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

indelicate servant.

"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

his burrow.

"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

living haunch'."


"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,'

said he.

"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.