Finnian, the Abbott of Moville, went southwards and eastwards in great haste
. News had come to him in Donegal that there were yet people in his own province
who believed in gods that he did not approve
of, and the gods that we do not approve
of are treated scurvily, even by saintly
He was told of a powerful
gentleman who observed neither Saint's day nor Sunday.
person!" said Finnian.
"All that," was the reply.
"We shall try this person's power
," said Finnian.
"He is reputed to be a wise
man," said his informant.
"We shall test
and his hardihood."
"He is," that gossip
whispered-"he is a magician
"I will magician
him," cried Finnian angrily. "Where does that man live?"
He was informed, and he proceeded to that direction
In no great time he came to the stronghold
of the gentleman who followed ancient
ways, and he demanded admittance in order that he might preach
the new God, and exorcise
even the memory
of the old one; for to a god grown old Time is as ruthless
as to a beggarman grown old.
But the Ulster gentleman refused Finnian admittance. He barricaded his house, he shuttered his windows, and in a gloom
he continued the practices of ten thousand years, and would not hearken
to Finnian calling at the window or to Time knocking at his door.
But of those adversaries it was the first he redoubted.
Finnian loomed on him as a portent
and a terror
; but he had no fear of Time. Indeed he was the foster-brother of Time, and so disdainful
of the bitter
god that he did not even disdain
him; he leaped over the scythe
, he dodged under it, and the sole
occasions on which Time laughs is when he chances on Tuan, the son of Cairill, the son of Muredac Red-neck.
Now Finnian could not abide
that any person should resist
both the Gospel and himself, and he proceeded to force
methods. He fasted on the gentleman, and he did so to such purpose
that he was admitted to the house; for to an hospitable heart
the idea that a stranger
on your doorstep from sheer famine
cannot be tolerated. The gentleman, however, did not give in without a struggle
: he thought
that when Finnian had grown sufficiently hungry he would lift the siege
and take himself off to some place where he might
get food. But he did not know Finnian. The great abbot
sat down on a spot just beyond the door, and composed
himself to all that might
follow from his action. He bent
on the ground between his feet, and entered into a meditation
from which he would Only be released by admission
The first day passed quietly.
Often the gentleman would send a servitor to spy if that deserter of the gods was still before his door, and each time the servant
replied that he was still there.
"He will be gone in the morning," said the hopeful master
On the morrow the state
continued, and through
that day the servants were sent many times to observe through
"Go," he would say, "and find out if the worshipper of new gods has taken himself away."
But the servants returned each time with the same information
"The new druid is still there," they said.
"He has his own troubles," they said. "It is a combat
of the gods that is taking place."
So much for the women; but the men also were uneasy
. They prowled up and down, tramping from the spy-hole to the kitchen, and from the kitchen to the turreted roof. And from the roof they would look down on the motionless figure
below, and speculate
on many things, including the staunchness of man, the qualities of their master
, and even the possibility
that the new gods might
be as powerful
as the old. From these peepings and discussions they would return languid
retired to wretched
beds; but for the master
of the house there was no sleep. He marched his halls all night, going often to the spy-hole to see if that shadow
was still sitting in the shade, and pacing thence, tormented
, refusing even the nose of his favourite dog as it pressed lovingly into his closed palm
On the morrow he gave in.
The great door was swung wide, and two of his servants carried Finnian into the house, for the saint could no longer walk or stand upright
of the hunger and exposure
to which he had submitted. But his frame was tough as the unconquerable spirit
that dwelt within it, and in no long time he was ready for whatever might
come of dispute
Being quite re-established he undertook the conversion
of the master
of the house, and the siege
he laid against that notable intelligence
was long spoken of among those who are interested
in such things.
He had beaten the disease
of Mugain; he had beaten his own pupil
the great Colm Cille; he beat Tuan also, and just as the latter
's door had opened to the persistent stranger
, so his heart
opened, and Finnian marched there to do the will of God, and his own will.
One day they were talking together about the majesty
of God and His love, for although Tuan had now received much instruction
on this subject
he yet needed more, and he laid as close a siege
on Finnian as Finnian had before that laid on him. But man works outwardly and inwardly. After rest he has energy
, after energy
he needs repose
; so, when we have given instruction
for a time, we need instruction
, and must receive
it or the spirit
faints and wisdom
herself grows bitter
Therefore Finnian said: "Tell me now about yourself, dear heart
But Tuan was avid
about the True God. "No, no," he said, "the past has nothing more of interest
for me, and I do not wish anything to come between my soul
and its instruction
to teach me, dear friend and saintly
"I will do that," Finnian replied, "but I must first meditate
deeply on you, and must know you well. Tell me your past, my beloved
, for a man is his past, and is to be known by it."
Tuan 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
"I also," he said, "have an honourable record
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
"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.