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Wolf mother of saint Ailbe.
From The Book of Stories for the Storyteller by Fanny E. Coe.
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Start of Story
Louder and louder came the _tantaratara_! of the horns, and then he
could hear the thud of the horses' hoofs and the yelp of the hounds.
But suddenly the Bishop's heart stood still. Among all the other noises
of the chase he heard a sound which made him think--think--think. It was
the long-drawn howl of a wolf, a sad howl of fear and weariness and
pain. It spoke a language which he had almost forgotten. But hardly had
he time to think again and remember before down the village street came
a gaunt figure, flying in long leaps from the foremost dogs who were
snapping at her heels. It was Ailbe's wolf-mother.
He recognized her as soon as he saw her green eyes and the patch of
white on her right foreleg. And she recognized him too--how I cannot
say, for he had changed greatly since she last saw him, a naked little
sun-browned boy. But, at any rate, in his fine robes of purple and
linen and rich lace, with the mitre on his head and the crozier in his
hand, the wolf-mother knew her dear son. With a cry of joy she bounded
up to him and laid her head upon his breast, as if she knew he would
protect her from the growling dogs and the fierce-eyed hunters. And
the good Bishop was true to her. For he drew his beautiful velvet
cloak about her tired, panting body, and laid his hand lovingly on her
head. Then in the other, he held up his crook warningly to keep back
the ferocious dogs.
"I will protect thee, old mother," he said tenderly. "When I was
little and young and feeble, thou didst nourish and cherish and
protect me; and now that thou art old and grey and weak, shall I not
render the same love and care to thee? None shall injure thee."
Then the hunters came tearing up on their foaming horses. Some were
angry, and wanted even now to kill the poor wolf, just as the dogs did
which were prowling about snarling with disappointment. But Ailbe
would have none of it. He forbade them to touch the wolf. And he was
so powerful and wise and holy that they dared not disobey him, but had
to be content with seeing their prey taken out of their clutches.
But before the hunters and their dogs rode away, Saint Ailbe had
something more to say to them. And he bade all the curious towns-folk
who had gathered about him and the wolf listen. He repeated the
promise which he had made to the wolf, and warned everyone henceforth
not to hurt her or her children, either in the village or in the woods
or on the mountain. And, turning to her once more, he said:
"See, mother, you need not fear. They dare not hurt you now you have
found your son to protect you. Come every day with my brothers to my
table, and you and yours shall share my food, as once I so often
And so it was. Every day after that, so long as she lived, the old
wolf-mother brought her four children to the Bishop's palace and
howled at the gate for the porter to let them in. And every day he
opened to them, and the steward showed the five into the great
dining-hall where Ailbe sat at the head of the table, with five places
set for the rest of the family. And there, with her five children
about her in a happy circle, the kind wolf-mother sat and ate the good
things which the Bishop's friends had sent him. But the child she
loved best was none of those in furry coats and fine whiskers that
looked like her; it was the blue-eyed Saint at the top of the table in
his robes of purple and white.
But Saint Ailbe would look about him at his foster mother and his
brothers and would laugh contentedly.
"What a handsome family we are!" he would say. And it was true.