E PICKED UP the dog, but it did not snap, it only trembled. He held it gingerly for a few moments.
"If it has to be hugged," he said, "I'll hug it. I'd do more than that for Fionn."
He tucked and tightened the animal into his breast, and marched moodily up and down the room. The dog's nose lay along his breast under his chin, and as he gave it dutiful hugs, one hug to every five paces, the dog put out its tongue and licked him timidly under the chin.
"Stop," roared Fergus, "stop that forever," and he grew very red in the face, and stared truculently down along his nose. A soft brown eye looked up at him and the shy tongue touched again on his chin.
"If it has to be kissed," said Fergus gloomily, "I'll kiss it; I'd do more than that for Fionn," he groaned.
He bent his head, shut his eyes, and brought the dog's jaw against his lips. And at that the dog gave little wriggles in his arms, and little barks, and little licks, so that he could scarcely hold her. He put the hound down at last.
"There is not a single shiver left in her," he said.
And that was true.
Everywhere he walked the dog followed him, giving little prances and little pats against him, and keeping her eyes fixed on his with such eagerness and intelligence that he marvelled.
"That dog likes me," he murmured in amazement.
"By my hand," he cried next day, "I like that dog."
The day after that he was calling her "My One Treasure, My Little Branch." And within a week he could not bear her to be out of his sight for an instant.
He was tormented by the idea that some evil person might throw a stone at the hound, so he assembled his servants and retainers and addressed them.
He told them that the hound was the Queen of Creatures, the Pulse of his Heart, and the Apple of his Eye, and he warned them that the person who as much as looked sideways on her, or knocked one shiver out of her, would answer for the deed with pains and indignities. He recited a list of calamities which would befall such a miscreant, and these woes began with flaying and ended with dismemberment, and had inside bits of such complicated and ingenious torment that the blood of the men who heard it ran chill in their veins, and the women of the household fainted where they stood.
In course of time the news came to Fionn that his mother's sister was not living with Iollan. He at once sent a messenger calling for fulfilment of the pledge that had been given to the Fianna, and demanding the instant return of Tuiren. Iollan was in a sad condition when this demand was made. He guessed that Uct Dealv had a hand in the disappearance of his queen, and he begged that time should be given him in which to find the lost girl. He promised if he could not discover her within a certain period that he would deliver his body into Fionn's hands, and would abide by whatever judgement Fionn might pronounce. The great captain agreed to that.
"Tell the wife-loser that I will have the girl or I will have his head," said Fionn.
Iollan set out then for Faery. He knew the way, and in no great time he came to the hill where Uct Dealv was.
It was hard to get Uct Dealv to meet him, but at last she consented, and they met under the apple boughs of Faery.
"Well!" said Uct Dealv. "Ah! Breaker of Vows and Traitor to Love," said she.
"Hail and a blessing," said Iollan humbly.
"By my hand," she cried, "I will give you no blessing, for it was no blessing you left with me when we parted."
"I am in danger," said Iollan.
"What is that to me?" she replied fiercely.
"Fionn may claim my head," he murmured.
"Let him claim what he can take," said she.
"No," said Iollan proudly, "he will claim what I can give."
"Tell me your tale," said she coldly.
Iollan told his story then, and, he concluded, "I am certain that you have hidden the girl."
"If I save your head from Fionn," the woman of the Shi' replied, "then your head will belong to me."
"That is true," said Iollan.
"And if your head is mine, the body that goes under it is mine. Do you agree to that?"
"I do," said Iollan.
"Give me your pledge," said Uct Dealv, "that if I save you from this danger you will keep me as your sweetheart until the end of life and time."
"I give that pledge," said Iollan.
Uct Dealv went then to the house of Fergus Fionnliath, and she broke the enchantment that was on the hound, so that Tuiren's own shape came back to her; but in the matter of two small whelps, to which the hound had given birth, the enchantment could not be broken, so they had to remain as they were. These two whelps were Bran and Sceo'lan. They were sent to Fionn, and he loved them for ever after, for they were loyal and affectionate, as only dogs can be, and they were as intelligent as human beings. Besides that, they were Fionn's own cousins.
Tuiren was then asked in marriage by Lugaidh who had loved her so long. He had to prove to her that he was not any other woman's sweetheart, and when he proved that they were married, and they lived happily ever after, which is the proper way to live. He wrote a poem beginning: "Lovely the day. Dear is the eye of the dawn--"
And a thousand merry people learned it after him.
But as to Fergus Fionnliath, he took to his bed, and he stayed there for a year and a day suffering from blighted affection, and he would have died in the bed only that Fionn sent him a special pup, and in a week that young hound became the Star of Fortune and the very Pulse of his Heart, so that he got well again, and he also lived happily ever after.