The Stones Of Plouhinec
: Breton Legends
Plouhinec is a poor little market-town beyond Hennebon, towards the
sea. Bare commons or little fir-woods stretch all round it, and enough
grass to fit an ox for the butcher's knife, or so much bran as would
fatten one descendant of the Rohans, has never yet been yielded
by the entire parish.
But if the people of those parts have reason to complain for want of
corn and cattle, they abound in flints to th
t degree that they could
furnish materials for the rebuilding of Lorient; and out beyond the
town there lies a great wide common, whereon are set by Korigans two
rows of tall stones that might be taken for an avenue, did they but
lead to any thing.
Near this place, hard by the banks of the River Intel, there lived
in former days a man named Marzinne. He was wealthy for those parts,
that is to say, he could salt down a little pig once a year, eat as
much black bread as he cared for, and buy himself a pair of wooden
shoes when Laurel Sunday came round.
And he was looked upon as proud by his neighbours, and had taken upon
him to refuse the hand of his sister Rozenn to many a young fellow
who laboured for his daily bread.
Amongst others to Bernez, a diligent labourer and a worthy Christian;
but one whose only treasure, coming into life, had been that of a good
will. Bernez had known Rozenn as a little girl, when he first came
to work in the parish from Ponscorff-Bidre; and by degrees, as Rozenn
grew up, the attachment of Bernez had grown stronger and stronger.
It may be easily believed that Marzinne's refusal was a terrible
heartsore for him; nevertheless he kept up his courage, for Rozenn
always received him kindly.
Well, Christmas-eve came round; and as a raging storm kept every
one at the farm from going to the midnight Mass, they all sat round
the fire together, with many young men from the neighbourhood, and
amongst them Bernez. The master of the house, willing to show off,
had caused a supper of black-puddings, and hasty puddings made with
wheat flour and honey, to be prepared; so that they all sat gazing
towards the hearth, except Bernez, whose eyes were fixed upon Rozenn.
But just as all the benches were drawn round the table, and every
wooden saucer ready to be dipped into the steaming bowl, an old man
suddenly pushed open the door, and wished the assembled company a good
appetite. He was a beggar from Pluvigner, one who never set his foot
on the church-floor, and of whom all good folks stood in dread. It was
said that he bewitched cattle, turned standing corn black, and sold
to wrestlers magic herbs. He was even suspected of becoming a goblin
at his pleasure.
However, wearing as he did the garb of a mendicant, he was welcomed
by the farmer to the fireside; a three-legged stood was placed at
his disposal, and he received a portion with the guests.
When the beggar had done eating and drinking, he asked for a night's
lodging, and Bernez showed him his way into the stable, where a bald
old ass and sorry ox were already established. The beggar stretched
himself down between the two to share their warmth, and rested his
head upon a pillow of turf.
But just as he was dropping off to sleep the clock struck twelve. Then
the old ass shook his long ears, and turned towards the ox.
"Well, my cousin," said he, in friendly tones, "and how has it gone
with you since last Christmas, when we talked together?"
Instead of answering, the horned beast looked sideways at the beggar,
"It was hardly worth while for the Almighty to vouchsafe us speech
together on a Christmas-eve, and thus to acknowledge the assistance
rendered by the presence of our ancestors at the birth of the Saviour,
if we are compelled to put up with this fellow as our auditor."
"You are very proud, my friend," answered the ass gaily. "It is I
rather who have reason to complain, I, whose noble ancestor once
carried the Saviour to Jerusalem, proved by the cross imprinted ever
since upon the shoulders of our family. But I can be well satisfied
with whatever Providence has seen fit to grant me. Besides which,
you see well enough that the sorcerer is asleep."
"All his witchcrafts have been powerless to enrich him," said the ox;
"and he has thrown his soul away for little enough. The devil has
not even hinted to him of the lucky chance he might have hereabouts
in the course of a few days."
"What lucky chance?" asked the ass.
"How!" cried the ox; "don't you know, then, that each hundred years
the stones on Plouhinec Common go down to drink at the river Intel,
and that whilst away the treasures they conceal are left exposed?"
"Ah, I remember now," interrupted the ass, "but then the stones
return so quickly to their places, that it is impossible to avoid
being crushed to pieces by them if you have not as your safeguard a
twig of cross-wort surrounded by the five-leaved clover."
"And besides," continued the ox, "the treasures you may carry off all
fade to dust unless you offer in return a baptised soul. A Christian
must suffer death before the devil will permit you to enjoy in peace
the wealth of Plouhinec."
The beggar was not asleep, but had listened breathless to this
"Ah, my good friends," thought he to himself, "you have made me richer
than the wealthiest in all Vannes or Lorient. Be easy; the sorcerer
of Pluvigner shall not lose Paradise for nothing."
He slept at last; and rising at the break of day, he wandered through
the country seeking for the cross-wort and the five-leafed clover."
He was forced to look long and wander far, where skies are milder
and plants always green, before he was successful. But on the eve of
New-Year's Day he came again to Plouhinec, with the countenance of
a weasel that has just found out the entrance to a dovecote.
In crossing the common, he came upon Bernez busy striking with a
pointed hammer on the tallest of the stones.
"Heaven preserve me!" cried the sorcerer, laughing, "are you anxious
to dig yourself a dwelling in this rocky mass?"
"No," answered Bernez quietly; "but as I am just now out of work, I
thought that perhaps if I carved a cross upon one of these accursed
stones, I should perform an act agreeable in the sight of God, and
one that may stand me in good stead some other day."
"Then you have something to ask of Him?" said the old man.
"All Christians need to beg from Him salvation for their souls,"
replied the youth.
"And have you nothing too to say to Him about Rozenn?" pursued the
beggar, in a lower voice.
Bernez looked full at him.
"Ah, you know that?" said he. "Well, after all, there is no shame
or sin in it. If I seek for the maiden, it is that I may lead her
to the presence of the priest. Unhappily Marzinne is waiting for a
brother-in-law who can count more reals than I have silver coins."
"And if I could put you in the way of having more louis-d'or than
Marzinne has reals?" said the sorcerer in an under-tone.
"You!" cried Bernez.
"And how much do you ask for this?"
"Only to be remembered in your prayers."
"Then there will be nothing that can compromise my soul?"
"Only courage is required."
"Tell me, then, what must be done," cried Bernez, letting fall his
hammer. "If needs be, I am ready to encounter any difficulty."
The beggar, seeing him thus disposed, related how that on that very
night the treasures of the common would be all exposed; but he said
nothing at the same time of the way by which the stones were to be
avoided as they came trooping back. The young fellow thought nothing
was wanting but boldness and a swift step; so he said,
"As sure as I am a living man I will profit by this opportunity,
old man; and I shall always be at your service for the notice you
have given me of this great chance. Only let me finish the cross I
have begun engraving on this stone; when the time comes, I will join
you near the little pine-wood."
Bernez kept his word, and arrived at the appointed place an hour
before midnight. He found the beggar carrying a wallet in each hand,
and one suspended round his neck.
"Come," said he to the young man, "sit down there, and think of
all that you will do when you have silver, gold, and jewels to your
The young man sat down on the ground and answered, "If I have silver
to my heart's content, I will give my gentle Rozennik all that
she wishes for, and all that she can wish for, from linen to silk,
from bread to oranges."
"And if you have gold?" added the sorcerer.
"If I have gold at will," replied the youth, "I will make wealthy
all my Rozennik's relations, and all the friends of her relations,
to the utmost limits of the parish."
"And if at last you should have jewels in plenty?" continued the
"Then," cried out Bernez, "I would make all the people in the world
happy, and I would tell them it was my Rozennik's desire."
Whilst talking thus, the hour slipped away, and midnight came.
At the same instant a great sound arose upon the heath, and by the
light of the stars all the huge stones might be seen leaving their
places, and hurrying towards the river Intel. They rushed down the
slope, grazing the earth as they went, and jostling each other like
a troop of drunken giants. So they swept pell-mell past the two men,
and were lost in darkness.
Then the beggar flew towards the common, followed by Bernez; and there,
in the very spots where just before huge stones had reared themselves,
they now saw large holes piled to the brim with gold, with silver,
and with precious stones.
Bernez uttered a cry of admiration, and made the sign of the cross;
but the sorcerer made haste to cram all his wallets, turning meanwhile
an attentive ear towards the river's bank.
He had just finished lading the third bag, whilst the young man
stuffed the pockets of his linen vest, when a dull sound like that
of an approaching storm was audible in the distance.
The stones had finished drinking, and were coming back once more.
They rushed, stooping forwards like runners in a race, and bore down
all before them.
When the youth perceived them, he started upright, and exclaimed,
"Ah, Blessed Virgin, we are lost!"
"I am not," said the sorcerer, taking in his hand the cross-wort and
the five-leaved clover, "for I have that here which will secure my
safety; but a Christian must be sacrificed to make good all these
treasures, and the bad angel put thee in my way. So give up Rozenn,
and prepare to die."
While yet he spoke the stony army was at hand; but holding forth
his magic nosegay, they turned aside to right and left to fall upon
Bernez. He, feeling sure that all was over for him, sank down upon
his knees and closed his eyes; when the great stone that led the
troop stopped all at once, and barring the way, set itself before
him as a protecting rampart.
Bernez, astonished, raised his head, and recognised the stone on which
his hand had traced a cross. Being thenceforward a baptised stone,
it could have no power to harm a Christian.
Remaining motionless before the young man until all its fellows had
regained their places, it then rushed forwards like a sea-bird to
retake its own, and met upon its way the beggar hampered with his
three ponderous bags of gold.
Seeing it advance, he would have defied it with his magic plants; but
the stone, become Christian, was no longer subject to the witchery of
the demon, and hurrying onwards, crushed the sorcerer like an insect.
Bernez had not only all his own collection, but the three full wallets
of the mendicant, and became thus rich enough to wed his Rozenn, to
bring up a numerous family, and to succour his relations, as well as
the poor of the whole country around, to the end of his long life.