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 Xartis Psyxis - Chapter 12 "A Victory" (part 10)

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nordmann
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PostXartis Psyxis - Chapter 12 "A Victory" (part 10)

Cuffe’s party, with its prisoner, had already left. Mrs Wilson’s carriage could be heard on its way down the dark drive, and Sam had readied their own carriage near the doorway. Without exchanging a word, Titus and Sarah climbed aboard and Sam set off.

Back at Quinn’s farm, Grace, who had heard the carriage approach, was waiting for them in the doorway. They ran to her asking about Quinn, fearing the worst, but Grace smiled and shook her head. “No, no, the old bull is living yet, don’t fret! He’s been asking to see you Mr Perry as soon as you get back.”

Titus thanked Grace and went up to Quinn’s room. A small candle, almost burnt to its base, flickered on a stick beside the bed, and Quinn, his shoulders and head rested against a mound of bolsters, sat half upright facing the door. His eyes were barely opened and he raised his uninjured arm feebly in salute as Titus entered. He beckoned Titus over – his voice was very weak.

“Wilson?” was all he had strength to ask.
“Arrested, just as we hoped. And yes, I would think Moore is more than amenable to striking a deal for his release. The last thing he wants is for Wilson to go to court and start elaborating in the dock on his master’s business practises.”
“A good night’s work then,” Quinn smiled feebly.
“Very good Quinn, though it means I must depart at once. Mr Lowe put in too public an appearance tonight for him to stay in the vicinity for too long. You have decided who will negotiate with Moore for the return of the deeds he holds thanks to Wilson’s treachery?”
Quinn laughed weakly. “Every second farmer around here would do it.” He drew breath painfully. “Ask Jack to go to the clergyman Hughes in Knockree though. He’s a good man, and Moore knows that he will handle the transfer of the deeds with discretion.”
Titus agreed and with an imploration that Quinn get some sleep, he quietly left the room. Exhausted, and without bidding goodnight to anyone, he retired to his own.

Monday morning dawned and Titus was woken by the noise of the cows being moved from the byre, the cowhand Liam’s low whistles plainly audible in the still morning air. It was already past time to get up, he realised, and he was glad to do so. It had been a fitful sleep that he had enjoyed in any case. Quinn’s injury had overshadowed his humour and his fears, and the foreboding had led to troubled dreams. He walked to the window and surveyed the view outside, facing west across the Meath plains to a dark horizon over which the first rays of a spring sun were already clambering. The day was thankfully dry, and its clear sky augured well, all the better for making good progress on their necessary journey later. Before going downstairs however he paid a visit to Quinn’s room to check on his friend. Grace was seated beside her husband, and probably had been all night. Quinn was in the same position as he had left him and thankfully conscious.

He smiled at Titus. “You still here?”
Titus smiled back. “I could say the same.”
“A scratch Titus. Just a scratch.”
“Well let’s take a look at the scratch then.” Titus and Grace gently uncovered the wound and he was glad to see no sign of infection. The blood had clotted well for the main part and the wound was bleeding now only a little. The skin, though bruised around the stitches that Titus had sewn, did not have the telltale green or black tinge that inevitably heralded what every surgeon dreaded. “I’ll talk to you again before I go.” Titus left Grace lovingly winding a clean bandage around her husband’s chest and shoulder and went downstairs.

His fellow conspirators had already assembled, but it seemed that worry and foreboding had not only visited Titus that night. Someone had boiled up a pot of porridge and they ate it silently at the table. Titus joined them, and told them that he thought Quinn looked as if he was over the worst. “And with the nursing he’s getting I have no doubts for his recovery!” He overstated his confidence but it was as much to reassure himself as his companions. Gráinne asked Titus did he really think so? “Quite so Gráinne. In fact your father is already planning ahead himself. He wants Jack to make contact with a minister called Hughes and explain to him that the farmers hereabouts wish him to represent them in a proposition to Henry Moore, Earl of Drogheda. If he’s amenable tell your father immediately Jack.”
Jack agreed readily. In times of crisis it was always best to have a task to set one’s mind to.

Jonathan and Sam offered to ride with Jack to Knockree, anything to keep their mind off the gloom in which they had all been cast – they would then ride on back to Dublin. Sam, now that his own role in the play had ended, seemed the sadder of the pair. Sarah, who had been eating impassively up to now, shot Titus a glance and indicated the downcast Sam with a slight nod of her head. Her concern was justified; the lad seemed very despondent indeed. Titus acknowledged her with a slight nod of his own.
“There’s no point leaving too soon,” he said aloud. “I doubt if the clergyman Hughes would welcome too early a social call. I’ve agreed to meet Cuffe in a while to collect Mr Quinn’s deed. Sam, will you come with me? You have a horse belonging to the man that I dare say he’d like back too. You can make the exchange in person. Then we can all set off together when we get back.”
Sarah asked Jonathan to give her a hand in the kitchen and allow Grace and Gráinne to keep vigil with Quinn while he rested. Jack said that he had better supervise the morning tasks in the farm, as his father would have done if he were up and about. They all agreed so to be ready to depart by noon. That gave Titus and Sam the best part of four hours to meet with Cuffe at the designated rendezvous.

Cuffe had quite wisely advised that he and Titus should not be seen if possible in the same company once their plan had been put into operation, and whatever the outcome had been last night, to keep that distance publicly at least until they were both well out of the area. They had agreed however to meet privately that morning at a place called Loughshinny, a small cove some miles south on the coast, to go over the events and make arrangement for their next movements. To get there, Titus and Sam rode along a bridle path next to the coast that crossed field and strand in a relatively secluded manner for many miles. Titus let his companion ride ahead for a bit, and when they reached a wide field with space enough to ride alongside, hurried his horse up next to Sam’s.

“I did not thank you Sam for your efforts last night before I retired. I do so now.”
Sam just stared ahead. “You have nothing to thank me for Mr Perry. I was as much a liability as a help to you yesterday. And worse for Mr Quinn.”
“Why, what did you do to Quinn?” Titus asked, though he thought he knew what was on the boy’s mind.
“I was so caught up in it, the fight in the field I mean – the man was shot in front of me and I didn’t even notice!”
“It was a free for all Sam. You did right to get out of it! Quinn will be all right soon enough and when he is he can tell you this himself. The battlefield is no place for mock heroics.”
“If you say so sir,” Sam answered politely, but Titus could see that he wasn’t entirely convinced.
“Look Sam, if you take responsibility for every bit of bad fortune that befalls everyone in your immediate midst, you’ll carry a larger burden than Atlas himself ere long! Look over there, there’s a man fishing with a line by those rocks. Let’s check with him on the way back. If he’s caught nothing we’ll tell him it’s your fault.” He rode slightly ahead of the lad and pointed into an adjoining field. “Hey! And these cows here. They’re definitely looking at you suspiciously enough. Yes cows! Look at him! When you enter through the slaughterhouse door remember that face! He passed you today! He’s the one to blame!” Sam had to pull up LaMancha to avoid colliding with Titus where he had stopped in the path. He looked at the cows, and then at Titus as if the mapmaker had lost his wits. Looking down, Titus spotted a freshly dead seagull splayed on the ground between them. He laughed. “Hah! Hey, squire seagull! Bad luck!” he called to it. “You’ve got master Sam Wilkins to curse for your fate. He rode through here today you know!”
“Stop it!” Sam said, but Titus could see that he was smiling as LaMancha stepped gingerly over the bird’s carcass and they drew alongside again.

“Seriously Sam, it’s of no help to anyone else in an enterprise if one member mopes too much about anything. You did sterling work yesterday both in the race and as our driver last night. You’ve a nice black eye as a trophy for your efforts too! When I get the chance, and please God it won’t be too long away, I’ll reward you myself, and not with a black eye either! But in the meantime, believe me, you have my thanks! And whether you choose to believe it or not - you have Quinn’s thanks too! What we all achieved yesterday was no mean thing, and he’ll be the first to let you know too, once he’s up and about again.”
“He is going to recover then? You’re not just saying it?”
“He’s already started, Sam.” The lad’s mood had begun to lift, as had LaMancha’s. Either she was perking up in the sea air, or she could sense that she was nearing her master. Titus saw a way to improve the spirits of both man and beats further. “Hi! I think we’re falling behind time here. Let’s see now if all that dashing about yesterday was just a fluke.” He pointed to a small headland some distance away on top of which was perched a tall yew tree, its shape bent grotesquely by the onshore winds that had buffeted it from birth. “LaMancha or no LaMancha, I’ll race you and her to that crooked tree – hi!”

Several sprints later, none of which Titus won, they reached the small cove at Loughshinny. Titus asked a much less dispirited Sam to keep watch on the headland as he forced his horse to negotiate the shingled slope down to the strand below. Cuffe was already there, standing next to Sam’s horse which he had borrowed in exchange, rein in hand, and looking out to sea. He turned when he heard Titus approach and waved in salute.

“Mr Lowe! Good morning!”
“Enough of that appellation, I’d be glad if I never hear the name again as long as I live.” He dismounted and led his horse across the stones to Cuffe. “I thought you were going to arrest Mrs Wilson too at one point. She’s some advocate.”
“More gumption than her husband all right. But what she said was true. It’s Moore himself that should be arrested, and quite a few others of that august company you dined with last night I’d wager!”
“In a way he has been, and just as effectively as if he’d been thrown in prison. Men like him work best behind the scenes. Throwing the light of day on their schemes like we did is enough to confound them.”
“Until they devise new ones. Still, his face was priceless when I mentioned that his precious Dublin property had been laid as a bet.” He smiled broadly at the memory. “How on earth did you get DeLacey to part with it for that matter?”
“Sir John is desirous to know what way Moore leans at the minute. Having a juicy lemon like Wilson to squeeze and find out what pips will squeak out in the process was worth risking a parchment for he reckoned. And as for the lemon in question, well, I would imagine Sir John will be able to extract quite a bit of juice from it before he’s finished grinding it!”

Cuffe laughed. “Well, my friend, it appears we got away with it, though at one point prior to Sam’s ride I fear I was recognised by someone in the crowd, I must admit, and for a moment, I’m afraid, I was beginning to doubt our sanity, let alone our chances! Especially when he told me that he was also to be a guest at Drogheda’s dinner too! Fortunately he is an old friend, and can keep things under his hat. It didn’t hurt either that I could give him some sound advice about where to place his wager too. Or where not to, I should say! Still, did I not tell you that your plan was worthy of Richelieu himself! Wilson is presently cooling his heels in the courthouse in Swords, along with the bookmaker Brennan. Good God, Titus, I threatened to shoot him myself at one point if he didn’t quit proclaiming his innocence to the world on the way down! If he reminded me that he was a magistrate himself once he must have done so a thousand times. He took it bad when I told him that the position was a gift of the Earl and I reckoned he wouldn’t be long in claiming it back again. He took it even worse when I told him that Swords was not his ultimate destination. At least he grew quiet after that. I’ve arranged his transfer to Newgate this evening. I’ll have to remain in Dublin for a few days of course until the ‘trial’. Speaking of which, has Quinn arranged for someone to approach Moore about the locals’ farms?”

Titus broke the news to Cuffe of Quinn’s assault and serious injury.
“Damn!” Cuffe shouted to the stones at his feet. “I heard the shots. I couldn’t see who had been hit and I was stuck at my station by the gate waiting for Brennan. What the hell was Quinn doing there? That was not our plan.”
“He went to create a diversion. Briar was attempting to stop you make your arrests, or so we figured. Quinn set out to thwart him.”
“Briar? I thought I saw the bastard earlier leaving the beach! He shot Quinn?”
“It was his gun all right. But Quinn says the man who shot him was an Edward Beresford. He had been with Briar all afternoon. DeLacey has already marked him out to me as one not to trust. Do you know of him?”
“Of him? I know him! He’s a well-known ‘name’ in Dublin. Rumour has it he’s lobbying for appointment as Lord Mayor. But why the hell did he shoot Quinn?”
“It may just have been in defence, though I doubt it. I have a bad feeling about those two being there yesterday. Briar knew Jack already, and he may have identified Quinn as his father. Beyond that I haven’t a clue what his motive might have been.”
“What are Quinn’s chances? I know what such wounds can do.”
“Better today than yesterday, but I’d say no more for the moment. Grace is a good nurse, and I saw no sign of infection, so I’m hopeful.”

Cuffe studied his boots for a moment. “Hmm. Well that gives me something else to look into over the next few days, besides helping Sir John squeeze some juice out of the Wilson lemon, as you say.” He looked up. “My business with Briar isn’t over and I’m sure he knows it too. I’ll see what I can do.” He patted Sam’s horse on its mane and the stallion whinnied in delight. It appeared that the steed had taken to its temporary custodian in the brief time they had been acquainted. “So, you leave today?”
“Yes – myself and Sarah alone. We’ll travel on to Armagh. The lads are heading back to Dublin. Jack is staying on to arrange Quinn’s middleman to deal with Moore and then mind the farm for a while. I’ll ask him to organise the surveying team that Quinn selected as well, and then meet us in Armagh.”
“That young fellow has undergone a rapid promotion in experience this last week has he not? I’m a good judge of men though. You’ve a stout corporal there.”
“Don’t I know it? His world has turned on its head since he met me but he’s managed to sail through it all. Let’s hope his wind keeps fair.”
“And ours Titus. Right, I’ll dispatch two of my men, Lynam and Griffin, to escort you to Armagh. The other, O’Toole, will stay with Jack Quinn for today. I recommend you take the road inland to Monaghan town and avoid Dundalk and Beresford’s patch nearby, at least until we know for sure what game he’s playing. You can stay overnight in Carrickmacross at the barracks there. Just tell Captain O’Halloran that I said so, and that his daughter Felicity and my sister Hannah are faring well in Esch, there is no need to worry. The war there has passed them by. He will be relieved, and it will serve as proof that you know me well. I’ll meet you in Armagh later. Let us say in five days time? Hopefully I’ll have what news there is of your secretary from Wilson by then, and any other juicy pips from the fruit as well! If I’m not there by Friday next, or if you need to proceed earlier, carry on without me and I’ll find you.”
“Thank you Robert. By the way, did you mean what you said last night in Mellifont about the lawyer MacCarthy, or was that just to add weight to your delivery, which I must compliment you on Captain. Did you ever consider a career in law yourself?”
Cuffe smiled wryly. “There is more subversion of the law done on the bench than by those in the dock. Wish me not a career in that sphere of criminality! I do indeed have a warrant issued for MacCarthy’s apprehension, but I have not the resources to do much about it. It will have to wait. At least I know where to find him when I need him - he can’t stray too far from the law courts in Dublin unless he’s as stupid as he looks. But don’t worry, I’ll make sure he learns that he’s under suspicion – it might make him a bit more circumspect in his activities at least.”
They talked a small while longer about Quinn’s chances. Cuffe was no stranger to such injuries himself and had been relieved to hear that it looked like Quinn’s wound was clean. “Still, he will be a long time recuperating, I would say. Give him my regards and tell him that as his self-appointed commanding officer and engineering hero I will not have my subordinates lying a-bed for too long! I expect him back amongst the engineering ranks as soon as he can hold a stave upright!”
“I will. Though I warn you, he was never one to follow orders lightly.”
Slowly they walked their horses back up the steep slope and joined Sam at the top. Cuffe saluted him, and Sam replied. So did LaMancha, with an excited whinny. “Mr Wilkins, it appears you have made a friend in LaMancha there. High praise indeed, she loathes a bad rider!” He patted the mare’s neck as he spoke.
Sam smiled. “She’s a pure joy to sit astride Captain Cuffe, and I know my horses. And she did her ‘party piece’ with much aplomb too Captain, just as you said she would! All I had to do was slap her twice on the neck as you said and she was down like a cannonball had felled her. How on earth did you teach her such a trick? Or why?”
Cuffe laughed. “There isn’t a mounted soldier in the world, Sam, that doesn’t teach his steed the value of a feigned injury, though in LaMancha’s case I think she knew it already. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to follow every command to charge!”
“Still, she’s a flyer Captain. I’d jump at the chance to race her again some time.”
Cuffe agreed. “I saw that yesterday. Well, please God, you’ll get another chance Sam. And in a race where you won’t need to ask her to stumble either. But for now I’d appreciate if you return my gifted young actress.”

Sam’s own horse shook its head violently when it recognised its owner, and when Sam climbed into its saddle it bucked slightly, as if pretending to dismount him. “If I didn’t know old Hornet here better, I’d say he’d rather stay with yourself captain! Are you sure you wouldn’t like to make the exchange a permanent one?”
Cuffe laughed. “No, Samuel Wilkins. I think LaMancha deserves a little quiet life just at the moment. It’s not good for an actress to receive too much adulation so early in her career. Don’t you think?”
Laughing, they rode together back up to the road. Cuffe handed Quinn’s deeds to Titus, and they said their goodbyes.
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