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Legends Of St. Piran
by [?]

“Fetch a ladder!” it said: “fetch a ladder! It’s meself that’s found ut, glory be to God! Holy queen av heaven! but me mouth is full av sand, an’ it’s burstin’ I’ll be if ye don’t fetch a ladder quick!”

They brought a ladder and set it against the mound. Three of the men climbed up. At the top they found a big round hole, from the lip of which they scraped the sand away, discovering a patch of shingle roof, through which St. Piran–whose weight had increased of late–had broken and tumbled heels over head into his own church.

Three hours later there appeared on the eastern sky-line, against the yellow blaze of the morning, a large cavalcade that slowly pricked its way over the edge and descended the slopes of Newlyn Downs. It was the Visitation. In the midst rode St. Petroc, his crozier tucked under his arm, astride a white mule with scarlet ear-tassels and bells and a saddle of scarlet leather. He gazed across the sands to the sea, and turned to St. Neot, who towered at his side upon a flea-bitten grey.

“The parish seems to be deserted,” said he: “not a man nor woman can I see, nor a trace of smoke above the chimneys.”

St. Neot tightened his thin lips. In his secret heart he was mightily pleased.

“Eight in the morning,” he answered, with a glance back at the sun. “They’ll be all abed, I’ll warrant you.”

St. Petroc muttered a threat.

They entered the village street. Not a soul turned out at their coming. Every cottage door was fast closed, nor could any amount of knocking elicit an answer or entice a face to a window. In gathering wrath the visiting saints rode along the sea-shore to St. Piran’s small hut.

Here the door stood open: but the hut was empty. A meagre breakfast of herbs was set out on the table, and a brand new scourge lay somewhat ostentatiously beside the platter. The visitors stood nonplussed, looked at each other, then eyed the landscape. Between barren sea and barren downs the beach stretched away, with not a human shape in sight. St. Petroc, choking with impotent wrath, appeared to study the hollow green breakers from between the long ears of his mule, but with quick sidelong glances right and left, ready to jump down the throat of the first saint that dared to smile.

After a minute or so St. Enodar suddenly turned his face inland, and held up a finger.

“Hark!” he shouted above the roar of the sea.

“What is it?”

“It sounds to me,” said St. Petroc, after listening for some moments with his head on one side, “it sounds to me like a hymn.”

“To be sure ’tis a hymn,” said St. Enodar, “and the tune is ‘Mullyon,’ for a crown.” And he pursed up his lips and followed the chant, beating time with his forefinger–

When, like a thief, the Midianite
Shall steal upon the camp,
O, let him find our armour bright,
And oil within our lamp!”

“But where in the world does it come from?” asked St. Neot.

This could not be answered for the moment; but the saints turned their horses’ heads from the sea, and moved slowly on the track of the sound, which at every step grew louder and more distinct.

“It is at no appointed hours,
It is not by the dock,
That Satan, grisly wolf, devours
The unprotected flock”

The visitors found themselves at the foot of an enormous sand-hill, from the top of which the chant was pouring as lava from a crater. They set their ears to the sandy wall. They walked round it, and listened again.

“But ever prowls th’ insidious foe,
And listens round the fold”

This was too much. St. Petroc smote twice upon the sand-hill with his crozier, and shouted–

“Hi, there!”

The chant ceased. For at least a couple of minutes nothing happened; and then St. Piran’s bald head was thrust cautiously forward over the summit.

“Holy St. Petroc! Was it only you, after all? And St. Neot–and St. Udy O, glory be!”

“Why, who did you imagine we were?” St. Petroc asked, still in amazement.

“Why, throat-cutting Danes, to be sure, by the way you were comin’ over the hills when we spied you, three hours back. An’ the trouble we’ve had to cover up our blessed church out o’ sight of thim marautherin’ thieves! An’ the intire parish gathered inside here an’ singin’ good-by songs in expectation of imminent death! An’ to think ’twas you holy men, all the while! But why didn’t ye send word ye was comin’, St. Petroc, darlint? For it’s little but sand ye’ll find in your mouths for breakfast, I’m thinkin’.”