HOW DIREACH GOT THE FALCON 73
as they touched the land Gille Mairtean changed himself into a fair woman, who laughed and said to Ian Direach, ' I will give the king a fine wife.'
Now the king of Erin had been hunting on the hill, and when he saw a strange ship sailing towards the harbour, he guessed that it might be Ian Direach, and left his hunting, and ran down the hill to the stable. Hastily he led the bay colt from his stall, and put the golden saddle on her back, and the silver bridle over his head, and with the colt's bridle in his hand, he hurried to meet the princess.
'I have brought you the king of France's daughter,' said Ian Direach. And the king of Erin looked at the maiden, and was well pleased, not knowing that it was Gille Mairtean the fox. And he bowed low, and besought her to do him the honour to enter the palace; and Gille Mairtean, as he went in, turned to look back at Ian Direach, and laughed.
In the great hall the king paused and pointed to an iron chest which stood in a corner.
'In that chest is the crown that has waited for you for many years,' he said, 'and at last you have come for it.' And he stooped down to unlock the box.
In an instant Gille Mairtean the fox had sprung on his back, and gave him such a bite that he fell down unconscious. Quickly the fox took his own shape again, and galloped away to the sea shore, where Ian Direach and the princess and the bay colt awaited him.
'I will become a ship,' cried Gille Mairtean, 'and you shall go on board me.' And so he did, and Ian Direach led the bay colt into the ship and the princess went after them, and they set sail for Dhiurradh. The wind was behind them, and very soon they saw the rocks of Dhiurradh in front. Then spoke Gille Mairtean the fox:
'Let the bay colt and the king's daughter hide in these rocks, and I will change myself into the colt,