A Book of Myths

Page: 140

“My heart weeps for thee, yet I pray thee to be comforted. In my house have I three maidens, my foster-daughters, the most beautiful and the best instructed in all Erin. Choose which one thou wilt for thy wife, and own me for thy lord, and my friendship shall be thine forever.”

And the message brought comfort to Lîr, and he set out with a gallant company of fifty chariots, nor ever halted until he had reached the palace of Bodb the Red at Lough Derg, on the Shannon. Warm and kindly was the welcome that Lîr received from his overlord, and next day, as the three beautiful foster-daughters of Bodb sat on the same couch as his queen, Bodb said to Lîr:

“Behold my three daughters. Choose which one thou wilt.”

And Lîr answered, “They are all beautiful, but Eve is the eldest, so she must be the noblest of the three. I would have her for my wife.”

That day he married Eve, and Lîr took his fair young wife back with him to his own place, Shee Finnaha, and happy were both of them in their love. To them in course of time were born a twin son and a daughter. The daughter they named Finola and the son Aed, and the children were as beautiful, as good, and as happy as their mother. Again she bore twins, boys, whom they named Ficra and Conn, but as their eyes opened on [Pg 291] the world, the eyes of their mother closed on pleasant life forever, and once again Lîr was a widower, more bowed down by grief than before.

The tidings of the death of Eve brought great sorrow to the palace of Bodb the Red, for to all who knew her Eve was very dear. But again the king sent a message of comfort to Lîr:

“We sorrow with thee, yet in proof of our friendship with thee and our love for the one who is gone, we would give thee another of our daughters to be a mother to the children who have lost their mother’s care.”

And again Lîr went to the palace at Loch Derg, the Great Lake, and there he married Eva, the second of the foster-daughters of the king.

At first it seemed as if Eva loved her dead sister’s children as though they were her own. But when she saw how passionate was her husband’s devotion to them, how he would have them to sleep near him and would rise at their slightest whimper to comfort and to caress them, and how at dawn she would wake to find he had left her side to see that all was well with them, the poisonous weed of jealousy began to grow up in the garden of her heart. She was a childless woman, and she knew not whether it was her sister who had borne them whom she hated, or whether she hated the children themselves. But steadily the hatred grew, and the love that Bodb the Red bore for them only embittered her the more. Many times in the year he would come to see them, many times would take them away to stay with him, and each year when the Dedannans held the [Pg 292] Feast of Age—the feast of the great god Mannanan, of which those who partook never grew old—the four children of Lîr were present, and gave joy to all who beheld them by their great beauty, their nobility, and their gentleness.