A Book of Myths

Page: 153

From where the swineherd lay, Lavarcam went to [Pg 315] the camp of the Sons of Usna, and to Naoise she told the story of the love that Deirdrê bore him, and counselled him to come to the place where she was hidden, and behold her beauty. And Naoise, who had seen how even a rough clod of a hind could achieve the noble chivalry of a race of kings for her dear sake, felt his heart throb within him. “I will come,” he said to Lavarcam.

Days passed, and Deirdrê waited, very sure that Naoise must come to her at last. And one day she heard a song of magical sweetness coming through the trees. Three voices sung the song, and it was as though one of the sidhe played a harp to cast a spell upon men. The voice of Ainle, youngest of the Sons of Usna, was like the sweet upper strings of the harp, that of Ardan the strings in the middle, and the voice of Naoise was like the strings whose deep resonance can play upon the hearts of warriors and move them to tears. Then Deirdrê knew that she heard the voice of her beloved, and she sped to him as a bird speeds to her mate. Even as Lavarcam had told her was Naoise, eldest of the Sons of Usna, but no words had been able to tell Naoise of the beauty of Deirdrê.

“It was as though a sudden flood of sunshine burst forth in that place. For a woman came from the thicket more beautiful than any dream he had ever dreamed. She was clad in a saffron robe over white that was like the shining of the sun on foam of the sea, and this was claspt with great bands of yellow gold, and over her shoulders was the rippling flood of her hair, the sprays of which lightened into delicate fire, and made a mist before him, in the which he could see her eyes like two blue pools wherein purple shadows dreamed.”

Fiona Macleod.

[Pg 316] From that moment Naoise “gave his love to Deirdrê above every other creature,” and their souls rushed together and were one for evermore. It was for them the beginning of a perfect love, and so sure were they of that love from the very first moment that it seemed as though they must have been born loving one another.

Of that love they talked, of the anger of Conor when he knew that his destined bride was the love of Naoise, and together they planned how it was best for Deirdrê to escape from the furious wrath of the king who desired her for his own.

Of a sudden, the hands of Naoise gripped the iron-pointed javelin that hung by his side, and drove it into a place where the snow weighed down the bracken.

“Is it a wolf?” cried Deirdrê.

And Naoise made answer: “Either a dead man, or the mark of where a man has lain hidden thou wilt find under the bracken.”

And when they went to look they found, like the clap of a hare, the mark of where a man had lain hidden, and close beside the javelin that was driven in the ground there lay a wooden-hilted knife.