Mongan's Frenzy

The abbot of the Monastery of Moville sent word to the story-tellers of Ireland that when they were in his neighbourhood they should call at the monastery, for he wished to collect and write down the stories which were in danger of being forgotten.

These things also must he told, said he.

In particular he wished to gather tales which told of the deeds that had been done before the Gospel came to Ireland.

For, said he, there are very good tales among those ones, and it would be a pity if the people who come after us should be ignorant of what happened long ago, and of the deeds of their fathers.

So, whenever a story-teller chanced in that neighbourhood he was directed to the monastery, and there he received a welcome and his fill of all that is good for man.

The abbot's manuscript boxes began to fill up, and he used to regard that growing store with pride and joy. In the evenings, when the days grew short and the light went early, he would call for some one of these manuscripts and have it read to him by candle-light, in order that he might satisfy himself that it was as good as he had judged it to be on the previous hearing.

One day a story-teller came to the monastery, and, like all the others, he was heartily welcomed and given a great deal more than his need.

He said that his name was Cairide, and that he had a story to tell which could not be bettered among the stories of Ireland.

The abbot's eyes glistened when he heard that. He rubbed his hands together and smiled on his guest.

What is the name of your story? he asked.

It is called Mongan's Frenzy.

I never heard of it before, cried the abbot joyfully.

I am the only man that knows it, Cairide' replied.

But how does that come about? the abbot inquired.

Because it belongs to my family, the story-teller answered. There was a Cairide of my nation with Mongan when he went into Faery. This Cairide listened to the story when it was first told. Then he told it to his son, and his son told it to his son, and that son's great-great-grandson's son told it to his son's son, and he told it to my father, and my father told it to me.

And you shall tell it to me, cried the abbot triumphantly.

I will indeed, said Cairide. Vellum was then brought and quills. The copyists sat at their tables. Ale was placed beside the story-teller, and he told this tale to the abbot.

II 

Said Cairide:

Mongan's wife at that time was Brotiarna, the Flame Lady. She was passionate and fierce, and because the blood would flood suddenly to her cheek, so that she who had seemed a lily became, while you looked upon her, a rose, she was called Flame Lady. She loved Mongan with ecstasy and abandon, and for that also he called her Flame Lady.

But there may have been something of calculation even in her wildest moment, for if she was delighted in her affection she was tormented in it also, as are all those who love the great ones of life and strive to equal themselves where equality is not possible.