her father. Eve, then twelve, volunteered to take on the

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- self. 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

her father. Eve, then twelve, volunteered to take on the

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 Conchubor? LAVARCHAM. Maeve of Connaught only, and those that are her like. DEIRDRE. Would Fergus go against him? LAVARCHAM. He would, maybe, and his temper roused. DEIRDRE -- in a lower voice with sudden excitement. -- 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

her father. Eve, then twelve, volunteered to take on the

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

her father. Eve, then twelve, volunteered to take on the

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 anxiously. -- 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 to-night. 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 cork. 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.

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