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CHAPTER IX

Art, as his father had done before him, set out for the Many-Coloured Land, but it was from Inver Colpa he embarked and not from Ben Edair.

At a certain time he passed from the rough green ridges of the sea to enchanted waters, and he roamed from island to island asking all people how he might come to Delvcaem, the daughter of Morgan. But he got no news from any one, until he reached an island that was fragrant with wild apples, gay with flowers, and joyous with the song of birds and the deep mellow drumming of the bees. In this island he was met by a lady, Crede', the Truly Beautiful, and when they had exchanged kisses, he told her who he was and on what errand he was bent.

"We have been expecting you," said Crede', "but alas, poor soul, it is a hard, and a long, bad way that you must go; for there is sea and land, danger and difficulty between you and the daughter of Morgan."

"Yet I must go there," he answered.

"There is a wild dark ocean to be crossed. There is a dense wood where every thorn on every tree is sharp as a spear-point and is curved and clutching. There is a deep gulf to be gone through," she said, "a place of silence and terror, full of dumb, venomous monsters. There is an immense oak forest--dark, dense, thorny, a place to be strayed in, a place to be utterly bewildered and lost in. There is a vast dark wilderness, and therein is a dark house, lonely and full of echoes, and in it there are seven gloomy hags, who are warned already of your coming and are waiting to plunge you in a bath of molten lead."

"It is not a choice journey," said Art, "but I have no choice and must go."

"Should you pass those hags," she continued, "and no one has yet passed them, you must meet Ailill of the Black Teeth, the son of Mongan Tender Blossom, and who could pass that gigantic and terrible fighter?"

"It is not easy to find the daughter of Morgan," said Art in a melancholy voice.

"It is not easy," Crede' replied eagerly, "and if you will take my advice-- "

"Advise me," he broke in, "for in truth there is no man standing in such need of counsel as I do."

"I would advise you," said Crede' in a low voice, "to seek no more for the sweet daughter of Morgan, but to stay in this place where all that is lovely is at your service."

"But, but-- "cried Art in astonishment.

"Am I not as sweet as the daughter of Morgan?" she demanded, and she stood before him queenly and pleadingly, and her eyes took his with imperious tenderness.

"By my hand," he answered, "you are sweeter and lovelier than any being under the sun, but-- "

"And with me," she said, "you will forget Ireland."

"I am under bonds," cried Art, "I have passed my word, and I would not forget Ireland or cut myself from it for all the kingdoms of the Many-Coloured Land."

Crede' urged no more at that time, but as they were parting she whispered, "There are two girls, sisters of my own, in Morgan's palace. They will come to you with a cup in either hand; one cup will be filled with wine and one with poison. Drink from the right-hand cup, O my dear."

Art stepped into his coracle, and then, wringing her hands, she made yet an attempt to dissuade him from that drear journey.

"Do not leave me," she urged. "Do not affront these dangers. Around the palace of Morgan there is a palisade of copper spikes, and on the top of each spike the head of a man grins and shrivels. There is one spike only which bears no head, and it is for your head that spike is waiting. Do not go there, my love."

"I must go indeed," said. Art earnestly.

"There is yet a danger," she called. "Beware of Delvcaem's mother, Dog Head, daughter of the King of the Dog Heads. Beware of her."

"Indeed," said Art to himself, "there is so much to beware of that I will beware of nothing. I will go about my business," he said to the waves, "and I will let those beings and monsters and the people of the Dog Heads go about their business."



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