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CHAPTER X

"There is nothing to marvel about in this Duv Laca," said the Flame Lady scornfully. "She has got married, and she has been beaten at chess. It has happened before."

"Let us keep to the story," said Mongan, and, having taken some few dozen deep draughts of the wine, he became even more jovial than before. Then he recommenced his tale:

It happened on a day that Mongan had need of treasure. He had many presents to make, and he had not as much gold and silver and cattle as was proper for a king. He called his nobles together and discussed what was the best thing to be done, and it was arranged that he should visit the provincial kings and ask boons from them.

He set out at once on his round of visits, and the first province he went to was Leinster.

The King of Leinster at that time was Branduv, the son of Echach. He welcomed Mongan and treated him well, and that night Mongan slept in his palace.

When he awoke in the morning he looked out of a lofty window, and he saw on the sunny lawn before the palace a herd of cows. There were fifty cows in all, for he counted them, and each cow had a calf beside her, and each cow and calf was pure white in colour, and each of them had red ears.

When Mongan saw these cows, he fell in love with them as he had never fallen in love with anything before.

He came down from the window and walked on the sunny lawn among the cows, looking at each of them and speaking words of affection and endearment to them all; and while he was thus walking and talking and looking and loving, he noticed that some one was moving beside him. He looked from the cows then, and saw that the King of Leinster was at his side.

"Are you in love with the cows?" Branduv asked him.

"I am," said Mongan.

"Everybody is," said the King of Leinster.

"I never saw anything like them," said Mongan.

"Nobody has," said the King of Leinster.

"I never saw anything I would rather have than these cows," said Mongan.

"These," said the King of Leinster, "are the most beautiful cows in Ireland, and," he continued thoughtfully, "Duv Laca is the most beautiful woman in Ireland."

"There is no lie in what you say," said Mongan.

"Is it not a queer thing," said the King of Leinster, "that I should have what you want with all your soul, and you should have what I want with all my heart?"

"Queer indeed," said Mongan, "but what is it that you do want?"

"Duv Laca, of course," said the King of Leinster.

"Do you mean," said Mongan, "that you would exchange this herd of fifty pure white cows having red ears-- "

"And their fifty calves," said the King of Leinster--

"For Duv Laca, or for any woman in the world?"

"I would," cried the King of Leinster, and he thumped his knee as he said it.

"Done," roared Mongan, and the two kings shook hands on the bargain.

Mongan then called some of his own people, and before any more words could be said and before any alteration could be made, he set his men behind the cows and marched home with them to Ulster.



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Map of Ireland