The Stones Of Plouhinec

: The Lilac Fairy Book

Perhaps some of you may have read a book called 'Kenneth; or the

Rear-Guard of the Grand Army' of Napoleon. If so, you will

remember how the two Scotch children found in Russia were taken

care of by the French soldiers and prevented as far as possible

from suffering from the horrors of the terrible Retreat. One of

the soldiers, a Breton, often tried to make them forget how cold

and hungry they were by telling them tale
of his native country,

Brittany, which is full of wonderful things. The best and warmest

place round the camp fire was always given to the children, but

even so the bitter frost would cause them to shiver. It was then

that the Breton would begin: 'Plouhinec is a small town near

Hennebonne by the sea,' and would continue until Kenneth or Effie

would interrupt him with an eager question. Then he forgot how

his mother had told him the tale, and was obliged to begin all

over again, so the story lasted a long while, and by the time it

was ended the children were ready to be rolled up in what ever

coverings could be found, and go to sleep. It is this story that

I am going to tell to you.

Plouhinec is a small town near Hennebonne by the sea. Around it

stretches a desolate moor, where no corn can be grown, and the

grass is so coarse that no beast grows fat on it. Here and there

are scattered groves of fir trees, and small pebbles are so thick

on the ground that you might almost take it for a beach. On the

further side, the fairies, or korigans, as the people called

them, had set up long long ago two rows of huge stones; indeed,

so tall and heavy were they, that it seemed as if all the fairies

in the world could not have placed them upright.

Not far off them this great stone avenue, and on the banks of the

little river Intel, there lived a man named Marzinne and his

sister Rozennik. They always had enough black bread to eat, and

wooden shoes or sabots to wear, and a pig to fatten, so the

neighbours thought them quite rich; and what was still better,

they thought themselves rich also.

Rozennik was a pretty girl, who knew how to make the best of

everything, and she could, if she wished, have chosen a husband

from the young men of Plouhinec, but she cared for none of them

except Bernez, whom she had played with all her life, and Bernez,

though he worked hard, was so very very poor that Marzinne told

him roughly he must look elsewhere for a wife. But whatever

Marzinne might say Rozennik smiled and nodded to him as before,

and would often turn her head as she passed, and sing snatches of

old songs over her shoulder.

Christmas Eve had come, and all the men who worked under Marzinne

or on the farms round about were gathered in the large kitchen to

eat the soup flavoured with honey followed by rich puddings, to

which they were always invited on this particular night. In the

middle of the table was a large wooden bowl, with wooden spoons

placed in a circle round it, so that each might dip in his turn.

The benches were filled, and Marzinne was about to give the

signal, when the door was suddenly thrown open, and an old man

came in, wishing the guests a good appetite for their supper.

There was a pause, and some of the faces looked a little

frightened; for the new comer was well known to them as a beggar,

who was also said to be a wizard who cast spells over the cattle,

and caused the corn to grow black, and old people to die, of

what, nobody knew. Still, it was Christmas Eve, and besides it

was as well not to offend him, so the farmer invited him in, and

gave him a seat at the table and a wooden spoon like the rest.

There was not much talk after the beggar's entrance, and everyone

was glad when the meal came to an end, and the beggar asked if he

might sleep in the stable, as he should die of cold if he were

left outside. Rather unwillingly Marzinne gave him leave, and

bade Bernez take the key and unlock the door. There was certainly

plenty of room for a dozen beggars, for the only occupants of the

stable were an old donkey and a thin ox; and as the night was

bitter, the wizard lay down between them for warmth, with a sack

of reeds for a pillow.

He had walked far that day, and even wizards get tired sometimes,

so in spite of the hard floor he was just dropping off to sleep,

when midnight struck from the church tower of Plouhinec. At this

sound the donkey raised her head and shook her ears, and turned

towards the ox.

'Well, my dear cousin,' said she, 'and how have you fared since

last Christmas Eve, when we had a conversation together?'

Instead of answering at once, the ox eyed the beggar with a long

look of disgust.

'What is the use of talking,' he replied roughly, 'when a good-

for-nothing creature like that can hear all we say?'

'Oh, you mustn't lose time in grumbling,' rejoined the donkey

gaily, 'and don't you see that the wizard is asleep?'

'His wicked pranks do not make him rich, certainly,' said the ox,

'and he isn't even clever enough to have found out what a piece

of luck might befall him a week hence.'

'What piece of luck?' asked the donkey.

'Why, don't you know,' inquired the ox, 'that once very hundred

years the stones on Plouhinec heath go down to drink at the

river, and that while they are away the treasures underneath them

are uncovered?'

'Ah, I remember now,' replied the donkey, 'but the stones return

so quickly to their places, that you certainly would be crushed

to death unless you have in your hands a bunch of crowsfoot and

of five-leaved trefoil.'

'Yes, but that is not enough,' said the ox; 'even supposing you

get safely by, the treasure you have brought with you will

crumble into dust if you do not give in exchange a baptised soul.

It is needful that a Christian should die before you can enjoy

the wealth of Plouhinec.'

The donkey was about to ask some further questions, when she

suddenly found herself unable to speak: the time allowed them for

conversation was over.

'Ah, my dear creatures,' thought the beggar, who had of course

heard everything, 'you are going to make me richer than the

richest men of Vannes or Lorient. But I have no time to lose; to-

morrow I must begin to hunt for the precious plants.'

He did not dare to seek too near Plouhinec, lest somebody who

knew the story might guess what he was doing, so he went away

further towards the south, where the air was softer and the

plants are always green. From the instant it was light, till the

last rays had faded out of the sky, he searched every inch of

ground where the magic plants might grow; he scarcely gave

himself a minute to eat and drink, but at length he found the

crowsfoot in a little hollow! Well, that was certainly a great

deal, but after all, the crowsfoot was of no use without the

trefoil, and there was so little time left.

He had almost give up hope, when on the very last day before it

was necessary that he should start of Plouhinec, he came upon a

little clump of trefoil, half hidden under a rock. Hardly able to

breathe from excitement, he sat down and hunted eagerly through

the plant which he had torn up. Leaf after leaf he threw aside in

disgust, and he had nearly reached the end when he gave a cry of

joy-- the five-leaved trefoil was in his hand.

The beggar scrambled to his feet, and without a pause walked

quickly down the road that led northwards. The moon was bright,

and for some hours he kept steadily on, not knowing how many

miles he had gone, nor even feeling tired. By and bye the sun

rose, and the world began to stir, and stopping at a farmhouse

door, he asked for a cup of milk and slice of bread and

permission to rest for a while in the porch. Then he continued

his journey, and so, towards sunset on New Year's Eve, he came

back to Plouhinec.

As he was passing the long line of stones, he saw Bernez working

with a chisel on the tallest of them all.

'What are you doing there?' called the wizard, 'do you mean to

hollow out for yourself a bed in that huge column?'

'No,' replied Bernez quietly, 'but as I happened to have no work

to do to-day, I thought I would just carve a cross on this stone.

The holy sign can never come amiss.'

'I believe you think it will help you to win Rozennik,' laughed

the old man.

Bernez ceased his task for a moment to look at him.

'Ah, so you know about that,' replied he; 'unluckily Marzinne

wants a brother-in-law who has more pounds than I have pence.'

'And suppose I were to give you more pounds than Marzinne ever

dreamed of?' whispered the sorcerer glancing round to make sure

that no one overheard him.


'Yes, I.'

'And what am I to do to gain the money,' inquired Bernez, who

knew quite well that the Breton peasant gives nothing for


'What I want of you only needs a little courage,' answered the

old man.

'If that is all, tell me what I have got to do, and I will do

it,' cried Bernez, letting fall his chisel. 'If I have to risk

thirty deaths, I am ready.'

When the beggar knew that Bernez would give him no trouble, he

told him how, during that very night, the treasures under the

stones would be uncovered, and how in a very few minutes they

could take enough to make them both rich for life. But he kept

silence as to the fate that awaited the man who was without the

crowsfoot and the trefoil, and Bernez thought that nothing but

boldness and quickness were necessary. So he said:

'Old man, I am grateful, indeed, for the chance you have given

me, and there will always be a pint of my blood at your service.

Just let me finish carving this cross. It is nearly done, and I

will join you in the fir wood at whatever hour you please.'

'You must be there without fail an hour before midnight,'

answered the wizard, and went on his way.

As the hour struck from the great church at Plouhinec, Bernez

entered the wood. He found the beggar already there with a bag in

each hand, and a third slung round his neck.

'You are punctual,' said the old man, 'but we need not start just

yet. You had better sit down and think what you will do when your

pockets are filled with gold and silver and jewels.'

'Oh, it won't take me long to plan out that,' returned Bernez

with a laugh. 'I shall give Rozennik everything she can desire,

dresses of all sorts, from cotton to silk, and good things of all

kinds to eat, from white bread to oranges.'

'The silver you find will pay for all that, and what about the


'With the gold I shall make rich Rozennik's relations and every

friend of hers in the parish,' replied he.

'So much for the gold; and the jewels?'

'Then,' cried Bernez, 'I will divide the jewels amongst everybody

in the world, so that they may be wealthy and happy; and I will

tell them that it is Rozennik who would have it so.'

'Hush! it is close on midnight--we must go,' whispered the

wizard, and together they crept to the edge of the wood.

With the first stroke of twelve a great noise arose over the

silent heath, and the earth seemed to rock under the feet of the

two watchers. The next moment by the light of the moon they

beheld the huge stones near them leave their places and go down

the slope leading to the river, knocking against each other in

their haste. Passing the spot where stood Bernez and the beggar,

they were lost in the darkness. It seemed as if a procession of

giants had gone by.

'Quick,' said the wizard, in a low voice, and he rushed towards

the empty holes, which even in the night shone brightly from the

treasures within them. Flinging himself on his knees, the old man

began filling the wallets he had brought, listening intently all

the time for the return of the stones up the hill, while Bernez

more slowly put handfuls of all he could see into his pockets.

The sorcerer had just closed his third wallet, and was beginning

to wonder if he could carry away any more treasures when a low

murmur as of a distant storm broke upon his ears.

The stones had finished drinking, and were hastening back to

their places.

On they came, bent a little forward, the tallest of them all at

their head, breaking everything that stood in their way. At the

sight Bernez stood transfixed with horror, and said,

'We are lost! They will crush us to death.'

'Not me!' answered the sorcerer, holding up the crowsfoot and the

five-leaved trefoil, 'for these will preserve me. But in order to

keep my riches, I was obliged to sacrifice a Christian to the

stones, and an evil fate threw you in my way.' And as he spoke he

stretched out the magic herbs to the stones, which were advancing

rapidly. As if acknowledging a power greater than theirs, the

monstrous things instantly parted to the right and left of the

wizard, but closed their ranks again as they approached Bernez.

The young man did not try to escape, he knew it was useless, and

sank on his knees and closed his eyes. But suddenly the tall

stone that was leading stopped straight in front of Bernez, so

that no other could get past.

It was the stone on which Bernez had carved the cross, and it was

now a baptized stone, and had power to save him.

So the stone remained before the young man till the rest had

taken their places, and then, darting like a bird to its own

hole, came upon the beggar, who, thinking himself quite safe, was

staggering along under the weight of his treasures.

Seeing the stone approaching, he held out the magic herbs which

he carried, but the baptized stone was no longer subject to the

spells that bound the rest, and passed straight on its way,

leaving the wizard crushed into powder in the heather.

Then Bernez went home, and showed his wealth to Marzinne, who

this time did not refuse him as a brother-in-law, and he and

Rozennik were married, and lived happy for ever after.

From 'Le Royer Breton,' par Emile Souvestre.