Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/479

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421
The Legend of Merlin.

and laughed again. In the market place they saw a man stealing an earthenware pot and the angel laughed a fourth time. After they had finished their purchase they returned to the Abbot and the other brother told the Abbot that he had laughed three times more. Then the Abbot asked the angel and said, 'What can this be, what does this mean, my son? For thirty years thou hast been serving me and I have never seen thee laugh, and to-day thou hast laughed no less than four times.' And the angel replied, 'I am the Archangel Gabriel and I was once sent by the Lord to take the soul of a widow whom I found suckling two children at her breast; taking pity on them I spared her, and as punishment for this my doing have I been sent by the Lord over all to serve thee thirty years and to protect thee from all evil, and at the end of the thirty years I am to receive thy soul. Now the thirty years have come to an end and I will then tell thee the reason for my laughing. I laughed first when thou didst order me to buy thee a pair of shoes which were to last for a year, whilst thou hast barely three days more to live. I laughed a second time when I heard the beggar asking for alms whilst he was sitting on a rich treasure without knowing it. I laughed for a third time when I beheld the bishop and the governor riding about with so much pomp and pride, for these were the twins of the widow on whose behalf I had been punished, and for a fourth time did I laugh when I saw clay stealing clay. And this is the reason why I laughed. But do thou now prepare thyself, for the time of our journey has arrived.' The Abbot, hearing these words prepared himself and on the third day he gave up his soul to the Archangel who took it with him on high, where he joined his heavenly band rejoicing. Amen."

Thus far this wonderful tale, full of deep faith and moral beauty, with its impressive lesson of divine providence and not wanting in human pathos and poetry.