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The Big Poor People


"It's surprised I am," said the old woman, "to hear you, Peter Sullivan, talking that way—you, that had a decent man for your father, and that's a decent man yourself, all but knowing nothing—you, that have heard the stories of your people. Tell me now, did you ever hear what was foretold of the children of Lir, and did you ever hear if it came true or not?"

Perhaps Peter had never heard about the children of Lir, or perhaps he had heard and did not like to say so, because the story would be proof that a prophecy had come true. At any rate, he said nothing. But the old woman seemed resolved that if he had never heard about the children of Lir he should hear about them now.

"Lir was a powerful man in the old days of Ireland," she said, "He had three sons and one daughter, and their mother was dead. The names of the sons were Hugh, Fiachra, and Conn, and the name of the daughter was Fair-shoulder, and beautiful and good children were they all. Lir was visiting once at the castle of Bogha Derg, the King of Conacht, and he saw the daughter of the King, and he fell in love with her and married her.

"For a time they were happy, and then the new wife began to be jealous of the love of her husband for his four children. It troubled her so much that she began to lose her beauty and her health, and at last she took to her bed and did not leave it for a year. And after that time there came a great Druid to visit her. You know who and what the Druids were, I think. They were the priests of the old religion of Ireland, before St. Patrick came and made the people Christians. They were powerful in magic; they could bring storms and could drive them away; they could foretell the future; they could work powerful enchantments on people and beasts, and trees and stones, and they could do many other marvellous things.

"This Druid talked with the wife of Lir for a long time alone. He made her tell him all that troubled her, and then he told her what she could do to be rid of her husband's children.

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