61 An diaoul zo eun dèn honest
During the war, a square-rigged brigantine ran aground on the high rocks of Felestec and the winds of a winter tempest washed the poor sailors onto the sands of Lomikel that the men of Gallec call Saint Michel en Grève. When the tempest abated, the villagers went down to the beach to recover the bodies. Not knowing whether the sailors were Christians or unbelievers, they chose to bury the drowned bodies beneath the sands of the bay.
Among the dead was one man taller, more handsome and better dressed than all the others. There was braid upon his epaulettes and on his left hand a gold ring, with words engraved in a foreign script.
The people of Lomikel are renowned throughout Trégor for their honesty. Good folk, they toil the earth rather than the water. Their land-bound existence has never diminished their pity for the plight of sailors, be they Christian or Mohammedan, for there is no family in all Low Brittany that has not lost a husband or a son to the cruelty of the sea.
The sailors were buried in the sand beside the ancient calvary and the rector intoned the de profundis while the villagers crossed themselves. On the windswept beach, the captain was buried in all his finery and with the gold ring upon his finger.
The years went by and the good king Louis returned to the throne of France and peace returned to Trégor. The tale of the drowned captain was almost forgotten but there was always a milkmaid or a drunk miller to recount the shipwreck of the square-rigged brigantine.
It was on the way to the Pardon of Plufur, on the eve of All Souls, that old Fulupic an Toër, a thatcher by trade from Plouzelambre, came upon young M.
Keeping M company as they walked along the strand of Lomikel, Fulupic an Toër crossed himself and muttered three Pater nosters and two Ave Marias before the calvary. Soon the thatcher was relating the tragic death of the mysterious foreign captain.
Young M was a seamstress, just like her mother and her grandmother. She lived in the House of the Eyes, where the high windows resemble the eyes of a sailor returned from the sea, staring across the bay to the distant line to where air and water meet.
M was a pretty girl and hard-working, much loved by the old and oft courted by the young men of several parishes. As her nimble needle skipped through calico and linen, her thoughts wandered to the foreign captain. She was a lass of sixteen years and although many suitors brought her flowers and gifts she gave no thought to marriage.
Old Lucas himself on cloven foot came to tempt M as she lay in her bed. One night in Lent, when her grandmother was asleep, the young seamstress could resist Satan's call no more. She arose from where she lay and tiptoed from the House of the Eyes. She hastened barefoot to the calvary of the sands.
There was no moon and the tide was at ebb. M had no care of being seen by human eye, for the folk of Lomikel and of St. Efflam were long abed.
M knelt and with her fingers she dug away the sand before the calvary. In time she found the hand of the captain and she saw the glitter of his gold ring. In vain did M try to slide the ring from the unbeliever's finger. M had brought her scissors but they were better used to linen than to the tanned flesh of a long dead Mohammedan. It was with her pretty white teeth the seamstress bit off the obstructing knuckle. She seized the ring and slipped it between her breasts. The amputated finger? She spat it from her lips and buried it alongside the mutilated hand beneath the cold sand.
The next morning M was back at her work by the window, in the House of the Eyes. Her head was wrapped in a kerchief of wool.
"What's wrong?" asked her grandmother.
The girl replied, "It is of no matter."
Indeed, it was of great matter, for her toothache grew steadily worse and later that day, no longer able to endure the pain, M went from the house and hurrying along the path of the excise men, by Beg ar Forn, she came upon schoolboys out of class. They were running towards the beach, shouting in their excitement.
"Come to the sailors' graveyard," they cried and M followed them to where a crowd had gathered before the ancient calvary. Villagers stared in astonishment at the mutilated hand that rose from the sands and pointed towards the house of the high windows, the House of the Eyes.
"The captain's ring has been stolen," said old Marie Thérèse Prigent.
Jobic the cobbler and Yann Mingam the pig seller piously buried the hand beneath the sand.
Nobody said anything for the people of Lomikel are not talkative folk - in silence a soul hears the voice of Christ - but all knew that great sacrilege had been committed within their parish.
The following morning, the hand had arisen from the sand and yet again it pointed at the House of the Eyes.
Jobic the cobbler and Yann Mingam the pig seller and Gildas the grave-digger of Trédrez brought granite from the fields and they placed pink rocks on the sand where they buried the hand a second time.
Two hours later, the outstretched hand pointed anew at the House of the Eyes.
The rector was called and he came to the calvary, where, accompanied by his sexton and a choir boy, he besought the dead soul to depart this world. The good rector sprinkled holy water over the impious hand.
Jobic the cobbler and Yann Mingam the pig seller, Gildas the grave-digger of Trédrez and Fanch Corfec the carpenter buried the hand beneath the sand.
Surely the Captain had never been a Christian in this world for he would not be entreated, not even by Jérôme Guillermic, the rector of Lomikel. The pagan hand refused to sink beneath the sands but continued to point its accusation at the House of the Eyes.
Kneeling before the calvary, the choirboy announced, "This finger was once bitten off but now it's been returned to its lawful place by God or by Lucas Coz."
No sooner had the words escaped from the child's mouth than a young woman was seen walking across the sands. It was M who could be recognised by her clothes and youthful silhouette but not by the face the young woman now swathed within a long shawl.
She advanced slowly while emitting a dull wail. In her palm, she held a gold ring. She fell to her knees beside the hand and returned the ring to the captain's finger.
Jobic the cobbler and Yann Mingam the pig seller, Gildas the grave-digger of Trédrez, Fanch Corfec the carpenter and all the men and women of the village fell back in horror, as M unwrapped her shawl and to their everlasting astonishment, showed her swollen head, her toothless gums and the hag's mouth now white with pus.
That evening, Ankou, the grim reaper, fetched M away to the Kingdom of the Dead.
At night, you can sometimes see the ghost of the seamstress as she wanders the shore of Lomikel. She is accompanied by a tall foreigner who wears gold epaulettes, a sword and a captain's ring on his finger that glistens by the light of the stars.
After a winter's tempest, his laughter can be heard from Trédrez to Locquirec and good Christians abroad will say a pro illa anima for the soul of Maude Aoustin, the foolish young seamstress.
The devil is an honest man. He always pays his debts.