HOW DIREACH GOT THE FALCON 71
saying that he had been wrecked, that his ship was made fast in a rock, and that none had been saved but himself only.
Ian Direach listened to the words of the fox, and he told a tale so pitiful, that the king and queen, and the princess their daughter, all came out to hear it. And when they had heard, nought would please them except to go down to the shore and visit the ship, which by now was floating, for the tide was up. Torn and battered was she, as if she had passed through many dangers, yet music of a wondrous sweetness poured forth from within.
'Bring hither a boat,' cried the princess, 'that I may go and see for myself the harp that gives forth such music,' And a boat was brought, and Ian Direach stepped in to row it to the side of the ship.
To the further side he rowed, so that none could see, and when he helped the princess on board he gave a push to the boat, so that she could not get back to it again. And the music sounded always sweeter, though they could never see whence it came, and sought it from one part of the vessel to another. When at last they reached the deck and looked around them, nought of land could they see, or anything save the rushing waters.
The princess stood silent, and her face grew grim. At last she said:
'An ill trick have you played me! What is this that you have done, and whither are we going?'
'It is a queen you will be,' answered Ian Direach, 'for the king of Erin has sent me for you, and in return he will give me his bay colt, that I may take him to the Seven Big Women of Dhiurradh, in exchange for the White Sword of Light. This I must carry to the giant of the Five Heads and Five Necks and Five Humps, and in place of it, he will bestow on me the blue falcon, which I have promised my stepmother, so that she may free me from the spell which she has laid on me.'