ONE snowy night of winter the Fianna
were come into the house after their hunting. And about midnight they heard a
knocking at the door, and there came in a woman very wild and ugly, and her
hair hanging to her heels. She went to the place Finn
was lying, and she asked him to let her in under the border of his covering.
But when he saw her so strange and so ugly and so wild-looking he would not
let her in. She gave a great cry then, and she went to where Oisin
was, and asked him to let her shelter under the border of his covering. But
Oisin refused her the same way. Then she gave another great scream, and she
went over where Diarmuid
was. "Let me in," she said, "under the border of your
covering." Diarmuid looked at her, and he said: "You are
strange-looking and wild and ugly, and your hair is down to your heels. But
come in for all that," he said.
So she came in under the border of his
"O Diarmuid," she said then,
"I have been travelling over sea and ocean through the length of seven
years, and in all that time I never got shelter any night till this night. And
let me to the warmth of the fire now," she said. So Diarmuid brought her
over to the fire, and all the Fianna that were sitting there went away from it
seeing her so ugly and so dreadful to look at. And she was not long at the
fire when she said: "Let me go under the warmth of the covering with you
now." "It is asking too much you are," said Diarmuid;
"first it was to come under the border you asked, and then to come to the
fire, and now it is under the bed-covering with me you want to be. But for all
that you may come," he said.
So she came in under the covering, and he
turned a fold of it between them. But it was not long till he looked at her,
and what he saw was a beautiful young woman beside him, and she asleep. He
called to the others then to come over, and he said: "Is not this the
most beautiful woman that ever was seen?" "She is that," they
said, and they covered her up and did not awaken her.
But after a while she stirred, and she
said: "Are you awake, Diarmuid?" "I am awake," he said.
"Where would you like to see the best house built that ever was
built?" she said. "Up there on the hillside, if I had my
choice," said he, and with that he fell asleep. And in the morning two
men of the Fianna came in, and they said they were after seeing a great house
up on the hill, where there was not a house before. "Rise up,
Diarmuid," said the strange woman then; "do not be lying there any
longer, but go up to your house, and look out now and see it," she said.
So he looked out and he saw the great house that was ready, and he said:
"I will go to it, if you will come along with me." "I will do
that," she said, "if you will make me a promise not to say to me
three times what way I was when I came to you." "I will never say it
to you for ever," said Diarmuid.
They went up then to the house, and it was
ready for them, with food and servants; and everything they could wish for
they had it. They stopped there for three days, and when the three days were
ended, she said: "You are getting to be sorrowful because you are away
from your comrades of the Fianna." "I am not sorrowful indeed,"
said Diarmuid. "It will be best for you to go to them; and your food and
your drink will be no worse when you come back than they are now," said
she. "Who will take care of my greyhound bitch and her three pups if I
go?" said Diarmuid. "There is no fear for them," said she.
So when he heard that, he took leave of
her and went back to the Fianna, and there was a great welcome before him. But
for all that they were not well pleased but were someway envious, Diarmuid to
have got that grand house and her love from the woman they themselves had
Now as to the woman, she was outside the
house for a while after Diarmuid going away, and she saw Finn, son of Cumhal,
coming towards her, and she bade him welcome. "You are vexed with me,
Queen?" he said. "I am not indeed," she said; "and come in
now and take a drink of wine from me." "I will go in if I get my
request," said Finn. "What request is there that you would not
get?" said she. "It is what I am asking, one of the pups of
Diarmuid’s greyhound bitch." "That is no great thing to ask,"
she said; and whichever one you choose of them you may bring it away."
So he got the pup, and he brought it away
At the fall of night Diarmuid came back to
the house, and the greyhound met him at the door and gave a yell when she saw
him, and he looked for the pups, and one of them was gone. There was anger on
him then, and he said to the woman: "If you had brought to mind the way
you were when I let you in, and your hair hanging, you would not have let the
pup be brought away from me." "You ought not to say that,
Diarmuid," said she. "I ask your pardon for saying it," said
Diarmuid. And they forgave one another, and he spent the night in the house.
On the morrow Diarmuid went back again to
his comrades, and the woman stopped at the house, and after a while she saw Oisin
coming towards her. She gave him a welcome, and asked him into the house, and
he said he would come if he would get his request. And what he asked was
another of the pups of the greyhound.
So she gave him that, and he went away
bringing the pup with him. And when Diarmuid came back that night the
greyhound met him, and she cried out twice. And he knew that another of the
pups was gone, and he said to the greyhound, and the woman standing there:
"If she had remembered the way she was when she came to me, she would not
have let the pup be brought away."
The next day he went back again to the
Fianna, and when he was gone, the woman saw Caoilte
coming towards her, and he would not come in to take a drink from her till he
had got the promise of one of the pups the same as the others.
And when Diarmuid came back that night the
greyhound met him and gave three yells, the most terrible that ever were
heard. There was great anger on him then, when he saw all the pups gone, and
he said the third time: "If this woman remembered the way she was when I
found her, and her hair down to her heels, she would not have let the pup
go." "O Diarmuid, what is it you are after saying?" she said.
He asked forgiveness of her then, and he thought to go into the house, but it
was gone and the woman was gone on the moment, and it was on the bare ground
he awoke on the morrow. There was great sorrow on him then, and he said he
would search in every place till he would find her again.
So he set out through the lonely valleys,
and the first thing he saw was the greyhound lying dead, and he put her on his
shoulder and would not leave her because of the love he had for her. And after
a while he met with a cowherd, and he asked him did he see a woman going the
way. "I saw a woman early in the morning of yesterday, and she walking
hard," said the cowherd. "What way was she going?" said
Diarmuid. "Down that path below to the strand, and I saw her no more
after that," he said.
So he followed the path she took down to
the strand till he could go no farther, and then he saw a ship, and he leaned
on the handle of his spear and made a light leap on to the ship, and it went
on till it came to land, and then he got out and lay down on the side of a
hill and fell asleep, and when he awoke there was no ship to be seen. "It
is a pity for me to be here," he said, "for I see no way of getting
from it again."
But after a while he saw a boat coming,
and a man in the boat rowing it, and he went down and got into the
boat, and brought the greyhound with him. And the boat went out over the sea,
and then down below it; and Diarmuid, when he went down, found himself on a
plain. And he went walking along it, and it was not long before he met with a
drop of blood. He took it up and put it in a napkin. "It is the greyhound
lost this," he said. And after a while he met with another drop of blood,
and then with a third, and he put them in the napkin. And after that again he
saw a woman, and she gathering rushes as if she had lost her wits.
He went towards her and asked her what
news had she. "I cannot tell it till I gather the rushes," she said.
"Be telling it while you are gathering them," said Diarmuid.
"There is great haste on me," she said. "What is this place
where we are?" said Diarmuid. "It is Land-under-Wave," said
she. "And what use have you for the rushes when they are gathered?"
"The daughter, of King Under-Wave is come home," she said, "and
she was for seven years under enchantment, and there is sickness on her now,
and all the physicians are gathered together and none of them can do her any
good, and a bed of rushes is what she finds the wholesomest."
"Will you show me where the king’s
daughter is?" said Diarmuid. "I will do that," said the woman;
"I will put you in the sheaf of rushes, and I will put the rushes under
you and over you, and I will carry you to her on my back." "That is
a thing you cannot do," said Diarmuid. But she put the rushes about him,
and lifted him on her back, and when she got to the room she let down the
bundle. "O come here to me," said the daughter of King Under-Wave,
and Diarmuid went over to her, and they took one another’s hands, and were
very joyful at that meeting.
"Three parts of my sickness is gone
from me now," she said then; "but I am not well yet, and I never
will be, for every time I thought of you, Diarmuid, on my journey, I lost a
drop of blood of my heart." "I have got those three drops here in
this napkin," said Diarmuid, "and take them now in a drink and you
will be healed of your sickness."
"They would do nothing for me,"
she said, "since I have not the one thing in the world that I want, and
that is the thing I will never get," she said. "What thing is
that?" said Diarmuid. "It is the thing you will never get, nor any
man in the world," she said, "for it is a long time they have failed
to get it." "If it is in any place on the whole ridge of the world I
will get it," said Diarmuid. "It is three draughts from the cup of
the King of Magh an Ionganaidh, the Plain of Wonder," she said, "and
no man ever got it or ever will get it." "Tell me where that cup is
to be found," said Diarmuid, "for there are not as many men as will
keep it from me on the whole ridge of the world." "That country is
not far from the boundary of my father’s country," she said; "but
there is a little river between, and you would be sailing on that river in a
ship, having the wind behind it, for a year and a day before you would reach
to the Plain of Wonder."
Diarmuid set out then, and be came to the
little river, and he was a good while walking beside it, and he saw no way
across it. But at last he saw a low-sized, reddish man that was standing in
the middle of the river. "You are in straits, Diarmuid, grandson of
Duibhne," he said; "and come here and put your foot in the palm of
my hand and I will bring you through." Diarmuid did as he bade him, and
put his foot in the red man’s palm, and he brought him across the river.
"It is going to the King of the Plain of Wonder you are," he said,
"to bring away his cup from him; and I myself will go with you."
They went on then till they came to the
king’s dun, and Diarmuid called out that the cup should be sent out to him,
or else champions to fight with him should be sent out. It was not the cup
that was sent out, but twice eight hundred fighting men; and in three hours
there was not one of them left to stand against him. Then twice nine hundred
better fighters again were sent out against him, and within four hours there
was not one of them left to stand against him.
Then the king himself came out, and he
stood in the great door, and he said: "Where did the man come from that
has brought destruction on the whole of my kingdom?" "I will tell
you that," said he; "I am Diarmuid, a man of the Fianna of
Ireland." "It is a pity you have not sent a messenger telling me
that," said the king, "and I would not have spent my men upon you;
for seven years before you were born it was put in the prophecy that you would
come to destroy them. And what is it you are asking now?" he said.
"It is the cup of healing from your own hand I am asking," said
Diarmuid. "No man ever got that cup from me but yourself," said the
king, "but it is easy for me to give it to you, whether or not there is
healing in it."
Then the King of the Plain of Wonder gave
Diarmuid the cup, and they parted from one another; and Diarmuid went on till
he came to the river, and it was then he thought of the red man, that he had
given no thought to while he was at the king’s house. But he was there
before him, and took his foot in the palm of his band and brought him over the
river. "I know where it is you are going, Diarmuid," he said then;
"it is to heal the daughter of King Under-Wave that you have given your
love to. And it is to a well I give you the signs of you should go," he
said, "and bring a share of the water of that well with you. And when you
come where the woman is, it is what you have to do, to put that water in the
cup, and one of the drops of blood in it, and she will drink it, and the same
with the second drop and the third, and her sickness will be gone from her
that time. But there is another thing will be gone along with it," he
said, "and that is the love you have for her."
"That will not go from me," said
Diarmuid. "It will go from you," said the man; "and it will be
best for you to make no secret of it, for she will know, and the king will
know, that you think no more of her then than of any other woman. And King
Under-Wave will come to you," he said, "and will offer you great
riches for healing his daughter. But take nothing from him," he said,
"but ask only a ship to bring you home again to Ireland. And do you know
who am I myself?" he said. "I do not know," said Diarmuid.
"I am the messenger from beyond the world," he said; "and I
came to your help because your own heart is hot to come to the help of
So Diarmuid did as he bade him, and he
brought the water and the cup and the drops of blood to the woman, and she
drank them, and at the third draught she was healed. And no sooner was she
healed than the love he had for her was gone, and he turned away from her.
"O Diarmuid," she said, "your love is gone from me."
"O, it is gone indeed," said he.
Then there was music made in the whole
place, and the lamenting was stopped, because of the healing of the king’s
daughter. And as to Diarmuid, he would take no reward and he would not stop
there, but he asked for a ship to bring him home to Ireland, to Finn and the
Fianna. And when he came where they were, there was a joyful welcome before