The Story Of Tuan Mac Cairill
: Irish Fairy Tales
Finnian, the Abbott of Moville, went southwards and eastwards in great
haste. News had come to him in Donegal that there were yet people in his
own province who believed in gods that he did not approve of, and the
gods that we do not approve of are treated scurvily, even by saintly
He was told of a powerful gentleman who observed neither Saint's day nor
"A powerful person!" said Finnian.
"All that," was the reply.
"We shall try this person's power," said Finnian.
"He is reputed to be a wise and hardy man," said his informant.
"We shall test his wisdom and his hardihood."
"He is," that gossip whispered--"he is a magician."
"I will magician him," cried Finnian angrily. "Where does that man
He was informed, and he proceeded to that direction without delay.
In no great time he came to the stronghold of the gentleman who followed
ancient ways, and he demanded admittance in order that he might preach
and prove the new God, and exorcise and terrify and banish even the
memory of the old one; for to a god grown old Time is as ruthless as to
a beggarman grown old.
But the Ulster gentleman refused Finnian admittance. He barricaded
his house, he shuttered his windows, and in a gloom of indignation and
protest he continued the practices of ten thousand years, and would
not hearken to Finnian calling at the window or to Time knocking at his
But of those adversaries it was the first he redoubted.
Finnian loomed on him as a portent and a terror; but he had no fear of
Time. Indeed he was the foster-brother of Time, and so disdainful of the
bitter god that he did not even disdain him; he leaped over the scythe,
he dodged under it, and the sole occasions on which Time laughs is when
he chances on Tuan, the son of Cairill, the son of Muredac Red-neck.
Now Finnian could not abide that any person should resist both the
Gospel and himself, and he proceeded to force the stronghold by peaceful
but powerful methods. He fasted on the gentleman, and he did so to such
purpose that he was admitted to the house; for to an hospitable heart
the idea that a stranger may expire on your doorstep from sheer famine
cannot be tolerated. The gentleman, however, did not give in without a
struggle: he thought that when Finnian had grown sufficiently hungry he
would lift the siege and take himself off to some place where he might
get food. But he did not know Finnian. The great abbot sat down on a
spot just beyond the door, and composed himself to all that might follow
from his action. He bent his gaze on the ground between his feet,
and entered into a meditation from which he would Only be released by
admission or death.
The first day passed quietly.
Often the gentleman would send a servitor to spy if that deserter of the
gods was still before his door, and each time the servant replied that
he was still there.
"He will be gone in the morning," said the hopeful master.
On the morrow the state of siege continued, and through that day the
servants were sent many times to observe through spy-holes.
"Go," he would say, "and find out if the worshipper of new gods has
taken himself away."
But the servants returned each time with the same information.
"The new druid is still there," they said.
All through that day no one could leave the stronghold. And the enforced
seclusion wrought on the minds of the servants, while the cessation
of all work banded them together in small groups that whispered and
discussed and disputed. Then these groups would disperse to peep through
the spy-hole at the patient, immobile figure seated before the door,
wrapped in a meditation that was timeless and unconcerned. They
took fright at the spectacle, and once or twice a woman screamed
hysterically, and was bundled away with a companion's hand clapped on
her mouth, so that the ear of their master should not be affronted.
"He has his own troubles," they said. "It is a combat of the gods that
is taking place."
So much for the women; but the men also were uneasy. They prowled up and
down, tramping from the spy-hole to the kitchen, and from the kitchen
to the turreted roof. And from the roof they would look down on the
motionless figure below, and speculate on many things, including
the staunchness of man, the qualities of their master, and even the
possibility that the new gods might be as powerful as the old.
From these peepings and discussions they would return languid and
"If," said one irritable guard, "if we buzzed a spear at the persistent
stranger, or if one slung at him with a jagged pebble!"
"What!" his master demanded wrathfully, "is a spear to be thrown at
an unarmed stranger? And from this house!" And he soundly cuffed that
"Be at peace all of you," he said, "for hunger has a whip, and he will
drive the stranger away in the night."
The household retired to wretched beds; but for the master of the house
there was no sleep. He marched his halls all night, going often to
the spy-hole to see if that shadow was still sitting in the shade, and
pacing thence, tormented, preoccupied, refusing even the nose of his
favourite dog as it pressed lovingly into his closed palm.
On the morrow he gave in.
The great door was swung wide, and two of his servants carried Finnian
into the house, for the saint could no longer walk or stand upright by
reason of the hunger and exposure to which he had submitted. But his
frame was tough as the unconquerable spirit that dwelt within it, and
in no long time he was ready for whatever might come of dispute or
Being quite re-established he undertook the conversion of the master of
the house, and the siege he laid against that notable intelligence was
long spoken of among those who are interested in such things.
He had beaten the disease of Mugain; he had beaten his own pupil the
great Colm Cille; he beat Tuan also, and just as the latter's door had
opened to the persistent stranger, so his heart opened, and Finnian
marched there to do the will of God, and his own will.
One day they were talking together about the majesty of God and His
love, for although Tuan had now received much instruction on this
subject he yet needed more, and he laid as close a siege on Finnian
as Finnian had before that laid on him. But man works outwardly and
inwardly. After rest he has energy, after energy he needs repose; so,
when we have given instruction for a time, we need instruction, and must
receive it or the spirit faints and wisdom herself grows bitter.
Therefore Finnian said: "Tell me now about yourself, dear heart."
But Tuan was avid of information about the True God. "No, no," he
said, "the past has nothing more of interest for me, and I do not wish
anything to come between my soul and its instruction; continue to teach
me, dear friend and saintly father."
"I will do that," Finnian replied, "but I must first meditate deeply on
you, and must know you well. Tell me your past, my beloved, for a man is
his past, and is to be known by it."
But Tuan pleaded: "Let the past be content with itself, for man needs
forgetfulness as well as memory."
"My son," said Finnian, "all that has ever been done has been done for
the glory of God, and to confess our good and evil deeds is part of
instruction; for the soul must recall its acts and abide by them, or
renounce them by confession and penitence. Tell me your genealogy first,
and by what descent you occupy these lands and stronghold, and then I
will examine your acts and your conscience."
Tuan replied obediently: "I am known as Tuan, son of Cairill, son of
Muredac Red-neck, and these are the hereditary lands of my father."
The saint nodded.
"I am not as well acquainted with Ulster genealogies as I should be, yet
I know something of them. I am by blood a Leinsterman," he continued.
"Mine is a long pedigree," Tuan murmured.
Finnian received that information with respect and interest.
"I also," he said, "have an honourable record."
His host continued: "I am indeed Tuan, the son of Starn, the son of
Sera, who was brother to Partholon."
"But," said Finnian in bewilderment, "there is an error here, for you
have recited two different genealogies."
"Different genealogies, indeed," replied Tuan thoughtfully, "but they
are my genealogies."
"I do not understand this," Finnian declared roundly.
"I am now known as Tuan mac Cairill," the other replied, "but in the
days of old I was known as Tuan mac Starn, mac Sera."
"The brother of Partholon," the saint gasped.
"That is my pedigree," Tuan said.
"But," Finnian objected in bewilderment, "Partholon came to Ireland not
long after the Flood."
"I came with him," said Tuan mildly.
The saint pushed his chair back hastily, and sat staring at his host,
and as he stared the blood grew chill in his veins, and his hair crept
along his scalp and stood on end.
But Finnian was not one who remained long in bewilderment. He thought on
the might of God and he became that might, and was tranquil.
He was one who loved God and Ireland, and to the person who could
instruct him in these great themes he gave all the interest of his mind
and the sympathy of his heart.
"It is a wonder you tell me, my beloved," he said. "And now you must
tell me more."
"What must I tell?" asked Tuan resignedly.
"Tell me of the beginning of time in Ireland, and of the bearing of
Partholon, the son of Noah's son."
"I have almost forgotten him," said Tuan. "A greatly bearded, greatly
shouldered man he was. A man of sweet deeds and sweet ways."
"Continue, my love," said Finnian.
"He came to Ireland in a ship. Twenty-four men and twenty-four women
came with him. But before that time no man had come to Ireland, and in
the western parts of the world no human being lived or moved. As we drew
on Ireland from the sea the country seemed like an unending forest. Far
as the eye could reach, and in whatever direction, there were trees; and
from these there came the unceasing singing of birds. Over all that land
the sun shone warm and beautiful, so that to our sea-weary eyes, our
wind-tormented ears, it seemed as if we were driving on Paradise.
"We landed and we heard the rumble of water going gloomily through the
darkness of the forest. Following the water we came to a glade where
the sun shone and where the earth was warmed, and there Partholon rested
with his twenty-four couples, and made a city and a livelihood.
"There were fish in the rivers of Eire', there were animals in her
coverts. Wild and shy and monstrous creatures ranged in her plains and
forests. Creatures that one could see through and walk through. Long we
lived in ease, and we saw new animals grow,--the bear, the wolf, the
badger, the deer, and the boar.
"Partholon's people increased until from twenty-four couples there came
five thousand people, who lived in amity and contentment although they
had no wits."
"They had no wits!" Finnian commented.
"They had no need of wits," Tuan said.
"I have heard that the first-born were mindless," said Finnian.
"Continue your story, my beloved."
"Then, sudden as a rising wind, between one night and a morning, there
came a sickness that bloated the stomach and purpled the skin, and on
the seventh day all of the race of Partholon were dead, save one man
only." "There always escapes one man," said Finnian thoughtfully.
"And I am that man," his companion affirmed.
Tuan shaded his brow with his hand, and he remembered backwards through
incredible ages to the beginning of the world and the first days of
Eire'. And Finnian, with his blood again running chill and his scalp
crawling uneasily, stared backwards with him.
"Tell on, my love," Finnian murmured
"I was alone," said Tuan. "I was so alone that my own shadow frightened
me. I was so alone that the sound of a bird in flight, or the creaking
of a dew-drenched bough, whipped me to cover as a rabbit is scared to
"The creatures of the forest scented me and knew I was alone. They stole
with silken pad behind my back and snarled when I faced them; the long,
grey wolves with hanging tongues and staring eyes chased me to my cleft
rock; there was no creature so weak but it might hunt me, there was no
creature so timid but it might outface me. And so I lived for two tens
of years and two years, until I knew all that a beast surmises and had
forgotten all that a man had known.
"I could pad as gently as any; I could run as tirelessly. I could be
invisible and patient as a wild cat crouching among leaves; I could
smell danger in my sleep and leap at it with wakeful claws; I could bark
and growl and clash with my teeth and tear with them."
"Tell on, my beloved," said Finnian, "you shall rest in God, dear
"At the end of that time," said Tuan, "Nemed the son of Agnoman came to
Ireland with a fleet of thirty-four barques, and in each barque there
were thirty couples of people."
"I have heard it," said Finnian.
"My heart leaped for joy when I saw the great fleet rounding the land,
and I followed them along scarped cliffs, leaping from rock to rock like
a wild goat, while the ships tacked and swung seeking a harbour. There I
stooped to drink at a pool, and I saw myself in the chill water.
"I saw that I was hairy and tufty and bristled as a savage boar; that I
was lean as a stripped bush; that I was greyer than a badger; withered
and wrinkled like an empty sack; naked as a fish; wretched as a starving
crow in winter; and on my fingers and toes there were great curving
claws, so that I looked like nothing that was known, like nothing that
was animal or divine. And I sat by the pool weeping my loneliness and
wildness and my stern old age; and I could do no more than cry and
lament between the earth and the sky, while the beasts that tracked me
listened from behind the trees, or crouched among bushes to stare at me
from their drowsy covert.
"A storm arose, and when I looked again from my tall cliff I saw that
great fleet rolling as in a giant's hand. At times they were pitched
against the sky and staggered aloft, spinning gustily there like
wind-blown leaves. Then they were hurled from these dizzy tops to the
flat, moaning gulf, to the glassy, inky horror that swirled and whirled
between ten waves. At times a wave leaped howling under a ship, and with
a buffet dashed it into air, and chased it upwards with thunder stroke
on stroke, and followed again, close as a chasing wolf, trying with
hammering on hammering to beat in the wide-wombed bottom and suck out
the frightened lives through one black gape. A wave fell on a ship and
sunk it down with a thrust, stern as though a whole sky had tumbled at
it, and the barque did not cease to go down until it crashed and sank in
the sand at the bottom of the sea.
"The night came, and with it a thousand darknesses fell from the
screeching sky. Not a round-eyed creature of the night might pierce an
inch of that multiplied gloom. Not a creature dared creep or stand. For
a great wind strode the world lashing its league-long whips in cracks
of thunder, and singing to itself, now in a world-wide yell, now in an
ear-dizzying hum and buzz; or with a long snarl and whine it hovered
over the world searching for life to destroy.
"And at times, from the moaning and yelping blackness of the sea, there
came a sound--thin-drawn as from millions of miles away, distinct as
though uttered in the ear like a whisper of confidence--and I knew that
a drowning man was calling on his God as he thrashed and was battered
into silence, and that a blue-lipped woman was calling on her man as her
hair whipped round her brows and she whirled about like a top.
"Around me the trees were dragged from earth with dying groans; they
leaped into the air and flew like birds. Great waves whizzed from the
sea: spinning across the cliffs and hurtling to the earth in monstrous
clots of foam; the very rocks came trundling and sidling and grinding
among the trees; and in that rage, and in that horror of blackness I
fell asleep, or I was beaten into slumber."
"THERE I dreamed, and I saw myself changing into a stag in dream, and
I felt in dream the beating of a new heart within me, and in dream I
arched my neck and braced my powerful limbs.
"I awoke from the dream, and I was that which I had dreamed.
"I stood a while stamping upon a rock, with my bristling head swung
high, breathing through wide nostrils all the savour of the world. For
I had come marvellously from decrepitude to strength. I had writhed from
the bonds of age and was young again. I smelled the turf and knew for
the first time how sweet that smelled. And like lightning my moving nose
sniffed all things to my heart and separated them into knowledge.
"Long I stood there, ringing my iron hoof on stone, and learning all
things through my nose. Each breeze that came from the right hand or the
left brought me a tale. A wind carried me the tang of wolf, and against
that smell I stared and stamped. And on a wind there came the scent of
my own kind, and at that I belled. Oh, loud and clear and sweet was the
voice of the great stag. With what ease my lovely note went lilting.
With what joy I heard the answering call. With what delight I bounded,
bounded, bounded; light as a bird's plume, powerful as a storm, untiring
as the sea.
"Here now was ease in ten-yard springings, with a swinging head, with
the rise and fall of a swallow, with the curve and flow and urge of an
otter of the sea. What a tingle dwelt about my heart! What a thrill spun
to the lofty points of my antlers! How the world was new! How the sun
was new! How the wind caressed me!
"With unswerving forehead and steady eye I met all that came. The old,
lone wolf leaped sideways, snarling, and slunk away. The lumbering bear
swung his head of hesitations and thought again; he trotted his small
red eye away with him to a near-by brake. The stags of my race fled from
my rocky forehead, or were pushed back and back until their legs broke
under them and I trampled them to death. I was the beloved, the well
known, the leader of the herds of Ireland.
"And at times I came back from my boundings about Eire', for the strings
of my heart were drawn to Ulster; and, standing away, my wide nose took
the air, while I knew with joy, with terror, that men were blown on the
wind. A proud head hung to the turf then, and the tears of memory rolled
from a large, bright eye.
"At times I drew near, delicately, standing among thick leaves or
crouched in long grown grasses, and I stared and mourned as I looked on
men. For Nemed and four couples had been saved from that fierce storm,
and I saw them increase and multiply until four thousand couples lived
and laughed and were riotous in the sun, for the people of Nemed had
small minds but great activity. They were savage fighters and hunters.
"But one time I came, drawn by that intolerable anguish of memory, and
all of these people were gone: the place that knew them was silent: in
the land where they had moved there was nothing of them but their bones
that glinted in the sun.
"Old age came on me there. Among these bones weariness crept into my
limbs. My head grew heavy, my eyes dim, my knees jerked and trembled,
and there the wolves dared chase me.
"I went again to the cave that had been my home when I was an old man.
"One day I stole from the cave to snatch a mouthful of grass, for I was
closely besieged by wolves. They made their rush, and I barely escaped
from them. They sat beyond the cave staring at me.
"I knew their tongue. I knew all that they said to each other, and all
that they said to me. But there was yet a thud left in my forehead, a
deadly trample in my hoof. They did not dare come into the cave.
"'To-morrow,' they said, 'we will tear out your throat, and gnaw on your
"Then my soul rose to the height of Doom, and I intended all that might
happen to me, and agreed to it.
"'To-morrow,' I said, 'I will go out among ye, and I will die,' and at
that the wolves howled joyfully, hungrily, impatiently.
"I slept, and I saw myself changing into a boar in dream, and I felt in
dream the beating of a new heart within me, and in dream I stretched my
powerful neck and braced my eager limbs. I awoke from my dream, and I
was that which I had dreamed.
"The night wore away, the darkness lifted, the day came; and from
without the cave the wolves called to me: "'Come out, O Skinny Stag.
Come out and die.'
"And I, with joyful heart, thrust a black bristle through the hole of
the cave, and when they saw that wriggling snout, those curving tusks,
that red fierce eye, the wolves fled yelping, tumbling over each other,
frantic with terror; and I behind them, a wild cat for leaping, a giant
for strength, a devil for ferocity; a madness and gladness of lusty,
unsparing life; a killer, a champion, a boar who could not be defied.
"I took the lordship of the boars of Ireland.
"Wherever I looked among my tribes I saw love and obedience: whenever
I appeared among the strangers they fled away. And the wolves feared me
then, and the great, grim bear went bounding on heavy paws. I charged
him at the head of my troop and rolled him over and over; but it is not
easy to kill the bear, so deeply is his life packed under that stinking
pelt. He picked himself up and ran, and was knocked down, and ran again
blindly, butting into trees and stones. Not a claw did the big bear
flash, not a tooth did he show, as he ran whimpering like a baby, or
as he stood with my nose rammed against his mouth, snarling up into his
"I challenged all that moved. All creatures but one. For men had again
come to Ireland. Semion, the son of Stariath, with his people, from whom
the men of Domnann and the Fir Bolg and the Galiuin are descended. These
I did not chase, and when they chased me I fled.
"Often I would go, drawn by my memoried heart, to look at them as they
moved among their fields; and I spoke to my mind in bitterness: 'When
the people of Partholon were gathered in counsel my voice was heard; it
was sweet to all who heard it, and the words I spoke were wise. The eyes
of women brightened and softened when they looked at me. They loved to
hear him when he sang who now wanders in the forest with a tusky herd.'"
"OLD age again overtook me. Weariness stole into my limbs, and anguish
dozed into my mind. I went to my Ulster cave and dreamed my dream, and I
changed into a hawk.
"I left the ground. The sweet air was my kingdom, and my bright eye
stared on a hundred miles. I soared, I swooped; I hung, motionless as a
living stone, over the abyss; I lived in joy and slept in peace, and had
my fill of the sweetness of life.
"During that time Beothach, the son of Iarbonel the Prophet, came to
Ireland with his people, and there was a great battle between his men
and the children of Semion. Long I hung over that combat, seeing every
spear that hurtled, every stone that whizzed from a sling, every sword
that flashed up and down, and the endless glittering of the shields. And
at the end I saw that the victory was with Iarbonel. And from his people
the Tuatha De' and the Ande' came, although their origin is forgotten,
and learned people, because of their excellent wisdom and intelligence,
say that they came from heaven.
"These are the people of Faery. All these are the gods.
"For long, long years I was a hawk. I knew every hill and stream; every
field and glen of Ireland. I knew the shape of cliffs and coasts, and
how all places looked under the sun or moon. And I was still a hawk when
the sons of Mil drove the Tuatha De' Danann under the ground, and held
Ireland against arms or wizardry; and this was the coming of men and the
beginning of genealogies.
"Then I grew old, and in my Ulster cave close to the sea I dreamed my
dream, and in it I became a salmon. The green tides of ocean rose over
me and my dream, so that I drowned in the sea and did not die, for I
awoke in deep waters, and I was that which I dreamed. I had been a man,
a stag, a boar, a bird, and now I was a fish. In all my changes I had
joy and fulness of life. But in the water joy lay deeper, life pulsed
deeper. For on land or air there is always something excessive and
hindering; as arms that swing at the sides of a man, and which the
mind must remember. The stag has legs to be tucked away for sleep, and
untucked for movement; and the bird has wings that must be folded and
pecked and cared for. But the fish has but one piece from his nose to
his tail. He is complete, single and unencumbered. He turns in one turn,
and goes up and down and round in one sole movement.
"How I flew through the soft element: how I joyed in the country where
there is no harshness: in the element which upholds and gives way; which
caresses and lets go, and will not let you fall. For man may stumble in
a furrow; the stag tumble from a cliff; the hawk, wing-weary and beaten,
with darkness around him and the storm behind, may dash his brains
against a tree. But the home of the salmon is his delight, and the sea
guards all her creatures."
"I became the king of the salmon, and, with my multitudes, I ranged on
the tides of the world. Green and purple distances were under me: green
and gold the sunlit regions above. In these latitudes I moved through a
world of amber, myself amber and gold; in those others, in a sparkle
of lucent blue, I curved, lit like a living jewel: and in these again,
through dusks of ebony all mazed with silver, I shot and shone, the
wonder of the sea.
"I saw the monsters of the uttermost ocean go heaving by; and the long
lithe brutes that are toothed to their tails: and below, where gloom
dipped down on gloom, vast, livid tangles that coiled and uncoiled, and
lapsed down steeps and hells of the sea where even the salmon could not
"I knew the sea. I knew the secret caves where ocean roars to ocean; the
floods that are icy cold, from which the nose of a salmon leaps back as
at a sting; and the warm streams in which we rocked and dozed and were
carried forward without motion. I swam on the outermost rim of the great
world, where nothing was but the sea and the sky and the salmon; where
even the wind was silent, and the water was clear as clean grey rock.
"And then, far away in the sea, I remembered Ulster, and there came on
me an instant, uncontrollable anguish to be there. I turned, and through
days and nights I swam tirelessly, jubilantly; with terror wakening in
me, too, and a whisper through my being that I must reach Ireland or
"I fought my way to Ulster from the sea.
"Ah, how that end of the journey was hard! A sickness was racking in
every one of my bones, a languor and weariness creeping through my every
fibre and muscle. The waves held me back and held me back; the soft
waters seemed to have grown hard; and it was as though I were urging
through a rock as I strained towards Ulster from the sea.
"So tired I was! I could have loosened my frame and been swept away;
I could have slept and been drifted and wafted away; swinging on
grey-green billows that had turned from the land and were heaving and
mounting and surging to the far blue water.
"Only the unconquerable heart of the salmon could brave that end of
toil. The sound of the rivers of Ireland racing down to the sea came to
me in the last numb effort: the love of Ireland bore me up: the gods of
the rivers trod to me in the white-curled breakers, so that I left
the sea at long, long last; and I lay in sweet water in the curve of a
crannied rock, exhausted, three parts dead, triumphant."
"Delight and strength came to me again, and now I explored all the
inland ways, the great lakes of Ireland, and her swift brown rivers.
"What a joy to lie under an inch of water basking in the sun, or beneath
a shady ledge to watch the small creatures that speed like lightning on
the rippling top. I saw the dragon-flies flash and dart and turn, with
a poise, with a speed that no other winged thing knows: I saw the hawk
hover and stare and swoop: he fell like a falling stone, but he could
not catch the king of the salmon: I saw the cold-eyed cat stretching
along a bough level with the water, eager to hook and lift the creatures
of the river. And I saw men.
"They saw me also. They came to know me and look for me. They lay in
wait at the waterfalls up which I leaped like a silver flash. They held
out nets for me; they hid traps under leaves; they made cords of the
colour of water, of the colour of weeds--but this salmon had a nose that
knew how a weed felt and how a string--they drifted meat on a sightless
string, but I knew of the hook; they thrust spears at me, and threw
lances which they drew back again with a cord. Many a wound I got from
men, many a sorrowful scar.
"Every beast pursued me in the waters and along the banks; the barking,
black-skinned otter came after me in lust and gust and swirl; the wild
cat fished for me; the hawk and the steep-winged, spear-beaked birds
dived down on me, and men crept on me with nets the width of a river,
so that I got no rest. My life became a ceaseless scurry and wound and
escape, a burden and anguish of watchfulness--and then I was caught."
"THE fisherman of Cairill, the King of Ulster, took me in his net. Ah,
that was a happy man when he saw me! He shouted for joy when he saw the
great salmon in his net.
"I was still in the water as he hauled delicately. I was still in the
water as he pulled me to the bank. My nose touched air and spun from it
as from fire, and I dived with all my might against the bottom of the
net, holding yet to the water, loving it, mad with terror that I must
quit that loveliness. But the net held and I came up.
"'Be quiet, King of the River,' said the fisherman, 'give in to Doom,'
"I was in air, and it was as though I were in fire. The air pressed on
me like a fiery mountain. It beat on my scales and scorched them. It
rushed down my throat and scalded me. It weighed on me and squeezed me,
so that my eyes felt as though they must burst from my head, my head as
though it would leap from my body, and my body as though it would swell
and expand and fly in a thousand pieces.
"The light blinded me, the heat tormented me, the dry air made me
shrivel and gasp; and, as he lay on the grass, the great salmon whirled
his desperate nose once more to the river, and leaped, leaped, leaped,
even under the mountain of air. He could leap upwards, but not forwards,
and yet he leaped, for in each rise he could see the twinkling waves,
the rippling and curling waters.
"'Be at ease, O King,' said the fisherman. 'Be at rest, my beloved. Let
go the stream. Let the oozy marge be forgotten, and the sandy bed where
the shades dance all in green and gloom, and the brown flood sings
"And as he carried me to the palace he sang a song of the river, and a
song of Doom, and a song in praise of the King of the Waters.
"When the king's wife saw me she desired me. I was put over a fire and
roasted, and she ate me. And when time passed she gave birth to me, and
I was her son and the son of Cairill the king. I remember warmth and
darkness and movement and unseen sounds. All that happened I remember,
from the time I was on the gridiron until the time I was born. I forget
nothing of these things."
"And now," said Finnian, "you will be born again, for I shall baptize
you into the family of the Living God." ---- So far the story of Tuan,
the son of Cairill.
No man knows if he died in those distant ages when Finnian was Abbot of
Moville, or if he still keeps his fort in Ulster, watching all things,
and remembering them for the glory of God and the honour of Ireland.