“O Brother Timothy,” the children said,
“You have come back to us just as before;
We were afraid, and thought that you were dead,
And we should never see you any more.”
And then they kissed the white star on his head,
That like a birth-mark or a badge he wore,
And patted him upon the neck and face,
And said a thousand things with childish grace.
Thenceforward and forever he was known
As Brother Timothy, and led alway
A life of luxury, till he had grown
Ungrateful being stuffed with corn and hay,
And very vicious. Then in angry tone,
Rousing himself, poor Gilbert said one day
“When simple kindness is misunderstood
A little flagellation may do good.”
His many vices need not here be told;
Among them was a habit that he had
Of flinging up his heels at young and old,
Breaking his halter, running off like mad
O’er pasture-lands and meadow, wood and wold,
And other misdemeanors quite as bad;
But worst of all was breaking from his shed
At night, and ravaging the cabbage-bed.
So Brother Timothy went back once more
To his old life of labor and distress;
Was beaten worse than he had been before.
And now, instead of comfort and caress,
Came labors manifold and trials sore;
And as his toils increased his food grew less,
Until at last the great consoler, Death,
Ended his many sufferings with his breath.
Great was the lamentation when he died;
And mainly that he died impenitent;
Dame Cicely bewailed, the children cried,
The old man still remembered the event
In the French war, and Gilbert magnified
His many virtues, as he came and went,
And said: “Heaven pardon Brother Timothy,
And keep us from the sin of gluttony.”
“Signor Luigi,” said the Jew,
When the Sicilian’s tale was told,
“The were-wolf is a legend old,
But the were-ass is something new,
And yet for one I think it true.
The days of wonder have not ceased
If there are beasts in forms of men,
As sure it happens now and then,
Why may not man become a beast,
In way of punishment at least?
“But this I will not now discuss,
I leave the theme, that we may thus
Remain within the realm of song.
The story that I told before,
Though not acceptable to all,
At least you did not find too long.
I beg you, let me try again,
With something in a different vein,
Before you bid the curtain fall.
Meanwhile keep watch upon the door,
Nor let the Landlord leave his chair,
Lest he should vanish into air,
And thus elude our search once more.”
Thus saying, from his lips he blew
A little cloud of perfumed breath,
And then, as if it were a clew
To lead his footsteps safely through,
Began his tale as followeth.