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[Illustration: (front cover)]

[Illustration: SHE SLEPT CALMLY AND PEACEFULLY UNTIL SHE DREAMED A DREAM.]






IN GOD'S GARDEN

STORIES OF THE SAINTS FOR LITTLE CHILDREN

BY AMY STEEDMAN

WITH SIXTEEN REPRODUCTIONS FROM ITALIAN MASTERPIECES

[Illustration]

LONDON: T. C. & E. C. JACK, Ltd.
35 PATERNOSTER ROW, E.C., & EDINBURGH




TO MY MOTHER




ABOUT THIS BOOK


There is a garden which God has planted for Himself, more beautiful than
any earthly garden. The flowers that bloom there are the white souls of
His saints, who have kept themselves pure and unspotted from the world.

In God's garden there is every kind of flower, each differing from the
other in beauty. Some are tall and stately like the lilies, growing
where all may see them in their dress of white and gold; some are half
concealed like the violets, and known only by the fragrance of kind
deeds and gentle words which have helped to sweeten the lives of others;
while some, again, are hidden from all earthly eyes, and only God knows
their loveliness and beholds the secret places where they grow. But
known or unknown, all have risen above the dark earth, looking ever
upward; and, although often bent and beaten down by many a cruel storm
of temptation and sin, they have ever raised their heads again, turning
their faces towards God; until at last they have been crowned with the
perfect flower of holiness, and now blossom for ever in the Heavenly
Garden.

In this book you will not find the stories of all God's saints. I have
gathered a few together, just as one gathers a little posy from a garden
full of roses. But the stories I have chosen to tell are those that I
hope children will love best to hear.

Let us remember that God has given to all of us, little children as well
as grown-up people, a place in His garden here on earth, and He would
have us take these white flowers, the lives of His saints, as a pattern
for our own. We may not be set where all can see us; our place in God's
garden may be a very humble and sheltered spot; but, like the saints, we
may keep our faces ever turned upward, and learn to grow, as they grew,
like their Master, pure and straight and strong - fit flowers to blossom
in the Garden of God.

'Saints are like roses when they flush rarest,
Saints are like lilies when they bloom fairest,
Saints are like violets, sweetest of their kind.'




LIST OF STORIES


PAGE

SAINT URSULA, 1
SAINT BENEDICT, 16
SAINT CHRISTOPHER, 29
SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, 41
SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, 54
SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY, 62
SAINT CECILIA, 71
SAINT GILES, 79
SAINT NICHOLAS, 84
SAINT FAITH, 97
SAINT COSMO AND SAINT DAMIAN, 102
SAINT MARTIN, 110
SAINT GEORGE, 119
SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, 128




LIST OF PICTURES


AT PAGE

SAINT URSULA,

She slept calmly and peacefully until she dreamed a dream, _Frontispiece_
Ursula stood on the landing-place, the first to greet the Prince, 8

By Vittore Carpaccio at the Accademia, Venice.


SAINT BENEDICT,

A little demon seized the robe of the young monk, 22
A terrible storm began to rage, 28

By Lorenzo Monaco, Uffizi, Florence.


SAINT CHRISTOPHER,

The child upon his shoulder seemed to grow heavier, 38

By Titian, Doge's Palace, Venice.


SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA,

The Holy Child placed a ring upon her finger, 46

By Benozzo Gozzali, Uffizi, Florence.


SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO,

The child had digged a hole in the sand, 60

By Sandro Botticelli, Accademia, Florence.


SAINT CECILIA,

A crown of lilies and roses in each hand, 74
She taught them about the Lord of Heaven, 78

By Spinello Aretino, S. Maria del Carmine, Florence.


SAINT NICHOLAS,

He showed his daughter the gold, 86
He went to the harbour where two ships lay, 90

By Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Accademia, Florence.


SAINT COSMO AND SAINT DAMIAN,

But Cosmo turned and walked away, 104
An angel guided them with loving care, 108

By Fra Angelico, Accademia, Florence.


SAINT GEORGE,

Saint George rode straight at the monster, 124

By Vittore Carpaccio, S. Georgio Maggiore, Venice.


SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI,

Then the Pope took the little poor brothers under his protection, 136
He chanted the Gospel at the first Christmas mass, 140

By Giotto, Accademia, Florence.




SAINT URSULA


Once upon a time in the land of Brittany there lived a good king, whose
name was Theonotus. He had married a princess who was as good as she was
beautiful, and they had one little daughter, whom they called Ursula.

It was a very happy and prosperous country over which Theonotus ruled,
for he was a Christian, and governed both wisely and well, and nowhere
was happiness more certain to be found than in the royal palace where
the king and queen and little Princess Ursula lived.

All went merrily until Ursula was fifteen years old, and then a great
trouble came, for the queen, her mother, died. The poor king was
heart-broken, and for a long time even Ursula could not comfort him. But
with patient tenderness she tried to do for him all that her mother had
done, and gradually he began to feel that he still had something to live
for.

Her mother had taught Ursula with great care, and the little maid had
loved her lessons, and so it came to pass that there was now no princess
in all the world so learned as the Princess Ursula. It is said that she
knew all that had happened since the beginning of the world, all about
the stars and the winds, all the poetry that had ever been written, and
every science that learned men had ever known.

But what was far better than all this learning was that the princess was
humble and good. She never thought herself wiser than other people, and
her chief pleasure was in doing kind things and helping others. Her
father called her the light of his eyes, and his one fear was that she
would some day marry and leave him alone.

And true it was that many princes wished to marry Ursula, for the fame
of her beauty and of her learning had spread to far distant lands.

Now on the other side of the sea, not very far from Brittany, there
was a great country called England. The people there were strong and
powerful, but they had not yet learned to be Christians. The king of
that land had an only son called Conon, who was as handsome as he was
brave. And when his father heard of the fame of the Princess Ursula he
made up his mind that she should be his son's wife. So he sent a great
company of nobles and ambassadors to the court of Brittany to ask King
Theonotus for the hand of the Princess Ursula.

That king received the messengers most courteously, but he was very much
troubled and perplexed at the request. He did not want to part with
Ursula, and he knew she did not wish to marry and leave him. And yet he
scarcely dared offend the powerful King of England, who might be such a
dangerous enemy.

So to gain time he told the messengers he would give them their answer
next day, and then he shut himself up in his room and sorrowfully leaned
his head upon his hand as he tried to think what was best to be done.
But as he sat there thinking the do or opened and Ursula came in.

'Why art thou so sad, my father?' she asked, 'and what is it that
troubleth thee so greatly?'

'I have this day received an offer for thy hand,' answered her father
sadly, 'and the messengers are even now here, and because they come from
the King of England I dare not refuse their request, and yet I know not
what answer to give them when they return in the morning.'

'If that is all, do not trouble thyself, dear father,' answered Ursula;
'I myself will answer the messengers and all will be well.'

Then the princess left her father and went to her own room that she
might consider what answer might be wisest to send. But the more she
thought the more troubled she became, until at last she grew so weary
that she took off her crown and placed it as usual at the foot of her
bed and prepared to go to rest. Her little dog lay guarding her, and
she slept calmly and peacefully until she dreamed a dream which seemed
almost like a vision. For she thought she saw a bright light shining
through the door and through the light an angel coming towards her,
who spoke to her and said: -

'Trouble not thyself, Ursula, for to-morrow thou shalt know what answer
thou shalt give. God has need of thee to save many souls, and though
this prince doth offer thee an earthly crown, God has an unfading crown
of heavenly beauty laid up for thee, which thou shalt win through much
suffering.'

So next morning when the messengers came into the great hall to receive
their answer, they saw the Princess Ursula herself sitting on the throne
next to her father. She was so beautiful, and greeted them so graciously
that they longed more than ever that their prince might win her for his
bride.

And as they listened for the king to speak, it was Ursula's voice that
fell on their ears. She began by sending her greeting to the King of
England and to Prince Conon, his son, and bade the messengers say that
the honour offered her was more than she deserved, but since their
choice had fallen upon her, she on her side was ready to accept the
prince as her promised husband, if he would agree to three conditions.
'And first,' went on Ursula, leaning forward and speaking very clearly
and slowly, so that the foreign ambassadors might understand every word,
'I would have the prince, your master, send to me ten of the noblest
ladies of your land to be my companions and friends, and for each
of these ladies and for myself a thousand maidens to wait upon us.
Secondly, he must give me three years before the date of my marriage so
that I and these noble ladies may have time to serve God by visiting
the shrines of the saints in distant lands. And thirdly, I ask that the
prince and all his court shall accept the true faith and be baptized
Christians. For I cannot wed even so great and perfect a prince, if he
be not as perfect a Christian.'

Then Ursula stopped speaking, and the ambassadors bowed low before her
beauty and wisdom and went to take her answer to their king.

Now Ursula did not make these conditions without a purpose, for in
her heart she thought that surely the prince would not agree to such
demands, and she would still be free. But even if he did all that she
had asked, it would surely fulfil the purpose of her dream, and she
would save these eleven thousand maidens and teach them to serve and
honour God.

Ere long the ambassadors arrived safely in England, and went to
report their mission to the king. They could not say enough about the
perfections of this wonderful princess of Brittany. She was as fair and
straight as a lily, her rippling hair was golden as the sunshine, and
her eyes like shining stars. The pearls that decked her bodice were not
as fair as the whiteness of her throat, and her walk and every gesture
was so full of grace that it clearly showed she was born to be a queen.
And if the outside was so fair, words failed them when they would
describe her wisdom and learning, her good deeds and kind actions.

The king, as he listened to his nobles, felt that no conditions could
be too hard that would secure such a princess for his son, and as for
the prince himself his only desire was to have her wishes fulfilled as
quickly as possible, so that he might set sail for Brittany and see with
his own eyes this beautiful princess who had promised to be his bride.

So letters were sent north, south, east, and west, to France and
Scotland and Cornwall, wherever there were vassals of England to be
found, bidding all knights and nobles to send their daughters to court
with their attendant maidens, the fairest and noblest of the land. All
were to be arrayed in the finest and costliest raiment and most precious
jewels, so that they might be deemed fit companions for the Princess
Ursula, who was to wed Prince Conon, their liege lord.

Then the knights and nobles sent all their fairest maidens, and so eager
were they to do as the king desired, that very soon ten of the noblest
maidens, each with a thousand attendants, and another thousand for the
Princess Ursula, were ready to start for the court of Brittany.

Never before was seen such a fair sight as when all these maidens went
out to meet the Princess Ursula. But fairest of all was the princess
herself as she stood to receive her guests. For the light of love shone
in her eyes, and to each she gave a welcome as tender as if they had all
been her own sisters. It seemed a glorious thing to think they were all
to serve God together, and no longer to live the life of mere pleasure
and vanity.

As may well be believed the fame of these fair maidens spread far and
near, and all the nobles and barons crowded to the court to see the
sight that all the world talked about. But Ursula and her maidens paid
no heed to the gay courtiers, having other matters to think upon.

For when the soft spring weather was come, Ursula gathered all her
companions together and led them to a green meadow outside the city,
through which a clear stream flowed. The grass was starred with daisies
and buttercups, and the sweet scent of the lime blossoms hung in the
air, a fitting bower for those living flowers that gathered there that
day.

In the midst of the meadow there was a throne, and there the princess
sat, and with words of wonderful power she told her companions the story
of God's love and of the coming of our Blessed Lord, and showed them
what the beauty of a life lived for Him might be.

And the faces of the listening maidens shone with a glory that was more
than earthly, as they with one accord promised to follow the Princess
Ursula wherever she might lead, if only she would help them to live the
blessed life so that they too might win the heavenly crown.

Then Ursula descended from her throne and talked with each of the
maidens, and those who had not yet been baptized she led through the
flowery meadow to the banks of the stream, and there a priest baptized
them while the birds joined in the hymn of praise sung by the whole
company.

But all this while the Prince Conon waited with no little impatience for
news of Ursula. He had been baptized and joined the Christian faith, he
had sent the companions she desired, and now he waited for her to fulfil
her promise.

And ere long a letter reached him, written round and fair in the
princess's own handwriting, telling him that as he had so well fulfilled
her conditions, and was now her own true knight, she gave him permission
to come to her father's court, that they might meet and learn to know
each other.

It was but little time that Prince Conon lost before he set sail for
Brittany. The great warships made a prosperous voyage over the sea that
parted the two countries, and came sailing majestically into the harbour
of Brittany, where the people had gathered in crowds to see the young
prince who had come to woo their fair princess.

From every window gay carpets were hung, and the town was all in
holiday, as Ursula stood on the landing-place, the first to greet the
prince as he stepped ashore, and all that Conon had heard of her seemed
as nothing compared to the reality, as she stood before him in her great
beauty and welcomed him with gentle courtesy. And he grew to love her so
truly that he was willing to do in all things as she wished, though he
longed for the three years to be over that he might carry her off to
England and make her his queen.

But Ursula told the prince of the vision that had come to her in her
dream, when the angel had said she must first go through much suffering,
and visit the shrines of saints in distant lands. And she told him she
could not be happy unless he granted her these three years in which to
serve God, and begged him meanwhile to stay with her father and comfort
him while she was gone.

[Illustration: URSULA STOOD ON THE LANDING PLACE, THE FIRST TO GREET
THE PRINCE.]

So Ursula set out with her eleven thousand maidens, and the city was
left very desolate and forlorn. But the pilgrims were happy as they
sailed away over the sea, for they were doing the angel's bidding, and
they feared nothing, for they trusted that God would protect and help
them.

At first the winds were contrary and they were driven far out of their
course, so that instead of arriving at Rome, which was the place they
had meant to go to, they were obliged to land at a city called Cologne,
where the barbarous Germans lived. Here, while they were resting for a
little, another dream was sent to Ursula, and the angel told her that in
this very place, on their return, she and all her maidens would suffer
death and win their heavenly crowns. This did not affright the princess
and her companions, but rather made them rejoice that they should be
found worthy to die for their faith.

So they sailed on up the River Rhine till they could go no further, and
they landed at the town of Basle, determined to do the rest of their
pilgrimage on foot.

It was a long and tedious journey over the mountains to Italy, and the
tender feet of these pilgrims might have found it impossible to climb
the rough road had not God sent six angels to help them on their way, to
smooth over the rough places, and to help them in all dangers so that no
harm could befall them.

First they journeyed past the great lakes where the snow-capped
mountains towered in their white glory, then up the mountain-road, ever
higher and higher, where the glaciers threatened to sweep down upon them,
and the path was crossed by fierce mountain-torrents. But before long
they began to descend the further side; and the snow melted in patches
and the green grass appeared. Then followed stretches of flowery
meadow-land, where the soft southern air whispered to them of the land
of sunshine, fruit, and flowers.

Lower down came the little sun-baked Italian villages, and the simple,
kindly people who were eager to help the company of maidens in every
way, and gazed upon them with reverence when they knew they were on a
pilgrimage to Rome.

Thus the pilgrims went onward until at length they came to the River
Tiber and entered the city of Rome, where were the shrines of Saint
Peter and Saint Paul.

Now the Bishop of Rome, whom men call the Pope, was much troubled when
it was told him that a company of eleven thousand fair women had entered
his city. He could not understand what it might mean, and was inclined
to fear it might be a temptation of the evil one. So he went out to meet
them, taking with him all his clergy in a great procession, chanting
their hymns as they went.

And soon the two processions met, and what was the amazement and joy of
the Pope when a beautiful maiden came and knelt before him and asked for
his blessing, telling him why she and her companions had come to Rome.

'Most willingly do I give thee my blessing,' answered the old man, 'and
bid thee and thy companions welcome to my city. My servants shall put
up tents for you all in some quiet spot, and ye shall have the best that
Rome can afford.'

So the maidens rested there in quiet happiness, thankful to have come
to the end of their pilgrimage and to have reached the shrines of God's
great saints. But to Ursula an added joy was sent which made her
happiness complete.

For the prince, whom she had left behind, grew impatient of her long
absence, and the longing for his princess grew so strong he felt that he
could not stay quietly at home not knowing where she was nor what had
befallen her. So he had set out, and, journeying by a different route,
had arrived in Rome the same day as Ursula and her maidens were received
by the good bishop.

It is easy to picture the delight of Conon and Ursula when they met
together again, and knelt land in hand to receive the Pope's blessing.
And when Ursula told him all that had happened and of the angels whom
God had sent to guide and protect them, the only desire the prince had
was to share her pilgrimage and be near her when danger threatened. And
his purpose only became stronger when she told him of the vision she had
had in the city of Cologne.

'How can I leave thee, my princess,' he asked, 'when I have but now
found thee? Life holds no pleasure when thou art absent. The days are
grey and sunless without the sunshine of thy presence. Bid me come with
thee and share thy dangers, and if it be, as thou sayest, that it is
God's will that thou and all these maidens shall pass through suffering
and death for His sake, then let me too win the heavenly crown that we
may praise God together in that country where sorrow and separation can
touch us no more.'

And Ursula was glad to think that, through love of her, the prince
should be led to love God, and so granted his request and bade her
companions prepare to set out once more.

The Pope would fain have persuaded them to stop longer in Rome, but
Ursula told him of her vision, and how it was time to return as the
dream had warned her. Then the Pope and his clergy made up their minds
to join the pilgrimage also, that they too might honour God by a
martyr's death.

Now there were in Rome at that time two great Roman captains who were
cruel heathens, and who looked upon this pilgrimage with alarm and
anger. They commanded all the imperial troops in the northern country of
Germany; and when they heard that Ursula and her maidens were bound for
Cologne they were filled with dismay and wrath. For they said to each
other:

'If so many good and beautiful women should reach that heathen land the
men there will be captivated by their beauty and wish to marry them.
Then, of course, they will all become Christians, and the whole nation
will be won over to this new religion.'

'We cannot suffer this,' was the answer. 'Come, let us think of some way
to prevent so great a misfortune that would destroy all our power in
Germany.'

So these two wicked heathen captains agreed to send a letter to the
king of the Huns, a fierce savage, who was just then besieging Cologne.
In it they told him that thousands of fair women in a great company were
on their way to help the city, and if they were allowed to enter all
chances of victory for his army would vanish. There was but one thing to
be done and that was to kill the entire band of maidens the moment they
arrived.

Meanwhile Ursula and her companions had set sail for Cologne, and
with them were now Prince Conon and his knights and the Pope with many
bishops and cardinals. And after many days of danger and adventure the
pilgrims arrived at the city of Cologne.

The army of barbarians who were encamped before the city was amazed to
see such a strange company landing from the ships. For first there came
the eleven thousand maidens, then a company of young unarmed knights,
then a procession of old men richly robed and bearing no weapons of any
kind.

For a moment the savage soldiers stood still in amazement, but then,
remembering the orders they had received in the letter from the Roman
captains, they rushed upon the defenceless strangers and began to slay
them without mercy. Prince Conon was the first to fall, pierced by an
arrow, at the feet of his princess. Then the knights were slain and the


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Online LibraryAmy SteedmanIn God's Garden → online text (page 1 of 9)