Rabbit became specially attached to one of the three dogs with spiked collars. She was a spaniel, of kind disposition, and compact build. She had a stubby tail, pendant ears, and twisted paws. She was easy to get on with and polite. She had been born in a pig-pen at a cobbler’s who went hunting on Sundays. When her master died, and no one wanted to give her shelter, she ran about in the fields where she met Francis.
Rabbit always walked by her side, and when she slept her muzzle lay upon him and he too fell asleep. All of them always had their noonday sleep, and under the dull fire of the sun it was filled with dreams.
Then Francis saw again the Paradise from which he had come. It seemed to him as if he were passing through the great open gate into the wonderful street on which stood the houses of the Elect. They were low huts, each like the other, in a luminous shadow which caused tears of joy to rise in the eyes. From the interior of these huts might be caught the gleam of a carpenter’s plane, a hammer, or a file. The work that is sublime continues here; for, when God asked those who had come to him what reward they desired for their work on earth, they always wished to go on with that which had helped them to gain Heaven. And then suddenly their humble crafts became filled with a sort of mystery. Artisans appeared at their thresholds where tables were set for the evening meal. One heard the cheery burble of celestial wells. And in the open squares angels that had a semblance to fishing-boats, bowed down in the blessedness of the twilight.
But the animals in their dreams saw neither the earth nor Paradise as we know them and see them. They dreamed of endless plains where their senses became confused. It was like a dense fog in them. To Rabbit the baying of the hounds became all blended into one thing with the heat of the sun, sharp detonations, the feeling of wet paws, the vertigo of flight, with fright, with the smell of the clay, and the sparkle of the brook, with the waving to and fro of wild carrots and the crackling of maize, with the moonshine and the joyous emotion of seeing his mate appearing amid the fragrant meadow-sweet.
Behind their closed eyelids they all saw moving like mirrored reflections the courses of their lives. The doves, however, protected their nimble and restless, little heads from the sun; they sought for their Paradise beneath the shadow of their wings.
When winter came Francis said to his friends:
“Blessings upon you for you are of God. But in my heart I am uneasy for the cry of the geese that are flying southward tells that a famine is near at hand, and that it is not in the purposes of Heaven to make the earth kind for you. Praised be the hidden designs of the Lord!”
The country around them, in fact, became a barren waste. The sky let drip a yellow light from its sack-like clouds bulging with snow. All the fruits of the hedges had withered, and all those of the orchards were dead. And the seeds had left their husks to enter into the bosom of the earth.