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 Xartis Psyxis - Chapter 10 "Mortals" (part 3)

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nordmann
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20120616
PostXartis Psyxis - Chapter 10 "Mortals" (part 3)

Titus was as dumbfounded as Robinson had claimed to be. Now it was his turn to look around the room before speaking. “Did he say why he suspected Ossory?”

“Oh, still spying I see! Well, I’ll have another whiskey, so.”
Titus produced his gift of a bottle and Robinson laughed in appreciation at the thoughtfulness. “Now I know you are not related to Sir Petty-coats!” Then he grew serious again. “No, my boy, he did not alas. The younger Butler is a damned fool, I know that, and an ambitious one too. I didn’t think at the time that he’d be brazen enough to hatch such a plot. Nor do I now. But I believe he knows who did.”
“And do you also suspect who might have? You seem perceptive enough at least to have formed an opinion on the matter, Sir William.”
“No I do not, but opinion I indeed have and I’ll tell you it, Mr Perry. We are at the dawn of a new and tragic chapter in our history, not just here in Ireland but in England too. Battle lines are being drawn and men are choosing sides. God knows there are enough sides to choose from! But it is still too early for any side to move without risking losing the war. Whoever abducted the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland can neither be Irish nor totally sane. That’s my opinion.”
“You mean he is not held in Ulster at all?”
“ My description of the abductor in no way rules the Ulstermen out sir! But in all seriousness, if he is, then it’s not by our Scots Irish neighbours, which is what I know John DeLacey thinks. They are a beleaguered people dependent on powerful friends in dangerous times and that would be no way of making them, lest they wish to incur the wrath of all around them. Holding Ormonde against his will suits no one’s purpose, or so it would seem. You must look to the margins of the picture, if not outside the frame itself to understand it, I fear.”
Titus thought over this for a few moments. “DeLacey seems convinced though, and I do believe his opinion is shared by others in authority.” He wasn’t sure if Robinson was aware of the previous day’s meeting in Balgriffin.
“If DeLacey is prepared to commit resources and time to seeking him in Ulster you can be sure he has good reason to be convinced. I’ll tell you though what I told Sir John the other day. We are heading into strange times. Do not overlook the unobvious any more. It is from there that the next blow may be struck. And I have a feeling it will be sooner rather than later.”

Both sat in silence for a few moments and Titus was about to ask another question when Sir William was hailed by a man who had just entered. “Ah! Speaking of the unobvious, here’s a man who may have information of value to you too. Hi there, Mr Bradshaw! Come join us!” A short stout man in a green tunic approached them jovially. He was about Titus’s age and carried a lace kerchief in his hand that he used to dab his lips before he sat – an affectation that Titus knew well from London and despised thoroughly. Robinson however seemed delighted to see this stranger. “Isaiah Bradshaw, may I introduce Titus Perry, a maker of maps from London. Mr Perry this is Mr Bradshaw, a gentleman whom alas can no longer assist us in the aggrandizement of our little town any longer. His help, and his uncle’s money, will be sorely missed!”
“Good afternoon, Mr Perry. I am afraid the old rascal is right. I’ve eh, had to reappoint my investments somewhat. Are you going to venture some capital yourself then?”
Titus was about to answer but Robinson cut in ahead of him. “He’s ventured as much as he’s able, Isaiah, and he’s in the process of rooting out a few relatives, firm and infirm, to follow suit. He’s a man of vision is Mr Perry – he can see where the future lies. Tell me about this sick relative of yours again Isaiah, pulled out just as the indenture was to be signed eh?”
“Yes, damned bad timing, what?”
“And to think I met your poor uncle just two days before, taking the airs in Monkstown. You’d swear by the light in his eye and the girl on his arm he’d have another score or more years of activity left in him! One can never tell when the good lord will strike with his mace of fate, eh, Isaiah? I trust I am not being too pessimistic and burying the poor man before he’s dead. One can only hope and pray of course that his ill health is temporary.”
Bradshaw’s smile remained fixed but his eyes, by darting to and fro, betrayed his anxiety. “So we hope. Yes Sir William – damned bad luck! Oh Look! There’s dear George Allenby with Frederick Murphy, I’d better be off!” He rose hurriedly. “Nice meeting you, Mr Perry. Good Day Sir William.” And with that he was off across to the room to where two men deep in conversation looked up with dismay at his arrival.

Robinson chortled. “Young runt! Well there you go boy, these are Ormonde’s enemies. Bloody jellyfish is what they are. Nothing to be frightened of on their own but something to steer right around when they all enter the bay together, what?”
Titus was impressed. He smiled. “Do you know something, Sir William? If I wasn’t such an all too obvious amateur in the spying game I do believe that I would suspect you were trying to tell me something!”
Robinson’s laugh was so loud it caused heads to turn in their direction. But just as suddenly he grew serious, took another swig, turned to Titus, gripping his forearm with one hand, and in a low voice said, “Titus Perry, you have been given a strange task. Of that I am sure you are aware. But it is a vital one. Find our good Duke and bring him back here before these bloody jellyfish foul the whole shore! Did you speak with the O’Neill or any of his people?”
Titus was beyond incredulity. How could this man, who to the entire world was a curmudgeonly drunk architect, be so privy to everything that was happening in Dublin, including now it seemed Titus’s own brief abduction the previous evening? It defied belief. He reckoned it better to square with the man. “I met him only yesterday in fact, though not in as convivial a surrounding as we parley now.”

Robinson muttered something beneath his breath and returned his gaze to Titus. “Then Titus my boy, consider yourself fortunate. It is not every day the ghosts of the old kings walk this land. If Ormonde lies in Ulster these men will help you find him, dead or alive. There is one other thing the Duke told me in his last letter you should know. Now, I’m no scholar in the ways of the Gael but I believe I understand what he meant. He mentioned the parable from Irish myth of the High King Chrothúr and his two sons. Do you know the story? No – of course not, I’ll tell you. One son, Colm, was gallant and brave, ever the father’s pride and joy. The younger, Nuadaigh, resented his brother’s favour and grew up a sly and devious sort. When Chrothúr lay on his deathbed, poisoned by his younger son though he did not know it, he gathered the whole clan around him and bequeathed his fortune to Nuadaigh, his murderer, dying before an explanation or justification for this folly left his lips. Nuadaigh of course lost no time afterwards in dispatching Colm to the same grave as their father. In the shadow world Colm met Chrothúr and angrily confronted him about his stupidity in his decision to exalt the lesser of the sons. Chrothúr’s answer was succinct. ‘I did so then as it was too late to have done it earlier. But no matter, he will join us here soon’. True enough, shortly afterwards Nuadaigh himself appeared in the shadow world, having been slain by his courtiers for his cruel disposition. Once he arrived Chrothúr had St Patrick turn him into a snake – ever to slither through that life after as he had wormed his way through the one before.”
“A classic tale of just desserts eventually administered,” Titus interjected. “I am afraid I have not found life to be so just, or so ordered.”
Robinson smiled. “Ah, but this is an Irish story, Mr Perry. There is a twist. Chrothúr is astonished one day to see the afterworld take in a young man who is Chrothúr himself, or at least himself as he had looked once many years before. The individual is being mercilessly whipped by Lucifer’s angels and the old man is moved to approach St Patrick to ask who he is and why he is being so particularly badly treated. The saint asks Chrothúr does he not recognise his own offspring. This was Lúaghaidh, Chrothúr’s bastard son and the one who had nurtured Nuadaigh’s resentments and spite unknown to the others. It was he who had orchestrated the fate of Chrothúr, Colm and indeed Nuadaigh himself. There would be no turning of this man into a serpent, he had played the role already to perfection here on earth.”
“I stand by my statement. It is still only a tale of just desserts for all that.”
“Indeed, but one with resonance for Ormonde. He wrote in his letter – ‘ Like Chrothúr I have two serpents to account for, one who would slay me for nothing more profound than a simple adoration of my late son, and another who swears fealty to my name and office but could only benefit from the other playing his hand and is succinct enough to guide that hand without its knowing. You may interrogate the one to find out how, but so then should you really also ask the other to find out why.’” He patted Titus on the knee twice and added. “Now, before you go on your way today, tell me what you think that meant.”

As Titus thought long and hard about the implications of this cryptic remark Robinson embarked on a friendly conversation with a lady and gentleman who had just seated themselves to his left. The man was dressed in the garb of a courtier and the woman in a gown more suited to an evening ball than a morning’s horse fair. They had entered as Robinson had been recounting the ancient legend and Titus had noticed both give a subtle salute to Robinson as they passed. The man showed Robinson deeds of sale – obviously he had purchased some mounts that morning – and insisted the architect and his friend join them in a toast to celebrate the purchase. Titus gestured with his glass in acknowledgement and drained it in a gulp.
Robinson clasped his hand and gestured to the newly arrived guests. “Ah good! I sense a man who has reached a conclusion to my conundrum. Now, Mr Perry, let me introduce you to two old friends of mine, if I may be so bold to describe relations as such. Samuel Duffy and his good wife Unity, my cousin – this is Mr Perry who is about to say something profound about mythology. What did you arrive at boy? What was the meaning of the remark?”
Titus was rather unsure what to say. He had resolved the riddle by reference to actual people, the son and grandson of the Duke of Ormonde, yet surely Robinson didn’t expect him to mention these names in front of strangers? Placed on the spot he thought it better to answer in as oblique terms as possible. “I assume it means that while one son might conspire to prosper immediately through the death of the father, the other thinks to prosper more from the aftermath and therefore waits his time? If trying to anticipate or prevent the deed, one can with hope anticipate the method from interrogating the former. But the full motive and eventual effect of the deed can only be best divined from interrogating the latter. He may not commit the deed, but since the ultimate gain is his he stands to understand it all the better.”
Duffy laughed and his wife clapped her hands. “The story of Chrothúr and his naughty sons!” she exclaimed, “Am I not right, William?”
“You are indeed right, Unity, and an excellent deduction, Mr Perry. We will make you a scholar of Irish legend yet! Now what say you Unity? You and your good husband are members of our new Philosophical Society. Which do you think of the three sons met with the worse fate? Given of course that one conspired to kill, one killed, and the other chose, like his father, not to influence events until it was too late.”
Duffy, who didn’t appear too interested in the debate, gazed out the window. Unity however furrowed her brow in a great display of cerebral activity. Eventually she said, “The one who killed of course – he suffered eternal damnation, Sir William.”
“Ah!” Robinson exclaimed. “So the one who did nothing to prevent his own or his father’s demise, watched the old man live an afterlife before his time, and his brother live the same afterlife as a snake because of his own inactivity – you tell me he escaped suffering then? You see Titus – this is the way of people now.” He winked at Unity, who blushed. “Their hearts are hardened to the lessons of lives lived before.”

Duffy let out a loud snort. “All tosh, Robinson. Bloody fairy tales! We have better things to discuss than children’s stories. What thinks you of the latest rumour that Rochester is to be sent to lord over us?”
Robinson wagged his finger at Duffy as a schoolmaster might admonish a slow pupil. “There is rarely anything more prudent to discuss than that which interests children. They at least are not afraid to learn. I had not heard that other thing you mention, I am afraid. By Rochester you mean Laurence Hyde I assume?”
“The very man. By all accounts the First Lord of our king’s Treasury is as sour as a crab apple, and his disposition improved not a whit when he was sent to sign that little treaty whereby Louis and Charles became lovers three summers ago! Hah! I doubt if this current ‘elevation’ will do it much better!”
Robinson laughed too. “It always amazes me, Samuel, how you seem to know the affairs of state ahead of those who decide them! Though I find it hard to believe that Ormonde would have advised our good monarch to approve of such an appointment. Rochester is great devotee of the Dutch Prince William as you know and like as not will find himself at serious odds with the crown when it moves from one head to another, as it’s bound to in the not too distant future.”
“Ormonde’s influence in such things is as dead as his plan to make Dublin a second Paris!” Duffy was warming to his theme, and this reference to Ormonde’s recently frustrated building works was obviously designed to discomfit Robinson. Titus immediately decided he liked neither the opinionated Duffy nor his silly wife. “There is the hand of Halifax behind this and not your favourite Duke, Sir William, I’d wager. And such is as it should be, I say. The Lesser Stuart needs to be taught a few lessons in political realism and fast. This is one good start I warrant!”
Robinson’s smile had not fully left his lips, but Titus reckoned the man valued more the receipt of news than to shoot its messenger, however boorish such a messenger might be. “And where did you hear this, Samuel? Conjecture in the coffee house or has parliament reconvened in its own absence and invited you to attend?”
Duffy laughed. “You may jest, Sir William. But you are not far from the truth. Believe me, it is true, and if even only a rumour, should it end once and for all this foolish notion of Catholics that they merit an equal place in the world then let it fly on the wind of gossips’ breath for as long as it can!”
“As you say, Samuel, rumour and wishful thinking on some peoples’ part may be all that it is. If it was amongst your fellow ‘philosophers’ you heard it, then I fear that even this definition lends it too much credence! I may not have the years of Ormonde but I do subscribe to one tenet of his. There is a continuity to affairs that history describes at its heart and politicians disrupt at their peril. Let us pray that such disruption this time round not prove permanent in its effect.” Robinson’s smile had gone.
“If it spells the end of Catholic ambition may it be set in stone!” Duffy’s own philosophy was not for adaptation it seemed. Unity attempted to dispel the heavy atmosphere that this dialogue had produced with a “Fie! Politics!” comment and a moue that indicated a distaste for such sordid topics impinging on ‘civilised’ debate but the silence that ensued was palpable.

It was broken by Titus himself, who felt in any case that trying to discuss matters further with Robinson would necessitate either drinking more whiskey than caution dictated or entering into a labyrinth of cryptic comment through which little more discernible truth could emerge. Besides, he had settled on an antipathy to Robinson’s ‘companions’ that discouraged him from remaining in their company any longer. “It appears I’d better be off. I have a long ride ahead of me.” He rose and bowed slightly to Unity Duffy and her husband, and then turned to Robinson. “I sincerely hope we speak again Sir William. There is obviously much to be gleaned from ancient legend.”
“Never enough boy, be on thy way and steer thee a safe course – but before you go let me tell you one thing. It’s more than suffering can unite relatives. In some families cunning is the common bond. You know to whom I refer. Tread warily. Now, who’s for a whiskey? Samuel, tell me more of what you learnt. Is Dutch Billy to be our next king?”
Duffy, judging by his face, was about to retort in disdain when he suddenly realised that Robinson was ribbing him, and his features broke into a wide grin. Titus left the three laughing uproariously at the Surveyor General’s absurd witticism.

The conversation with Robinson had been fertile. It was if the architect had planted seeds in Titus’s conscience designed to grow and bear fruit long after they had been sown. On the ride out to Kinsealy Titus found himself again and again returning to the two crucial riddles Robinson had alluded to. However, no matter how much he puzzled over them, he was no nearer resolving either the identity of Ormonde’s abductors nor the true nature of Lord Arran’s intentions or what he might be devising. If, as Robinson had implied, Arran suspected his nephew of collusion in the abduction of his own grandfather, then it was not a suspicion that he had yet to admit or even allude to as far as Titus could see. That begged a further question. If he was protecting this knowledge, to what end was he doing so? Did he hope, even at this late stage, to convince the younger man of the errors of his ways? Or, more sinisterly, did he actually hope that his nephew would succeed in his goals and therefore clear the way for his own elevation to his father’s title and rank? The news then that London was preparing the Earl of Rochester for that role must have come as a bitter blow indeed to his ambitions, but if such was the case, he had hidden that sentiment well in Balgriffin. There, he had certainly expressed disappointment at the news, but had apparently seen Rochester’s appointment also as a mere obstacle that could yet be circumvented beforehand without even denying the man his new post. He had advocated subversion of the new regime and had been vague indeed about what role he foresaw himself playing in it other than as a coordinator of that subversion, but never had he even intimated that he wished the position of Lord Lieutenant to be his own. Titus knew that he might never fully understand or resolve these questions, but the cynic in him knew with equal certainty that to properly execute the task he had been set required that in fact he do so. Unfathomable or not, the designs and aspirations of these exalted politicians merited examination on his part. While still engrossed in this line of thought Lady O’Carolan’s house came into view. For the moment at least these matters could wait. Now he had a more enjoyable duty to perform.
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