Volume III, Under a Dark Star,
by Fiona Macleod

 

¹Pronounce Ömädäwn.

 

 

 

THE AMADAN¹

I

The fishermen laughed when they saw "The Amadan," the fool, miscalculate his leap and fall from the bow of the smack Tonn into the shallows. He splashed clumsily, and stared in fear, now at the laughing men, now at the shore.
Stumbling, he waded through the shallows. A gull wheeled above his head, screaming. He screamed back. The men in the Tonn laughed.
The Amadan was tall, and seemed prematurely bent; his hair was of a dusty white, though he had not the look of age, but of a man in the prime of life.
It was not a month since Gloom Achanna had played madness upon him. Now, none of his Southland friends would have recognised Alasdair M'Ian, Alasdair the Proud. His clothes were torn and soiled; his mien was wild and strange; but the change was from within. The spirit of the man had looked into hell. That was why Alasdair the Proud had become "The Amadan," the wandering fool.
It was a long way from Tiree to Askaig in the Lews, or the Long Island, as the Hebrideans call it. Alasdair had made Peter Macaulay laugh by saying that he had been sailing, sailing, from Tiree for a hundred years.
When he stood upon the dry sand, he looked at the smack wonderingly. He waved his hand.
" Where . . . where . . . is Tiree? " he cried. The men laughed at the question and at his voice. Suddenly old Ewan MacEwan rose and took his pipe from his mouth.
"That will do now, men, for sure," he said quietly. "It is God that did that. We have laughed too much."
"Oh," answered Peter Macaulay, abashed, "he is only an amadan. He does not know whether we laugh or why."
" God knows."
" Ay, ay, for sure. Well, to be sure, yes, you will be right in what you say, Ewan."
With that, Macaulay made as though he would call to the man; but the old man, who was skipper, put him aside.
Ewan went to the bow, and slid over by a rope. He stood for a moment in his sea-boots, with the tide-wash reaching to his knees. Then he waded to the shore and went up to the man who was a fool.
"Tell me, poor man, what is your name?"
"Enya."
"Ay, that is all you will say. But that is not a man's name. It is a woman's name that. Tell me your name, poor man."
" Enya---Enya of the Dark Eyes."
"No, no, now, for sure, you said it was Aodh."
" Yes; Aodh. Aodh the Proud."
" Ah, for sure, may God give you peace, poor soul! It is a poor pride, I am fearing."
The man did not answer.
" And have you no thought now of where you will be going?"
" Yes . . . no . . . yes . . . there is a star in the west."
" Have you any money, poor man? Well, now, see here; here is a little money. It is a shilling and two pennies. It is all I have. But I have my mind, and God is good. Will you be caring, now, to have my pipe, poor man? A good smoke is a peaceful thing; yes, now, here is my Pipe. Take it, take it! "
But Alasdair M'Ian only shook his head. He took the money and looked at it. A troubled look came into his face. Suddenly there were tears in his eyes.
" I remember . . .I remember . . . " he began, stammeringly. "It is an old saying. It is . . . it is God . . . that builds . . . it is God that builds the nest . . . of the blind bird."
Ewan MacEwan took off his blue bonnet.
Then he looked up into the great, terrible Silence. God heard.
Before he spoke again, a man came over the high green-laced dune which spilt into the machar beyond the shore. He was blind, and was led by a dog.
Ewan gave a sigh of relief. He knew the man. It was Alan Dall. There would be help now for the Amadan, if help there could be.
He went towards the blind man, who stopped when he heard steps. " How tall and thin he was! " thought Ewan. His long, fair hair, streaked with grey, hung almost to his shoulders. His pale face was lit by the beauty of his spirit. It shone like a lamp. Blind though he was, there was a strange living light in his blue eyes.
"Who is it?" he asked, in the Gaelic, and in a voice singularly low and sweet.
" Who is it? I was lying asleep in the warm sand when I heard laughter."
Ewan MacEwan went close to him, and told all he had to tell.
When he was done, Alan Dall spoke.
" Leave the poor man with me, Ewan my friend. I will guide him to a safe place, and mayhap Himself, to whom be praise, will build the nest that he seeks, blind bird that he is."
And so it was.
It was not till the third day that Alan Dall knew who the Amadan was.
A heavy rain had fallen since morning. Outside the turf bothie where Alan Dall had his brief home, a ceaseless splash made a drowsy peace like the humming of bees. Through it moved in sinuous folds of sound a melancholy sighing; the breathing of the tide wearily lifting and falling among the heavy masses of wrack which clothed the rocks of the inlet above which the bothie stood.
Since he had eaten of the porridge and milk and coarse bread brought him by the old woman who came every morning to see to his fire and food, Alan Dall had sat before the peats, brooding upon many things, things of the moment, and the deep insatiable desires of the hungry spirit; but most upon the mystery of the man whom he had brought thither. He slept still, the poor Amadan. It was well; he would not arouse him. The sound of the rain had deep rest in it.
The night before, the Amadan, while staring into the red heart of the peats, had suddenly stirred.
"What is it? " Alan had asked gently.
"My name is Alasdair."
" Alasdair? I too . . . I know well one who is named Alasdair."
"Is he called Alasdair the Proud?"
"No; he is not called the Proud."
You have told me that your name is Alan? "
" Ay. I am called Alan Dall because I am blind."
"I have seen your face before, or in a dream, Alan Dall."
"And what will your father's name be, and the name of your father's fathers?"
" I do not know that name, nor the name of my clan."
Thereupon a long silence had fallen. Thrice Alan spoke, but the Amadan either did not hear, or would make no answer.
An eddy of wind rose and fell. The harsh screaming cry of a heron rent the silence. Then there was silence again.
The Amadan stirred restlessly.
" Who was that? " he asked in a whisper. " It was no one, Alasdair my friend." Alasdair rose and stealthily went to the door. He lifted the latch and looked out.
The dog followed him, whimpering. " Hush-sh, SUil!" whispered Alan Dall. The dog slipped beyond Alasdair. He put back his ears, and howled.
Alan rose and went to the Amadan, and took him by the sleeve, and so led him back to the stool before the glowing peats.
"Who did you think it was?" he asked, when the Amadan was seated again, and no longer trembled.
"Who was it, Alan Dall?
"It was a heron."
"They say herons that cry by night are people out of the grave."
" It may be so. But there is no harm to them that hear if it is not their hour."
" It was like a man laughing."
" Who would laugh, here, in this lonely place, and at night; and for why?"
"I know a man who would laugh here, in this lonely place, and at night, and for why, too."
" Who?"
" His name is Gloom."
Alan Dall started. A quiver passed over his face, and his hand trembled.
" That is a strange name for a man, Gruaim. I have heard only of one man who bore that name."
" There can be only one man. His name is Gloom Achanna."
" Gruaim Achanna. Yes . . . I know the man."
He would not tell the Amadan that this man was his brother; or not yet. He, too, then, poor fool, had been caught in the mesh of that evil. And now, perhaps, he would be able to see through the mystery which beset this man whom he had taken to guard and to heal.
But Alasdair M'Ian said one saying only, and would speak no more; and that saying was, "He is not a man; he is a devil." Soon after this the Amadan suddenly lapsed into a swoon of sleep, even while words were stammering upon his lips.
But now Alan Dall understood better. A deeper pity, too, was in his heart. This poor man, this Amadan, was indeed his comrade, if his cruel sorrow had come to him through Gloom Achanna.
When he rose in the morning at the first sobbing of the rainy wind, and saw how profotindly the Amadan slept, he did not wake him.
Thus it was that throughout that long day Alan Dall sat, pondering and dreaming before the peats, while Alasdair the Proud lay drowned in sleep.
The day darkened early, because of the dense mists which came out of the sea and floated heavily between the myriad grey reeds of the rain and the fluent green and brown which was the ground.
With the dusk the Amadan stirred. Alan Dall crossed to the inset bed, and stood listening intently.
Alasdair muttered strangely in his sleep; and though he had hitherto, save for a few words, spoken in the English tongue, he now used the Gaelic. The listener caught fragments only . . . an Athair Uibhreach, the Haughty Father . . Agus thug e aoradh dha, and worshipped him . . . Biodh uacharanachd aca, let them have dominion.
"Those evil ones that go with Gloom my brother," he muttered; " those evil spirits have made their kingdom among his dreams."
"Who are they who are about you?" he whispered.
The Amadan turned, and his lips moved. But it was as though others spoke through him---

"Cha'n ann do Shioi Adhamh sinn,
Ach tha sinn de mhuinntir an Athar Uaibhrich."

We are not of the seed of Adam,
But we are the offspring of the Haughty Father.

Alan Dall hesitated. One of the white prayers of Christ was on his lips, but he remembered also the old wisdom of his fathers. So he kneeled, and said a seun, that is strong against the bitter malice of demoniac wiles.
Thereafter he put upon him this eolas of healing, touching the brow and the heart as he said here and here---

"Deep peace I breathe into you, O weariness, here:
O ache, here!
Deep peace, a soft white dove to You;
Deep peace, a quiet rain to you;
Deep peace, an ebbing wave to you!
Deep peace, red wind of the east from you;
Deep peace, grey wind of the west to You;
Deep peace, dark wind of the north from you;
Deep peace, blue wind of the south to you!
Deep peace, pure red of the flame to you;
Deep peace, pure white of the moon to you;
Deep peace, pure green of the grass to you;
Deep peace, pure brown of the earth to you;
Deep peace, pure grey of the dew to you,
Deep peace, pure blue of the sky to you!
Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the sleeping stones to you!
Deep peace of the Yellow Shepherd to you,
Deep peace of the Wandering Shepherdess to you,
Deep peace of the Flock of Stars to you,
Deep peace from the Son of Peace to you,
Deep peace from the heart of Mary to you,
And from Briget of the Mantle
Deep peace, deep peace!
And with the kindness too of the Haughty Father
Peace!
In the name of the Three who are One,
Peace!
And by the will of the King of the Elements,
Peace! Peace! "

Then, for a time he prayed: and, as he prayed, a white and beautiful Image stood beside him, and put soft moonwhite hands upon the brow of the Amadan. In this wise the beauty of Alan Dall's spirit, that had become a prayer, was created by God into a new immortal spirit.
The Image was as a wavering reed of light, before it stooped and kissed the soul of Alasdair, and was at one with it.
Alasdair opened his eyes.
God had healed him.

CONTENTS