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The proposal was embarrassing to the earl. The offer was tempting to his ambition—but he felt the doubtful and politic character of Henry's conduct: he was perplexed by scrupulous objections, and wavered for a considerable time. The letter of the king seemed scarcely to warrant the magnitude of the request—that a subject of the English crown should levy an army against a neighbouring country. Meanwhile, Dermod reiterated his offers, and with plausible amplification set them in the most attractive prominence before the thoughts of the ambitious earl. Strongbow suffered himself to be prevailed on—and entered into a contract to land in Ireland in the ensuing spring, with a large force, provided he might obtain special permission for this purpose from king Henry.
Dermod now conceived his purpose secured. To return to Ireland with the greater secrecy, he betook himself to St David's in South Wales. Here, as in Bristol, he found a friend in the church. He was received by the bishop with that ready hospitality and commiseration which his munificence had earned from the ecclesiastical orders.
Here he gained two important allies in the persons of Robert FitzStephen, and his half-brother Maurice Fitz-Gerald. · Fitz-Stephen had before this been inveigled into a rebellious plot by a Welsh chief; but, on deliberation, becoming fully aware of the criminality of the undertaking, he showed so much reluctance, that the revolting chief, Rice Fitz-Griffith, had him confined to prison, where at this period he had lain for three years. He now represented to FitzGriffith, that the present opportunity was one which might enable him to pursue his own interests without opposing his designs. His entreaties for liberation, were seconded by the bishop and Maurice FitzGerald. Fitz-Griffith yielded, and a covenant was made between Dermod and the brothers, by which they were to land with all their followers in Ireland, for the furtherance of his claims, and in return to receive from him the town of Wexford with a large adjoining tract of land.
“Such," says Leland, “was the original scheme of an invasion, which in the event proved of so much importance. An odious fugitive, driven from his province by faction and revenge, gains a few adventurers in Wales, whom youthful valour or distress of fortune, led into Ireland in hopes of some advantageous settlements. Dermod who, no doubt, encouraged his new allies by the assurance of a powerful reinforcement of his countrymen, was obliged to affect impatience to depart and to provide for their reception. He paid his vows in the church of St David, embarked, landed in Ireland, passed without discovery through the quarters of his enemies, arrived at Ferns, and was entertained and concealed in the monastery which he himself had erected: waiting impatiently for the return of spring, when the English powers were to come to his assistance."* Of this expectation, the report was industriously spread; and while it animated the flagging zeal of his friends and adherents, it made concealment, yet so necessary to his safety, impossible. The crowds who flocked to receive, from their old master, the most authentic confirmation of the news, had the dangerous effect