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Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race

Page: 86

And the years went by and Conor made no sign, but he did not forget, and his spies told him of all that befell Naisi and Deirdre. At last, judging that Naisi and his brothers would have tired of solitude, he sent the bosom friend of Naisi, Fergus son of Roy, to bid them return, and to promise them that all would be forgiven. Fergus went joyfully, and joyfully did Naisi and his brothers hear the message, but Deirdre foresaw evil, and would fain have sent Fergus home alone. [pg 199] But Naisi blamed her for her doubt and suspicion, and bade her mark that they were under the protection of Fergus, whose safeguard no king in Ireland would dare to violate; and they at last made ready to go.

On landing in Ireland they were met by Baruch, a lord of the Red Branch, who had his dūn close by, and he bade Fergus to a feast he had prepared for him that night. “I may not stay,” said Fergus, “for I must first convey Deirdre and the sons of Usna safely to Emain Macha.” “Nevertheless,” said Baruch, “thou must stay with me to-night, for it is a geis for thee to refuse a feast.” Deirdre implored him not to leave them, but Fergus was tempted by the feast, and feared to break his geis, and he bade his two sons Illan the Fair and Buino the Red take charge of the party in his place, and he himself abode with Baruch.

And so the party came to Emain Macha, and they were lodged in the House of the Red Branch, but Conor did not receive them. After the evening meal, as he sat, drinking heavily and silently, he sent a messenger to bid Levarcam come before him. “How is it with the sons of Usna?” he said to her. “It is well,” she said. “Thou hast got the three most valorous champions in Ulster in thy court. Truly the king who has those three need fear no enemy.” “Is it well with Deirdre?” he asked. “She is well,” said the nurse, “but she has lived many years in the wildwood, and toil and care have changed her—little of her beauty of old now remains to her, O King.” Then the king dismissed her, and sat drinking again. But after a while he called to him a servant named Trendorn, and bade him go to the Red Branch House and mark who was there and what they did. But when Trendorn came the place was bolted and barred for the night, and he could not get an entrance, and at last he [pg 200] mounted on a ladder and looked in at a high window. And there he saw the brothers of Naisi and the sons of Fergus, as they talked or cleaned their arms, or made them ready for slumber, and there sat Naisi with a chess-board before him, and playing chess with him was the fairest of women that he had ever seen. But as he looked in wonder at the noble pair, suddenly one caught sight of him and rose with a cry, pointing to the face at the window. And Naisi looked up and saw it, and seizing a chessman from the board he hurled it at the face of the spy, and it struck out his eye. Then Trendorn hastily descended, and went back with his bloody face to the king. “I have seen them,” he cried, “I have seen the fairest woman of the world, and but that Naisi had struck my eye out I had been looking on her still.”


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