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 Xartis Psyxis - Chapter 12 "A Victory" (part 2)

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nordmann
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20121211
PostXartis Psyxis - Chapter 12 "A Victory" (part 2)

That evening they dined in Quinn’s kitchen. Flitch had not lied about the hospitality of the Quinns. His wife Grace and his daughter - also called Grace but who used the Irish form, Gráinne, as a pet name to distinguish herself from her mother - had both gone to enormous efforts to make a meal fit for royalty itself, and all had been invited to partake, even Bran, who tackled his share of the roast pork beneath the table with as much gusto as his human companions did above it. After the meal Quinn asked Titus did he wish to come help him rounding up the cattle from the fields – the walk would help digest the remarkable dinner. Titus agreed, and the two old friends made their way slowly through the fields to where the cattle grazed.

“I see you have damaged a hand there Titus, and have collected a few other wee battle scars about you. Would that be anything to do with the loud booms we heard from the city last night? News travels fast around here and spectacular news even faster. I hear the castle is no more, and it looks like you were almost no more too?”
“Very astute of you Quinn. I had the misfortune to be lying in a bed in the place when it chose to explode.”
“Ah, that explains it then. We have been hearing reports about it all day. Fantastic, was it not?”
“How so?” Titus asked. “It was certainly loud – I’ll grant you that!”
“I’ve been in the castle, Titus, on more than one occasion. I gave them a hand with their plumbing a few years ago when they were modernising the Lord Lieutenant’s quarters there. I’ve seen the powder kegs and where they’re stored next door. There’s no way they averted them all going up by use of controlled explosion – I can assure you of that. Or if they did then God was more than smiling on them! Do I take it from Captain Cuffe’s earlier comment that he was involved in tackling the blaze?”
“Robert took charge of the operation last night, and I owe my life to the man. Though I must confess I did not take the time to examine too closely the method he used in securing anything save myself, I fear. I was more intent on putting as much distance as I could between the fire and myself! Maybe you should ask him?” Titus knew that once Quinn set his mind to a problem he would tease away at it until it cracked, but he earnestly believed that it was better for his friend that he knew as little as possible about what really had transpired.
“I will, Titus. He’s a good man by all accounts, your Captain Cuffe, but I’ll be damned if he moved all those barrels in the time he had. What time did the fire start? The word I heard was that there was no warning before one in the morning. I’d say it would take a good three hours or more for a team of men to move the entire powder magazine that I saw there – and that being in favourable conditions. Yet I heard that half the castle had already burnt to the ground by two o’clock last night. Very strange.”
“First I knew of it myself was when I was lifted from my bed by the blast. I’m afraid after that was pretty much a sprint for me. I didn’t notice.”
“Well it’s good to see you got out Titus. Now, what about this secretary of yours? He said he would be coming with you. I remember him well from our Severn job. Has he got himself into mischief then?”

They had reached the field where the cattle stood grazing and the two men separated quite a few yards apart, shooing and prodding the beasts that unwillingly loped towards the far gate. This time Titus thought to be honest in his dealings with Quinn. Flitch’s disappearance was indeed something that Quinn might be able to shed some light on, given that it had happened not too far away. “He’s gone missing Quinn,” he shouted across the lumbering beasts. “Somewhere not too far from here I believe. Stamullin – do you know it?”
“I know of it.” Quinn shouted back. “It’s still a fair ride from here, and I’ve no dealings with anyone in those parts. What was he doing out there?”
“Learning what he could about a Jeremiah Wilson at my request.”
“One moment!” Quinn set about chasing the last few stragglers through the gate. Once on the move, the cattle knew to head straight for the byre and their feeding troughs. Quinn walked up alongside Titus again and they closed the heavy wooden gate across the field entrance. “Now that’s a name I do know! And a right bastard too I can tell you. What business could you possibly have with him?”
“I’ll be honest with you Quinn, it was business unrelated to my surveying work here, but there are aspects to it that I can’t speak about. I believe this Wilson man was given an instruction to do me harm by a lawyer in Dublin, and Flitch was learning what he could about why and how he might do this. I’m afraid harm has befallen him instead.”
“I won’t ask your business if it’s private to you Titus – you know that. Nor do you have to fear that anything you tell me will go beyond myself and the cows here. But if your man is in trouble and I can help, don’t hesitate in asking.”
“Your son Jack has been doing just that. In fact he ended up in Newgate prison last night for his sins. Don’t worry! He did nothing wrong and no charge stands against him. I’m afraid he’ll be less than forthright in explaining things either should you ask him though. My private business involves him too and he’s also sworn to secrecy.” Titus looked sheepishly at Quinn as he spoke. It is not every day that you must tell a man concerned for his son’s safety to disregard the peril he is in, but Quinn just nodded.
“Jack’s a man now, and responsible for his own affairs. I’ll honour your request not to interrogate him for any information he is constrained from divulging. But as a father, I hold you responsible for his safety Titus.” He looked hard at Titus as he spoke.
“Thanks Quinn. I swear that nothing has been more pressing on my mind these last few days. But I can see that Jack is a resourceful lad, and with the wits of his father too. He’s a credit to you Quinn.” He then gave Quinn the barest outline of events relating to Flitch, and asked him if there was a connection that he might know of between Jeremiah Wilson and the Earl of Drogheda, Henry Moore.
“That Wilson character is a Moore man alright. The Earl appointed him magistrate last year. The little runt has barely his letters so it wasn’t for his academic and legal abilities he got the job I can tell you. He’s been systematically working his way round the whole locality since then sniffing out any farmer who may owe money to another. From what I understand he induces the creditor to take the debtor to court and then as magistrate forecloses the farmer’s holdings to ostensibly pay off the debtor. The land is held as assurety by a third party, the Drogheda Bank. Guess who owns the Drogheda Bank.”
“Moore?”
“The same. Lately they’ve been getting even bolder and the bank has assumed the debts itself, issuing its own private prosecutions against the poor unfortunates who have fallen on hard times. That way they get the land outright and not just as assurety. God knows if he isn’t pulling the same trick elsewhere but little by little he and Wilson have amassed quite a sizeable bit of farmland round here. Thank God I owe nothing, yet, but I’m telling you that bloody embargo on trade with England is going to drive many to the wall before long, and me too eventually. Without that market we’re all heading straight into the clutches of the likes of Moore and his cronies.”

This was an aspect to events that Titus hadn’t thought about, and a crucial aspect given the urgency with which Arran and his allies wanted to wrest total control of affairs back to Dublin. Now he could see where the urgency lay. This had less to do with religious tolerance or intolerance, and a lot more to do with controlling the country’s assets – presently being squandered through the mismanagement and downright corruption of which Moore and his associates were a prime example. Titus was sure that Moore was not the only one endeavouring to profit from the country’s plight. He was beginning to realise now how Arran identified his enemy.
Quinn leaned his elbows on the gate and turned his head slightly towards Titus. “I assume you have a good reason for believing Wilson and his lawyer friend meant to do you an ill service? You may not want to tell me why, I understand that, but I’d advise you to be wary of that man. His sort are ruthless, and indeed wouldn’t be above murder I dare say if they found an obstacle in their path, even one who enjoys the patronage of Dublin Castle.”
“You’re nearer the truth of it than you might know. Still, it would be nice to observe the man, Quinn. From what you say, it’s not just me that would rejoice in his downfall. There has to be some chink in his armour that we could exploit to fell him.”
“Well if it’s observing him you’re after, you’ll get a fair chance to next Sunday. He’ll be in Laytown for the races no doubt. Half the county will be there.”
Titus asked Quinn what these races were, and as Quinn explained, the germ of an idea entered his mind and quickly grew into a notion of a plan, the more of which he thought about, the more of which appealed to him. These men were operating their dastardly schemes with impunity only because their social rank allowed them to do so outside the normal legal strictures that prevented their victims from retaliating. But more than one could play at that game, and those that feel they can work their devilment with impunity are least likely to be on their guard should they be confronted with a guile equal to their own. ‘There’s more than one way to skin a cat’ was a phrase his father was fond of quoting, and this cat, the more he thought about it, was there for the skinning.
“What if Wilson were to be disgraced in some way? Would that be of any use to the farmers around here in regaining title to their land?”
Quinn laughed derisively. “It would have to be some disgrace, Titus! He enjoys great protection from Drogheda.”
“What if the disgrace implicated Moore too?”
“What are you thinking, man? To fell a rotten old tree with roots as deep as Wilson you need more than an honest saw. Bloody gunpowder more likely! But yes, I would agree with you. Moore’s need for the land that Wilson has swindled into his possession is not as great as other ambitions he nurses, I’d fancy. If Wilson were embroiled in a scandal that threatened Moore’s standing, I dare say he’d be more open to righting the situation quickly, even if it meant ditching his agent.”
“I’ll tell you what, Quinn. Give me time to run over a few things in my mind, but I might have a favour to ask of you tomorrow if I may. If some contacts of mine in Dublin agree to what I am thinking, then I and they might be closer to achieving our own aims, and you and your neighbours might be rid of Wilson for good.”
“Sounds fine to me Titus – I assume you’re not planning on shooting the weasel with that pistol you borrowed?”
Titus smiled. “No, but if things go to plan he might see shooting as a kinder fate. I may be able to get my hands on just that gunpowder you mentioned!” He grew serious. “But I will need the deeds to your farm, Quinn”
“Oh?”
“Just for an afternoon, if my plan is workable.”
“And if it is not?”
“You lose your farm.”
Quinn leaned on the gate and stared out at the field before them for a few moments in silence. Then suddenly he laughed aloud.
“You are right, Quinn. Sorry, my idea is ludicrous.” Titus said resignedly. In his enthusiasm he had not appreciated the magnitude of what he had asked his friend to risk.
But Titus had surmised the wrong reason for Quinn’s mirth. The old soldier’s crafty mind was at work also. “Maybe so my friend, but then so are their own schemes when you look at them too. As are the politics that give them the freedom to exercise them, and will make the deeds you speak of worthless documents soon enough. Maybe such a ploy is the only way to trap a bastard like Wilson. I’m interested, Titus. Tell me more about your plan.” Quinn smiled.
“Now tell me more about these races.”

One of Cuffe’s men, an eager young lad called Lynam, was dispatched to Dublin that evening with a message from Titus in his pocket. Late that night, on a fresh horse, he returned with two documents for the mapmaker. Titus read both with satisfaction and retired, mentally noting that Cecil Bambrick deserved at least a bottle of the finest claret for his help. The next morning he drew Quinn, Sarah and Cuffe to one side and explained the plan that he had devised. Cuffe laughed aloud on hearing it, and said that it was worthy of a chapter in Machiavelli’s “Prince”, and that his grey mare LaMancha would be ideal for the task. Sarah and Quinn looked dubious however. “Do you think he’ll fall for that? When it’s all set out bare it looks very much like a trap that even a child would spot.” Sarah asked.
Quinn also expressed reservations. “I share the young lady’s reservations, and forgive me if I set yet another fly in the ointment. We’re relying on the fact that Wilson doesn’t know me too well, or at least my character. I don’t know how astute he is at researching his potential victims, or even if I am one yet. He may never have met me, but he may know more about me than our subterfuge gives him credit for.”
“He’s never met me either, maybe I’m the man for the role.” Jack had arrived and overheard his father’s comment. “I may not know what you’re hatching exactly, but if it’s Wilson you’re after, count me in.”
Titus had excluded Jack from his deliberations only because he reckoned that the boy deserved a little more time free to rest from the intrigues and dangers to which his activities had already subjected him. He hadn’t counted on the buoyant nature of the lad it seemed. One night’s rest after being sprung from Newgate Prison and he was as fresh faced and willing as the boy he had met in the doorway of Trinity College those four mornings ago.
“You’re a bit young for the role we’re discussing Jack,” Titus said, “but if you’re mad enough to stick your neck on the block again we’ll find something for you to do!”
“If it means we nail Wilson and find your friend Flitch just say the word.” Jack was serious now.
Titus wished he could share Jack’s optimism with regard to Flitch. “Please God we will do both, but let us concentrate for now on how we cast our net before we even anticipate what we might catch.” He turned to his old colleague. “Quinn, there is another fly in our ointment, I am afraid. Maybe you can help me?”
“Of course.” Quinn had been staring hard at his son, and broke his gaze to answer Titus. At first Titus reckoned that Quinn had been silently reproaching his son for his reckless willingness to become involved in their dangerous scheme, but he quickly realised that his friend’s look was more one of wonder rather than rebuke, almost as if he was regarding the lad for the first time and liking what he saw. It seemed that it was not only Titus who marvelled at the young man’s resilience.
Titus described his problem. “I at least will not be known to the people whose hospitality I am about to hopefully impose on, so I am not anticipating any problem there. But these are rich people, landowners indeed, and I am afraid probably the very people I will have to deal with in my surveys quite shortly. Were I to be recognised subsequently it might lead to the undoing of all our work.”
“And of you,” Sarah added flatly.
The thought had not escaped Titus. “Indeed, but there may be a way around it. I will need some form of disguise.”
He had not expected an instant answer to his dilemma, but the silence that ensued was quite discomfiting. He himself had racked his brains already over the matter, but could arrive at no solution that did not seem either ineffective or just ludicrous – either option a guarantee that their plan could well fail. It seemed that the same realisation had just occurred to his companions.
Eventually it was Quinn who broke the gloomy hush. “You will be a lawyer for the day, is that not right?”
“Aye.”
“Then I might have just the thing to set off the effect.” He coughed, and his frown suggested that he was none too pleased with his own suggestion even as he made it. There then followed a dramatic pause as everyone waited for Quinn to continue, but it soon became apparent as his features switched from embarrassment to resolution and back again that the drama, if any, was being played out in the man’s mind as he at once regretted his suggestion, while at the same time knew that it now must be completed.
Titus opted to prompt Quinn for the conclusion rather than wait any longer for it to arrive of its own volition. “Being? I need all the help that I can get.”
In the battle playing out in Quinn’s mind embarrassment had by now won the day, and his beetroot-red cheeks looked as though they were about to ignite. Suddenly he adopted a defiant expression. He purposely met the eye of everyone in the room, who up to then he had been so studiously avoiding, and his voice raised a notch. “You understand that it is not mine of course.”
Titus knew that his impatience was shared by all the others and voiced the obvious question on their behalf. “What?”
His friend’s defiance had evaporated again. He shifted uncomfortably on his chair and coughed nervously before he spoke. “Mind you, it is now, though I’ve never used it of course.”
“For God’s sake man, what?”
“A peruke.” Quinn blurted out the word as if it caused him great pain. For a moment there was a stunned silence in the room, and then, as the innocuousness of this revelation struck home, a loud peal of laughter, most raucously from the younger men. Seeing one’s elders squirm at that age is entertainment enough, and when the show contains such splendidly comic script, then it is rare entertainment indeed! So funny did Jack find the spectacle of his father that he eventually slid from his chair in his mirth, the thud as his arse hit the floorboards merely sending him and his companions into even more paroxysms of delight. Quinn himself even managed a smile.
Titus, however, knew just why Quinn had been so patently shamefaced, and he could not resist relating it, once the mania in the room had run its course and he could again be heard over the bedlam. “Is this the same man who in the past has told me in no uncertain terms that if ever he saw me wear one, he would shoot it to smithereens, whether my head was in it or not?”
Quinn merely nodded sheepishly.
“Or who has told me on so many occasions that the words themselves, I am sure, are as embossed on my very brain as a jeweller’s stamp, that he would feign cross the street rather than share a footpath with - and let me quote you from memory - ‘an excuse for a man with the mind of a small vermin who sees fit to clothe that mind in kind’. Am I right, Quinn?”
Quinn nodded again, a rueful smile on his lips.
“Or who has said publicly on many occasions, and devil may care if others saw it as treasonous talk or not, that he can fault the Stuarts on nothing, save for their making popular the notion that a man might improve his looks by transforming his head through artifice into a gorilla’s backside?”
“Enough!” Quinn roared in mock anger, both to cover his mounting embarrassment and to drown out the hilarity from the small group in his kitchen that was threatening to return to the manic peaks it had scaled a few moments before. “Yes, yes! My views on the hideous things are well known, I admit! But this one is not mine, as I have already said.”
“Oh? Who’s is it then? Are you minding it for someone?”
This drew a titter from the others, and Quinn seemed relieved to notice that his value as the comic turn was apparently on the wane. He waited until quiet returned, and then spoke in tones so oozing with reason and measured calm that it was obvious he hoped by contagion to infect his companions and return the entire room to such rationality. “No, Titus, not quite. I will tell you later how I have it. But that is not important. I know, for all your poking fun at me, that your views on the things are not much different to my own. That makes it a perfect disguise, in my book. The damned things do transform the features, you must admit, and there is little chance of you ever repeating the transformation in public again!”
“Sorry, Quinn. And thank you. You are right of course. I will be a gorilla’s backside for the day, and revert to being a mere ass afterwards.”
Quinn grunted approval, though left it unsaid whether it was for Titus’ endorsement of his suggestion or for the mapmaker’s self-disparaging assessment.

There followed some discussion of what to do should things not go according to plan at the races. It was a short discussion. The more they contemplated it the more they realised that they were embarking on an ‘all or nothing’ gamble. Unless it all proceeded as hoped, there was really no option but to abandon it at the point that it failed, and hope that none too much damage had been caused by their actions. So severe could that damage be that they chose simply not to consider it, and Titus instead steered their talk back to the subject of the horse race itself – the crucial component of his strategy on the day. “There is one more thing. Captain Cuffe has, as you know, volunteered the services of his man Lynam as our rider for the day on the grounds that he knows the horse, and that he is a stranger to these parts.” He noticed Jack’s ears perk at mention of a horseman. “But I am not convinced either of the lad’s proficiency on a horse, or that he might not indeed be putting himself at risk of detection. There will be many army men at this meeting, we can assume, and not all on duty. It would be ill fortune were he to be spotted by someone who has shared a past posting, and disastrous too.” He nodded across the room to where Lynam sat against the window. “I have spoken to your captain, Mr Lynam, and we feel that we may have a better solution to this dilemma. I am afraid that we may not require your services as a rider after all.”

He had expected Lynam to protest such a late change in the plan, especially as he knew from Cuffe that Lynam had been delighted when told the role he would play in their charade. Instead, Lynam simply nodded in reply. Maybe he had had second thoughts after the first flush of enthusiasm had waned, or perhaps his respect for his commanding officer meant that he accepted even a change of mind from his captain without demur, but Titus was relieved to find that he had not seemingly publicly disappointed and possibly humiliated the poor lad, which had been his biggest fear. However time was running out, and this change in their plan would have to be implemented now, or not at all. He turned to Jack, whose undisguised look of gleeful anticipation made his heart sink. Maybe this would not be so simple a change to announce after all. “Eh, yes, my friend, there is something that you can do for us, and right away if possible. Can you contact your college mates – the ones we met the other night? I’ll put the carriage at their disposal. Especially your friend Sam. He rides well I gather?”
Jack’s face was a picture. It was clear that he had assumed that his own services as a horseman were about to be requested and his disappointment was palpable. But no sooner had his features fallen than a wicked gleam entered his eye. He had just realised the logic of Titus’ request, and just as quickly had he realised that he was being invited to have some excellent sport with his best friends at someone else’s expense, and all in a good cause to boot. His gloom, to Titus’ immense relief, turned to rapture in a moment. “The Duffers? Yes of course, I dare say as it’s Easter they’ve nothing else to do with their time and no money to do it with either. And if it’s a chance at the Laytown races you’re offering Sam then you can take it he’d walk on his hands to get here if he had to. Yes Mr Perry, you can count them in too.”

While Jack was in Dublin collecting his troops, Titus and the others ran through their plan yet again in detail until they were reasonably sure it would work. Cuffe not only agreed that Lynam should be spared the requirement to race and that his steed be loaned to a stranger, but indeed he seemed the only one who was openly confident in the success of their plot, though even he jokingly suggested that it might be due more to having been standing near too many explosions recently, and that his poor brains might still be addled. By afternoon however all agreed that it could not be perfected more. It was decided to put it into action the following day.

After lunch, Titus and Sarah walked together down to the strand at Gormanston, across the headland of Balbriggan. Bran had invited himself along and ran excitedly ahead of them. It was a fresh day and a stiff breeze blew in from the Irish Sea. Having resolved to return Sarah’s warmth, if not her affection, Titus was pleased to find her hand resting on his arm as they walked across the grass of the headland down to the strand. Though it signalled probably nothing more than her desire to keep her balance down the sharp incline towards the shore, he admitted to himself that it felt natural and good, and he found his mood lifting. He asked her if she was nervous about the role she was about to play in his ploy to topple Wilson and she laughed.
“I only hope I am as competent an actress as the role requires! But no, Titus, I am not nervous. I am delighted actually. It seems since I met you that I have done nothing but meekly accept aid and succour from you and your associates. This is an opportunity for me to contribute for once a kind of repayment indeed.”
“There is none required. You know that. But it is good to have you aboard in our venture, I assure you.”
“And the other venture?” She smiled. “Have I a role to play in Ulster besides interpreter? I fear that even if the service is required you will quickly have little need for me. There are only so many times you can hear ‘no, he is not here’ in Irish before the phrase no longer requires translation!”
Titus laughed, but he knew her point was valid. “Even if it’s true that Ormonde is not to be found there I still don’t think I can change my plans.”
“I’ve been thinking that too. Once you and Quinn organise your work force you’re committed for months at least. Unless you devise some more meaningful role for me, I am afraid that tongues will start wagging Mr Perry.”
“I had thought of that Miss Reilly, and I assure you I would not knowingly expose your character to slight or slur.”
“Then unless you make history by employing the first female surveyor you will have your work cut out for you. You know what people are like!”
Titus had indeed been thinking of this dilemma already. His initial impulse to take Sarah to Ulster had been for her own protection, but now, despite Lady O’Carolan’s encouragement, the pressing need for such protection had all but disappeared. “Briar’s defection means that the threat to your life Sarah has been hugely diminished,” he said, “as I’m sure you’re aware. And your journey to Ulster was originally planned to that end – keeping you away and safe from the bastard. You’re welcome to quit this escapade any time you think it’s safe, though I assume you’d have no hesitation in acting on that prerogative in any case.”
“Maybe so,” she agreed. “But Briar is still at large and so are the men who murdered my father. Whatever about the peril I may or may not be in, it is still my intention to pursue them and bring them to justice.”
“And you think remaining part of my mission will help you still to that end?” Titus was afraid to express his apprehension that she would attempt to achieve that end on her own. Brave and headstrong as she was, he knew she would do just that if she had to, and in fact might well see a lengthy stay in Ulster as an impediment to her task. It made him realise just how accustomed he had grown to the notion of her accompanying him on his trip, and he admitted to himself that his desire to have her near him went beyond mere worry for her safety.
Sarah grew silent. “We’ll see,” was all she said.

The strand at Gormanston was the start of a long stretch of beach that skirted the coast all the way from there to the Boyne estuary and the city of Drogheda some miles away. Here it seemed, at the cusp of land and sea, that one could award oneself a brief respite from the immediate travails of one’s land-bound existence and its incessant demands on one’s wariness and time. Merely stepping across the divide between grass and shingle seemed to signal a shift in humour for the better, and a detachment that lent itself to better regarding one’s condition. When they clambered down onto the sands Sarah’s mood seemed indeed to lift somewhat and she ran to the water’s edge where Bran stood barking at each cascading wave that crashed against the stony strand. As Titus caught up with her however he saw that her good humour had been fleeting and that as she stood stock still by the lapping tide her eyes had grown suddenly red and tearful. She stared out at Rockabill in the distance and he stood beside her for a while, unsure whether to interrupt her thoughts or even inquire as to what they might be. She resolved his dilemma by laughing apologetically and wiping a tear from her cheek. “I am so sorry Titus,” she said. “I must be terrible company today.”
“Not at all,” he replied. “You have been through hell this last week. I am amazed you have the grace to be as good company as you have been Sarah.”
She glanced up at him and then looked out to sea again. When she spoke her voice, like her gaze, seemed distant – as if she was looking at something so far away that it was difficult to see in detail. “I was just reminded of something. When I was about seven years old, my father took me to Howth on business with him one day. It must have been the first time I was outside the city in my life. First time I remember in any case. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm as I recall it, and he took me down to the beach for a while to watch the ships sail in and out of the harbour there. For a moment I was back there again with him. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Titus assured her. “Believe me, if you have happy memories of those you have lost, you’re doing them a great honour indeed by sharing those thoughts proudly with others.”
“Do you know what he used to say?” She smiled. “Sally, he used to call me when I was little. ‘Sally,’ he’d say, ‘when you grow up be a pirate like Gráinne Mhaol.’ That day in Howth he pointed out a beautiful galley that was plying her way out beyond Ireland’s Eye. ‘Get yourself a ship like her and sail the high seas my girl.’ He said. ‘See the world. You’ll find it’s a much bigger place than you ever could imagine.’”
“You didn’t follow his advice then?” Titus asked.
She smiled again. “Even when I was older he’d taunt me with it. I think he had a real fear that I would grow up with a narrow parochial attitude to life, as he called it. If I ever said something presumptuous or silly he’d say ‘Get on that bloody ship, for Christ’s sake girl. When you come back, then tell me if you think the same!’ It sounds stupid doesn’t it?”
“No – it sounds to me that I have him to thank for the entertaining and forthright person who stands next to me. I only wish he were here myself, so I could do just that.”
“Thank you Titus. I think he would have liked you a lot too.”

They turned and walked back in the direction of Quinn’s farm, Bran reluctantly in pursuit casting furtive and longing glances back at the white horses on the ocean. With effort they clambered up the grass bank to the fields above. Just as they reached the crest Sarah held him by the hand and arrested his progress. “Thank you,” she said almost in a whisper. Before he could even think of a reply she turned her head abruptly and cast an almost inaudible oath to the waves and then equally abruptly set off apace, her hand still in his, dragging an astonished and confused mapmaker in her wake.
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