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Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic

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Author Topic: Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic  (Read 1479 times)
Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #30 on: November 29, 2008, 04:43:22 am »

p. 134

XIV
THE ISLE OF SATAN'S HAND
The prosperous farmer Conall Ua Corra in the province of Connaught had everything to make him happy except that he and his wife had no children to cheer their old age and inherit their estate. Conall had prayed for children, and one day said in his impatience that he would rather have them sent by Satan than not have them at all. A year or two later his wife had three sons at a birth, and when these sons came to maturity, they were so ridiculed by other young men, as being the sons of Satan, that they said, "If such is really our parentage, we will do Satan's work." So they collected around them a few villains and began plundering and destroying the churches in the neighborhood and thus injuring half the church buildings in the country. At last they resolved to visit also the church of Clothar, to

p. 135

destroy it, and to kill if necessary their mother's father, who was the leading layman of the parish. When they came to the church, they found the old man on the green in front of it, distributing meat and drink to his tenants and the people of the parish. Seeing this, they postponed their plans until after dark and in the meantime went home with their grandfather, to spend the night at his house. They went to rest, and the eldest, Lochan, had a terrible dream in which he saw first the joys of heaven and then the terrors of future punishment, and then he awoke in dismay. Waking his brothers, he told them his dream, and that he now saw that they had been serving evil masters and making war upon a good one. Such was his bitterness of remorse that he converted them to his views, and they agreed to go to their grandfather in the morning, renounce their sinful ways and ask his pardon.

This they did, and he advised them to go to a celebrated saint, Finnen of Clonard, and take him as their spiritual guide. Laying aside their armor and weapons, they went to Clonard, where all the people, dreading them and knowing

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their wickedness, fled for their lives, except the saint himself, who came forward to meet them. With him the three brothers undertook the most austere religious exercises, and after a year they came to St. Finnen and asked his punishment for their former crimes. "You cannot," he said, "restore to life those you have slain, but you can at least restore the buildings you have devastated and ruined." So they went and repaired many churches, after which they resolved to go on a pilgrimage upon the great Atlantic Ocean. They built for themselves therefore a curragh or coracle, covered with hides three deep. It was capable of carrying nine persons, and they selected five out of the many who wished to join the party. There were a bishop, a priest, a deacon, a musician, and the man who had modelled the boat; and with these they pushed out to sea.

It had happened some years before that in a quarrel about a deer hunt, the men of Ross had killed the king. It had been decided that, by way of punishment, sixty couples of the people of Ross should be sent out to sea, two

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and two, in small boats, to meet what fate they might upon the deeps. They were watched that they might not land again, and for many years nothing more had been heard from them. The most pious task which these repenting pilgrims could undertake, it was thought, would be to seek these banished people. They resolved to spread their sail and let Providence direct their course. They went, therefore, northwest on the Atlantic, where they visited several wonderful islands, on one of which there was a great bird which related to them, the legend says, the whole history of the world, and gave them a great leaf from a tree--the leaf being as large as an ox-hide, and being preserved for many years in one of the churches after their return. At the next island they heard sweet human voices, and found that the sixty banished couples had established their homes there.

The pilgrims then went onward in their hidebound boat until they reached the coast of Spain, and there they landed and dwelt for a time. The bishop built a church, and the priest officiated in it, and the organist took

p. 138

charge of the music. All prospered; yet the boat-builder and the three brothers were never quite contented, for they had roamed the seas too long; and they longed for a new enterprise for their idle valor. They thought they had found this when one day they found on the sea-coast a group of women tearing their hair, and when they asked the explanation, "Señor," said an old woman, "our sons and our husbands have again fallen into the hand of Satan." At this the three brothers were startled, for they remembered well how they used, in youth, to rank themselves as Satan's children. Asking farther, they learned that a shattered boat they saw on the beach was one of a pair of boats which had been carried too far out to sea, and had come near an islet which the sailors called Isla de la Man Satanaxio, or The Island of Satan's Hand. It appeared that in that region there was an islet so called, always surrounded by chilly mists and water of a deadly cold; that no one had ever reached it, as it constantly changed place; but that a demon hand sometimes uprose from it,

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