| The Carl Of The Drab Coat |
E ATE OF these until he was no more than a sack of juice, and when he heard the humming and buzzing of Cael of the Iron he mourned and lamented that he could not wait to eat his fill He took off his coat, stuffed it full of blackberries, swung it on his shoulders, and went bounding stoutly and nimbly for Ben Edair.
It would be hard to tell of the terror that was in Fionn's breast and in the hearts of the Fianna while they attended the conclusion of that race.
They discussed it unendingly, and at some moment of the day a man upbraided Fionn because he had not found Caelte the son of Rona'n as had been agreed on.
"There is no one can run like Caelte," one man averred.
"He covers the ground," said another.
"He is light as a feather."
"Swift as a stag." "Lunged like a bull."
"Legged like a wolf."
These things were said to Fionn, and Fionn said these things to himself.
With every passing minute a drop of lead thumped down into every heart, and a pang of despair stabbed up to every brain.
"Go," said Fionn to a hawk-eyed man, "go to the top of this hill and watch for the coming of the racers."
And he sent lithe men with him so that they might run back in endless succession with the news.
The messengers began to run through his tent at minute intervals calling "nothing," "nothing," "nothing," as they paused and darted away.
And the words, "nothing, nothing, nothing," began to drowse into the brains of every person present.
"What can we hope from that Carl?" a champion demanded savagely.
"Nothing," cried a messenger who stood and sped.
"A clump!" cried a champion.
"A hog!" said another.
"Did you think, Fionn, that a whale could swim on land, or what did you imagine that lump could do?"
"Nothing," cried a messenger, and was sped as he spoke.
Rage began to gnaw in Fionn's soul, and a red haze danced and flickered before his eyes. His hands began to twitch and a desire crept over him to seize on champions by the neck, and to shake and worry and rage among them like a wild dog raging among sheep.
He looked on one, and yet he seemed to look on all at once.
"Be silent," he growled. "Let each man be silent as a dead man."
And he sat forward, seeing all, seeing none, with his mouth drooping open, and such a wildness and bristle lowering from that great glum brow that the champions shivered as though already in the chill of death, and were silent.
He rose and stalked to the tent-door.
"Where to, O Fionn?" said a champion humbly.
"To the hill-top," said Fionn, and he stalked on.
They followed him, whispering among themselves, keeping their eyes on the ground as they climbed.
"What do you see?" Fionn demanded of the watcher.
"Nothing," that man replied.
"Look again," said Fionn.
The eagle-eyed man lifted a face, thin and sharp as though it had been carven on the wind, and he stared forward with an immobile intentness.
"What do you see?" said Fionn.
"Nothing," the man replied.
"I will look myself," said Fionn, and his great brow bent forward and gloomed afar.
The watcher stood beside, staring with his tense face and unwinking, lidless eye.
"What can you see, O Fionn?" said the watcher.
"I can see nothing," said Fionn, and he projected again his grim, gaunt forehead. For it seemed as if the watcher stared with his whole face, aye, and with his hands; but Fionn brooded weightedly on distance with his puckered and crannied brow.
They looked again.
"What can you see?" said Fionn.
"I see nothing," said the watcher.
"I do not know if I see or if I surmise, but something moves," said Fionn. "There is a trample," he said.
The watcher became then an eye, a rigidity, an intense out-thrusting and ransacking of thin-spun distance. At last he spoke.
"There is a dust," he said.
And at that the champions gazed also, straining hungrily afar, until their eyes became filled with a blue darkness and they could no longer see even the things that were close to them.
"I," cried Cona'n triumphantly, "I see a dust."
"And I," cried another.
"I see a man," said the eagle-eyed watcher.