Map of Ireland

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CHAPTER VI

Having gone some distance by these pleasant ways he saw a shapely house dozing in the sunlight.

It was thatched with the wings of birds, blue wings and yellow and white wings, and in the centre of the house there was a door of crystal set in posts of bronze.

The queen of this island lived there, Rigru (Large-eyed), the daughter of Lodan, and wife of Daire Degamra. She was seated on a crystal throne with her son Segda by her side, and they welcomed the High King courteously.

There were no servants in this palace; nor was there need for them. The High King found that his hands had washed themselves, and when later on he noticed that food had been placed before him he noticed also that it had come without the assistance of servile hands. A cloak was laid gently about his shoulders, and he was glad of it, for his own was soiled by exposure to sun and wind and water, and was not worthy of a lady's eye.

Then he was invited to eat.

He noticed, however, that food had been set for no one but himself, and this did not please him, for to eat alone was contrary to the hospitable usage of a king, and was contrary also to his contract with the gods.

"Good, my hosts," he remonstrated, "it is geasa (taboo) for me to eat alone."

"But we never eat together," the queen replied.

"I cannot violate my geasa," said the High King.

"I will eat with you," said Segda (Sweet Speech), "and thus, while you are our guest you will not do violence to your vows."

"Indeed," said Conn, "that will be a great satisfaction, for I have already all the trouble that I can cope with and have no wish to add to it by offending the gods."

"What is your trouble?" the gentle queen asked. "During a year," Conn replied, "there has been neither corn nor milk in Ireland. The land is parched, the trees are withered, the birds do not sing in Ireland, and the bees do not make honey."

"You are certainly in trouble," the queen assented.

"But," she continued, "for what purpose have you come to our island?"

"I have come to ask for the loan of your son."

"A loan of my son!"

"I have been informed," Conn explained, "that if the son of a sinless couple is brought to Tara and is bathed in the waters of Ireland the land will be delivered from those ills."

The king of this island, Daire, had not hitherto spoken, but he now did so with astonishment and emphasis.

"We would not lend our son to any one, not even to gain the kingship of the world," said he.

But Segda, observing that the guest's countenance was discomposed, broke in:

"It is not kind to refuse a thing that the Ard-Ri' of Ireland asks for, and I will go with him."

"Do not go, my pulse," his father advised.

"Do not go, my one treasure," his mother pleaded.

"I must go indeed," the boy replied, "for it is to do good I am required, and no person may shirk such a requirement."

"Go then," said his father, "but I will place you under the protection of the High King and of the Four Provincial Kings of Ireland, and under the protection of Art, the son of Conn, and of Fionn, the son of Uail, and under the protection of the magicians and poets and the men of art in Ireland." And he thereupon bound these protections and safeguards on the Ard-Ri' with an oath.

"I will answer for these protections," said Conn.

He departed then from the island with Segda and in three days they reached Ireland, and in due time they arrived at Tara.



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Map of Ireland