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Sif & Trelawney

told by Sif herself
and with portraits of Sif (and others)
by her father Trelawney

discovered by

All that follows be a tale of wonder, me lovely doves.
Nothing in it be true. Nothing in it be false. 'Tis as real as you desire it.
If there be anything in it not to your liking, dears, change it till it suit
your every dream. That's what a tale be.  — a preface to an old Donegal tale, 1847


Seeing that my maternal grandmother's name is Maloy (originally Malloy), and that I therefore have a fairish bit of Irish blood in me, I decided in 1991 to take a trip to Ireland to see the homeland. I won't go into all the adventures I had there, since this book is not about my adventures but about the adventures of Sif and Trelawney. I am only on this page to tell you how I found this manuscript in a cleft in the rocks in a cave in the Bay of Bantry.

I have always liked to explore, you see. And although my mother always said it would get me nothing but trouble, in this case it led me to a discovery of some importance. This manuscript I found, written on old yellow parchment soggy with sea mist and tied with filaments of seaweed, had been in that cave for many many years undisturbed. Exactly how many, no one knows. There is a reference by Sif to "George" in the first part of the story, but I do not think she means any of the King Georges of England. Sif is speaking of a writer, so she must mean either George Eliot or George Sand—both of them women who wrote under a man's name in order to get published. This would be of great interest to Sif, since Sif wanted to be a writer herself (and as she was). So I date the story to later in the 19th century.

As for the illustrations, well, that is a bit trickier. All of them (but two) are supposed to be reproductions of paintings by Trelawney himself. There was a Trelawney mac Muredac who painted in the 19th century, but no works by him are now known to exist. We know of him only by the letters of others, such as the painter Seth Limmais, who painted the portraits of Trelawney in this book. Mr. Limmais lived in the vicinity of Galway from 1801 to 1887. But no known works of Mr. Limmais exist either (except these reproductions), so we are in the realm of speculation. We only have the word of Mr. Limmais' great-granddaughter—whom I tracked down and talked to briefly in the town of Clifden, near Galway—and a few old letters, to work with.

Even more mysterious is the fact that these reproductions are in color. By the engraving or photogravure processes of the time, this is an impossibility. It has been suggested that perhaps these reproductions have been hand-tinted, either by Trelawney himself, or by someone else since. This would easily explain it except for one thing: the color is entirely too rich. Hand-tinted reproductions simply do not look like this. One of my scientific friends has offered me the theory that the seawater, soaking the air and parchment for a century, has somehow deepened the colors. We will take it that this is the case, since we have no other way to explain it.

Finally, we come to the question of who wrote this story. Obviously Sif wrote her half of it. But someone else wrote the other half, and he put Sif's stories together with his to make up this "twice-told" tale. I take it that the person who claims to have written it at the end could not have. I will not ruin it for you by saying who that is. But the publisher has simply refused to put his name down as author below the title. Certainly the Library of Congress would find it odd to list him in their card catalog. I will leave it to you to believe what is believable to you, as the Donegal saying says, my lovely doves.

—Miles Mathis, 1999

Part One

{From Sif's Journal}
August 27, Galway

My name is Sif. I will tell you a story. No, I will tell me a story and let you listen. Since I don't really know you and you are hard for me to picture. But I need to think someone is listening all the same. It is much easier to write then.

Once upon a time there was a little girl. She lived in Ireland but not in any one town. She went everywhere with her father. They were looking for the mother. The great god of the sea, who Deddy says is Manannán, took the mother away when the little girl was only a tiny baby. The mother was very beautiful and the Deddy made the terrible mistake of travelling too close to the sea. Manannán saw the beautiful mother and he wanted to borrow her to show her to all the people in the sea because they love beautiful things so much. Since Manannán is very great, the Deddy could not say no to him. So the mother went down to the sea. There she met all the people in the sea. But Manannán took her to wife and they had many beautiful fishgirls. The Deddy takes the little girl down to the shores of the sea because they would like to borrow the mother back. When the mother comes out of the sea all the beautiful fishgirls will come with her and the little girl will be their sister too and they will teach her to swim very fast.

That is all I can tell tonight because Deddy wants to go to sleep and I have to blow out the candles now.


Trelawney looked down from the cliffs. The sun had not shone all day and now it was getting dark behind him, in the East. A rare land breeze pushed him ever so slightly forward and he imagined flying out over the sea like a great grey bird, following the purple light. It looked warmer there, where it was purple, with the cold blue all round. It was always that way. Some clouds in the West were warmed by the sun and others were not. Was it because the orange clouds were closer to the sun? Or were the blue ones just harder to warm? Trelawney did not know. Sometimes Trelawney thought it would be nice to be a blue cloud. Untouchable but serene. But not now. Not tonight.
    "Deddy! Come on, Deddy," said Sif, hugging herself and hopping on both feet. Her long hair bounced in the cold wind and her clogs were loud on the rocks. "I wants to make the fire before it bis really cold. Manannán is not coming tonight. We'll look for the mother again at Bantry."
     "What?" said Trelawney.
     "Maybe the mother will be at Bantry. I think it bis too cold today. When they come out of the water they would bis all shivery. I don't think I would like to come out of the water today. Do fishpeople have clothes?"
     "Nae, no clothes for them people. The scales be warmin' enough."
     "Do they take scales off when they come out, and put clothes on?"
     "Ae, tha's the way of it. So they won't be naked."

About two miles inland, surrounded by a few low leafy bushes and an outcrop of rock—like a great broken cairn—lay a hooded cart or van. Sif began a small fire nearby, downwind from the rocks. The cart was not as decrepit as one might have thought, in this location and considering its occupants. For one thing, it had two horses. Also, it was quite long, being some twenty feet from stern to aft—as Trelawney said—and almost half that wide. The waggon-tilts were heavy and deeply dyed, of fine workmanship and unfaded detail. The wooden roof of the cart was detachable, and, since it was now early September, was still detached: the rainproof awning giving a higher ceiling inside and making summer travels more fun for the child. It would have to come down soon, maybe tonight. No, tomorrow, thought Trelawney. The wind is soft, and it will be easier to change in the daylight.
     When the fire was properly alight and the fish had been put on to boil, Sif walked over to the horses.
     "Don't worret, Uaill (she said to the bigger horse), we won't have to stand here much longer by the sea. We'll bis moving in where there's more grass for ye. Then ye and Cairell Whiteskin can eats till ye gets fat. And we might even get some oats for your nosebag, puir boy. Just be glad ye don't have to eat fish again likes we."
     The horses puffed and blew smoke from their black noses and looked pretty sad. But Sif knew that horses always looked pretty sad. It was just a game. They were really thinking about something else, something not sad at all. Sif thought that the horses might know that they were going to Dublin tomorrow, and that they were really happy about that, even though their eyes were watery. Their eyes were always watery. It didn't signify. Bantry would still be there in November, directly after All Saint's Day. Then the mother might return and they would have a cottage to sit in at Christmas. And Uaill and Cairell Whiteskin could eat apples and sugarplums.

After dinner Sif and Trelawney climbed into the cart amongst the canvases and paintbrushes. Sif brought a large kettle of very hot water from the fire and put it in its special plate in the middle of the "room." Trelawney lit the candles. It was almost warm once the sash was tied. In addition to Trelawney's painting supplies, the cart contained a desk, a shelf of books, a straw bed on the floor, and a wardrobe. This wardrobe was filled with Sif and Trelawney's clothes as well as many costumes of all kinds.
     Sif sat down on the bed, near the great copper kettle, and pulled off her clogs. She put on a pair of thick wool stockings. While her dress aired outside, she slipped into a warm nightgown of fleece, with rabbitfur at neck and wrists. It was old and somewhat dirty but it was very warm. And it was her dirt, anyway, so she did not mind it. She did not like to wear a cap or a bonnet. Her yellow hair kept her warm and she let it fall about her ears. Trelawney changed shirts but otherwise made no concession to night. His dayshirt and coat went on the awning to air, like Sif's dress. He kept his boots on; breeches likewise. They had bathed about midday in a rindle that leaked into the sea nearby. With the shirt and coat outside, Trelawney would be quite nice to snuggle up to, thought Sif. She never minded his smell, but less of it was a pleasant change, nonetheless. But first she must write in her journal.
     Trelawney had many pens but one was Sif's favorite. It was a long black quill that he said came from a swan. Sif had thought that all swans were white. She had never seen a black swan. She wondered if she would be frightened by a black swan. Even a black dove would be frightening, she thought. It would be very bad to see a black dove. Something bad might happen. Trelawney said that a black swan was not a bird of evil portent. It was very beautiful. Sif looked at the black feather. It was very beautiful. It did not feel evil. And it seemed to like the black ink. It liked to write with black ink, ink even blacker than it. Ink of great portent.

{This is what Sif wrote that very night}

September 2, Oranmore

The little girl will be a writer when she grows up. She is almost eleven now. The little girl I was telling you about. Her Deddy has lots of books, and some of them have drawings of people in them and mermaids. One of the books has pictures in it that her Deddy painted himself. He did not paint on the pages in the book, but engravings can be in many books at the same time. Fishpeople have scales that keep them warm. But when they come out of the sea they must wear clothes. They won't be naked so. In France a woman wrote a whole book and she is famous. She had to say that George wrote the book because George is already famous. But really she wrote it and everybody knows. The little girl might have to say that George wrote her book, too, because the men who publish books like George a lot. But everyone will know she wrote it. I cannot write more tonight because the candle smoke makes Deddy cough.


Trelawney looked down at his daughter asleep. Her mouth was open and he could see her little white teeth. They were still crooked at the bottom. One or two not all the way in. The left incisor a bit forward. Even her teeth were like her mother's. Crooked and beautiful. Too many teeth for that little red mouth. Should they even bother with Bantry? Why go? Manannán would never keep his promise.

They left in the morning. As they moved away from the sea, Trelawney's mood lightened. He was not a gloomy man by nature.
    After a few days they crossed the Shannon south of the Lough Ree, taking the ancient road through Offaly. Trelawney was asleep behind the horses, which were plodding slowly ahead, reinless and whipless. They neither wanted to run nor to stop: they wanted to get there (wherever it was) but they couldn't loose themselves from the cart and they knew it. The best means therefore was walking, reins or no. Sometimes on a hill they might stop for a rest. Then Sif would climb from the back of the cart and walk with them for a while, to keep their spirits up. Faster and smaller conveyances might pass them by as they liked, cursing or not cursing. Larger carriages would not likely also be driverless, and they could swerve, or shout from a distance. The hooded cart went slowly enough that collision was not to be thought of, except in the dark. And then there were lanterns that could be hung from the cart.

Somewhere past Tullamore, on the long flat ways of the central plain, surrounded by farms where the clans of sheep ruled the lowlands, far outnumbering Irishmen, Sif sat in the cart drawing small figures with a pencil. It was too rough to think of writing. Ink would not behave under these circumstances. But Sif had learned to draw whilst in motion, pausing momentarily when the wheel hit a hole or a large rock. And pencil could be erased. Suddenly Sif felt a bounce on the back step and she lifted her lead tip instinctively. A boy's head was thrust through the opening of the sweptback drapery.
     "Siffer me jiffer! Thought ye could pass by Timmany and not pay yer debts, eh?" said the boy, screwing up his face into a squinty smile, all ears and freckles.
     "Timmany! Ha, ha!" screamed Sif, jumping up and almost knocking him out the back of the cart with a hug. "Timmany, come look! Deddy bis teaching me to draw and I just drew this picture of Uaill. I'm going to draw Cairell Whiteskin next and then draw them pulling the cart."
     "'E looks more like a dog."
     "Does not! Look at his ears, how they stand up so. And his legs bis nice and long."
     "Ae, but his neck idden long enough. And his nose be too short."
     "Timmany, don't bis so cruel. I think it looks just like him. I'm going to show Uaill and Cairell Whiteskin. They know more about horses than you do. I bet they recognizes themselfs. Besides, you couldn't draw a horse or a dog. I bet you couldn't even draw a... a... grass."
     "Maybe not. But I know it when I sees it. And I know a Siffer when I sees it. Rouff," Timmany answered, jumping on Sif like a panther, growling and tickling her till she began to scream and laugh again.
     "Timmany! Stop. Stop!" she said, with laughing tears in her eyes. She had tried the tickle back trick, but it had failed. She was the more ticklish. Suddenly Timmany said "C'mon!" and jumping down from the cart he immediately ran headlong up the road. Sif followed him. She soon caught up and Timmany said, "race you!" He ran again and Sif chased, looking back to see that Trelawney was still asleep. They ran for about a quarter of a mile before they stopped, huffing and jostling. Timmany was hanging on to Sif and she was pushing him away, still laughing. For the first fifty yards Timmany had sprinted ahead easily, being almost twelve years old—and so some inches taller and having the longer stride. Sif had the better lungs, though, and she soon caught him. But this time the "hare" grabbed the "tortoise" and would not let her go. "I won, I won!" he said, pulling on Sif's dirndl and shooting ahead of her.
     "Did not. You cheated. If you woulda let me go, I woulda beat ye by a mile."
     "But you couldna' get loose from me vise-like grip. And so I won."
     "It bis a race contest, not a wrestling contest, Silly Boy. And quit breathing on me." She pushed him away, pretending to be mad. Then she changed her mind. "C'mon, let's go down to the river. I'm hot," she cried. "We'll catch up Deddy in a minute."


September 5, Ballinasloe

The Deddy of the little girl is a painter of portraits. I will call the Deddy Diarmid. His name is not Diarmid really but that is what I will call him. In one of the old books there is a man named Diarmid who is a famous warrior and a friend and foe of Fionn. Fionn, he is the great hero of the Irish, from the olden times. If you are not Irish you might not know. Well, at first this man Diarmid and Fionn are friends, but then Fionn's betrothed (she who said she would be his wife) she sees Diarmid and she thinks no more of Fionn. This makes Fionn angry at him, and hundreds of men die in stupid battles before Diarmid is killed by a boar, many years later. But Diarmid was very brave and had many weapons and tricks, like jumping over the enemy with his spears. And he was the handsomest of the Fianna. Diarmid was The Best Lover of Women and he had a lovespot on his forehead which if any woman saw that spot she loved him immediately and had to follow him always. The woman who was supposed to be Fionn's wife but ran away with Diarmid couldn't help it because she saw his lovespot. She was enchanted. So that ugly women do not follow him Diarmid wears a hat with the brim pulled low to cover the lovespot. He does not like women to follow him because they are always getting him into trouble.

Fionn's betrothed

The Deddy of the little girl I am telling you about, in my story, is like that Diarmid except that he is not a warrior. He is the Best Lover of Women in all Ireland and he paints portraits of the most beautiful women and people fall in love with his portraits just like if they were real women. The Prince of Connemara wanted to marry his daughter to the King of Lochlann {Norway}, so he hired Diarmid to paint her portrait. When the King of Lochlann saw the portrait he fell in love with it. He married the Prince's daughter, and even though she was very beautiful she was not as beautiful as the portrait. They were not happy married because the King would not stop looking at the portrait. Finally the Prince's daughter, who was now the Queen of Lochlann, ordered her servants to burn the portrait. They burned it and three days later the King died of the love sickness.

The little girl's name who I am telling about is Fiossa. That is what I have named her. Her Deddy who is Diarmid, he calls her his little fish. Even though Diarmid paints all the most beautiful women in Ireland, he paints Fiossa even more. Diarmid tells Fiossa that when she grows up she will be the most beautiful woman in Eire, just like her mother. The mother was not a princess but she was the most beautiful woman in Eire, and everyone believes it because Diarmid says it is true and Diarmid knows these things. The mother was called Becuma, and she had long white fingers that were famous. Diarmid says that men travelled hundreds of miles just to look at her hands. Becuma was very poor. She lived on a farm and milked ewes. Then Diarmid married her and she went to Dublin with him. One man paid an ounce of gold just to make a cast of her thumb. That man has the mother's plaster thumb in his museum. I think he is suffering the love sickness just like the King of Lochlann. I do not understand the love of men.

In Lochlann they have different gods that live there. Manannán does not live in the seas around Lochlann because he lives in the Irish Sea and it is a long way to swim to Lochlann. The god who lives in the sea there is named Njord. He is married to Skaði, who is the daughter of a giant. Skaði was given her choice of all the gods to be her husband, but because she got to pick first she had to prove she was the best judge of husbands. To prove this, she judged all the gods by only looking at their feet. She thought she knew men so well she could tell the whole man from the least part of him. She chose Njord. Njord was very beautiful, but of course Skaði loved somebody else and she thought Njord's feet were somebody else's. Skaði did not like water. They were unhappy married. Skaði is like the man in the museum I think. Everybody is suffering the love sickness I think.


Fiossa has long blond hair and green eyes and dark eyebrows and small hands. Diarmid has curly hair that is sometimes blond and sometimes red depending on where the sun is. His eyes are sometimes green and sometimes blue and sometimes grey. When it is cloudy his eyes are grey-green and his hair is red. When it is summer his eyes are blue and his hair is shiny blond. The salt in the water makes it blonder I think. Fiossa's hair is almost silver sometimes, Diarmid says. He paints it blue on top. This sounds strange I know but look at the portraits of Fiossa and you will see that her hair looks blue on top sometimes. It is not blue, really. It is the blue sky reflecting on her hair. Diarmid notices these things.


Trelawney awoke from his nap and pulled the blanket back. "Sif! Sif?" he called into the cart. As the horses continued to walk, he crawled into the back and looked under the covers. Sif had hidden before. Maybe this was one of her games. But she wasn't in the cart. Trelawney crawled out and walked by the side of the cart. He looked under the carriage, on top of the awning. No Sif. He scanned the roadsides and called again, louder. "Sif!" Presently, he stopped the horses and pulled the cart off the road. He led Uaill and Cairell Whiteskin into the grass and considered what to do. There was a wooded area nearby, one of the few to be seen in this vicinity. Sif loved the forest. It might be that she had run down to the trees whilst he was sleeping and somehow got lost there. Trelawney walked slowly from the roadside to the edge of the wood. Then he thought of something, or a thought was put into his head from somewhere else. He went back to the cart and got drawing materials. Once he found Sif, he thought, he might make a quick sketch in the wood. It was a lovely day, and the cart ride was beginning to wear on him. Why not take a bit of a holiday, as Sif obviously had? Trelawney strolled along, mostly without aim, looking for Sif, but also looking at the trees and the birds and the squirrels. He called out several times but received no answer. After maybe half an hour, with no sign of his daughter, he came to a small spring burbling softly from the ground. He knelt and took a drink from a pool surrounded by mossy stones. The water was cold and crystal clear, like melted ice. The moss was very green, and its longer filaments swirled lazily in the slow current. Trelawney watched the moss dance in the pool of water, mesmerized by the liquid movements of its snakey leaves, like arms waving in the wind. Suddenly he looked up. A tawny deer, a young doe, stood on its slender legs only a stag's leap away. She looked frightened, but did not flee. Quickly but noiselessly Trelawney arranged his drawing materials. He sketched fluidly, effortlessly, the outlines of her eyes. Trelawney always began with the eyes. He knew they were the most important feature of the face. The rest of the face must be drawn round the eyes, like a frame, thought Trelawney. The doe continued to stand still. Occasionally she might lower her head to drink from the rill as it passed her feet, flowing by from the little spring. But always she returned to stare at Trelawney. She watched him, no longer nervously, as if considering what he was doing. The doe found Trelawney quite as interesting as he found her.

September 11, Edenderry

One day Diarmid and Fiossa were travelling in their cart to Dublin. They stopped by an enchanted wood to rest. They did not know it was enchanted. Diarmid went into the wood to fill their skins with water when a deer appeared at the stream and spoke to him. "Diarmid," said the deer, "you must paint my portrait, or you may have no water from this stream." Diarmid was very thirsty, so he agreed to paint the deer's portrait. As he painted the deer, he began, as he always did, with the head. And as he painted the head, he began, as he always did, with the eyes. Diarmid painted the eyes first, and very beautiful eyes they were. Then he painted the nose and the mouth. And then the ears and the hair and the long slender neck. Then the arms and the hands. Suddenly Diarmid stopped and looked at his portrait. Hands? A deer had no hands. He looked up. Where the deer had been was now a young woman of slender arms and legs, with a long neck and brown brown hair. Her shoulders were lightly freckled. He looked back at his portrait. This is what he had painted. His portrait was of a young brown-haired woman, a woman with a small nose and a garland in her hair. About her waist was a girdle of golden leaves. She was drinking from the stream. How odd, thought Diarmid, that I did not notice earlier. But of course a deer does not have red lips. I have forgotten myself.

Rián of the Many Coloured Land

    "Yes, my love," said the woman. "You have forgotten yourself indeed, Diarmid. But I have remembered you. I am Rián. I come from the Many Coloured Land. There, Diarmid, it is known you are the Best Lover of Women in Eire, and I will have you for my husband. To travel to the Many Coloured Land, though, you must first change shape. I will turn you into a crane, and we will fly there together, me riding on your back."
    "Rián, fair princess from the Many Coloured Land, spare me!" cried Diarmid, although he was already a crane, and spoke from his beak. "Though you are indeed the loveliest creature I have ever seen, yet I am married already, to my satisfaction, and I do not wish another wife, even though she be a goddess."
     "Where then is this wife, Diarmid? I see no wife, nor sign of woman about you," answered Rián.
     "Alas, she was borrowed of me by Manannán. But she will return. I have his promise," said Diarmid.
     "Manannán need keep no promise to any man," said Rián. "He may do as he will, unbound. Your wife will never return to you, unless Manannán tires of her. Time passes slowly for Manannán. Before he has time to think of the issue, your wife will be old. I will not be old. Fly away with me and leave your wife to the will of her god."
     "But I will also grow old. And you will tire of me."
     "By then you will have lived more than any man and will have no room for regret. But Oh!" she added, stamping her foot. "Men will always argue."
     "I will come willingly and never again argue on one condition."
     "Name your condition, my beautiful husband."
     "That you give me, as it is promised in all the myths, one chance of rescue. If I am not rescued I will do all you ask without argument."
     "A game?" Rián said, laughing. "You remember well that we who do not die still enjoy our sport. Yes, what fun would kidnapping be if there were no fear of being caught? Here is a game for you, my feathered husband: Only love can keep you in this world, and if you have it not, you will come and have mine and be none the worse. You will show yourself once as a crane to your daughter Fiossa. You may not speak to her. If she recognizes you, you are hers. If not, you are mine."

Rián changed back into a doe, so that she could watch the game unnoticed. Diarmid flew up into the air, above the treetops, in search of Fiossa. Just above the uppermost branches he followed the course of the little stream that Rián had been drinking from when he came upon her. He could see Rián running silently below him. He stared down through the forest canopy at the dappled ground below him, hoping to see the blonde hair of his daughter or the colour of one of her dresses (he could not remember which one she wore today, but he knew them all). But he saw nothing but fallen wood and grass and the occasional patch of flower. Suddenly he flew up high, having an idea. He climbed up and up until the whole forest was an irregular patch beneath him, like a tattered handkerchief or a torn postage stamp. With his crane eyes, which could see much farther than peoples' eyes—even to seeing a beetle clean her feet from the height of a low cloud—Diarmid looked down upon the cart parked by the side of the road and saw Uaill and Cairell Whiteskin munching dry grass as if nothing strange had ever happened in the world. He also saw Rián standing at the edge of the wood nearest the cart, looking up at the sky.
     "Maybe she thinks I will fly away and never come back," thought Diarmid. "But no, I must find Fiossa. It is nice to be up here among the blue clouds alone and troubleless. But I cannot be a crane forever. Becuma would never leave Manannán to return to a crane." Diarmid circled down and down, till he lit beside Uaill and Cairell Whiteskin. They recognized him immediately, and Diarmid wished for a moment that the game could have tested their love for him. But no, he thought, Fiossa will know me, too, no fear.
     "Uaill, my friend, have you seen Fiossa? I have great need of her."
     "Nae. I have not. Not since she ran with Timmany," answered Uaill with a swish of his tail.
     "Timmany? Is he part of this mystery, too? That boy. They must be in trouble then. If they come back here tell them to stay until I return."
     "I'll tell them. But I don't expect they'll understand. Remember, Diarmid, you are a crane. And I am a horse."
     "Oh, Ae. Well, if they return, try to keep them here if you can. And, Uaill, Cairell Whiteskin, if I don't return, take care of Fiossa. Take her to Dublin to them as knows her. Farewell!"
     “Diarmid?" said Cairell Whiteskin before he could fly away. "Since you have ears for us at the moment, I wonder if you might loosen this strap. You haven't noticed, but it is wearing a blister on my haunch."
     "I wish I could, my dear. But now you are forgetting what I am. I can't tighten or loosen anything with these wings. I'll do what I can when I come back with fingers. Again, dears, farewell! And may your paths cross many apple orchards" (that is the polite thing to say to horses, you know).

Diarmid flew back to the forest, re-entering from the direction of the cart, just as he thought Fiossa and Timmany must have. Again Rián followed underneath. Only a short distance into the wood, Diarmid heard a dim cry, still far off. He flew in the direction of the cry, and the voice was soon loud enough to recognize. That voice cried, "Deddy! We are lost, Deddy." It was Fiossa. Timmany was still with her, but he was sitting on a rock, looking forlorn.
     "This is me own forest," Timmany was saying to himself. "How can I be lost in me own forest? I've been in here ten thousand times if it's once. I know ever tree and and log in 'er. This rock I'm a sitting on, I've probbly seen it hunnerds a times. Probbly ate me breakfast here. Yet I don't know it, all because I come in from the wrong side and got turned round. I be'ent right today in me head, and I don't know why."
     "Timmany! Quit mumbling and call out! Maybe your voice is louder than mine."
     "Not likely. Theys can hear ye in Belfast. I'm surprised we be'ent got ever search party in England and France here by now."
     "Timmany! You're the worst person in a bad spot ever there was. You're as useful as willow crutches. Hey, Timmany! What is that bird?"
     "It's just a cursed old crane. He must have heard your squawking and a thought ye was his mate."
     "Nae, Timmany, he's walking toward us. Are cranes dangerous? Do they bite?"
     "Not that I ever heard. Maybe the crane's a mother and we're on her eggs or something. Then she might be dangerous, I don't know."
     "She doesn't look like she's mad, does she Timmany? She just looks curious."
     "Ae, she looks like no bird I've ever seen. I think we're bewitched, or soon will be." And with that Timmany ran off.

Fiossa stood her ground. Whether she was bewitched or held by fate or just curious and brave, we cannot fully know. But the crane advanced to within three feet of her before it stopped. It was looking at her most mysteriously. A crane is a very large bird and stands quite tall. And Diarmid had been changed into a very large crane. He was more than four feet tall, almost as tall as Fiossa. His legs were easily as long as hers. But Rián had made the game very difficult, for he did not look at all like Diarmid. There was no resemblance in the least. Nothing of Diarmid's features held over into the face or body of the crane. Fiossa and Diarmid looked closely at eachother. Then Fiossa spoke.
     "Are you an enchanted crane? Are you going to fly away with me? Or tell me a story?"
     But Diarmid could no longer speak. He only thought, What must I do? She does not recognize me. What do I do as a man that tells the world "here is Diarmid"? Do I have a characteristic walk, a way of holding my head, something I do with my wings? Oh dear, I must hurry: I am already getting used to thinking as a bird. Diarmid did not have wings! I must do something before Fiossa turns away. But what?
     Fiossa continued to stare at the great bird. It seemed to want to tell her something. But the crane did not come closer or make any sign. "Maybe," said Fiossa, "If I touch her she will turn into a maiden, or a witch. But maybe I will turn into a witch. Or a toad. Or maybe... maybe the crane is a handsome prince who will take me to the Shí!" She reached out and touched the crane. But nothing happened. It's grey feathers were soft and alive, and Fiossa touched the bird again, simply because it felt nice. But no transformation happened. All was as before. And she still did not recognize her father.

Finally Diarmid looked away, sadly fearing that he would never be a man again. He saw Rián standing at the edge of the glen, watching all that happened. She would be an exquisite wife, but he did not want her. He was heartbroken to think that he would have to spend the rest of his life with a goddess. And he smiled sadly to think how Fiossa had hoped that he would turn into a prince of the Shí. "Be careful, child," thought he, "what you wish, or you may get your wish when you least desire it." Rián, as a doe, took a step toward Diarmid, thinking the game was over, and that she had won. Diarmid looked at her again and his feathers fluttered. He thought how they had met, and how he had drawn her portrait, ensnared by his own love of beauty and the use of his greatest gift. He saw again the drawing of her, first as a deer and then as a woman. Rián continued to walk toward him, but Fiossa had not seen her yet.
     Suddenly, Diarmid noticed a patch of dirt at his feet between him and Fiossa. Fiossa looked down, too. They both looked at his feet in the dirt, the long toes with a claw on the end of each toe. Claws long and slender and pointed. Pointed just like a pencil. Just... like... a... pencil!

That was it! Quickly Diarmid smoothed out the dirt with a wing, and then began to trace an outline with his foot. Fiossa watched in the highest interest. There were two tiny slashes in the dirt. And then an oval surrounding them. And then another slash, and then two more. And then long strokes outside the oval, and little dots below the first slashes. And then the slashes became eyes, and the long strokes hair, and the oval a face. And Fiossa recognized that face. It was her own face!
     "That's me!" she cried. "That's a portrait of me! And only my Deddy can draw a portrait of me like that, starting with the eyes and making me so pretty. Oh, Deddy!"
     Instantly the crane became Diarmid, and Fiossa hugged him and cried "Deddy, Deddy, Deddy!" Diarmid kissed the top of her blonde head, just where the blue sky reflected off her shiny hair. "My little fish," he said. "My smart smart little fish."

Rián had stopped walking as soon as Diarmid had begun drawing. Now she changed back into a woman and approached them. She ignored Diarmid, but spoke to Fiossa.
     "Fiossa, I am called Rián, from the Many Coloured Land. I would have had your father as my husband, but I have lost him to your skill. And his," she added, looking furiously at Diarmid. "Since I have lost this game to a denizen of the lesser world, I am required to give you a ransom, a gift of parting, so that I may return to my own world. Take this bower, Fiossa." Rián handed her a broken branch of cup-shaped leaves, many many leaves, sprouting curiously in a circle. "It is an enchanted bower, as you call it. If you put it in moving water, though the water be the narrowest stream, the branch will become a curragh {a little boat}, and it will take you anywhere you command it. Anywhere that borders on water, that is. Keep it well, and keep it dry till then! I leave you now to your lives, such as they are."
     With that, she changed back into the doe and ran lightly but swiftly into the deepest part of the wood.


That was Sif's first long story. That is how she remembers it. The following is how Trelawney remembers it. But first we must go back to the enchanted pool.
     Trelawney looked up from his drawing with a start. A giant crane had lit some yards off and the frightened doe scampered back into the undergrowth. Fortunately the drawing was almost complete, and Trelawney only made a few finishing remarks from memory. As he was doing this, Sif and Timmany came running up, all out of breath but shouting still. The crane flew up into the air just as they entered the glen and soared away to the north.
     Even as she watched the crane rise in astonishment, Sif called out, "Deddy, Deddy, we have saved ye. Ye were lost and Timmany and me found ye. It was this magic bower we found that did it. Look! Let's go show it to Uaill and Cairell Whiteskin." She started to run off again in her excitement, but then stopped. "Wait Timmany. I say, Deddy, that bis a pretty deer ye have drawn. I thought ye were drawing that crane. But she bis much prettier. I think that crane was only her lover, and he was jealous of ye. He was spying, the old thing. I will write ye a story about it." With that, she and Timmany really did run off, leaving Trelawney, who had been "saved," to follow in their footsteps.

As Trelawney stood up to put away his drawing materials, a sheet of paper fell from his sheaf and fluttered into the grass at the edge of the spring. It was a portrait of a very thin brown-haired women, quite young and very graceful looking. Her legs and shoulders were uncovered, her knees so delicate and collarbones so strangely freckled. Trelawney kneeled down to pick it up. He had drawn it himself—that much was obvious. It was in his style, which he, at least, could never mistake. But when had he drawn it? "I must have stowed it away in this old drawing tablet and forgotten about it until now," he thought. "How odd that I don't remember the lady in the least. And she, one that a man would remember. I will ask Sif if she remembers her, when I get back to the cart."
     But when he got back to the cart, Sif and Timmany were still making such a rumpus, screaming and pinching, that Trelawney forgot all about it. And it was forgotten almost forever.

Sif and Trelawney prepared to move on. But before Trelawney climbed up into the cart, he passed Cairell Whiteskin. She tapped a hind foot on the ground twice. Trelawney stopped. He noticed that her halter, too tight on the left side, was rubbing a blister on her haunch. He adjusted it and joined Sif in the high seat. "I wonder how long that's been like that?" he said to Sif. "Good thing I noticed it now. Any longer and she'd be refusing to budge. As it is, no harm done. Is that Timmany gone? Well let's get to Dublin then me girl."

Part Two

The cart rolled into Dublin county on a Sunday, four days later. Trelawney steered the cart into Clondalkin, on the west side of Dublintown. He liked to stay away from the Irish sea, and Dublin Bay particularly. He could not afford to languish this month. There was too much to do. There were Christmas portraits to paint, and Trelawney was expected. But he did not drive to the castle directly. He stopped in the town and walked with Sif through the streets, looking at the people. He went into the shops, the ones that were open, the inn, the pub. Then they walked among the houses in the afternoon, waving at the windows, talking to strangers. A few Dubliners, here and there, they knew. But Trelawney did not like to stay anywhere long. He liked to walk though the lanes and look at the people. One or two he asked to come for a portrait. Sometimes they would come.
     Later that week, Trelawney and Sif went up to Teamhair, or Tara as it is called. There they were to meet the Lord Mayor of Dublin. The Lord Mayor wanted his portrait painted with the famous hill of Tara in the background. This would signify his descendance from the Ancient Kings, lengendary kings like Cormac and Dermod and Ae of Slane. The Lord Mayor was not really descended from these kings, and there was no way to prove it if he was. It was too long ago. But he was free to claim anything he liked, and anyone could believe it who wanted to.
     On the way they stopped in the small town of Trim. Trelawney had not painted in a while, and he decided to practice there with another portrait of Sif. Whenever he needed to practice, Trelawney painted his pretty daughter. This kept his spirits up. Sif would go through Trelawney's portrait wardrobe—a great oaken chest of costumes of many kinds—and dress up in whatever would fit her. As she got older and bigger, more and more things fit her. Today she wore a purple princess costume, one that Trelawney had bought for a song from an acting troupe that had gone under. It had a tall pointy hat and see-through blue sleeves. Sif sat just inside the cart, out of the full sun. Trelawney stood at his easel, shaded by a large blue umbrella. As he began to paint, a group of dogs stopped to watch him, curious about Sif and the horses and the strange smells of linseed oil and turpentine. This gave Trelawney an idea. He grabbed the handsomest dog (which was also the cleanest) and put him in Sif's lap. He called the painting "Princess Sif and the Dog of Trim."

The next morning they went in the cart to the hill of Tara. The Lord Mayor was there with several attendants, already waiting. Trelawney posed the Lord Mayor against the backdrop of the hill as best as he could. Trelawney worked on his portrait for days and days, but it didn't go well at first. Trelawney didn't like to paint men. Even handsome men did not inspire the brush of Trelawney: Trelawney was a painter of women and that was all that could be said of it. The Muse who sat on the shoulder of Trelawney would appear only for the most beautiful of women, and no amount of money could make that otherwise. The Muse appeared for her own amusement, not for gold and silver. This Muse I speak of helped to guide the brush of Trelawney, and Trelawney knew it. He did not know what his Muse looked like. He could not feel her hand on his brush with his. But he knew she was there. And he knew that she cared nothing for the Lord Mayor.

The Lord Mayor was not a handsome man. Even when he was young he was not at all handsome. Nor did he have any of those qualities which may make up for a lack of beauty. He was not even interesting. There was no way to make an interesting portrait of a face that was neither beautiful nor interesting. There was a distinct lack of character in the Lord Mayor's face. And this is not to be wondered at, for the Lord Mayor's character also lacked character. The Lord Mayor was not a kingly man. Which is perhaps why he took such pains to link himself to the Ancient Kings.
     The portrait went poorly for another reason, too. The Lord Mayor was used to telling people what to do. And so naturally he wanted to tell Trelawney how to paint the portrait. The Lord Mayor could not draw a fly to save his life. He could not paint a rock to save the kingdom. He could not make a recognizable painting of an egg or an apple to save the world. But he was Lord Mayor, and that made him an expert on everything. So he was constantly leaving his place in front of the easel to come around behind the easel, "To check on the progress," as he said.
     "My eyes seem a bit too close together, don't you think?" quoth the Lord Mayor.
     "Your eyes, or the eyes in the portrait, do you mean?" answered Trelawney, with a wink to Sif.
     "The eyes in the painting, Sir. I bit wider, I think, eh?" said the Lord Mayor.
     "Oh, Ae, of course. If you will return to your seat, I was just going to fix that. No problem at all." Once the Lord Mayor returned to his seat, Trelawney returned to painting the mouth.
     An hour later the Lord Mayor would get up again and come round to "See 'ow he's a coming."
     "Hm. My nose is fraction too long, I should say," quoth the Lord Mayor.
     "Ae, but the ladies don't mind it that much," answered Trelawney. And Sif tried to stop from laughing by putting her head under her skirts.
     "I mean that nose there, Sir," said the Lord Mayor, pointing at the portrait. "It seems to me that you have it drooping over the lips too much."
     "Oh, that. Of course. Ae, of course that's wrong. I was just finishing that. It won't look anything like that when I'm done." And when the Lord Mayor returned to his seat, Trelawney returned to work on the ear.

After ten or twelve of these painful sittings, the Lord Mayor finally grew tired of the whole affair and ordered Trelawney to deliver the portrait to his mansion when it was done. The Lord Mayor had "pressing business." Trelawney had known all along that if he painted slowly enough, the Lord Mayor would find some excuse to leave. Then Trelawney could do whatever he wanted. When Trelawney and Sif delivered the portrait the next week, the Lord Mayor was out. This was also as Trelawney had planned it. The portrait unfortunately looked exactly like the Lord Mayor, so Trelawney was sure that he would not like it. But Trelawney was due his fee "upon delivery." So the Lord Mayor's "man" (his accountant) had been instructed to pay Trelawney when he arrived. Trelawney collected this fee (which was handsome if the Lord Mayor was not) and immediately drove with Sif out of town. Trelawney would never hear a word about it until he returned to Dublin, which would not be for a good long time. The Lord Mayor would need a while to calm himself.


September 19, Trim

Diarmid took Fiossa to Teamhair. Teamhair is where the Ard-Ri sat. There were lots of kings in Eire a long time ago, but the Ard-Ri he was the king of all the kings. Fionn, who was the great hero, always worked for the Ard-Ri because the Ard-Ri needed all the bravest men for his warriors. Teamhair is a funny name because it doesn't have anything to do with hair or with teams. It is a Gaelic word so it is pronounced "Tyower," kind of. English people can't really pronounce Gaelic. Only Irish people like me can say Teamhair and make it be right.
     Diarmid had to go to Teamhair to paint the portrait of the Prince of Leinster. The Prince does not look like a prince. He is not anyone that a princess would want to marry. Diarmid does not like to paint princes anyway. He only likes princesses. Diarmid told Fiossa that she could paint the princes when she grew up. Fiossa said that she did not want to paint princes if they looked like the Prince of Leinster. Besides he is a mean man.
     Fiossa will only write about princes from the Shí, I think. I forgot to tell you that the Shí is what Faerie is really. We don't call it Faerie. We call it the Shí. Fairies do not live there. Gods live there. Not big gods, but littler gods. Not little like fairies, but not so grand as Manannán, who is a great god. Manannán is too great for the Shí. Manannán is from the Land of Wonder. Deeper than the Shí is the Many Coloured Land. Deeper than the Many Coloured Land is the Land of Wonder. Deeper than the Land of Wonder is the Land of Promise. And there are other lands too deep for knowledge. You must cross clay to find the Shí. Cross water to find the Many Coloured Land. Cross fire to find the Land of Wonder. Cross air to find the Land of Promise. And other crossings beyond.

a princess of the Shí


Sif and Trelawney headed south this time. They were on their way to Kilkenny on the river Nore. The Nore joined the Barrow some way south of Kilkenny just before rushing into Waterford Har and St. George's Channel. Kilkenny was not too terribly far from Dublin—some seventy miles as the crow flies—and it was still a part of Leinster. In Kilkenny there were more portraits to paint. But this time no men. Only pretty children.
     Sif and Trelawney travelled very slowly in the great creaking van. It would take them two or three days to travel from Dublin to Kilkenny. They might have made it in one day, if Mongan's Frenzy were upon them. But there was no need. The fields were quiet and lovely, even in the late autumn, and Trelawney preferred the countryside to the towns. If he and Sif did not have to eat, he would have never gone to town. But to stay on the road, one must have supplies. To have supplies, one must have gold. To have gold, one must trade for it. And Trelawney had nothing to trade but the strokes of his brushes.

The cart rolled on past Rathmore and Ballymore, recrossing the Liffey river and making for Ballytore, where they hoped to stay the night. But county Kildare is known for its highwaymen, and the slowmoving cart, with a sleepy driver and little girl, was an easy mark.
     As soon as darkness fell, there were shouts, and Uaill and Cairell Whiteskin stopped. The horses were not especially frightened. They had no money to lose. But Sif was a little scared. She cried, "Deddy, wake up. It bis robbers upon us!"
     Trelawney had been having bad dreams, dreams in which all his gold melted into a stream that ran through his fingers. He tried to cup his hands tightly together, but the gold would flow through the cracks in his fingers all the same. He watched it run down the road and flow into the Nore and out to sea, where the mermaids gilded their tails with it.
     He woke up. The cart was stopped and Sif was pulling on his sleeve. On each side of him sat a masked man on a black horse.
     "Ae, man, yer wee lass knows what is at hand. Stand and deliver. A pot o' gold will save the gold hair on her pretty head." There was a pistol under the seat, but Trelawney knew better than to reach for it now. Two pistols were already aimed at him, and he was not willing to bet that they were out of gunpowder (although they were).
     "Alright, alright, gentlemen. I'll give you all I have, just don't be careless with them pistols. I just got paid in Dublin. The purse is in the cart."
     "Just a minute," said one of the robbers. "Robert here'll go with you. No tricks, or the little lass comes with me. Robert, see he don't have a little surprise stowed away back there."
     Trelawney and Robert climbed into the cart together, Robert with a pistol to Trelawney's head. Trelawney slowly pulled out the purse and gave it to the villain.
     "I don't suppose ye could leave me a coin, Sir Robert?" said Trelawney. "We have nothing in the world but that bag of gold there (which was almost true). And we know no-one in Kilkenny (which was not true). You're welcome to the rest, but a single coin would keep me and my daughter from starving."
     "Hah!" answered Robert. "Neither Robbers, nor Roberts, are known for charity. Your troubles be yours and ours be ours, good father. Just be glad, me sleepy man, that I leave ye to further troubles and do not end them all for ye now. But first I will search this van, in case ye have another 'only bag of gold in the world' hidden among these blankets and filthy pictures." But he found nothing more.
     Robert jumped from the cart directly onto his horse's back, crying out to the other, "I have it, ride!" Trelawney emerged from the back of the cart to see both men riding away.
     But Sif was on the back of the second man's horse, looking back!

"There bis robbers upon us!" cried Sif

Trelawney reached under the seat and grabbed the pistol. He checked to see that it was loaded and that the powder was still dry. He quickly found extra powder and shot. Then he loosed Uaill from the cart and mounted him. Just then he heard cries in the distance. The men were shouting at eachother. And Trelawney rode like the wind's own steed. And Uaill snorted like he was Sleipnir, the stallion of Odin.
     What had happened is this. When the men had ridden off, Sif had been too terrified even to scream. She was kidnapped, on the back of a tall strange horse, behind a horrible strange man. But after a quarter of a mile, she came to her senses somewhat. She had one chance, as she saw it, of ever seeing Trelawney again. She must fall from the horse a purpose, hit the ground running, and then stop and be very still—hopefully under a bush or in a hole. The men might not find her in the dark. She breathed deep twice, and on the third breath she went over backward off the horse's tail. Turning over in an almost perfect back flip, she landed on her hands and knees. Immediately she leapt up like a frog and raced through the field. The moon was new and it was too dark to see. But she ran as fast as she could anyway, with only instinct to guide her footfall. The ground was even, and she avoided the occasional rock or cleft like she was a floating owl. She could hear the men shouting behind her, "Robert, the lass fell off! Help me find her! She probably broke her cursed neck!" and other less savory curses and shouts.
     But Sif had a head start of maybe fifty yards. The men quickly discovered she had run, and once their horses stopped, they could hear her crunching through the dry autumn grass. "Hoi, Sean, over here. She be running toward the lake."
     Sif did not hear this last remark, or she might have slowed down. For suddenly the lake was upon her, and she was under the lake. It was very cold, so cold that Sif almost could not breathe. It was like a shock, like running into a wall of ice. Sif thought that she had been slapped by the queen of the water. But Sif could swim. Not as fast as her sisters in the sea, but gracefully and well. She rose to the surface and listened, kicking hard with her feet and holding herself with her arms for warmth. This is what she heard:
     "Robert, she's in there. I heard her splash. She'll drown for sure. It's as cold as the Orkney Ice in there, man."
     "Let her drown if she wants to. It wasn't my idea to take her. If you go in there you'll drown, and that's a sight worse for you than her drowning."
     At that instant, another horse came up and a shot was fired. But before Sif could guess the outcome, her foot kicked something large and furry! She screamed, and went under in a pool of bubbles.


September 21, Kilkenny

The biggest adventure Fiossa ever had was on the road to Ballytore. This is the story of Diarmid and the Otter. The road to Kilkenny is very dangerous. On that road some bad robbers stole all the gold that Diarmid got from the Prince of Leinster. They held a big pistol to Diarmid's head and then they stole Fiossa, too! But Fiossa was not scared, really. She sat on the back of the robber's horse, and the robber was very smelly. She would have stabbed him in the heart but she did not have a knife. So Fiossa flipped off the horse backward, landed on her feet and ran away before the robbers knew she was gone. Then they chased her on the black horses. But Fiossa remembered that there was a lake near the road, and she jumped into the lake just as the horses caught her. The bad men were about to jump in and get her when Diarmid rode up on his brave horse Uaill and shot them. Then Diarmid jumped in the water to save Fiossa, even though Fiossa can swim just fine, better than Diarmid even.
     Diarmid and Fiossa could have gone on to Ballytore then, except an even more dangerous adventure happened. Which was that this lake was a lake of the Land of Wonder, and the queen of this lake her name was Nerien. In this world she appeared as a beautiful otter with silvery fur and ivory claws. When Fiossa jumped into her lake, Nerien thought, "Here be a pretty child." When Diarmid jumped into her lake, Nerien thought, "Here be the most handsome man in Ireland. He shall be my husband in the Land of Wonder." Diarmid's love spot was always getting him into trouble, even in dark lakes at night.
     Nerien took Diarmid in her ivory claws and brought him to her island in the lake. She said, "Oh, my love, your beauty is too much! I must change you into an otter, so that you may return with me to the Land of Wonder. Only there will your face not overwhelm all that surrounds it." (The lovespot makes even goddesses crazy, I think.)
     But Diarmid said, "Lovely otter that you are, dear, I do not wish to marry a beast."
     "A beast, say you?" cried Nerien in great offense. "Am I beastly now, would you say, my love?" And she turned into the loveliest silver-blond woman that it is possible to imagine. Every curve of her long body was shaped like an "S". Her fingers long and white. Her feet so white and shapely as to be almost transparent. Her hair floated down her supple body in endless S-shaped ringlets. No man could see her and think of anything but her.
     But Diarmid only said, "You are truly the least beastly thing I have seen in many a year. But I already have a wife and do not desire another."
     "What wife?" answered Nerien. "I see no wife, nor sign of woman about you."
     "Manannán has taken her for a while. But he promised to return her."
     "Manannán is too great to concern himself with promises to earthly men. He will do only what he will. If he returns her, it will only mean she has lost her beauty. Come with me and leave Manannán with what he has. I will not grow old or unbeautiful."
     "But I will, Lady of the Otters. You will tire of me, and then what?"
     "And then you will die a happy man—the husband of Nerien. What more can you want, you silly mortal?" cried Nerien, stamping her foot. "Oh, but men will always argue!"
     "I will do as you ask and never again argue if you grant one wish, which you are bound to do anyway. Give me one chance to escape. If I do not, I am yours forever—or until I die and must go where I go and where you do not."
     "Yes, it is true. I cannot just steal you. I must play a game. A game where I give you the tiniest tiniest chance of winning. Hah, hah! Then when I win no one can say I cheated. So be it. Here is the game. I will make you an otter. You will see Fiossa once and only once. If she recognizes you, you are hers. If not, you are mine. But you cannot speak to her! And she cannot ask you any questions."
     With that, Nerien shook her long curls and Diarmid became an otter. Then she shook them again and she became an otter again, too.

In the morning Fiossa woke from a warm sleep. Uaill was next to her and she was curled up between his forelegs. They were both still by the edge of the lake. Behind them somewhere on the road was Cairell Whiteskin and the cart. But where was Diarmid? Fiossa was half in fear that he had drowned, half in fear that the robbers had shot him. She had heard a single shot. But there was no dead robber lying about. Either Diarmid or the robber was in the water dead and drowned. Or maybe the shot had missed? The lake was fairly small. Fiossa could see across it easily. She did not want to have to get back in the cold water. First she would ride all the way round. Only then, if Diarmid still were not found, would she swim.
     Fiossa climbed up onto Uaill's back. Fiossa was a good rider and Uaill the best horse in the world. They both looked for Diarmid all round the shore of the lake. When they came to a tree or a bush or an overhang by the lake, Fiossa dismounted and looked thoroughly under and around everything. Soon, though, they came back to Uaill's impression in the grass, where they had lain for the night. Fiossa knew she must swim again.
     First she took off her dress so that it wouldn't weigh her down or get tangled in branches or weeds. Her shoes likewise. Then she dove in. She felt the same shock, but this time she was prepared for it. She searched the lake bottom near the shore where they had jumped in at night. Nothing but mud and weeds and rocks. Then she swam for the island. It was not far, and it only took her about thirty seconds. When she climbed out of the water, though, she was very cold. As cold as the water had been, it was still warmer than the cold air, with the wind blowing and no clothes on. Now she knew how the fishgirls felt when they climbed out of the sea. All shivery so. She wished she had scales to keep her warm.

The island was about the size of a large barn, and it was covered with brambles and nettles and bushes and dead grass. Fiossa kept away from the stinging nettles, and she walked quickly around the shore, peering amongst the brambles and also into the shallow water. On the far side of the island, where Uaill could no longer see her, she came to a tiny rill—a little trickle of a stream ekeing into the lake from the island. She started to hop over it, but she was all huddled and hunched trying to keep warm and keep her head out of the wind, and her hop did not hop quite enough. She caught her foot on the edge of the little bank and, trying to get her balance back, fell into the lake. During the two seconds when she was under water, she felt something large and furry brush past her. When her head came out of the water, Fiossa could see that a great otter had gone by her and bellied itself up the little rill. It rolled over onto the mud and looked back at her.
     Fiossa was not scared but she was very surprised. The otter was at least three feet long, which is a very large otter indeed. It had big black eyes and long whiskers—whiskers like a cat, except many more and much longer. Its little round ears were pushed back flat against its dripping head, and its big webbed paws were under its bearded chin. An otter is a fantastic animal, one it is hard to believe in. Fiossa did not know whether to believe in this otter or not. So she stayed under the water, where it was warmer. Also she was shy. She did not want the otter to see her naked.
     The otter continued to stare at her. He seemed to want to speak, but could not. Fiossa did not know it, but behind her was another otter with just its head out of the water, like hers. Otters like to do that, too, you know. They are always peeking. This otter was Nerien, of course. Nerien was watching the game to be sure she won.
     Diarmid looked at his Fiossa, who really was a little fish now, all under water. He and Fiossa, neither one could remember the last game or how it was won from Rián, for Rián had taken all memory with her when she left. So Diarmid again was thinking, "What should I do? What does Diarmid do that says to Fiossa, 'Here be Diarmid.' Nothing in this otter is like to Diarmid. Diarmid was all man. This otter is all otter. What can I do?" Diarmid tried to stand up like a man. But he only looked like an otter balancing on his tail, or like a squirrel eating a nut. Fiossa looked at him and laughed. He was very cute and she wanted to pet him. She reached her arm out of the water and said, "Come here, Mister Otter. Don't be scared. I only want to pet you."
     Diarmid thought this might work. When she touched him, she might know it was him. He went back down on his belly and slid down the mud embankment. Fiossa reached out and patted his head. "Will you turn into a Prince of the Land of Wonder now?" asked Fiossa. "Or will you turn me into a fish and have me for breakfast?" But the otter did nothing. And Fiossa remained a cold little girl in the water, shivering.
     For a moment she continued to pet the otter, just because it felt nice. He had coarse, dense hair that kept the water from his skin. He never felt the chill that she felt. But suddenly she sneezed. The otter jumped back in alarm. "Don't be afraid, Mister Otter. It was only a sneeze." Diarmid inched back down to the water. As he did so he looked beyond Fiossa and saw that Nerien was now swimming toward them. Time was almost up, and Fiossa did not know who he was. In sadness he bowed his head. But when he did so, he noticed marks in the mud. Long scratch marks. When he had jumped back from Fiossa's sneeze, his claws had raked the mud and left these long marks, like the signature of an otter. He looked up at Fiossa. And he thought: like... the... signature... of an otter!

That was it! Instantly he brushed out the marks with his tail. Fiossa watched with the highest curiosity. With his longs otter claws, Diarmid made two short horizontal marks in the mud, like dashes. Then he made a circle around them. And then another slash below the first two (the mouth). And then two more right above the first (eyebrows, you know). And then long curvy marks around the circle, and then more and more. Finally Fiossa cried, "That's a face. The cute otter can draw a face!" And then, "Ae, that's my face. The otter can draw my face. No one can draw my face like that, starting with the eyes and making me so pretty, except Deddy. That otter must be Deddy!" And she was right.
     Diarmid became himself, clothes and all, and he held out his coat for Fiossa. She climbed out of the water into the coat with another big sneeze and held her Deddy tight. "Deddy! Hat-choooo!!... Deddy, you were an otter and I saved you!" And Diarmid said, "That's right, my little fish. You knew your Deddy."
     Nerien climbed from the water as a woman, a woman wrapped in only her hair. But she was not cold. She was hot with anger. "Yes, yes, you knew your Deddykins. You have saved him from the Land of Wonder, though he may not thank you for it once his brain thaws out. But I am required to give you a further token, not because I have any liking for you, but because I must in order to return to my world. I must pay my own ransom, since I have lost a game of my own making. Here it is. Take this shell. It is from the shore of the Land of Wonder. It has a great power of calling. Put it to your lips on the edge of the sea and it will become a horn that even Manannán may not ignore. He will come to you. But what will happen then is not up to me. Fare you well, if it is well that is meant for you." Nerien shook her knee-length curls one final time and she became the silver otter that swam back into the lake and was seen never again in this world.


That was Sif's second long story from her journal. That was her memory, or her imagination. This, though, was Trelawney's memory, as far as that went.
     When Trelawney rode up to the lake on Uaill, he fired his pistol into the air. He did not want to hit Sif if she were still on the back of one of the horses. The highwaymen, already having decided to abandon Sif regardless—since they did not want to get wet—and having no balls in their pistols anyway, rode off without the least resistance. Robert yelled out as they left, "Yer lassie be in the water, fine father. Leave us be!" And Trelawney and Uaill found themselves on the edge of a small lake alone.
     "Sif!" yelled Trelawney. "Sif!!"
     But Sif had dived down under the water at the shot, fearing that the men might shoot at her, or that they might be about to dive in after her. She swam under water as far as she could. Just as she was coming up for air, she felt mud in her hands. Was she already on the other shore? This must be a very small lake, or I have swum very fast, she thought. She slipped quietly out of the water and made a quick search. Sif was not on the farther shore of the lake. She was on a tiny island in the middle of it. How strange! It was slightly scary, but also somewhat reassuring, she thought. This was a perfect place to hide from robbers! There were a few bushes and brambles, but they hardly cut the wind. And Sif was very cold. She had no intention of returning to the shore until morning or until she heard Trelawney calling. Unfortunately the wind was blowing from the island toward Trelawney, and his shouts never made it across the water. So Sif began to dig a hole in the mud, under a bush and between two large rocks. It didn't take long, for the earth was very soft and peaty. Sif snuggled down into the hole she had dug and scraped the soil back over her like a blanket. It was not the cleanest bed, but it kept her warm. She felt like a rabbit in a burrow.

In the morning she awoke to cries of "Sif! Sif!" Trelawney was swimming about the island shouting, peeking his head out of the water like an otter. Sif crawled out of her hole and yelled, "Deddy! Over here!" Trelawney climbed up a little rill onto the island and ran to Sif. He was very glad to find her alive. He had almost given up hope. He and Sif hugged and wept, not caring that one was covered with mud and the other soaking wet with cold water.
     "C'mon, my little fish. Let's go show Uaill that you're still alive. He was in a worret about ye. Then he can take us back to the cart and I'll make a great big fire. We have a lot of warming up to do."
     They had one quick swim in the cold water left, though. Sif dove right in, ready to get it over with and get back to the fire. Trelawney planned to follow her closely, to be sure she didn't freeze up on the way. She was a very good swimmer, but a night in the cold could do strange things to the muscles. Just as he was wading into the water, he saw something strange in the mud right on the shore. It was a small portrait of Sif drawn in the mud with a pointy stick—or something like it. It was quite a good likeness. It looked almost like one of his own drawings. Sif must have even more talent than he had given her credit for, he thought to himself. But why was she drawing self-portraits in the mud? And, come to think of it, it had only been light out for half an hour. Had she been drawing in the dark, or was she that fast? Trelawney thought he would ask her when they got back to the cart.
     But when Uaill had taken them back to Cairell Whiteskin and the covered cart, Trelawney was so busy tending the fire and drying the clothes and taking care of their breakfasts, that he forgot all about it. And he forgot about it almost forever.

As he was getting Sif out of her wet muddy clothes, Trelawney noticed that she had a large conch shell in the pocket of her dirndl. "Sif, what is this? Did you find this in that lake?"
     "Ae, I think so. I forgot about it. My hand just fell upon it as I was swimming. And it felt nice."
    "I wonder how it got there? Conches don't live in lakes you know, Sif. They live in the sea. Someone must have thrown it in there for luck. Well, anyway, wrap your little self up in this big blanket. I'll have the hot water in the kettle before ye can say "Tuan mac Starn mac Sera." And he did, for Sif couldn't say all that anyhow, and didn't want to besides.

Part Three

Two days later Sif and Trelawney arrived in Kilkenny. Sif had slept almost all the way from Ballytore. All the swimming in the cold water and sleeping in the mud had left her with a wee bit of a cold in the head. Trelawney, too, had slept much; but Trelawney always slept much. He slept all night and half the day. If he hadn't had Sif to keep him lively, he might have slept all day, too.
     "Deddy, I think you were a bear before you were born into Eire. You always wants to bis hibernating. But ye bis not fat enough to be a bear. Maybe you were a yellow lion. That would explain your silly hair, too, Deddy. Hah, hah!" Trelawney let her laugh at his curly hair. He knew she liked it, really. She just liked to tease him.
     Kilkenny was a much smaller town than Dublin. Trelawney did not mind towns of only a few thousand people. There was a bit of excitement, some new faces, new conversation, without the depressing hordes of a Dublin, or worse, London. Sif had not been to London. And Trelawney had no desire to return. Kilkenny pub was about as cosmopolitan as Trelawney required. And even that not for long. They would spend no more than three weeks in Kilkenny before moving out on the road again. There was Bantry Bay in late November and the search for the mother. Trelawney dreaded the sea. But he was always drawn back to it.

In Kilkenny there were two portrait commissions, both of them children. A baroness who owned thousands of acres of land in Leinster had recently been widowed from an English husband and had moved from London back to one of her ancestral homes outside Kilkenny. She had a four-year-old daughter named Rowan, and this daughter was to be the subject of the first portrait. The baroness, Lady Vorster, wanted only a small pastel portrait {pastels are coloured chalks, my dearhearts}. For she had summered in France the previous year on the Cote d'Azur, and returning through Paris in late August she had become acquainted with the work of the Impressionists, especially Degas—who was famous for drawing ballerinas, you know. Pastels were all the rage on the continent, and Lady Vorster found that she simply must have one of her little girl. Trelawney was the only portrait painter in Ireland who also had a reputation for pastels, so he was called upon to serve the baroness. This he was quite happy to do, for the fee would be a handsome one, no matter the size or medium of the work.
     He was even happier once he met the child. Rowan had bright red hair like her mother and beautiful green eyes slightly tilted up from her nose. Look at her portrait and you will see what I mean. See how the outer corner of the eye is higher than the inner corner? That is what I mean. Trelawney noticed these things, and that is why his portraits always looked like his sitters.

Rowan had gotten her pretty red hair from her mother, of course, for her mother had the Irish blood. And her mother was quite a beauty still, tall and thin with exquisite poise. But Trelawney thought he would much rather paint the child. Lady Vorster was as artificial as a glass lily, and nearly as fragile. There was nothing of her that was her. Everything had been painted over or highlighted or toned down, covered or stressed, sprayed or tinted, glossed or dusted. Nothing could be seen of the woman who woke in the morning, much less the woman who rose from the bath. Trelawney loved to paint skin and hair and fingers, not taffeta and gloves and jewelry. The ear baubles hid the lovely curve of the ear and the orange tint of the lobe. The gels and ridiculous hats and sprays of foliage hid the lovely glint of clean natural hair and the fall of long untamed tresses. Sleeves and gloves and gold and silver bands hid the extension of a bare arm; and bustiers and pearls distorted and hid the charms of a lady's bust. To Trelawney, it was all sacrilege to his art: Venus had been turned into a ghastly monster, as untouchable and distant and cold as Manannán's deep-sea minions.
     He looked closely at Lady Vorster. Nothing fell where it should fall on a woman. The legs were unknown devices beneath all that drapery. They might have been wheels or metal cogs for all a man knew. The waist was strapped into another device; its real size again unknown. The breasts were grossly amplified and made strange to a man: they were altogether too high and close. The face was a mask of no natural coloUr; the eyes were out of proportion and looming; the eyebrows plucked and arched into madness; the hair piled into ridiculous heights and widths that defied gravity and confused a man's eye.
     But Rowan—she was a child yet unspoilt. She would soon be spoilt, that was almost certain. Already she wore clothes too bright and too billowing. Her dresses overwhelmed her. But at least she had no makeup or jewelry. And she applied a coat of dirt to everything, without even trying, that added charm to her every movement.
     Trelawney was to paint her in the garden. When he and Sif arrived, Rowan had a handful of acorns, and she was trying to open one by stepping on it hard. Lady Vorster was scolding her. "Rowan, dear, put down the nuts and pay attention to the man. The artist needs to see your face. Look up, Rowan. Rowan! Do you hear? Rowan!"

But Trelawney was unconcerned. He was more put out by the baroness' constant snipping than by any movement on Rowan's part. He was fascinated by the little girl, and was grateful to be given time to watch her be herself. If she would only be allowed to be herself. Trelawney asked Sif to find an excuse to get Lady Vorster inside, away from the child. Sif asked her about her purchases in France—the pictures and furniture acquired in Paris—and Lady Vorster took her inside to show off all the things. Trelawney got very little work done the first day, but he began to develop a friendship with Rowan. If she trusted him, she would be easier to manage.
     Finally Rowan got the acorn open and she popped the soft center into her little red mouth. But then she screamed, "Oooo. Oooo. Yucky. Ichhh!" and she made terrible faces, like a tiny gargoyle. "I don't want to be a squirrel. Oooo. Oooo." And more silly faces. Finally she said, with a bit of acorn on her chin, "Why do squirrels eat nuts, Mr. Artist Man? Why don't they eat pies?"
     "Well, dear heart, it is hard to get pies up in the trees, you know" answered Trelawney. "And squirrels aren't very good with ovens, either."
     "Oh, yes, ovens! I forgot about ovens. Hah, hah!" said Rowan.

On the second day, Trelawney asked two favors of Lady Vorster. The first was that he be allowed to look into Rowan's wardrobe. Her dress was entirely wrong for a painting. It was frilly and overdone. He wanted something simpler, with a single strong colour that complimented her face. He did not put it this way to Lady Vorster. He said that the dress was lovely but that his pastels were simply too limited to achieve such a rich colour. He had to match her dress to the colours he had available in his pastel box. This made Lady Vorster feel even more superior (since it meant she could buy even more shades of fabric than Trelawney could buy colours) so it was the perfect thing to say. Trelawney chose a sky blue blouse with a gently curving collar. The blue matched the sky reflecting off the whites of Rowan's eyes, and the collar curved at the same slow rate as her fat cherub cheeks {notice, my dears, that the whites of the eyes are not white—children usually have more blue in the whites of their eyes than adults, it is not just the sky reflecting from them}.
     The second favour was this: have a nurse take Rowan on a long long walk in the afternoon. Let her run and play to her heart's content. Tire her out completely. Then Trelawney could come and draw her after dinner, at about four o'clock.
     "But that will leave you only an hour until dark," said Lady Vorster.
     "Yes," said Trelawney, "but Rowan will be asleep in that chair within five minutes. I can finish everything but her eyes in two days. On the third day I will come earlier and finish the eyes while she is awake. We will be done by Thursday."

Lady Vorster did not believe it. It was impossible that a portrait could be drawn in three days. But it was. In a total of three hours, Trelawney finished the portrait. And when Lady Vorster paid him his fee, she said, "You make a princely wage, Trelawney mac Muradac. The Lord Chancellor hardly makes that much per hour."
     "Ae. That's why I don't charge by the hour, dear lady. Art is sold by skill, not by effort. If you can see the effort in it, it's not hardly art, is it?" The baroness was very happy with the portrait, so she did not argue with the rude man. Artists were supposed to say preposterous things. That much she had learned in Paris. And an Irishman without a temper, well, that was no Irishman at all.
     Lady Vorster asked Trelawney to return to do her portrait. He promised that he would. But he made no plans to do so. Only if Sif were starving would he paint this terrible lady, this woman already varnished and framed.

September 30, Clonmel

Diarmid and Fiossa went to paint the Princess of Ballyragget. She was a little red-haired imp, practically a baby. Diarmid hated her. He gave her a sleeping potion so he wouldn't have to hear her scream and cry all the time. Her clothes were atrocious. And her mother was the most tiresome creature imaginable. Diarmid made Fiossa talk to her so he wouldn't have to. All she did is talk about the salons of Paris, and Lady This and Lady That, and Lord So-and-So and Prince What's-his-Title. Of course she saw Diarmid's love spot and bothered him until he had to run away cursing. She said, "Oh, Diarmid, please paint my portrait. Blah, blah." But Diarmid said he wouldn't paint her portrait for a mountain of gold. I'm glad I don't have red hair. I think I'd kill myself.


The second portrait was of an older girl. A fourteen year old with rich wavy brown hair. Her portrait was to be a full-length work painted in oils. The girl's name was Fiona. Her mother was from Flanders, and her name was Ghislaine. The father, named Seamus mac Ginnish, was a shopkeeper in Kilkenny. He was the richest man in Kilkenny, having made piles of gold in buying and selling. As all the poorer families went bankrupt and left for America or other places, he took over their land for a pittance, paying them only enough to clear out and buy boatfare. He also took all their farm equipment and their furniture and their livestock. Then, since there were few people to sell to in Ireland, he would ship it all over to England or France or Flanders where farmers could afford to buy it. He profitted from tragedy, as many rich men do.
    His daughter had seen many of her young friends go off to America, leaving behind their farms and cottages and horses and cows and geese. Fiona was therefore a melancholy teenager, too aware of the cares of the world. To Trelawney this only made her more beautiful. Sadness was a poor subject in real life, but in a painting it was a rich subject indeed. It could give a face such emotion as to be unforgettable.
     But again the clothes were all wrong, the hair was all wrong, everything was unpaintable when Trelawney and Sif arrived. Mr. mac Ginnish was away on business, so they were free from his interference. And Ghislaine mac Ginnish was easily led by a man, being used to gruff Mr. mac Ginnish and his bullying ways. Trelawney treated her with great respect, though, and he begged to be allowed to study Fiona's wardrobe for the correct colours to compliment her complexion and hair. Mrs. mac Ginnish was only too happy to agree. She wished Trelawney would look through her wardrobe and make a fuss over her.
    Fiona had a simple lace-up dress with a red skirt and deep green bodice that Trelawney chose for her. The laces and cuffs were of gold, and Fiona wore with it black slippers. A black choker with a gold clasp rounded off the costume. Trelawney tied her hair back in a simple ponytail, so that her neck could be seen. He allowed one strand of hair to escape and curl down in front of her profile. It was not a standard portrait by any means. Fiona would be looking down. The viewer could not see her eyes. She would be standing in front of a mirror. But the mirror was turned at an angle, so that you saw not Fiona's reflection, but the field through the open doorway. It was all most mysterious. Trelawney did these things, and sometimes no one could stop him. Mrs. mac Ginnish did not want to. Fiona did not want to. And Mr. mac Ginnish was not there.
     Trelawney finished the portrait in five sittings (or standings). Each sitting was about four or five hours, with breaks for Fiona every thirty minutes or so. Later in the sessions Fiona needed more breaks, for her legs began to get tired. But Trelawney worked as fast as he could. He did not want Fiona to look upset or tired, only wistful. Without knowing why, Trelawney painted the blurred image of a rider in the mirror, far away. As if he were riding up to take Fiona away from her sadness. Fiona liked this explanation. That little blur was her knight in shining armour. Trelawney didn't tell anyone else of this, not even Sif. Sif did not like anyone else to get such attentions from Trelawney, even passing acquaintances. She could be quite jealous.


October 2, Lismore

Diarmid had to paint one more ugly girl before he and Fiossa went to find the mother. This girl and her mother had to show Diarmid all their ugly clothes. Fiossa almost gave them both sleeping potions. Fiossa feels sorry for Diarmid, always having to pretend he is not annoyed. I don't think I could paint an ugly girl. I would have to throw my brushes at her if she didn't keep still. I think I would rather drink turpentine than have to paint that silly girl.
     Fiossa can be quite mean sometimes. Like her Deddy Diarmid, she has a bad temper sometimes. But then it goes away and she likes everybody.

Sif could be quite jealous


Finally Trelawney and Sif left Kilkenny and began the long ride to Slieve Miskish and Bantry Bay. They hoped to make the Shehy mountains in a week, and Sugarloaf a day or two later. The cart was filled with food and supplies bought in Kilkenny, and they planned to stop in Cork as well and buy whatever they wanted—Christmas presents for eachother and Uaill and Cairell Whiteskin. "And for the mother, too," said Sif.
     They had no adventures between Kilkenny and Cork. Trelawney did one portrait of a farmer's wife they met along the way. The farmer could not pay for the portrait, but Trelawney did not care. They got two sacks of potatoes and a mended cartwheel in trade.

the farmer's wife

Soon after, they passed by Slievenaman (a high hill or a little mountain) and then crossed the Suir and the Blackwater (both rivers, as I hope you know). Cork is on the river Lee. It is a town much larger than Kilkenny but smaller than Dublin. Maybe a third the size of Dublin. Trelawney did not like Cork. It was too crowded for him. And it was a harbourtown and smelled of the sea. It did bad things to Trelawney's spirits. He had no portraits there, so he and Sif moved on after a bit of shopping. Sif wanted to stay longer. It was not often she had money to spend. But Trelawney reminded her that the mother might be waiting, and Sif agreed with that.
     So they travelled up the river Lee, moving slowly and letting Uaill and Cairell Whiteskin go at their own pace. The horses now had oats and their watery eyes were as bright as a horse's eye may get. Sif had even found some dried apples in Cork, and the lucky horses got their share of these as well. They were quite happy to do their work. The cart had long since traded its awning for the warmer wooden ceiling, and Sif and Trelawney now looked like gypsies or travelling circus performers. Over the years Trelawney had painted the roof and sides of the cart with all sorts of dancing figures and animals of every description. Sif had helped with the animals. There was a giraffe that she had painted when she was seven. It was yellow and blue. And an elephant from when she was nine. It was properly grey. There were many portraits of Sif, too. Some of them were pretty, almost good enough for canvas. Others were silly, and Trelawney and Sif had laughed and laughed when he was painting them. With one, Sif had tiger stripes. With another, she had four legs and a kangaroo tail. Sif also made silly pictures of Trelawney. In one she had given him a huge frizzy hairdo. She said that was his "high wind" portrait. In another he had a big "Buddha" belly. Sif said that was his "too many potatoes" portrait.

Late October in Ireland is cold. But not icy cold. The gulfstream brought warmer air up from down in the south Atlantic. So County Cork, even though it's at the 52nd latitude (same as Warsaw, Poland or Samara, Russia or Goose Bay, Newfoundland), was not as cold as you might think. The low hills of southern Ireland are the warmest northern lands in the world. When Sif bundled herself up at night round the kettle of boiling water and pushed her knees close to Trelawney's big back and snuggled her toes behind his knees, she was as toasty as a little girl ever gets.
     In the morning, though, Sif got out of her nightdress and into her dirndl mighty fast, you can bet. And Trelawney changed his shirts in a blinking. This morning was a misty moisty one, and the clouds hung so low that you bumped your head on them. Sif fetched Uaill and Cairell Whiteskin two pails of water from the river Lee, and the horses munched a bit of grass, too, before they started off. Trelawney and Sif had bacon cooked over the fire and a big loaf of ryebread to soak it up. And they had butter, too, and thick cream. Somedays they had eggs, but not today. Somedays they had fried fishes. Somedays they had fried potatoes or boiled potatoes. And somedays they mixed together the eggs and potatoes and butter and bacon. Somedays for dinner they had stew. Somedays they boiled oysters or mussels. Somedays they got jam from a farmer's wife (Sif did not know how to make it). Somedays they got honey.
     Today Trelawney wanted a salmon for his dinner, so he and Sif would spend the afternoon trying to catch one—or more than one. The salmon were not spawning now, and there would be only young salmon in the Lee. But the young ones were easier to catch anyway. They weren't as smart. Sif and Trelawney went down to the river bank. They did not know if the fishing were good here, but they would soon find out. If they didn't catch a salmon, they might catch something else tasty. The river curved in a broad arc at this point. Sif said she would try her luck here. Trelawney wandered along the bank looking for a deep hole: a bit of slow brown water where he would be hiding if he were a salmon. Trelawney tried to think like a salmon. He kept walking, testing the water every now and again, but getting no bites. He walked several hundred yards upstream from Sif, around the bend, and lost sight of her. There was a small tangle of trees between them and a row of saplings dipping their young roots into the water. In one place these saplings grew in a little circle right on the edge of the Lee. The roots grew together into a little seat that was a perfect perch for a fisherman's haunches. Trelawney sat down and watched his line flutter in the current. The clouds were still almost at eye level. Some even joined the river, floating along the current as a slow curling fog. Trelawney watched the fog eddy and sway as it flowed down the snaking river, sometimes more sometimes less. Sometimes joining the low clouds, sometimes seeming to disappear into the water itself. It made him sleepy, watching it slip by so soft and transparent, like a carressing lace.

Diarmid sees the fishlady

     Trelawney closed his eyes and had this dream: he was sitting on the riverbank, eyes heavy, almost napping, when he felt a tug on his line. So he began to pull. He pulled and pulled, watching the point where his line slipped under water. At that point he saw his line disappear, and in its place appeared a great shiny fin! As that fin emerged from the lapping waves, he saw that it belonged not to any fish but to a rushclad maiden with a white belly and hair as black as jet.


October 23, Glengariff

Fiossa told Diarmid to wear his hat with the low brim when they went fishing but he would not listen to her. He said, "Nae, there be no sun today. I will not wear it." But Fiossa was not worried about the sun. Everywhere Diarmid went the women troubled him for his love spot. Even on the banks of the river. It seems every place be enchanted in Eire. As soon as he was out of sight of his Fiossa, a fishlady put him to sleep and stole him for her husband. Looking from the brown water she said to herself, "This be the loveliest man in Eire and I will carry him back to the Land of Promise and he will give me all his love." So she pulled on his line until he fell into the water and she turned him into a salmon. But then he woke up.
     "Lady, what is this?" said Diarmid from his fishmouth.
     "You will be the husband of Nisa in the Land of Promise and we will be very happy."
     "I am sure you mean well, but I do not want to be a fish or marry a fish," answered Diarmid.
     "Oh you difficult man! I am not a fish. Look. I am a woman more beautiful than you have ever seen or ever will see. Will you not marry me now?"
     "Truly you are the finest woman that ever breathed from lungs or gills, Dear Nisa of the Land of Promise. But I already have a wife, and two wives can be troublesome, no matter how lovely."
     "What wife, Diarmid? I see no wife, nor sign of woman about you."
     "She was borrowed of me by Manannán. But he promised to return her."
     "Manannán keeps no promises here on earth or in the Shí. He is not bound here. You must give up your wife to him and come with me."
     "But I will become old and you will have no use for me then, fairest Nisa."
     "Let me concern myself with my desires and you concern yourself with yours. But, Oh! Men will always argue!" cried Nisa, grinding her teeth.
     "I will come to the Land of Promise as you desire and never again argue if you will only grant one small favour, as I think you must according to the ancient laws. Give me one chance of rescue. If that fails, I am yours happily."
     "You speak the truth, clever man. I cannot take you wholly by force. I must win you in a game, even though the rules be heavily in my favour. Hah, hah! Here is the game. Fiossa will catch you as a salmon. If she recognizes you, you are hers. If not, you are mine. But you may not speak to her, nor answer any question by any sign whatever."
     So Fiossa felt a bite on her line and she pulled and pulled. And a great salmon, two feet long (and that is a salmon, indeed!), flopped out onto the bank. Fiossa carried the salmon back to the cart. "I will not wait for Deddy," thought Fiossa. "I will cook this salmon and have it ready when he returns." So she made a fire and prepared the biggest skillet and put the grease in it to get hot. Then she brought out a large plate and put a thick frosting of flour on it. And she put the salmon on the plate and flipped him and flipped him until he was completely white with flour. Then she carried the plate over to the fire.
     Diarmid coughed. The flour was in his nose and in his eyes. And he was dizzy with lack of air. He could not breathe. He had not taken a breath in ever so long, and he could hardly think straight. What was he going to do? He would be in the skillet in just a second and the game would be all over! He blinked twice, thrice, to get the flour out of his eyes. Then he looked around for some way out. The first thing he saw made his heart leap. Nisa was standing dripping behind the cart, watching Fiossa carry him to the skillet. Just before he went into the fire, Nisa would wriggle her fin and they would be in the Land of Promise. Oh, which was worse? The fire or the beautiful lady one does not love?
     Diarmid looked down to avoid thinking of it. He only saw his own impression in the flour on the plate. It looked like a big smile in a big round face. In... a... big... round... face!

That was it! This would be more difficult, of course. He did not have a toe or a claw to draw with. But he could twist and turn and flop like no other creature on earth. He gave a great back bend and jumped out of Fiossa's arms just before she reached the skillet. She cried "Oh!" but he was flipping and flopping so that she could hardly get near him. He landed right in the plate. Flour flew everywhere. A cloud of flour dust enveloped girl and fish and fire. Some of the flour got in Fiossa's eyes and she was blinded for a moment. And then, after a few seconds, when the air began to clear and Fiossa could see again, she looked down. The salmon was lying beside the plate looking up at her. And on the plate was a design in flour. The design was a face. And the face was her face.
     "Only my Deddy can draw my face like that, making me so pretty even in flour. Oh, Deddy!"
     But Diarmid did not turn back into a man! He was still a salmon. Something was wrong. Nisa came out from behind the cart and she said, "You have not won this game, my clever man. I said you could not make a sign of any kind. This drawing is certainly a sign."
     Fiossa screamed, "You must at least let him answer. It is not fair, you must at least let him answer. He would not cheat. He did not cheat. I don't believe it."
     "Very well," said Nisa. "Tell her, Diarmid. Tell her that is a sign and you were not allowed a sign."
     "You are wicked," said Diarmid from his fishmouth. "Whether you come from the Land of Promise or not, you are wicked. You said I could not answer her with a sign. That drawing is not an answer to anything. Did you ask me a question, Fiossa?"
     "Nae, Deddy, you know I did not."
     "What have you to say to that, my beautiful fishlady?" said Diarmid.
     Nisa stood there a moment, as if listening to unheard voices, and then she stamped her foot and cried. "Oh, very well, you stupid man! Go back to your stupid cart and your stupid horses if you wish. And, Fiossa, I must give you this, you stupid child." She handed Fiossa a ball of white silk about the size of a small apple. "This is a magic web of silk. Inside is a spider. She will emerge when you call on her. But she will come only once, so call her only at greatest need! Now, goodbye. I have paid my fines and I will bother you with my beauty no longer." And with a wriggle of her fin she was gone.
     Diarmid jumped up out of the flour and gave Fiossa a big kiss right on the forehead. She said, "Deddy, that was close! You were almost my little fish." And she hugged him around the waist.
     "I know it, dear girl, I know it well. But none can part us now. Not now nor ever."


That was Sif's third story. But this is Trelawney's memory of it all:

Trelawney woke with a start. He didn't know how long he had been asleep. He looked at his line in the water, still adrift. He pulled it in and headed back to the cart. On the way back he looked for Sif, but she had already returned. As he approached Uaill and Cairell Whiteskin, he could smell the fire burning and something frying. Sif had had better luck than him. There were two small salmon frying in a bit of grease and a breading of white flour. And potatoes.
     "Sif, my little fish, you have done well. I guess it takes a fish to catch a fish."
     "Did ye have a nice nap, Deddy?   I mean, Mr. Lion?"
     "Ae. That I did. But I had a strange dream." Trelawney told Sif of the fishlady with the white belly and the black hair.
     "That will make a good story, I think. I will write about it and make it very scary. Were you very scared in the dream, Deddy?"
     "Nae. Not too much, fishlet. Not too much. Just surprised is all."
     "Twill be better if it bis scary. I will make it scary, I think."
     Trelawney finished his dinner and then took the plate and skillet down to the river to rinse. On his way he looked at the plate and the pattern of the flour. The pattern was a perfect likeness of Sif.
     "Am I going crazy?" he thought. "I am like those people who see the Virgin Mary in everything, in the folds of their sleeves and in the hair of their dogs and in the grains of wood? I should sleep less. I may be losing touch with the real world." So he blocked it out of his mind, and he forgot about it almost forever.

When he got back to the cart, Sif was playing with a white ball of silk, tossing it up and catching it, saying, "Look, Uaill, a snowball!"
     Trelawney said, "What is that, Sif?"
     "I don't know. Just a ball of tow or something. I found it down by the river."
     "Hm. You do find some strange things, my girl. Well, let's boil some water and get in the cart early tonight. Have you fed Uail and Cairell Whiteskin? I want to get going as soon as the sun comes up tomorrow. It is time we get to the sea, I think."

Sif and Trelawney continued to follow the Lee. They passed Inchigeelagh on the lake and prepared to pass the mountains. Uaill and Cairell Whiteskin struggled with the heavy cart. But Sif and Trelawney got out to make the load lighter. And Trelawney even pushed during the steepest part. Fortunately the horses had been well rested and well fed for weeks. They were fat and strong and the cart soon topped the hills and started down to Glengariff.
     But they did not stop there. The next day they continued on past Castletownbere and out to the very tip of Dursey Head. As they rode in the cart, Trelawney could not sleep from his excitement, with the sea now so near. So he decided to do another painting of Sif to keep him calm. In the evening they stopped and Trelawney set up his easel. Sif found an old kimono in the oaken wardrobe. Trelawney had bought it from a tzigane {a French gypsy} whom he met in Donegal. Japanese women are rather small, so it fit Sif well. She pretended to be a little Japanese girl. A little blonde-haired Japanese girl! She did not feel right for the part, but it was fun anyway. Trelawney worked for two or three hours, until it was too dark to see. It was only a small sketch, but it did look like Sif.

Sif in a kimono

In the morning they moved on, for they were now very near to Bantry. All about them was the Atlantic Ocean. As they progressed it got windier and windier and colder and colder. Uaill and Cairell Whiteskin were trudging along now with their heads down, leaning forward. There was a great storm blowing in from the sea, and Sif and Trelawney were arriving at the same time as the storm.
     "C'mon, Sif. I just want to go to the shore for a moment and then we can go back. I've got to look out at the waves before I go back."
     "I'll go with you, Deddy."
     They stood right on the beach as the storm blew up around them. It whipped their hair and clothes about them violently. They could barely stand. Bantry Bay was now behind them to their left. In front of them all was water, green and grey and topped with white and foam. They stood pressed close to eachother, shivering. And then it began to rain. The whole world was water now. The air was full of water and the waves began to splash up across their feet. Suddenly Trelawney started to wade out into the sea. He had a strange look in his eye and Sif was frightened. "Deddy, where are you going! Wait for me!"

{The last entry in Sif's Journal}

November 19, Bear Island

...And then the whole world changed. The rain did not stop and the storm raged on and Diarmid continued to walk out into the sea. He was up to his waist now. But Fiossa now remembered everything. "Wait, Deddy, wait." She reached into her pocket and pulled out the bough of cup-shaped leaves she had been given by Rián. She looked at the leaves for a moment and then tossed the whole bough into the ocean. Immediately it turned into a little round wooden boat—a curragh. It did not look seaworthy, but it would take its passengers safely to the ends of the earth. Fiossa climbed in. Then she steered it over to Diarmid and pulled him in, too. He looked at Fiossa and the curragh and the glaze left his eyes. He saw clearly now, too. And he remembered Rián and Nerien and Nisa.
     Fiossa and Diarmid sailed past Dursey Island and The Bull and kept sailing straight out to sea. They rode the very crests of the white waves at a great speed, water rushing by them like waterfalls. After a short time, the storm abated, the sea calmed, and they sailed into a harbour of yellow sunlight and green shores. They were on an island of palm trees and singing birds and sheep and cattle. Salmon were in the bay and otters in the rivers and cranes in the treetops. But Fiossa and Diarmid did not go into the island. They walked a few steps up the sandy beach and turned round. Fiossa reached into her pocket again and pulled out the conchshell. As she put it to her lips it became a silver horn and it played high and clear.
    Fiossa's heart beat one, two, three, four. On the eighth beat she saw a white sail on the horizon. A great ship with three masts and a blue topsail came slowly into the harbor. Dolphins were its escort. An albatross sat on the prow and white gulls lined the riggings. Standing on the deck was a very tall man with black hair past his shoulders. He wore a long blue cloak and a waistcoat of silver scales. The buttons on his coat were fisheyes. He stepped down from the ship onto the backs of two dolphins, and they carried him standing to shore. He bowed low to Fiossa and said,
     "I have come, my dear."
     Fiossa said, "But who are you?"
     "I am Manannán, of course. Who else could I be?"
     "We have come for the mother," said Fiossa.
     "Yes, but she is so beautiful I do not think I can live without her yet. Maybe in a little while."
     So Fiossa reached into her pocket a third time and she held up the ball of silk. She tapped it with a finger and a golden spider emerged. This spider began weaving a web of purple thread, weaving so fast that even Manannán could not follow her with his eye. Fiossa's heart beat one, two, three, four. On the eighth beat Manannán was wrapped in purple thread, and none of his great powers could free him from that thread.
     "I will free you from this web if you will return the mother as you promised," said Fiossa to Manannán.
     "I suppose I can do nothing else," admitted Manannán.
     "Do you promise?"
     "I promise."
     "You must promise not to me or Diarmid. You must promise this spider, who is from the Land of Promise. For she is greater even than you."
     "I suppose I can do nothing else," admitted Manannán. Gods were quite good at recognizing a hopeless situation.
     So the spider clicked its jaws and the purple threads fell to the ground. Then the spider climbed back into the silk ball and Fiossa threw her into the sea.
     Manannán lifted his hand and a woman appeared on the deck of the ship. She also wore blue, a long blue gown of nearly transparent fabric, like gossamer. But her hair was blonde. It reached down to her knees. Her hands were long and white. She wore slippers like silver fins and a girdle of golden kelp. She also stepped onto the backs of two dolphins, and they carried her standing to the shore.
     Diarmid said, "Becuma."
     And Fiossa said, "Is this the mother?"
     And Becuma said, "This is the mother."


Trelawney awoke from a fever. He was in a strange house. There were blue curtains to his left, fluttering in the wind. He got up from the white bed and walked over to the window. Bantry Bay lay before him, calm and clear, and well-tended fields stretched off to the right. Below the sill was a garden, surrounded by a stone wall. Beyond the garden sat the cart, still briny from the storm. Uaill and Cairell Whiteskin stood beside it, eating grass.
     The woman had found Trelawney and Sif two days earlier washed up on the beach. She feared they were dead. She brought them back to her cottage and tended them. They were cold, but they were breathing. The little girl was beautiful. To the woman, the man was even more so. When he awoke during his fever, he called her Becuma. She did not correct him. She had long white fingers and long blonde hair and she lived by the sea.
     Sif was in a fever yet for many days. When she finally awoke, Trelawney and Becuma were at her bedside. Trelawney wore a new shirt of deep-sea green and his curls flashed red-gold in the streaming sun. Becuma was dressed only in a shift of the palest blue and a slender belt of silver leaves. No, not leaves. Sif looked again. They were fishes. Tiny silver fishes that sparkled whenever she moved. And Sif looked long at her, especially at the waist-length hair that was the very colour of her own. Finally she said, "Is this the mother?"
     Trelawney and Becuma both said, "This is the mother."


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