Again Manus, King of the Western Island, sat in his supper hall. The torches were in their sconces, the candles were lighted on the table,[Pg 163] the hearth fire was blazing on the hearth, and his lords once again sat to the right and the left of him. But this time they sat without laughter and without high words.
The harper and the story-teller were at the table too, but they neither made music nor told stories. They had tried, both, that evening, but no one had listened to them. Outside, the iron door of the stable gaped wide, and the grooms and horse boys and watchers stood idly around or went quarreling amongst themselves. It was very difficult, as you may imagine, for the harper to play upon his harp when he would hear the King say into his wine cup, “O, Raven, my black horse, where art thou now?” And it was equally difficult for the story-teller to get on with his tale when he would see the King looking at him with unseeing eyes and hear him say, “O, my white and my red horses, what would I not give if I saw you back in my courtyard again?”
So you can imagine the silence that was upon the supper board that was wont to resound with conversation and story-telling, with music and[Pg 164] pledges of the wine cup. “O, Raven, my black horse, where art thou now?” said the King once again; and then, “What would I not give to have my white and my red horse in the courtyard again?” And these were all the words that King Manus could be got to say.