| The Story Of Tuan Mac Cairill |
UAN 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 heart."
"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.