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Stories of the Saints by  Grace Hall
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ST LAUNOMAR'S COW

[243] ST LAUNOMAR, having twice fled from the life of the monastery in the attempt to gain the blessings of the solitary and contemplative life of a hermit, had finally been obliged to resign himself to becoming the abbot of the monastery of Dreux, not far from Corbion, for wherever he went, disciples followed him, attracted by rumours of his holiness.

His kindliness under all circumstances was the wonder of all.

It happened one night that two robbers came to his monastery in search of booty. As there was neither gold nor silver to be found there, nor precious vessels in the chapel, the robbers had to content themselves with taking away the cow which they found in the stable.

They were, however, neither shepherds nor versed in the ways of cattle, so they not only had difficulty in inducing the cow to leave her stall with them with whom she was unacquainted, but having finally, by muffled but emphatic persuasion, by much silent pulling and prodding, succeeded in driving her into the thick forest, they discovered that in their anxiety to secure the cow they had paid no heed to the path by which they had brought her, with the result that at daybreak, although they had gone a great distance, they had no idea of the road over which they had travelled, and the surrounding landscape looked in the early light entirely unfamiliar. Not knowing what else to do, they anxiously and hurriedly drove the cow harshly onward and onward, hoping to come upon some familiar landmark.

[244] As hours passed she became no more amenable to their persuasion, until one of them cried: "As we do not know whither we are going, and as wherever we are going the cow is unwilling to accompany us, and as we are many leagues from our starting point, were it not well to let the beast go whither she will, provided, of course, she lead us not backward over our steps to her monastery? There is often wisdom in the ways of dumb creatures; let us allow her to do her will, and see what shall occur, for I am more than mortal weary!"

The other agreed, so from exhausting coercion they lapsed into easy following of the cow. Released from their tether and blows, the gentle animal fell into a contemplative gait. Frequently she stopped to crop the grass bordering the path; when the hungry and thirsty robbers would have milked her she raised no objection; once she lay down beside a brook and chewed the cud. Her attitude toward them and toward the situation was one of absent-minded detachment. Given her choice of paths, she went on her road with the quiet confidence of one who knows that if she can but have her own way all will be well.

Throughout the day this pleasant journey continued. The cow never made a motion to go home; she never turned her mild and magnificent eye backward in yearning for her shed and her kind master. She strolled on and on and on and on and on, and at night, all unwearied herself, though the robbers were by this time near to fainting in their tracks, she led them without fuss or worry into the clearing in front of the monastery, where Launomar himself stood with a happy smile and outstretched arms to greet her.

To the robbers he turned the same sweet countenance as he said:

"Blessings upon you and thanks, my Brothers, for bringing back to me safely the cow that had strayed [245] from us. You must be weary and hungry, for by your appearance I judge you have come far, very far. Shall we all go within and rest, and eat?"

With his arm round the neck of his beautiful and wise red and white friend, Launomar led the way toward shelter and food.


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