THE GREEDY GEESE
FROM IL LIBRO D'ORO (ADAPTED)
 MANY years ago there was near the sea a convent famed for
the rich crops of grain that grew on its farm. On a certain
year a large flock of wild geese descended on its fields and
devoured first the corn, and then the green blades.
The superintendent of the farm hastened to the convent and
called the lady abbess.
"Holy mother," said he, "this year the nuns will have to
fast continually, for there will be no food."
"Why is that?" asked the abbess.
"Because," answered the superintendent, "a flood of wild
geese has rained upon the land, and they have eaten up the
corn, nor have they left a single green blade."
"Is it possible," said the abbess, "that these wicked birds
have no respect for the property of the convent! They shall
do penance for their misdeeds. Return at once to the fields,
and order the geese from me to come without delay to the
convent door, so that they may receive just punishment for
"But, mother," said the superintendent, "this is not a time
for jesting! These are not sheep to be guided into the fold,
but birds with long, strong wings, to fly away with."
 "Do you understand me!" answered the abbess. "Go at once,
and bid them come to me without delay, and render an account
of their misdeeds."
The superintendent ran back to the farm, and found the flock
of evildoers still there. He raised his voice and clapping
his hands, cried:—
"Come, come, ye greedy geese! The lady abbess commands you
to hasten to the convent door!"
Wonderful sight! Hardly had he uttered these words than the
geese raised their necks as if to listen, then, without
spreading their wings, they placed themselves in single
file, and in regular order began to march toward the
convent. As they proceeded they bowed their heads as if
confessing their fault and as though about to receive
Arriving at the convent, they entered the courtyard in exact
order, one behind the other, and there awaited the coming of
the abbess. All night they stood thus without making a
sound, as if struck dumb by their guilty consciences. But
when morning came, they uttered the most pitiful cries as
though asking pardon and permission to depart.
Then the lady abbess, taking compassion on the repentant
birds, appeared with some nuns upon a balcony. Long she
talked to the geese,
 asking them why they had stolen the convent grain. She
threatened them with a long fast, and then, softening, began
to offer them pardon if they would never again attack her
lands, nor eat her corn. To which the geese bowed their
heads low in assent. Then the abbess gave them her blessing
and permission to depart.
Hardly had she done so when the geese, spreading their
wings, made a joyous circle above the convent towers, and
flew away. Alighting at some distance they counted their
number and found one missing. For, alas! in the night, when
they had been shut in the courtyard, the convent cook,
seeing how fat they were, had stolen one bird and had
killed, roasted, and eaten it.
When the birds discovered that one of their number was
missing, they again took wing and, hovering over the
convent, they uttered mournful cries, complaining of the
loss of their comrade, and imploring the abbess to return
him to the flock.
Now, when the lady abbess heard these melancholy pleas, she
assembled her household, and inquired of each member where
the bird might be. The cook, fearing that it might be
already known to her, confessed the theft, and begged for
"You have been very audacious," said the abbess, "but at
least collect the bones and bring them to me."
 The cook did as directed, and the abbess at a word caused
the bones to come together and to assume flesh, and
afterwards feathers, and, lo! the original bird rose up.
The geese, having received their lost companion, rejoiced
loudly, and, beating their wings gratefully, made many
circles over the sacred cloister, before they flew away.
Neither did they in future ever dare to place a foot on the
lands of the convent, nor to touch one blade of grass.
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