A Year and a Day
"And one day, when the Princess had been singing to him, he took her harp from her and sang a song of one of his father's battles, a battle which he had seen himself, where Diarmuid had slain hundreds, and Orcur had slain hundreds, and Erin had been kept from her enemies. Then he said to the Princess: 'Do not think that I am ungrateful for all the happiness that I have had here, but I am longing to see Erin again and to see my father and his men. It is not so beautiful a land as this, but it is my own land, and I am longing to see it. The air here is sweet and the sunshine is warm, but I should like to breathe the mists and to feel the chill again, if I could only see Erin once more!"
Mrs. O'Brien stopped a moment, with the way that she had of seeming to look at things far off. Kathleen said nothing when she paused in this way, and in a minute the old woman went on:
"'You would not be so happy in Erin as you think,' the Princess answered him. 'This is the best place for you to stay, and it would break my heart for you to go.'
"So Oisin said no more then, but the great longing grew upon him, and every day the delights of Tir-na-n-Oge pleased him less. And at last he spoke of it again, and asked the Princess to let him go for a little while. 'You would find Erin changed,' she said, 'and the Fenians are all gone. How long have you been here with me?'
"'I cannot tell you to a day,' Oisin answered, 'but I know that it is weeks since I saw my country and my people.'
"'You have been here,' said the Princess, 'for three hundred years.'
"Oisin could not understand it, but he thought that if he could live so long and not know that the time had passed, the Fenians, too, might be living still, and he begged again to be allowed to go. At last the Princess saw that he would never be happy unless he went, so she brought him the same white horse that had brought them both to Tir-na-n-Oge. 'The horse,' she said, 'will take you to Erin. But you must sit upon his back and never loose his bridle or get down upon the ground.