ONGAN AND HIS servant gave a jump of surprise, and their two wives jumped and squealed. Then Mongan puffed out his cheeks till his face looked like a bladder, and he blew a magic breath at the hag, so that she seemed to be surrounded by a fog, and when she looked through that breath everything seemed to be different to what she had thought. Then she began to beg everybody's pardon.
"I had an evil vision," said she, "I saw crossways. How sad it is that I should begin to see the sort of things I thought I saw."
"Sit in this chair, mother," said Mongan, "and tell me what you thought you saw," and he slipped a spike under her, and mac an Da'v pushed her into the seat, and she died on the spike.
Just then there came a knocking at the door. Mac an Da'v opened it, and there was Tibraid~ standing outside, and twenty-nine of his men were with him, and they were all laughing.
"A mile was not half enough," said mac an Da'v reproachfully.
The Chamberlain of the fortress pushed into the room and he stared from one Tibraide' to the other.
"This is a fine growing year," said he. "There never was a year when Tibraide''s were as plentiful as they are this year. There is a Tibraide' outside and a Tibraide' inside, and who knows but there are some more of them under the bed. The place is crawling with them," said he.
Mongan pointed at Tibraide'.
"Don't you know who that is?" he cried.
"I know who he says he is," said the Chamberlain.
"Well, he is Mongan," said Mongan, "and these twenty-nine men are twenty-nine of his nobles from Ulster."
At that news the men of the household picked up clubs and cudgels and every kind of thing that was near, and made a violent and woeful attack on Tibraide''s men The King of Leinster came in then, and when he was told Tibraide' was Mongan he attacked them as well, and it was with difficulty that Tibraide' got away to Cell Camain with nine of his men and they all wounded.
The King of Leinster came back then. He went to Duv Laca's room.
"Where is Tibraide'?" said he.
"It wasn't Tibraide' was here," said the hag who was still sitting on the spike, and was not half dead, "it was Mongan."
"Why did you let him near you?" said the king to Duv Laca.
"There is no one has a better right to be near me than Mongan has," said Duv Laca, "he is my own husband," said she.
And then the king cried out in dismay: "I have beaten Tibraide''s people." He rushed from the room.
"Send for Tibraide' till I apologise," he cried. "Tell him it was all a mistake. Tell him it was Mongan."
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.