Caught by surprise, Brother Bartholomew turned to see the parrot leaving through the opposite window. He called him back, but the parrot was already happily flying above the trees. This was the worst time to escape…
The joyful and festive ambience of the medieval fair was contagious… the hustle and bustle of hundreds of adults, young people and children. They conversed, sang, animatedly haggled over prices or simply amused themselves. Were they there to shop, to eat, or just to hear the latest news? All of that, and much more. At those market places one could find everything.
At one tent a foreigner with a long dark beard was selling beautiful fabrics of the most varied colours imaginable. Beside him, a blacksmith demonstrated the high quality of his knives: “You see, madam, they always stay sharp!” Further along, there was a stout and friendly butcher wearing a bloodstained apron, weighing meat on a somewhat imprecise looking scale.
And in addition to the hubbub of voices and different dialects, intermingled with the sounds of crying children and vendors hawking their goods, one could not help but notice the melodies of the instruments filling the air, for there was always music on these occasions.
On that day, a very thin and short middle-aged man, with a beard and a little hair covering his balding head, walked through the colourful and animated crowd. He wore a tattered brown tunic with a cord around his waist. The man appeared to be well known and esteemed in that region, for everyone would greet him cordially and he replied in the same way. He stopped to speak with the baker for a few moments, and then placed two loaves of bread in the large sack he carried; a little further on, he grabbed a block of cheese; some minutes later, a dozen apples; at another tent, three heads of cabbage. But — what a curious thing! — he never gave a cent to anyone.
What was the reason? Well, that good man, a Franciscan lay brother known as Friar Bartholomew, collected donations for his convent.
After walking through a good part of the market and with his sack almost full, he went to say good- bye to an old friend. Old Simon didn’t sell groceries or fabrics, but his store was always packed with curious people. He sold brightly coloured songbirds.
“Good day Simon! What novelty do you have now?”
“Hello, Brother Bartholomew! Unfortunately you arrived too late… Earlier this morning, I sold a beautiful peacock to the Countess. It was a beautiful bird! I am sure you would have been enchanted by it.”
While he spoke, the old man took a small parrot from its cage and placed it on the table. The bird, however, did not move, making no attempt to es- cape. It seemed a little sluggish, tottering from side to side.
“And what about this little thing?” — the friar asked.
“Ah, this one is very sick. I think it is going to die, and I have neither the patience nor the time to take care of it. I am thinking about breaking its neck to put it out of its misery.”
“Oh, no, don’t do that! Why don’t you give it to me?”
“Oh Brother, I know that some- times the poor friars do not have enough to eat, but are you planning to cook a parrot?” — old Simon asked with astonishment.
“Of course, not. Give me the little bird and I will feed and treat it.”
“All right, all right, Brother. It’s all yours. I have nothing to lose by giving it to you. You are even doing me a fa- vour, by taking it.”
Upon saying this, he gave the sick bird to the friar.
Cared for by the good Brother, the parrot recovered and thrived, clothed in new and attractive green feathers. Soon after, faithful to the attributes it received from its ancestors, the bird began to mimic what the friars said. Encouraged by this, Brother Bartholomew began to teach him the Hail Mary.
“What’s this, Brother, do you want to give the bird catechism classes?” — joked another friar.
“Well, isn’t it nice to hear the little bird repeating the Angelic Salutation?”
And so he would say aloud: “Hail Mary!” And the parrot would repeat with his characteristic accent: “Hail Mary.”
Just then, the Father Guardian of the convent was passing by and he also smiled at seeing Brother Bartholomew teaching the bird. And warned him:
“Be careful with your “pupil”, Brother, because Jacques, the falconer, is roaming through the valley this afternoon!”
Indeed, looking through the window, Brother Bartholomew could see him at a distance. He had serious reasons to fear the falconer. Jacques knew that many different species of birds could be found near the Franciscan convent, since the quiet and peaceful place was a perfect sanctuary for them. So, when the hunting was poor in the local valleys, he would end his excursion near the convent, certain of finding easy and unsuspecting prey on the rooftop of the Friary.
Many times Brother Bartholomew had seen the most beautiful white doves perish in the claws of the falcons. However, what hurt the most was the fact that Jacques was a inattentive Christian who spent much of his time in the taverns and made fun of the Christian belief of others.
The friar was immersed in these thoughts when suddenly a voice called him back to reality:
“Be careful, Brother Bartholomew, the parrot has escaped!”
Surprised, he turned to see a green blur flying through the opposite window. He shouted calling the bird back, but it was already happily flying over the trees. This was the worst time to escape… The good friar saw far off in the distance, a large falcon, circling high in the sky in search of prey. Suddenly, it spotted the parrot and quickly descended toward it like an arrow. Brother Bartholomew tried unsuccessfully to warn the little bird, which could not even hear him.
When it finally realised the danger, it was too late, the falcon was al- ready on top of him. Scared to death, the parrot could only instinctively cry out as loud as it could:
Great was the surprise of every- body upon seeing — soon after that cry issued from the beak of the terrified parrot — the large falcon falling dead to the ground, as if struck by a lightning bolt!