But Finnian was not one who remained long in bewilderment. He thought on the might of God and he became that might, and was tranquil.
He was one who loved God and Ireland, and to the person who could instruct him in these great themes he gave all the interest of his mind and the sympathy of his heart.
"It is a wonder you tell me, my beloved," he said. "And now you must tell me more."
"What must I tell?" asked Tuan resignedly.
"Tell me of the beginning of time in Ireland, and of the bearing of Partholon, the son of Noah's son."
"I have almost forgotten him," said Tuan. "A greatly bearded, greatly shouldered man he was. A man of sweet deeds and sweet ways."
"Continue, my love," said Finnian.
"He came to Ireland in a ship. Twenty-four men and twenty-four women came with him. But before that time no man had come to Ireland, and in the western parts of the world no human being lived or moved. As we drew on Ireland from the sea the country seemed like an unending forest. Far as the eye could reach, and in whatever direction, there were trees; and from these there came the unceasing singing of birds. Over all that land the sun shone warm and beautiful, so that to our sea-weary eyes, our wind-tormented ears, it seemed as if we were driving on Paradise.
"We landed and we heard the rumble of water going gloomily through the darkness of the forest. Following the water we came to a glade where the sun shone and where the earth was warmed, and there Partholon rested with his twenty-four couples, and made a city and a livelihood.
"There were fish in the rivers of Eire', there were animals in her coverts. Wild and shy and monstrous creatures ranged in her plains and forests. Creatures that one could see through and walk through. Long we lived in ease, and we saw new animals grow,—the bear, the wolf, the badger, the deer, and the boar.
"Partholon's people increased until from twenty-four couples there came five thousand people, who lived in amity and contentment although they had no wits."
"They had no wits!" Finnian commented.
"They had no need of wits," Tuan said.
"I have heard that the first-born were mindless," said Finnian. "Continue your story, my beloved."
"Then, sudden as a rising wind, between one night and a morning, there came a sickness that bloated the stomach and purpled the skin, and on the seventh day all of the race of Partholon were dead, save one man only." "There always escapes one man," said Finnian thoughtfully.
"And I am that man," his companion affirmed.
Tuan shaded his brow with his hand, and he remembered backwards through incredible ages to the beginning of the world and the first days of Eire'. And Finnian, with his blood again running chill and his scalp crawling uneasily, stared backwards with him.