THE STONES OF PLOUHINEC 239
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 conveisa-tion 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