ST.. MARTIN was a bad man before his conversion, and, above all, was exceedingly close-fisted, as they say, to the poor; giving nothing and grasping all. So he was very rich but hated by every one.
One day, when going out, he charged the servant to have a fine batch of loaves ready made and baked by the time he returned. While she was kneading the dough in came a poor man and begged for some as he was hungry; but she told him she dare not give away anything or the master would beat her. Still the poor man begged the harder, and at last she gave him dough enough for a couple of loaves. However, when the girl's back was turned, he threw the dough into the oven and went his way without a word.
Now when the dough was ready, the girl opened the oven to put in the loaves, but, behold, it was already quite full of baked bread, and would hold no more. So when Martin came home she told him all the truth; and his heart smote him, and he cried out, "An Angel of the Lord has been here; God has sent his messenger to rebuke me of my sins!" And he ran out to search for the man along the road, and at last saw him a great way off. Then Martin flung off his coat that he might run the faster; and when he came up to the man he fell on his knees before him on the ground, and cried out," Oh, my Lord, I repent me of my sins; pray to God for me, for I know you are His angel." And from that moment Martin's heart was changed, and the devil left him; and he became a true saint, and servant of God, and, above all, the saint and patron of the poor.
Nevertheless, St. Bridget was offended with St. Martin, because she thought he did not receive her with sufficient hospitality and consideration. Perhaps some of the old stinginess of nature still clung to him. And she thus pronounced her malediction over him--
"Oh, little man, the sea-wave shall come up over thy house, and thy name shall lie in ashes, while my name and fame shall be glorious all over the world."
And this was fulfilled; for time sea actually broke in and covered the saint's dwelling; and the house of St. Martin can still be seen low down beneath the waves, but. if any one tries to reach it. the house fades away into the mist and is seen no more.
There is an old superstition still observed by time people, that blood must be spilt on St. Martin's Day; so a goose is killed, or a black cock, and the blood is sprinkled over the floor and on the threshold. And some of the flesh is given to the first beggar that comes by, in the name and in honour of St. Martin.
In the Arran Isles St. Martin's Day is observed with particular solemnity, and it was held necessary, from ancient times, to spill blood on the ground in honour of the saint. For this purpose a cock was sacrificed; but if such could not be procured people have been known to cut their finger in order to draw blood, and let it fall upon the earth. The custom arose in this way:--St. Martin, having given away all his goods to the poor, was often in want of food, and one day he entered a widow's house and begged for something to eat. The widow was poor, and having no food in the house, she sacrificed her young child, boiled it, and set it before the saint for supper. Having eaten, and taken his departure, the woman went over to the cradle to weep for her lost child; when lo! there he was, lying whole and well, in a beautiful sleep, as if no evil had ever happened to him; and to commemorate this miracle and from gratitude to the saint, a sacrifice of some living thing is made yearly in his honour. The blood is poured or sprinkled on the ground, and along the door-posts, and both within and without the threshold, and at the four corners of each room in the house.
For this symbol of purification by blood the rich farmers sacrifice a sheep; while time poorer people kill a black cock or a white hen, and sprinkle the blood according to ancient usage. Afterwards the whole family dine upon the sacrificial victim.
In some places it was the custom for the master of the house to draw across on the arm of each member of the family and mark it out us blood. This was a very sacred sign which no fairy or evil spirit, were they ever so strong, could overcome; and whoever was signed with the blood was safe.
There is a singular superstition forbidding work of a certain kind to be done on St. Martin's Day, time 11th of November. No woman should spin on that day; no miller should grind his corn, and no wheel should be turned. And this custom was long held sacred, and is still observed in the Western Islands.