THE LION AND THE SAINT
If you should have the opportunity of seeing any large picture gallery abroad, or our own National Gallery in London, you will be very likely to come across some picture by one or other ' old master' representing an old man, with a long beard, sometimes reading or writing in a study, sometimes kneeling in a bare desert-place; but wherever he may be, or whatever he may be doing, there is almost always a lion with him.
The old man with the beard is St. Jerome, who lived fifteen hundred years ago, and I want now to tell you why a lion generally appears in any picture of him.
At one time of his life, St. Jerome lived in a monastery he had founded at Bethlehem. One day he and some of his monks were sitting to enjoy the cool of the evening at the gate of the monastery when a big lion suddenly appeared walking up to them. The monks were horribly frightened, and scampered off as fast as they could to take refuge indoors; but St. Jerome had noticed that as the lion walked he limped as though in pain, and the Saint, who always tried to help those in trouble, waited to see what he could do for the poor animal.
The lion came near, and when he was quite close he held up one paw and looked plaintively at the men.
St. Jerome fearlessly took the paw on his lap, and, on examining it, found a large thorn, which he pulled out, binding up the injured limb. The wound was rather a bad one, but St. Jerome kept the lion with him and nursed him carefully till he was quite well again.