HEN THE ATTENDANTS brought him wine, and he drank so joyously of that and so deeply, that those who observed him thought he would surely burst and drown them. But he laughed loudly and with enormous delight, until the vessels of gold and silver and bronze chimed mellowly to his peal and the rafters of the house went creaking.
Mongan loved Duv Laca of the White Hand better than he loved his life, better than he loved his honour. The kingdoms of the world did not weigh with him beside the string of her shoe. He would not look at a sunset if he could see her. He would not listen to a harp if he could hear her speak, for she was the delight of ages, the gem of time, and the wonder of the world till Doom.
She went to Leinster with the king of that country, and when she had gone Mongan fell grievously sick, so that it did not seem he could ever recover again; and he began to waste and wither, and he began to look like a skeleton, and a bony structure, and a misery.
Now this also must be known.
Duv Laca had a young attendant, who was her foster-sister as well as her servant, and on the day that she got married to Mongan, her attendant was married to mac an Da'v, who was servant and foster-brother to Mongan. When Duv Laca went away with the King of Leinster, her servant, mac an Da'v's wife, went with her, so there were two wifeless men in Ulster at that time, namely, Mongan the king and mac an Da'v his servant.
One day as Mongan sat in the sun, brooding lamentably on his fate, mac an Da'v came to him.
"How are things with you, master?" asked Mac an Da'v.
"Bad," said Mongan.
"It was a poor day brought you off with Mananna'n to the Land of Promise," said his servant.
"Why should you think that?" inquired Mongan.
"Because," said mac an Da'v, "you learned nothing in the Land of Promise except how to eat a lot of food and how to do nothing in a deal of time."
"What business is it of yours?" said Mongan angrily.
"It is my business surely," said mac an Da'v, "for my wife has gone off to Leinster with your wife, and she wouldn't have gone if you hadn't made a bet and a bargain with that accursed king."
Mac an Da'v began to weep then.
"I didn't make a bargain with any king," said he, "and yet my wife has gone away with one, and it's all because of you."
"There is no one sorrier for you than I am," said Mongan.
"There is indeed," said mac an Da'v, "for I am sorrier myself."
Mongan roused himself then.
"You have a claim on me truly," said he, "and I will not have any one with a claim on me that is not satisfied. Go," he said to mac an Da'v, "to that fairy place we both know of. You remember the baskets I left there with the sod from Ireland in one and the sod from Scotland in the other; bring me the baskets and sods."
"Tell me the why of this?" said his servant.
"The King of Leinster will ask his wizards what I am doing, and this is what I will be doing. I will get on your back with a foot in each of the baskets, and when Branduv asks the wizards where I am they will tell him that I have one leg in Ireland and one leg in Scotland, and as long as they tell him that he will think he need not bother himself about me, and we will go into Leinster that way."
"No bad way either," said mac an Da'v.
They set out then.
It was a long, uneasy journey, for although mac an Da'v was of stout heart and goodwill, yet no man can carry another on his back from Ulster to Leinster and go quick. Still, if you keep on driving a pig or a story they will get at last to where you wish them to go, and the man who continues putting one foot in front of the other will leave his home behind, and will come at last to the edge of the sea and the end of the world.
When they reached Leinster the feast of Moy Life' was being held, and they pushed on by forced marches and long stages so as to be in time, and thus they came to the Moy of Cell Camain, and they mixed with the crowd that were going to the feast.
A great and joyous concourse of people streamed about them. There were young men and young girls, and when these were not holding each other's hands it was because their arms were round each other's necks. There were old, lusty women going by, and when these were not talking together it was because their mouths were mutually filled with apples and meat-pies. There were young warriors with mantles of green and purple and red flying behind them on the breeze, and when these were not looking disdainfully on older soldiers it was because the older soldiers happened at the moment to be looking at them. There were old warriors with yard-long beards flying behind their shoulders llke wisps of hay, and when these were not nursing a broken arm or a cracked skull, it was because they were nursing wounds in their stomachs or their legs. There were troops of young women who giggled as long as their breaths lasted and beamed when it gave out. Bands of boys who whispered mysteriously together and pointed with their fingers in every direction at once, and would suddenly begin to run like a herd of stampeded horses. There were men with carts full of roasted meats. Women with little vats full of mead, and others carrying milk and beer. Folk of both sorts with towers swaying on their heads, and they dripping with honey. Children having baskets piled with red apples, and old women who peddled shell-fish and boiled lobsters. There were people who sold twenty kinds of bread, with butter thrown in. Sellers of onions and cheese, and others who supplied spare bits of armour, odd scabbards, spear handles, breastplate-laces. People who cut your hair or told your fortune or gave you a hot bath in a pot. Others who put a shoe on your horse or a piece of embroidery on your mantle; and others, again, who took stains off your sword or dyed your finger-nails or sold you a hound.
It was a great and joyous gathering that was going to the feast.
Mongan and his servant sat against a grassy hedge by the roadside and watched the multitude streaming past.
Just then Mongan glanced to the right whence the people were coming. Then he pulled the hood of his cloak over his ears and over his brow.
"Alas!" said he in a deep and anguished voice.
Mac an Da'v turned to him.
"Is it a pain in your stomach, master?"
"It is not," said Mongan. "Well, what made you make that brutal and belching noise?"
"It was a sigh I gave," said Mongan.
"Whatever it was," said mac an Da'v, "what was it?"
"Look down the road on this side and tell me who is coming," said his master.
"It is a lord with his troop."
"It is the King of Leinster," said Mongan. "The man," said mac an Da'v in a tone of great pity, "the man that took away your wife! And," he roared in a voice of extraordinary savagery, "the man that took away my wife into the bargain, and she not in the bargain."
"Hush," said Mongan, for a man who heard his shout stopped to tie a sandie, or to listen.
"Master," said mac an Da'v as the troop drew abreast and moved past.
"What is it, my good friend?"
"Let me throw a little, small piece of a rock at the King of Leinster."
"I will not."
"A little bit only, a small bit about twice the size of my head"
"I will not let you," said Mongan.
When the king had gone by mac an Da'v groaned a deep and dejected groan.
"Oco'n!" said he. "Oco'n-i'o-go-deo'!" said he.
The man who had tied his sandal said then: "Are you in pain, honest man?"
"I am not in pain," said mac an Da'v.
"Well, what was it that knocked a howl out of you like the yelp of a sick dog, honest man?"