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- The King of Ireland's Son - 1/34 -


THE KING OF IRELAND'S SON

by Padraic Colum

Contents

FEDELMA, THE ENCHANTER'S DAUGHTER

WHEN THE KING OF THE CATS CAME TO KING CONNAL'S DOMINION

THE SWORD OF LIGHT AND THE UNIQUE TALE, WITH AS MUCH OF THE ADVENTURES OF GILLY OF THE GOAT-SKIN AS IS GIVEN IN "THE CRANESKIN BOOK"

THE TOWN OF THE RED CASTLE

THE KING OF THE LAND OF MIST

THE HOUSE OF CROM DUV

THE SPAE-WOMAN

I

Connal was the name of the King who ruled over Ireland at that time. He had three sons, and, as the fir-trees grow, some crooked and some straight, one of them grew up so wild that in the end the King and the King's Councillor had to let him have his own way in everything. This youth was the King's eldest son and his mother had died before she could be a guide to him.

Now after the King and the King's Councillor left him to his own way the youth I'm telling you about did nothing but ride and hunt all day. Well, one morning he rode abroad--

His hound at his heel, His hawk on his wrist; A brave steed to carry him whither he list, And the blue sky over him,

and he rode on until he came to a turn in the road. There he saw a gray old man seated on a heap of stones playing a game of cards with himself. First he had one hand winning and then he had the other. Now he would say "That's my good right," and then he would say "Play and beat that, my gallant left." The King of Ireland's Son sat on his horse to watch the strange old man, and as he watched him he sang a song to himself

I put the fastenings on my boat For a year and for a day, And I went where the rowans grow, And where the moorhens lay;

And I went over the stepping-stones And dipped my feet in the ford, And came at last to the Swineherd's house,-- The Youth without a Sword.

A swallow sang upon his porch "Glu-ee, glu-ee, glu-ee," "The wonder of all wandering, The wonder of the sea;" A swallow soon to leave ground sang "Glu-ee, glu-ee, glu-ee."

"Prince," said the old fellow looking up at him, "if you can play a game as well as you can sing a song, I'd like if you would sit down beside me."

"I can play any game," said the King of Ireland's Son. He fastened his horse to the branch of a tree and sat down on the heap of stones beside the old man.

"What shall we play for?" said the gray old fellow.

"Whatever you like," said the King of Ireland's Son.

"If I win you must give me anything I ask, and if you win I shall give you anything you ask. Will you agree to that?"

"If it is agreeable to you it is agreeable to me," said the King of Ireland's Son.

They played, and the King of Ireland's Son won the game. "Now what do you desire me to give, King's Son?" said the gray old fellow.

"I shan't ask you for anything," said the King of Ireland's Son, "for I think you haven't much to give."

"Never mind that," said the gray old fellow. "I mustn't break my promise, and so you must ask me for something."

"Very well," said the King's Son. "Then there's a field at the back of my father's Castle and I want to see it filled with cattle to-morrow morning. Can you do that for me?"

"I can," said the gray old fellow.

"Then I want fifty cows, each one white with a red ear, and a white calf going beside each cow."

"The cattle shall be as you wish."

"Well, when that's done I shall think the wager has been paid," said the King of Ireland's son. He mounted his horse, smiling at the foolish old man who played cards with himself and who thought he could bring together fifty white kine, each with a red ear, and a white calf by the side of each cow. He rode away

His hound at his heel, His hawk on his wrist; A brave steed to carry him whither he list, And the green ground under him,

and he thought no more of the gray old fellow.

But in the morning, when he was taking his horse out of the stable, he heard the grooms talking about a strange happening. Art, the King's Steward, had gone out and had found the field at the back of the Castle filled with cattle. There were fifty white red-eared kine there and each cow had a white calf at her side. The King had ordered Art, his Steward, to drive them away. The King of Ireland's Son watched Art and his men trying to do it. But no sooner were the strange cattle put out at one side of the field than they came back on the other. Then down came Maravaun, the King's Councillor. He declared they were enchanted cattle, and that no one on Ireland's ground could put them away. So in the seven-acre field the cattle stayed.

When the King of Ireland's Son saw what his companion of yesterday could do he rode straight to the glen to try if he could have another game with him. There at the turn of the road, on a heap of stones, the gray old fellow was sitting playing a game of cards, the right hand against the left. The King of Ireland's Son fastened his horse to the branch of a tree and dismounted.

"Did you find yesterday's wager settled?" said the gray old fellow.

"I did," said the King of Ireland's Son.

"Then shall we have another game of cards on the same understanding?" said the gray old fellow.

"I agree, if you agree," said the King of Ireland's son. He sat under the bush beside him and they played again. The King of Ireland's Son won.

"What would you like me to do for you this time?" said the gray old fellow.

Now the King's Son had a step-mother, and she was often cross-tempered, and that very morning he and she had vexed each other. So he said, "Let a brown bear, holding a burning coal in his mouth, put Caintigern the Queen from her chair in the supper-room to-night."

"It shall be done," said the gray old fellow.

Then the King of Ireland's Son mounted his horse and rode away

His hound at his heel, His hawk on his wrist; A brave steed to carry him whither he list, And the green ground under him,

and he went back to the Castle. That night a brown bear, holding a burning coal in his mouth, came into the supper-room and stood between Caintigern the Queen and the chair that belonged to her. None of the servants could drive it away, and when Maravaun, the King's Councillor, came he said, "This is an enchanted creature also, and it is best for us to leave it alone." So the whole company went and left the brown bear in the supper-room seated 'in the Queen's chair.

II

The next morning when he wakened the King's Son said, "That was a wonderful thing that happened last night in the supper-room. I must go off and play a third game with the gray old fellow who sits on a heap of stones at the turn of the road." So, in the morning early he mounted and rode away

His hound at his heel, His hawk on his wrist; A brave steed to carry him whither he list, And the green ground under him,

and he rode on until he came to the turn in the road. Sure enough the old gray fellow was there. "So you've come to me again, King's Son," said he. "I have," said the King of Ireland's Son, "and I'll play a last game with you on the same understanding as before." He tied his horse to the branch and sat down on the heap of stones. They played. The King of Ireland's Son lost the game. Immediately the gray old fellow threw the cards down on the stones and a wind came up and carried them away. Standing up he was terribly tall.

"King's Son," said he, "I am your father's enemy and I have done him an injury. And to the Queen who is your father's wife I have done an injury too. You have lost the game and now you must take the penalty I put upon you. You must find out my dwelling-place and take three hairs out of my beard within a year and a day, or else lose your head."

With that he took the King of Ireland's Son by the shoulders and lifted him on his horse, turning the horse in the direction of the King's Castle. The King's


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