This is how the days were spent in the house of Crom Duv. The Giant and his two servants, Flann and Morag, were out of their beds at the mouth of the day. Crom Duv sounded his horn and the Bull of the Mound bellowed an answer. Then he started work on his wall, making Flann carry mortar to him. Morag put down the fire and boiled the pots. Pots of porridge, plates of butter and pans of milk were on the table when' Crom Duv and Flann came in to their breakfasts. Then, when the Giant had driven out his cattle to the pasture Flann cleaned the byre and made the mortar, mixing lime and sand with bullock's blood and new milk. In the afternoon the Giant came back and he and Flann started work on the wall.
All the time the twenty-four yellow cats lay on the branches of the Rowan Tree or walked about the court-yard or lapped up great crocks of milk. Morag's Little Red Hen went hopping round the courtyard. She seemed to be sleepy or to be always considering something. If one of the twenty-four yellow cats looked at her the Little Red Hen would waken up, murmur something, and hop away.
One day the cattle came home without Crom Duv. "He has gone on one of his journeys," said Morag, "and will not be back for a night and a day."
"Then it is time for me to make my escape," said Flann.
"How can you make your escape, my dear, my dear?" said Morag. "If you go by the front the Bull of the Mound will toss you in the air and then trample you into the ground."
"But I have strength and cunning and activity enough to climb the wall at the back."
"But if you climb the wall at the back," said Morag, "you will only come to the Moat of Poisoned Water." "The Moat of Poisoned Water?" "The Moat of Poisoned Water," said Morag. "The water poisons the skin of any creature that tries to swim across the Moat."
Flann was downcast when he heard of the Moat of Poisoned Water. But his mind was fixed on climbing the wall. "I may find some way of crossing the poisoned water," he said, "so bake my cake and give me provision for my journey."
Morag baked a cake and put it on the griddle. And when it was baked she wrapped it in a napkin and gave it to him. "Take my blessing with it," said she, "and if you escape, may you meet someone who will be a better help to you than I was. I must keep the twenty-four cats from watching you while you are climbing the wall."
"And how will you do that?" said Flann.
She showed him what she would do. With a piece of glass she made on the wall of the byre the shadows of flying birds. Birds never flew across the House of Crom Duv and the cats were greatly taken with the appearances that Morag made with the piece of glass. Six cats watched, and then another six came, and after them six more, and after them the six that watched in the Rowan Tree. And the twenty-four yellow cats sat round and watched with burning eyes the appearances of birds that Morag made on the byre-wall. Flann looked back and saw her seated on a stone, and he thought the Byre-Maid looked lonesome.
He tried with all his activity, all his cunning and all his strength, and at last he climbed the wall at the back of Crom Duv's house. He gave a whistle to let Morag know he was over. Then he went through a little wood and came to the Moat of Poisoned Water.
Very ugly the dead water looked. Ugly stakes stuck up from the mud to pierce any creature that tried to leap across. And here and there on the water were patches of green poison as big as cabbage leaves. Flann drew back from the Moat. Leap it he could not, and swim it he dare not. And just as he drew back he saw a creature he knew come down to the bank opposite to him. It was Rory the Fox. Rory carried in his mouth the skin of a calf. He dropped the skin into the water and pushed it out before him. Then he got into the water and swam very cautiously, always pushing the calf's skin before him. Then Rory climbed up on the bank where Flann was, and the skin, all green and wrinkled, sank down into the water.
Rory was going to turn tail, but then he recognized Flann. " Master," said he, and he licked the dust on the ground.
"What are you doing here, Rory?" said Flann.
"I won't mind telling you if you promise to tell no other creature," said Rory.
"I won't tell," said Flann.
"Well then," said Rory, "I have moved my little family over here. I was being chased about a good deal, and my little family wasn't safe. So I moved them over here." The fox turned and looked round at the country behind him. "It suits me very well," said he; "no creature would think of crossing this moat after me."
"Well," said Flann, "tell me how you are able to cross it."
"I will," said the fox, "if you promise never to hunt me nor any of my little family."
"I promise," said Flann.
"Well," said Rory, "the water poisons every skin. Now the reason that I pushed the calf's skin across was that it might take the poison out of the water. The water poisons every skin. But where the skin goes the poison is taken out of the water for a while, and a living creature can cross behind it if he is cautious."
"I thank you for showing me the way to cross the moat," said Flann.
"I don't mind showing you," said Rory the Fox, and he went off to his burrow.
There were deer-skins and calf-skins both sides of the moat. Flann took a calf's skin. He pushed it into the water with a stick. He swam cautiously behind it. When he reached the other side of the moat, the skin, all green and wrinkled, sank in the water.
Flann jumped and laughed and shouted when he found himself in the forest and clear of Crom Duv's house. He went on. It was grand to see the woodpecker hammering on the branch, and to see him stop, busy as he was to say "Pass, friend." Two young deer came out of the depths of the wood. They were too young and too innocent to have anything to tell him, but they bounded alongside of him as he raced along the Hunter's Path. He jumped and he shouted again when he saw the river before him--the river that was called the Daybreak River on the right bank and the River of the Morning Star on the left. He said to himself, "This time, in troth, I will go the whole way with the river. A moving thing is my delight. The river is the most wonderful of all the things I have seen on my travels."
Then he thought he would eat some of the cake that Morag had baked for him. He sat down and broke it. Then as he ate it the thought of Morag came into his mind. He thought he was looking at her putting the cake on the griddle. He went a little way along the river and then he began to feel lonesome. He turned back, "I'll go to Crom Duv's House," said he, "and show Morag the way to escape. And then she and I will follow the river, and I won't be lonesome while she's with me."
So back along the Hunter's Path Flann went. He came to the Moat of Poisoned Water. He found a deer-skin and pushed it into the water and then swam cautiously across the moat. He climbed the wall then, and when he put his head above it he saw Morag. She was watching for him.
"Crom Duv has not come back yet," said she, "but oh, my dear, my dear, I can't prevent the yellow cats from watching you come over the wall."
First six cats came and then another six and they sat round and watched Flann come down the wall. They did nothing to him, but when he came down on the ground they followed him wherever he went.
"You crossed the moat," said Morag, "then why did you come back?"
"I came back," said Flann, "to bring you with me."
"But," said she, "I cannot leave Crom Duv's house."
"I'll show you how to cross the moat," said he, "and we'll both be glad to be going by the moving river."
Tears came into Morag's eyes. "I'd go with you, my dear," said she, "but I cannot leave Crom Duv's house until I get what I came for."
"And what did you come for, Morag?" said he.
"I came," said she, "for two of the rowan berries that grow on the Fairy Rowan Tree in Crom Duv's court-yard. I know now that to get these berries is the hardest task in the world. Come within," said she, "and if we sit long enough at the supper-board I will tell you my story."
They sat at the supper-board long, and Morag told: