Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
THE FISH WHO HELPED SAINT GUDWALL
HE Welsh coast is famous for its
beautiful scenery and its terrible
storms. People who see it in the
summer time think only of the beautiful
scenery. But if they should happen to pass
that way in midwinter they would be very
apt to meet an unpleasant reminder of the
Saint Gudwall was born a Welshman, and
he should have known all this. Perhaps he
did know, but chose to run into danger just
because it was dangerous, as so many saints
loved to do in those years when it was
thought no virtue to take care of one's life.
At all events, it was summer when with one
friend Gudwall moved to his new home, a
tiny island off the coast of Wales, which at
that time was very beautiful.
The first thing they did was to set about
finding a place to live in. The island was
one of those high mountains poking up out
of the sea, with green grass on top, like colored
frosting to a cake; and gray rocks
 below, all hollowed out into deep caves and
crannies, as if mice had been nibbling at the
cake. These caves are just the sort of places
which smugglers and pirates choose to hide
in with their treasures, for no one would
think of hunting for any one there. And
Gudwall wanted to be left alone with his
pupil; so he thought there was no reason
why a bad man's hiding-place should not
make a good saint's retreat. So they chose
the largest and deepest of all the caves, and
there they put their books and their beds
and their little furniture, and set up housekeeping.
Their home was one of those caves into
which the sea rushes a little way and then
suddenly backs out again as if it had changed
its mind this time but would call again.
Gudwall and his pupil loved to lie in their
cave just beyond the reach of the waves and
watch them dash laughingly up on the rocks,
then roar and gurgle in pretended anger and
creep away out into the blue basin beyond.
In summer their daily games with the sea
were great fun, and Gudwall was very happy.
They spent some lovely months alone with
 the waves and the rocks and the sea-birds
which now and then fluttered screaming into
the dark cave, and then again dashed bashfully
out when they found they had come
uninvited into a stranger's home. It was all
very nice and peaceful and pretty in the
summer time, just as tourists find it to this
But oh! what a change when old Winter
came roaring down over the waves from the
North in his chariot of ice, drawn by fierce
winds and angry storm-clouds. Then the
temper of the sea was changed. It grew
cruel and hungry. It left off its kindly
game with the lonely dwellers on the island,
and seemed instead to have become their
enemy. It tried to seize and swallow them
in its cruel jaws.
One morning there came a terrible storm.
In the far end of the cave Gudwall and the
other were nearly swept away by a huge
wave which rushed in to devour them. No
longer content with pausing on the threshold,
the sea swept through their whole house,
dashing away their little store of books and
furniture, a most unneighborly thing to do.
 It tried to drag the two men from the corner
where they clung to the rough rock. Choked
and gasping they escaped this time, while
the sea drew back for another plunge. But
they did not wait for this, for they knew it
would mean their death.
Drenched as they were and blinded by
the salt spray, they scrambled out of the
cave and began to climb the slippery seaweed
to the rocks above. It was a hard and
dangerous ascent, for the sea leaped after
them to pull them back, snarling angrily at
their heels like a fierce beast maddened by
their escape. But it could not quite seize
them, and at last they reached the top of the
cliff where they were safe for the time.
But what were they to do now? There
were no houses on the island, no place to
go to keep warm; yet they could not live
out in the open air to freeze in the snow
and cold. It was no longer possible to live
in the cave if the sea was to wash through
it like this. But if only there were some barrier
to keep out the stormy waves they could
still live in their beloved cave. Saint Gudwall
fell upon his knees and prayed for
help,  —prayed for some defense against the winter waves.
And what do you think happened? The
dwellers in the sea were kinder than the sea
itself. The little fish who live safely in the
angriest waves were sorry for the big men
who were so powerless in the face of this
danger. From the sea caves far under the
island's foot, from the beds of seaweed and
the groves of coral, from the sandy bottom
of the ocean fathoms deep below, the fish
came swimming in great shoals about Gudwall's island.
And each one bore in his
mouth a grain of sand. They swam into the
shallow water just outside the cave where
Gudwall had lived, and one by one they
placed their burdens on the sandy bottom.
One by one they paused to see that it was
well done, then swiftly swam away, to return
as soon as might be with another grain of
sand. All day long a procession of fish, like
people in line at a ticket office, moved steadily
up to the shallows and back again. So
by night a little bar of sand had begun to
grow gradually before the entrance to the
 Now Saint Gudwall and his pupil were
shivering on the top of the cliff, and looking
off to sea, when the pupil caught his master's
arm. "What is that down there in the
water?" he said, pointing to a little brown
spot peering above the waves.
"I know not," answered the Saint; "what
seems it to be, brother?"
"I have been watching it," said the other,
"and I think it grows. Look! it is even
now higher than when first you looked; is it
And sure enough. Gudwall saw that ever
so little at a time the brown patch was growing
and spreading from right to left. Grain
by grain the sand bar rose higher and higher
till it thrust bravely above the blueness a
solid wall extending for some distance
through the water in front of the cave.
Against this new breakwater the surf roared
and foamed in terrible rage, but it could not
pass, it could no longer swoop down into the
cavern as it had done before.
"The Lord has given us a defense," said
Gudwall with a thankful heart. And then
his eye caught sight of a great bluefish
swim-  ming back into the deep sea. "It is the fish
who have built us the wall," he cried.
"Blessed be the fish who have this day
helped us in our need."
For the fish had piled up a stout and lasting
barrier between Saint Gudwall and the
angry sea, and thenceforth he could live in
his cave safely during both summer and