THE ADVENTURES OF COVAN 279
what skill he might, it availed nothing, for the salmon would not even look at the bait.
'I am beaten at last, unless the Doran-donn can deliver me,' he cried. And as he spoke there was a swish of the water, and the face of the Doran-donn looked up at him.
'O catch me, I pray you, that salmon under the rock!' said Covan son of Gorla. And the Doran-donn dived, and laying hold of the salmon by his tail, bore it back to the place where Covan was standing.
'The roe, and the duck, and the salmon are here,' said Covan to the old man, when he reached the cottage. And the old man smiled on him and bade him eat and drink, and after he hungered no more, he would speak with him.
And this was what the old man said: 'You began well, my son, so things have gone well with you. You set store by your mother's blessing, therefore you have been blest. You gave food to the raven when it hungered, you were true to the promise you had made to me, and did not suffer yourself to be turned aside by vain shows. You were skilled to perceive that the boy who tempted you to leave the temple was a teller of false tales, and took with a grateful heart what the poor had to offer you. Last of all, difficulties gave you courage, instead of lending you despair.
'And now, as to your reward, you shall in truth take your sister home with you, and your brothers I will restore to life; but idle and unfaithful as they are their lot is to wander for ever. And so farewell, and may wisdom be with you.'
'First tell me your name?' asked Covan softly.
'I am the Spirit of Age,' said the old man.
(Taken from a Celtic Story. Translated by Norman Macleod.)