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    Act I

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    Chapter 1

    LAVARCHAM, Deirdre's nurse

    OLD WOMAN, Lavarcham's servant

    OWEN, Conchubor's attendant and spy

    CONCHUBOR, High King of Ulster

    FERGUS, Conchubor's friend


    NAISI, Deirdre's lover

    AINNLE, Naisi's brother

    ARDAN, Naisi's brother


    ACT I.

    Lavarcham's house on Slieve Fuadh.

    Lavarcham's house on Slieve Fuadh. There
    is a door to inner room on the left, and a door
    to open air on the right. Window at back
    and a frame with a half-finished piece of
    tapestry. There are also a large press and
    heavy oak chest near the back wall. The place
    is neat and clean but bare. Lavarcham, woman
    of fifty, is working at tapestry frame. Old
    Woman comes in from left.

    OLD WOMAN. She hasn't come yet,
    is it, and it falling to the night?

    LAVARCHAM. She has not. . . (Con-
    cealing her anxiety.
    ) It's dark with the
    clouds are coming from the west and south,
    but it isn't later than the common.

    OLD WOMAN. It's later, surely, and I
    hear tell the Sons of Usna, Naisi and his
    brothers, are above chasing hares for two days
    or three, and the same awhile since when the
    moon was full.

    LAVARCHAM -- more anxiously. -- The
    gods send they don't set eyes on her -- (with
    a sign of helplessness) yet if they do itself,
    it wasn't my wish brought them or could send
    them away.

    OLD WOMAN -- reprovingly. -- If it
    wasn't, you'd do well to keep a check on her,
    and she turning a woman that was meant to
    be a queen.

    LAVARCHAM. Who'd check her like
    was meant to have her pleasure only, the way
    if there were no warnings told about her you'd
    see troubles coming when an old king is taking
    her, and she without a thought but for her
    beauty and to be straying the hills.

    OLD WOMAN. The gods help the lot of
    us. . . . Shouldn't she be well pleased getting
    the like of Conchubor, and he middling settled
    in his years itself? I don't know what he
    wanted putting her this wild place to be
    breaking her in, or putting myself to be roast-
    ing her supper and she with no patience for
    her food at all. She looks out.

    LAVARCHAM. Is she coming from the

    OLD WOMAN. She is not. But whisht
    -- there's two men leaving the furze --
    (crying out) it's Conchubor and Fergus along
    with him. Conchubor'll be in a blue stew this
    night and herself abroad.

    LAVARCHAM -- settling room hastily. --
    Are they close by?

    OLD WOMAN. Crossing the stream, and
    there's herself on the hillside with a load of
    twigs. Will I run out and put her in order
    before they'll set eyes on her at all?

    LAVARCHAM. You will not. Would
    you have him see you, and he a man would
    be jealous of a hawk would fly between her
    and the rising sun. (She looks out.) Go up
    to the hearth and be as busy as if you hadn't
    seen them at all.

    OLD WOMAN -- sitting down to polish
    -- There'll be trouble this night, for he
    should be in his tempers from the way he's
    stepping out, and he swinging his hands.

    LAVARCHAM -- wearied with the whole
    -- It'd be best of all, maybe, if he got
    in tempers with herself, and made an end
    quickly, for I'm in a poor way between the
    pair of them (going back to tapestry frame.)
    There they are now at the door.

    [Conchubor and Fergus come in.

    gods save you.

    LAVARCHAM -- getting up and courtesy-
    -- The gods save and keep you kindly, and
    stand between you and all harm for ever.

    CONCHUBOR -- looking around. -- Where
    is Deirdre?

    LAVARCHAM -- trying to speak with in-
    -- Abroad upon Slieve Fuadh. She
    does be all times straying around picking
    flowers or nuts, or sticks itself; but so long
    as she's gathering new life I've a right not to
    heed her, I'm thinking, and she taking her will.

    [Fergus talks to Old Woman.

    CONCHUBOR -- stiffly. -- A night with
    thunder coming is no night to be abroad.

    LAVARCHAM -- more uneasily. -- She's
    used to every track and pathway, and the
    lightning itself wouldn't let down its flame to
    singe the beauty of her like.

    FERGUS -- cheerfully. -- She's right, Con-
    chubor, and let you sit down and take your
    ease, (he takes a wallet from under his cloak)
    and I'll count out what we've brought, and
    put it in the presses within.
    [He goes into the inner room with the
    Old Woman.

    CONCHUBOR -- sitting down and look-
    ing about.
    -- Where are the mats and hangings
    and the silver skillets I sent up for Deirdre?

    LAVARCHAM. The mats and hangings
    are in this press, Conchubor. She wouldn't
    wish to be soiling them, she said, running out
    and in with mud and grasses on her feet, and
    it raining since the night of Samhain. The
    silver skillets and the golden cups we have
    beyond locked in the chest.

    CONCHUBOR. Bring them out and use
    them from this day.

    LAVARCHAM. We'll do it, Conchubor.

    CONCHUBOR -- getting up and going to
    -- Is this hers?

    LAVARCHAM -- pleased to speak of it. --
    It is, Conchubor. All say there isn't her match
    at fancying figures and throwing purple upon
    crimson, and she edging them all times with
    her greens and gold.

    CONCHUBOR -- a little uneasily. -- Is she
    keeping wise and busy since I passed before,
    and growing ready for her life in Emain?

    LAVARCHAM -- dryly. -- That is a ques-
    tion will give small pleasure to yourself or me.
    (Making up her mind to speak out.) If it's
    the truth I'll tell you, she's growing too wise
    to marry a big king and she a score only. Let
    you not be taking it bad, Conchubor, but you'll
    get little good seeing her this night, for with
    all my talking it's wilfuller she's growing these
    two months or three.

    CONCHUBOR -- severely, but relieved
    things are no worse.
    -- Isn't it a poor thing
    you're doing so little to school her to meet
    what is to come?

    LAVARCHAM. I'm after serving you
    two score of years, and I'll tell you this night,
    Conchubor, she's little call to mind an old
    woman when she has the birds to school her,
    and the pools in the rivers where she goes
    bathing in the sun. I'll tell you if you seen
    her that time, with her white skin, and her red
    lips, and the blue water and the ferns about
    her, you'd know, maybe, and you greedy itself,
    it wasn't for your like she was born at all.

    CONCHUBOR. It's little I heed for what
    she was born; she'll be my comrade, surely.

    [He examines her workbox.

    LAVARCHAM -- sinking into sadness
    -- I'm in dread so they were right say-
    ing she'd bring destruction on the world, for
    it's a poor thing when you see a settled man
    putting the love he has for a young child, and
    the love he has for a full woman, on a girl the
    like of her; and it's a poor thing, Conchubor,
    to see a High King, the way you are this day,
    prying after her needles and numbering her
    lines of thread.

    CONCHUBOR -- getting up. -- Let you
    not be talking too far and you old itself.
    (Walks across room and back.) Does she
    know the troubles are foretold?

    LAVARCHAM -- in the tone of the earlier
    -- I'm after telling her one time and
    another, but I'd do as well speaking to a lamb
    of ten weeks and it racing the hills. . . . It's
    not the dread of death or troubles that would
    tame her like.

    CONCHUBOR -- he looks out. -- She's
    coming now, and let you walk in and keep
    Fergus till I speak with her a while.

    LAVARCHAM -- going left. -- If I'm
    after vexing you itself, it'd be best you weren't
    taking her hasty or scolding her at all.

    CONCHUBOR -- very stiffly. -- I've no
    call to. I'm well pleased she's light and airy.

    LAVARCHAM -- offended at his tone. --
    Well pleased is it? (With a snort of irony)
    It's a queer thing the way the likes of me do
    be telling the truth, and the wise are lying all

    She goes into room on left. Conchubor
    arranges himself before a mirror for a
    moment, then goes a little to the left
    and waits. Deirdre comes in poorly
    dressed, with a little bag and a bundle
    of twigs in her arms. She is astonished
    for a moment when she sees Conchu-bor; then
    she makes a courtesy to him, and goes to the hearth
    without any embarrassment.

    CONCHUBOR. The gods save you,
    Deirdre. I have come up bringing you rings
    and jewels from Emain Macha.

    DEIRDRE. The gods save you.

    CONCHUBOR. What have you brought
    from the hills?

    DEIRDRE -- quite self-possessed. -- A bag
    of nuts, and twigs for our fires at the dawn
    of day.

    CONCHUBOR -- showing annoyance in
    spite of himself.
    -- And it's that way you're
    picking up the manners will fit you to be Queen
    of Ulster?

    DEIRDRE -- made a little defiant by his
    -- I have no wish to be a queen.

    CONCHUBOR -- almost sneeringly. --
    You'd wish to be dressing in your duns and
    grey, and you herding your geese or driving
    your calves to their shed -- like the common
    lot scattered in the glens.

    DEIRDRE -- very defiant. -- I would not,
    Conchubor. (She goes to tapestry and begins
    to work.
    ) A girl born the way I'm born is
    more likely to wish for a mate who'd be her
    likeness. . . . A man with his hair like the
    raven, maybe, and his skin like the snow and
    his lips like blood spilt on it.

    CONCHUBOR -- sees his mistake, and
    after a moment takes a flattering tone, looking
    at her work.
    -- Whatever you wish, there's no
    queen but would be well pleased to have your
    skill at choosing colours and making pictures
    on the cloth. (Looking closely.) What is it
    you're figuring?

    DEIRDRE -- deliberately. -- Three young
    men and they chasing in the green gap of a

    CONCHUBOR -- now almost pleading. --
    It's soon you'll have dogs with silver chains
    to be chasing in the woods of Emain, for I
    have white hounds rearing up for you, and
    grey horses, that I've chosen from the finest
    in Ulster and Britain and Gaul.

    DEIRDRE -- unmoved as before. -- I've
    heard tell, in Ulster and Britain and Gaul,
    Naisi and his brothers have no match and they
    chasing in the woods.

    CONCHUBOR -- very gravely. -- Isn't it
    a strange thing you'd be talking of Naisi and
    his brothers, or figuring them either, when you
    know the things that are foretold about them-
    selves and you? Yet you've little knowledge,
    and I'd do wrong taking it bad when it'll be
    my share from this out to keep you the way
    you'll have little call to trouble for knowledge,
    or its want either.

    DEIRDRE. Yourself should be wise,

    CONCHUBOR. The like of me has a
    store of knowledge that's a weight and terror.
    It's for that we do choose out the like of your-
    self that are young and glad only. . . . I'm
    thinking you are gay and lively each day in
    the year?

    DEIRDRE. I don't know if that's true,
    Conchubor. There are lonesome days and bad
    nights in this place like another.

    CONCHUBOR. You should have as few
    sad days, I'm thinking, as I have glad and
    good ones.

    DEIRDRE. What is it has you that way
    ever coming this place, when you'd hear the
    old woman saying a good child's as happy as
    a king?

    CONCHUBOR. How would I be happy
    seeing age coming on me each year, when the
    dry leaves are blowing back and forward at
    the gate of Emain? And yet this last while
    I'm saying out, when I see the furze breaking
    and the daws sitting two and two on ash-trees
    by the duns of Emain, Deirdre's a year nearer
    her full age when she'll be my mate and com-
    rade and then I'm glad surely.

    DEIRDRE -- almost to herself. -- I will
    not be your mate in Emain.

    CONCHUBOR -- not heeding her. -- It's
    there you'll be proud and happy and you'll
    learn that, if young men are great hunters, yet
    it's with the like of myself you'll find a knowl-
    edge of what is priceless in your own like.
    What we all need is a place is safe and
    splendid, and it's that you'll get in Emain in
    two days or three.

    DEIRDRE -- aghast. -- Two days!

    CONCHUBOR. I have the rooms ready,
    and in a little while you'll be brought down
    there, to be my queen and queen of the five
    parts of Ireland.

    DEIRDRE -- standing up frightened and
    -- I'd liefer stay this place, Con-
    chubor. . . . Leave me this place, where I'm
    well used to the tracks and pathways and the
    people of the glens. . . . It's for this life I'm
    born, surely.

    CONCHUBOR. You'll be happier and
    greater with myself in Emain. It is I will be
    your comrade, and will stand between you and
    the great troubles are foretold.

    DEIRDRE. I will not be your queen in
    Emain when it's my pleasure to be having my
    freedom on the edges of the hills.

    CONCHUBOR. It's my wish to have you
    quickly; I'm sick and weary thinking of the
    day you'll be brought down to me, and seeing
    you walking into my big, empty halls. I've
    made all sure to have you, and yet all said
    there's a fear in the back of my mind I'd miss
    you and have great troubles in the end. It's
    for that, Deirdre, I'm praying that you'll
    come quickly; and you may take the word of
    a man has no lies, you'll not find, with any
    other, the like of what I'm bringing you in
    wildness and confusion in my own mind.

    DEIRDRE. I cannot go, Conchubor.

    CONCHUBOR -- taking a triumphant
    -- It is my pleasure to have you, and I
    a man is waiting a long while on the throne
    of Ulster. Wouldn't you liefer be my com-
    rade, growing up the like of Emer and Maeve,
    than to be in this place and you a child always?

    DEIRDRE. You don't know me and
    you'd have little joy taking me, Conchubor.
    . . . I'm a long while watching the days
    getting a great speed passing me by. I'm too
    long taking my will, and it's that way I'll be
    living always.

    CONCHUBOR -- dryly. -- Call Fergus to
    come with me. This is your last night upon
    Slieve Fuadh.

    DEIRDRE -- now pleadingly. -- Leave me
    a short space longer, Conchubor. Isn't it a
    poor thing I should be hastened away, when
    all these troubles are foretold? Leave me a
    year, Conchubor; it isn't much I'm asking.

    CONCHUBOR. It's much to have me
    two score and two weeks waiting for your
    voice in Emain, and you in this place growing
    lonesome and shy. I'm a ripe man and in
    great love, and yet, Deirdre, I'm the King of
    Ulster. (He gets up.) I'll call Fergus, and
    we'll make Emain ready in the morning.

    [He goes towards door on left.

    DEIRDRE -- clinging to him. -- Do not
    call him, Conchubor. . . . Promise me a year
    of quiet. . . . It's one year I'm asking only.

    CONCHUBOR. You'd be asking a year
    next year, and the years that follow. (Call-
    ) Fergus! Fergus! (To Deirdre.)
    Young girls are slow always; it is their lovers
    that must say the word. (Calling.) Fergus!

    [Deirdre springs away from him as
    Fergus comes in with Lavarcham and
    the Old Woman.

    CONCHUBOR -- to Fergus. -- There is a
    storm coming, and we'd best be going to our
    people when the night is young.

    FERGUS -- cheerfully. -- The gods shield
    you, Deirdre. (To Conchubor.) We're late
    already, and it's no work the High King to
    be slipping on stepping-stones and hilly path-
    ways when the floods are rising with the rain.

    [He helps Conchubor into his cloak.

    CONCHUBOR -- glad that he has made
    his decision -- to Lavarcham.
    -- Keep your
    rules a few days longer, and you'll be brought
    down to Emain, you and Deirdre with you.

    LAVARCHAM -- obediently. -- Your rules
    are kept always.

    CONCHUBOR. The gods shield you.
    [He goes out with Fergus. Old Woman
    bolts door.

    LAVARCHAM -- looking at Deirdre, who
    has covered her face.
    -- Wasn't I saying you'd
    do it? You've brought your marriage a sight
    nearer not heeding those are wiser than your-

    DEIRDRE -- with agitation. -- It wasn't I
    did it. Will you take me from this place,
    Lavarcham, and keep me safe in the hills?

    LAVARCHAM. He'd have us tracked in
    the half of a day, and then you'd be his queen
    in spite of you, and I and mine would be
    destroyed for ever.

    DEIRDRE -- terrified with the reality that
    is before her.
    -- Are there none can go against

    LAVARCHAM. Maeve of Connaught
    only, and those that are her like.

    DEIRDRE. Would Fergus go against

    LAVARCHAM. He would, maybe, and
    his temper roused.

    DEIRDRE -- in a lower voice with sudden
    -- Would Naisi and his brothers?

    LAVARCHAM -- impatiently. -- Let you
    not be dwelling on Naisi and his brothers. . . .
    In the end of all there is none can go against
    Conchubor, and it's folly that we're talking,
    for if any went against Conchubor it's sorrow
    he'd earn and the shortening of his day of life.

    [She turns away, and Deirdre stands up
    stiff with excitement and goes and
    looks out of the window.

    DEIRDRE. Are the stepping-stones flood-
    ing, Lavarcham? Will the night be stormy in
    the hills?

    LAVARCHAM -- looking at her curiously.
    The stepping-stones are flooding, surely, and
    the night will be the worst, I'm thinking, we've
    seen these years gone by.

    DEIRDRE -- tearing open the press and
    pulling out clothes and tapestries.
    -- Lay these
    mats and hangings by the windows, and at the
    tables for our feet, and take out the skillets
    of silver, and the golden cups we have, and
    our two flasks of wine.

    LAVARCHAM. What ails you?

    DEIRDRE -- gathering up a dress. -- Lay
    them out quickly, Lavarcham, we've no call
    dawdling this night. Lay them out quickly;
    I'm going into the room to put on the rich
    dresses and jewels have been sent from Emain.

    LAVARCHAM. Putting on dresses at
    this hour, and it dark and drenching with the
    weight of rain! Are you away in your head?

    DEIRDRE -- gathering her things to-
    gether with an outburst of excitement.
    -- I will
    dress like Emer in Dundealgan, or Maeve in
    her house in Connaught. If Conchubor'll
    make me a queen, I'll have the right of a queen
    who is a master, taking her own choice and
    making a stir to the edges of the seas. . . .
    Lay out your mats and hangings where I can
    stand this night and look about me. Lay out
    the skins of the rams of Connaught and of the
    goats of the west. I will not be a child or
    plaything; I'll put on my robes that are the
    richest, for I will not be brought down to
    Emain as Cuchulain brings his horse to the
    yoke, or Conall Cearneach puts his shield
    upon his arm; and maybe from this day I will
    turn the men of Ireland like a wind blowing
    on the heath.

    She goes into room. Lavarcham and
    Old Woman look at each other, then
    the Old Woman goes over, looks in at
    Deirdre through chink of the door, and
    then closes it carefully.

    OLD WOMAN -- in a frightened whisper.
    -- She's thrown off the rags she had about
    her, and there she is in her skin; she's putting
    her hair in shiny twists. Is she raving,
    Lavarcham, or has she a good right turning
    to a queen like Maeve?

    LAVARCHAM -- putting up hanging very
    -- It's more than raving's in her
    mind, or I'm the more astray; and yet she's
    as good a right as another, maybe, having her
    pleasure, though she'd spoil the world.

    OLD WOMAN -- helping her. -- Be quick
    before she'll come back. . . . Who'd have
    thought we'd run before her, and she so quiet
    till to-night. Will the High King get the
    better of her, Lavarcham? If I was Con-
    chubor, I wouldn't marry with her like at all.

    LAVARCHAM. Hang that by the win-
    dow. That should please her, surely. When
    all's said, it's her like will be the master till
    the end of time.

    OLD WOMAN -- at the window. -- There's
    a mountain of blackness in the sky, and the
    greatest rain falling has been these long years
    on the earth. The gods help Conchubor. He'll
    be a sorry man this night, reaching his dun,
    and he with all his spirits, thinking to himself
    he'll be putting his arms around her in two
    days or three.

    LAVARCHAM. It's more than Conchu-
    bor'll be sick and sorry, I'm thinking, before
    this story is told to the end.

    [Loud knocking on door at the right.

    LAVARCHAM -- startled. -- Who is that?

    NAISI -- outside. -- Naisi and his brothers.

    LAVARCHAM. We are lonely women.
    What is it you're wanting in the blackness of
    the night?

    NAISI. We met a young girl in the woods
    who told us we might shelter this place if the
    rivers rose on the pathways and the floods
    gathered from the butt of the hills.

    [Old Woman clasps her hands in horror.

    LAVARCHAM -- with great alarm. -- You
    cannot come in. . . . There is no one let in
    here, and no young girl with us.

    NAISI. Let us in from the great storm.
    Let us in and we will go further when the
    cloud will rise.

    LAVARCHAM. Go round east to the
    shed and you'll have shelter. You cannot
    come in.

    NAISI -- knocking loudly. -- Open the
    door or we will burst it. (The door is shaken.)

    OLD WOMAN -- in a timid whisper. --
    Let them in, and keep Deirdre in her room

    AINNLE AND ARDAN -- outside. --
    Open! Open!

    LAVARCHAM -- to Old Woman. -- Go
    in and keep her.

    OLD WOMAN. I couldn't keep her. I've
    no hold on her. Go in yourself and I will
    free the door.

    LAVARCHAM. I must stay and turn
    them out. (She pulls her hair and cloak over
    her face.
    ) Go in and keep her.

    OLD WOMAN. The gods help us.
    [She runs into the inner room.

    VOICES. Open!

    LAVARCHAM -- opening the door. --
    Come in then and ill-luck if you'll have it so.
    [Naisi and Ainnle and Ardan come in
    and look round with astonishment.

    NAISI. It's a rich man has this place, and
    no herd at all.

    LAVARCHAM -- sitting down with her
    head half covered.
    -- It is not, and you'd best
    be going quickly.

    NAISI -- hilariously, shaking rain from
    his clothes.
    -- When we've had the pick of luck
    finding princely comfort in the darkness of
    the night! Some rich man of Ulster should
    come here and he chasing in the woods. May
    we drink? (He takes up flask.) Whose
    wine is this that we may drink his health?

    LAVARCHAM. It's no one's that you've
    call to know.

    NAISI. Your own health then and length
    of life. (Pouring out wine for the three.
    They drink.

    LAVARCHAM -- very crossly. -- You're
    great boys taking a welcome where it isn't
    given, and asking questions where you've no
    call to. . . . If you'd a quiet place settled
    up to be playing yourself, maybe, with a gentle
    queen, what'd you think of young men prying
    around and carrying tales? When I was a bit
    of a girl the big men of Ulster had better
    manners, and they the like of your three selves,
    in the top folly of youth. That'll be a story
    to tell out in Tara that Naisi is a tippler and
    stealer, and Ainnle the drawer of a stranger's

    NAISI -- quite cheerfully, sitting down be-
    side her.
    -- At your age you should know
    there are nights when a king like Conchubor
    will spit upon his arm ring, and queens will
    stick their tongues out at the rising moon.
    We're that way this night, and it's not wine
    we're asking only. Where is the young girl
    told us we might shelter here?

    LAVARCHAM. Asking me you'd be?
    We're decent people, and I wouldn't put you
    tracking a young girl, not if you gave me the
    gold clasp you have hanging on your coat.

    NAISI -- giving it to her. -- Where is she?

    LAVARCHAM -- in confidential whisper,
    putting her hand on his arm.
    -- Let you walk
    back into the hills and turn up by the second
    cnuceen where there are three together. You'll
    see a path running on the rocks and then you'll
    hear the dogs barking in the houses, and their
    noise will guide you till you come to a bit of
    cabin at the foot of an ash-tree. It's there
    there is a young and flighty girl that I'm
    thinking is the one you've seen.

    NAISI -- hilariously. -- Here's health, then,
    to herself and you!

    ARDAN. Here's to the years when you
    were young as she!

    AINNLE -- in a frightened whisper. --

    [Naisi looks up and Ainnle beckons to
    him. He goes over and Ainnle points
    to something on the golden mug he
    holds in his hand.

    NAISI -- looking at it in astonishment. --
    This is the High King's. . . . I see his mark
    on the rim. Does Conchubor come lodging

    LAVARCHAM -- jumping up with ex-
    treme annoyance.
    -- Who says it's Conchu-
    bor's? How dare young fools the like of you
    -- (speaking with vehement insolence) come
    prying around, running the world into troubles
    for some slip of a girl? What brings you this
    place straying from Emain? (Very bitterly.)
    Though you think, maybe, young men can do
    their fill of foolery and there is none to blame

    NAISI -- very soberly. -- Is the rain easing?

    ARDAN. The clouds are breaking. . . .
    I can see Orion in the gap of the glen.

    NAISI -- still cheerfully. -- Open the door
    and we'll go forward to the little cabin between
    the ash-tree and the rocks. Lift the bolt and
    pull it.

    [Deirdre comes in on left royally dressed
    and very beautiful. She stands for a
    moment, and then as the door opens
    she calls softly.

    DEIRDRE. Naisi! Do not leave me,
    Naisi. I am Deirdre of the Sorrows.

    NAISI -- transfixed with amazement. --
    And it is you who go around in the woods
    making the thrushes bear a grudge against the
    heavens for the sweetness of your voice

    DEIRDRE. It is with me you've spoken,
    surely. (To Lavarcham and Old Woman.)
    Take Ainnle and Ardan, these two princes,
    into the little hut where we eat, and serve them
    with what is best and sweetest. I have many
    thing for Naisi only.

    LAVARCHAM -- overawed by her tone. --
    I will do it, and I ask their pardon. I have
    fooled them here.

    DEIRDRE -- to Ainnle and Ardan. -- Do
    not take it badly that I am asking you to walk
    into our hut for a little. You will have a
    supper that is cooked by the cook of Conchu-
    bor, and Lavarcham will tell you stories of
    Maeve and Nessa and Rogh.

    AINNLE. We'll ask Lavarcham to tell us
    stories of yourself, and with that we'll be well
    pleased to be doing your wish.

    [They all go out except Deirdre and Naisi.
    DEIRDRE -- sitting in the high chair in
    the centre.
    -- Come to this stool, Naisi (point-
    ing to the stool
    ). If it's low itself the High
    King would sooner be on it this night than on
    the throne of Emain Macha.

    NAISI -- sitting down. -- You are Fed-
    limid's daughter that Conchubor has walled up
    from all the men of Ulster.

    DEIRDRE. Do many know what is fore-
    told, that Deirdre will be the ruin of the Sons
    of Usna, and have a little grave by herself,
    and a story will be told for ever?

    NAISI. It's a long while men have been
    talking of Deirdre, the child who had all gifts,
    and the beauty that has no equal; there are
    many know it, and there are kings would give
    a great price to be in my place this night and
    you grown to a queen.

    DEIRDRE. It isn't many I'd call, Naisi.
    . . . I was in the woods at the full moon
    and I heard a voice singing. Then I gathered
    up my skirts, and I ran on a little path I have
    to the verge of a rock, and I saw you pass by
    underneath, in your crimson cloak, singing a
    song, and you standing out beyond your
    brothers are called the Plower of Ireland.

    NAISI. It's for that you called us in the

    DEIRDRE -- in a low voice. -- Since that,
    Naisi, I have been one time the like of a ewe
    looking for a lamb that had been taken away
    from her, and one time seeing new gold on
    the stars, and a new face on the moon, and all
    times dreading Emain.

    NAISI -- pulling himself together and be-
    ginning to draw back a little.
    -- Yet it should
    be a lonesome thing to be in this place and you
    born for great company.

    DEIRDRE -- softly. -- This night I have
    the best company in the whole world.

    NAISI -- still a little formally. -- It is I
    who have the best company, for when you're
    queen in Emain you will have none to be your
    match or fellow.

    DEIRDRE. I will not be queen in Emain.

    NAISI. Conchubor has made an oath you
    will, surely.

    DEIRDRE. It's for that maybe I'm called
    Deirdre, the girl of many sorrows . . . for
    it's a sweet life you and I could have, Naisi.
    . . . . It should be a sweet thing to have
    what is best and richest, if it's for a short
    space only.

    NAISI -- very distressed. -- And we've a
    short space only to be triumphant and brave.

    DEIRDRE. You must not go, Naisi, and
    leave me to the High King, a man is aging
    in his dun, with his crowds round him, and
    his silver and gold. (More quickly.) I will
    not live to be shut up in Emain, and wouldn't
    we do well paying, Naisi, with silence and a
    near death. (She stands up and walks away
    from him.
    ) I'm a long while in the woods
    with my own self, and I'm in little dread of
    death, and it earned with riches would make
    the sun red with envy, and he going up the
    heavens; and the moon pale and lonesome, and
    she wasting away. (She comes to him and
    puts her hands on his shoulders.
    ) Isn't it a
    small thing is foretold about the ruin of our-
    selves, Naisi, when all men have age coming
    and great ruin in the end?

    NAISI. Yet it's a poor thing it's I should
    bring you to a tale of blood and broken bodies,
    and the filth of the grave. . . . Wouldn't we
    do well to wait, Deirdre, and I each twilight
    meeting you on the sides of the hills?

    DEIRDRE -- despondently. -- His mes-
    sengers are coming.

    NAISI. Messengers are coming?

    DEIRDRE. To-morrow morning or the
    next, surely.

    NAISI. Then we'll go away. It isn't I
    will give your like to Conchubor, not if the
    grave was dug to be my lodging when a week
    was by. (He looks out.) The stars are out,
    Deirdre, and let you come with me quickly,
    for it is the stars will be our lamps many nights
    and we abroad in Alban, and taking our
    journeys among the little islands in the sea.
    There has never been the like of the joy we'll
    have, Deirdre, you and I, having our fill of
    love at the evening and the morning till the
    sun is high.

    DEIRDRE. And yet I'm in dread leaving
    this place, where I have lived always. Won't
    I be lonesome and I thinking on the little hill
    beyond, and the apple-trees do be budding in
    the spring-time by the post of the door? (A
    little shaken by what has passed.
    ) Won't I
    be in great dread to bring you to destruction,
    Naisi, and you so happy and young?

    NAISI. Are you thinking I'd go on living
    after this night, Deirdre, and you with Con-
    chubor in Emain? Are you thinking I'd go
    out after hares when I've had your lips in my

    [Lavarcham comes in as they cling to
    each other.

    LAVARCHAM. Are you raving,
    Deirdre? Are you choosing this night to
    destroy the world?

    DEIRDRE -- very deliberately. -- It's Con-
    chubor has chosen this night calling me to
    Emain. (To Naisi.) Bring in Ainnle and
    Ardan, and take me from this place, where
    I'm in dread from this out of the footsteps of
    a hare passing. [He goes.

    DEIRDRE -- clinging to Lavarcham. --
    Do not take it bad I'm going, Lavarcham. It's
    you have been a good friend and given me
    great freedom and joy, and I living on Slieve
    Fuadh; and maybe you'll be well pleased one
    day saying you have nursed Deirdre.

    LAVARCHAM -- moved. -- It isn't I'll be
    well pleased and I far away from you. Isn't
    it a hard thing you're doing, but who can help
    it? Birds go mating in the spring of the year,
    and ewes at the leaves falling, but a young
    girl must have her lover in all the courses of
    the sun and moon.

    DEIRDRE. Will you go to Emain in the

    LAVARCHAM. I will not. I'll go to
    Brandon in the south; and in the course of a
    piece, maybe, I'll be sailing back and forward
    on the seas to be looking on your face and the
    little ways you have that none can equal.

    [Naisi comes back with Ainnle and Ardan
    and Old Woman.

    DEIRDRE -- taking Naisi's hand. -- My
    two brothers, I am going with Naisi to Alban
    and the north to face the troubles are foretold.
    Will you take word to Conchubor in Emain?

    AINNLE. We will go with you.

    ARDAN. We will be your servants and
    your huntsmen, Deirdre.

    DEIRDRE. It isn't one brother only of
    you three is brave and courteous. Will you
    wed us, Lavarcham? You have the words and

    LAVARCHAM. I will not, then. What
    would I want meddling in the ruin you will

    NAISI. Let Ainnle wed us. . . . He has
    been with wise men and he knows their ways.

    AINNLE -- joining their hands. -- By the
    sun and moon and the whole earth, I wed
    Deirdre to Naisi. (He steps back and holds
    up his hands.) May the air bless you, and
    water and the wind, the sea, and all the hours
    of the sun and moon.

    Next Chapter
    Chapter 1
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