The Tale of the Snow and the Steeple

by Laure Claire Foucher

I set off from Rome on a journey to Russia, in the midst of winter, from a just notion that frost and snow must of course mend the roads, which every traveler had described as uncommonly bad through the northern parts of Germany, Poland, Courland, and Livonia. I went on horseback as the most convenient manner of traveling. I was but lightly clothed, and of this I felt the inconvenience the more I advanced northeast. What must not a poor old man have suffered in that severe weather and climate, whom I saw on a bleak common in Poland lying on the road helpless, shivering, and hardly having the wherewithal to cover his nakedness? I pitied the poor soul: though I felt the severity of the air myself, I threw my mantle over him, and immediately I heard a voice from the heavens blessing me for that piece of charity, saying, "You will be rewarded, my son, for this in time."

"I took one of my pistols, shot the bridle in two." "I took one of my pistols, shot the bridle in two."

I went on: night and darkness overtook me. No village was to be seen. The country was covered with snow, and I was unacquainted with the road.

Tired, I alighted, and fastened my horse to something, like a pointed stump of a tree, which appeared above the snow; for the sake of safety, I placed my pistols under my arm, and laid down on the snow, where I slept so soundly that I did not open my eyes till full daylight. It is not easy to conceive my astonishment to find myself in the midst of a village, lying in a churchyard; nor was my horse to be seen, but I heard him soon after neigh somewhere above me. On looking upwards, I beheld him hanging by his bridle to the weather-cock of the steeple. Matters were now very plain to me; the village had been covered with snow overnight: a sudden change of weather had taken place: I had sunk down to the churchyard whilst asleep, gently, and in the same proportion as the snow had melted away; and what in the dark I had taken to be a stump of a little tree appearing above the snow, to which I had tied my horse, proved to be the cross or weather-cock of the steeple!

With long consideration, I took one of my pistols, shot the bridle in two, brought down the horse, and proceeded on my journey. [Here the baron seems to have forgotten his feelings: he should certainly have ordered his horse a feed of corn after fasting so long.]