Irish Fairy Tales
James Stephens

Part 4 out of 5

her husband Labraid and had taken refuge with Gadiar, one of the
sons of Mananna'n mac Lir, the god of the sea, and the ruler,
therefore, of that sphere.

It seems, then, that there is marriage in two other spheres. In
the Shi' matrimony is recorded as being parallel in every respect
with earth-marriage, and the desire which urges to it seems to he
as violent and inconstant as it is with us; but in the
Many-Coloured Land marriage is but a contemplation of beauty, a
brooding and meditation wherein all grosser desire is unknown and
children are born to sinless parents.

In the Shi' the crime of Becuma would have been lightly
considered, and would have received none or but a nominal
punishment, but in the second world a horrid gravity attaches to
such a lapse, and the retribution meted is implacable and grim.
It may be dissolution by fire, and that can note a destruction
too final for the mind to contemplate; or it may be banishment
from that sphere to a lower and worse one.

This was the fate of Becuma of the White Skin.

One may wonder how, having attained to that sphere, she could
have carried with her so strong a memory of the earth. It is
certain that she was not a fit person to exist in the
Many-Coloured Land, and it is to be feared that she was organised
too grossly even for life in the Shi'.

She was an earth-woman, and she was banished to the earth.

Word was sent to the Shi's of Ireland that this lady should not
be permitted to enter any of them; from which it would seem that
the ordinances of the Shi come from the higher world, and, it
might follow, that the conduct of earth lies in the Shi'.

In that way, the gates of her own world and the innumerable doors
of Faery being closed against her, Becuma was forced to appear in
the world of men.

It is pleasant, however, notwithstanding her terrible crime and
her woeful punishment, to think how courageous she was. When she
was told her sentence, nay, her doom, she made no outcry, nor did
she waste any time in sorrow. She went home and put on her nicest

She wore a red satin smock, and, over this, a cloak of green silk
out of which long fringes of gold swung and sparkled, and she had
light sandals of white bronze on her thin, shapely feet. She had
long soft hair that was yellow as gold, and soft as the curling
foam of the sea. Her eyes were wide and clear as water and were
grey as a dove's breast. Her teeth were white as snow and of an
evenness to marvel at. Her lips were thin and beautifully curved:
red lips in truth, red as winter berries and tempting as the
fruits of summer. The people who superintended her departure said
mournfully that when she was gone there would be no more beauty
left in their world.

She stepped into a coracle, it was pushed on the enchanted
waters, and it went forward, world within world, until land
appeared, and her boat swung in low tide against a rock at the
foot of Ben Edair.

So far for her.


Conn the Hundred Fighter, Ard-Ri' of Ireland, was in the lowest
spirits that can be imagined, for his wife was dead. He had been
Ard-Ri for nine years, and during his term the corn used to be
reaped three times in each year, and there was full and plenty of
everything. There are few kings who can boast of more kingly
results than he can, but there was sore trouble in store for him.

He had been married to Eithne, the daughter of Brisland Binn,
King of Norway, and, next to his subjects, he loved his wife more
than all that was lovable in the world. But the term of man and
woman, of king or queen, is set in the stars, and there is no
escaping Doom for any one; so, when her time came, Eithne died.

Now there were three great burying-places in Ireland--the Brugh
of the Boyne in Ulster, over which Angus Og is chief and god; the
Shi' mound of Cruachan Ahi, where Ethal Anbual presides over the
underworld of Connacht, and Tailltin, in Royal Meath. It was in
this last, the sacred place of his own lordship, that Conn laid
his wife to rest.

Her funeral games were played during nine days. Her keen was sung
by poets and harpers, and a cairn ten acres wide was heaved over
her clay. Then the keening ceased and the games drew to an end;
the princes of the Five Prov-inces returned by horse or by
chariot to their own places; the concourse of mourners melted
away, and there was nothing left by the great cairn but the sun
that dozed upon it in the daytime, the heavy clouds that brooded
on it in the night, and the desolate, memoried king.

For the dead queen had been so lovely that Conn could not forget
her; she had been so kind at every moment that he could not but
miss her at every moment; but it was in the Council Chamber and
the Judgement Hall that he most pondered her memory. For she had
also been wise, and lack-ing her guidance, all grave affairs
seemed graver, shadowing each day and going with him to the
pillow at night.

The trouble of the king becomes the trouble of the subject, for
how shall we live if judgement is withheld, or if faulty
decisions are promulgated? Therefore, with the sorrow of the
king, all Ireland was in grief, and it was the wish of every
person that he should marry again.

Such an idea, however, did not occur to him, for he could not
conceive how any woman should fill the place his queen had
vacated. He grew more and more despondent, and less and less
fitted to cope with affairs of state, and one day he instructed
his son Art to take the rule during his absence, and he set out
for Ben Edair.

For a great wish had come upon him to walk beside the sea; to
listen to the roll and boom of long, grey breakers; to gaze on an
unfruitful, desolate wilderness of waters; and to forget in those
sights all that he could forget, and if he could not forget then
to remember all that he should remember.

He was thus gazing and brooding when one day he observed a
coracle drawing to the shore. A young girl stepped from it and
walked to him among black boulders and patches of yellow sand.


Being a king he had authority to ask questions. Conn asked her,
therefore, all the questions that he could think of, for it is
not every day that a lady drives from the sea, and she wearing a
golden-fringed cloak of green silk through which a red satin
smock peeped at the openings. She replied to his questions, but
she did not tell him all the truth; for, indeed, she could not
afford to.

She knew who he was, for she retained some of the powers proper
to the worlds she had left, and as he looked on her soft yellow
hair and on her thin red lips, Conn recognised, as all men do,
that one who is lovely must also be good, and so he did not frame
any inquiry on that count; for everything is forgotten in the
presence of a pretty woman, and a magician can be bewitched also.

She told Conn that the fame of his son Art had reached even the
Many-Coloured Land, and that she had fallen in love with the boy.
This did not seem unreasonable to one who had himself ventured
much in Faery, and who had known so many of the people of that
world leave their own land for the love of a mortal.

"What is your name, my sweet lady?" said the king.

"I am called Delvcaem (Fair Shape) and I am the daughter of
Morgan," she replied.

"I have heard much of Morgan," said the king. "He is a very great

During this conversation Conn had been regarding her with the
minute freedom which is right only in a king. At what precise
instant he forgot his dead consort we do not know, but it is
certain that at this moment his mind was no longer burdened with
that dear and lovely memory. His voice was melancholy when he
spoke again.

"You love my son!"

"Who could avoid loving him?" she murmured.

"When a woman speaks to a man about the love she feels for
another man she is not liked. And," he continued, "when she
speaks to a man who has no wife of his own about her love for
another man then she is disliked."

"I would not be disliked by you," Becuma murmured.

"Nevertheless," said he regally, "I will not come between a woman
and her choice."

"I did not know you lacked a wife," said Becuma, but indeed she

"You know it now," the king replied sternly.

"What shall I do?" she inquired, "am I to wed you or your son?"

"You must choose," Conn answered.

"If you allow me to choose it means that you do not want me very
badly," said she with a smile.

"Then I will not allow you to choose," cried the king, "and it is
with myself you shall marry."

He took her hand in his and kissed it.

"Lovely is this pale thin hand. Lovely is the slender foot that I
see in a small bronze shoe," said the king.

After a suitable time she continued:

"I should not like your son to be at Tara when I am there, or for
a year afterwards, for I do not wish to meet him until I have
forgotten him and have come to know you well."

"I do not wish to banish my son," the king protested.

"It would not really be a banishment," she said. "A prince's duty
could be set him, and in such an absence he would improve his
knowledge both of Ireland and of men. Further," she continued
with downcast eyes, "when you remember the reason that brought me
here you will see that his presence would be an embarrassment to
us both, and my presence would be unpleasant to him if he
remembers his mother."

"Nevertheless," said Conn stubbornly, "I do not wish to banish my
son; it is awkward and unnecessary."

"For a year only," she pleaded.

"It is yet," he continued thoughtfully, "a reasonable reason that
you give and I will do what you ask, but by my hand and word I
don't like doing it."

They set out then briskly and joyfully on the homeward journey,
and in due time they reached Tara of the Kings.


It is part of the education of a prince to be a good chess
player, and to continually exercise his mind in view of the
judgements that he will be called upon to give and the knotty,
tortuous, and perplexing matters which will obscure the issues
which he must judge. Art, the son of Conn, was sitting at chess
with Cromdes, his father's magician.

"Be very careful about the move you are going to make," said

"CAN I be careful?" Art inquired. "Is the move that you are
thinking of in my power?"

"It is not," the other admitted.

"Then I need not be more careful than usual," Art replied, and he
made his move.

"It is a move of banishment," said Cromdes.

"As I will not banish myself, I suppose my father will do it, but
I do not know why he should."

"Your father will not banish you."

"Who then?" "Your mother."

"My mother is dead."

"You have a new one," said the magician.

"Here is news," said Art. "I think I shall not love my new

"You will yet love her better than she loves you," said Cromdes,
meaning thereby that they would hate each other.

While they spoke the king and Becuma entered the palace.

"I had better go to greet my father," said the young man.

"You had better wait until he sends for you," his companion
advised, and they returned to their game.

In due time a messenger came from the king directing Art to leave
Tara instantly, and to leave Ireland for one full year.

He left Tara that night, and for the space of a year he was not
seen again in Ireland. But during that period things did not go
well with the king nor with Ireland. Every year before that time
three crops of corn used to be lifted off the land, but during
Art's absence there was no corn in Ireland and there was no milk.
The whole land went hungry.

Lean people were in every house, lean cattle in every field; the
bushes did not swing out their timely berries or seasonable nuts;
the bees went abroad as busily as ever, but each night they
returned languidly, with empty pouches, and there was no honey in
their hives when the honey season came. People began to look at
each other questioningly, meaningly, and dark remarks passed
between them, for they knew that a bad harvest means, somehow, a
bad king, and, although this belief can be combated, it is too
firmly rooted in wisdom to be dismissed.

The poets and magicians met to consider why this disaster should
have befallen the country and by their arts they discovered the
truth about the king's wife, and that she was Becuma of the White
Skin, and they discovered also the cause of her banishment from
the Many-Coloured Land that is beyond the sea, which is beyond
even the grave.

They told the truth to the king, but he could not bear to be
parted from that slender-handed, gold-haired, thin-lipped, blithe
enchantress, and he required them to discover some means whereby
he might retain his wife and his crown. There was a way and the
magicians told him of it.

"If the son of a sinless couple can be found and if his blood be
mixed with the soll of Tara the blight and ruin will depart from
Ireland," said the magicians.

"If there is such a boy I will find him," cried the Hundred

At the end of a year Art returned to Tara. His father delivered
to him the sceptre of Ireland, and he set out on a journey to
find the son of a sinless couple such as he had been told of.


The High King did not know where exactly he should look for such
a saviour, but he was well educated and knew how to look for
whatever was lacking. This knowledge will he useful to those upon
whom a similar duty should ever devolve.

He went to Ben Edair. He stepped into a coracle and pushed out to
the deep, and he permitted the coracle to go as the winds and the
waves directed it.

In such a way he voyaged among the small islands of the sea until
he lost all knowledge of his course and was adrift far out in
ocean. He was under the guidance of the stars and the great

He saw black seals that stared and barked and dived dancingly,
with the round turn of a bow and the forward onset of an arrow.
Great whales came heaving from the green-hued void, blowing a
wave of the sea high into the air from their noses and smacking
their wide flat tails thunder-ously on the water. Porpoises went
snorting past in bands and clans. Small fish came sliding and
flickering, and all the outlandish creatures of the deep rose by
his bobbing craft and swirled and sped away.

Wild storms howled by him so that the boat climbed painfully to
the sky on a mile-high wave, balanced for a tense moment on its
level top, and sped down the glassy side as a stone goes
furiously from a sling.

Or, again, caught in the chop of a broken sea, it stayed
shuddering and backing, while above his head there was only a low
sad sky, and around him the lap and wash of grey waves that were
never the same and were never different.

After long staring on the hungry nothingness of air and water he
would stare on the skin-stretched fabric of his boat as on a
strangeness, or he would examine his hands and the texture of his
skin and the stiff black hairs that grew behind his knuckles and
sprouted around his ring, and he found in these things newness
and wonder.

Then, when days of storm had passed, the low grey clouds shivered
and cracked in a thousand places, each grim islet went scudding
to the horizon as though terrified by some great breadth, and
when they had passed he stared into vast after vast of blue
infinity, in the depths of which his eyes stayed and could not
pierce, and wherefrom they could scarcely be withdrawn. A sun
beamed thence that filled the air with sparkle and the sea with a
thousand lights, and looking on these he was reminded of his home
at Tara: of the columns of white and yellow bronze that blazed
out sunnily on the sun, and the red and white and yellow painted
roofs that beamed at and astonished the eye.

Sailing thus, lost in a succession of days and nights, of winds
and calms, he came at last to an island.

His back was turned to it, and long before he saw it he smelled
it and wondered; for he had been sitting as in a daze, musing on
a change that had seemed to come in his changeless world; and for
a long time he could not tell what that was which made a
difference on the salt-whipped wind or why he should be excited.
For suddenly he had become excited and his heart leaped in
violent expectation.

"It is an October smell," he said.

"It is apples that I smell."

He turned then and saw the island, fragrant with apple trees,
sweet with wells of wine; and, hearkening towards the shore, his
ears, dulled yet with the unending rhythms of the sea,
distinguished and were filled with song; for the isle was, as it
were, a nest of birds, and they sang joyously, sweetly,

He landed on that lovely island, and went forward under the
darting birds, under the apple boughs, skirting fragrant lakes
about which were woods of the sacred hazel and into which the
nuts of knowledge fell and swam; and he blessed the gods of his
people because of the ground that did not shiver and because of
the deeply rooted trees that could not gad or budge.


Having gone some distance by these pleasant ways he saw a shapely
house dozing in the sunlight.

It was thatched with the wings of birds, blue wings and yellow
and white wings, and in the centre of the house there was a door
of crystal set in posts of bronze.

The queen of this island lived there, Rigru (Large-eyed), the
daughter of Lodan, and wife of Daire Degamra. She was seated on a
crystal throne with her son Segda by her side, and they welcomed
the High King courteously.

There were no servants in this palace; nor was there need for
them. The High King found that his hands had washed themselves,
and when later on he noticed that food had been placed before him
he noticed also that it had come without the assistance of
servile hands. A cloak was laid gently about his shoulders, and
he was glad of it, for his own was soiled by exposure to sun and
wind and water, and was not worthy of a lady's eye.

Then he was invited to eat.

He noticed, however, that food had been set for no one but
himself, and this did not please him, for to eat alone was
contrary to the hospitable usage of a king, and was contrary also
to his contract with the gods.

"Good, my hosts," he remonstrated, "it is geasa (taboo) for me to
eat alone."

"But we never eat together," the queen replied.

"I cannot violate my geasa," said the High King.

"I will eat with you," said Segda (Sweet Speech), "and thus,
while you are our guest you will not do violence to your vows."

"Indeed," said Conn, "that will be a great satisfaction, for I
have already all the trouble that I can cope with and have no
wish to add to it by offending the gods."

"What is your trouble?" the gentle queen asked. "During a year,"
Conn replied, "there has been neither corn nor milk in Ireland.
The land is parched, the trees are withered, the birds do not
sing in Ireland, and the bees do not make honey."

"You are certainly in trouble," the queen assented.

"But," she continued, "for what purpose have you come to our

"I have come to ask for the loan of your son."

"A loan of my son!"

"I have been informed," Conn explained, "that if the son of a
sinless couple is brought to Tara and is bathed in the waters of
Ireland the land will be delivered from those ills."

The king of this island, Daire, had not hitherto spoken, but he
now did so with astonishment and emphasis.

"We would not lend our son to any one, not even to gain the
kingship of the world," said he.

But Segda, observing that the guest's countenance was
discomposed, broke in:

"It is not kind to refuse a thing that the Ard-Ri' of Ireland
asks for, and I will go with him."

"Do not go, my pulse," his father advised.

"Do not go, my one treasure," his mother pleaded.

"I must go indeed," the boy replied, "for it is to do good I am
required, and no person may shirk such a requirement."

"Go then," said his father, "but I will place you under the
protection of the High King and of the Four Provincial Kings of
Ireland, and under the protection of Art, the son of Conn, and of
Fionn, the son of Uail, and under the protection of the magicians
and poets and the men of art in Ireland." And he thereupon bound
these protections and safeguards on the Ard-Ri' with an oath.

"I will answer for these protections," said Conn.

He departed then from the island with Segda and in three days
they reached Ireland, and in due time they arrived at Tara.


On reaching the palace Conn called his magicians and poets to a
council and informed them that he had found the boy they
sought--the son of a virgin. These learned people consulted
together, and they stated that the young man must be killed, and
that his blood should be mixed with the earth of Tara and
sprinkled under the withered trees.

When Segda heard this he was astonished and defiant; then, seeing
that he was alone and without prospect of succour, he grew
downcast and was in great fear for his life. But remembering the
safeguards under which he had been placed, he enumerated these to
the assembly, and called on the High King to grant him the
protections that were his due.

Conn was greatly perturbed, but, as in duty bound, he placed the
boy under the various protections that were in his oath, and,
with the courage of one who has no more to gain or lose, he
placed Segda, furthermore, under the protection of all the men of

But the men of Ireland refused to accept that bond, saying that
although the Ard-Ri' was acting justly towards the boy he was not
acting justly towards Ireland.

"We do not wish to slay this prince for our pleasure," they
argued, "but for the safety of Ireland he must be killed."

Angry parties were formed. Art, and Fionn the son of Uail, and
the princes of the land were outraged at the idea that one who
had been placed under their protection should be hurt by any
hand. But the men of Ireland and the magicians stated that the
king had gone to Faery for a special purpose, and that his acts
outside or contrary to that purpose were illegal, and committed
no person to obedience.

There were debates in the Council Hall, in the market-place, in
the streets of Tara, some holding that national honour dissolved
and absolved all personal honour, and others protesting that no
man had aught but his personal honour, and that above it not the
gods, not even Ireland, could be placed--for it is to be known
that Ireland is a god.

Such a debate was in course, and Segda, to whom both sides
addressed gentle and courteous arguments, grew more and more

"You shall die for Ireland, dear heart," said one of them, and he
gave Segda three kisses on each cheek.

"Indeed," said Segda, returning those kisses, "indeed I had not
bargained to die for Ireland, but only to bathe in her waters and
to remove her pestilence."

"But dear child and prince," said another, kissing him likewise,
"if any one of us could save Ireland by dying for her how
cheerfully we would die."

And Segda, returning his three kisses, agreed that the death was
noble, but that it was not in his undertaking.

Then, observing the stricken countenances about him, and the
faces of men and women hewn thin by hunger, his resolution melted
away, and he said:

"I think I must die for you," and then he said:

"I will die for you"

And when he had said that, all the people present touched his
cheek with their lips, and the love and peace of Ireland entered
into his soul, so that he was tranquil and proud and happy.

The executioner drew his wide, thin blade and all those present
covered their eyes with their cloaks, when a wailing voice called
on the executioner to delay yet a moment. The High King uncovered
his eyes and saw that a woman had approached driving a cow before

"Why are you killing the boy?" she demanded.

The reason for this slaying was explained to her.

"Are you sure," she asked, "that the poets and magicians really
know everything?"

"Do they not?" the king inquired.

"Do they?" she insisted.

And then turning to the magicians:

"Let one magician of the magicians tell me what is hidden in the
bags that are lying across the back of my cow."

But no magician could tell it, nor did they try to.

"Questions are not answered thus," they said. "There is formulae,
and the calling up of spirits, and lengthy complicated
preparations in our art."

"I am not badly learned in these arts," said the woman, "and I
say that if you slay this cow the effect will be the same as if
you had killed the boy."

"We would prefer to kill a cow or a thousand cows rather than
harm this young prince," said Conn, "but if we spare the boy will
these evils return?"

"They will not be banished until you have banished their cause."

"And what is their cause?"

"Becuma is the cause, and she must be banished."

"If you must tell me what to do," said Conn, "tell me at least to
do something that I can do."

"I will tell you certainly. You can keep Becuma and your ills as
long as you want to. It does not matter to me. Come, my son," she
said to Segda, for it was Segda's mother who had come to save
him; and then that sinless queen and her son went back to their
home of enchantment, leaving the king and Fionn and the magicians
and nobles of Ireland astonished and ashamed.


There are good and evil people in this and in every other world,
and the person who goes hence will go to the good or the evil
that is native to him, while those who return come as surely to
their due. The trouble which had fallen on Becuma did not leave
her repentant, and the sweet lady began to do wrong as instantly
and innocently as a flower begins to grow. It was she who was
responsible for the ills which had come on Ireland, and we may
wonder why she brought these plagues and droughts to what was now
her own country.

Under all wrong-doing lies personal vanity or the feeling that we
are endowed and privileged beyond our fellows. It is probable
that, however courageously she had accepted fate, Becuma had been
sharply stricken in her pride; in the sense of personal strength,
aloofness, and identity, in which the mind likens itself to god
and will resist every domination but its own. She had been
punished, that is, she had submitted to control, and her sense of
freedom, of privilege, of very being, was outraged. The mind
flinches even from the control of natural law, and how much more
from the despotism of its own separated likenesses, for if
another can control me that other has usurped me, has become me,
and how terribly I seem diminished by the seeming addition!

This sense of separateness is vanity, and is the bed of all
wrong-doing. For we are not freedom, we are control, and we must
submit to our own function ere we can exercise it. Even
unconsciously we accept the rights of others to all that we have,
and if we will not share our good with them, it is because we
cannot, having none; but we will yet give what we have, although
that be evil. To insist on other people sharing in our personal
torment is the first step towards insisting that they shall share
in our joy, as we shall insist when we get it.

Becuma considered that if she must suffer all else she met should
suffer also. She raged, therefore, against Ireland, and in
particular she raged against young Art, her husband's son, and
she left undone nothing that could afflict Ireland or the prince.
She may have felt that she could not make them suffer, and that
is a maddening thought to any woman. Or perhaps she had really
desired the son instead of the father, and her thwarted desire
had perpetuated itself as hate. But it is true that Art regarded
his mother's successor with intense dislike, and it is true that
she actively returned it.

One day Becuma came on the lawn before the palace, and seeing
that Art was at chess with Cromdes she walked to the table on
which the match was being played and for some time regarded the
game. But the young prince did not take any notice of her while
she stood by the board, for he knew that this girl was the enemy
of Ireland, and he could not bring himself even to look at her.

Becuma, looking down on his beautiful head, smiled as much in
rage as in disdain.

"O son of a king," said she, "I demand a game with you for

Art then raised his head and stood up courteously, but he did not
look at her.

"Whatever the queen demands I will do," said he.

"Am I not your mother also?" she replied mockingly, as she took
the seat which the chief magician leaped from.

The game was set then, and her play was so skilful that Art was
hard put to counter her moves. But at a point of the game Becuma
grew thoughtful, and, as by a lapse of memory, she made a move
which gave the victory to her opponent. But she had intended
that. She sat then, biting on her lip with her white small teeth
and staring angrily at Art.

"What do you demand from me?" she asked.

"I bind you to eat no food in Ireland until you find the wand of
Curoi, son of Dare'."

Becuma then put a cloak about her and she went from Tara
northward and eastward until she came to the dewy, sparkling
Brugh of Angus mac an Og in Ulster, but she was not admitted
there. She went thence to the Shi' ruled over by Eogabal, and
although this lord would not admit her, his daughter Aine', who
was her foster-sister, let her into Faery.

She made inquiries and was informed where the dun of Curoi mac
Dare' was, and when she had received this intelligence she set
out for Sliev Mis. By what arts she coaxed Curoi to give up his
wand it matters not, enough that she was able to return in
triumph to Tara. When she handed the wand to Art, she said:

"I claim my game of revenge."

"It is due to you," said Art, and they sat on the lawn before the
palace and played.

A hard game that was, and at times each of the combatants sat for
an hour staring on the board before the next move was made, and
at times they looked from the board and for hours stared on the
sky seeking as though in heaven for advice. But Becuma's
foster-sister, Aine', came from the Shi', and, unseen by any, she
interfered with Art's play, so that, suddenly, when he looked
again on the board, his face went pale, for he saw that the game
was lost.

"I didn't move that piece," said he sternly.

"Nor did I," Becuma replied, and she called on the onlookers to
confirm that statement.

She was smiling to herself secretly, for she had seen what the
mortal eyes around could not see.

"I think the game is mine," she insisted softly.

"I think that your friends in Faery have cheated," he replied,
"but the game is yours if you are content to win it that way."

"I bind you," said Becuma, "to eat no food in Ireland until you
have found Delvcaem, the daughter of Morgan."

"Where do I look for her?" said Art in despair.

"She is in one of the islands of the sea," Becuma replied, "that
is all I will tell you," and she looked at him maliciously,
joyously, contentedly, for she thought he would never return from
that journey, and that Morgan would see to it.


Art, as his father had done before him, set out for the
Many-Coloured Land, but it was from Inver Colpa he embarked and
not from Ben Edair.

At a certain time he passed from the rough green ridges of the
sea to enchanted waters, and he roamed from island to island
asking all people how he might come to Delvcaem, the daughter of
Morgan. But he got no news from any one, until he reached an
island that was fragrant with wild apples, gay with flowers, and
joyous with the song of birds and the deep mellow drumming of the
bees. In this island he was met by a lady, Crede', the Truly
Beautiful, and when they had exchanged kisses, he told her who he
was and on what errand he was bent.

"We have been expecting you," said Crede', "but alas, poor soul,
it is a hard, and a long, bad way that you must go; for there is
sea and land, danger and difficulty between you and the daughter
of Morgan."

"Yet I must go there," he answered.

"There is a wild dark ocean to be crossed. There is a dense wood
where every thorn on every tree is sharp as a spear-point and is
curved and clutching. There is a deep gulf to be gone through,"
she said, "a place of silence and terror, full of dumb, venomous
monsters. There is an immense oak forest--dark, dense, thorny, a
place to be strayed in, a place to be utterly bewildered and lost
in. There is a vast dark wilderness, and therein is a dark house,
lonely and full of echoes, and in it there are seven gloomy hags,
who are warned already of your coming and are waiting to plunge
you in a bath of molten lead."

"It is not a choice journey," said Art, "but I have no choice and
must go."

"Should you pass those hags," she continued, "and no one has yet
passed them, you must meet Ailill of the Black Teeth, the son of
Mongan Tender Blossom, and who could pass that gigantic and
terrible fighter?"

"It is not easy to find the daughter of Morgan," said Art in a
melancholy voice.

"It is not easy," Crede' replied eagerly, "and if you will take
my advice-- "

"Advise me," he broke in, "for in truth there is no man standing
in such need of counsel as I do."

"I would advise you," said Crede' in a low voice, "to seek no
more for the sweet daughter of Morgan, but to stay in this place
where all that is lovely is at your service."

"But, but-- "cried Art in astonishment.

"Am I not as sweet as the daughter of Morgan?" she demanded, and
she stood before him queenly and pleadingly, and her eyes took
his with imperious tenderness.

"By my hand," he answered, "you are sweeter and lovelier than any
being under the sun, but-- "

"And with me," she said, "you will forget Ireland."

"I am under bonds," cried Art, "I have passed my word, and I
would not forget Ireland or cut myself from it for all the
kingdoms of the Many-Coloured Land."

Crede' urged no more at that time, but as they were parting she
whispered, "There are two girls, sisters of my own, in Morgan's
palace. They will come to you with a cup in either hand; one cup
will be filled with wine and one with poison. Drink from the
right-hand cup, O my dear."

Art stepped into his coracle, and then, wringing her hands, she
made yet an attempt to dissuade him from that drear journey.

"Do not leave me," she urged. "Do not affront these dangers.
Around the palace of Morgan there is a palisade of copper spikes,
and on the top of each spike the head of a man grins and
shrivels. There is one spike only which bears no head, and it is
for your head that spike is waiting. Do not go there, my love."

"I must go indeed," said. Art earnestly.

"There is yet a danger," she called. "Beware of Delvcaem's
mother, Dog Head, daughter of the King of the Dog Heads. Beware
of her."

"Indeed," said Art to himself, "there is so much to beware of
that I will beware of nothing. I will go about my business," he
said to the waves, "and I will let those beings and monsters and
the people of the Dog Heads go about their business."


He went forward in his light bark, and at some moment found that
he had parted from those seas and was adrift on vaster and more
turbulent billows. From those dark-green surges there gaped at
him monstrous and cavernous jaws; and round, wicked, red-rimmed,
bulging eyes stared fixedly at the boat. A ridge of inky water
rushed foaming mountainously on his board, and behind that ridge
came a vast warty head that gurgled and groaned. But at these
vile creatures he thrust with his lengthy spear or stabbed at
closer reach with a dagger.

He was not spared one of the terrors which had been foretold.
Thus, in the dark thick oak forest he slew the seven hags and
buried them in the molten lead which they had heated for him. He
climbed an icy mountain, the cold breath of which seemed to slip
into his body and chip off inside of his bones, and there, until
he mastered the sort of climbing on ice, for each step that he
took upwards he slipped back ten steps. Almost his heart gave way
before he learned to climb that venomous hill. In a forked glen
into which he slipped at night-fall he was surrounded by giant
toads, who spat poison, and were icy as the land they lived in,
and were cold and foul and savage. At Sliav Saev he encountered
the long-maned lions who lie in wait for the beasts of the
world, growling woefully as they squat above their prey and
crunch those terrified bones. He came on Ailill of the Black
Teeth sitting on the bridge that spanned a torrent, and the grim
giant was grinding his teeth on a pillar stone. Art drew nigh
unobserved and brought him low.

It was not for nothing that these difficulties and dangers were
in his path. These things and creatures were the invention of Dog
Head, the wife of Morgan, for it had become known to her that she
would die on the day her daughter was wooed. Therefore none of
the dangers encountered by Art were real, but were magical
chimeras conjured against him by the great witch.

Affronting all, conquering all, he came in time to Morgan's dun,
a place so lovely that after the miseries through which he had
struggled he almost wept to see beauty again.

Delvcaem knew that he was coming. She was waiting for him,
yearning for him. To her mind Art was not only love, he was
freedom, for the poor girl was a captive in her father's home. A
great pillar an hundred feet high had been built on the roof of
Morgan's palace, and on the top of this pillar a tiny room had
been constructed, and in this room Delvcaem was a prisoner.

She was lovelier in shape than any other princess of the
Many-Coloured Land. She was wiser than all the other women of
that land, and she was skilful in music, embroidery, and
chastity, and in all else that pertained to the knowledge of a

Although Delvcaem's mother wished nothing but ill to Art, she yet
treated him with the courtesy proper in a queen on the one hand
and fitting towards the son of the King of Ireland on the other.
Therefore, when Art entered the palace he was met and kissed, and
he was bathed and clothed and fed. Two young girls came to him
then, having a cup in each of their hands, and presented him with
the kingly drink, but, remembering the warning which Credl had
given him, he drank only from the right-hand cup and escaped the
poison. Next he was visited by Delvcaem's mother, Dog Head,
daughter of the King of the Dog Heads, and Morgan's queen. She
was dressed in full armour, and she challenged Art to fight with

It was a woeful combat, for there was no craft or sagacity
unknown to her, and Art would infallibly have perished by her
hand but that her days were numbered, her star was out, and her
time had come. It was her head that rolled on the ground when the
combat was over, and it was her head that grinned and shrivelled
on the vacant spike which she had reserved for Art's.

Then Art liberated Delvcaem from her prison at the top of the
pillar and they were affianced together. But the ceremony had
scarcely been completed when the tread of a single man caused the
palace to quake and seemed to jar the world.

It was Morgan returning to the palace.

The gloomy king challenged him to combat also, and in his honour
Art put on the battle harness which he had brought from Ireland.
He wore a breastplate and helmet of gold, a mantle of blue satin
swung from his shoulders, his left hand was thrust into the grips
of a purple shield, deeply bossed with silver, and in the other
hand he held the wide-grooved, blue hilted sword which had rung
so often into fights and combats, and joyous feats and exercises.

Up to this time the trials through which he had passed had seemed
so great that they could not easily be added to. But if all those
trials had been gathered into one vast calamity they would not
equal one half of the rage and catastrophe of his war with

For what he could not effect by arms Morgan would endeavour by
guile, so that while Art drove at him or parried a crafty blow,
the shape of Morgan changed before his eyes, and the monstrous
king was having at him in another form, and from a new direction.

It was well for the son of the Ard-Ri' that he had been beloved
by the poets and magicians of his land, and that they had taught
him all that was known of shape-changing and words of power.

He had need of all these.

At times, for the weapon must change with the enemy, they fought
with their foreheads as two giant stags, and the crash of their
monstrous onslaught rolled and lingered on the air long after
their skulls had parted. Then as two lions, long-clawed,
deep-mouthed, snarling, with rigid mane, with red-eyed glare,
with flashing, sharp-white fangs, they prowled lithely about each
other seeking for an opening. And then as two green-ridged,
white-topped, broad-swung, overwhelming, vehement billows of the
deep, they met and crashed and sunk into and rolled away from
each other; and the noise of these two waves was as the roar of
all ocean when the howl of the tempest is drowned in the
league-long fury of the surge.

But when the wife's time has come the husband is doomed. He is
required elsewhere by his beloved, and Morgan went to rejoin his
queen in the world that comes after the Many-Coloured Land, and
his victor shore that knowledgeable head away from its giant

He did not tarry in the Many-Coloured Land, for he had nothing
further to seek there. He gathered the things which pleased him
best from among the treasures of its grisly king, and with
Delvcaem by his side they stepped into the coracle.

Then, setting their minds on Ireland, they went there as it were
in a flash.

The waves of all the world seemed to whirl past them in one huge,
green cataract. The sound of all these oceans boomed in their
ears for one eternal instant. Nothing was for that moment but a
vast roar and pour of waters. Thence they swung into a silence
equally vast, and so sudden that it was as thunderous in the
comparison as was the elemental rage they quitted. For a time
they sat panting, staring at each other, holding each other, lest
not only their lives but their very souls should be swirled away
in the gusty passage of world within world; and then, looking
abroad, they saw the small bright waves creaming by the rocks of
Ben Edair, and they blessed the power that had guided and
protected them, and they blessed the comely land of Ir.

On reaching Tara, Delvcaem, who was more powerful in art and
magic than Becuma, ordered the latter to go away, and she did so.

She left the king's side. She came from the midst of the
counsellors and magicians. She did not bid farewell to any one.
She did not say good-bye to the king as she set out for Ben

Where she could go to no man knew, for she had been ban-ished
from the Many-Coloured Land and could not return there. She was
forbidden entry to the Shi' by Angus Og, and she could not remain
in Ireland. She went to Sasana and she became a queen in that
country, and it was she who fostered the rage against the Holy
Land which has not ceased to this day.



The abbot of the Monastery of Moville sent word to the
story-tellers of Ireland that when they were in his neighbourhood
they should call at the monastery, for he wished to collect and
write down the stories which were in danger of being forgotten.

"These things also must he told," said he.

In particular he wished to gather tales which told of the deeds
that had been done before the Gospel came to Ireland.

"For," said he, "there are very good tales among those ones, and
it would be a pity if the people who come after us should be
ignorant of what happened long ago, and of the deeds of their

So, whenever a story-teller chanced in that neighbourhood he was
directed to the monastery, and there he received a welcome and
his fill of all that is good for man.

The abbot's manuscript boxes began to fill up, and he used to
regard that growing store with pride and joy. In the evenings,
when the days grew short and the light went early, he would call
for some one of these manuscripts and have it read to him by
candle-light, in order that he might satisfy himself that it was
as good as he had judged it to be on the previous hearing.

One day a story-teller came to the monastery, and, like all the
others, he was heartily welcomed and given a great deal more than
his need.

He said that his name was Cairide', and that he had a story to
tell which could not be bettered among the stories of Ireland.

The abbot's eyes glistened when he heard that. He rubbed his
hands together and smiled on his guest.

"What is the name of your story?" he asked.

"It is called 'Mongan's Frenzy.'"

"I never heard of it before," cried the abbot joyfully.

"I am the only man that knows it," Cairide' replied.

"But how does that come about?" the abbot inquired.

"Because it belongs to my family," the story-teller answered.
"There was a Cairide' of my nation with Mongan when he went into
Faery. This Cairide' listened to the story when it was first
told. Then he told it to his son, and his son told it to his son,
and that son's great-great-grandson's son told it to his son's
son, and he told it to my father, and my father told it to me."

"And you shall tell it to me," cried the abbot triumphantly.

"I will indeed," said Cairide'. Vellum was then brought and
quills. The copyists sat at their tables. Ale was placed beside
the story-teller, and he told this tale to the abbot.


Said Cairide':

Mongan's wife at that time was Bro'tiarna, the Flame Lady. She
was passionate and fierce, and because the blood would flood
suddenly to her cheek, so that she who had seemed a lily became,
while you looked upon her, a rose, she was called Flame Lady. She
loved Mongan with ecstasy and abandon, and for that also he
called her Flame Lady.

But there may have been something of calculation even in her
wildest moment, for if she was delighted in her affection she was
tormented in it also, as are all those who love the great ones of
life and strive to equal themselves where equality is not

For her husband was at once more than himself and less than
himself. He was less than himself because he was now Mongan. He
was more than himself because he was one who had long disappeared
from the world of men. His lament had been sung and his funeral
games played many, many years before, and Bro'tiarna sensed in
him secrets, experiences, knowledges in which she could have no
part, and for which she was greedily envious.

So she was continually asking him little, simple questions a'
propos of every kind of thing.

She weighed all that he said on whatever subject, and when he
talked in his sleep she listened to his dream.

The knowledge that she gleaned from those listenings tormented
her far more than it satisfied her, for the names of other women
were continually on his lips, sometimes in terms of dear
affection, sometimes in accents of anger or despair, and in his
sleep he spoke familiarly of people whom the story-tellers told
of, but who had been dead for centuries. Therefore she was
perplexed, and became filled with a very rage of curiosity.

Among the names which her husband mentioned there was one which,
because of the frequency with which it appeared, and because of
the tone of anguish and love and longing in which it was uttered,
she thought of oftener than the others: this name was Duv Laca.
Although she questioned and cross-questioned Cairide', her
story-teller, she could discover nothing about a lady who had
been known as the Black Duck. But one night when Mongan seemed to
speak with Duv Laca he mentioned her father as Fiachna Duv mac
Demain, and the story-teller said that king had been dead for a
vast number of years.

She asked her husband then, boldly, to tell her the story of Duv
Laca, and under the influence of their mutual love he promised to
tell it to her some time, but each time she reminded him of his
promise he became confused, and said that he would tell it some
other time.

As time went on the poor Flame Lady grew more and more jealous of
Duv Laca, and more and more certain that, if only she could know
what had happened, she would get some ease to her tormented heart
and some assuagement of her perfectly natural curiosity.
Therefore she lost no opportunity of reminding Mongan of his
promise, and on each occasion he renewed the promise and put it
back to another time.


In the year when Ciaran the son of the Carpenter died, the same
year when Tuathal Maelgariv was killed and the year when Diarmait
the son of Cerrbel became king of all Ireland, the year 538 of
our era in short, it happened that there was a great gathering of
the men of Ireland at the Hill of Uisneach in Royal Meath.

In addition to the Council which was being held, there were games
and tournaments and brilliant deployments of troops, and
universal feastings and enjoyments. The gathering lasted for a
week, and on the last day of the week Mongan was moving through
the crowd with seven guards, his story-teller Cairide', and his

It had been a beautiful day, with brilliant sunshine and great
sport, but suddenly clouds began to gather in the sky to the
west, and others came rushing blackly from the east. When these
clouds met the world went dark for a space, and there fell from
the sky a shower of hailstones, so large that each man wondered
at their size, and so swift and heavy that the women and young
people of the host screamed from the pain of the blows they

Mongan's men made a roof of their shields, and the hailstones
battered on the shields so terribly that even under them they
were afraid. They began to move away from the host looking for
shelter, and when they had gone apart a little way they turned
the edge of a small hill and a knoll of trees, and in the
twinkling of an eye they were in fair weather.

One minute they heard the clashing and bashing of the hailstones,
the howling of the venomous wind, the screams of women and the
uproar of the crowd on the Hill of Uisneach, and the next minute
they heard nothing more of those sounds and saw nothing more of
these sights, for they had been permitted to go at one step out
of the world of men and into the world of Faery.


There is a difference between this world and the world of Faery,
but it is not immediately perceptible. Everything that is here is
there, but the things that are there are better than those that
are here. All things that are bright are there brighter. There is
more gold in the sun and more silver in the moon of that land.
There is more scent in the flowers, more savour in the fruit.
There is more comeliness in the men and more tenderness in the
women. Everything in Faery is better by this one wonderful
degree, and it is by this betterness you will know that you are
there if you should ever happen to get there.

Mongan and his companions stepped from the world of storm into
sunshine and a scented world. The instant they stepped they
stood, bewildered, looking at each other silently, questioningly,
and then with one accord they turned to look back whence they had

There was no storm behind them. The sunlight drowsed there as it
did in front, a peaceful flooding of living gold. They saw the
shapes of the country to which their eyes were accustomed, and
recognised the well-known landmarks, but it seemed that the
distant hills were a trifle higher, and the grass which clothed
them and stretched between was greener, was more velvety: that
the trees were better clothed and had more of peace as they hung
over the quiet ground.

But Mongan knew what had happened, and he smiled with glee as he
watched his astonished companions, and he sniffed that balmy air
as one whose nostrils remembered it.

"You had better come with me," he said.

"Where are we?" his wife asked. "Why, we are here," cried Mongan;
"where else should we be?"

He set off then, and the others followed, staring about them
cautiously, and each man keeping a hand on the hilt of his sword.

"Are we in Faery?" the Flame Lady asked.

"We are," said Mongan.

When they had gone a little distance they came to a grove of
ancient trees. Mightily tail and well grown these trees were, and
the trunk of each could not have been spanned by ten broad men.
As they went among these quiet giants into the dappled obscurity
and silence, their thoughts became grave, and all the motions of
their minds elevated as though they must equal in greatness and
dignity those ancient and glorious trees. When they passed
through the grove they saw a lovely house before them, built of
mellow wood and with a roof of bronze--it was like the dwelling
of a king, and over the windows of the Sunny Room there was a
balcony. There were ladies on this balcony, and when they saw the
travellers approaching they sent messengers to welcome them.

Mongan and his companions were then brought into the house, and
all was done for them that could be done for honoured guests.
Everything within the house was as excellent as all without, and
it was inhabited by seven men and seven women, and it was evident
that Mongan and these people were well acquainted.

In the evening a feast was prepared, and when they had eaten well
there was a banquet. There were seven vats of wine, and as Mongan
loved wine he was very happy, and he drank more on that occasion
than any one had ever noticed him to drink before.

It was while he was in this condition of glee and expansion that
the Flame Lady put her arms about his neck and begged he would
tell her the story of Duv Laca, and, being boisterous then and
full of good spirits, he agreed to her request, and he prepared
to tell the tale.

The seven men and seven women of tile Fairy Palace then took
their places about him in a half-circle; his own seven guards sat
behind them; his wife, the Flame Lady, sat by his side; and at
the back of all Cairid~ his story-teller sat, listening with all
his ears, and remembering every word that was uttered.


Said Mongan:

In the days of long ago and the times that have disappeared for
ever, there was one Fiachna Finn the son of Baltan, the son of
Murchertach, the son of Muredach, the son of Eogan, the son of
Neill. He went from his own country when he was young, for he
wished to see the land of Lochlann, and he knew that he would be
welcomed by the king of that country, for Fiachna's father and
Eolgarg's father had done deeds in common and were obliged to
each other.

He was welcomed, and he stayed at the Court of Lochlann in great
ease and in the midst of pleasures.

It then happened that Eolgarg Mor fell sick and the doctors could
not cure him. They sent for other doctors, but they could not
cure him, nor could any one say what he was suffering from,
beyond that he was wasting visibly before their eyes, and would
certainly become a shadow and disappear in air unless he was
healed and fattened and made visible.

They sent for more distant doctors, and then for others more
distant still, and at last they found a man who claimed that he
could make a cure if the king were supplied with the medicine
which he would order.

"What medicine is that?" said they all.

"This is the medicine," said the doctor. "Find a per-fectly white
cow with red ears, and boil it down in the lump, and if the king
drinks that rendering he will recover."

Before he had well said it messengers were going from the palace
in all directions looking for such a cow. They found lots of cows
which were nearly like what they wanted, but it was only by
chance they came on the cow which would do the work, and that
beast belonged to the most notorious and malicious and
cantankerous female in Lochlann, the Black Hag. Now the Black Hag
was not only those things that have been said; she was also
whiskered and warty and one-eyed and obstreperous, and she was
notorious and ill-favoured in many other ways also.

They offered her a cow in the place of her own cow, but she
refused to give it. Then they offered a cow for each leg of her
cow, but she would not accept that offer unless Fiachna went bail
for the payment. He agreed to do so, and they drove the beast

On the return journey he was met by messengers who brought news
from Ireland. They said that the King of Ulster was dead, and
that he, Fiachna Finn, had been elected king in the dead king's
place. He at once took ship for Ireland, and found that all he
had been told was true, and he took up the government of Ulster.


A year passed, and one day as he was sitting at judgement there
came a great noise from without, and this noise was so persistent
that the people and suitors were scandalised, and Fiachna at last
ordered that the noisy person should be brought before him to be

It was done, and to his surprise the person turned out to be the
Black Hag.

She blamed him in the court before his people, and complained
that he had taken away her cow, and that she had not been paid
the four cows he had gone bail for, and she demanded judgement
from him and justice.

"If you will consider it to be justice, I will give you twenty
cows myself," said Fiachna.

"I would not take all the cows in Ulster," she screamed.

"Pronounce judgement yourself," said the king, "and if I can do
what you demand I will do it." For he did not like to be in the
wrong, and he did not wish that any person should have an
unsatisfied claim upon him.

The Black Hag then pronounced judgement, and the king had to
fulfil it.

"I have come," said she, "from the east to the west; you must
come from the west to the east and make war for me, and revenge
me on the King of Lochlann."

Fiachna had to do as she demanded, and, although it was with a
heavy heart, he set out in three days' time for Lochlann, and he
brought with him ten battalions.

He sent messengers before him to Big Eolgarg warning him of his
coming, of his intention, and of the number of troops he was
bringing; and when he landed Eolgarg met him with an equal force,
and they fought together.

In the first battle three hundred of the men of Lochlann were
killed, but in the next battle Eolgarg Mor did not fight fair,
for he let some venomous sheep out of a tent, and these attacked
the men of Ulster and killed nine hundred of them.

So vast was the slaughter made by these sheep and so great the
terror they caused, that no one could stand before them, but by
great good luck there was a wood at hand, and the men of Ulster,
warriors and princes and charioteers, were forced to climb up the
trees, and they roosted among the branches like great birds,
while the venomous sheep ranged below bleating terribly and
tearing up the ground.

Fiachna Fi,m was also sitting in a tree, very high up, and he was

"We are disgraced{" said he.

"It is very lucky," said the man in the branch below, "that a
sheep cannot climb a tree."

"We are disgraced for ever{" said the King of Ulster.

"If those sheep learn how to climb, we are undone surely," said
the man below.

"I will go down and fight the sheep," said Fiachna. But the
others would not let the king go.

"It is not right," they said, "that you should fight sheep."

"Some one must fight them," said Fiachna Finn, "but no more of my
men shall die until I fight myself; for if I am fated to die, I
will die and I cannot escape it, and if it is the sheep's fate to
die, then die they will; for there is no man can avoid destiny,
and there is no sheep can dodge it either."

"Praise be to god!" said the warrior that was higher up.

"Amen!' said the man who was higher than he, and the rest of the
warriors wished good luck to the king.

He started then to climb down the tree with a heavy heart, but
while he hung from the last branch and was about to let go, he
noticed a tall warrior walking towards him. The king pulled
himself up on the branch again and sat dangle-legged on it to see
what the warrior would do.

The stranger was a very tall man, dressed in a green cloak with a
silver brooch at the shoulder. He had a golden band about his
hair and golden sandals on his feet, and he was laughing heartily
at the plight of the men of Ireland.


"It is not nice of you to laugh at us," said Fiachna Finn.

"Who could help laughing at a king hunkering on a branch and his
army roosting around him like hens?" said the stranger.

"Nevertheless," the king replied, "it would be courteous of you
not to laugh at misfortune."

"We laugh when we can," commented the stranger, "and are thankful
for the chance."

"You may come up into the tree," said Fiachna, "for I perceive
that you are a mannerly person, and I see that some of the
venomous sheep are charging in this direction. I would rather
protect you," he continued, "than see you killed; for," said he
lamentably, "I am getting down now to fight the sheep."

"They will not hurt me," said the stranger. "Who are you?" the
king asked.

"I am Mananna'n, the son of Lir."

Fiachna knew then that the stranger could not be hurt.

"What will you give me if I deliver you from the sheep?" asked

"I will give you anything you ask, if I have that thing."

"I ask the rights of your crown and of your household for one

Fiachna's breath was taken away by that request, and he took a
little time to compose himself, then he said mildly:

"I will not have one man of Ireland killed if I can save him. All
that I have they give me, all that I have I give to them, and if
I must give this also, then I will give this, although it would
be easier for me to give my life." "That is agreed," said

He had something wrapped in a fold of his cloak, and he unwrapped
and produced this thing.

It was a dog.

Now if the sheep were venomous, this dog was more venomous still,
for it was fearful to look at. In body it was not large, but its
head was of a great size, and the mouth that was shaped in that
head was able to open like the lid of a pot. It was not teeth
which were in that head, but hooks and fangs and prongs. Dreadful
was that mouth to look at, terrible to look into, woeful to think
about; and from it, or from the broad, loose nose that waggled
above it, there came a sound which no word of man could describe,
for it was not a snarl, nor was it a howl, although it was both
of these. It was neither a growl nor a grunt, although it was
both of these; it was not a yowl nor a groan, although it was
both of these: for it was one sound made up of these sounds, and
there was in it, too, a whine and a yelp, and a long-drawn
snoring noise, and a deep purring noise, and a noise that was
like the squeal of a rusty hinge, and there were other noises in
it also.

"The gods be praised!" said the man who was in the branch above
the king.

"What for this time?" said the king.

"Because that dog cannot climb a tree," said the man.

And the man on a branch yet above him groaned out "Amen !"

"There is nothing to frighten sheep like a dog," said Mananna'n,
"and there is nothing to frighten these sheep like this dog."

He put the dog on the ground then.

"Little dogeen, little treasure," said he, "go and kill the

And when he said that the dog put an addition and an addendum on
to the noise he had been making before, so that the men of
Ireland stuck their fingers into their ears and turned the whites
of their eyes upwards, and nearly fell off their branches with
the fear and the fright which that sound put into them.

It did not take the dog long to do what he had been ordered. He
went forward, at first, with a slow waddle, and as the venomous
sheep came to meet him in bounces, he then went to meet them in
wriggles; so that in a while he went so fast that you could see
nothing of him but a head and a wriggle. He dealt with the sheep
in this way, a jump and a chop for each, and he never missed his
jump and he never missed his chop. When he got his grip he swung
round on it as if it was a hinge. The swing began with the chop,
and it ended with the bit loose and the sheep giving its last
kick. At the end of ten minutes all the sheep were lying on the
ground, and the same bit was out of every sheep, and every sheep
was dead.

"You can come down now," said Mananna'n.

"That dog can't climb a tree," said the man in the branch above
the king warningly.

"Praise be to the gods!" said the man who was above him.

"Amen!" said the warrior who was higher up than that. And the man
in the next tree said:

"Don't move a hand or a foot until the dog chokes himself to
death on the dead meat."

The dog, however, did not eat a bit of the meat. He trotted to
his master, and Mananna'n took him up and wrapped him in his

"Now you can come down," said he.

"I wish that dog was dead!" said the king.

But he swung himself out of the tree all the same, for he did not
wish to seem frightened before Mananna'n . "You can go now and
beat the men of Lochlann," said Mananna'n. "You will be King of
Lochlann before nightfall."

"I wouldn't mind that," said theking. "It's no threat," said

The son of Lir turned then and went away in the direction of
Ireland to take up his one-day rights, and Fiachna continued his
battle with the Lochlannachs.

He beat them before nightfall, and by that victory he became King
of Lochlann and King of the Saxons and the Britons.

He gave the Black Hag seven castles with their territories, and
he gave her one hundred of every sort of cattle that he had
captured. She was satisfied.

Then he went back to Ireland, and after he had been there for
some time his wife gave birth to a son.


"You have not told me one word about Duv Laca," said the Flame
Lady reproachfully.

"I am coming to that," replied Mongan.

He motioned towards one of the great vats, and wine was brought
to him, of which he drank so joyously and so deeply that all
people wondered at his thirst, his capacity, and his jovial

"Now, I will begin again."

Said Mongan: There was an attendant in Fiachna Finn's palace who
was called An Da'v, and the same night that Fiachna's wife bore a
son, the wife of An Da'v gave birth to a son also. This latter
child was called mac an Da'v, but the son of Fiachna's wife was
named Mongan.

"Ah!" murmured the Flame Lady.

The queen was angry. She said it was unjust and presumptuous that
the servant should get a child at the same time that she got one
herself, but there was no help for it, because the child was
there and could not be obliterated.

Now this also must be told.

There was a neighbouring prince called Fiachna Duv, and he was
the ruler of the Dal Fiatach. For a long time he had been at
enmity and spiteful warfare with Fiachna Finn; and to this
Fiachna Duv there was born in the same night a daughter, and this
girl was named Duv Laca of the White Hand.

"Ah!" cried the Flame Lady.

"You see!" said Mongan, and he drank anew and joyously of the
fairy wine.

In order to end the trouble between Fiachna Finn and Fiachna Duv
the babies were affianced to each other in the cradle on the day
after they were born, and the men of Ireland rejoiced at that
deed and at that news. But soon there came dismay and sorrow in
the land, for when the little Mongan was three days old his real
father, Mananna'n the son of Lir, appeared in the middle of the
palace. He wrapped Mongan in his green cloak and took him away to
rear and train in the Land of Promise, which is beyond the sea
that is at the other side of the grave.

When Fiachna Duv heard that Mongan, who was affianced to his
daughter Duv Laca, had disappeared, he considered that his
compact of peace was at an end, and one day he came by surprise
and attacked the palace. He killed Fiachna Finn in that battle,
and be crowned himself King of Ulster.

The men of Ulster disliked him, and they petitioned Mananna'n to
bring Mongan back, but Mananna'n would not do this until the boy
was sixteen years of age and well reared in the wisdom of the
Land of Promise. Then he did bring Mongan back, and by his means
peace was made between Mongan and Fiachna Duv, and Mongan was
married to his cradle-bride, the young Duv Laca.


One day Mongan and Duv Laca were playing chess in their palace.
Mongan had just made a move of skill, and he looked up from the
board to see if Duv Laca seemed as discontented as she had a
right to be. He saw then over Duv Laca's shoulder a little
black-faced, tufty-headed cleric leaning against the door-post
inside the room.

"What are you doing there?" said Mongan.

"What are you doing there yourself?" said the little black-faced

"Indeed, I have a right to be in my own house," said Mongan.

"Indeed I do not agree with you," said the cleric.

"Where ought I be, then?" said Mongan.

"You ought to be at Dun Fiathac avenging the murder of your
father," replied the cleric, "and you ought to be ashamed of
yourself for not having done it long ago. You can play chess with
your wife when you have won the right to leisure."

"But how can I kill my wife's father?" Mongan exclaimed. "By
starting about it at once," said the cleric. "Here is a way of
talking!" said Mongan.

"I know," the cleric continued, "that Duv Laca will not agree
with a word I say on this subject, and that she will try to
prevent you from doing what you have a right to do, for that is a
wife's business, but a man's business is to do what I have just
told you; so come with me now and do not wait to think about it,
and do not wait to play any more chess. Fiachna Duv has only a
small force with him at this moment, and we can burn his palace
as he burned your father's palace, and kill himself as he killed
your father, and crown you King of Ulster rightfully the way he
crowned himself wrongfully as a king."

"I begin to think that you own a lucky tongue, my black-faced
friend," said Mongan, "and I will go with you."

He collected his forces then, and he burned Fiachna Duv's
fortress, and he killed Fiachna Duv, and he was crowned King of

Then for the first time he felt secure and at liberty to play
chess. But he did not know until afterwards that the black-faced,
tufty-headed person was his father Mananna'n, although that was
the fact.

There are some who say, however, that Fiachna the Black was
killed in the year 624 by the lord of the Scot's Dal Riada,
Condad Cerr, at the battle of Ard Carainn; but the people who say
this do not know what they are talking about, and they do not
care greatly what it is they say.


"There is nothing to marvel about in this Duv Laca," said the
Flame Lady scornfully. "She has got married, and she has been
beaten at chess. It has happened before."

"Let us keep to the story," said Mongan, and, having taken some
few dozen deep draughts of the wine, he became even more jovial
than before. Then he recommenced his tale:

It happened on a day that Mongan had need of treasure. He had
many presents to make, and he had not as much gold and silver and
cattle as was proper for a king. He called his nobles together
and discussed what was the best thing to be done, and it was
arranged that he should visit the provincial kings and ask boons
from them.

He set out at once on his round of visits, and the first province
he went to was Leinster.

The King of Leinster at that time was Branduv, the son of Echach.
He welcomed Mongan and treated him well, and that night Mongan
slept in his palace.

When he awoke in the morning he looked out of a lofty window, and
he saw on the sunny lawn before the palace a herd of cows. There
were fifty cows in all, for he counted them, and each cow had a
calf beside her, and each cow and calf was pure white in colour,
and each of them had red ears.

When Mongan saw these cows, he fell in love with them as he had
never fallen in love with anything before.

He came down from the window and walked on the sunny lawn among
the cows, looking at each of them and speaking words of affection
and endearment to them all; and while he was thus walking and
talking and looking and loving, he noticed that some one was
moving beside him. He looked from the cows then, and saw that the
King of Leinster was at his side.

"Are you in love with the cows?" Branduv asked him.

"I am," said Mongan.

"Everybody is," said the King of Leinster.

"I never saw anything like them," said Mongan.

"Nobody has," said the King of Leinster.

"I never saw anything I would rather have than these cows," said

"These," said the King of Leinster, "are the most beautiful cows
in Ireland, and," he continued thoughtfully, "Duv Laca is the
most beautiful woman in Ireland."

"There is no lie in what you say," said Mongan.

"Is it not a queer thing," said the King of Leinster, "that I
should have what you want with all your soul, and you should have
what I want with all my heart?"

"Queer indeed," said Mongan, "but what is it that you do want?"

"Duv Laca, of course," said the King of Leinster.

"Do you mean," said Mongan, "that you would exchange this herd of
fifty pure white cows having red ears-- "

"And their fifty calves," said the King of Leinster--

"For Duv Laca, or for any woman in the world?"

"I would," cried the King of Leinster, and he thumped his knee as
he said it.

"Done," roared Mongan, and the two kings shook hands on the

Mongan then called some of his own people, and before any more
words could be said and before any alteration could be made, he
set his men behind the cows and marched home with them to Ulster.


Duv Laca wanted to know where the cows came from, and Mongan told
her that the King of Leinster had given them to him. She fell in
love with them as Mongan had done, but there was nobody in the
world could have avoided loving those cows: such cows they were!
such wonders! Mongan and Duv Laca used to play chess together,
and then they would go out together to look at the cows, and then
they would go in together and would talk to each other about the
cows. Everything they did they did together, for they loved to be
with each other.

However, a change came.

One morning a great noise of voices and trampling of horses and
rattle of armour came about the palace. Mongan looked from the

"Who is coming?" asked Duv Laca.

But he did not answer her.

"The noise must announce the visit of a king," Duv Laca

But Mongan did not say a word. Duv Laca then went to the window.

"Who is that king?" she asked.

And her husband replied to her then.

"That is the King of Leinster," said he mournfully.

"Well," said Duv Laca surprised, "is he not welcome?"

"He is welcome indeed," said Mongan lamentably.

"Let us go out and welcome him properly," Duv Laca suggested.

"Let us not go near him at all," said Mongan, "for he is coming
to complete his bargain."

"What bargain are you talking about?" Duv Laca asked. But Mongan
would not answer that.

"Let us go out," said he, "for we must go out."

Mongan and Duv Laca went out then and welcomed the King of
Leinster. They brought him and his chief men into the palace, and
water was brought for their baths, and rooms were appointed for
them, and everything was done that should be done for guests.

That night there was a feast, and after the feast there was a
banquet, and all through the feast and the banquet the King of
Leinster stared at Duv Laca with joy, and sometimes his breast
was delivered of great sighs, and at times he moved as though in
perturbation of spirit and mental agony.

"There is something wrong with the King of Leinster," Duv Laca

"I don't care if there is," said Mongan.

"You must ask what he wants."

"But I don't want to know it," said Mongan. "Nevertheless, you
musk ask him," she insisted.

So Mongan did ask him, and it was in a melancholy voice that he
asked it.

"Do you want anything?" said he to the King of Leinster.

"I do indeed," said Branduv.

"If it is in Ulster I will get it for you," said Mongan

"It is in Ulster," said Branduv.

Mongan did not want to say anything more then, but the King of
Leinster was so intent and everybody else was listening and Duv
Laca was nudging his arm, so he said: "What is it that you do
want?" "I want Duv Laca."

"I want her too," said Mongan.

"You made your bargain," said the King of Leinster, "my cows and
their calves for your Duv Laca, and the man that makes a bargain
keeps a bargain."

"I never before heard," said Mongan, "of a man giving away his
own wife."

"Even if you never heard of it before, you must do it now," said
Duv Laca, "for honour is longer than life."

Mongan became angry when Duv Laca said that. His face went red as
a sunset, and the veins swelled in his neck and his forehead.

"Do you say that?" he cried to Duv Laca.

"I do," said Duv Laca.

"Let the King of Leinster take her," said Mongan.


Duv Laca and the King of Leinster went apart then to speak
together, and the eye of the king seemed to be as big as a plate,
so fevered was it and so enlarged and inflamed by the look of Duv
Laca. He was so confounded with joy also that his words got mixed
up with his teeth, and Duv Laca did not know exactly what it was
he was trying to say, and he did not seem to know himself. But at
last he did say something intelligible, and this is what he said.

"I am a very happy man," said he.

"And I," said Duv Laca, "am the happiest woman in the world."

"Why should you be happy?" the astonished king demanded.

"Listen to me," she said. "If you tried to take me away from this
place against my own wish, one half of the men of Ulster would be
dead before you got me and the other half would be badly wounded
in my defence."

"A bargain is a bargain," the King of Leinster began.

"But," she continued, "they will not prevent my going away, for
they all know that I have been in love with you for ages."

"What have you been in with me for ages?" said the amazed king.

"In love with you," replied Duv Laca.

"This is news," said the king, "and it is good news."

"But, by my word," said Duv Laca, "I will not go with you unless
you grant me a boon."

"All that I have," cried Branduv, "and all that every-body has."

"And you must pass your word and pledge your word that you will
do what I ask."

"I pass it and pledge it," cried the joyful king.

"Then," said Duv Laca, "this is what I bind on you."

"Light the yolk!" he cried.

"Until one year is up and out you are not to pass the night in
any house that I am in."

"By my head and hand!" Branduv stammered.

"And if you come into a house where I am during the time and term
of that year, you are not to sit down in the chair that I am
sitting in."

"Heavy is my doom!" he groaned.

"But," said Duv Laca, "if I am sitting in a chair or a seat you
are to sit in a chair that is over against me and opposite to me
and at a distance from me."

"Alas!" said the king, and he smote his hands together, and then
he beat them on his head, and then he looked at them and at
everything about, and he could not tell what anything was or
where anything was, for his mind was clouded and his wits had
gone astray.

"Why do you bind these woes on me?" he pleaded.

"I wish to find out if you truly love me."

"But I do," said the king. "I love you madly and dearly, and with
all my faculties and members."

"That is the way ! love you," said Duv Laca. "We shall have a
notable year of courtship and joy. And let us go now," she
continued, "for I am impatient to be with you."

"Alas!" said Branduv, as he followed her. "Alas, alas!" said the
King of Leinster.


"I think," said the Flame Lady, "that whoever lost that woman had
no reason to be sad."

Mongan took her chin in his hand and kissed her lips.

"All that you say is lovely, for you are lovely," said he, "and
you are my delight and the joy of the world."

Then the attendants brought him wine, and he drank so joyously of
that and so deeply, that those who observed him thought he would
surely burst and drown them. But he laughed loudly and with
enormous delight, until the vessels of gold and silver and bronze
chimed mellowly to his peal and the rafters of the house went

Said he:


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