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Celtic Tales Told to the Children by  Louey Chisholm

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DERMAT AND GRANIA

[74] IT was at Tara that King Cormac would hold a great meeting, and the chiefs and nobles of the land were gathered together there.

But ere the business of the day was begun, it was told that two warriors were without and would talk with the King.

Then did Cormac welcome the messengers, and when he heard that they came from the broad hill slopes of Allen and bore a message from Finn, their King, he said that the meeting should not be held that day, but that he would speak with the warriors alone.

And after they had eaten and drunk, Cormac bade them tell their errand.

Then spake Oisin, the son of Finn, and he told how his mother had long been dead, and how his father would fain marry Grania, the fair daughter of Cormac.

But Cormac made answer, "Scarce in all Erin is there a prince that hath not sought in [75] marriage the hand of my daughter, but she hath refused them all. For this cause have I their ill-will, for the Princess hath ever made me tell how none had won her favour. Wherefore shall I bring you to my daughter's presence, that from her own lips ye may hear the answer that ye shall carry to your King."

So Cormac went with Oisin the son of Finn and with Dering his friend to the sunny room of the Princess. And Cormac sat by Grania on the couch and told her wherefore the champions were come.

And Grania, giving little heed to the matter, made answer, "If Finn be a fitting son-in-law for my father, the King, then may he well be a worthy husband for me."

When Oisin the son of Finn and Dering his friend heard these words they were glad, for they knew not how little thought the Princess gave to her words.

And Cormac made a feast for the champions, and ere they departed he told them that after two weeks Finn should come thither.

So the warriors bade farewell to the palace of Cormac and went back to Allen, and there [76] they told Finn that after two weeks he should go to Tara and wed the fair Grania.

Slow sped the days, but when they were passed, Finn, with many chiefs and nobles as his guard, marched to Tara. And there Cormac received him right royally and made ready a great feast. On his right hand sat Finn and on his left the Queen. And next the Queen sat Grania.

Now it chanced that the chief who sat on the other side of Grania was a story-teller, and the Princess listened gladly to the tales he told.

But when he ceased from his tales Grania asked, "Wherefore is it that Finn hath come hither to feast?"

And the chief, filled with wonder that the Princess should question him thus, made answer, "Of a truth hath Finn come hither this day to claim thee for his wife."

Then Grania bethought her of the words she had spoken to Oisin the son of Finn and to Dering his friend, and of how she spake without heed. And now was Finn come hither to seek her for his wife.

[77] A long, deep silence fell upon the Princess, while her eyes roved among the goodly company.

At length she turned again to the chief who sat next her. "Of this goodly company," she said, "I know none save Oisin the son of Finn and Dering his friend. Tell me, I pray thee, who sitteth yonder by Oisin's side?"

And the chief told his name and sang his praise.

Again Grania asked, "And who, I pray thee, sitteth by his side?"

And the chief told his name and sang his praise.

Afterwards Grania sought of the chief the names of many of the nobles, and he told her, and he told too of the deeds they had done.

Then the Princess called her handmaid and said, "Bring me from my room the jewelled drinking horn." And the handmaiden brought it and Grania filled it to the brim and said, "Take it to Finn, and say that I would have him drink from it."

And Finn drank from the drinking horn, and then passed it to Cormac the King. And the King drank from it and also the Queen.

[78] Then again Grania filled the drinking horn to the brim, and yet again, until all whom she wished to drink had drunk from it. And it was not long until a deep sleep had fallen upon all who had drunk.

Grania then rose slowly from her seat and crossed the hall to where Dermat sat, for Dermat, of those nobles that Finn brought with him, pleased her the best. And to him she spake thus:

"Dermnat, it is from the champion who sat next me that I have learnt thy name, but ere I knew it I loved thee. From the sunny window of my chamber did I not watch thee on the day of the hurling-match? No part didst thou take in the contest till, seeing the game go against the men of Allen, thou didst rush into the crowd, and three times didst thou win the goal. My heart went out to thee that day, and now do I know that thee only do I love. Sore is my distress for the heedless words I spake which have brought Finn hither. Older is he than Cormac my father, and him will I not wed. Therefore, I pray thee, flee with me hence."

[79] Sore troubled was Dermat as he listened to these words, and at length he replied, "Unworthy am I of thy love, and there is not a stronghold in Erin that would shelter us from the wrath of Finn were this thing to be."

When Grania heard the words that Dermat spake, she said, "I place thee under a solemn vow that thou follow me from Tara ere Finn shall wake. And thou knowest there is no true hero but will hold his vow binding even unto death."

"Even though we so willed it," replied Dermat, "could we not escape from Tara, for Finn bath in his keeping the keys of the great gate."

"Yet canst thou escape if thou wilt," said Grania, "for a champion such as thou canst bound over the highest wall in Erin. By the wicket-gate leading from my chamber shall I go forth, and if thou followest me not, alone shall I flee from the sight of Finn." And having spoken thus, Grania went forth from the hall.

Then was Dermat in sore plight, for he would not depart from the solemn vow that Grania had laid upon him, and yet he feared lest the Princess should not escape the wrath of Finn.

[80] And he took counsel of the nobles who had come hither with Finn, and there was not one but said, "Even though death come of it, thou canst not depart from thy solemn vow."

Then Dermat arose, and when he was armed he bade his companions a tearful farewell, for he knew they might see his face no more.

Forth he went, and with an exceeding light bound he cleared the rampart and alighted on the green grass beyond. And there Grania met him.

And Dermat said to the Princess, "Even now, I pray of thee, return to thy father's home and Finn shall hear nought of this thing."

But Grania's will was firm, and she said, "I will not return now nor will I return hereafter, for death only shall part me and thee."

"Then go forward, O Grania," said Dermat, and the two went forth.

But when they were scarce a mile from Tara Grania told Dermat that she was weary.

And Dermat said, "It is a good time to weary, O Grania. Get thee back to thine own household, for I plight thee the word of a true warrior [81] that I will not carry thee from thy father's house."

"Neither is there need," answered Grania, "for my father's horses are in a fenced meadow by themselves, and chariots also will ye find there. Yoke two horses to a chariot, and I will wait for thee on this spot until thou overtake me again."

Then Dermat did as Grania said, and he brought the horses and the chariot, and they drove forth.

But when they came to the banks of the river Shannon, Dermat said, "Now that we have the horses it is easier for Finn to follow in our track."

"Then," said Grania, "leave the horses on this spot and I will journey on foot henceforth."

And Dermat, when he saw that the Princess would not be moved, told her how great was his love for her, and how he would defend her even with his life from the wrath of Finn.

And Dermat wed Grania, and they vowed solemn vows that they would be faithful each to each even unto death. Then tenderly did Dermat lift his wife in his [82] strong arms and bear her across the ford, and neither the sole of her foot nor the hem of her mantle touched the stream.

Afterwards Dermat led one of the horses across the ford, but the other he left on the far side.

Dermat and Grania then walked until they came to a thick wood, and there Dermat lopped branches from the trees and made a hut, and he made for Grania a bed of the soft rushes and of the tops of the birch.

And there Grania rested, and there did Dermat bring to her food of the forest and water from a clear spring.

It was early dawn at Tara when Cormac and Finn awoke from their deep sleep.

When Finn found that Grania had fled with Dermat, great was his wrath, and he called to him his nobles, and ordered them with all speed to follow in the track of Dermat and Grania.

And Finn went with them, nor was the track hard to follow until they came to the [83] river Shannon, but there it was lost and no man could find it.

Then was the wrath of Finn so great that he said he would hang his nobles, and not one would he spare, if they did not again find the track, and that with all speed.

So, being sore afraid, they crossed the river, and when they had searched they saw the horses one on either side, and they found, too, the spot where Dermat and Grania had turned from the river.

And when they told Finn, he was content, for he knew of a surety that Dermat and Grania hid in the deep wood.

Now among the nobles were those who loved Dermat, and would fain save him from the hate of Finn. And one said, "It behooveth us to send warning to Dermat. Let us send to him Bran, the hound of Finn, for Bran loveth Dermat as though he were his own master."


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And they called the hound and told him secretly what he should do.

Bran listened with ears erect, and then, losing no time, he followed the track, nor did he miss it once until it brought him unto the hut. And [84] going in he found Dermat and Grania asleep, and he thrust his head into Dermat's bosom.

And Dermat woke with a start, and when he saw Bran there was no need for the hound to tell whence he came.

Then Dermat awoke his wife and told her that Finn was near.

Great fear looked from out the eyes of Grania when she heard, and she begged that they might flee.

But Dermat answered, "Were we to nee, yet would Finn overtake us, and it were as ill to fall into his hands then as at this time, but neither he nor his men shall enter this hut without my leave."

Still Grania feared greatly, but she spake no further, for in Dermat's eyes she read his gloom.

While Bran still tarried by the hut, the nobles who loved Dermat thought of yet another warning to send their friend. They had with them a serving-man whose voice was so loud that it could be heard for many miles, and they made this man give three shouts that Dermat might hear.

[85] And when Dermat heard the shouts he said to Grania, "Well I know whose is the voice that shouteth, and full well I know that it cometh as a warning that Finn is nigh."

Then great fear took hold of Grania, and she trembled, and again she said, "Let us flee, for how shall we withstand the wrath of Finn?"

But Dermat said, "We will not flee, but neither Finn nor his men shall enter the hut without my leave."

Then was Grania filled with foreboding, yet spake she no further, for sad and stern was her husband's voice, and in his eyes she read his gloom.

Now Finn, having reached the wood, sent forward his men, but when they came to the thickest part of the forest they beheld a fence which no man could break through or climb. For Dermat had cleared a space round his hut and around the space had he built the strong fence.

Then the nobles climbed a high tree and from it did they look within the fence, and there they saw Dermat and with him a lady.

But for their love of Dermat did the nobles [86] hide from Finn that they had seen his foe. And one said to him, "Far would it be from the mind of Dermat to await thee here, knowing as he does that his life is in peril."

Then did Finn's wrath wax strong, and he replied, "That Dermat hath thee for friend will avail him nought. Was it not to warn him that your serving-man gave three shouts, and was it not to warn him that ye sent unto him my dog Bran? Full well I know that Dermat is hid behind yonder strong fence."

And Finn cried aloud, "Which of us, Dermat, is it that speaketh truth? Art thou behind the fence?"

"Thou, as ever, art right, O King," cried Dermat. "I am here, and with me is Grania, but none other shall come hither save with my leave."

Now in the circle fence were seven doors, and at each door did Finn place strong men, so that Dermat should by no means escape.

And Grania, when she heard Finn's voice, was filled with fear, and she trembled greatly. Then Dermat kissed her three times and bade her be of good cheer for all would yet be well.

[87] Now it was by Angus of Bruga that Dermat had been brought up. Most skilled in magic was this Angus, and to him was the plight of Dermat revealed—Dermat, whom he loved as though he were his own son.

So Angus arose and travelled on the wings of the wind until he came to the hut where Dermat and Grania dwelt, and, unseen of Finn or his chiefs, he entered the dwelling.

And Dermat, when he saw his foster-father, greeted him gladly and told him of the solemn vow which the Princess Grania had laid upon him, and how she was his wedded wife. "And now are we in sore strait, for Finn, whose will it was to marry Grania, hath pursued us and would fain take my life."

"No harm shall befall you," said Angus, "if ye will but shelter under my mantle, the one on the right side and the other on the left, for then will I bring you both forth from this place, and Finn shall know it not."

But Dermat would not flee from Finn, yet it was his will that Grania should go with Angus. "And I will follow if it be that I leave this place [88] alive, yet should I be slain, I pray thee, Angus, send the Princess to her father and beg him that he deal gently with her."

Then Dermat kissed Grania, and Angus, having told the way that they would go, placed the Princess beneath his mantle and was carried forth on the wings of the wind unseen of Finn.

When Angus and Grania had gone, Dermat girded on his armour, and, deep in thought, he walked to one of the seven doors and asked who was without.

And the answer came, "True friends are we, and no harm shall befall thee, shouldst thou venture forth."

But Dermat answered, "I seek the door guarded by Finn, and by none other shall I leave this place."

And he came to another door and asked who was without, and again was it told him, "Thy bounden friends."

Then to the third, to the fourth, and to the fifth door did Dermat go, and at each was he told how the men without were willing to fight to the death for their love of him.

[89] But when Dermat came to the sixth door and asked by whom it was guarded, the answer came, "No friends of thine, for shouldst thou dare to venture forth, we will make thee a mark for our swords and spears."

"Cowards, no fear of you keepeth me from coming forth, but I crave not the blood of such as ye."

And he went to the seventh door and asked who was without. And the voice of Finn answered, "He that hateth thee, and will sever thy head from thy body shouldst thou dare to come forth."

"At length have I found the door I seek, for by the door that Finn guardeth, by it only shall I pass out."

But Dermat, seeing of a sudden an unguarded spot, sprang with a light bound over the fence, and ran so swiftly that soon he was beyond the reach of sword or spear. And no man dared to follow Dermat. Nor did the hero rest until he came to the warm, well-lighted hut where Grania sat with Angus before a blazing fire.

When Grania saw Dermat her heart leaped [90] for joy. Then did he tell her his tidings from beginning to end, and after they had eaten they slept in peace until the morning brake.

And while it was yet early Angus bid them farewell, and he left with them this warning, knowing that Finn would pursue them still: "Go into no tree that has but one trunk; nor into any cave having but one opening; land on no island that has but one way leading to it; where you cook your food, there eat it not; where you eat, sleep not there; and where you sleep to-night, rise not there to-morrow."

And when Angus had left them, Dermat and Grania sorrowed after him, and it was not long until they journeyed forth.

All that befell Dermat and Grania cannot be told in this book, but of Sharvan the giant and of the fairy quicken-tree you shall hear now.

After many wanderings Dermat came with Grania to the wood where Sharvan guarded [91] the quicken-tree. Honey-sweet were the berries of the tree, and gladness flowed through the veins of him who ate thereof. Though he were one hundred years old, yet would he be but thirty so soon as he had eaten three of the fairy berries.

By day Sharvan the giant sat at the foot of the tree, and by night he sat in a hut in its branches, and no man dared to come near. Fearful to behold and wicked was this Sharvan. One eye, one red eye gleamed from the middle of his black forehead. On his body was a girdle of iron, and from the girdle was a heavy club hung by a heavy chain. And by magic was Sharvan saved from death, for water would not drown him nor fire burn; neither was there weapon, save one, that could wound the giant. The one weapon was Sharvan's own club, for were he by it dealt three blows, his doom was come.

Now Dermat knew of the giant that guarded the fairy quicken-tree, therefore he left Grania in shelter and went alone to the foot of the tree. And there sat Sharvan, for it was day.

[92] And Dermat told the giant how he would fain build a hut in the forest and hunt amid the woods.

Then the giant, casting his red eye upon the champion, told him in surly tone that it mattered not to him who lived or hunted in the forest, so long as he did not eat the berries of the quicken-tree.

So Dermat built a hut near to a clear well, and there he and Grania lived in peace for many days, eating the food of the forest and drinking water from the spring.

Now it was at this time that two chiefs came to Finn on the green slopes of Allen. And when he asked them who they were and whence they came, they told how they were enemies that would fain make peace.

But Finn answered, "One of two things must ye bring hither would ye win peace from me. Either must ye bring me the head of a warrior or a handful of berries from the quicken-tree."

Then said Oisin the son of Finn, "I counsel you, get ye hence, for the head that the King seeketh from you is the head of Dermat, and [93] were ye to attempt to take it, then would Dermat take yours, were ye twenty times the number that ye be. And as for the quicken-berries, know ye that they grow on a fairy tree, guarded by the one-eyed giant Sharvan."

But the two chiefs were firm and would not be moved, for it were better to die in their quest than to return to the hilly slopes of Allen at enmity with Finn. So they left the palace, and journeyed without rest until they came to Dermat's hut by the clear well.

Now Dermat, when he heard footsteps without, seized his weapons, and going to the door, asked of the strangers who they were and whence they came.

And the chiefs told their names and for what cause they were come thither.

Then Dermat said, "I am not willing to give you my head, nor will you find it an easy matter to take it. Neither may ye hope to fare better in your quest of the quicken-berries, for the surly giant Sharvan guards the tree. Fire will not burn him nor water drown, nor is there a weapon that hath power to wound him, save only his own club. Say, therefore, [94] which ye will do battle for first, my head or the quicken-berries?"

And they answered, "We will first do battle with thee."

So they made ready, and it was agreed that they should use nought save their hands in the combat. And if Dermat were overcome then should his head be taken by the chiefs to Finn; if they were overpowered then should their heads be forfeit to Dermat.

But the fight was short, for the chiefs were as children in the hands of the hero, and he bound them sore in bitter bonds.

Now when Grania heard of the quicken-berries she longed with a great longing to taste them. At first she said nought for she knew how they were guarded by the surly giant Sharvan; but when she could hide her desire no longer, she said to Dermat, "So great is my longing for the berries of the quicken-tree that if I may not eat of them I shall surely die."

And Dermat, who would see no ill befall his dear wife, said he would bring her the berries. When the two chiefs heard this, they prayed [95] Dermat to loose their bonds that they also might fight the giant.

But Dermat answered, "At the mere sight of Sharvan ye would flee, and even were it not so I wish the aid of none."

Then the chiefs begged that they might see the fight, and Dermat gave them leave.

When the champion came to the foot of the quicken-tree he found Sharvan there, asleep. And he struck the giant a mighty blow to awake him.

Then Sharvan raised his head, and, glaring at Dermat with his one red eye, said, "There hath been peace betwixt us heretofore, wherefore should we now depart from it?"

And Dermat said, "It is not to strive that I. come hither, but to beg of thee berries from the quicken-tree, for Grania, my wife, longeth for them with a great longing."

But the giant answered, "Though the Princess were at the point of death, yet would I not give her berries from the quicken tree."

When Dermat heard this he said, "It had pleased me well to remain at peace with thee, [96] but now must I take the berries from the tree whether it be thy will or no."

At these words Sharvan waxed exceeding wroth, and with his club did he deal Dermat three sore blows. But the champion, recovering, sprang upon the giant, and seizing his great club, he ceased not to belabour him until he fell to earth a dead man.

Then Dermat sat down to rest. And he told the captive chiefs to drag the body of the giant into the wood and bury it, that Grania might not be affrighted. And when they had come back he sent for the Princess.

And Grania, when she came to the quicken-tree, would not gather the fruit, for she said, "I will eat no berries save those plucked by the hand of my husband."

So Dermat plucked the berries, and Grania ate and was satisfied.

Then the champion gave berries of the quicken-tree to the captive chiefs, saying, "Take these to Finn and so win your peace." And this he said as though they were free men.

They thanked the hero for his words, and also for the berries, which they could not have [97] got of themselves. Then having bid Dermat and Grania farewell they journeyed forth towards the hilly slopes of Allen.

When they were gone, Dermat and Grania went to the top of the quicken-tree, into the hut of Sharvan, and the berries below were but bitter compared to the berries that were above upon the tree.

Now when Finn's two enemies were come to Allen he asked them how they had fared, and whether they had brought with them the head of Dermat or a handful of berries from the quicken-tree.

And they answered, "Sharvan the giant is slain, and behold here we have brought thee berries from the quicken-tree so that henceforth we may live at peace."

Then Finn took the berries in his hand, and when he had smelled them three times he said, Of a truth these be the berries of the quicken-tree, but not of your own strength have ye gotten them. Full well I know that by Dermat hath Sharvan the giant been slain, and from his hand have ye gotten the berries. Therefore have ye no peace from me, and now shall I [98] summon an army that I may march to the wood of the quicken-tree, for there surely doth "Dermat dwell."

Now when Finn came with his army to the quicken-tree it was noon, and the sun shone with great heat.

Therefore Finn said to his men, "Under this tree shall we rest until the sun be set, for well I know that Dermat is among the branches. Bring hither a chess-board that I may play."

And Finn sat down to play against Oisin his son, but there were with Oisin three nobles to help him, while Finn played without aid.

With care and with skill did they play, until at length Finn said to his son, "I see one move, Oisin, that would win thee the game, yet is there none of thine helpers that can show thee how thou mayest win."

Then Dermat, who had watched the game from among the branches overhead, spoke aloud to himself the move that should be played.


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And Grania sat by her husband ill at ease. "It matters not, Dermat," she said, "whether Oisin win or lose the game, but if thou speakest so that they hear, it may cost thee thy life."

[99] Yet did Dermat pay no heed to the counsel of Grania, but plucked a berry, and with it took aim so true that he hit the chessman that Oisin should move.

And Oisin moved the man and won the game.

Yet again did Finn play against Oisin and his friends, and once more had Oisin to make but one move to win the game.

Then did Dermat throw down a berry as before and it struck the right man.

And Oisin moved the piece and won the game.

A third time did Oisin, son of Finn, play against his father, and it fell as before, for once more he won with Dermat's aid. And this time the nobles raised a mighty cheer.

But Finn said, "No marvel is it, Oisin, that thou hast won the game, for of a surety thou hast had the aid of Dermat who dwelleth amid the branches of the quicken-tree." And looking up he said, "Have I not, Dermat, spoken truth?"

"I have never known thy judgment err, O King," replied Dermat. "In truth I dwell here with Grania in the hut that was built by Sharvan the giant."

[100] And they looked up, and through an opening in the branches they beheld Dermat kiss Grania three times, for the Princess was in great fear.

Then was Finn exceeding wroth, and he bade his men surround the tree, each holding the hand of each so that Dermat might by no means escape. And he offered great reward to any man that would go up into the tree and bring to him the hero's head or force him to come down.

One of Finn's men then spake: "It was Dermat's father that slew my father, therefore will I go up into the tree." And he went up.

Now it was revealed to Angus of Bruga that Dermat was in sore plight, and on the wings of the wind he came to his aid, unseen of Finn or his chiefs. So when the avenger climbed into the tree, Angus was there. And when Dermat with a stroke of his foot flung his enemy to the ground, Angus caused him to take the shape of Dermat, and for this reason Finn's men fell upon him and slew him.

But no sooner was he slain than he again took his own shape, and Finn knew that [101] Dermat was still alive in the quicken-tree. Then nine times did a man of Finn's army climb the tree, and nine times was he thrown to earth and killed by his own friends. For each time did Angus cause the warrior to take Dermat's shape.

When Finn saw nine of his men lie dead before him his heart failed him, and his soul was filled with bitterness.

At this time Angus said that he would take Grania away with him. And Dermat was content and said, "If it be that I live until evening I will follow thee, but if Finn killeth me, I pray thee send the Princess to her father at Tara."

So Angus flung his magic mantle around Grania, and on the wings of the wind they were carried to Bruga, unknown to Finn or his men.

Then Dermat spake from the tree: "Thou surely shalt not escape my vengeance, O Finn, nor shalt thou easily compass my death. Oft have I cleared the way for thee when thou didst go forth to battle, and oft have I sheltered thy retreat when thou didst quit the field. Yet art thou unmindful of mine help, and I swear that I will be avenged."

[102] When the hero ceased from speaking, one of Finn's nobles said, "Dermat speaketh truth, now therefore grant him thy forgiveness."

But Finn answered, "I will not to the end of my life grant him forgiveness, nor shall he know rest or peace until he yieldeth to me his head."

Again the noble spake: "Now pledge I thee the word of a true warrior that, unless the skies fall upon me or the earth open and swallow me up, no harm shall come nigh Dermat, for under my care I take his body and his life." And looking up, the noble cried, "O Dermat, I pledge thee my body and my life that no ill shall befall thee this day, therefore come down out of the tree."

Then Dermat rose and stood upon a high bough. With an airy, bird-like bound he sprang forward and alighted outside the circle formed by the men who had joined hands, and was soon far beyond the reach of Finn.

And the noble who saved him followed, and they came together to Bruga, and there Angus and Grania met them, and the joy of the Princess cannot be told.

[103] Yet was it not long ere Dermat was again in sore strait, for Finn followed him to Bruga, and with Finn came his old nurse. And she was a witch.

Now it chanced on the day that they came thither that Dermat hunted alone in the wood. And the witch flew on the leaf of a yellow water-lily till she came straight over the place where Dermat was. Then through a hole in the leaf she aimed deadly darts at the hero, and though he was clad in strong armour they did him great hurt.

So sore were his wounds that Dermat thought the witch would cause his death on the spot, unless he could pierce her through the hole in the leaf.

Therefore he took his red javelin and cast it with all care. And so sure was his aim that it reached the witch through the leaf, and she fell to the ground dead. Then Dermat cut off her head and took it to Angus.

Early on the morrow Angus rose and went where Finn was, and he asked him if he would make peace with Dermat.

And Finn, because he had now lost his [104] witch-nurse as well as many men, was glad to make peace in whatever way Dermat might choose.

Then Angus went to Cormac, and he too was glad to make peace with the hero.

But when Angus came to Dermat he said he would not make peace unless he received from Finn and from Cormac all the wide lands that he asked.

And Cormac and Finn gave him the lands, and forgave him all he had done.

Then was there at last peace between them, and Dermat and Grania built a house in Sligo, far from Cormac and Finn, and they called the name of their house Rath-Grania. And there were born unto them one daughter and four sons.

And it was said that there was not living in Erin a man richer than Dermat in gold and silver, in sheep and cattle herds.

Now it fell on a day after many years that Grania sat as one in a dream. And Dermat asked his wife in what troublous thought she [105] was lost, for he saw well that she was ill at ease.

And Grania answered, "It seemeth not well to me that, having so great wealth, we live removed from the world, and welcome to our home neither my father nor Finn, though with both are we now at peace."

Dermat gave heed to the words of his wife and then spake thus: "Of a truth there is peace betwixt us, but thou knowest well that neither thy father the King nor yet Finn bears me aught but ill-will, and for this cause have we dwelt apart."

"Yet will time have softened their hearts," replied Grania, "and wouldst thou but make them a feast, so mightest thou win their favour and their love."

And Dermat, because of the love he bore Grania, granted her wish, and for a year they were making ready for the great feast.

Then were messengers sent to bid thither Cormac and Finn. And they came, and with them their nobles, their horses and their dogs, and for a full year they hunted and feasted at Rath-Grania.

[106] When a year had passed, it chanced one night that the distant yelping of a hound woke Dermat from his sleep, and Grania too awoke and in great fear said, "Of a truth doth that sound forebode ill. Heed it not, but lie down on thy bed and rest."

Dermat lay down, but ere long he again heard the hound's voice. Then he started up, and made as though he would go to find for himself wherefore the hound disturbed the silence of the night. But again Grania begged him to lie down and to give no heed to the matter.

So Dermat lay down and fell into a light sleep, and when the hound awakened him the third time it was broad day. And Grania, seeing that his mind was set, did not beg him longer to stay, yet, fearing danger, she begged him to take with him his red javelin and his sword named "The Greater Fury."

But Dermat, deeming the matter light, took with him his yellow javelin and his sword "The Lesser Fury," and leading his faithful hound by the chain, went forth. And he did not rest till he came to the summit of a hill where he found Finn, and of him he asked the meaning of the chase.

[107] And Finn answered that the men and hounds were tracking a wild boar which had ofttimes been chased, but had always escaped. Even now was it coming towards them, so it were well that they should betake themselves to some safer spot.

Dermat knew no fear of the wild boar, and he would not leave the summit of the hill where he stood. Yet did he pray Finn to leave with him his hound Bran, that it might help his own dog were he in need.

But Finn would not leave Bran to be torn by the wild boar that could now be seen coming towards them.

So Dermat stood alone on the summit of the hill, and he knew well it was that he might meet his death that Finn's men did hunt the boar this day. Yet would he not leave the hill, for if it were his fate to meet death, nought could save him from his doom.

Then as the boar came rushing up the face of the hill, Dermat let loose his good hound, but it, seeing the fearful monster, fled before him.

And now Dermat knew that he would have need of his red javelin, and he sorrowed that he [108] had given no heed to the counsel of Grania. Yet seizing his yellow javelin he cast it with careful aim and it struck the boar in its forehead. But it fell harmless to the ground, doing the monster no hurt.

Then Dermat drew his sword from its sheath, and with a mighty blow did he strike at the boar's neck. But the sword broke in his hand, and the boar felt not so much as a prick.

Now was Dermat without any weapon save the hilt of his sword, and the boar made a deadly onslaught, thrusting his tusk into the hero's side. But with the strength that was left him Dermat flung the hilt of the sword at the brute's head, and it pierced his skull and entered his brain, whereupon the boar fell dead.

But so deep was the wound in Dermat's side that when Finn came to him he found the hero near unto death.

And Finn said, "Now am I well content, for thine end hath come."

"Sure the words that thou speakest come not from thine heart," answered Dermat, "for it is in thy power to heal me, and that thou knowest full well."

[109] "How might I heal thee?" asked Finn.

"Thou knowest that power was given thee to heal him who might be at the point of death. Let him but drink water from the palms of thy closed hands, and he is healed of his hurt."

"Yet wherefore should I heal thee who hast worked me nought but ill?"

"Thou wouldst not speak thus wert thou mindful of the day when I saved thee from the flames. Thou wast bidden to a banquet, and ere the feast began the palace was set a-fire by those who wished thee ill. And I and my men rushed forth and quenched the flames and slew thy foes. Had I begged water from thy hands that night thou hadst not said me nay."

"Thou forgettest that but for thee the fair Grania were my wedded wife."

"Of a surety am I not blameworthy in this matter, O Finn, for Grania laid upon me a solemn vow that I should follow her from Tara ere thou shouldst wake from thy sleep. And I took counsel of many nobles, and there was not one but said, "Even though death come of it, thou canst not depart from the solemn vow [110] that Grania hath laid upon thee." And now, I pray of thee, let me drink from thine hands, else surely death will overtake me in this place. From many another deadly strait have I delivered thee, yet hast thou forgotten them all. But the hour will come when surely thou wilt need my help shouldst thou let me die this day. Yet grieve I not to think that thou wilt be in deadly strait, but rather grieve I for those true heroes whom I shall no longer aid."

Then one of the nobles, hearing these words, prayed Finn that he would let Dermat drink from his hands.

Finn replied, "I know not of any well on this hill whence I can bring water."

But Dermat said, "Right well thou knowest that hidden by yonder bush is a well of crystal water. No more than nine paces must thou go to reach it. Let me, I pray thee, drink from thine hands."

Then Finn went to the well, and in his two hands tightly together did he bring the water towards Dermat. But as he came nearer he spilled it through his fingers, saying that he could not in such manner carry water so far.

[111] But Dermat believed him not, and said, "Of thine own will hast thou spilled the water. I pray thee go once more to the well and bring me to drink, or I die."

Again the King went to the well, and with failing sight did Dermat follow the dripping hands that came nearer and yet more near. But of a sudden Finn thought of Grania, and a second time was the water spilled. And when Dermat saw it, he uttered a piteous cry.

Then were the champions no longer able to see Dermat in such grievous plight, and one said to Finn, "I swear to thee that if thou bringest not water to Dermat, thou shalt not leave this hill alive, save I be a dead man."

Finn, hearing these words and seeing their frowns, went a third time to fetch water from the well. And this time he made haste to bring it to Dermat, but ere he had got half-way, the hero's head fell backward and he died.

Then were raised three long cries of sorrow for Dermat, who had been dear unto them all.

After some time had passed Finn said, "Let [112] us leave this hill lest Angus come, for he may not believe that it was not at our hands that Dermat met his death."

So Finn and his nobles left the hill, Finn leading Dermat's hound. But four of the nobles turned back and laid their mantles over the champion. Then they once more followed the King.

Grania sat that day on the highest tower of Rath-Grania, watching for Dermat. The fear she had felt in the night would not be stilled, and when at length Finn came in sight, leading by the chain Dermat's hound, she knew that she would not henceforth see Dermat alive. And when the truth had taken hold upon her, she fell in a swoon from the tower, and her hand-maiden stood over her in great fear.

But at length her eyes opened, and when it was told her that Dermat was dead she uttered a long, piercing cry, so that all flocked to hear what had befallen the Princess. And when it was told that Dermat had been killed by the wild boar, the air was rent with cries of lamentation.

At length, when silence had fallen upon her [113] grief, Grania arose, and ordered that five hundred men should go to the hill and bring to her the body of Dermat. Then turning to Finn she begged of him to leave with her Dermat's hound. And Finn would not. But a noble, hearing that Grania wished the hound took him from the hand of Finn and gave him to the Princess.

Now as the men left Rath-Grania to bring home the body of Dermat, it was revealed to Angus of Bruga that the hero lay dead on the hill. And he at once set out on the wings of the wind and reached the sorrowful place ere Grania's messengers had come there. And they, when they came, found Angus mourning over the body of Dermat, and he asked them wherefore they were come.

When it was told Angus that Grania had sent them to bring the body of Dermat to Rath-Grania, he stayed for some time wrapt in thought. At length he spake these words:

Let it be told the Princess that I will take with me the body of Dermat to my home, that he may be preserved by my power as though he still lived. For though I cannot bring him [114] back to life, yet each day shall he speak with me for some space."

And Angus turned to his men that he had brought with him there and ordered that Dermat's body should be placed on a golden bier, with the red and yellow javelins, one on either side, points upward. Thus was the dead hero carried to the home of Angus.

When Grania's messengers came back to her bringing not with them the body of Dermat, she was at first sore grieved. But when she heard how the hero lay on a golden bier in the keeping of his foster-father, and would each day speak with Angus for some space, then was she content, for she knew that Angus loved Dermat as a father loveth his only son.

And Grania sent messengers to her sons to bid them come to her. And when they were come, she welcomed them gently and kissed them. Then with an exceeding loud and clear voice she said, "O dear children, your father hath been slain by the will of Finn, though peace had been sworn between them. Therefore get ye hence and avenge his death. And that ye may have success in the battle, I will [115] myself portion out among you your inheritance of arms, of arrows, and of sharp weapons. Spare none that would do good to Finn, yet see ye to it that ye deal not treacherously with any man. Hasten ye and depart."

Then the sons of Dermat bade their mother a tender farewell, and went forth to avenge their father's death.


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