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CHAPTER VII

"It is not nice of you to laugh at us," said Fiachna Finn.

"Who could help laughing at a king hunkering on a branch and his army roosting around him like hens?" said the stranger.

"Nevertheless," the king replied, "it would be courteous of you not to laugh at misfortune."

"We laugh when we can," commented the stranger, "and are thankful for the chance."

"You may come up into the tree," said Fiachna, "for I perceive that you are a mannerly person, and I see that some of the venomous sheep are charging in this direction. I would rather protect you," he continued, "than see you killed; for," said he lamentably, "I am getting down now to fight the sheep."

"They will not hurt me," said the stranger. "Who are you?" the king asked.

"I am Mananna'n, the son of Lir."

Fiachna knew then that the stranger could not be hurt.

"What will you give me if I deliver you from the sheep?" asked Manann,Sn.

"I will give you anything you ask, if I have that thing."

"I ask the rights of your crown and of your household for one day."

Fiachna's breath was taken away by that request, and he took a little time to compose himself, then he said mildly:

"I will not have one man of Ireland killed if I can save him. All that I have they give me, all that I have I give to them, and if I must give this also, then I will give this, although it would be easier for me to give my life." "That is agreed," said Mannana'n.

He had something wrapped in a fold of his cloak, and he unwrapped and produced this thing.

It was a dog.

Now if the sheep were venomous, this dog was more venomous still, for it was fearful to look at. In body it was not large, but its head was of a great size, and the mouth that was shaped in that head was able to open like the lid of a pot. It was not teeth which were in that head, but hooks and fangs and prongs. Dreadful was that mouth to look at, terrible to look into, woeful to think about; and from it, or from the broad, loose nose that waggled above it, there came a sound which no word of man could describe, for it was not a snarl, nor was it a howl, although it was both of these. It was neither a growl nor a grunt, although it was both of these; it was not a yowl nor a groan, although it was both of these: for it was one sound made up of these sounds, and there was in it, too, a whine and a yelp, and a long-drawn snoring noise, and a deep purring noise, and a noise that was like the squeal of a rusty hinge, and there were other noises in it also.

"The gods be praised!" said the man who was in the branch above the king.

"What for this time?" said the king.

"Because that dog cannot climb a tree," said the man.

And the man on a branch yet above him groaned out "Amen !"

"There is nothing to frighten sheep like a dog," said Mananna'n, "and there is nothing to frighten these sheep like this dog."

He put the dog on the ground then.

"Little dogeen, little treasure," said he, "go and kill the sheep."

And when he said that the dog put an addition and an addendum on to the noise he had been making before, so that the men of Ireland stuck their fingers into their ears and turned the whites of their eyes upwards, and nearly fell off their branches with the fear and the fright which that sound put into them.

It did not take the dog long to do what he had been ordered. He went forward, at first, with a slow waddle, and as the venomous sheep came to meet him in bounces, he then went to meet them in wriggles; so that in a while he went so fast that you could see nothing of him but a head and a wriggle. He dealt with the sheep in this way, a jump and a chop for each, and he never missed his jump and he never missed his chop. When he got his grip he swung round on it as if it was a hinge. The swing began with the chop, and it ended with the bit loose and the sheep giving its last kick. At the end of ten minutes all the sheep were lying on the ground, and the same bit was out of every sheep, and every sheep was dead.

"You can come down now," said Mananna'n.

"That dog can't climb a tree," said the man in the branch above the king warningly.

"Praise be to the gods!" said the man who was above him.

"Amen!" said the warrior who was higher up than that. And the man in the next tree said:

"Don't move a hand or a foot until the dog chokes himself to death on the dead meat."

The dog, however, did not eat a bit of the meat. He trotted to his master, and Mananna'n took him up and wrapped him in his cloak.

"Now you can come down," said he.

"I wish that dog was dead!" said the king.

But he swung himself out of the tree all the same, for he did not wish to seem frightened before Mananna'n . "You can go now and beat the men of Lochlann," said Mananna'n. "You will be King of Lochlann before nightfall."

"I wouldn't mind that," said theking. "It's no threat," said Mananna'n.

The son of Lir turned then and went away in the direction of Ireland to take up his one-day rights, and Fiachna continued his battle with the Lochlannachs.

He beat them before nightfall, and by that victory he became King of Lochlann and King of the Saxons and the Britons.

He gave the Black Hag seven castles with their territories, and he gave her one hundred of every sort of cattle that he had captured. She was satisfied.

Then he went back to Ireland, and after he had been there for some time his wife gave birth to a son.



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Map of Ireland