HE STOPPED AT that, and the terror that was in her heart was on her face. "He is everywhere," she whispered. "He is in the bushes, and on the hill. He looked up at me from the water, and he stared down on me from the sky. His voice commands out of the spaces, and it demands secretly in the heart. He is not here or there, he is in all places at all times. I cannot escape from him," she said, "and I am afraid," and at that she wept noiselessly and stared on Fionn.
"He is my enemy," Fionn growled. "I name him as my enemy."
"You will protect me," she implored.
"Where I am let him not come," said Fionn. "I also have knowledge. I am Fionn, the son of Uail, the son of Baiscne, a man among men and a god where the gods are."
"He asked me in marriage," she continued, "but my mind was full of my own dear hero, and I refused the Dark Man."
"That was your right, and I swear by my hand that if the man you desire is alive and unmarried he shall marry you or he will answer to me for the refusal."
"He is not married," said Saeve, "and you have small control over him." The Chief frowned thoughtfully. "Except the High King and the kings I have authority in this land."
"What man has authority over himself?" said Saeve.
"Do you mean that I am the man you seek?" said Fionn.
"It is to yourself I gave my love," she replied. "This is good news," Fionn cried joyfully, "for the moment you came through the door I loved and desired you, and the thought that you wished for another man went into my heart like a sword." Indeed, Fionn loved Saeve as he had not loved a woman before and would never love one again. He loved her as he had never loved anything before. He could not bear to be away from her. When he saw her he did not see the world, and when he saw the world without her it was as though he saw nothing, or as if he looked on a prospect that was bleak and depressing. The belling of a stag had been music to Fionn, but when Saeve spoke that was sound enough for him. He had loved to hear the cuckoo calling in the spring from the tree that is highest in the hedge, or the blackbird's jolly whistle in an autumn bush, or the thin, sweet enchantment that comes to the mind when a lark thrills out of sight in the air and the hushed fields listen to the song. But his wife's voice was sweeter to Fionn than the singing of a lark. She filled him with wonder and surmise. There was magic in the tips of her fingers. Her thin palm ravished him. Her slender foot set his heart beating; and whatever way her head moved there came a new shape of beauty to her face.
"She is always new," said Fionn. "She is always better than any other woman; she is always better than herself."
He attended no more to the Fianna. He ceased to hunt. He did not listen to the songs of poets or the curious sayings of magicians, for all of these were in his wife, and something that was beyond these was in her also.
"She is this world and the next one; she is completion," said Fionn.
It happened that the men of Lochlann came on an expedition against Ireland. A monstrous fleet rounded the bluffs of Ben Edair, and the Danes landed there, to prepare an attack which would render them masters of the country. Fionn and the Fianna-Finn marched against them. He did not like the men of Lochlann at any time, but this time he moved against them in wrath, for not only were they attacking Ireland, but they had come between him and the deepest joy his life had known.
It was a hard fight, but a short one. The Lochlannachs were driven back to their ships, and within a week the only Danes remaining in Ireland were those that had been buried there.
That finished, he left the victorious Fianna and returned swiftly to the plain of Allen, for he could not bear to be one unnecessary day parted from Saeve.
"You are not leaving us!" exclaimed Goll mac Morna.
"I must go," Fionn replied.
"You will not desert the victory feast," Conan reproached him.
"Stay with us, Chief," Caelte begged.
"What is a feast without Fionn?" they complained.
But he would not stay.
"By my hand," he cried, "I must go. She will be looking for me from the window."
"That will happen indeed," Goll admitted.
"That will happen," cried Fionn. "And when she sees me far out on the plain, she will run through the great gate to meet me."
"It would be the queer wife would neglect that run," Cona'n growled.
"I shall hold her hand again," Fionn entrusted to Caelte's ear.
"You will do that, surely."
"I shall look into her face," his lord insisted. But he saw that not even beloved Caelte understood the meaning of that, and he knew sadly and yet proudly that what he meant could not be explained by any one and could not be comprehended by any one.
"You are in love, dear heart," said Caelte.
"In love he is," Cona'n grumbled. "A cordial for women, a disease for men, a state of wretchedness."
"Wretched in truth," the Chief murmured. "Love makes us poor We have not eyes enough to see all that is to be seen, nor hands enough to seize the tenth of all we want. When I look in her eyes I am tormented because I am not looking at her lips, and when I see her lips my soul cries out, 'Look at her eyes, look at her eyes.'"
"That is how it happens," said Goll rememberingly.
"That way and no other," Caelte agreed.
And the champions looked backwards in time on these lips and those, and knew their Chief would go.
When Fionn came in sight of the great keep his blood and his feet quickened, and now and again he waved a spear in the air.
"She does not see me yet," he thought mournfully.
"She cannot see me yet," he amended, reproaching himself.
But his mind was troubled, for he thought also, or he felt without thinking, that had the positions been changed he would have seen her at twice the distance.
"She thinks I have been unable to get away from the battle, or that I was forced to remain for the feast."
And, without thinking it, he thought that had the positions been changed he would have known that nothing could retain the one that was absent.
"Women," he said, "are shamefaced, they do not like to appear eager when others are observing them."
But he knew that he would not have known if others were observing him, and that he would not have cared about it if he had known. And he knew that his Saeve would not have seen, and would not have cared for any eyes than his.
He gripped his spear on that reflection, and ran as he had not run in his life, so that it was a panting, dishevelled man that raced heavily through the gates of the great Dun.