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CHAPTER XVIII

Mongan and his servant went home, and (for what pleasure is greater than that of memory exercised in conversation?) for a time the feeling of an adventure well accomplished kept him in some contentment. But at the end of a time that pleasure was worn out, and Mongan grew at first dispirited and then sullen, and after that as ill as he had been on the previous occasion. For he could not forget Duv Laca of the White Hand, and he could not remember her without longing and despair.

It was in the illness which comes from longing and despair that he sat one day looking on a world that was black although the sun shone, and that was lean and unwholesome although autumn fruits were heavy on the earth and the joys of harvest were about him.

"Winter is in my heart," quoth he, "and I am cold already."

He thought too that some day he would die, and the thought was not unpleasant, for one half of his life was away in the territories of the King of Leinster, and the half that he kept in himself had no spice in it.

He was thinking in this way when mac an Da'v came towards him over the lawn, and he noticed that mac an Da'v was walking like an old man.

He took little slow steps, and he did not loosen his knees when he walked, so he went stiffly. One of his feet turned pitifully outwards, and the other turned lamentably in. His chest was pulled inwards, and his head was stuck outwards and hung down in the place where his chest should have been, and his arms were crooked in front of him with the hands turned wrongly, so that one palm was shown to the east of the world and the other one was turned to the west.

"How goes it, mac an Da'v?" said the king.

"Bad," said mac an Da'v.

"Is that the sun I see shining, my friend?" the king asked.

"It may be the sun," replied mac an Da'v, peering curiously at the golden radiance that dozed about them, "but maybe it's a yellow fog."

"What is life at all?" said the king.

"It is a weariness and a tiredness," said mac an Da'v. "It is a long yawn without sleepiness. It is a bee, lost at midnight and buzzing on a pane. It is the noise made by a tied-up dog. It is nothing worth dreaming about. It is nothing at all."

"How well you explain my feelings about Duv Laca," said the king.

"I was thinking about my own lamb," said mac an Da'v. "I was thinking about my own treasure, my cup of cheeriness, and the pulse of my heart." And with that he burst into tears.

"Alas!" said the king.

"But," sobbed mac an Da'v, "what right have I to complain? I am only the servant, and although I didn't make any bargain with the King of Leinster or with any king of them all, yet my wife is gone away as if she was the consort of a potentate the same as Duv Laca is."

Mongan was sorry then for his servant, and he roused himself.

"I am going to send you to Duv Laca."

"Where the one is the other will be," cried mac an Da'v joyously.

"Go," said Mongan, "to Rath Descirt of Bregia; you know that place?"

"As well as my tongue knows my teeth."

"Duv Laca is there; see her, and ask her what she wants me to do."

Mac an Da'v went there and returned.

"Duv Laca says that you are to come at once, for the King of Leinster is journeying around his territory, and Kevin Cochlach, the charioteer, is making bitter love to her and wants her to run away with him."

Mongan set out, and in no great time, for they travelled day and night, they came to Bregla, and gained admittance to the fortress, but just as he got in he had to go out again, for the King of Leinster had been warned of Mongan's journey, and came back to his fortress in the nick of time.

When the men of Ulster saw the condition into which Mongan fell they were in great distress, and they all got sick through compassion for their king. The nobles suggested to him that they should march against Leinster and kill that king and bring back Duv Laca, but Mongan would not consent to this plan.

"For," said he, "the thing I lost through my own folly I shall get back through my own craft."

And when he said that his spirits revived, and he called for mac an Da'v.

"You know, my friend," said Mongan, "that I can't get Duv Laca back unless the King of Leinster asks me to take her back, for a bargain is a bargain."

"That will happen when pigs fly," said mac an Da'v, "and," said he, "I did not make any bargain with any king that is in the world."

"I heard you say that before," said Mongan.

"I will say it till Doom," cried his servant, "for my wife has gone away with that pestilent king, and he has got the double of your bad bargain."

Mongan and his servant then set out for Leinster.

When they neared that country they found a great crowd going on the road with them, and they learned that the king was giving a feast in honour of his marriage to Duv Laca, for the year of waiting was nearly out, and the king had sworn he would delay no longer.

They went on, therefore, but in low spirits, and at last they saw the walls of the king's castle towering before them. and a noble company going to and fro on the lawn.



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