“Well, then, if you believe that one may cover a miraculous foot with a natural shoe, you should also believe that we can put natural rigging on a miraculous boat. That is clear. Alas! Why must the holiest persons have their moments of weakness and despondency? The most illustrious of the apostles of Brittany could accomplish works worthy of eternal glory . . . But his spirit is tardy and his hand is slothful. Farewell then, father! Travel by short and slow stages and when at last you approach the coast of Hoedic you will see the smoking ruins of the chapel that was built and consecrated by your own hands. The pagans will have burned it and with it the deacon you left there. He will be as thoroughly roasted as a black pudding.”
“My trouble is extreme,” said the servant of God, drying with his sleeve the sweat that gathered upon his brow. “But tell me, Samson, my son, would not rigging this stone trough be a difficult piece of work? And if we undertook it might we not lose time instead of gaining it?”
“Ah! father,” exclaimed the Devil, “in one turning of the hour-glass the thing would be done. We shall find the necessary rigging in this shed that you have formerly built here on the coast and in those store-houses abundantly stocked through your care. I will myself regulate all the ship’s fittings. Before being a monk I was a sailor and a carpenter and I have worked at many other trades as well. Let us to work.”
Immediately he drew the holy man into an outhouse filled with all things needful for fitting out a boat.
“That for you, father!”
And he placed on his shoulders the sail, the mast, the gaff, and the boom.
Then, himself bearing a stem and a rudder with its screw and tiller, and seizing a carpenter’s bag full of tools, he ran to the shore, dragging the holy man after him by his habit. The latter was bent, sweating, and breathless, under the burden of canvas and wood.
IV. ST. MAEL’S NAVIGATION ON THE OCEAN OF ICE
The Devil, having tucked his clothes up to his arm-pits, dragged the trough on the sand, and fitted the rigging in less than an hour.
As soon as the holy Mael had embarked, the vessel, with all its sails set, cleft through the waters with such speed that the coast was almost immediately out of sight. The old man steered to the south so as to double the Land’s End, but an irresistible current carried him to the south-west. He went along the southern coast of Ireland and turned sharply towards the north. In the evening the wind freshened. In vain did Mael attempt to furl the sail. The vessel flew distractedly towards the fabulous seas.
By the light of the moon the immodest sirens of the North came around him with their hempen-coloured hair, raising their white throats and their rose-tinted limbs out of the sea; and beating the water into foam with their emerald tails, they sang in cadence: