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Standish James O'Grady
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 120 pages of information about The Coming of Cuculain.

The Red Branch did not relish that speech, for they thought that under the measureless canopy of the sky there were no people great or formidable but themselves.

CHAPTER VII

SETANTA AND THE SMITH’S DOG

                 “How he fell

From heaven, they fabled, thrown by angry Jove
Sheer o’er the crystal battlements; from morn
To noon, from noon to dewy eve,
A Summer’s day, he fell; and with the setting sun
Dropped from the zenith like a falling star,
On Lemnos.”

Milton.

When Culain saw far away the tall figures of the Ultonians against the sunset, and the flashing of their weapons and armour, he cried out with a loud voice to his people to stop working and slack the furnaces and make themselves ready to receive the Red Branch; and he bade the household thralls prepare the supper, roast, boiled and stewed, which he had previously ordered.  Then he himself and his journeymen and apprentices stripped themselves, and in huge keeves of water filled by their slaves they washed from them the smoke and sweat of their labour and put on clean clothes.  The mirrors at which they dressed themselves were the darkened waters of their enormous tubs.

Culain sent a party of his men and those who were the best dressed and the most comely and who were the boldest and most eloquent in the presence of strangers, to meet the high King of the Ultonians on the moor, but he himself stood huge in the great doorway just beyond the threshold and in front of the bridge over which the Red Branch party was to pass.  He had on him over his clothes a clean leathern apron which was not singed or scored.  It was fastened at his shoulders and half covered his enormous hairy chest, was girt again at his waist and descended below his knees.  He stood with one knee crooked, leaning upon a long ash-handled sledge with a head of glittering bronze.  There he gave a friendly and grave welcome to the King and to all the knights one by one.  It was dusk when Concobar entered the dun.

“Are all thy people arrived?” said the smith.

“They are,” said Concobar.

Culain bade his people raise the drawbridge which spanned the deep black moat surrounding the city, and after that, with his own hands he unchained his one dog.  The dog was of great size and fierceness.  It was supposed that there was no man in Ireland whom he could not drag down.  He had no other good quality than that he was faithful to his master and guarded his property vigilantly at night.  He was quick of sight and hearing and only slept in the daytime.  Being let loose he sprang over the moat and three times careered round the city, baying fearfully.  Then he stood stiffly on the edge of the moat to watch and listen, and growled at intervals when he heard some noise far away.  It was then precisely that Setanta set forth from Emain Macha.  Earth quaked to the growling of that ill beast.

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