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 Xartis Psyxis - Chapter 8 "The Commission" (part 4)

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nordmann
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PostXartis Psyxis - Chapter 8 "The Commission" (part 4)

Titus was disgusted by Arran’s remark, but hid it. The man’s obvious faith in torture as a means for eliciting the truth was unjustified, and the unanswered questions that remained were evidence enough for it. For all his confidence in the intelligence procured from the smuggler, Arran was still relying a little too heavily on speculation, Titus felt, or else the man was being less than forthcoming about all the sources for his information regarding the incident. Indeed one such piece of information, be it speculation or fact, could not have come from anything squeezed out of Tramaine. “You said that the conspirators had obviously found another means of transporting your father to Ireland. Was that pure conjecture on your part, or an assumption based on intelligence?”
Arran leaned back, and indicated silently with his hand that DeLacey should answer Titus’s query.

“The latter,” DeLacey said, without a moment’s hesitation. “We got a report from … a friend … who said he heard that an interesting consignment had arrived in Banbridge in early February on the Devil’s Highway.”
“The what?”
“My apology – on a well known smuggler’s route. We turn a blind eye to a lot of it, especially up north. We think it’s best at the moment not to have too strong a military presence there. Truth is we’re leaving well enough alone. The planters effectively police themselves, and the Catholics are very much contained in their quarters, as it were. But memories of the rebellion are strong, and it is best not to add fuel to the flames by adding too many uniforms to the landscape. Protestant, Presbyterian and Catholic have all grudges against Ormonde in their own way since that time, and there is nothing to be gained by reinforcing them.”
“Who governs the province, then?”
“We do, let there be no mistake. But we do so from a distance, and maintaining that distance necessitates sometimes that we employ a less direct means of enquiry when investigating cases that interest us than we would elsewhere. In this case, of course, the need for such circumvention could not have been greater.”
“Of course. So this ‘friend’ is a paid informant, then.”
DeLacey smiled. “An informant, yes, and a friend too. Believe it or not, Mr Perry, it is not everyone who is driven solely by mercenary motives. But as you wish - this ‘informant’ thought at first it was cattle that were being discussed. There’s a lively smuggling trade in the opposite direction but he wondered why someone should be mad enough to break the embargo to bring livestock in, especially when you can’t give a bullock away in this land at the moment. Anyway, he made further inquiry only to be told in no uncertain terms that the goods were not for sale. When we received this intelligence we were convinced we knew what the ‘goods’ were. And there’s the rub, as they say.”
Titus was following the logic. “You can’t go near Banbridge without ruffling a few feathers and drawing attention to yourselves, and the last thing you want now is for the world to know that Lord Ormonde is missing. Couldn’t your ‘friend’ help you more?”
Arran answered ahead of his colleague. “He could, if he was still alive. He was on his way back to unearth more, if he could, when he was found with a pellet in his head in a ditch by the roadside near Dundalk. Is that payment enough for you?”
Titus was taken aback by the vehemence in Arran’s tone, and the words sent a chill through his bones. He had understood that the task involved perils, but for the first time the very real danger in what he was being asked to do began to sink in.
Arran could see the effect his words had made, and Titus’s stunned reaction seemed enough to satisfy him. He proceeded in more conciliatory tones. “We were wrong to have asked him to go back. Too many people knew of his connection with us. It is a small country, Mr Perry. Too many of us know all too much about what everyone else is up to too much of the time. It’s both a boon and a bane to administrators – and in this case, very much a bane. That’s when we thought of you, or more correctly, that was when Sir John proposed your services. A man with the run of Ulster was what we needed.”

The presumption in this comment continued to annoy Titus but he let it pass. DeLacey sensed however that the mapmaker deserved at least to know more of his ‘recruitment’ and chose now an apt time to oblige him with an explanation. “Your identity we learnt from Colonel Murdo Callan. You will know the name, of course. You fulfilled his requirement for a survey of smallholdings on the Northumberland coast two years ago. He was impressed with your work, and with the speed with which you completed it. Others have confirmed this view. Your availability was also simple to deduce. As with most of your profession, the hard winter past has meant lean pickings for all of you. That you yourself had expressed an interest in the commission came as no surprise, and it was a simple matter of investigation to ascertain that little else had come your way of late. Your suitability for the task however was the hurdle that was hardest to clear.” Sir John smiled at Flitch. “You might remember, Mr Flitch, a certain bookseller you met in the King’s Inns some time ago? A man called Furnham, who told you he had charts of Sheppey he would sell?”
Flitch responded warily. “I do.”
“You acquired some maps from him, and he acquired much else from you, Mr Flitch. Don’t worry, Mr Perry; your secretary speaks a lot of you, in every sense. And he wasn’t our only informant either, if you’ll pardon the expression. We have contacts throughout the military in England, it was easy to find some who had worked with you in the past and who could testify to your intelligence and common sense. That you are an unorthodox man in your approach to your work was something else that we gleaned in the process, and made you all the more commendable for what we needed.”
“Commendable as a mapmaker required to undertake a long and difficult assignment, yes, perhaps. But it is a spy that you need, Sir John, who just happens to be a mapmaker. What, pray, recommended me for that role in your eyes?”
DeLacey ignored Titus’s sardonic tone and didn’t hesitate before replying. “You are a loner, Mr Perry. You shun the company of your fellow tradesmen, you live alone – apart from your attendant here – and you are a man, as we say, that has closed his book at least once.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“All of us in life must recognise now and again when one chapter of our life has ended and another has begun, that is a natural event in all but the most mundane of lives. Some of us however – and the reason is never a palatable one – start a whole new book. You are such a man, Mr Perry, and it did not take much enquiry to discover that one book ended and another began for you in the filth of St Giles. Now, few men of your standing are driven to such a need for redefinition by anything that they care much to advertise afterwards, and so it has been with you. I did not discover, nor do I wish to know now, what led you there. But it has been a part of my life’s work to read men, Mr Perry, and to understand what moves them, and to what end they move. Believe me, when it comes to a spy’s most vital qualifications, you possess the foremost amongst them – the desire to place distance between what you once were and what you are now.”
Titus felt uneasy. DeLacey’s summary of his life was more exact than he cared to contemplate. But he still resented these men’s presumption, and above all that his character had been assessed as that of a spy – a word which in Titus’s mind could only be equated with deceit, lies and a deficiency in morals.

DeLacey could see his discomfort. “Do not take it so hard, Mr Perry. In truth it was your integrity as much as your history that most qualified you for the job. If it eases your mind, then you can rest assured that we encountered many witnesses to that quality in you also. You may not believe it, but those who are most effective as spies, as in all honourable professions, are those who possess that one quality in abundance. All espionage is not motivated by a simple lust for knowing another man’s secrets, you know. On the contrary, such sordid curiosity will most likely get a man killed, as it would in any walk of life. No, it is a desire for justice, and the knowledge of what is just, that inspires the most effective agents - that, and a strong instinct for self-preservation, of course. But I would be lying if I did not admit that it helps, probably more than anything, simply to have a role in life that makes one’s peripatetic enquiries seem all the more normal. When one is about discreet investigation, then the aura of normality around one that a job such as yours provides is as effective a shield against suspicions as one can hope for.”
“I beg to differ. Surveyors arouse suspicion at every turn, Sir John.” Titus enjoyed pricking DeLacey’s smug rationale with some truths of his own. “We are harbingers of change, and change offends all except those who will immediately profit from it.”
DeLacey smiled. “Or as we might say in the world of diplomacy – your activities therefore divert suspicion into channels that we can manage. You are an astute man, Mr Perry. We have every faith that you will use such astuteness intelligently, and every hope therefore that the task will more likely bear fruit.”
“Locating abducted persons, I would imagine, requires a certain line of questioning that features rarely in those employed by surveyors of property.”
“Of course, but the rights of access that you as a surveyor shall be granted will allow you to use your own eyes and ears to greater effect than such blunt questioning could probably ever produce.”
Titus was tiring of DeLacey’s ready answers to his objections. “That may be so for men practised in the arts of your profession, Sir John, but I do not share your faith in my ability to emulate them.”
“So you have said. But you are surely astute enough to share our faith in your suitability.” There was a momentary silence. For all his neat reasoning and backhanded compliments, DeLacey had just admitted something of the desperation of their cause. These men had employed Titus more in hope than belief, for all their talk. In a way it was almost reassuring to know, and Titus could not resist informing them of the fact that he could see their motivation for what it was.
“When a man is hanging by his fingernails over a precipice, any passing stranger who might assist him – even the most decrepit - will suddenly seem suitable as an agent of his rescue in his eyes. Why do I feel that I have been thus assessed?”

Arran frowned, but DeLacey spoke ahead of him. “Because you have, in a way. But in this case the man hanging by his nails has been fortunate, and the passing stranger is anything but decrepit. We are desperate men with time running out. But believe me, Mr Perry, such desperation has sharpened our focus, not blinded us. We have assessed your suitability with candour and honesty in our appraisal, whether you agree with us or not, and we are happy with what we have found.”
He waited a moment, allowing Titus time to respond, and seemed grateful when the mapmaker chose not to. Titus, in fact, was having difficulty preventing his distaste for these men’s presumption spilling into anger. His silence was based most on a fear of what he might say.
“Very well,” DeLacey pressed on, seemingly oblivious to Titus’s dilemma, “assessing your suitability was not, in any case, our last or greatest challenge. Getting the navy board to approve your appointment on the other hand took more than a little persuasion on our part, and a great deal of fortune as well. It seemed that they had already agreed to hire a cartographer who had also accepted the commission, and who was eminent enough to have induced the Surveyor General to agree to share the considerable expense of the project. By promoting your candidacy belatedly we were asking the navy therefore to dispense with both the man already appointed, and the revenue that he would bring from his contacts. Not only that, but to be quite frank, we were asking them to place the commission with a cartographer who they had already assessed, and who they had deemed unsuitable for the size of the task ahead. So perhaps you can appreciate just how much persuasion it took to get them to change their mind.”
Titus’s anger could no longer be contained. “No, that I cannot, Sir John. In fact there is little of what you said that I appreciate!”
“That I can well understand, Mr Perry. But it is the truth.”
“Truth? What do you know of truth? The truth is that you engineered my appointment for your own ends. You have manipulated me, and by your own admission taken advantage of my circumstances. All in order to land yourself a ‘spy’.”
“That is also the truth. I admit it. But you are not a child, Mr Perry. Do not take such umbrage at the ways of the world that you then blind yourself to opportunity.”
“Opportunity - opportunity for what? To become a sneak for you?”
“To become a surveyor in this land as you wished to be. As we said, your commission is assured, whatever you now decide. And maybe it’s time you faced the truth yourself. Six weeks ago the navy knew you only as a rejected applicant.”
That much was true, and indeed an understated version of the truth, Titus had to admit. When he had learnt that it was Bennett who had secured the lucrative job, he had not only rued the missed opportunity, but indeed had begun to wonder if he might ever again receive a military commission at all. John Bennett had no love for Titus Perry, and would not have been slow in using his new influence for the purpose of strangling Titus’s career, of that he had no doubt. The man was riddled with spite, and spite such as Bennett’s can lead men to acts of malevolence in which their sheer callousness is rivalled only by their depressing predictability.

By his next remarks, DeLacey showed that he also was aware of this. “All looked very black, did it not? And not just for you, I can assure you. But that was when fortune chose to favour us both, for it was at that moment that the Duke of York saw fit to disband the navy board as it stood and to appoint a new governor; or rather he reappointed an old governor, who has always been one of James Stuart’s most loyal adherents and whose time in political purgatory for that very crime was deemed over.”
Titus remembered the letter he had received from Thomas Hayter, who he knew had been a member of the board at the time his initial application had been rejected outright. “There was no mention of that in the letter I received from the Clerk of the Acts.”
“Nor would I expect there to have been,” DeLacey replied. “Though the fact that Hayter is now merely Clerk of the Acts should have told you something. He has accepted a demotion, and indeed is the only member of the old board still serving, but that is only because he is a good friend of the man who is now once again his superior.”
“I confess I might find the movement of these people less fascinating than you do, Sir John.” In fact Titus had no interest whatsoever in the people who made up the board, a failing on his part, he knew, in a business where his competitors were not slow to fete and flatter such men. He had lost other commissions for that very reason – a fact that had merely strengthened his contempt for people like John Bennett, but even more for the political appointees who sat on these boards and played such havoc with men’s livelihoods for the sake of receiving the odd case of sack or an ‘anonymous’ donation to their bank account.
“Well maybe it is time you did,” DeLacey stated flatly, “as you owe the new governor of the board – and his clerk - something more than a bottle of French brandy, believe me. Samuel Pepys is a pragmatic man, and one who would normally have elected to choose the option that saved the navy the most money, regardless of his personal feelings towards his contractors. But he is also a man who bears grudges, and not least towards those men who had preceded him. They disowned him as a friend while he fought to clear his name over the last few years, and he was damned if any friend of theirs would benefit now from the navy’s coffers. That was the end of your competitor.”
“So you induced him to select me instead of Bennett.” Titus resented being told that he should be grateful to such a man. It seemed to him from DeLacey’s comments that this Pepys was just as susceptible to inducements as his predecessors, but merely welcomed them from alternate sources.
“No. Mr Pepys might not be above accepting favours in return for favours of his own, but he is also now a very careful man and one very distrustful of those he once classed as his political allies. He blames just such ‘allies’ for the disgrace he has had to falsely endure for some years, and for abandoning him to boot. We dared not proposition him.”
“So who persuaded him to appoint me?”
“You did, Mr Perry, or at least your work. It seems that Thomas Hayter remembered your application from earlier and suggested your name. He had been impressed by what he knew of you and had not been a supporter of Bennett’s appointment.”
It was the first acknowledgement Titus had received that someone had at least considered him for his skills as a mapmaker. He suddenly felt a warm feeling of friendship towards Thomas Hayter.
“Of course, when we learned that you were being considered, we were quick to inform Hayter that Lord Ormonde would contribute to the funding of your assignment. We knew that would go a long way in persuading Samuel Pepys.”
Not quite a bribe, but one hell of an inducement, Titus thought. “And so it did.”
“No. What decided the man ultimately, it seems, was your bad name.”
“What?”
DeLacey grinned evilly. “Your bad name, Mr Perry, which – thanks to a certain John Bennett – is now as likely to elicit in the mind of those who have hired you in the past a familiarity with devil worship over cartography!” Titus must have looked stunned, because DeLacey’s grin widened all the more before he continued. “I tell you, what the man hasn’t whispered seditiously about you into any ear in Whitehall that will listen, once he got his foot in the door, is not worth the mention. You were once a tyro of his, I believe.”
“Yes.”
“Were you so bad an apprentice?”
“We had our differences.” Titus was damned if this was something he would discuss.
“Christ, man. If every man I ever had ‘differences’ with responded with such malice I would not have survived childhood!” DeLacey was taking a perverse enjoyment from this. “You wouldn’t happen to know what promoted such traducement in the man, would you?”
Titus lied. “No.”
DeLacey waited smilingly for elaboration that never came, and then switched abruptly to graver tones. “Well, it’s your life, Mr Perry, leastways your livelihood. Hate us if you will for intervening in it, but without our intervention neither was going to be worth much. By the time Pepys took office I imagine your name was on every government, military and naval blacklist from Cornwall to the Orkney Islands.” He hesitated for a moment, obviously to let this last point sink home.

That Bennett had used his brief engagement with the navy board to malign his reputation, Titus had already surmised. That he had done so with such venom shocked him to the marrow, and he struggled to avoid betraying his thoughts to the men across the table. If what DeLacey said was true, then he owed these men a great favour, and that was the last thing he wished to feel just at this moment.
But if DeLacey was touting for gratitude from the mapmaker he did not press the point further, and continued with his narration. “Fortunately for you, and for us, Pepys was shrewd enough to see that much of the antipathy towards your character emanated solely from Bennett’s own opinion of you. Hayter would simply have confirmed it, of course. It seems then that Pepys saw you as a kindred spirit, as it were. He himself has spent years recovering from just such an attempt to blacken his name, and knows a fellow victim when he sees one. The truth is, if we had never concerned ourselves at all with securing your appointment, the job was probably yours in any case.”

Titus’s anger had dissolved, his mood now hovering between stupefaction and revelation. Presumptuous and all as these men were, DeLacey had at least helped explain something that had been needling Titus’s conscience and curiosity since he had first received Hayter’s letter. He had understood his appointment to be extraordinary, and he was only now beginning to appreciate just how fantastic it had actually been. DeLacey’s final comment had probably been the most fantastic of all. Titus had, after all, earned the commission he now held. His prior work had been appreciated, and the bitterness of his rivals had for once worked to his advantage. For the first time he regarded the two men across the table from him as something less than the Machiavellian puppeteers they had been happy to portray themselves as, and more for what he now could see they were – simple opportunists, and political opportunists at that. For all their cleverness, guiles, craftiness, and willingness to take credit for the engineering of other’s lives, they were simply two men who had benefited from an immense stroke of luck – that Samuel Pepys had appreciated Titus Perry for what he was, a competent mapmaker and a victim of scurrilous slander, and had deemed that sufficient reason to reward him with work. The absence of that one act of empathy and humanity would have undone all the plans and schemes of the two politicians in a thrice, and in its execution therefore outweighed and outshone in brilliance any of their contrived inventions. Titus felt his fear of these men evaporate, and for the first time – probably since he had set foot on the quay at Ringsend – began to appreciate the strength of his own position.

He had, since all four had sat down to the table, been prevaricating in his own mind over how exactly he should proceed. He had no doubt that these men were dangerous. That they were untrustworthy he suspected even more. But now he began to see their usefulness too. It was time to make his decision with regard to their request, he realised, but there remained one obvious question to be asked before he could fully understand the nature of the men he was dealing with. “Look, why the hell did you not approach me in London and explain what it was that you wanted of me? Why go to the trouble of bringing me all this way first? The risk you run – of my refusal to cooperate with you – is the same in both cities. Why drag me hundreds of miles, and waste all that extra time, when this parley, as you call it, could just as easily have taken place the day after Hayter’s letter arrived at my door?”
It was Arran who answered, and in none too friendly a fashion. “We may have friends in London, Mr Perry, but we have even more enemies. We had already done as much as we dared in that quarter without arousing suspicions. Besides, to approach you then, as you describe, might have been tantamount to arranging your execution.”
Titus sighed – yet another exaggeration designed to intimidate him, he reckoned. “You mean these enemies of yours would have killed me if I agreed to your proposal?” he asked in a voice designed to convey his scepticism. “I would have thought it much more likely that these enemies of yours would simply let me be on my way. After all, what are the chances of my success in any case? I would very much doubt if many other men shared your faith in using me. The larger threat applied to them, I dare say. If they had learnt of your plan they might well have died from laughing upon hearing of it!”
Arran’s sour expression told Titus that he did not appreciate the mapmaker’s comment. Moreover he was tiring of Titus’s obdurate resistance and his querying of every detail. His voice dripped with icy contempt as he answered. “Our enemies might well have spared you, Mr Perry. But you miss my point. It is we who most certainly would have killed you had you said ‘no’.” He smiled with gratification when he saw the effect his blunt statement had on Titus, but allowed him no opportunity to make a retort. “The knowledge you now have is dangerous knowledge, and its danger would be magnified a thousand times were it to have escaped in London. You should be grateful indeed that we had the foresight and consideration not to approach you then!”
But Arran had again misinterpreted Titus’s reaction. The mapmaker had not been stunned into a shocked silence by Richard Butler’s contemptuous threat, as the man had assumed, but instead had bitten his tongue as he felt an unstoppable rage well up again within him. What was it about these men who wished to be seen as intelligent, but yet could not resist the urge to make threats in order to have their way? They asked for trust but instead destroyed such trust even before it could be offered. Where was the intelligence in that? When a beggar supports his plea for alms with a threat to kill you if you refuse him, is he still a beggar? Not in Titus’s view, and his derision revealed itself in his tone as he matched Arran’s stare with one of equal contempt. “And if I say no now? What is so different now?”

DeLacey interrupted before Arran could reply and spoke hurriedly, as if not to allow his partner a chance to interrupt him in return. “What is different now is that time has run out, Mr Perry. We have told you already that the commission is yours to complete, for better or for worse, and that is the truth. If you refuse us now we have no option but to let you go on your way. There would be little gain in your death now, and only ill could be achieved from the unwelcome attention that would arise from it.” He shot Arran the subtlest of glances to prevent him contradicting his statement, but Titus saw it nevertheless, and it made him wonder just how much in accord these two men were. DeLacey then quietened his tone somewhat as he continued. “I should also explain that the enemies to whom we refer are all men who would see an advantage to be gained from Lord Ormonde’s disappearance – a sizeable number of people, and of many political hues. By definition they must include those who actually perpetrated the deed, but by the same token we can assume that the majority of them are men who, as yet, are unaware of this tragic development. It is crucial that this remains so for as long as possible. We have already stated how important it is that you both keep this information secret, and I hope I do not have to underline that requirement with a promise that you will have earned our undying enmity should you ignore this requirement. But a few weeks ago, when we yet had time to contemplate other options, then even just to know of our plight would have warranted your execution, as my colleague has said, should you have refused us.” He at least had the decency to wince as he said it, another clue to the fact that he and his friend were not quite as synchronised in their agendas as they pretended, Titus noted. “But, once we set the machinery in motion to get you here, and you agreed to come, then we knew that we had initiated a ploy that could only be used once. Indeed we are fast approaching a point beyond which all that we have discussed here tonight, and all threats designed to maintain your silence, will become meaningless. If Ormonde dies now in captivity then what you have learnt, and all our ploys to avoid his death, are simply worthless facts. And if you refuse us now, then you merely bring us to that point all the faster.”
“If we have not passed it already,” Titus could not help but add an eventuality that had not as yet been alluded to by either man. “Ormonde could already be dead.”
DeLacey paused, but only for a split second. “Quite. But then we would be fools to assume that. On the contrary, we set great store by the fact that his abductors have not announced this as fact. They have no reason that we can think of to prolong releasing that information. But one thing is certain – should you refuse us our request for aid then it is only a matter of time before such news is abroad. There is little else that we can do to prevent it. In that time, provided you both keep your silence, you are at liberty to go about your business, believe me. You will be of no interest or use to us any more. You will have disappointed us, and lost us as friends, but you need fear no reprisal from us.” This last comment had been made with another glance to his companion. Arran, in response, grunted an acknowledgement of DeLacey’s promise, which to Titus sounded less than heartfelt.

DeLacey’s words had sounded credible, and they had ameliorated Titus’s rage at Arran’s clumsiness to some extent, but many things about these men still annoyed him. Their quickness in resorting to threats was galling enough, but he also resented the way in which they persisted in claiming credit for his appointment, as well as the amazing presumption that he would ever even want them as ‘friends’. In fact, in many ways DeLacey’s attempts to appeal to Titus’s gratitude and to assume that the mapmaker desired the castle men’s protection and friendship were as off-putting, and insulting, as Arran’s open threats. He decided therefore it was time to ask the obvious question that both Arran and DeLacey had seemingly not envisaged him asking, or had simply hoped would not occur to the mapmaker. “So, Sir John, tell me this. If, as you say, the silence of my secretary and myself is enough now to ensure our liberty, then why in God’s name do you think we might say anything other than ‘no’ to your request? You have all but admitted that my appointment was made despite your efforts rather than because of them, so it is strange that you might assume I should be grateful for them. You have graphically illustrated the absolute danger inherent in the task with the news that my ‘predecessor’ lasted as long as it took to make one enquiry before his brains were blown out. None of us could presume to be intelligent men should we presume also that I could do better than he – an acknowledged specialist in the art of spying. And you have offered no other inducement save for a vague mention of a monetary reward, when simply to do the job that I have been hired to do by the Royal Navy already promises me reward more than ample to my needs. So please enlighten me, and tell me why I should not walk out that door in the next two seconds - a free man, and a man more likely to die of old age in his bed than you would have me?” His question, he knew, signalled that time for arguments had run out. DeLacey was being asked to play his trump card, if he had one, and Titus suspected not.

DeLacey drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly before proceeding. “Well, I could try to persuade you with ominous predictions of what will occur should you say no.” He thought for a moment, ignoring Titus’s look of scepticism. “Try this one, for example. Ormonde is never found, or is found dead, or is left broken by his abductors. Either way he has prematurely left the stage. The way is open for those in the wings, the predatory multitude who have been held back by the force of Ormonde’s presence alone, to alight on this land, something they have waited long to do and something they will waste no time in so doing. To these men, Ireland is a land of untapped wealth and opportunity, a land whose potential to make them rich has been denied to them through years of pointless obsession with righting past wrongs – wrongs that these men do not even see as wrong. To them, Cromwell did not go far enough in securing this land, all this land, for the use of England – to be run by England as a part of England, and with every penny profit produced for the benefit of England. To them, it is a land currently run by old adherents to an outdated dynasty – men who matter little, in other words – and one inhabited largely by a Catholic rabble who, through their own obdurate ignorance, have been ground already to a point beyond even submission, despite their numbers. The Irish, in fact, are a race less than human to the men of whom I speak, and matter as much, or as little, as the sheep in the field to these men’s plans for how this land should be carved up and administered. When these men make their move it will be a bold one, believe me. There will be no time for the niceties of continuation, and no inclination either to acknowledge the contracts, allegiances and lawful rights of those who now live and work here. That will include you, Mr Perry. In fact, should Ormonde not be found and Charles Stuart die before this summer is out, then you might be surprised at how quickly you will find that there is no country to survey any more – not the one that you had been sent to survey in any case - nor even an authority left by this very autumn’s end that is willing to pay you.”
Titus was about to respond but DeLacey stayed him with a hand. “I am not finished. That was but a prediction. And of course, such a scenario might only be exaggerated conjecture on my part in your view. In fact, even I earnestly hope that it could be proved so. But it is a prediction based on rather more knowledge about these affairs than you could ever hope even to guess at, so do not discount it too readily!”
A sound of broken glass from outside seemed timed to add import to his last remark. A fight had broken out in the alley beneath them, and DeLacey waited for the noise of the belligerence to stop before going on. It did not take long. A high squeal of pain, the sound of hurried footsteps escaping into the night, and then a marked silence indicated that the altercation had been settled to at least one of the pugilist’s satisfaction. He resumed his commentary. “Or you might prefer another prediction. Our offer to protect you while you are here depends of course on your willingness to help us. Now, you might not be aware of, or appreciate, just what that offer of protection signifies by way of its extent and usefulness, or even what you might need to be protected against. But you can’t say that you haven’t been given some clues to either, can you, Mr Perry? Just review your own day in this city of ours – your first day abroad in this land indeed – and ask yourself what your chances would be to navigate this little land of pitfalls without further ‘unfortunate’ events befalling you. From what I can see, you have done well to make it simply as far as this room here tonight! And even then, that was with some measure of intervention on my part to make sure that you did. But you are a proud man, Mr Perry. That much I have deduced, so I will not needlessly embarrass you or insult your intelligence by continuing with this prediction. You know what I am saying.”
Titus did, but chose to respond to DeLacey with an impassive stare. The man was making a strong argument, but as yet it was little more than had been said before by his companion, just with more eloquence and intelligence than Arran had managed.

DeLacey swept his hands across the table before him, as if sweeping invisible objects to the floor, and then rested both on its edge. He sighed. “Of course, all that we have said you might dismiss as fatuous threat and bluster from desperate men, and you could well be right. We live in a time when such is the language of diplomacy, however skilled the diplomat is in disguising it. But I will make one last appeal to you, Mr Perry, and this time not as a diplomat, or a politician, or a servant of the crown, or even a person who sees before him a man who, in other circumstances, he would be likely proud to have as an ally in this world.” He ignored Titus’s obvious astonishment at this last comment. “It is the appeal of one intelligent man to another, from one man to another who shares a faith in logic and deduction over the base instincts that fuel most men’s motives and beliefs.”
Although DeLacey apparently addressed Titus with his remarks, the mapmaker noticed that his gaze at this point alternated between him and his companion. Flitch, it seemed, was being included in this definition of an intelligent man. For the first time in a while Titus looked at Flitch himself. Since his angry outburst earlier no one had spoken to him or he to anyone, and Titus had assumed that his secretary had simply retreated into a sullen silence while his anger diminished, much as Arran had done now on several occasions. But he was wrong. If Flitch was still angry there was indeed no sign of it. On the contrary, the man was sitting forward on his bench, his features impassive but his stance that of a man who had been listening with interest to his adversary’s points. Not for the first time Titus found himself entertaining a curiosity as to why his secretary was there at all, and a vague but unshakeable feeling that he and DeLacey had been indulging in a dialogue of their own, despite the fact that the spoken words had, for the most, been directed to Titus.

He looked up to find that DeLacey’s gaze had returned to him. “I appeal to you, Mr Perry, to take a good look at who sits before you. Between Lord Arran and myself we administer nine tenths of this land, whether its inhabitants appreciate that fact, or even know it. We have the power to appoint and to sack, to promote and to demote, to boost and to destroy the ambitions of most who will live here. We enact English law, but we also have the power to interpret it so that it best serves the governance of this land. We can set taxes, we can raise armies, we can wage war, we can conclude peace – and all with an autonomy unknown to any other commanders of the realm, even within England itself. That power itself of course could be terminated from London tomorrow, but while we hold it – Lord Arran as Ormonde’s deputy and myself as his chief administrator – we are as near as this country has to a government. We are Ireland. Yet here we sit, two desperate men making impassioned pleas to a young cartographer for his help. Now ask yourself, would men like us go to such extravagant and dangerous lengths to procure a man’s services just because of exaggerated fears on our part? Would we do so if we could see a more orthodox route to our goal? Would we then risk losing the man’s support by coercing him with cheap threats? You know, and I know that you know, that the two predictions I have just made were not exaggerated fictions glibly contrived to intimidate your conscience. They are merely truths waiting to happen. For all I know you might be prepared to let both eventualities simply take their course and then take your chances in the new world that waits around that terrible corner, the one that we are committed to prevent. But I know enough of you, Mr Perry, to have learnt that while you and I might not share the same friends, we most certainly share the same enemies. I do not know how you have earned them as enemies, but then these are not men who bother much with explanations of that nature in any event. Someone has pointed you out as a threat, and has resolved to eliminate that threat. My guess, and it is one worth respecting, is that the arrival of a surveyor with a right of trespass as powerful and extensive as yours has rattled quite a few cages around this country. This is something we can speak of again, but I would hazard a guess also that the character of the man who would undertake this commission has been examined by a lot more people than just Lord Arran and myself. The very qualities that we admire in you might well be those that have earned you such enmity, however unjustly. What I said about having you as an ally earlier was well meant, but I would entreat you also to give some consideration to who you select as your own.” He took his hands from the table and folded his arms. For a few moments he looked to the ground at his feet as he spoke, rather than at the mapmaker. “Now, I have readily admitted every subterfuge that it took to get you into that seat before us, and I understand that you might judge us as little more than charlatans for all that. But I implore you, as a man of reason, to judge the logic of our case and not the men who made it.” He looked up and stared unblinkingly into Titus’s eyes, his voice dropped almost to a whisper. “There is a lot riding on the word that next comes out of your mouth, Mr Perry, and in your heart you know just what is at stake. I have no argument, admission, explanation or entreaty left to place on the table - bar one simple plea. We humbly request your help. Do we have it?”
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Xartis Psyxis - Chapter 8 "The Commission" (part 4)

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