Fables feature, not only human characters, but animals depicting human behavior, and even characters that seem at once to fall into both categories. In this story, you’ll find all three.
The main character in A Fable of Grace is a boy named Cadeau (French, gift), who is born into the family of a nineteenth-century mayor of a small French city. After three daughters, the mayor had been devoutly hoping for a boy.
At the boy’s birth, however, the midwife screamed and thrust him into another’s hands. For the infant, though perfectly formed, was covered with pewter-gray fur—soft and luxuriant a cat’s.
“It’s a gorilla!” shrieked the midwife, “a monster to be destroyed!” And she fled the room before hearing the infant’s first sound—not a wail, but a countertenor “La-la-la-la!” perfect in tone, pitch, and accent.
When the infant was placed into his father’s arms, the mayor’s heat melted as the child tugged his goatee and then sang a perfect major scale. And when the wide-eyed mayor echoed it, his son joined him with a harmonic for each note. Then the baby yawned and fell asleep.
Mayor Batiste, tears flowing, slowly spoke.
“I don’t know what wondrous gift has been given our family, but his name shall surely be Cadeau—Cadeau de Dieu Batiste.”
And so he was baptized at home by Abbe Henri, an old family friend, who was to become the boy’s tutor, spiritual guide, and confidant, throughout Cadeau’s blessed, too-brief sixteen years.
Fourteen of the years were lonely ones. The family announced that, though the mayor’s son was healthy, he was frail and must remain inside and upstairs in the mayoral mansion.
And so Cadeau grew up, his astounding musical gift was unshared, the few who accidentally saw him fleeing from his appearance. He spent much time at his tall front window, gazing down over the window box’s red geraniums, laughing with the children playing games in the street, but often shedding tears of loneliness.
When Cadeau was thirteen, Abbe Henri became convinced that his charge might literally pine away from lack of sharing his miraculous gift. And so he struck on a scheme at once to make Cadeau himself a gift of grace, and to bestow that grace on a group starved for it.
Early one morning, he enveloped Cadeau in a heavy hooded cloak and took him to the new almshouse, once a wealthy convent. He whisked the boy down the main hallway to the doors of the former chapel, now a locked ward of humans born horribly, hideously deformed—missing facial features or arms or legs or both; some whose only motion was to squirm along through their own waste.
But in that place of dark, fetid despair, among those monsters, there was to occur a miracle of grace.