A Book of Myths

Page: 143

Then Eva went back to her chariot and drove to the palace of her foster-father at the Great Lake, and the four white swans were left on the lonely waters of Darvra.

When she reached the palace without the children, the king asked in disappointment why she had not brought them with her.

[Pg 296] “Lîr loves thee no longer,” she made answer. “He will not trust his children to thee, lest thou shouldst work them some ill.”

But her father did not believe her lying words. Speedily he sent messengers to Shee Finnaha that they might bring back the children who ever carried joy with them. Amazed, Lîr received the message, and when he learned that Eva had reached the palace alone, a terrible dread arose in his heart. In great haste he set out, and as he passed by Lake Darvra he heard voices singing melodies so sweet and moving that he was fain, in spite of his fears, to stop and listen. And lo, as he listened, he found that the singers were four swans, that swam close up to where he stood, and greeted him in the glad voices of his own dear children. All that night he stayed beside them, and when they had told him their piteous tale and he knew that no power could free them till the years of their doom were accomplished, Lîr’s heart was like to break with pitying love and infinite sorrow. At dawn he took a tender leave of them and drove to the house of Bodb the Red. Terrible were the words of Lîr, and dark was his face as he told the king the evil thing that Eva had done. And Eva, who had thought in the madness of her jealousy that Lîr would give her all his love when he was a childless man, shrank, white and trembling, away from him when she saw the furious hatred in his eyes. Then said the king, and his anger was even as the anger of Lîr:

“The suffering of the little children who are dear [Pg 297] to our souls shall come to an end at last. Thine shall be an eternal doom.”

And he put her on oath to tell him “what shape of all others, on the earth, or above the earth, or beneath the earth, she most abhorred, and into which she most dreaded to be transformed.”

“A demon of the air,” answered the cowering woman.

“A demon of the air shalt thou be until time shall cease!” said her foster-father. Thereupon he smote her with his druidical wand, and a creature too hideous for men’s eyes to look upon, gave a great scream of anguish, and flapped its black wings as it flew away to join the other demons of the air.

Then the king of the Dedannans and all his people went with Lîr to Lake Darvra, and listened to the honey-sweet melodies that were sung to them by the white swans that had been the children of their hearts. And such magic was in the music that it could lull away all sorrow and pain, and give rest to the grief-stricken and sleep to the toil-worn and the heavy at heart. And the Dedannans made a great encampment on the shores of the lake that they might never be far from them. There, too, as the centuries went by, came the Milesians, who succeeded the Dedannans in Erin, and so for the children of Lîr three hundred years passed happily away.