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    Act II

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    Chapter 2
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    ACT II

    Alban. Early morning in the beginning of
    winter. A wood outside the tent of Deirdre
    and Naisi. Lavarcham comes in muffled in a
    cloak.


    LAVARCHAM -- calling. -- Deirdre. . . .Deirdre. . . .

    DEIRDRE -- coming from tent. -- My
    welcome, Lavarcham. . . . Whose curagh is
    rowing from Ulster? I saw the oars through
    the tops of the trees, and I thought it was you
    were coming towards us.

    LAVARCHAM. I came in the shower
    was before dawn.

    DEIRDRE. And who is coming?

    LAVARCHAM -- mournfully. -- Let you
    not be startled or taking it bad, Deirdre.
    It's Fergus bringing messages of peace from
    Conchubor to take Naisi and his brothers
    back to Emain. [Sitting down.

    DEIRDRE -- lightly. -- Naisi and his
    brothers are well pleased with this place; and
    what would take them back to Conchubor in
    Ulster?

    LAVARCHAM. Their like would go any place where
    they'd see death standing. (With more agitation.)
    I'm in dread Conchubor wants to have yourself and to
    kill Naisi, and that that'll be the ruin of the Sons of Usna.
    I'm silly, maybe, to be dreading the like, but
    those have a great love for yourself have a
    right to be in dread always.

    DEIRDRE -- more anxiously. -- Emain
    should be no safe place for myself and Naisi.
    And isn't it a hard thing they'll leave us no
    peace, Lavarcham, and we so quiet in the
    woods?

    LAVARCHAM -- impressively. -- It's a
    hard thing, surely; but let you take my word
    and swear Naisi, by the earth, and the sun
    over it, and the four quarters of the moon, he'll not go back to Emain -- for good faith or bad faith -- the time Conchubor's keeping the high throne of Ireland. . . . It's that would save you, surely.

    DEIRDRE -- without hope. -- There's lit- tle power in oaths to stop what's coming, and little power in what I'd do, Lavarcham, to
    change the story of Conchubor and Naisi and
    the things old men foretold.

    LAVARCHAM -- aggressively. -- Was
    there little power in what you did the night
    you dressed in your finery and ran Naisi off along with you, in spite of Conchubor and the
    big nobles did dread the blackness of your
    luck? It was power enough you had that
    night to bring distress and anguish; and now
    I'm pointing you a way to save Naisi, you'll
    not stir stick or straw to aid me.

    DEIRDRE -- a little haughtily.
    -- Let you not raise your voice against me, Lavarcham,
    if you have will itself to guard Naisi.

    LAVARCHAM -- breaking out in anger.
    -- Naisi is it? I didn't care if the crows were stripping his thigh-bones at the dawn of day. It's to stop your own despair and wailing, and you waking up in a cold bed, without the man you have your heart on, I am raging now.
    (Starting up with temper.) Yet there is more men than Naisi in it; and maybe I was a big fool thinking his dangers, and this day, would fill you up with dread.

    DEIRDRE -- sharply. -- Let you end; such talking is a fool's only, when it's well you know if a thing harmed Naisi it isn't I would live after him. (With distress.) It's well you know it's this day I'm dreading seven years, and I fine nights watching the heifers walking to the haggard with long shadows on the grass; (with emotion) or the time I've been stretched in the sunshine, when I've heard Ainnle and Ardan stepping lightly, and they saying: Was there ever the like of Deirdre for a happy and sleepy queen?

    LAVARCHAM -- not fully pacified. --
    And yet you'll go, and welcome is it, if Naisi
    chooses?

    DEIRDRE. I've dread going or staying,
    Lavarcham. It's lonesome this place, having
    happiness like ours, till I'm asking each day
    will this day match yesterday, and will to-
    morrow take a good place beside the same day
    in the year that's gone, and wondering all
    times is it a game worth playing, living on
    until you're dried and old, and our joy is gone
    for ever.

    LAVARCHAM. If it's that ails you, I
    tell you there's little hurt getting old, though young girls and poets do be storming at the shapes of age. (Passionately.) There's little hurt getting old, saving when you're looking back, the way I'm looking this day, and seeing the young you have a love for breaking up their hearts with folly. (Going to Deirdre.) Take my word and stop Naisi, and the day'll come you'll have more joy having the senses of an old woman and you with your little grandsons shrieking round you, than I'd have this night putting on the red mouth and the white arms you have, to go walking lonesome
    byways with a gamey king.

    DEIRDRE. It's little joy of a young
    woman, or an old woman, I'll have from this
    day, surely. But what use is in our talking
    when there's Naisi on the foreshore, and
    Fergus with him?

    LAVARCHAM -- despairingly. -- I'm late so with my warnings, for Fergus'd talk the
    moon over to take a new path in the sky.
    (With reproach.) You'll not stop him this day, and isn't it a strange story you were a plague and torment, since you were that
    height, to those did hang their lifetimes on
    your voice. (Overcome with trouble; gather-
    ing her cloak about her.
    ) Don't think bad of my crying. I'm not the like of many and I'd
    see a score of naked corpses and not heed
    them at all, but I'm destroyed seeing yourself
    in your hour of joy when the end is coming
    surely.

    [Owen comes in quickly, rather ragged,
    bows to Deirdre.


    OWEN -- to Lavarcham. -- Fergus's men
    are calling you. You were seen on the path,
    and he and Naisi want you for their talk below.

    LAVARCHAM -- looking at him with dis-
    like.
    -- Yourself's an ill-lucky thing to meet a morning is the like of this. Yet if you are a spy itself I'll go and give my word that's wanting surely. [Goes out.

    OWEN -- to Deirdre. -- So I've found you
    alone, and I after waiting three weeks getting
    ague and asthma in the chill of the bogs, till
    I saw Naisi caught with Fergus.

    DEIRDRE. I've heard news of Fergus;
    what brought you from Ulster?

    OWEN -- who has been searching, finds
    a loaf and sits down eating greedily, and cut-
    ting it with a large knife.
    -- The full moon, I'm thinking, and it squeezing the crack in my skull. Was there ever a man crossed nine
    waves after a fool's wife and he not away in
    his head?

    DEIRDRE -- absently. -- It should be a long time since you left Emain, where there's
    civility in speech with queens.

    OWEN. It's a long while, surely. It's
    three weeks I am losing my manners beside
    the Saxon bull-frogs at the head of the bog.
    Three weeks is a long space, and yet you're
    seven years spancelled with Naisi and the pair.

    DEIRDRE -- beginning to fold up her silks
    and jewels.
    -- Three weeks of your days might be long, surely, yet seven years are a short space for the like of Naisi and myself.

    OWEN -- derisively. -- If they're a short space there aren't many the like of you.
    Wasn't there a queen in Tara had to walk out
    every morning till she'd meet a stranger and
    see the flame of courtship leaping up within
    his eye? Tell me now, (leaning towards her) are you well pleased that length with the same man snorting next you at the dawn of day?

    DEIRDRE -- very quietly. -- Am I well
    pleased seven years seeing the same sun throw-
    ing light across the branches at the dawn of
    day? It's a heartbreak to the wise that it's for a short space we have the same things only.
    (With contempt.) Yet the earth itself is a silly place, maybe, when a man's a fool and talker.

    OWEN -- sharply. -- Well, go, take your choice. Stay here and rot with Naisi or go to Conchubor in Emain. Conchubor's a wrinkled fool with a swelling belly on him, and eyes falling downward from his shining crown;
    Naisi should be stale and weary. Yet there
    are many roads, Deirdre, and I tell you I'd
    liefer be bleaching in a bog-hole than living
    on without a touch of kindness from your eyes
    and voice. It's a poor thing to be so lonesome
    you'd squeeze kisses on a cur dog's nose.

    DEIRDRE. Are there no women like yourself could be your friends in Emain?

    OWEN -- vehemently. -- There are none
    like you, Deirdre. It's for that I'm asking are you going back this night with Fergus?

    DEIRDRE. I will go where Naisi chooses.

    OWEN -- with a burst of rage. -- It's
    Naisi, Naisi, is it? Then, I tell you, you'll
    have great sport one day seeing Naisi getting
    a harshness in his two sheep's eyes and he
    looking on yourself. Would you credit it, my
    father used to be in the broom and heather
    kissing Lavarcham, with a little bird chirping
    out above their heads, and now she'd scare a
    raven from a carcase on a hill. (With a sad
    cry that brings dignity into his voice.
    ) Queens get old, Deirdre, with their white and long arms going from them, and their backs hoop-ing. I tell you it's a poor thing to see a queen's nose reaching down to scrape her chin.

    DEIRDRE -- looking out, a little uneasy.-- Naisi and Fergus are coming on the path.

    OWEN. I'll go so, for if I had you seven
    years I'd be jealous of the midges and the dust
    is in the air. (Muffles himself in his cloak; with a sort of warning in his voice.) I'll give you a riddle, Deirdre: Why isn't my father as ugly and old as Conchubor? You've no answer? . . . . It's because Naisi killed him. (With curious expression.) Think of that and you awake at night, hearing Naisi snoring, or the night you hear strange stories of the things I'm doing in Alban or in Ulster either. [He goes out, and in a moment Naisi and Fergus come in on the other side.

    NAISI -- gaily. -- Fergus has brought messages of peace from Conchubor.

    DEIRDRE -- greeting Fergus. -- He is
    welcome. Let you rest, Fergus, you should be
    hot and thirsty after mounting the rocks.

    FERGUS. It's a sunny nook you've found
    in Alban; yet any man would be well pleased
    mounting higher rocks to fetch yourself and
    Naisi back to Emain.

    DEIRDRE -- with keenness. -- They've
    answered? They would go?

    FERGUS -- benignly. -- They have not,
    but when I was a young man we'd have given
    a lifetime to be in Ireland a score of weeks;
    and to this day the old men have nothing so
    heavy as knowing it's in a short while they'll
    lose the high skies are over Ireland, and the
    lonesome mornings with birds crying on the
    bogs. Let you come this day, for there's no
    place but Ireland where the Gael can have
    peace always.

    NAISI -- gruffly. -- It's true, surely. Yet we're better this place while Conchubor's in Emain Macha.

    FERGUS -- giving him parchments. --
    There are your sureties and Conchubor's seal.
    (To Deirdre.) I am your surety with Conchubor. You'll not be young always, and it's time you were making yourselves ready for
    the years will come, building up a homely dun
    beside the seas of Ireland, and getting in your
    children from the princes' wives. It's little
    joy wandering till age is on you and your
    youth is gone away, so you'd best come this
    night, for you'd have great pleasure putting
    out your foot and saying, "I am in Ireland,
    surely."

    DEIRDRE. It isn't pleasure I'd have
    while Conchubor is king in Emain.

    FERGUS -- almost annoyed. -- Would you doubt the seals of Conall Cearneach and the
    kings of Meath? (He gets parchments from
    his cloak and gives them to Naisi. More
    gently.
    ) It's easy being fearful and you alone in the woods, yet it would be a poor thing if a timid woman (taunting her a little) could turn away the Sons of Usna from the life of kings. Let you be thinking on the years to come, Deirdre, and the way you'd have a right to see Naisi a high and white-haired justice beside some king of Emain. Wouldn't it be a poor story if a queen the like of you should have no thought but to be scraping up her hours dallying in the sunshine with the sons of kings?

    DEIRDRE -- turning away a little haught-
    ily.
    -- I leave the choice to Naisi. (Turning back towards Fergus.) Yet you'd do well, Fergus, to go on your own way, for the sake of your own years, so you'll not be saying till your hour of death, maybe, it was yourself brought Naisi and his brothers to a grave was scooped by treachery. [Goes into tent.

    FERGUS. It is a poor thing to see a
    queen so lonesome and afraid. (He watches
    till he is sure Deirdre cannot hear him.
    )
    Listen now to what I'm saying. You'd do well
    to come back to men and women are your
    match and comrades, and not be lingering
    until the day that you'll grow weary, and hurt
    Deirdre showing her the hardness will grow
    up within your eyes. . . . You're here years
    and plenty to know it's truth I'm saying.
    [Deirdre comes out of tent with a horn
    of wine, she catches the beginning of
    Naisi's speech and stops with stony
    wonder.


    NAISI -- very thoughtfully. -- I'll not tell you a lie. There have been days a while past when I've been throwing a line for salmon or watching for the run of hares, that I've a dread upon me a day'd come I'd weary of her voice, (very slowly) and Deirdre'd see I'd wearied.

    FERGUS -- sympathetic but triumphant. --I knew it, Naisi. . . . And take my word,
    Deirdre's seen your dread and she'll have no
    peace from this out in the woods.

    NAISI -- with confidence. -- She's not seen it. . . . Deirdre's no thought of getting old or wearied; it's that puts wonder in her days, and she with spirits would keep bravery and laughter in a town with plague.

    [Deirdre drops the horn of wine and
    crouches down where she is.


    FERGUS. That humour'll leave her. But
    we've no call going too far, with one word
    borrowing another. Will you come this night
    to Emain Macha?

    NAISI. I'll not go, Fergus. I've had
    dreams of getting old and weary, and losing
    my delight in Deirdre; but my dreams were
    dreams only. What are Conchubor's seals
    and all your talk of Emain and the fools of
    Meath beside one evening in Glen Masain?
    We'll stay this place till our lives and time are worn out. It's that word you may take in
    your curagh to Conchubor in Emain.

    FERGUS -- gathering up his parchments.-- And you won't go, surely.

    NAISI. I will not. . . . I've had dread,
    I tell you, dread winter and summer, and the
    autumn and the springtime, even when there's
    a bird in every bush making his own stir till
    the fall of night; but this talk's brought me
    ease, and I see we're as happy as the leaves on
    the young trees, and we'll be so ever and
    always, though we'd live the age of the eagle
    and the salmon and the crow of Britain.

    FERGUS -- with anger. -- Where are your brothers? My message is for them also.

    NAISI. You'll see them above chasing
    otters by the stream.

    FERGUS -- bitterly. -- It isn't much I was mistaken, thinking you were hunters only.

    [He goes, Naisi turns towards tent
    and sees Deirdre crouching down with
    her cloak round her face. Deirdre
    comes out.


    NAISI. You've heard my words to Fergus? (She does not answer. A pause. He
    puts his arm round her.
    ) Leave troubling,
    and we'll go this night to Glen da Ruadh, where the salmon will be running with the
    tide. [Crosses and sits down.

    DEIRDRE -- in a very low voice. -- With the tide in a little while we will be journeying again, or it is our own blood maybe will be running away. (She turns and clings to him.) The dawn and evening are a little while, the winter and the summer pass quickly, and what way would you and I, Naisi, have joy for ever?

    NAISI. We'll have the joy is highest till
    our age is come, for it isn't Fergus's talk of
    great deeds could take us back to Emain.

    DEIRDRE. It isn't to great deeds you're
    going but to near troubles, and the shortening
    of your days the time that they are bright and
    sunny; and isn't it a poor thing that I, Deirdre, could not hold you away?

    NAISI. I've said we'd stay in Alban
    always.

    DEIRDRE. There's no place to stay al-
    ways. . . . It's a long time we've had,
    pressing the lips together, going up and down,
    resting in our arms, Naisi, waking with the
    smell of June in the tops of the grasses, and
    listening to the birds in the branches that are
    highest. . . . It's a long time we've had, but
    the end has come, surely.

    NAISI. Would you have us go to Emain,
    though if any ask the reason we do not know
    it, and we journeying as the thrushes come
    from the north, or young birds fly out on a
    dark sea?

    DEIRDRE. There's reason all times for
    an end that's come. And I'm well pleased,
    Naisi, we're going forward in the winter the
    time the sun has a low place, and the moon
    has her mastery in a dark sky, for it's you
    and I are well lodged our last day, where there
    is a light behind the clear trees, and the
    berries on the thorns are a red wall.

    NAISI. If our time in this place is ended,
    come away without Ainnle and Ardan to the
    woods of the east, for it's right to be away
    from all people when two lovers have their
    love only. Come away and we'll be safe
    always.

    DEIRDRE -- broken-hearted. -- There's no safe place, Naisi, on the ridge of the world.. . . . And it's in the quiet woods I've seen them digging our grave, throwing out the clay on leaves are bright and withered.

    NAISI -- still more eagerly. -- Come away, Deirdre, and it's little we'll think of safety or the grave beyond it, and we resting in a little corner between the daytime and the long night.

    DEIRDRE -- clearly and gravely. -- It's
    this hour we're between the daytime and a
    night where there is sleep for ever, and isn't
    it a better thing to be following on to a near
    death, than to be bending the head down, and
    dragging with the feet, and seeing one day
    a blight showing upon love where it is sweet
    and tender.

    NAISI -- his voice broken with distraction.-- If a near death is coming what will be my trouble losing the earth and the stars over it, and you, Deirdre, are their flame and bright crown? Come away into the safety of the woods.

    DEIRDRE -- shaking her head slowly. --
    There are as many ways to wither love as there
    are stars in a night of Samhain; but there is
    no way to keep life, or love with it, a short
    space only. . . . It's for that there's nothing lonesome like a love is watching out the time most lovers do be sleeping. . . . It's for that we're setting out for Emain Macha when the tide turns on the sand.

    NAISI -- giving in. -- You're right, maybe. It should be a poor thing to see great lovers and they sleepy and old.

    DEIRDRE -- with a more tender intensity.-- We're seven years without roughness or growing weary; seven years so sweet and shining, the gods would be hard set to give us seven days the like of them. It's for that we're going to Emain, where there'll be a rest for ever, or a place for forgetting, in great crowds and they making a stir.

    NAISI -- very softly. -- We'll go, surely, in place of keeping a watch on a love had no match and it wasting away. (They cling to each other for a moment, then Naisi looks up.) There are Fergus and Lavarcham and my two brothers.

    [Deirdre goes. Naisi sits with his head
    bowed. Owen runs in stealthily, comes
    behind Naisi and seizes him round the
    arms. Naisi shakes him off and whips
    out his sword.


    OWEN -- screaming with derisive laughter
    and showing his empty hands.
    -- Ah, Naisi,
    wasn't it well I didn't kill you that time?
    There was a fright you got! I've been watch-
    ing Fergus above -- don't be frightened --
    and I've come down to see him getting the
    cold shoulder, and going off alone.

    [Fergus and others come in. They are
    all subdued like men at a queen's wake.


    NAISI -- putting up his sword. -- There he is. (Goes to Fergus.) We are going back when the tide turns, I and Deirdre with your- self.

    ALL. Going back!

    AINNLE. And you'll end your life with
    Deirdre, though she has no match for keeping
    spirits in a little company is far away by itself?

    ARDAN. It's seven years myself and
    Ainnle have been servants and bachelors for
    yourself and Deirdre. Why will you take her
    back to Conchubor?

    NAISI. I have done what Deirdre wishes
    and has chosen.

    FERGUS. You've made a choice wise men
    will be glad of in the five ends of Ireland.

    OWEN. Wise men is it, and they going
    back to Conchubor? I could stop them only
    Naisi put in his sword among my father's ribs,
    and when a man's done that he'll not credit
    your oath. Going to Conchubor! I could tell
    of plots and tricks, and spies were well paid
    for their play. (He throws up a bag of gold.) Are you paid, Fergus?

    [He scatters gold pieces over Fergus.

    FERGUS. He is raving. . . . Seize him.

    OWEN -- flying between them. -- You
    won't. Let the lot of you be off to Emain, but
    I'll be off before you. . . . Dead men, dead men! Men who'll die for Deirdre's beauty;
    I'll be before you in the grave!

    [Runs out with his knife in his hand.
    They all run after him except Lavar-
    cham, who looks out and then clasps
    her hands. Deirdre comes out to her
    in a dark cloak.


    DEIRDRE. What has happened?

    LAVARCHAM. It's Owen's gone raging
    mad, and he's after splitting his gullet beyond
    at the butt of the stone. There was ill luck
    this day in his eye. And he knew a power if
    he'd said it all.

    [Naisi comes back quickly, followed by
    the others.


    AINNLE -- coming in very excited. --
    That man knew plots of Conchubor's. We'll
    not go to Emain, where Conchubor may love
    her and have hatred for yourself.

    FERGUS. Would you mind a fool and
    raver?

    AINNLE. It's many times there's more
    sense in madmen than the wise. We will not
    obey Conchubor.

    NAISI. I and Deirdre have chosen; we
    will go back with Fergus.

    ARDAN. We will not go back. We will
    burn your curaghs by the sea.

    FERGUS. My sons and I will guard
    them.

    AINNLE. We will blow the horn of Usna
    and our friends will come to aid us.

    NAISI. It is my friends will come.

    AINNLE. Your friends will bind your
    hands, and you out of your wits.

    [Deirdre comes forward quickly and
    comes between Ainnle and Naisi.


    DEIRDRE -- in a low voice. -- For seven years the Sons of Usna have not raised their voices in a quarrel.

    AINNLE. We will not take you to Emain.

    ARDAN. It is Conchubor has broken our
    peace.

    AINNLE -- to Deirdre. -- Stop Naisi going. What way would we live if Conchubor
    should take you from us?

    DEIRDRE. There is no one could take
    me from you. I have chosen to go back with
    Fergus. Will you quarrel with me, Ainnle,
    though I have been your queen these seven
    years in Alban?

    AINNLE -- subsiding suddenly. -- Naisi has no call to take you.

    ARDAN. Why are you going?

    DEIRDRE -- to both of them and the others. -- It is my wish. . . . It may be I will not have Naisi growing an old man in Alban with an old woman at his side, and young girls pointing out and saying, "that is Deirdre and Naisi had great beauty in their youth." It
    may be we do well putting a sharp end to the
    day is brave and glorious, as our fathers put
    a sharp end to the days of the kings of Ire-
    land; or that I'm wishing to set my foot on
    Slieve Fuadh, where I was running one time
    and leaping the streams, (to Lavarcham) and that I'd be well pleased to see our little apple-trees, Lavarcham, behind our cabin on the hill; or that I've learned, Fergus, it's a lonesome thing to be away from Ireland always.

    AINNLE -- giving in. -- There is no place but will be lonesome to us from this out, and we thinking on our seven years in Alban.

    DEIRDRE -- to Naisi. -- It's in this place we'd be lonesome in the end. . . . Take down Fergus to the sea. He has been a guest had a hard welcome and he bringing messages of
    peace.

    FERGUS. We will make your curagh
    ready and it fitted for the voyage of a king.

    [He goes with Naisi.

    DEIRDRE. Take your spears, Ainnle and
    Ardan, and go down before me, and take your horse-boys to be carrying my cloaks are on the
    threshold.

    AINNLE -- obeying. -- It's with a poor heart we'll carry your things this day we have carried merrily so often, and we hungry and cold.

    [They gather up things and go out.

    DEIRDRE -- to Lavarcham. -- Go you,
    too, Lavarcham. You are old, and I will
    follow quickly.

    LAVARCHAM. I'm old, surely, and the
    hopes I had my pride in are broken and torn.

    [She goes out, with a look of awe at Deirdre.

    DEIRDRE -- clasping her hands. -- Woods of Cuan, woods of Cuan, dear country of the east! It's seven years we've had a life was joy only, and this day we're going west, this day we're facing death, maybe, and death
    should be a poor, untidy thing, though it's a
    queen that dies.

    [She goes out slowly.

    CURTAIN
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