after sunrise,
Mignon led them out into an open clearing,
their faces brightened.
"Oh, I think I remember this place," said
the first man.
 "Yes, it has a familiar look. We must
be near home," said the second.
"We are at least twenty-five miles from
the monks of Chartres by this time," said the
third, "and I wish we had some breakfast."
"By another hour we shall have the cow
safe in our home den," said the fourth, "and
then we will have some bread and milk."
But the fifth interrupted them saying,
"Look! Who is that man in gray?"
They all looked up quickly and began to
tremble; but Mignon gave a great "Moo!"
and galloped forward to meet the figure who
had stepped out from behind a bush. It was
Saint Launomar himself!
He had been up ever since dawn looking
for his precious cow; for when he went to
milk her he had found the barn empty, and
her footprints with those of the five robbers
in the moist earth had told the story and
pointed which way the company had gone.
But it was not his plan to scold or frighten
the robbers. He walked up to them, for they
were so surprised to see him that they stood
still trembling, forgetting even to run away.
"Good-morning, friends," said Launomar
 kindly. "You have brought back my cow,
I see, who to-night for the first time has left
her stall to wander far. I thank you, good
friends, for bringing Mignon to me. For she
is not only a treasure in herself, but she is my
dearest friend and I should be most unhappy
to lose her."
The men stood staring at Launomar in
astonishment. They could hardly believe
their eyes and their ears. Where did he come
from? What did he mean? But when they
realized how kind his voice was, and that he
was not accusing them nor threatening to
have them punished, they were very much
ashamed. They hung their heads guiltily;
and then all of a sudden they fell at his feet.
the five of them, confessing how it had all
come about and begging his pardon.
"We stole the cow, Master," said the first
"And carried her these many miles away,"
said the second.
"We are wicked robbers and deserve to
be punished," said the third.
"But we beg you to pardon us," cried the
 "Let us depart, kind Father, we pray you,"
begged the fifth. "And be so good as to
direct us on our way, for we are sorely puzzled."
"Nay, nay," answered Saint Launomar
pleasantly, "the cow hath led you a long
way, hath she not? You must be both tired
and hungry. You cannot journey yet." And
in truth they were miserable objects to see,
so that the Saint's kind heart was filled with
pity, robbers though they were. "Follow
me," he said. By this time they were too
weak and weary to think of disobeying. So
meekly they formed into a procession of
seven, Launomar and the cow going cheerfully
at the head. For these two were very
glad to be together again, and his arm was
thrown lovingly about her glossy neck as
But what was the amazement of the five
robbers when in a short minute or two they
turned a corner, and there close beside them
stood the monastery itself, with the very
barn from which they had stolen Mignon
the night before! All this time the clever
cow had led them in great circles roundabout
 and roundabout her own home. And after
all this scrambling and wading through the
darkness, in the morning they were no farther
on their journey than they had been at the
start. What a wise cow that was! And what
a good breakfast of bran porridge and hay
and sweet turnips Launomar gave her to pay
for her hard night's work.
The five robbers had a good breakfast
too; but perhaps they did not relish it as
Mignon did hers. For their consciences were
heavy; besides, they sat at the monastery
table, and all the monks stood by in a row,
saying nothing but pursing up their mouths
and looking pious; which was trying. And
when the robbers came to drink their porridge
Launomar said mildly,—
"That is Mignon's milk which you drink,
Sirs. It is the best milk in France, and you
are welcome to it for your breakfast to-day,
since we have such reason to be grateful to
you for not putting it beyond our reach forever.
Ah, my friends, we could ill spare so
worthy a cow, so good a friend, so faithful a
guide. But I trust that you will not need
her services again. Perhaps by daylight you
 can find your way home without her if I direct you.
The highroad is plain and straight
for honest men. I commend it to you."
So, when they were refreshed and rested,
Launomar led them forth and pointed out
the way as he had promised. He and Mignon stood
on the crest of a little hill and
watched them out of sight. Then they turned
and looked at one another, the wise Saint and
his wise cow.
And they both chuckled inside.
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