STORIES OF THE SAINTS BY CANDLE-LIGHT
VERA C. BARCLAY
THE FAITH PRESS, LTD. LONDON: THE FAITH HOUSE, 22, BUCKINGHAM ST., CHARING CROSS, W.C. 2
THE MEMORY OF
SIXER FRANK SPARKS
SECOND BOB SMITH
TWO FAITHFUL CUBS OF THE "CARDINAL'S OWN" PACK
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED BY THEIR OLD WOLF.
NINE DAYS IN CAMP, AND NINE STORIES BY CANDLE-LIGHT
ABOUT THIS BOOK 1
THE FIRST DAY: GETTING THERE. THE STORY OF ST. BENEDICT 2
THE SECOND DAY: THE STORY OF ST. GUTHLAC 17
THE THIRD DAY: THE STORY OF ST. MARTIN 27
THE FOURTH DAY: THE STORY OF ST. EDMUND, KING AND MARTYR 42
THE FIFTH DAY (SUNDAY): THE STORY OF ST. FRANCIS (I.) 56
THE SIXTH DAY: THE STORY OF ST. FRANCIS (II.) 67
THE SEVENTH DAY: THE STORY OF ST. ANTONY 83
THE EIGHTH DAY: THE STORY OF ST. PATRICK 96
THE NINTH DAY: THE STORY OF ST. GEORGE 107
STORIES OF THE SAINTS BY CANDLE-LIGHT
NINE DAYS IN CAMP, AND NINE STORIES BY CANDLE-LIGHT
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Once upon a time there were fifteen Cubs who spent nine wonderful days in camp. They were London Cubs, and the camp was on a beautiful little green island whose rocky shore ran down in green, tree-covered points into the bluest sea you ever saw. These nine days were the most splendid days in those Cubs' lives. And so they often think of them, and dream about them, and live them over again in memory.
So that they may more easily go over those days their Old Wolf has written down all about them in this book. Perhaps other Cubs will like to come away, in imagination, to that fair, green island, and so have a share in the nine days.
Now, one of the very "special things" about those days in camp were the candle-light stories which the Cubs listened to every night, seated in a big, happy pile, pyjama-clad, on their palliasses. All day they used to look forward to those stories, and sometimes, in the middle of a shrimping expedition, or a paddling party, one or another would remark, "Story to-night, boys!" and turn his thumbs up to show he was pleased at the thought. And so you will find the candle-light stories, too, in this book; and remember that all the stories in this book are true—both those about the Cubs and those about the Saints.
THE FIRST DAY
The train steamed slowly out of Victoria Station. "Now we're off!" shouted a Cub, and he and all the others began to jump for joy, which was not easy in a railway compartment packed like a sardine-tin. Then someone began to sing the Pack chorus, and everyone joined in with all their strength:
Let the great big world keep turning, Now I've joined a Wolf Cub Pack; And I only know That I want to go To camp—to camp—to CAMP! Oh, I long to set off marching With my kit-bag on my back. Let the great big world keep on turning round, Now I've joined a Wolf Cub Pack!
Then someone yelled "Are we down-hearted?" and the Cubs yelled "No!" so loudly that Akela thought she would be deafened for life.
Presently the train ran out into the country, and plodded along between woods and fields. And the early morning sun shone brightly, and the sky was very blue. The country, the country! And, very soon, the sea! There were some of them who had never been to the country, and "Spongey," the youngest of the party, had never even been in a real train.
"Talk about hot!" said someone, panting, when the train had thundered on for about an hour. And, my word, it was hot! Besides, there were blacks and dust, and everyone began to get very grimy—specially the people who were eating bread-and-jam and sticky fruit, and the people who had to crawl under the seat to pick up things that had got lost.
"Never mind," said Akela, "we shall be in the sea this evening, and then we shall be cool."
That started everyone jumping for joy again, of course.
Presently the train passed Arundel Castle—its white towers and turrets and battlements rising up amidst the dark green woods like an enchanted castle in the days of knights and fairies—and the Cubs learnt that there are castles in real life as well as in story-books.
After that they began looking out of the window to see who would be the first one to catch sight of the sea. "Bunny" was the first to, and his friend Bert, the Senior Sixer, came a close second.
At last the train got to Portsmouth Harbour, and, shouldering their kit-bags, the Cubs ran down on to the steamer.
The harbour was thrilling: battleships, cruisers, torpedo-boats, the Royal yacht, the Admiralty yacht, and, most interesting of all, Nelson's ship, the Victory. As if the steamer knew that a crowd of eager Cubs were longing to see all round the Victory, it went out of its way to steam right round it, slowly and quite near, and the Cubs had a splendid view.
The boys all wanted to be the first to touch the sea, but Bunny, who had seen it first, forestalled them again, by letting down a ball of string over the edge of the boat and pulling it up all wet.
At last the ship reached the Isle of Wight, and the Cubs and their great mountain of camp luggage went down the long pier. I forgot to tell you that besides Akela there was the Senior Sixer's father and mother, who were coming to help look after the camp—they became the "Father and Mother of Camp"; and there was also a lady who was a very kind camp Godmother. The grown-ups and the luggage were soon packed into a large motor-car, and then, relieved of their kit-bags, the Cubs set out to walk the two miles along the sea-front to the village called Sea View. The way lay along a thing called a "sea-wall"—a high stone wall about six feet broad running along above the shore, with the sea lapping up against it at high tide. Along this the Cubs walked (or rather ran and jumped), their eyes big with wonder at the great stretch of blue, blue sea, with here and there a distant sailing-boat, and, above, the sky even bluer than the sea. "I didn't know the sky could be so blue!" said a Cub; and that was just how they all felt.
It was very hot walking in the midday sun. There was no hurry—nine days to do just as they liked in—so halfway along the sea-wall the Cubs and Akela scrambled down some steep stone steps on to a tiny stretch of sand not yet covered by the incoming tide. Boots and stockings were soon off, sleeves and shorts tucked up, and everybody paddling deep in the cool green water.
When they had all got thoroughly cool they went on their way, and at last arrived at the Stable.
This was where they were to sleep. It consisted of a courtyard, a couple of stalls, a coach-house, a shed, and two tiny rooms. Akela occupied one of these, and the Cubs were divided into two groups. The Stable was in charge of Bert, the Senior Sixer, and in his stall he had Bunny (a Second), Dick (a big Cub very nearly ready to go up to the Scouts), and Patsy, a small but lively Irishman. Sam, another Sixer, had in his stall four young terrors—Terry, Wooler, Jack, and "Spongey" Ward. Then there was the coach-house. This was in charge of Bill, the last Senior Sixer, now a Cub Instructor. The other occupants were Jim, a Sixer (Bill's young brother), "Mac," a Second, two brothers, "Big Andy" and "Little Andy," and a rather new Cub called Bob.
It took a good while to stuff the palliasses with straw and unpack. But when this was finished everyone had a good wash and changed into cool old clothes—shorts and cotton shirts. Tea followed, in a jolly old garden behind the bake-house. There was a seesaw in it, and the grass was long and soft, and the shade of the apple-trees very cool. Then the party ran up the hill to the camp field. Here there was a lot to do: the bell tent to be pitched, the fireplace made, wood to be chopped, water fetched, all the pots and pans unpacked, a swing and a couple of hammocks to be put up, the two great sacks of loaves to be fetched, and, oh! a hundred other things. But all the Cubs set to and did their best, and at last all was ready.
"Now for the shore!" said Akela, and everyone cheered and ran for their towels and bathing-drawers. It was only a few minutes' walk down to the most lovely shore you can imagine—stretches and stretches of golden sand and little, lapping waves. On one side you could see rocky points running down into the greeny-blue sea, with trees growing right down to the shore. An old, brown-sailed coal barge moved slowly past on the gentle wind, the many browns of its patched sails forming a rich splash of colour in the evening sun. The Cubs soon turned into "water babies." Boots and stockings had been left behind at the Stable, and now they got rid of clothes as well. How cool the sea was! That first bathe seemed to wash away all the heat and smoke and grubbiness of dear old London.
After the bathe came a splendid paddle among brown, sea-weedy rocks, and the Cubs caught their first baby crabs and found their first shells, and got just as wet as they liked.
But the sun was sinking down behind the grey line of sea, and the clock there is inside every Cub was telling supper-time. So, with hands full of sea-weed and shells, they made their way back to camp.
The camp-fire was burning merrily. "Godmother," in a large blue overall, was stirring a steaming dixie of cocoa, and "Mother and Father" were cutting up bread and cheese.
After supper there was time for a little play in the field. Then, as it began to get dusk, a whistle-blast called the Cubs in for night prayers. It was still quite light enough to read, so each Cub had a little homemade book of Morning and Night Camp Prayers. Kneeling in a quiet corner of the field, with just the evening sky overhead, with a pale star or two beginning to appear, it was easy to feel God near and to pray. The camp prayers started with "A prayer that we may pray well." It was a very old prayer, really, but it seemed just to fit the Cubs, and help them to do their best in their prayers as in all other things. The prayer was this: "Open Thou, O Lord, my mouth to bless Thy Holy Name; cleanse also my heart from wandering thoughts, so that I may worthily, devoutly, and attentively recite these prayers, and deserve to be heard in the sight of Thy Divine Majesty. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen." Then followed the "Our Father" and some short prayers. And after that the Cubs said altogether: "I confess to Almighty God that I have sinned against Him in thought, word, and deed." Then Akela read out very slowly the following questions, and each Cub answered them in his heart—not out loud, but silently, for God only to hear:
"Have I done my best to pray well when saying my private prayers and at camp prayers?
"Have I really meant to please God to-day?
"Have I done my best in my orderly duties, and in other things I have had to do?
"Have I given in to other people quickly and cheerfully when given an order?
"Have I spoken as I should not?
"Have I been disobedient?
"Have I been unkind to another boy—selfish? quarrelsome? unfair?
"Have I told a lie?
"Have I done anything else I am sorry for?"
Then, after a pause, Akela said:
"Tell God you are truly sorry, on your honour as a Cub, that you have grieved Him by the sins of to-day."
Then there was perfect silence for a moment, and after that, the Cubs said, all together:
"May Almighty God have mercy upon us, and forgive us our sins, and bring us to life everlasting."
Then they said a short psalm, and the following beautiful little hymn:
Now with the fast departing light, Maker of all, we ask of Thee, Of Thy great mercy, through the night Our guardian and defence to be.
Far off let idle visions fly, And dreams that might disturb our sleep; Naught shall we fear if Thou art nigh, Our souls and bodies safe to keep.
Father of mercies, hear our cry; Hear us, O sole-begotten Son! Who with the Holy Ghost most high Reignest while endless ages run. Amen.
Then came "A prayer that we may be forgiven any wandering thoughts we have had while reciting these prayers," and, to end up with, "Our Father" once again, because it is the prayer that Christ Our Lord specially told His friends to use.
The nine o'clock gun booms out across the Solent as the Cubs and Akela, having bidden good-night to Father and Mother and Godmother, walk down the hill to the Stable. The sea looks like a great piece of shimmering grey silk. "Look at the little twinkle lights!" says a Cub. It is the street lamps over on the mainland, but they look like so many winking diamonds. There is quite a cluster of them on the grey ghost of a battleship, and the old, round fort has a light which looks like the red end of a cigar. "Please, please let us go down to the front and look at the little twinkling lights," beg the Cubs. So, on condition they get undressed in five minutes, Akela says "Yes."
A few minutes later the Stable and the Coach-house are having an undressing race. One of the two tiny rooms has been made into a little chapel. In less than two minutes the first Cub ready whisks once round the yard in his night-shirt, like a white moth in the dusk, and into the chapel to say his prayers. The door stands open. In the red light of the tiny lamp you can see the little white form kneeling on the floor, very quiet and devout. Presently he is silently joined by another—there is only room for two, it is such a wee chapel. Several impatient people in pyjamas think it would be fun to start jazzing in the courtyard, till Akela warns them, "No story if you start ragging."
Soon all prayers are said, and the people in the Coach-house are in bed, and ready to "invite" the Stable. The Stable having been duly invited, its eight occupants come in, and each finds a place on a palliasse. It is a warm, still night. The great doors of the Coach-house stand wide open. The stars are out thick by this time. Little black bats flit and swoop about in the darkness. If you keep very still you can just hear the gentle "hshshsh, hshshsh" of the sea. The candle flickers as the night gives a little sigh. A few Cubs are rolling about on their straw beds. "Shut up, all!" commands an imperious Sixer. "Now, miss, go ahead."
Akela is sitting on a palliasse already occupied by two people. Silence reigns, for these Cubs belong to a story-telling Pack, and it is almost the only time they are ever quite quiet. "Well," begins Akela, "many hundreds of years ago there lived a boy——"
THE STORY OF ST. BENEDICT.
Many hundreds of years ago there lived a boy called Benedict. He lived in Italy. His father and mother were rich people, and lived in a beautiful house on a beautiful estate. St. Benedict and his twin sister must have been very happy playing among the olive-trees and vines of sunny Italy, where the sky is nearly always blue, and where there are all sorts of lovely wild-flowers and fruits we don't get in England, and lizards and butterflies and all sorts of things.
St. Benedict was brought up a good Christian, though lots of the people round were still pagans in those days. There were terrible wars and troubles going on in Italy and in all the countries round, like there have been in our days. But the boy Benedict in his happy home knew little of these. Little did he know that the beautiful fields of Italy were being left to be overgrown with weeds and over-run with wild beasts; that the children had never heard of God; that the poor were dying of starvation. To him the world was a happy place, where one played and had a good time, and where people loved Christ and obeyed His words. But some day he was to learn the truth. For God was going to use the boy Benedict to do more than any one man has ever done to civilize the world. This story I'm telling you is the story of how St. Benedict discovered all God's great plan for him, and worked it out, bit by bit.
When St. Benedict had learnt all that his tutors could teach him at home his father sent him to the great city of Rome to learn there from the scholars and learned men, and attend lectures and classes. St. Benedict was a very clever boy, and he must have got on very quickly and pleased his masters very much. He could probably have carried off all sorts of prizes and won great fame and praise for himself, but there was something which stopped him caring for things like that. In the great city of Rome he saw two things—one of them was all sorts of wicked, selfish, horrible, and ungodly pleasures in which men wasted their lives and altogether forgot God; and the other was the beautiful, holy lives of the Christians, many of whom could tell wonderful stories of the martyrs who had been killed in Rome not so very long before, and whose bodies lay in the Catacombs. There were some beautiful churches in the city, and St. Benedict loved to go to the solemn services. As he knelt there in the holy stillness, or listened to the chanting, he began to think. And more and more he felt that all the glamour and selfish pleasures and greediness of the people was stupid and wrong, and that what was really worth having was a good conscience, and peace, and the friendship of God. And as he thought, he began to care less and less for his learning and his chances of glory, and he began to feel as if he wanted to get right away from people and have the chance of thinking about God.
When St. Benedict had these feelings he knew they came from God, and so, instead of not listening and just letting himself get keen on his study and his amusements, he made up his mind that he would always do his best to follow God's will, and would keep his heart always listening, so that if God did want to call him away to some special kind of life he would be ready to hear and to obey.
Well, when anybody does this God does not fail to tell him what to do, and so, when St. Benedict had been seven years in Rome, and was still only a boy, God made known to him that he must leave Rome, and his friends and his masters, and go right away into the mountains. His old nurse, Cyrilla, had always stayed with him, faithfully; and now she decided to go with him wherever it was that God was leading him.
So, one day, St. Benedict and Cyrilla set out secretly, and made their way by hidden paths towards the mountains. At last they reached a certain village, and St. Benedict went into the church to pray God to make known His will. When he came out the peasants who lived near the church pressed him to stay with them. St. Benedict took their kindness as a sign that it was God's will, so he and his old nurse settled down in the village.
It was while the boy was living here that (so the old books tell us) a miracle happened which made people feel sure that God was specially pleased with him. One day, as St. Benedict returned home from the church where he had been praying, he found his old nurse very unhappy; in fact, she was crying. This distressed him very much, because he hated to see other people miserable. At first he wondered why Cyrilla was crying, and then he saw the cause. She had accidentally broken an earthenware bowl that one of the good villagers had lent her. Full of pity for his old friend, St. Benedict took up the two pieces and went outside the house with them, and knelt down. Then he prayed very hard that the bowl might be mended. And, as he opened his eyes and looked at it, sure enough, it was whole! Very pleased, and thinking how good God is to those who really trust Him, he ran into the house and gave it to Cyrilla.
St. Benedict had not thought of himself, but only of God's wonderful power and kindness. But Cyrilla and the village people to whom she told the miracle all began to talk a lot about St. Benedict, and say he was a young saint, since he could do miracles. People even came in from the places round to stare at him. Do you think this pleased him? No; he wasn't that sort of boy. If he had been, God would never have done anything for him. He was very distressed at the way people went on; and more and more he felt that God was calling him away, and had something very important to say to him. And one day it came to him that he must leave even his faithful old nurse and go away. You can imagine how terribly sad he must have been at that thought, not only because he loved her and had always had her near him since he could remember, but because he knew how very, very much she loved him, and that if he left her she would be sad and lonely, with no one to comfort her. But you remember what I told you about how St. Benedict had made up his mind to do his best always to carry out God's will, and not give in to himself and pretend he had not heard; so, because he knew that it is more important to be faithful to God than to any person on earth, he made up his mind to go away. He did not tell his old nurse, but one day he set out, alone.
He must have felt very strongly that it was God's will, otherwise he would not have dared go out all alone and unarmed into the mountains, and with no money or food. Don't you think it was very brave of him? Perhaps you think it was foolish? Well, people have often been thought fools for doing God's will faithfully, but in the end God proves that really they were quite right. Anyway, something very soon happened to St. Benedict to show that God was with him.
As he tramped on, along the mountain-sides, between the flower-covered banks and thickets full of birds' songs, he prayed to God to guide him in the right way. And so when, after some hours of solitary tramping, he saw a man coming towards him out of a lonely mountain pass, he felt sure this was someone sent by God to help him.
The man's clothes showed that he was a monk. As he drew near he looked curiously at St. Benedict, wondering who this noble-looking boy could be walking all alone among the wild mountains. He, himself, had come out there to meditate and be alone with God and his thoughts. Stopping St. Benedict, he asked him kindly who he was and where he was going. St. Benedict quite simply told him the truth: that he had come out to seek God's will, and didn't know where he was going, except that he was seeking some place where he could live hidden from the whole world.
At first the monk Romanus tried to argue with him and show him that it was foolish to come out like that alone. But St. Benedict spoke so wonderfully about God's call that Romanus saw he was right, and made up his mind to help him find somewhere where he could live alone for a while. So he led him up a steep winding path, and showed him a cave opening into the rugged mountain-side. The cave was about seven feet deep and four feet broad, and there was just room on the rocky ledge outside to make a little garden. St. Benedict stepped into the cave with his heart full of joy, feeling sure that at last he had found the place he was seeking. Before going away, Romanus gave him a long garment made of sheep-skin, which was what the monks of those days used to wear. He also promised to supply him with food. His monastery was far up, on the top of the great rock in which the cave was. He said that every day he would let down a basket with bread in it for St. Benedict, and he promised faithfully to keep his secret. Then he went away.
What happened in the time that followed no one knows—it is a secret between God and St. Benedict. But we can guess that God made known many wonderful things to His faithful young servant—things that later he was to teach to thousands of men; and that He filled him with grace and strength to do what he would have to do, to make the world a better place. Also, we can be sure that he was very, very happy, in spite of the loneliness, and the dark, cold nights, and the hard ground he had for his bed.
Three years St. Benedict lived like this, and then one sunny Easter morning God made known St. Benedict's secret to a certain holy man who lived in those parts, and told him to go to the cave and take St. Benedict some of his Easter fare. St. Benedict was very pleased to see him, but surprised to hear it was Easter, for he had lost all count of time. So the priest laid out the good things he had brought, and they said grace, and then they had a meal together, and then a talk. After the priest had gone some shepherds and country-folk climbed up the steep little path to see where he had been, and they found St. Benedict. He welcomed them, and spoke so wonderfully to them that they saw he was a man specially taught by God. They felt he was their true friend and loved them for God's sake, and so they often climbed the steep path to visit him and ask his help and advice. But very soon news of him spread beyond the mountain shepherds, and people of all sorts from far and near flocked to see the holy man and ask his prayers and his advice. Sad, wicked people went away with sorrow for their sins, and became good. Cowards went away full of strength and courage. And many people began to learn a new way of serving God truly, always doing their best for love of Him, and never "giving in to themselves."
It was then that God allowed St. Benedict to have a terrible temptation, to test him. Suddenly he felt within him a great desire to give up all he was doing for God and return to the wicked city he had left and live a life of ease and pleasure. It was the Devil who put this thought into his mind, but God's grace in St. Benedict was stronger than the Devil. With all his heart he vowed that he would never give up doing God's will, and, to punish himself for the thoughts that had entered his mind, he threw himself into a mass of sharp, thorny briars and stinging-nettles, so that his flesh was all torn and stung. After that he was so strong that no temptation was ever able to conquer him, and he was able to lead thousands of souls to victory.
The time had come when God wanted St. Benedict to leave his cave. He had learnt what God had to tell him in secret, and now his great work was to begin.
A large number of men who wished to serve God with all their hearts began to collect round St. Benedict. Gradually they formed twelve monasteries, all within about two miles, and got St. Benedict to rule over them all. This was the beginning of St. Benedict's great work for God. He drew up a Rule which showed men how they could live in the way most pleasing to God. It was not so terribly hard as to be impossible for ordinary men, like some of the holy hermits and Saints in the past had taught. And so thousands and thousands of men began to promise to keep this Rule and to live together in monasteries, doing good. St. Benedict had many wonderful adventures during the rest of his life, but I must keep those stories to tell you another time. The end of this one is that after God had called St. Benedict to Heaven, his great work went on. His followers began to travel all over the world as missionaries, teaching the pagans about Christ, and bringing peace and goodness to the poor, sad, wicked world. They cultivated the land and made it fruitful; and built churches and hospitals and schools; and taught the children, and looked after the poor, and civilized the world. It was they who brought the Christian Faith to England, for St. Augustine was one of St. Benedict's monks, and did more than anybody else to make England the great country which she became; for before St. Benedict's monks came the country was all wild and the Saxons were heathen. So, you see, by listening for God's voice, and doing his best to obey faithfully, the boy Benedict became one of the men who have done very great things for the world.
* * * * *
"Tell us some more," said the Cubs sleepily.
"Tell us all the adventures St. Benedict had."
"No, no," said Akela; "that was a long story. Now you must go to sleep and dream about St. Benedict, and then you will be ready to get up and have a glorious day to-morrow."
So the Stable boys stumbled sleepily back to their own quarters, and Akela tucked each of them up in his blankets.
A quarter of an hour later everyone was asleep. As Akela crept softly round she could only hear the regular breathing of sound sleepers. True, at midnight Patsy made some loud conversation, and thought he could do without any blankets at all, but he did not wake up even then, and was soon tucked up quietly again.
So ended the First Day.
THE SECOND DAY
The sun has already been up some time when the first Cub wakes up and wonders where he is. Finding he is in camp, he feels sure it would be a good turn if he thumped the sleeping form next him and woke him up, that he, too, may have the delight of remembering that "to-morrow" has actually come—the first real day in camp! These two make conversation to each other, and become so cheery that soon everybody else has woke up. It is 6.30, so Akela gives leave for everyone to turn out.
There is a tap in the Stable-yard. Soon everyone is washing in a tin basin. The two cooks have dressed quickly, said their prayers in the little chapel, and are off up the hill to the camp field.
At the Stable it is some time before everyone is thoroughly washed and dressed, beds are tidied, and everything spick and span. Then the crowd of happy Cubs race off to the field.
The fire is burning merrily, and a big dixie of porridge bubbling for all it is worth. Away, between the trees, you can see the blue sea glinting and sparkling. Overhead the sea-gulls circle on silver wings, and cry good-morning to each other as they pass with swoops and dips, like so many tiny aeroplanes. The dew is thick on the grass, the blackbirds sing, the sun shines, and the camp-fire sends a steady column of blue smoke into the fresh morning air. How different to early morning in London! With a howl of joy the Cubs scatter over the field.
Here comes Godmother in a big blue overall and a sun hat; and Father and Mother appear at the same moment from the farther corner of the field. They take over the cooking, and the two cooks run off for a bit of sport after their labours.
Then everyone collects in the council circle for prayers. A short run wild again, and then a series of whistle-blasts calls the Pack in for breakfast. In come rushing the ravenous Cubs, and each squats down where the cooks have placed their mugs in a circle. Caps off, and all stand quiet for a moment, for grace, and then porridge and mountains of bread-and-butter begin to disappear at a great rate.
Breakfast finished, the pots and the pans washed up, the Pack invades the post office, and, armed with picture postcards and pencils, the Cubs squat along the sea-wall and write to their mothers. That duty done, and spades, pails, boats, and shrimping-nets bought, they lose no more time in getting down on to the shore.
It is a happy and hungry crowd with wet and rumpled hair that turns up again at camp, all ready for the splendid dinner Mother and Father have cooked.
After dinner a rest, while Godmother reads aloud.
The day ends up with a wonderful shrimping-party. Besides shrimps, the Cubs catch every kind of funny little sea-creature—star-fishes, jelly-fishes, baby sea-anemones, tiny, tiny crabs, a devil-fish, baby dabs, and everything else you can think of. The tide is right out, and there are mysterious green pools under the pier, full of feathery red sea-weed and little darting fishes. Of course, Sam falls into one in his clothes, and comes out looking like a drowned rat. Akela wrings him out and sends him home to get into dry clothes, for the sun is beginning to sink.
Supper, night prayers, a race down the hill, a few minutes, to see the little twinkling lights, and the happy family is getting undressed in double quick time, for Akela has promised a good story to-night—a "nexiting" one about a robber chief.
Soon everyone in the coach-house is settled on his palliasse, and has invited a Stable Cub to share it with him. The candle has been lighted and stuck with a dab of grease on the ledge.
"Fire ahead, miss," commands a Sixer. Silence reigns.
"The story I told you yesterday," said Akela, "was about a boy who started good, and went on being good all his life. To-night I am going to tell you about a boy who started good, but became bad, and was very wicked until he grew up, when something happened which sent him on the great adventure of serving God."
THE STORY OF ST. GUTHLAC.
Many hundreds of years ago, in the days when England was ruled over by the Saxon Kings, there lived a boy called Guthlac. He was a very intelligent boy, not dull, like some children; he was obedient to the grown-ups, and, as the old book says, "blithe in countenance, pure and clean and innocent in his ways; and in him was the lustre of Divine brightness so shining that all men who saw him could perceive the promise of what should hereafter happen to him."
But when he got to be about fifteen he forgot all the things he had been taught as a child. When he felt a kind of restless longing for adventure rising up inside him, and a desire to do wild things, and a cruel feeling that he did not care what happened to other people so long as he had a good time, he gave in to himself and began the most wild and reckless life you can imagine. He armed himself with a great ash-bow and a sharp spear from his father's armoury. He slung a shield on his back, and stuck his belt full of knives and daggers and arrows. Then he went about and collected a gang of all the wildest boys he could find, and put himself at their head. Then, going through all the country round, these wild boys attacked anybody they thought was an enemy of theirs, paid off old grudges, killed and wounded innocent people, set fire to their houses, and did all the damage they could. Mad with excitement and lust for blood, they soon became just a robber band, attacking friend and foe alike, killing just for the pleasure of killing, or sacking farms and houses to satisfy their greed. They knew all the woods and by-ways so well that no one could catch them. After a time they began to build themselves huts where they could sleep, and also hide the treasure they had plundered from rich men. You can't imagine any wicked or horrible thing they did not do. And, of course, they forgot God entirely, though once they had been Christian children and had been brought up to know and love God. Nine years passed like this, and then something happened.
One night as Guthlac, the chief, lay on his bed of rushes and soft, warm skins in the darkness of the wooden cabin, thinking over the excitements of the day and planning all the wicked things he would do the next day, a wonderful thought flashed into his mind, and it seemed to swallow up all the other thoughts. He lay still, gazing into the darkness and trying to understand what it was. Then, gradually, he found that it was God he was thinking about—God, Whom he had forgotten for nine long years.
He did not turn away his mind, but went on thinking about God until his heart was full of a kind of glow that was love. He was surprised, for he knew he did not really love God; for he was spending all his days fighting against Him by every wicked thing he could imagine. And then he began to understand that this feeling inside him was sent by God—it was God's love for him, and not his love for God. Could it really be that God loved him? He was so very wicked and cruel, and God—God was so good and just and merciful.
The robbers, sleeping on their rush beds, breathed heavily; they were tired after a hard day. Guthlac listened to their breathing. They were his men; they obeyed him as their chief. He remembered the day, nine years ago, when he had thought of the bold robbers and sea-kings and brave men of the past, and longed to show that he was as daring as they, and could lead men to war. But as he lay, very wide awake, with the strange feeling of God near, he began to think of other great men he had heard of in his childhood—men just as brave and daring as the sea-kings, just as good leaders of men, more famous and wonderful, and—lovers of God.
God loved them, and they loved God and gave all their strength and courage to serve Him. They were His special friends. And now it seemed to Guthlac that God was filling his heart with love and asking him to be His special friend. A great feeling of shame came over him. How could God forgive him and want him for a friend after all the terrible things he had done? But suddenly a great longing filled him to be one of God's special friends, and obey Him, and go on always loving Him. He longed for Christ to become his Chief and Leader; and then he began to understand that this would mean he must tell God from the bottom of his heart that he was sorry for all the wicked things he had ever done, and must promise on his honour that he would never again do a single one of them.
Guthlac sat up in bed and thought hard. This would mean that he must give up being a robber, give up his free life in the woods, give up leading his daring followers, give up all the unlawful pleasures of which his life was made up. It would be a terribly big giving up . . . but then, what a big, big thing he would get in exchange! He would get the friendship of God, and the knowledge that he had become very pleasing to Him. Stretching wide his arms in the darkness, he told God that he gave up all, all, all that was wicked, and he begged to be forgiven and made clean once more, like an innocent little child. Then, very happy, he lay back on his bed of skins and fell asleep.
The sun was streaming into the long, low room when Guthlac awoke. It was a glorious English spring morning. The sleeping robbers were stirring, one by one, beneath their warm deer-skins. They little thought that their chief, sitting up in bed with the morning sun in his eyes, was thinking about God, and how wonderful it was that He had come to him in the night and called him to become one of His friends. It was rather difficult to believe, in the light of day, with the coarse laughter and wild voices of the robbers ringing out on the morning air, and yet Guthlac knew it was true, and knew that he had made a great promise. He was too brave a man to go back on a promise, however hard to keep, so he stood up with a strong purpose in his heart.
The first step would be to tell his men. That would be terribly hard. He suddenly felt very lonely, and wished there was someone else there to back him up. Then he remembered that the Lord Christ was his Chief. Surely He would be near and help him in his first adventure?
So he stepped out into the dewy woods, where all the birds were singing as if they, too, loved God with all their hearts. And he called his men about him to hear the important thing he had to say. They all came crowding round, expecting to hear some splendid new adventure that Guthlac, their chief, had planned for them.
Then he stood up, taller than any of them and more splendid, and in his clear, ringing voice he told them that a wonderful thing had happened—God had called him to join the band of His brave friends. When God calls there's no hanging back. And so he had given up for ever the robber's life. He was no longer their chief. He had found a new Chief for himself, and was off, at once, on the adventure of God's service. And so he bade them—good-bye.
The robbers looked at each other in horror and surprise. What had happened to their chief? Was he mad? What would happen to them without their brave leader? Falling down on their knees about him, they begged him to stay; but Guthlac's eyes were already looking away at the new adventure he saw before him. The pleasures of his old life did not seem worth anything now; he scarcely heard the voices of his friends as they pleaded with him.
At last they gave up all hope of persuading him, and Guthlac walked away through the woods, leaving his old life behind him for ever.
He did not know where to go at first, but he felt sure Christ, his new Chief, would help him; and, sure enough, he presently remembered that not very far away there was an abbey of St. Benedict's monks. He knew those men were all Christ's friends, and he was quite sure they would welcome him.
So he walked through the woods until he came to the abbey. There he knocked loudly on the great door, and presently a brother opened it. He must have been terrified when he saw the tall young chieftain standing before him, for all the countryside feared Guthlac. But very soon the brother saw the love of God shining in Guthlac's eyes, and the gentle humility in his voice showed that he was no longer the cruel robber, but a servant of Christ.
The monks took Guthlac in and made him welcome. Soon he found that conquering himself and the Devil was a harder fight than he had ever fought against his enemies in the world, but he threw himself into the battle with all his heart. He did not do things by halves, but began to serve God with all his might, because before he had fought so hard against Him. Remembering how often he had got drunk with the wine he had stolen, he now would not drink one single drop even of the wine the monks were allowed to have. At first the brothers did not like this, but soon they began to understand the strong resolve of the young robber, and, seeing how very pure his heart was and how much he loved God, they all loved him. The curious old book which tells all about him says: "He was in figure tall, and pure in body, cheerful in mood, and in countenance handsome; he was modest in his discourse, and he was patient and humble, and ever in his heart was Divine love hot and burning."
For two years he lived in that monastery, and then he began to long to live a harder life for Christ's sake. He heard about the hermits of old days who used to live apart from other men in wild places, and he got leave from the Abbot to follow their example. So one day he set out.
He did not choose the beautiful green woods that he had once roamed in, but turned towards a most horrible place—a great marsh full of pools of slimy black water, and reeds, and rough scrub and bushes. It was the most lonely place you can imagine, and people feared to go there because they said it was haunted by evil spirits.
On an island in this lonely fen St. Guthlac settled down with two servants. It was a very hard life, and the Devil sent him all sorts of horrible temptations and haunted him and gave him no rest; but St. Guthlac rejoiced in the chance of fighting under his Captain, Christ, against the evil spirits.
It would take too long now to tell you of all the wonderful things that happened to St. Guthlac on this island—we must keep them for another time. For God rewarded his love and his courage by giving him a wonderful gift of miracles and of great wisdom, so that the news of him gradually spread all over the country, and people began to understand that the great robber had now become a great Saint. And so from far and near, the people flocked to him. But one thing more about him I will tell you.
Though he had now no human companions, and chose to set all his love on God, he had a wonderful friendship with the wild animals that shared the island with him. In those days there were many wild beasts in England, such as wolves. These would come to St. Guthlac and eat out of his hand. Even the fishes would come to him; and as to the birds, they did not fear him at all. The swallows, which are very timid birds, would come and settle all about on him, and there were some ravens which were a trouble because they were so tame and would come and steal things from his house. Once a holy man called Wilfrith, who had come to see St. Guthlac, was surprised to see the swallows settle on him, and (as the old book says) asked him "wherefore the wild birds of the waste sat so submissively upon him." St. Guthlac explained to him in these words: "Hast thou never learnt, Brother Wilfrith, in Holy Writ, that he who hath led his life after God's will, the wild beasts and wild birds have become the more intimate with him? And the man who would pass his life apart from worldly men, to him the angels approach nearer."
So it was that the wild place called Croyland became a place of God, and St. Guthlac, through God's power, was able to do more good to his fellow-men than ever he had done them harm in his wild days. But though St. Guthlac was doing miracles as wonderful as those of the Old Testament prophets, and preaching in his wilderness as wonderfully as St. John the Baptist did in his, God did not mean to leave him there very long, for He wished to have His brave and true friend in heaven. After fifteen years St. Guthlac, who was still almost a young man, fell ill. Knowing that God was calling him to Heaven, he gladly began to prepare. His illness lasted only seven days, and he himself knew that he would die on the eighth. But he had nothing to fear, for he had so truly repented of his sins that night when God spoke to him first that they had been all washed away. So he lay in his little house waiting. And when one of his faithful servants, who was some way off, at his prayers, chanced to look up, he saw the house with a kind of bright cloud of glory round it. And this brightness stayed there till day broke. And at dawn St. Guthlac called his servant and gave him last messages for his friends. "And after that," says the old book, "he raised his eyes to heaven and stretched out his arms, and then sent forth his spirit with joy and bliss to the eternal happiness of the heavenly kingdom."
* * * * *
"That was a good one," said the Cubs. But they were too sleepy to ask for another story, as usual, and in less than five minutes every one was asleep, sailing away through the dream-sea towards the golden, sunlit country called "To-morrow."
THE THIRD DAY
Seven o'clock and no one awake yet! Akela crept softly out and roused the cooks. Sam woke quickly, but Bill was just like a hermit crab—the more you poked him, the more he drew back into his shell and hid his head under his blanket. Presently, however, he began to uncurl, opened his eyes very wide, sat up, and discovered it was not his mother calling him, but that he was at camp. He got up quickly, and was the first ready.
Gradually they all woke up, but no one was in such a hurry to turn out this morning.
They put on uniform and boots and stockings, for it was not to be a shore day.
Breakfast over, haversacks were packed with grub, and the whole party tramped off along the sea-wall to Ryde. The first thing that happened was a beautiful service in a very beautiful little church, for on this day (August 15th) the Pack always goes to church. Then five of the younger ones who didn't fancy a long tramp went home with Father and Mother, and the rest set off on an adventure.
Along the roads and lanes they went, but the way did not seem long, for they talked of so many interesting things. After about two miles, as they were going along a narrow lane, they suddenly came on a man sitting on the bank, who stood up and said, "Hullo!" The Cubs gave a yell and fell upon him, for, you see, he was their Scoutmaster.
He led the way past an old ruin, under a ruined archway, and along a little path, till they got to a great building called Quarr Abbey, where he was staying. There, under the shade of the trees, the weary travellers sat and had an enormous lunch. Three big jugs of cider had been provided for them. It was the first time they had ever tasted cider, and Akela began to be afraid they would never be able to walk home straight if they drank any more; so it was decided to pour the remainder into the water-bottles, and take it back for the five boys in camp.
After dinner the Scoutmaster took the Cubs for a row in the creek, and afterwards they bathed. Then they had a good tea, and were allowed to see over the abbey and go down in the crypt under the church. It interested them very much to see a wonderful library of eighty thousand books! Some were hundreds and hundreds of years old, and all done in writing and painting, because there was no printing in those days. Some were books done in the very first days of printing. There was one enormous book you could hardly carry, and by it a tiny wee little book you could put in your waistcoat-pocket.
At last it was time to go home, and they set out once more to tramp along the lanes. The evening sun shone down through the thick green leaves, and the blackbirds sang as if they were saying all sorts of important things to each other, if only you could understand. The grey, broken arches of the ruined abbey seemed to tell sad tales of long ago—seemed full of secrets nobody will ever hear.
"It's been a good adventure," said the Cubs, and they tramped home contentedly, for their minds were full of things to think about.
Even at the end of a four-mile tramp they were ready to run up the grassy hill into the camp, each keen to be the first one to tell Father and Mother about the eighty thousand books, and the ruin, and the cider, and the crypt. The five Cubs enjoyed the cider, and everyone talked at the same time round the camp-fire that night, all telling different things.
"Story to-night, miss?" said a Cub, suddenly.
"Yes," said Akela.
"Yes—a very good one about a soldier-Saint."
"Hooray! Buck up, boys, and let's get down to the Stable for the story," cried the Cub, cramming the last bit of bread-and-cheese into his mouth.
The trampers were quite ready to lie down on their beds that night.
"It's been the best day we've had yet," they said; "and now, please, tell the story."
So Akela curled up on someone's palliasse, and silence fell.
THE STORY OF ST. MARTIN.
A little more than three hundred years after Our Lord formed the Christian Church and then went back to Heaven, having promised always to be in spirit with His people, a boy called Martin was born in Hungary. This boy God chose to be a very great leader among His people, the Christians, and so He began to arrange Martin's life in such a way that he should be led, little by little, to the fulfilment of God's plans. Now, part of God's plan was that Martin should be given the chance of conquering himself, and, with the addition of a lot of God's grace, be made strong and able to bear bravely the terrible dangers and hardships that were bound to go with a high position in the Church of Christ in those days of persecution. This story I am going to tell you is the story of all the hard things and disappointments and adventures God sent to the boy Martin, in order to prepare him well, and bring him, at last, to the position he was to fill in the Church.
Well, the first thing that happened was that the Holy Spirit put into the little boy's heart the idea of praying to a wonderful, unknown being, Whom he called "the God of the Christians." You see, his father was a pagan, and Martin had never been taught anything about God, and must have picked up this idea all on his own. He had no church to go to, or anything, so he set to and built himself a little chapel on the top of a hill near his home, and there he often ran off and prayed to the God he knew so little about, but Who, he felt sure, was a kind and loving friend of little boys.
Well, God was pleased to see that Martin had answered so well to the idea He had sent into his heart, so He rewarded him by making something happen, which was the next bit of His plan, so to speak.
Martin's father was a soldier, and had risen from the ranks to the position of Colonel in the Roman Army. To repay him for his good services he was given a farm in Italy. And so, when Martin was ten years old, his father and mother moved to this farm, and Martin found himself living in a country where the Christian Faith was openly practised and people loved and served "the God of the Christians," Whom Martin had so much longed to know more about.
You can imagine how pleased the boy was; and before long he had discovered the house of the priests who taught young pagans all about the Christian faith, and had begun to go to them regularly to learn. His father did not take much notice of this, and thought his small son would soon forget all about it when he got old enough to enter the life his father had decided he should follow—the exciting life of a soldier.
But Martin was not dreaming of battles and the adventures of a soldier's life, for he had discovered that among Christians there was such a thing as specially giving yourself to God, and bravely breaking away from all the things you love by nature—like riches and fine clothes, and nice food, and friends, and adventures in the world, so as to love Christ only, and follow the adventures of the spirit to which He will lead His loyal soldiers. While still a boy Martin decided that this was the life for him, and he began to long to leave his comfortable home and go and join the hermits who lived in caves. So you can imagine that when his father began to talk about his starting his military training he was very much dismayed. Being a frank and honest kind of boy, he looked his father bravely in the face, and told him straight out that he wanted to be a Christian and give up his whole life to it.
Martin's father was very angry indeed. He stormed at the boy, and when he found that was no good, he thrashed him. But nothing could make Martin change his mind, and at last he decided the only way was to run away from home.
But I told you God meant Martin to become a leader. To have run away and lived with the hermits would not have given him just the kind of training he needed, and the chance of showing he could stick to God through real difficulties. So God let the next bit of His plan happen.
Martin's father told the Roman officials that his son had come to the age at which all boys had to undergo their military training (though he hadn't, really). And as Martin would not go and "join up," a kind of press-gang lay in ambush one day and captured him, and he was led away in chains and forced to take the oath of military allegiance.
His father being a Colonel, Martin was given a good position in the army straight off, and had his own horse and his own servant. Of course, nearly all his companions were pagans, and the life of the army was of a pretty low standard. But Martin stuck faithfully to the kind of life he knew was pleasing to God, and tried in his dealings with his fellow-men to do things in the brave, kind, generous, unselfish way Christ would have done them. Of course, this made all the soldiers and his fellow-officers love him, and they must often have wondered why he never got angry, or cheated, or grumbled and swore at unpleasant things; and why he was so very kind to his servant, and always ready to give up his place or any little privilege to other people. Though no one knew it, even his pay he gave away to the poor. And yet he was not yet a baptized Christian, for in those days people used to wait a long time and prepare themselves very carefully for the great honour of being made one of the children of God; and during this time of waiting they were called catechumens.
It was at this time, while Martin's regiment was stationed in France, that a very wonderful thing happened to him—for God was still planning his life and giving him chances; and, if he took them, rewarding him with special graces which should turn him gradually into a brave "soldier of Jesus Christ."
One cold wintry day, as the wind whistled down the narrow streets of Amiens, Martin's troop came clattering through the old gateway, the soldiers wrapping their great military cloaks close round them, for the bitter French winter seemed to freeze their Southern blood. By the gate of the city they noticed, as they swung by, an old, ragged man. The wind fluttered his tattered rags about, and he stretched out his thin hands, all blue with cold, hoping for a few pence to buy himself some food. The soldiers, however, passed him by and gave him nothing. But when Martin reached the corner and saw the piteous sight his heart was touched, and he reined in his horse. He felt in his pockets, but, alas! they were empty, for he had given away all he had to some other poor person. He was very sad, because he always felt the poor were a kind of chance given him by God of showing his love for the Lord Christ, Who had said that if you served the poor and naked and hungry and unhappy you really served Him. Well, Martin felt he simply couldn't pass on and give the old man nothing. And suddenly the idea came to him that he was warm in his big cloak, and the old man very cold. What if he gave his cloak? But it was his uniform, and he knew that he must not ride out without it altogether, so he took it off, drew his sword, slashed it in half, and then, bending down with a smile, put the warm folds about the old man's cowering shoulders.
Of course, the soldiers and other officers laughed; but Martin didn't care—he was willing to be what St. Paul calls "a fool for Christ's sake."
And now comes the wonderful thing. That night as Martin lay in bed, asleep, a wonderful vision came to him. Suddenly his room seemed full of angels, and in the midst of them was Christ. And—on His shoulders was Martin's half-cloak! Then Our Lord spoke. "Martin," He said, "dost thou know this mantle?" And then He turned to the angels, and He said: "Martin, yet a catechumen, hath clothed Me with this garment."
You can imagine what St. Martin felt! But besides the joy in him, there was a feeling that Our Lord was a little disappointed because he was only a catechumen still, and not yet baptized and made a real part of His Church, a real child of God. And so, feeling that God wished him to have the great honour of Baptism, he went to the priests, and started on the long, hard preparation that they used to have in those days. No meat might he have, nor wine, and he must pray a lot, and often watch in the church the whole night, and in many other ways practise not giving in to himself. Only at Easter and Whitsun were the catechumens baptized; and then they were clothed in white garments, which they wore for a week. These were meant to show the perfect purity of their souls, from which all stain of sin had been washed away by the waters of Baptism.
At last the great day came, and Martin received the wonderful Sacrament with great love and humility. But now he felt that he simply couldn't let his hands be stained with the blood of his fellow-men, and that the soldier's life was not for him. And so, when the Emperor came one day and inspected his regiment, which was shortly to go into battle, he asked him if he might leave the army. "Until now I have fought for you," he said; "let me henceforth fight for God. . . . I am a soldier of Christ, and it is not lawful for me to take part in a bloody battle." The Emperor was very angry. "Coward!" he cried. "It is not religion that causes you to refuse to fight—you are afraid."
So, to show them he was not afraid, Martin offered to go into battle in the very front rank, but to go unarmed (since he would not shed human blood). And, to show that he trusted in Christ as his protector, he said he would go without armour or helmet.
His challenge was accepted, and he was put under arrest, lest he might try to escape.
Of course, he spent the night praying, and the next day everyone was astonished by some strange news. The enemy had sent a despatch to sue for peace, and to say they would agree to the Emperor's terms. So there was no battle; and not only was Martin's life saved, but the lives of many other brave men. Probably the Emperor saw God's hand in the unexpected action of his powerful enemy, for he at once gave Martin leave to go free.
At last Martin found himself at liberty to follow the life he had always felt called to; and once again God sent him where things should happen to him which would finally lead to the accomplishment of God's great plan.
After making a pilgrimage to Rome, which was now not only the head of the worldwide Empire, but the kind of headquarters of the Christians, he returned to France, so as to put himself under the guidance of a very holy man, called St. Hilary, the Bishop of Poitiers.
St. Hilary soon saw that Martin was no ordinary young soldier, but was a very promising "soldier of Jesus Christ," and that his services would be very valuable. He saw, also, that he had received a special call from God, so he proposed to ordain him deacon. But Martin was very humble, and he refused the honour. In the end he let St. Hilary ordain him exorcist. But directly after this he was ordered by God in a dream to go back to his native land and visit his relations and bring them into the Christian Faith. St. Hilary was disappointed, but he let him go, making him promise, however, that he would return to the Diocese of Poitiers, to which he now belonged.
After many adventures, including falling into the hands of robbers and escaping in a marvellous way, which must have been through God's help, Martin reached his old home, and had the joy of seeing his mother received into the Church, as well as seven of his cousins and his two great-uncles.
At this time the Church was being persecuted by a very strong party called the Arians. They were heretics, who taught that Our Lord was only a man and not God, and as the Church turned them out on account of their false teaching, they did nothing but fight against her. Of course, Martin, the brave soldier of Christ, stood up for what he believed, so that one day he was seized by the Arians, beaten, and banished from his own country. He began to make his way back to St. Hilary, but when he reached Milan he learned that his friend had been banished from Poitiers, and that an Arian Bishop ruled in his place. So Martin stayed at Milan; and this, too, was a part of God's plan, because it was his stay here which started him on an idea which in the end developed into one of the most important things in his life.
This idea was to form a kind of little monastery outside the city, where he and a handful of other young men lived, and tried to do good and to live in a way specially pleasing to God, and more perfect than they could do in the busy rush of the ordinary world. But after a while the Arians got strong in Milan, and drove out Martin and his followers. For a while Martin and a friend of his lived as hermits on a wild little island off the coast of Spain. But, hearing that St. Hilary had been restored to his see, Martin went to Poitiers so as to fulfil his solemn promise. But once more St. Hilary was to be disappointed, for this time Martin begged to be allowed to continue his hermit's life. St. Hilary gave him leave, and Martin now withdrew to a forest about eight miles from Poitiers. Here he built himself a hut, and was soon surrounded by men who wished to lead the same kind of holy life. This was the beginning of all the wonderful monasteries of France, which civilized the whole country in time and taught it to be Christian.
That Martin's new life was really pleasing to God was soon shown, for God gave him the gift of doing miracles, and twice he even raised the dead to life. You will remember how Our Lord specially promised that His faithful followers, in the years to come, should do miracles like He had done, and even greater ones. Well, St. Martin was one of the men who showed that Our Lord's promise was fulfilled. All the men to whom the Church has given the title "Saint" have done wonderful miracles, that God's name might be glorified and people see that "with God all things are possible." St. Martin now lived in very close communion with God, and his miracles showed that he was not just an ordinary good man.
Besides training his monks, St. Martin was working very hard among the heathen Gauls. He would press forward through the forests and preach in the little villages, and do miracles, and, after instructing the people in the true Faith, baptize them all, and leave a happy Christian village where he had found a miserable, frightened, heathen one.
St. Martin's tender pity for all suffering things is shown by this little story. One day, as he walked in the country, he saw a poor, terrified hare dashing along with starting eyes, and nearly exhausted, for a party of huntsmen and their hounds were close upon it. St. Martin saw that in a few minutes it must be torn to bits by the hounds, for there was no cover for it. His tender heart longed to help it to escape, because it was weak and small and frightened. So he called out to the hounds to stop! And, strange to say, they pulled up short in their mad rush, and all stood still as if frozen to the ground, and the poor little hare scurried away into safety.
Now, this kind of life was just what suited St. Martin, and he was very happy. He lived apart with God, and yet had work to do in training his monks in the way of perfection and teaching the Faith to the ignorant pagans. But he had not yet arrived at the end of God's great plan for him. And if God now called him away from the life he loved to a life he did not want at all, we must not be surprised, for Christ said that those who would be His disciples must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him, and that is what all good Christians must be ready to do—that is, live according to the way God wants instead of according to the way they want themselves.
Well, the change came when St. Hilary died; for of course the people wanted St. Martin to become Bishop in his place. To be Bishop was a very great honour, and one that many men would have been glad to accept. But St. Martin was humble, like all Saints; and he also felt that if he was to remain pure of heart and close to God he must live in the quiet solitude and silence of his monastery, so he refused to become Bishop. But that he should be Bishop was God's will, and also the people were quite determined to have him. They got him by making him think there was a poor sick woman who wanted him to come to her. He came out of his monastery, all unsuspecting, and the people carried him off by force to Poitiers, and he had to consent to be consecrated Bishop.
He did not look very like a Bishop as he was brought into the city. He was clad in a poor, thin old habit, and his head was closely shaved, as the monks were accustomed to do, and he was thin and pale with fasting and his hard life. But even his humble appearance made the people cheer him all the more; and the church was absolutely packed at the solemn service of his consecration as Bishop.
Now began a life in which his own will was altogether given up to that of God. He lived in a poor little hut adjoining the church—the poorness of it pleased him; but all day he was at it, doing things for people—now visiting a sick man to pray over him, now making peace between quarrelsome people, now blessing oils, that they might bring healing to the sick; preaching sermons, talking to people, and explaining Holy Scripture in the way he could do so wonderfully; visiting his priests, or listening to the worries and troubles they came to tell him; and when there was nothing else, there was always a crowd of people waiting just to see their beloved Bishop's holy face and go away cheered with a patient smile from him.
But just sometimes he slipped away for a little peace alone with God, at a beautiful monastery called Marmontier, which he formed near the city, and which later became very famous, and kept the Rule of St. Benedict I told you about before.
There were many things that were serious worries and very bitter sorrows and trials to St. Martin at this time, but I can't tell you all about these now. But there were also joys; and one of these I will tell you about, because it was the companionship of a little boy. He was nearly ten when St. Martin baptized him and then adopted him. As they travelled together soon after the boy's Baptism, and while he still had on the beautiful white robe I told you about, which showed outwardly the new purity of his soul, they came to the River Loire. A little way ahead of them they saw a poor blind beggar waiting for someone to help him across.
"Son," said St. Martin to the boy, Victorius, "go to that man; wash his face and eyes with water from the river; then bring him to me."
So the boy went and did as St. Martin had told him; and as soon as he had washed the poor man's eyes, the man opened them and found he could see! With joy he looked about at the blue sky and the river; and when he heard that it was the holy Bishop who had sent the white-robed boy to him, he praised God for what had happened, and ran and fell down at St. Martin's feet. The poor beggar was very excited about it all, and didn't know how to thank St. Martin and the boy. So St. Martin said:
"Calm thyself, cease talking, and come; for with me in this boat thou shalt cross the river."
So the beggar stayed with them three days, and Victorius was allowed to look after him, and, as the old book says, "eagerly brought him everything to eat that he liked best."
Victorius stayed always with St. Martin, and went about everywhere with him, scarcely ever leaving his side. Even to the church he would go with him for the night offices; or on his tours visiting the churches or preaching to the heathen. St. Martin taught Victorius, and in return the boy waited on him; also, I think, he must have cheered up the old Bishop, and often made him feel a boy again. But don't you think Victorius was a very lucky boy? He saw a great many wonderful miracles of the Saint, and was even allowed to have a hand in the doing of some of them, as in the case of the blind beggar. When Victorius was old enough, St. Martin made him a priest, and himself cut off the young man's hair in the way priests used to have it cut.
There are a great many more wonderful stories about St. Martin which I haven't time to tell you now; but gradually, gradually he was establishing the Christian Faith very firmly in France. God's great plan was being fully worked out, for, you see, St. Martin had never resisted God's will in any point; always he had done just what he felt God was gently leading him to do, never mind what it cost him at the time. And so he took each step that God arranged for him, and each one led on to the next, and all led on to the wonderful life of building up the Church of Christ, and making it bigger, stronger, purer, more healthy; and the great work, too, of turning a heathen land into a powerful Christian country.
At last came the day when the tired old Bishop felt, with unspeakable joy, that he was to go and receive his reward at the hands of Christ, Whom he had loved so faithfully and so long, and was to enter into his rest.
One day, after a long journey, St. Martin was thinking of returning to his beloved Marmontier, when a great weakness came over him.
"The moment of my deliverance is at hand," he said.
His monks and other faithful companions were nearly broken-hearted.
"Oh, Father, will you then leave us?" they cried. "Ravening wolves will fall on your flock, and who will protect it when the shepherd is struck? We know your longing to depart and to be with Christ, but your reward is assured and will be greater by delay. Have pity on us who must remain."
So St. Martin prayed a beautiful prayer, because he loved his children more than himself, and he was even willing to put off his reward and his longed-for rest for love of them.
"Lord," he said, "if indeed I still be necessary to Thy people, I refuse not the labour. Let only Thy will be done."
But it was not Our Lord's will that His faithful soldier should fight any longer. Christ was waiting for him, all ready to say, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
And so, lying humbly upon a bed of sackcloth, St. Martin, Apostle of France, finished the work that God had given him to do, and passed into the glory and eternal rest of the Blessed.
THE FOURTH DAY
A gorgeous day of steady, hot sun that made the sea sparkle like a million diamonds scattered on a great stretch of blue, blue satin. The tide was very far out, leaving a golden stretch of sand that simply asked to be tunnelled into and dug into holes and trenches and castles. The Cubs all got into their bathing-costumes (the Cubs' "costumes" were mostly bare Cub!), and spent the whole morning burrowing like moles into the sand, and getting cool in the sea when they felt like it. Akela tried to write something "very important," but the Cubs didn't seem to think it nearly as important as Akela did, and not much writing got done.
After dinner and rest, when the tide had come up, like a great green monster swallowing up the shore, and clutching with foamy fingers at the rocks, Akela hired a boat and took half the Cubs at a time for a row, while the other half ran along the shore ready to scramble in, when their turn came.
The wind had got up, and out to sea there were no end of "white horses" shaking their manes and galloping after each other. Do you know what "white horses" are? They are the white crests of the waves that break out all over the sea on windy days. Some of the "white horses" came galloping close in to shore, and the Cubs had a very exciting time landing to give the others a turn. This is how they did it. One large Cub rolled up his shorts as far as they would go, and stood ready in the bow. Akela then turned the boat shorewards suddenly, and pulled at the oars for dear life, and all the Cubs helped by cheering. "Crash—scrunch," the boat went ashore; the Cub in the bow leapt out, and held her nose steady while everyone else scrambled out. A few "white horses" jumped over the stern and made things a bit wet, but nobody minded. In scrambled the next boatful of Cubs, and, with a good shove, the boat was out again.
A very little make-believe and you were lifeboat-men landing survivors from a wreck.
There was to be a long and very exciting story to-night, so the Cubs bustled down to the Stable extra early, and were undressed before you could say "Jack Robinson." In fact, Terry began to undress in the street, and was out in the Stable-yard in his night-shirt before Akela and the last Cub had got through the gate.
"Tell us a long, long, long one," begged the Cubs; "we aren't a bit sleepy. Let it last till midnight."
"I'll tell as long as the candle lasts," said Akela, sticking a stump of candle on the ledge.
The Cubs curled up, and the candle-light fell in a golden flicker on their ruddy, sunburnt faces. Fifteen pairs of eyes were fixed on Akela. You couldn't hear a straw rustle. Only the faint "Swish-sh-sh—Sha-a-a-ah" of the "white horses" breaking on the shore broke the stillness.
"Now we are going back, back, back into a thousand years ago," began Akela, and the Cubs gave a wriggle of satisfaction, and prepared to take that mighty journey with the greatest ease.
THE STORY OF ST. EDMUND, KING AND MARTYR.
Now we are going back, back, back into a thousand years ago, and more. We shall stay in England, but it is a strange, wild England, covered with deep, mysterious green forests, where speckled deer roam about, and on moonlight nights you can hear the wolves howling. The Englishmen of these days are nearly as fierce as the wolves. If you met one coming down a forest path I believe you'd be a bit afraid of him, with his fierce eyes and shaggy head of hair, his round shield and sharp spear. A good many of these Englishmen are still heathens. But St. Benedict's monks have been hard at work for the last few hundred years turning the wild country into the beautiful England we know, and the fierce, cruel Saxons into brave Christian knights, with kindly, noble hearts as well as fearless spirits.
Well, in a part of the country called East Anglia there lived an old King called Offa. He was a Christian, and descended from a line of brave and noble Kings called the Uffings. Poor old Offa was very sad, because he felt he was getting old, and he thought that when he died the royal line of Uffings would end, for he had no son to succeed him.
As a matter of fact he had got a son, but many years before God had called this boy to give up all thoughts of worldly glory and become a holy hermit, giving up his life to prayer. When God calls a man to serve Him and Him alone, He does not let the world suffer by his loss. God had a plan of His own for replacing Offa's hermit son by one of the most glorious Kings that ever reigned in England, and it is the wonderful story of how he was found, and of his thrilling adventures as the young King of East Anglia, that I'm going to tell you to-night.
Well, something—perhaps it was a whisper from the Holy Spirit—made old King Offa feel that if he prayed very hard he might in some wonderful way obtain an heir to his throne.
In those days, when people wanted to pray very hard and show God they really wanted a thing, and really believed He would give it them, they used to do what was called "going on a pilgrimage." It was like doing instead of only saying a great prayer, for the whole, long, dangerous journey was one act of faith and devotion or of thanksgiving.
So old Offa set out on a pilgrimage to the very best place you could pilgrimage to—the land where Our Blessed Lord lived and died, where there are still the very same rocky paths His Blessed Feet touched, the same mountains and lakes His Eyes rested on, the very hill where His Precious Blood poured down from the Cross, dyeing the grass and the little white daisies red. Somehow the King felt that if he could go and pray where Our Lord had prayed he would get some wonderful answer. So he started off, crossed the blue sea and landed on the opposite coast. Now, God is so ready to grant the prayers of people who have so much love and faith that He sometimes answers almost before they have asked. That's what happened with the old King. His way lay through Saxony, the kingdom of his cousin Acmund. One day he rode up with his men-at-arms to the Court, and decided to spend a few days there. Acmund, of course, welcomed his cousin, and received him joyfully to the palace.
Well, as King Offa sat resting on one of the low couches covered with the skins of wild beasts that Acmund had killed in the chase, there was a light footfall outside the chamber, the heavy curtain was drawn back from the doorway, and there stood before him a tall, slim boy of thirteen, with fair hair, truthful blue eyes, and a face tanned with the sun and wind of his open-air life. Something seemed to jump up in the old King's sad heart. Oh, if only that noble boy were his son, his heir! He was a true Uffing. What a King he would make for East Anglia!
In the next few days Offa and the King's son, Edmund, became great friends. Edmund took upon himself the job of looking after his old cousin, and seeing that he had all he needed and enjoyed his visit at the Court. And Offa watched Edmund with a feeling of love and interest such as he would have had for his own son. He saw that the boy was brave and clever, a good shot with his bow, able to throw a spear straight and ride a horse. He saw that he was loved by all, and always ready to do good turns and put the wishes of others before his own. But he saw something that pleased him more—that Edmund was a true, loyal Christian. In all the excitement of the chase and the gaiety of the Court, his first thought was of God—to serve Him and please Him, to keep from all sin for His sake.
The more Offa saw of Edmund, the more sure he felt that God had led him to this Court that he might find his heir. Still, though it seemed as if his request was already granted, he did not give up his pilgrimage, but decided to press on, if only as an act of thanksgiving to God.
Before starting once more on his way, the King called Edmund aside. Taking a gold ring from his finger, he put it on Edmund's hand, and told him that if it were God's will this might some day mean great things for him. Then he said good-bye, and rode away towards the East.
Young Edmund must often have wondered what it was that God held in store for him, and as he looked at the gold ring on his finger I feel sure he used to promise God that whatever it was he would do his best to fulfil His Holy Will.
Well, old Offa reached Palestine all right. His heart thrilled with joy and love as he saw the very village where Jesus was born, and where the shepherds came that early Christmas morning to adore the little new-born King. He remembered the three Kings of the East, who came plodding along on their camels, bearing gifts for Mary's little Son.
Then he went on to Mount Calvary, and the tears ran down his old face as he saw the hill where Our Blessed Lord suffered such agony, with such glorious courage, for our sakes. He prayed and gave thanks, and then, with a confident heart, left all the future in God's Hands and started homewards.
But he had not got very far before he fell ill, and soon his men saw that he was dying. Calling them about him, he told them that it was God's will that young Edmund, Acmund's son, should be their King. Taking from his finger the signet-ring that had been placed upon it by the Bishop at his coronation, he commanded that when he was dead it should be carried as quickly as possible to the boy. Then, heaving a last sigh of peace and gratitude, he closed his eyes on the world, and his faithful soul went to God.
The Coming of St. Edmund.
Now we will go back to England. The people have heard of the death of their King, and they are not at all sure that they want a strange young Prince from Saxony to come and rule over them. They have collected in a great crowd on the shore, for the galleys from across the sea have come in sight, bearing down before the wind.
The ships draw every moment nearer, and the people wait. As long as most of them can remember they have been ruled over by King Offa; and for many generations their Kings have been Uffings—tall, fair, blue-eyed men, with noble, fearless hearts. What will this strange boy be like?
And on the ship young Edmund pushed his way forward to the prow. He could see the green, tree-covered cliffs of his new kingdom, and the crowd of people on the shore. His heart beat fast, and he fingered the ring old Offa had put on his hand. Oh, if only these people knew that he came to them ready to do his best to be to them a good King—to do his best for them, for the love of God!
Splash, splash!—the big anchors go overboard and the chains rattle as they run out over the bows. Soon Edmund and his men are in small boats, being rowed swiftly to the shore. Edmund's boat is the foremost and he himself stands up on the prow, ready to leap ashore. As the men of England look at him they see that he is no stranger, but one of themselves, a true Uffing, and then and there a sense of loyalty springs up in their rough hearts.
The nose of the boat grates on the shore. With a leap Edmund has cleared the water, and is standing on the land of which he is to be King. His first act is to fall on his knees and ask God's blessing on himself and his people. His short prayer ended, he gets up and turns to greet his new friends; but to his surprise they are all falling on their knees, murmuring to one another, "A miracle, a miracle!" For a spring of clear water has bubbled up where Edmund's knees touched the ground—a sign from Heaven that he is the true King, a symbol of the power of the Holy Ghost that will well up like a spring in his heart.
The Crowning of St. Edmund.
After a time of study and preparation under a holy man, called Bishop Humbert, who became a true father to the boy and his lifelong friend, the time of St. Edmund's coronation drew near. It took place on Christmas Day, and the old books tell us of the gorgeous procession and the wonderful service. St. Edmund had to make a solemn promise of loyalty to God and his people, and after being anointed with holy oil he was clothed in certain royal garments by the Bishop, while a thane stepped forward and put sandals on his feet, a purple cloak was put upon his shoulders, and in his hand a sceptre of mercy and an iron rod of justice. After that a naked sword was presented to him, and a helmet put on his head. Then, laying aside all these, St. Edmund stepped forward, and standing before the altar declared solemnly that by the grace of God he would fulfil all the duties of a good King. The Bishop placed the crown upon his head, saying, "Live the King for ever," and the people all cried, "Amen, amen, amen."
After that there was a solemn service of praise and thanksgiving to God, and the new King received Holy Communion. You can imagine how happy it made the holy young King that this should be the very first act of his reign, and what confidence it gave him that Christ would stay with him through all the difficult years to come.
For a long time there was peace in St. Edmund's kingdom, though the people in other parts of the country were suffering terribly from their enemies, the Danes, who came over in wild hordes from the North in their low, black-sailed boats, and, landing on the coast, went through the country burning and plundering and killing.
St. Edmund knew they would sooner or later invade his kingdom too. So he set to work to prepare for them. His chief way of doing this was to win the loyalty of all his subjects, so that if there was war he knew they would all rally round him. He made wise laws, and he was so fair to all, and so ready to listen to the poor and oppressed and help them, that soon everyone in the kingdom loved the young King and would do anything for him. They could see that God was with him, and they could not help feeling that in serving the humblest of his subjects he felt that it was Christ Himself that he served.
St. Edmund had, of course, prepared his army and had thrown up defences to try and keep the enemy out as long as possible. You can still see one of his great earthworks running from Newmarket to the Fen country. For hundreds of years it was called "Edmund's Dyke." He placed scouts and outposts all round his borders, and prepared in every way he could.
At last the day came when the country people came running into the towns in terror. They had seen along the borders huge, fierce men, with flashing eyes and long red hair and beards. Their leather tunics were stained dark with blood. Huge round shields were slung across their backs; they were armed with spears, bows, clubs, and knives, and they shouted to one another in a strange language.
St. Edmund's scouts came running in to say that the Danes were collecting in great crowds on the frontiers.
Soon they began creeping in at every point, burning houses and churches, and killing people, especially the Christians. Though it was an almost hopeless job, St. Edmund led his brave army forward, and whenever it was possible he engaged the enemy in battles and drove them out. The Danes had never before been so powerfully resisted, and thousands of them were killed. There's not time now to tell you all of the thrilling adventures St. Edmund had at this time, and of his wonderful escapes from the Danes. Anyhow, the Danes were so much weakened that they asked for peace, and after spending the winter in a great camp at Thetford, they sailed away, full of rage and hatred and desire for revenge.
A Cowardly Plot.
For a time there was peace, and then a sad thing happened.
One stormy day when the waves dashed and foamed up the shingly beach, and the sea and sky were a leaden grey, the fisher-folk who lived down by the shore saw a small boat, with tattered sails and broken mast, being driven before the wind. There seemed to be a man in it, but he was evidently weak and exhausted, and was doing nothing to help himself. Presently the boat was thrown up on the shore, and the fishermen ran down and collected in a little crowd round it. Looking down at the helpless man, still clinging to a spar and drenched with foam and sea-water, they soon saw he was not one of their people. "A Dane, a Dane!" they murmured with sullen hate. Then one who had served in St. Edmund's army suddenly gave a wild exclamation. "By Heaven," he said, "it's Lothparch!" Lothparch was the leader of the Danish army who had done such awful harm to East Anglia only a few years before. "Kill him!" growled one man. "Throw him back on the mercy of the sea!" hissed another. But the man who had fought under St. Edmund would have nothing of the kind. The King never allowed a helpless man, even a cruel enemy, to be killed. So Lothparch was carried up to the royal palace.
To the surprise of the fierce Angles, St. Edmund not only made the stranger welcome, but showed him every kindness. "Love your enemies," said Our Lord, and sure enough St. Edmund seemed truly to be obeying that command. Everything the King did seemed right to his loyal subjects; but there was one man—Berne, the King's huntsman—whose jealousy was so bitter at St. Edmund's showing favour to a Dane that he waited till he had an opportunity, and then he murdered Lothparch.
The King was very angry, of course; but he said that, though Berne deserved to die for the crime, he would give him a faint chance of escape; he should be put in an open boat, and pushed out to sea and left to the mercy of the waves.
After tossing for many days, Berne was washed up on a strange coast.
During those lonely days of tossing on the waves, instead of repenting of his crime, Berne's wicked heart had been full of hatred for the King. So when he heard that the land he had come to was Lothparch's own kingdom, and that his two sons, Inguar and Hubba, were reigning in his place, a horrible idea came into his mind. Asking to be taken before the Princes, he made up and told them an awful lie, saying that when their father, Lothparch, had been washed up, helpless, on the coast of England, Edmund the King had caused him to be cruelly put to death.
Of course, this enraged Inguar and Hubba, and they at once collected a huge and fierce army, and set out once more for East Anglia.
A Fight to the Death.
Landing in the North, and marching from York southward, the Danes plundered every city they passed through. They burned the monastery that had been built at Croyland (St. Guthlac's isle), and also those at Peterborough, Ramsey, Soham, and Ely. Meeting St. Edmund's army, they defeated it completely, killed the brave General who commanded it, and took Thetford by storm. Then they sent St. Edmund a message to say that he must give up half his kingdom and pay heavy taxes, or they would do the most terrible "frightfulness" throughout the land.
But St. Edmund and his men decided to make one great effort to keep their land in liberty and true to the Christian Faith. At the head of his gallant army, St. Edmund marched on Inguar's army, and a ghastly battle began.
Arrows flew thick; swords clashed on shields; great spears tore men open and left them to bleed to death. All day the battle raged, but at night the Danes fell back exhausted, and St. Edmund held the field, victorious. But as he stood in the moonlight and looked upon the scene his heart sank.
Before him stretched the great battlefield, its trampled grass all soaked in blood; and around him, silent for ever, lay his great army—an army of dead men. With a heavy heart he led back his little handful of tired and wounded soldiers to the camp.
The next day came terrible news. Hubba, with ten thousand men, had marched up and joined his brother.
It was hopeless to try and resist any more—the King knew it, and his people knew it, and they shuddered to think of their fate. Then a great idea came to the King.
It was he himself the Danes hated so. If only they had him in their power, perhaps they would leave his beloved country in peace! The more he thought of this, the more certain he felt that, by giving himself up, he could buy the peace and happiness and safety of his people. Christ, his Captain, had done this—He had not feared to face the most cruel death to save mankind, and St. Edmund's heart suddenly leapt with the thought that he would follow Christ and do the same!
At first his old friend the Bishop, St. Humbert, tried to hold him back. But after a while he saw that St. Edmund was quite resolved. He spoke of it with such courage and joy that the aged Bishop knew the Holy Spirit must be in his heart leading him to this glorious sacrifice of himself, this giving of his very life for his God and his friends, this quest for the martyr's crown. And so he gave him his blessing and bade him do as his brave heart prompted him. So, calling together his people, St. Edmund told them what he was going to do. You can imagine what they felt—how they begged him with tears not to do it. But nothing would make him change his mind—he knew it was God's Will.
Bravely he gave his last order to his men. It was that all the gates of the fortress should be thrown open, all the defences left unguarded, nothing done to stop the Danes entering it. Then he made his way to the chapel. Unbuckling his faithful sword, he laid it on the steps of the altar, and knelt down, with no protection save God's mercy.