..."Praised be the hidden designs of the Lord,” said Francis. “Perhaps it is His wish that you leave me, and each of you go your own way in quest of nourishment. Therefore separate from me since I cannot go with each one of you, if your instincts lead you to different lands. For you are living and have need of nourishment, while I am risen from the dead and am here by the grace of God, free from all corporeal needs, a spirit as it were who had the privilege of guiding you to this day. But whatever knowledge I have is growing less, and I no longer know how to provide for you. If you wish to leave me, let the tongue of each be loosed, and freely let each speak.”
The first to speak was the Wolf.
He raised his muzzle toward Francis. His shaggy tail was swept by the wind. He coughed. Misery had long been his garb. His wretched fur made him seem like a dethroned king. He hesitated, and cast his eye upon each one of his companions in turn. At last his voice came from his throat, hoarse like that of the eternal snow. And when he opened his jaws one could measure his endless privations by the length of his teeth. And his expression was so wild that one could not tell whether he was about to bite his master or to caress him.
“Oh honey without sting! Oh brother of the poor! Oh Son of God! How could even I leave you? My life was evil, and you have filled it with joy. During the nights it was my fate to lie in wait listening to the breath of the dogs, the herdsmen, and the fires, until the right moment came to bury my fangs in the throat of sleeping lambs. You taught me, Oh Blessed One, the sweetness of orchards. And even at this moment when my belly was hollow with hunger for flesh, it was your love for me that nourished me. Often, indeed, my hunger has been a joy to me when I could place my head on your sandal for I suffer this hunger that I may follow you, and gladly I would die for your love.”
And the doves cooed.
They stopped in their shivering flight together among the branches of a barren tree. They could not make up their minds to speak. Each moment it seemed as though they were about to begin, when in sudden fright they again filled the listening forest with their sobbing white caresses. They trembled like young girls who mingle their tears and their arms. They spoke together as if they had but a single voice:
“Oh Francis, you are more lovely than the light of the glow-worm gleaming in the moss, gentler than the brook which sings to us while we hang our warm nest in the fragrant shade of the young poplars. What matter that the hoarfrost and famine would banish us from your side and drive us far away to more fruitful lands? For your sake we will love hoarfrost and famine. For the sake of your love we will give up the things we crave. And if we must die of the cold, Oh our Master, it will be with heart against heart.”