|The Book of Legends|
|by Horace Elisha Scudder|
|Legends to supplement Fifty Famous Stories Retold. Includes the stories of St. George and the Dragon, William Tell, King Cophetua, St. Christopher, The Wandering Jew, and the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, retold in fine English prose. Ages 7-10 |
THE MONK AND THE BIRD
 THERE was an old monk who had led a
holy life, doing good all his days. And one reason why
he had done good was because he lived much with God.
Early in the morning, before others had risen, he was on
his knees praying to the Father of all, giving thanks for
all his mercies, and asking for grace to lead a holy life
that day. And late at night, when others slept, he lingered
long on his knees, talking with God as with his dearest
Not only did this monk pray in the chapel, and by the side
of his narrow bed, but as he walked about doing good deeds
his lips moved, and he scarcely saw any one else, for he
was praying in silence. He was always glad to escape from
himself to the thought of God.
So when he was an old, old man, he was one day in the garden
of the monastery. He was too old and feeble now to go away
amongst the poor and sick; but the poor and sick, young and
old, were glad when they could come to him, and receive his
 It was a lovely morning hour in early summer, and the
garden was sweet with odors of roses. The air was soft and
still. The old monk had been helped out to a garden-bench,
and there left. He was in perfect peace, and when he was
alone he sank upon his knees by the bench, and lifted his
peaceful soul in prayer and praise.
As he prayed there came a sweet, pure note to his ear. It
did not disturb him. He knew it for the voice of one of
God's happy creatures, and as he prayed, he listened with a
smile to this bird singing in one of the rose trees in the
garden. He thought he never had heard anything so liquid
as the song of this bird.
The notes so filled his soul that he rose from his knees to
listen to the song. He rested his hands on his stout
stick and listened. Then he drew near the rose tree from
which the song came.
As he drew near, the little bird continued singing and
then fled to a grove farther away, and again began calling
with its sweet note. The old monk, forgetting everything
else, eagerly pressed forward. It was as if he heard some
bird of God.
O rapture! he neared the bird again and heard the pure notes
sounding clearer and clearer.
 Once more the bird filled his soul and he listened,
listened. Then away flew the bird, and led him by its
song to a farther grove. Still the old man pressed
Thus hour by hour the heavenly bird sang, and hour by hour
the old monk listened intent. He would not lose a note. But
at last the bird's song grew gentler, until it ceased
altogether. The day was nearing its close.
Then the happy old man set his face westward, and made his
way back toward the monastery, carrying the memory of the
song which mingled with his prayer, so that he scarce knew
whether he were praying or listening to the music.
It was nightfall when he found himself once again within
the garden; but it was not yet dark, and in the evening
light he looked about him at the old scene. He was
perplexed at the appearance of things. There was the
convent, there was the garden, and yet nothing looked quite
as when he had left the place.
As he stood wondering, a brother monk drew near. He wore
the familiar dress, yet his face seemed strange. Well as
our old monk knew all the brethren, this newcomer he could
not remember ever to have seen. But he must needs
speak to him, and he asked:—
 "What has happened? Why is it that everything
looks so changed since morning? What has taken
place? But perhaps you have only just come. Is Brother
The monk looked at him as he spoke, and he wondered as
he looked. "Why," said he, "there has been no change here
to-day, no, nor for many years. I have myself been here ten
years come Michaelmas. There is no Brother Andrew
amongst us. But you? pray, who art thou? and whence
camest thou? This is the dress of the order, though
somewhat old, but I have never seen thee before? What
is thy name, good brother?"
The old monk, much wondering, told his name, and said
further: "It was only this morning, early this morning, that
I left the garden, for I heard the song of a bird, and it
was like a song let down from heaven to draw me up."
Now when the younger monk heard the name, he fell on his
knees, and took the robe of the other in his hand, and bowed
over it. Then he told him how it was written in the books
of the monastery that a holy man of that name had strangely
disappeared out of their sight two hundred years ago.
"And it was written," he said, "that like as
 the Lord God buried his servant Moses and no man knew where
he was buried, so did he hide from our sight this holy
At that, a smile spread over the face of the old monk, and he
lifted up his voice and said: ''My hour of death is come.
Blessed be the name of the Lord for all his mercies to me,"
and so he breathed out his spirit.
Then all the monks in the monastery were called to witness
this strange sight; and the young monk who had held converse
with the old man turned to his brethren and said:—
"God be merciful to me a sinner! When this old man drew near
to me I was thinking to myself, how can I bear the thought
of an eternity of happiness? shall I not weary of endless
peace? but lo! our brother heard a bird of God for but a
single day as he thought, and it was two hundred years.
Surely a thousand years in His sight are but as yesterday,
and as a day that is past."
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