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 Xartis Psyxis - Chapter 9 "The Mustering" (part 4)

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nordmann
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PostXartis Psyxis - Chapter 9 "The Mustering" (part 4)

“From what Jack has told me your secretary is a resourceful man.” She reassured him.
“That he is, though I’m afraid his resourcefulness might not be up to the peril I’ve placed him in today. I sent him on an errand this morning that carried much more risk than I innocently assumed at the time, and have only begun to realise with what I have learnt today.”
“From me?”
“In part, yes.”

Titus had already realised that if he was to gain any meaningful intelligence from Sarah Reilly it would have to be through dialogue, not blunt inquisition. It did not cost him a thought therefore to share the little he now knew. Besides her undeniable right to anything, however miniscule, which he could contribute towards understanding the true nature of her father’s death, he now held an equally undeniable conviction that her insights based on this information could be valuable too, much more valuable indeed that his own uninformed guesswork. “Mr Flitch’s journey would have taken him through Lord Malahide’s estate, and that is where one risk might lie. That estate has figured in how these Modellers have acted in the last few weeks, though I admit I am not sure how or to what extent. What do you know of the Talbots, Sarah? All I know is that they employed a recently discovered informant called George Courtney, one who fed the Modellers information at a price, and I am afraid there might be a link between this discovery and my secretary’s disappearance.”
“Talbot was not on my father’s list if that is what you mean. Old Peter Talbot, the archbishop, died in captivity, and it is common knowledge that his cousin Lord Malahide blames Ormonde for not securing the bishop’s release. But he’s a Catholic and no grievance against Ormonde would drive him to cooperate with Stafford or his Modellers. I doubt very much that he knowingly harboured an informant for their cause!”
“Let us hope your doubts are borne out. Sir Humphrey Jervis said something today to indicate he is of the same mind, if I read the man’s words correctly.” He threw his eyes to heaven and groaned audibly. “I am afraid my attempts at discretion in this town have been anything but discreet. As Mr Collier would say, I may as well have nailed my intentions to the Great Cross on High Street. But anyway, that is not the only peril I may have exposed Flitch to. I asked him, if he still had time, to make enquiries about a Jeremiah Wilson who lives not far from Malahide to the north. Whatever we might suspect about Talbot being innocent of any connection, we can be sure Wilson is a Modeller.”
“How so sure?”

Titus realised he was straying into revealing more to Sarah than he cared to, at least as yet. “I had it on good authority – let’s just say.”
“Ah, your friends in the castle?” She spoke the words with a sardonic overtone.
“Yes, and whose enemies, I believe, are your own at the minute. I have been asked to gather intelligence on their behalf pertaining to the very men who featured on your father’s list, I dare say. And these ‘friends’ as you call them, though you can be assured this friendship was unsought by me, claim to have prevented my own demise at the hands of this Wilson character, so in that at least I owe them a gratitude.”
“Gratitude indeed.”
“What do you mean?” He felt as if she questioned his honesty.
“Of course you feel gratitude. This is how these people work. Favours for favours, and the next thing you know you are spying for them.”
“I hardly think …”

She did not wait for further abnegation. “Charlie tells me you’re a mapmaker, and Jack tells me that you and his father wouldn’t trust a crown official as far as you could throw him. You make a strange spy, Titus Perry. Gratitude or no on your part, it seems even stranger that you would get yourself embroiled in such men’s schemes.”
“You have my word, Sarah; it is as strange to me too. But believe me, I have reasons of my own for adopting the course I have with regard to these men, and I am sure that I can aid you in bringing your father’s murderers to justice in doing so. But I entreat you; please question my motives no further. On the one hand I am bound to secrecy, and on the other I must confess I am relying on instinct more than reason in much that I have surmised. I may not have earned your trust as yet but I depend on it nonetheless.”
She blushed slightly. “I do not distrust you.”
“Thank you. So I will ascribe your reticence to tell me more fully what you know of your father’s document to caution then, and say no more of it.”
“It was destroyed.”
“As you say.” He hesitated before continuing. “Sarah, there is something else I should know about your father before I can draw any effective conclusions from what else I might discover. You say that only you and he had seen this document. Are you sure of this?”
“I am sure of nothing, but I would swear to that all the same.”
“No one else had knowledge of its contents?”
“Save for what news of it he may have deliberately broadcast, yes. And I am not even sure if he did so.”
“He had no other, em, close confidantes? I mean closer than in a business sense.”
She viewed him with a slightly quizzical look. “In what sense exactly?”
It was Titus’s turn to redden slightly. “He was a widower of many years but still a relatively young man.”
Her lips parted in a devious smile. “You are asking me did my father have any lovers?”
“I am, sorry, but it occurred to me that sometimes things can pass between, well, lovers as it were, that might have been best kept to oneself, when ...” His tongue, already impeded by her look - a scornful and potent mixture of reprimand and amusement - failed altogether as he struggled to complete his question in a manner at least slightly more diplomatic than its introduction.
“Is this experience talking, Mr Perry?” Her smile broadened and Titus felt that her look now included a large dollop of pity as well. “The answer to your query is no.”
“Forgive me for my bluntness but I can think of no other way to ascertain …”
She laughed. “Don’t worry sir, I commend you on your blunt style, and your embarrassment too, if truth be known. The combination marks you out as both a straight and a sensitive man. I would prefer however to have deduced as much from less personal an interrogation!”

He smiled in gratitude for the compliment, but continued in as earnest a vein as before. “Then I must compound my rudeness by insisting that you rack your brain before you answer me. You are sure then that there might be no one to whom he would have confided the presence of this document? If not a lover, then a close friend perhaps?”
Her smile evaporated. “My father remained true to my mother’s memory always, and believe me, I would have known if he did not. We had no secrets, nor indeed knew how to keep one from each other even if we had. As for close friends, well, none that close. My father knew that what he was doing was guaranteed only to make enemies of those he studied. He was a man of some principle, Mr Perry, and I know that he found offensive the notion of pretence – especially that of being friendly with those who he knew he was certain to embarrass later. His distaste for such deception, or even of the chance that he might later be suspected or accused of having deceived in this way in order to garner information, led him socially to become rather a loner, and more of one as time went on. Those few that he did call his friends must also be spared from such suspicion too, he felt, so what allies he had could never be told of the information he had recorded, I am sure of it.” She paused reflectively. “In fact such consideration for his friends might well explain his reticence over the years in forming a bond of love with anyone.” She grew suddenly thoughtful, as if this last statement was something that had just occurred to her. Her eyes grew distant, and for a few moments Titus suspected that her own words had carried her into reminiscences of things too poignant to mention. He tried to think of a sensitive, but effective, way in which he could distract her from her thoughts and resume their conversation. But then, just as suddenly as her words had dried up, she laughed out loud. Not a sharp or bitter laugh but one which stealthily catches one unawares and envelops one’s whole being, as impossible to stifle as it would be to fake.

Such sudden hilarity caught Titus unawares, given the woman’s recent experiences, but he had to admit that it was a welcome sound too, and not unattractive either. He had already formed the opinion that Sarah was not the type who would give herself over to grief completely, especially not when her wits were required to address such peril as she was in. Her levity, he assumed, was just another aspect to that indomitable spirit. Rather guiltily he realised that what he was experiencing was relief at this fact. The task he had been set was difficult enough without the added burden of an inconsolable woman to be accommodated as well. He smiled in return. “I have said something amusing?”
“No, but you have reminded me of an incident last year. May I tell you, and then perhaps you will see why I am so sure of what I say?”
“By all means.”

She thought a moment and, as she did so, let the fingers of one hand play idly along the table’s edge, as if practising a piece on the keyboard of an organ. Then, almost with an organist’s flourish, she rested them on her lap before she spoke. “I have said that my father took no mistresses, but that would be to imply that there were none who would willingly have chosen the role. He was a good looking man, in a studious way, and often attracted the affections of women who …” she averted her eyes and smiled, then looked up again, “…who see such men in desperate need of motherly care, and themselves as the ones to provide it.” She let her gaze linger a noticeable fraction of a second longer than decorum allowed before she again looked away.
Titus was not sure if the young lady had not indeed made two points with her one statement. He opted to answer both, just in case, and to acknowledge her wit. “Hard women to shake off, and before you say it – yes, that observation has been honed from experience!” He smiled, not just at the memory her remark had evoked, but also as he realised just how pleasant he found this intelligent young lady’s company, and the easy manner in which she was gaining his confidence, while displaying hers in him.
“Some harder to shake off than others you will admit then,” she continued. “Normally he could avert their interest quite simply. A studious face he may have had, but it housed a sharp mind and a sharper tongue when the cause justified it. However there was a certain lady, a Mary Green, who formed an attachment to my father last year and who proved impervious to his rebuffs. I use the term ‘attached’ in the sense that a sailor might speak of barnacles. You understand?”
“I think I do.”
“My poor father was mortified. He had met her at a dinner and had found her most annoying – you know those people who laugh hilariously at your every utterance in an effort to impart the impression that they find you interesting, but merely convey that they are not really listening at all and therefore are interested obviously in something else entirely?”
“I know the type.”
“Well, such was she. An Englishwoman, newly arrived in every sense. Not long enough in Dublin to have acquainted herself with who’s who, and not long enough on the earth it seemed to have acquainted herself with that’s what!”
“She was young?”
“Younger than her years, and they were few enough. Barely over twenty, my father reckoned - half his own age - though that did not deter her from speaking candidly and lengthily about whatever subjects she deemed herself worldly enough to be versed in, which just about included everything under the sun, it seemed.”
“That young!”
“Quite, and his usual defences availed him naught alas. A sharp tongue is an effective weapon only when pitted against someone with the intellect to understand it, the sensitivity to be wounded by it, and the basic manners to listen to what it says. This young lady had none of these attributes, alas. Short of punching the unfortunate in the face he could fashion no escape from her attentions all evening. Even when he tried to effect an early exit it took all his guile to get out of the house unaccompanied. She may have been stupid, but she had the predator’s sense to know when her prey was about to flee.”
“Surely he could just have left. She would not be so brazen as to pursue him out the door? Even predators have to obey some of society’s niceties.”
“Only those that appreciate them. On the contrary she had decided, and had already announced to the whole party that she would be delighted to be escorted home by him, her being new to the city and all, and whatever time he was leaving would suit her grandly too! To the listener it sounded as if just such an invitation had been proffered.”
“Ah, a canny predator then. The only defence against such guile makes the victim look the ill-mannered oaf. It is a safe calculation that the mannered man will admit defeat at that point. So, the poor man was doomed.”
“In a house with just the one commode he may have been.”
“Pardon?”
“At this gathering the host had provided chamber pots for the ladies in the adjoining room. The men, however, were being directed to the latrine downstairs by the kitchen. Only for the fact that he knew the latrine window opened out into the lane outside, he would have been done for. Mind you, he still had a job explaining why he required his hat and coat for the purpose of a piss.”
Titus laughed. “I trust he stated that he feared the latrine might be cold and leaking!”
“It was a fine summer’s evening in June, but I am afraid that was exactly his stated excuse.” She smiled. “He was never a good liar.”
“In desperate straits one is entitled to a certain latitude.”
“And he needed such entitlement. The woman’s ‘attachment’ was such that she followed him even to the latrine door!”

Titus could not help but laugh aloud again at the thought of it. Normally he was not one to find ready humour in the plight of others. Such jocularity stems from the mean-minded relief associated merely with the fact that the dilemma applies to someone else and not to you. But the picture that Sarah Reilly painted was as entertaining as any drama, and detailed with more wit than many. Of course he suspected exaggeration in the telling of the tale, but that mattered little. Sarah was evidently enjoying the telling of it, and besides, it was good to see her smile.
“He came home that night with all the manner of a man released from a dungeon, and had me in stitches of laughter recounting his ordeal, the poor man. I must admit that I was sympathetic to him in his ordeal, but did not show it overmuch for reasons of pure divilment; but you see his face alone was such a picture that it would have been a shame to spoil the fun by offering solace. God knows he deserved sympathy though. His ordeal, you see, had only just begun. The next day, and the next, and for many days thereafter, the lady in question found reason to call at our house, and always when she knew that my father had just arrived and we could not plead his absence. And once in the door, it was the divil of a task to budge her again, I assure you!”
“What reason could she possibly have availed of that would warrant such frequent visits?”
“Advice mostly. She claimed that she wished to invest in some property locally and that my father had been recommended most highly as an authority on the subject. And then, when she finally settled on a house to purchase, found him to be equally authoritative on the question of deeds, lettings, furnishings – anything in fact that pertains to the running of a house. But then after all, she was a stranger to the place with very few contacts of her own who could aid her, and her need for informed advice was genuine, even if her motives were not. Anyway, my father was too chivalrous to refuse and spent many a tedious evening struggling heroically to limit her enquiries to these matters. She, on the other hand, struggled equally valiantly to broaden the scope of her enquiries to include just about everything else!”
“A tenacious woman.”
“That is one way to describe her. In the end, and in order to extricate himself from this gruesome cycle, the poor man acceded to accompany her to a dinner to which they had both been invited separately.”
“That sounds like a bad move on his part.”
“Ah, but he knew that another guest at this dinner was a young lawyer acquaintance of his who, let us say, was on the look out for a partner, and who was far more qualified to assist Miss Greene in these matters than he.”
“And did the ploy work?”
“In a curious way. True enough, she and the lawyer indeed formed an alliance of sorts – in that they were seen together at functions, out taking the air of a Sunday afternoon and what not - and for a while we saw no more of her. Then one day my father came back from Stanhope’s in a dither. She was back! Or rather, she had taken to turning up at his office during the day, again on the very spurious grounds of enquiry relating to property, but with a frightening regularity and a thinly disguised ardour that was even more frightening still. And, might I add, while still stepping out in the evenings with the lawyer!”
“I can see why your father might have suffered some consternation.”
“Not the word he would have used, but you obviously see the detail in the picture.”
“How did he resolve his dilemma?”
“He didn’t. It resolved itself, and we were never quite sure how. One moment she was the very epitome of a biblical plague, the next she had disappeared as suddenly as she had manifested herself originally. And I mean ‘disappeared’. Upped and left Dublin without as much as a goodbye, not even to her poor beau, James Richmond.”
“The lawyer?”
“Yes, for a while my poor father was then beleaguered by his attentions, calling with almost equal regularity to enquire if word had been heard from her. Richmond’s desire to hook his line exceeded his consideration of what he had snagged, it seemed! I swear, the whole incident took several months to play out!”
“And you never deduced why she so suddenly disappeared?”
Sarah laughed. “Ah! My father says we have Stanhope to thank for that. You will like this part.”
“I have enjoyed each part up to now.”
“Well hark at this so. Apparently on her last visit my father missed her by a matter of moments. She had left just before he arrived. Stanhope was rather red faced and blustery …”
“His normal demeanour, I would have said.”
She laughed. “Well, even more red faced and blustery than normal then! He took my father to task for encouraging this woman to call so frequently to their place of business. That particular morning his own patience in the matter had run out. He said that he had told her in no uncertain terms to desist from plaguing the place with her presence!”
“He must have used very strong language to effect such a complete dismissal!”
“Strong? Stanhope? No, the man is so accustomed now to grovelling for trade that it has become his very nature. Even riled I would say that he has all the venom of a sheep in his invective. In any case she would be impervious to that approach.”
“What was it then?”
“Well, there was something else that he remarked upon, and that we reckoned did the trick. It seems that all along old Stanhope had assumed the lady was me!”
“What?”
“Exactly! His partner’s daughter! ‘My dear Owen’, he said, ‘I do apologise, but I must insist that your daughter desist from calling on you here. It is raising eyebrows amongst our clients!’”
Her impersonation of Stanhope was quite comical in its exactitude and Titus found himself laughing heartily at it. A little too heartily in fact; his gaiety drew some looks from the tables nearby, so he quickly stifled his mirth. Sarah had noticed the attention they had drawn also. Her tones, raised in her zeal to mimic her father’s partner as realistically as possible, returned to more hushed, and safer, levels. She glanced around before proceeding.
“My father reckoned it was that alone which quenched her ardour. Stanhope must have said as much to her also, and small brains and all as she possessed, it set her to thinking – having to go through life explaining that one’s husband is not one’s father must suddenly have dawned on her as a thankless and ridiculous fate to invite on oneself. In any case, we surmised that the poor wretch must have equally suddenly realised what a ridiculous figure she already cut, and decided to quit the scene of her folly as well as the folly itself!”
“But how could Stanhope have thought such a thing? Surely the nature of her interest in your father was evident!”
“Not to Stanhope. He might spot an anomaly in a ledger from fifty paces, but Tristan and Isolde could play out their death scene below his very nose and he wouldn’t even notice, save one of them asked to buy a telescope while doing so. The man lives for profit and the sale of his equipment. No, all he saw was a young lady pestering his place of business daily without purchasing a single item, and who called for my father by name. The age difference alone, I suppose, made his assumption plausible.”
“But the accent, surely?”
“Miss Green was someone who had developed a remarkable lilt to her tones very quickly since arriving in the city. It seemed that she wished to henceforth be seen as a Dubliner.”
“I see, and I trust your father disabused him of his notion?”
“Not immediately, if ever.” Her smile had faded. Her own story had lifted her spirits, but in its denouement it seemed that it had only served to remind her of her loss. She sighed, and a more winsome smile appeared on her lips. “He used to laugh and recount how he would hold the threat of employing his ‘daughter’ in the company whenever he thought that Stanhope was getting a bit uppity in the partnership. He claimed that it worked a charm in helping the man see reason on occasion!”
“A resourceful man!”
“Very, but you can see why I laughed when you enquired after his love life. Such, I fear, was the closest the poor man ever got to acquiring one in recent years, and he regarded himself a lucky man indeed to have avoided whatever fate his ‘intended’ had in store for him before she vanished! Of course, he never quite imagined himself out of the woods, even then. The property she had taken such pains to assemble still required disposal. His services might yet have been again in demand!”
“That was very strange too, was it not, to leave so suddenly without making an arrangement regarding her property?”
“More than strange. My father made a tacit inquiry with young Richmond regarding how she hoped to dispose of it – more to estimate the risk of her return, rather than due to any interest in the house – but he did not know either. She had had the property boarded up and left a small amount for a watch to be kept on it. That was all we knew, and believe me, all we wished to!”

Titus smiled. “Forgive me, but I think that I am guilty of the opposite, and have demanded to know far more than I have a right to. I merely asked if your father might have had a paramour in his confidence, and you have responded with not only a splendid defence of his character, but a fine story to boot! I am grateful for both.”
She acknowledged his thanks with a curt nod. “I am not so silly as to be offended by a request that is logical and in my own interests to answer.” She cocked her head and shot him a suspicious, sideways look, “Even if the question itself did skirt the borders of taste and manners.”
He knew that she had no right to admonish him, yet he reddened at her reproval. He chastised himself for his own embarrassment, even as he forced himself to tell her something that it was vital she knew, understood, and agreed with. “I felt it prudent to ask it nevertheless. And unfortunately I fear that there may be other uncomfortable questions I might have to ask you too over time. Forgive me if my motives seem unreasonable or obtuse. I might not be in a position to explain them, as I said. I am aware that trust is something one normally has the luxury of time to construct and earn, but in your case I am afraid that there is no time for either. However you must trust me all the same.”
“Well, we shall see. My father used to say that trust and faith were mere decorations on the tree of common sense. I can see now what he meant. I must find the sense in what is occurring before e’er I try to place trust in anything or anyone. Besides, I am hardly in a position to question your motives either, and I am grateful also for your efforts on my behalf, even if I may have sounded otherwise.” She grew quiet momentarily and looked intently at the grain in the wood of the tabletop. Before she spoke she bit her lower lip, as if her next utterance might also ‘skirt the borders of taste and manners’ itself. “Titus, can I ask you something?”

Sarah’s use of Titus’s first name surprised him, and he found himself momentarily contemplating how fine it sounded coming from her lips. He had to check the thought with a will. His nodded indication for her to continue was therefore a few seconds later than he would otherwise have made it
She obviously construed his hesitancy as caution, and blurted out her question before her nerve failed her. “Why exactly did you choose to help me? You and Cormac could just as easily have handed me over to the Hospital guards.”

Titus had to admit that this very question had been vexing him. There was no doubt that Sarah represented a huge complication in his effort to do as Arran and DeLacey had bid him. More than that, she might well be the reason now that he might fail altogether. The constabulary sought her, for whatever reason, and he could do without the interference of their attentions in the task that he had accepted. And even without that unwelcome interference, she could jeopardise his plans. The strategy that he had agreed to adopt was to behave outwardly as if about his normal business, and to do nothing that might draw unnecessary attention to his movements. However chivalrous his actions might have been in rescuing this woman from her dilemma, even he had to admit that it was a conspicuous chivalry indeed, and one that was anything but normal. It begged to be explained if it became common knowledge and would be guaranteed to raise curiosity, the very thing that he knew he must avoid.

But there was another way in which his gallantry might undermine his task, and one that he was loath to countenance as it could very well undermine him, raising, as it did, spectres from his past that he had hoped against hope to dispel. By impulsively acting to assist this stranger he knew, just as he had known immediately in the Hospital grounds that evening, that he had at last taken a step towards confronting a demon that had long stalked his steps, and who might even yet bring him down, whether he fulfilled his other ambitions or not. He had long since given up on dispelling this demon who had taken up residence in the darkest recesses of his consciousness, where terrors are spun and the light of rationale can never penetrate its gloom. He was consigned to its company until his dying day, but had hoped against hope to have at least contained it in its lair, and lately had been bold enough to presume that he might even have tamed it to a point where he could at last confront it. Now he would find out if such hope had been naïve and if such a confidence in his own ability to challenge its presence had been founded on nothing more tangible than conceit. The question alarmed him, but the prospect of failure appalled him even more. And even as he contemplated this, he could sense the demon stir again in her nest within, honing her vision and stretching her talons in anticipation of her assault - much as one might sense without seeing an assailant in pursuit on a dark road, stealthily dogging one’s steps, drawing nearer with every footfall, weapon in hand and ready to strike. From such an assailant one at least had the option of flight, but from the assailant within there was no such recourse to sanctuary. Once perceived, she struck inevitably, a merciless onslaught of blows that revealed her intention to cause pain far outweighed any other she might harbour. Each strike awoke a memory that he could not avoid, nor would never expunge, and it was these memories wherein dwelt the true agony of the assault, an agony that resided in the very core of one’s being, a pain much more unbearable than any mere body might suffer.
Sarah apologised and her voice started him from his reverie. At first he could not understand why she did so, and then he remembered that she had asked him a question. He had been lost in his thoughts, and could not even guess how long he might have left her awaiting her answer. She must now think that she had somehow offended him.

He was about to reassure her, but when he looked across the table he saw, for a moment, not the daughter of a murdered Dublin businessman, but the shade of another, long passed from this world. When she looked at him, it took all his will not to plunge yet again into that tortured reverie, and the reason why he might was obvious. The eyes that haunted his mind now stared back at him from another face entirely. But there was no doubting the expression - the eyes that flash defiance but speak of torment, at once beseeching and accusatory, but which can probe to one’s very core, and are none too pleased at what they find there. He shuddered, both at the memory, and at the cold realisation that fate had, almost mockingly, presented him with the same demand on his integrity. The last time he had been found wanting, but he could not escape the conclusion that life had conspired to present him with a second chance, if not to redeem himself, at least to essay the task set him in a manner that might mitigate his character at least, if it could never mitigate his crime, and allow him the possibility again of living with his tortured conscience. Coincidence it might merely be, and in fact to draw an analogy between the two events was probably the folly of a man so over-intent on redemption that he would grasp at anything that might pave its way, however illusory; but in truth he was terrified of the similarity, so terrified that he dared not risk offending fate with a refusal. He averted his own eyes from the gaze of his companion across the table. She had asked why he was aiding her, but how could one even begin to explain when the answer, like its owner, is riddled with guilt, doubt and fear. So he lied and answered that he did not know.

“Then your friend Cormac is a wiser man than you, Titus Perry. He told me it’s because you’re an oyster!”
Titus was taken aback. “He said what?”
Sarah smiled, and again Titus noticed how fetching that smile was. “We spoke in Irish last night. You can say things in Irish that English just isn’t up to, so please take no offence. He said that to you adversity is an irritation, like the piece of grit that gets into the oyster and irritates the hell out of it. And like an oyster you attack the irritation with … what is it in English?”
“Nacre.”
“Nacre, yes. Layer after layer a thousand times over, until you at last produce a mother-of-pearl. Wisdom by accretion, I think is how it might translate.”
For some inexplicable reason Titus felt a wave of relief wash over him. His dark mood had passed and he could not be sure only that Sarah herself, who must have detected it, had not quite deliberately aided it on its way. At least when he looked at her, her eyes were her own again, he was glad to see, and smiling impudently and brightly at him so that their humour was infectious and the last whorls of melancholy were banished in their glare. He smiled back. “Cormac is an astute man, but I fear from what you say he’s entering his dotage.”
“Ah! Well, we have an old saw covering that here too. Let me see - in English it would say ‘the old man’s ranting disguises his wisdom, the young man’s ranting reveals the lack of it ’ – and anyway, I think Cormac knew right well what he was saying. You’re a good man, Titus Perry.”
Titus coughed in embarrassment. It was time to turn the tables, and shift the conversation back from this uncomfortable trajectory. “Back at the Courting Curtain you revealed yourself to be no deficient person yourself,” he replied, “at least when addressing wrong. There is a certain young lady who will think twice before she name-calls again, at any rate.”
“Oh, really? I thought that Daly girl needed her nose put out of joint. She was lucky I did so with my tongue and not my fist! Still, hardly the action of a paragon.”
“That’s what impressed me. Though it might have been better you had done neither. I saw someone on the way out who hopefully did not overhear your little speech to Miss Daly.”
“Oh, who was that?”
“A leading light of The Dublin Philosophical Society.”
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