E MOTIONED TOWARDS one of the great vats, and wine was brought to him, of which he drank so joyously and so deeply that all people wondered at his thirst, his capacity, and his jovial spirits.
"Now, I will begin again."
Said Mongan: There was an attendant in Fiachna Finn's palace who was called An Da'v, and the same night that Fiachna's wife bore a son, the wife of An Da'v gave birth to a son also. This latter child was called mac an Da'v, but the son of Fiachna's wife was named Mongan.
"Ah!" murmured the Flame Lady.
The queen was angry. She said it was unjust and presumptuous that the servant should get a child at the same time that she got one herself, but there was no help for it, because the child was there and could not be obliterated.
Now this also must be told.
There was a neighbouring prince called Fiachna Duv, and he was the ruler of the Dal Fiatach. For a long time he had been at enmity and spiteful warfare with Fiachna Finn; and to this Fiachna Duv there was born in the same night a daughter, and this girl was named Duv Laca of the White Hand.
"Ah!" cried the Flame Lady.
"You see!" said Mongan, and he drank anew and joyously of the fairy wine.
In order to end the trouble between Fiachna Finn and Fiachna Duv the babies were affianced to each other in the cradle on the day after they were born, and the men of Ireland rejoiced at that deed and at that news. But soon there came dismay and sorrow in the land, for when the little Mongan was three days old his real father, Mananna'n the son of Lir, appeared in the middle of the palace. He wrapped Mongan in his green cloak and took him away to rear and train in the Land of Promise, which is beyond the sea that is at the other side of the grave.
When Fiachna Duv heard that Mongan, who was affianced to his daughter Duv Laca, had disappeared, he considered that his compact of peace was at an end, and one day he came by surprise and attacked the palace. He killed Fiachna Finn in that battle, and be crowned himself King of Ulster.
The men of Ulster disliked him, and they petitioned Mananna'n to bring Mongan back, but Mananna'n would not do this until the boy was sixteen years of age and well reared in the wisdom of the Land of Promise. Then he did bring Mongan back, and by his means peace was made between Mongan and Fiachna Duv, and Mongan was married to his cradle-bride, the young Duv Laca.
One day Mongan and Duv Laca were playing chess in their palace. Mongan had just made a move of skill, and he looked up from the board to see if Duv Laca seemed as discontented as she had a right to be. He saw then over Duv Laca's shoulder a little black-faced, tufty-headed cleric leaning against the door-post inside the room.
"What are you doing there?" said Mongan.
"What are you doing there yourself?" said the little black-faced cleric.
"Indeed, I have a right to be in my own house," said Mongan.
"Indeed I do not agree with you," said the cleric.
"Where ought I be, then?" said Mongan.
"You ought to be at Dun Fiathac avenging the murder of your father," replied the cleric, "and you ought to be ashamed of yourself for not having done it long ago. You can play chess with your wife when you have won the right to leisure."
"But how can I kill my wife's father?" Mongan exclaimed. "By starting about it at once," said the cleric. "Here is a way of talking!" said Mongan.
"I know," the cleric continued, "that Duv Laca will not agree with a word I say on this subject, and that she will try to prevent you from doing what you have a right to do, for that is a wife's business, but a man's business is to do what I have just told you; so come with me now and do not wait to think about it, and do not wait to play any more chess. Fiachna Duv has only a small force with him at this moment, and we can burn his palace as he burned your father's palace, and kill himself as he killed your father, and crown you King of Ulster rightfully the way he crowned himself wrongfully as a king."
"I begin to think that you own a lucky tongue, my black-faced friend," said Mongan, "and I will go with you."
He collected his forces then, and he burned Fiachna Duv's fortress, and he killed Fiachna Duv, and he was crowned King of Ulster.
Then for the first time he felt secure and at liberty to play chess. But he did not know until afterwards that the black-faced, tufty-headed person was his father Mananna'n, although that was the fact.
There are some who say, however, that Fiachna the Black was killed in the year 624 by the lord of the Scot's Dal Riada, Condad Cerr, at the battle of Ard Carainn; but the people who say this do not know what they are talking about, and they do not care greatly what it is they say.
"There is nothing to marvel about in this Duv Laca," said the Flame Lady scornfully. "She has got married, and she has been beaten at chess. It has happened before."
"Let us keep to the story," said Mongan, and, having taken some few dozen deep draughts of the wine, he became even more jovial than before. Then he recommenced his tale:
It happened on a day that Mongan had need of treasure. He had many presents to make, and he had not as much gold and silver and cattle as was proper for a king. He called his nobles together and discussed what was the best thing to be done, and it was arranged that he should visit the provincial kings and ask boons from them.
He set out at once on his round of visits, and the first province he went to was Leinster.
The King of Leinster at that time was Branduv, the son of Echach. He welcomed Mongan and treated him well, and that night Mongan slept in his palace.
When he awoke in the morning he looked out of a lofty window, and he saw on the sunny lawn before the palace a herd of cows. There were fifty cows in all, for he counted them, and each cow had a calf beside her, and each cow and calf was pure white in colour, and each of them had red ears.
When Mongan saw these cows, he fell in love with them as he had never fallen in love with anything before.
He came down from the window and walked on the sunny lawn among the cows, looking at each of them and speaking words of affection and endearment to them all; and while he was thus walking and talking and looking and loving, he noticed that some one was moving beside him. He looked from the cows then, and saw that the King of Leinster was at his side.
"Are you in love with the cows?" Branduv asked him.
"I am," said Mongan.
"Everybody is," said the King of Leinster.
"I never saw anything like them," said Mongan.
"Nobody has," said the King of Leinster.
"I never saw anything I would rather have than these cows," said Mongan.
"These," said the King of Leinster, "are the most beautiful cows in Ireland, and," he continued thoughtfully, "Duv Laca is the most beautiful woman in Ireland."
"There is no lie in what you say," said Mongan.
"Is it not a queer thing," said the King of Leinster, "that I should have what you want with all your soul, and you should have what I want with all my heart?"
"Queer indeed," said Mongan, "but what is it that you do want?"
"Duv Laca, of course," said the King of Leinster.
"Do you mean," said Mongan, "that you would exchange this herd of fifty pure white cows having red ears-- "
"And their fifty calves," said the King of Leinster--
"For Duv Laca, or for any woman in the world?"
"I would," cried the King of Leinster, and he thumped his knee as he said it.
"Done," roared Mongan, and the two kings shook hands on the bargain.