18. The Island of Weeping

THEY HAD NOT been sailing for long when they discovered another large island, on which there was a great multitude of people who had entirely black skin and clothes, and black head-dresses as well. They were all perfectly black, from head to foot. They kept walking about, sighing and weeping and wringing their hands, as if inconsolable, without the least pause or rest.

The crew cast lots, and it fell to Máel Dúin’s second foster brother to go and examine the island. But when he went ashore and walked among the people, he also grew sorrowful, and fell to weeping and wringing his hands, crying and wailing with the others.

Two of the crew were sent to bring him back; but they were unable to find him among the crowd of mourners; and, what was worse, in a short time they began to weep and lament like all the rest.

Máel Dúin then chose four men to go and bring back the others by force, and he put weapons in their hands, and gave them these directions:

“When you land on the island, fold your cloaks around your faces, so as to cover your mouths and noses, that you may not breathe the air of the island; and look neither to the right nor to the left, neither at the earth nor at the sky, but fix your eyes on our own men, until you have laid hands on them.”

They did exactly as they were told, and soon found their two companions who had been sent after Máel Dúin’s foster brother. They seized them and brought them back by force. When these two were asked what they had seen on the island, and why they had begun to weep and wail, their only reply was:

“We cannot tell. We only know that we had to do what we saw others doing.”

Of the foster brother, there was no sign. He was lost forever in the crowd of wailing, mourning people.

After this, the voyagers sailed on, sad at having to leave the second foster brother behind.


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