"Our Life Like a Bird Has Escaped"
Blessed be the Lord who did not give us
A prey to their teeth.
Our life, like a bird, has escaped
The snare of the fowler.
Indeed the snare has been broken,
And we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
Who made Heaven and earth.
The Bear could hear Father Corbinian's voice, singing it. "Blessed be the Lord..." he began. It felt good to speak, to sing. It was his wonderful tongue that made him better than mere animals, even as his bearishness made him better than men. He resumed singing until the two stanzas were finished. He was free.
He sensed that he had deviated from his original course. He was starting to circle around the men he had left behind. He muttered snatches from what he remembered. "Our life like a bird has escaped. Indeed the snare has been broken, and we have escaped." Then he stopped in his tracks.
Our help is in the name of the Lord, he thought. Had not his escape been just as miraculous as his capture by Father Corbinian? And practically in the same place? The Good God wanted the Bear to be free. The Bear owed nothing to men who had captured him, starved him, and cruelly mistreated him. Let them remain in God's hands, who could help them if it was His will. If they perished, it was their own fault. Prior William was prideful and stupid. The Bear had known it from the start.
He would not kill them. But neither would he help them.
The Bear continued a wide circle until he smelled the faint scent of their earlier passage, even though new snow had obliterated the tracks. The Bear stopped, and wondered if anything remained of the fish he had drawn.
"Nothing!" he cried out loud, but it sounded dead in the falling snow. The Bear then knew the men would die. It was not certain he could even help them. Game would have sought shelter, and streams would be frozen over. The Bear would be lucky to get back alive by himself. He began to run back the way they had come, in the direction of his home. His limbs, long chained so that he could only shuffle, ached with the exercise, but he rejoiced in the speed he still possessed. The strength. The cunning.
Of a Bear. At least Prior William had been right about one thing. It was foolish to pretend to be a man. Why would he want to be such a weak, despicable, and evil creature. He would not make that mistake again.
He was Bear, son of Bear. And this time there was no laughter.