| The Little Brawl At Allen |
THINK," SAID Cairell Whiteskin, "that although judgement was given against Fionn, it was Fionn had the rights of it."
"He had eleven hundred killed," said Cona'n amiably, "and you may call that the rights of it if you like."
"All the same-- " Cairell began argumentatively.
"And it was you that commenced it," Cona'n continued.
"Ho! Ho!" Cairell cried. "Why, you are as much to blame as I am."
"No," said Cona'n, "for you hit me first."
"And if we had not been separated-- "the other growled.
"Separated!" said Cona'n, with a grin that made his beard poke all around his face.
"Yes, separated. If they had not come between us I still think-- "
"Don't think out loud, dear heart, for you and I are at peace by law."
"That is true," said Cairell, "and a man must stick by a judgement. Come with me, my dear, and let us see how the youngsters are shaping in the school. One of them has rather a way with him as a swordsman."
"No youngster is any good with a sword," Conan replied.
"You are right there," said Cairell. "It takes a good ripe man for that weapon."
"Boys are good enough with slings," Confro continued, "but except for eating their fill and running away from a fight, you can't count on boys."
The two bulky men turned towards the school of the Fianna.
It happened that Fionn mac Uail had summoned the gentlemen of the Fianna and their wives to a banquet. Everybody came, for a banquet given by Fionn was not a thing to be missed. There was Goll mor mac Morna and his people; Fionn's son Oisi'n and his grandson Oscar. There was Dermod of the Gay Face, Caelte mac Ronan--but indeed there were too many to be told of, for all the pillars of war and battle-torches of the Gael were there.
The banquet began.
Fionn sat in the Chief Captain's seat in the middle of the fort; and facing him, in the place of honour, he placed the mirthful Goll mac Morna; and from these, ranging on either side, the nobles of the Fianna took each the place that fitted his degree and patrimony.
After good eating, good conversation; and after good conversation, sleep--that is the order of a banquet: so when each person had been served with food to the limit of desire the butlers carried in shining, and jewelled drinking-horns, each having its tide of smooth, heady liquor. Then the young heroes grew merry and audacious, the ladies became gentle and kind, and the poets became wonders of knowledge and prophecy. Every eye beamed in that assembly, and on Fionn every eye was turned continually in the hope of a glance from the great, mild hero.
Goll spoke to him across the table enthusiastically.
"There is nothing wanting to this banquet, O Chief," said he.
And Fionn smiled back into that eye which seemed a well of tenderness and friendship.
"Nothing is wanting," he replied, "but a well-shaped poem." A crier stood up then, holding in one hand a length of coarse iron links and in the other a chain of delicate, antique silver. He shook the iron chain so that the servants and followers of the household should be silent, and he shook the silver one so that the nobles and poets should hearken also.
Fergus, called True-Lips, the poet of the Fianna-Finn, then sang of Fionn and his ancestors and their deeds. When he had finished Fionn and Oisi'n and Oscar and mac Lugac of the Terrible Hand gave him rare and costly presents, so that every person wondered at their munificence, and even the poet, accustomed to the liberality of kings and princes, was astonished at his gifts.
Fergus then turned to the side of Goll mac Morna, and he sang of the Forts, the Destructions, the Raids, and the Wooings of clann-Morna; and as the poems succeeded each other, Goll grew more and more jovial and contented. When the songs were finished Goll turned in his seat.
"Where is my runner?" he cried.
He had a woman runner, a marvel for swiftness and trust. She stepped forward.
"I am here, royal captain."
"Have you collected my tribute from Denmark?"
"It is here."
And, with help, she laid beside him the load of three men of doubly refined gold. Out of this treasure, and from the treasure of rings and bracelets and torques that were with him, Goll mac Morna paid Fergus for his songs, and, much as Fionn had given, Goll gave twice as much.
But, as the banquet proceeded, Goll gave, whether it was to harpers or prophets or jugglers, more than any one else gave, so that Fionn became displeased, and as the banquet proceeded he grew stern and silent.
[This version of the death of Uail is not correct. Also Cnocha is not in Lochlann but in Ireland.]
The wonderful gift-giving of Goll continued, and an uneasiness and embarrassment began to creep through the great banqueting hall.
Gentlemen looked at each other questioningly, and then spoke again on indifferent matters, but only with half of their minds. The singers, the harpers, and jugglers submitted to that constraint, so that every person felt awkward and no one knew what should be done or what would happen, and from that doubt dulness came, with silence following on its heels.