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  Xartis Psyxis - Chapter 14 "Awakening" (part 1)

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Nobiles Barbariæ

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Join date : 2011-12-25

Post Xartis Psyxis - Chapter 14 "Awakening" (part 1)

And nor did his mood rally much over the days ahead. It was normal in matters of crimes such as treason for the arrested party to be tried in a place well removed from the area in which the crime was purported to have been committed. Such was the nature of sedition, and the nature of the testimony used to prove it, that it was considered in the best interests of everyone that the trial be conducted in a locality removed from the milieu of deceit and threat in which the seditionist operated, and where his influence might still be exercised over the minds of those who stood to testify against him. In this way, it was argued, justice could best be served. But Cuffe quite quickly learnt that this would not be the case in the charge against Holly, whose trial was set for the courthouse in Armagh. To a gloomy Titus this meant only one thing, the prosecutors were convinced of their success already and feared no intervention from opponents to their charge. Furthermore, the trial of Holly was to take place a bare fortnight from the date of his arrest, suggesting to Titus that the evidence required to convict the man had been amassed already. Sarah, who faced the charge of assisting Holly, would stand trial separately. No date as yet had been announced for the hearing but it would most likely follow quickly that of Holly’s. In the meantime both prisoners were being held in the Bridewell, and though no visitors were allowed, Cuffe had made it his duty to inquire after their status in person with sufficient regularity as to warn their gaolers that they too were under scrutiny. From what he could learn, it seemed that neither had been abused in confinement, and that Sarah had been afforded the civility of being incarcerated in a small furnished room normally reserved for the gaol’s more exalted guests. Titus had wasted no time in contacting DeLacey, and his reply had returned with equal alacrity. Sir John expressed dismay at Sarah’s arrest, though it seemed that this was prompted as much by the fact that the girl was privy to some of his plans as it was by concern for her innocence or well being. He promised that he would do everything in his power to see that the charge was dropped, but stressed again that, as with Holly, such serious charges carried too much political import to allow direct intervention on his part.

If Titus was gloomy, he could see that his associates were all the more so. Jack Quinn had openly wailed on hearing the news, and it had taken all Titus’ reasoning and brute force to stop the lad endangering his own life by marching down to the Bridewell that minute to attempt to free her. Cormac had all but collapsed where he stood when Titus told him, and had afterwards grown so sullen and morose that Titus genuinely feared for the old man’s health. In the few days since he had been informed, the big man had shrunk to a frail and stooped shadow of his being, and had taken to walking the countryside alone, shunning all attempts by the few souls who knew him here to share his grief nor even would he answer simple enquiry as to its nature.

In his enforced inactivity, which in itself was excruciating, Titus found himself reliving the last few weeks in his mind, and trying desperately to deduce what had happened to bring things to such a sorry and frighteningly unexpected pass. He had no doubts that it was his own carelessness that had brought this about as much as anything else. Sarah had told him that he was naïve, and she had been right. He had brought her here for her own protection, only to walk her directly into a doom as terrible as that which they had sought to avoid. The realisation of this was enough to cause him despair, but yet there was something arresting his abandonment to such absolute despondency. He needed to think, and think clearly. There would be time enough for despair later.

One thing weighed heavily on his mind and begged to be addressed. Whatever he had missed in the matter of Sarah’s activities since arriving in Armagh, he very much doubted that it was of sufficient seriousness to merit this reaction on the part of the authorities. Treason is a very public charge and draws much attention to its prosecution, including the eyes of the London court. Its political nature brings political scrutiny in its wake, not just of the alleged perpetrators and their actions, but also of those who level the charge. To take this drastic step and invite such scrutiny, the authorities in Armagh, in whatever corporate form they manifested themselves, had perceived a threat sufficient to risk such unwelcome attention. And unwelcome it would indeed be, if only half of what he had gleaned from both Holly, who stood accused, and Cummins, who stood accuser, had told him of what was happening in these parts. But yet they had taken that risk, and had wasted no time in doing so. He regretted not having spoken to Holly more over the last few weeks. Somehow he knew that the tailor could answer most of what he now needed to know. And then it struck him how fatuous had been his petty jealousy of Sarah doing just that. While he had waxed lyrical in praise of Cummins’ liberality and vision, she had indeed been consulting the one man whose perception of the nature of the place and its dangers at least had the authenticity of one who faced such dangers every day. It pays more for the man who is oppressed to understand his oppressor than the reverse. No one understands the true nature of hunting, his father used to say, better than the fox. It was time Titus sought to speak with the fox himself, and he hoped that he was not too late in doing so.

Firstly, Titus knew, it was necessary to understand exactly of what the authorities in Armagh were composed. This was a territory largely left to govern itself of late, and the military patrols, he had noticed, were shared by both crown forces and local militia, whose distinctive green tunics distinguished them from the men answering directly to Dublin. It had been this militia that had arrested Holly, though it was into the crown’s gaol they had delivered him. He remembered the surly captain who had impudently demanded payment for minding his equipment when they had arrived. It seemed a fair assumption that even if he had been nominally an employee of the Dublin government, he had most certainly been a privateer by nature. And so, Titus reckoned, could the rest of his colleagues. Such open insubordination cannot prosper otherwise. But every army, however corrupt, has a structure of command, and in a place like Armagh, where the normal chain of command would not be allowed run unbroken back to the Duke of Ormonde in Dublin, there would be someone to assume that role, though not necessarily in as public a manner as one appointed by Arran or his father. If that person, or those people, could be quickly identified, the information might be valuable in attempting to fathom a way out of this perilous dilemma. He spoke to Robert Cuffe, who admitted that he too had been puzzling this, even before the arrests.

“The normal army, if such could be called normal, is easy to understand. Command rests with a General called Pugh, who is based in a fine estate in Bessbrook. He leaves it to his brigadiers to organise things though, and the man over the Armagh Brigade is called Edward Poyntz. The Protestant Militia is actually two small dragoons under one general command, though I’m buggered if I can figure out who or what that is. It seems the Presbyterians run their own, though it answers to the commander of the other, a man called Abel Smith. Who commands him is a mystery to me. I’m sorry Titus, but that’s as much as I know.”

“Robert, I need to know how these commands are co-ordinated, and by whom. I suspect that Cummins himself is involved but there must be others. If we can find out who they are, we can deduce their common characteristic, and therefore their aims. Maybe then we can counter them.”

Cuffe shook his head and made a low whistle. “A tall order. These men are not likely to advertise their influence overmuch. And I’m doubtful there’s much can be done to stifle their ambitions, whatever they are.”

“But we must try.” Titus was aware again of the realisation that had overtaken him in his first few days in Dublin. He needed a map in his mind, and these men, whoever they were, were the points on such a map by which he could plot his next course of action.

Cuffe agreed to do his best, though it would be guile on his part more than authority that would elicit any useful information where they were. He asked Titus what he proposed to do himself over the next few days, and his concern for the mapmaker was evident.

“Don’t worry Robert,” Titus answered him. “While you’re running with the hounds I’ll be running with the fox.”

Cuffe’s concern became more evident, rather than less, on hearing such a ‘reassurance’ from his companion. “You would be sorely missed in the world of cartography, not to mention property law and horse racing should you meet an untimely end sir. I pray you be wary.”

Titus smiled grimly. “I agree. It is about time I started to be careful.”

The first thing he did upon leaving Cuffe that morning, given that his movements were most likely being watched, seemed anything but careful. He went straight to
Scotch Street
and the house of Charles Holly. Since Sarah’s arrest, her dog Bran had become an inseparable companion and the mongrel ran to keep up with his pace as he strode down Armagh’s lanes to the tailor’s shop. Its excited yelps and barks at this unexpected piece of vigorous exercise put paid in any case to any hope for stealth, but then, stealth was not uppermost in Titus’ mind. He had decided that to all intents and purposes, if only to confound his watchers, his business here would proceed as if nothing had happened. Jack Quinn had been given explicit instruction to stay away from Armagh City and continue with heading up his team on the county border, for his own safety’s sake as well as for the success of the illusion Titus wished to create. In the meantime, Titus would continue to manage the venture from his room at The Inn, and at least appear to concern himself only with the demands of that role. He had placed an order for shirts and trousers with the tailor before his arrest, and Titus deemed that it was logical that he should now appear to be on his way to check on the progress of this commission, at least if he was asked. His real reasons were in fact twofold, and the one which pricked his conscience most was the commitment he himself had made to Holly that provision be made for his seamstress Jenny should anything happen to her master.

He knocked so hard on the door that flakes of lime detached from the whitewashed doorframe and sailed in a cloud to his feet. He knocked again, even louder, and rapped on the window frame. Holly had described Jenny as being both deaf and mute, but he was sure that when they had sat and talked in Holly’s kitchen that day, that the young girl had been listening to their words as she sat by the fire sewing, and was not just interpreting events through observing gesture or expression, as deaf people do. He hoped, if his intuition was correct, that it meant she could at least hear some sound, and not leave him overlong waiting at the door. It was intuition that he relied on too for presuming she would still be here. That she had no one else to care for her, and only her work for Holly to keep her from starving, seemed a fair assumption to make. Also, Titus reckoned, there was more to the relationship between the tailor and his seamstress than provision of employment. The evident fondness that they shared for each other had seemed genuine enough. If Holly was being held in the Armagh Bridewell, then Jenny would hardly leave the city willingly.

He knocked again but still no sound of movement came from within. The door was soundly bolted. Dust on the windowpane, and on the tailor’s dummy that still proudly advertised its owner’s prowess at his work, suggested that maybe his intuition had been wrong after all. The girl might indeed have family, or someone else to take pity on her plight. Or she might simply have taken flight, a not altogether impossible eventuality either, given the nature of events in recent days. He listened one last time to the ominous silence from within and turned away resignedly. Bran, who had sat obediently watching Titus’ percussive performance at the door, jumped up excitedly and ran away down the street, checking every few paces to make sure that he had guessed the direction correctly and that his entertaining companion was in pursuit. Titus was about to call the mongrel back when a hand deftly scooped the small dog from where it had last paused and it disappeared into a doorway. He hurried to catch up and found a woman standing just within the door, holding Bran and petting his head vigorously with obvious affection.

“Ah, isn’t this a wee dote?” she cooed at Bran, who struggled bravely to extricate himself from her formidable grip. The woman was used to hard work it seemed, with the arms of a wrestler and the build to match. “Is he yours, sir?”

“Yes,” Titus answered.

“Was it wee Jenny you’re looking for?” this spoken as before, cooed to the dog and not its master.

“I was.”

The woman still looked at the squirming dog as she spoke. “You’re known to take a wee drink in The Gullion. Will ye be there this evening?”

Titus found this style of conversation disconcerting, but found also that he had no option but to participate. The attention Bran was receiving from his abductor was obviously a ploy to divert potential eavesdroppers away from the true nature of the words to which the poor mongrel was being subjected with such enthusiastic, if affected, affection. “I can be, why?”

“Between six and seven. Just you. None of your friends.” She handed Bran back to Titus and patted the poor mongrel one last time heavily on its head. “Not even this wee dote, just you! He’s a lovely wee doggie sir, a wee treasure!” Still smiling, she closed the door firmly.

Bran had been much subdued by the woman’s muscular attentions and trotted much closer to his friend’s ankles as they resumed their walk along the street, keeping a wary eye open at every doorway for yet more strong armed abductors. Titus was equally wary. He felt as if every window held a watcher, and that every lace curtain that twitched indicated a surreptitious note taker, or a signal in code to fellow curtain-twitchers monitoring his progress. He headed for the market square, as much to immerse himself in the anonymity of a crowd when he got there as anything else, but as he approached the collection of stalls and barrows his eye was caught by something, or someone, over by the trough around which the dealers’ asses and horses were congregated. It was a beggar, resting his backside on the lip of the stone trough, legs crossed before him with his heels resting on the ground and his arms folded. The rags he wore were tattered beyond repair, and his knees showed through holes in his trousers. The sleeves of his tunic, or what was left of it, were rolled up to his elbows, and a large felt hat, held together now more by congealed dirt than thread, drooped forward over his face, shielding the beggar’s eyes from the summer sun. From beneath the hat sprouted a beard, as ragged as the rest of him, but tied at its end by a scrap of ribbon, which its owner had attempted to enhance in its decayed state by the use of an elaborate bow knot. Amazingly, given the distance between himself and the mapmaker it was this, the tattered ribbon above any other of the man’s features, that had caught Titus’ attention and caused him to stand transfixed, gazing at the beggar, who, it seemed, was equally engaged in gazing directly back at him.

So they stood for a minute or so, each contemplating the other, and as Bran sat obediently at Titus’ feet, waiting for his companion to decide on which direction to take next, a certainty grew in Titus’ mind that he knew this beggar. Indeed it would be hard to forget the man, though his appearance had much deteriorated since last they met. Then, as now, the man had been in repose. His heels had rested then on the ingle of a fire grate. His relaxed composure had then been emphasised by the twiddling of his thumbs as he spoke, now by the languorous manner in which those same hands patted his folded arms near the shoulder. Then, his scarred face had regarded the mapmaker with a mixture of contempt and interest with which Titus was sure it regarded him again from within the deep shadow cast by its owner’s hat. Without unfolding his arms the beggar ceased his gentle patting and raised one of his hands most subtly into a crook, with a long index finger beckoning Titus to approach him. Only an hour or so ago, Titus mused, he had told Cuffe that he was about to run with the fox. Now, most unexpectedly, the principle fox of all, Niall O’Neill, was inviting him to join the chase.

He walked slowly towards O’Neill and stopped momentarily as if to admire a stallion that had been tethered along with some lesser equine companions at the trough. O’Neill waited patiently, feigning indifference, until Titus had manoeuvred himself to within inches of the renegade Gael.

Then the beggar spoke, though the voice seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere and most definitely not from beneath the floppy hat whose owner still gazed at the milling throng around the stalls. “You’re in a right bind, are ye not?”

Titus merely nodded, as much to the horse as to the man beside it.

“You’re a divil for losing things, sir. For a man on a mission to find something, that is.”

Titus made no response, subtle or blatant, but continued inspecting the horse’s fine polished leather halter and saddle.

The beggar coughed slightly, and as two women approached within earshot, began whistling a whimsical tune that Titus remembered from his childhood in Shropshire, but which in these parts was anything but whimsical. He had known it as a comical love song sung by a lovelorn but stupid swain to a fine lady wondering why she did not return his affections. In Ireland it had a different sense entirely, and would forever be linked to the massacre of the Protestant planters in Ulster at the hands of their neighbours forty or more years before. Since then it had become a favourite anthem of the dispossessed Irish, and its notoriety had travelled further than the understanding of its origin. The name of the song was in the forbidden Gaelic tongue, but even in London it was understood what the words meant – “Only the lilies left standing”, a reference to the aftermath of a battle in which all the Gael’s enemies had been slain. To even whistle the tune “Lillurbulero”, as O’Neill was doing, was tantamount to treason in its own right and indicated the action of a rebel or a complete madman. Given O’Neill’s garb, he obviously reckoned that the latter interpretation would apply this time. He was correct. The two ladies shot him a contemptuous look and hurried past him, as horrified as if he had accosted them with a lewd gesture or remark. O’Neill sniggered softly. “No appreciation of good music, these upstanding city matrons. Now sir, would ye have a little something to give a wee beggarman?”

Titus shook his head and muttered that he had no coins about him. O’Neill laughed. “I’ll trade with ye sir. Never let it be said that I can’t be fair in my entreaties! What would ye like? Another wee ditty?”

“I thank you, but no. I am not sure if you are one to quite hold an audience.” He could not help but look nervously around as he addressed the ‘beggar’.

“I had no trouble with ye last time in that respect.” O’Neill laughed softly again. “Still, this is no auditorium worthy of my talents neither. I did not expect to see you out and about today so it is as well we confine the performance to where we arranged.” Titus’ puzzled expression met with another small laugh from O’Neill. “Did ye not get my wee message yet?”

“For this evening?” The strange encounter with the woman in Scotch Street was making sense now.

“Aye, and I think you might well be pleased with what I have to trade with ye!” Suddenly O’Neill’s manner switched from measured joviality to one of almost manic good humour. He jumped to a standing position, removed his hat, and with an exaggerated motion swept it courteously through the air to his feet and bowed. Two green uniforms were approaching them from within the crowd. Titus had not seen them there, but then O’Neill was obviously more practised than he in respect of vigilance. The leading soldier ignored Titus and addressed the ‘beggar’ harshly. “You, out of here or you’ll wind up in the ‘well!”

“Pray sirs,” O’Neill feigned humility. “It’s just a wee beggarman I am, take pity on a poor soul fallen on hard times not of his making. Could you spare a wee farthing for the price of a morsel?” Titus chose the moment to peel away from the trough and walk as quickly as prudence allowed towards the safety of the market crowd.

“I said, on your way!” He could hear the soldier bark behind him, and when he turned a few moments later he saw that both the ‘beggar’ and the soldiers had disappeared.

And so, with an entire afternoon to kill before he could make his next move, or see the next move be played regardless, Titus found himself back at The Inn in his room. Adams, the innkeeper, had kept a diplomatic distance between himself and the mapmaker since Sarah’s arrest. Titus had tried to forestall the man’s deductions and suspicions as soon as the news had been relayed to him by insisting that his assistant’s arrest was a total misunderstanding on the part of the crown, and that it was he, and not she, who should have come under suspicion for arranging to deal with the tailor in the first place. She had merely been in contact with Holly at his behest, and such would be explained to the arraigning magistrate as soon as representations on her behalf could be made when the man arrived. Adams had seemed to accept this explanation at face value, and had even been good enough to assure Titus that unless he was ordered to the contrary by the military, the mapmaker and his men were still free to use the inn as they pleased. He had even told Titus who the magistrate in question would be, a man called Pringle from Dublin, who was expected to arrive in Armagh on Friday next. Even though the trials of Holly and Sarah would be held in accordance with military procedure and not that of the King’s Bench, it was still necessary for a representative of the Law Court to validate the charges. At this point the man in question could, if he wished though under no obligation to do so, hear appeals from interested parties in each case. What Titus had told Adams was true. He had every intention of using that explanation of circumstances to so appeal, and hoped that whatever evidence the crown had against Sarah did not make a mockery of such a facile approach and merely implicate him further in their eyes. Still, not to even attempt to do so would be equally suspicious.

Adams had given Titus the key to Sarah’s room, as the mapmaker had said that he would need access to her documents in order to retrieve the bills, receipts and memoranda that would prove her innocence. And so it was in her room, situated to the front of Adam’s inn where the sun shone longest, that Titus sat at a bureau and perused its contents, with a strong shaft of warm summer sun illuminating the documents it contained, and mocking the fell humour of the man in its beam. Army men had been here already, and many of her letters had been removed, he guessed, while those that remained had been scattered hither and thither about the desk. To his relief he found some of the bills in question.

He and Sarah had been assiduously careful in their contacts with Holly while they had been here. Every visit of Sarah to the tailor was accompanied by a written document in Titus’ hand, instructing the tailor regarding fabric and measurements, or promising payment. Holly had reciprocated by receipting every document, or countersigning some to show that he had received and understood his instructions. Some letters were missing, especially those in which Holly had done more than merely sign his name, normally to ask for clarification of some point. The men who had arrested him were extra vigilant and cautious it seemed. Such missives might contain coded communications between Holly and Sarah, they must have reckoned. Those documents that appeared to relate to Titus alone, thankfully, had been left behind. Titus was still an agent of the crown, and those who had ordered the arrest had obviously been sure not to give the mapmaker a justifiable grievance to report back to his masters in Dublin. Other than these bills and receipts, there was little else of use to him that he could find. Any personal letters she had been owner of were gone, as were even her clothes and boots, he noted with amazement, when he looked into the wardrobe by the bed. The dress he had bought for her on that first day after they met would have been there, as would have been the gown that Grace Quinn had loaned her for their visit to Mellifont and had later insisted that she keep. Only one garment remained hanging within the musty chamber – the riding breeches and tunic given to her by Imelda O’Carolan and to which she had taken with such childish relish at the time. It was a man’s garment. Those that had emptied the wardrobe must have assumed that it had been left there by a previous guest of the inn. He took it from its peg and held it to his face. It smelled of the wardrobe’s must but the dank odourl was like a perfume to Titus’ senses, and for many minutes he simply stood there, sobbing quietly into its ancient fabric.

Back in his own room he sat for a while on his bed, Sarah’s riding jacket still in his hands, and attempted to compose himself for what seemed like the millionth time that week. It was essential that neither remorse nor fear cloud his judgement. The situation was dire, and equally dire and drastic methods might be needed to resolve it, if indeed resolution was possible at all. This was no time to feel sorry for oneself to the point of immobility. As if to reinforce this realisation as it occurred to him, he picked up the jacket and made to tidy it on his lap. Smoothing its body prior to folding it he heard the unmistakeable crinkle of paper. There was a note in the pocket, and he smiled. Even as he did so he realised that this was an odd thing to do. But it was not that he had found a document that the soldiers must have missed which gave rise to his humour. Another memory of Sarah had appeared in his mind’s eye, when they had first encountered the formidable Imelda O’Carolan on the steps of her house in Kinsealy. It had been the absence of pockets in Sarah’s attire then that had prompted the old lady to offer her this garment in the first place. It all seemed such a long time ago, when the threat to Sarah’s safety had been real but vague, and he had blithely assumed that his own and DeLacey’s arrangements for her protection would suffice. He had been guilty of two gross underestimations in that respect, the determination of her enemies to eliminate the threat she posed to their strategies, and equally her own determination to pursue her aims undeterred by threat to life or limb. In a way, what had come to pass here in Armagh had been inevitable given such determined opponents, and he had failed her badly in not seeing the signs in advance.

He gently opened the buttoned flap of the pocket and extracted the document from within. It was many pages together, and where it had been folded was charred, so he unravelled it with the utmost care and laid it out flat on the bed beside him. When he perused it, and recognised what it was, his heart skipped a beat. Then, as if being orchestrated by the gods themselves, at that moment the sun outside disappeared behind a passing cloud and the room, along with his humour, plummeted into darkness.

My beloved daughter,

You read this as I am dead, so allow me first to address your state of mind, which I hope has not been driven so by distress as to forget our hopes, the none of which have been diminished by my absence, trust me on this please. Though I may be departed, I am yet your father and you are yet my daughter. That which we shared can never be taken from either of us, as long as one of us can yet remember. That which we wished for will not be denied us by my absence now, as what we wished for exceeds that which benefits us alone. And all that we have endured has not been in vain, as long as one of us strives to use the knowledge of that hardship to our sworn aim. Just as my love for you speaks now from across that great divide of death and is yet as true as ever, so too is the truth of our ambition untainted by my demise. Remember that.

In the event that my death was caused by malicious act, then remember this also. Those who have declared themselves our enemies are people who see our weakness as their strength. They will see my demise therefore as a triumph of that strength and evidence of our weakness in the face of it. It is nothing of the kind, and this you must understand and believe with all your heart. What they see as our disadvantage, our mean and truncated voice and atrophied will, is but evidence of their own cruelty towards us, not of anything alack in ourselves. They therefore cannot see our real strength, at least not yet. So darling Sally, you must be strong, for your own sake and for that of your people. As I have instructed you from when first you managed your letters, our strength comes from knowledge, and knowledge in turn comes from many sources, but most especially the written word. The words I have written here will be the source of your knowledge, and therefore your strength, in what you have next to do. Use them wisely. Fare well my beloved daughter. It is time for you to board that ship, Sally. Its voyage complete, we shall meet again, fear not.

Your devoted father, Eoin Ó Raighilligh

James Friel, banker, Capel Street Dublin. Son of the late Simon F. Usurer contrary to law, receipts held by Sir Francis Plunkett.

Sir Francis Plunkett, Chequer Street, Dublin. Son of Sir F.P., adventurer and profiteer.

Joshua Billings, coach builder, Capel Street, Dublin. Member of the illicit militia known as “The Modellers”. Rooms used as meeting house for same.

Frederick Billings, plasterer, Aungier Street, Dublin. Brother of J.B. above. Rooms used as meeting place for “T.M.”

The list continued in this vein for several pages, in miniscule writing and filling every available scrap of paper, name after name from Dublin’s business community, and indicating what their known links were with the illegal gangs then springing up in and around the country’s capital city. Besides the Modellers, Titus learnt from Reilly’s list, there were other self styled ‘defenders of the true order’ as one of the gangs styled themselves. The ‘Barn Boys’ operated in the agrarian hinterlands to the south of the city, burning crops and setting fire to farm buildings belonging to Catholics, or even estates with a predominant Catholic workforce, such as the Fitzmaurice estate in Booterstown, which had been targeted several times in the last few years and with no one as yet indicted for the crime. The ‘Roundheads’ specialised in sabotaging the meagre fleet of the Catholic fishermen, one of the few areas of commerce where the Catholics still held sway, most likely because of the great hardships involved in executing their trade when compared to the richer pickings that could be gleaned from those trades reserved for their Protestant neighbours on dry land. Other groups remained nameless, but were nonetheless deadly for that, and what was obvious when one traced the known names through the strata of society that they represented, was that this was no haphazard series of attacks by hotheads fuelled by drink, as was often stated, but a concerted and organised enterprise in its own right. The names in the upper echelons of society that Reilly had listed were often bankers, or related to bankers, and this class, poised just above the merchants, was effectively a shield between the activities of the gangs and those who provided the funds to allow them to operate with impunity, the landed class.

It was all Titus could do not to groan audibly as he realised what this list meant. Sarah had lied to him when she had told him all those weeks ago that it had been destroyed in the fire that had levelled her home in Weaver Street. Worse, she had knowingly withheld the information that it contained from him when she knew full well how vital it was to the tasks that he had set himself, one of which was to find her father’s killers if he could. She had made no secret of the fact that this was her own stated aim too, but in keeping this list to herself, she had not only jeopardised the success of their shared aim, but had seriously compromised his own chances of succeeding in the other. It was a reneging of the trust that she claimed to have placed in him and a rebuttal to her stated faith in his methods, which he stupidly had thought offered her the best chance of success in what she hoped to achieve. There was no other way to describe it, but as a betrayal. He felt momentarily, in his fury, like tossing the list into the grate and completing its incineration, but reason stayed his hand, and his eye was drawn again to the parchment and its contents.

He glanced down through the long list, occasionally recognising a name he may have seen from a billboard above a shop, or one dropped into innocent conversation by Quinn or Cuffe, or indeed anyone with whom he had spoken thus far. If the list that Eoin Reilly had compiled was true, then what the Catholics faced in Dublin was more than antipathy to their ambitions. And if they were to realise their ambitions then the change required would run deeper than a mere shift in attitudes on the part of their neighbours. The same could be said in England of course, but in Ireland, and from this evidence in Dublin especially, the path ahead would be a violent one. The issue was one of prevalence, and neither side could prevail without the other firmly underfoot. If the ‘sworn aim’ that Eoin Reilly referred to was the elevation of his Catholic brethren, then it must also be the destruction of the existing society. And he had explicitly stated that this was his daughter’s aim too. Titus shuddered as he contemplated the charge that Sarah now had to face in Armagh Court House, and had to wonder if, after all, it was her own foolishness that had brought it about, and for good reason.

The last page, he noticed, had been written in a different ink to the rest, as if at a later time, or perhaps because Reilly wished these names in particular to stand out. He quickly realised that these were members of the highest strata of all. Top of the list was John Stafford, described as an alderman of the corporation and landowner. Next to his name ran a litany of evidence against the man; withdrawals of money from Burton’s Bank on Castle Street against sales of plots in the Liberties, all of which had been thriving business premises burnt to the ground just beforehand. There were larger withdrawals too, and again these coincided with increases of illicit militia activities in the same area. The deposits set against them were damning in themselves, showing as they did an escalation in rents from his ‘acquired’ properties well in excess of commercial rates and practise. The inference was simple, and Stafford would have a lot of explaining to do should this evidence and he ever be brought to court. Henry Moore, the earl who Sarah had charmed so successfully at the Laytown races, figured high on the list too. As his holdings on the north side of the river ate into the lands where, for centuries, Catholics had lived in virtual exile from their own city, it seemed that the man was not averse to a little acceleration of the process through the use of intimidating tactics either. The evidence against him was rather more circumspect; the extraordinary amount of evictions and arrests performed by a segment of the Castle Guard formed the bulk of it, along with coincidental donations by the earl to the upkeep of the Guard in question. The same area of Dublin produced several titled names on Reilly’s list, as men who held titular control over parcels of land hitherto seen as worthless scrub or marsh, were suddenly finding themselves sitting on potentially lucrative parcels of estate, and jockeyed to maximise these holdings prior to selling them off.

This reminded Titus of a remark that Robert Cuffe had made before the assembled guests at Moore’s banquet regarding the parcel of land called Pipho’s Lot, and he immediately scanned the list for mention of Jervis’ name, whose land it adjoined and who had been in competition with Moore for its acquisition. Surprisingly, it was not there. But in doing so, Titus saw one name stand out above the others, and one that he never would have believed possible. Either Reilly had been a madman and merely listed the name of every prominent person he could recall, or the letter that he held meant that Titus had been betrayed in a way far exceeding the betrayal of it’s author’s daughter in hiding it from his knowledge.

There, in bold letters, was the entry “Sir Richard Butler, Earl of Arran, Vice Regal Secretary and landowner. Son of Sir James B. Lord Lieutenant.” Next to it ran a litany of acquisitions stretching from Ormonde’s small plot managed by Jervis, right out to the giant Phoenix Park which Arran’s father had retained as a hunting field, and north to the barony of Glasnevin. And for each acquisition was the name of a previous tenant or farmer, sometimes several, forcibly evicted to make way for this construction of a plot which dwarfed all those managed by Jervis combined, and if the park were to be included, dwarfed even the city of Dublin itself.

Titus sat for a long time reading and re-reading the entry, though his eyes did not immediately absorb the words or his mind the sense of them. Instead the names ran like a chant in his brain, a monotonous madrigal of lives destroyed and livelihoods stolen, now synopsised as family titles, dates and acreage. O’Connor, O’Driscoll, Geraghty, McLoughlin, McMurragh, Murphy, Phelan, O’Shaughnessy, Moran, Cregan, Brennan, McGrogan, McGabhann, each name a man, for each man a family, and for each family a universe of expectations and dreams now dead or dying. Seven acres under tillage, three acres flax, fifteen acres under tillage, one acre scrub, two acres of potato crop, nine acres grazing, eleven acres fallow, three acres grazing; the numbers rolled together into a rhythmic plainsong which lamented the death of the hope-filled toil with which each acre had been tended. Furrier, smith, taverner, coach builder, farmer, linen maker, wax maker; the skills and trades on which so many had relied on for provender and a roof, now transformed into a dirge to their passing. And as the dirge played in his brain his thoughts took a different route. As if walking backwards through his memories he stepped like a phantom through the weeks and months that had led him to where he was now, and like a disembodied spectator to his own soul, looked back on himself with growing despair and disgust. Each twist and turn that he had negotiated, each mountain of comprehension that he had climbed, each river of pain across which he had laboriously forded were laid bare to his view, all together, as if from above. And he saw that they had been nothing of the kind. Where he had chosen to go, he had been led. Where he thought he had climbed he had been hauled like a tethered goat, and where he thought he had fought against torrential tides of adversity, he had merely been tossed and swayed by the wind. There was no journey, only a pathetic little man in a strange land, going round and round in circles, betrayed by his own trust in men who did not know the meaning of the word.

And then he realised – this is the way it had ever been, and suddenly in his mind he found that he was back in London again, as a young man barely finished a score of summers, his mind full of dreams of becoming a mapmaker of renown, his heart open to every suggestion of love and commitment. And for a while it had seemed that both his dreams and his heart spoke truly. He had found an apprenticeship with John Bennett on The Strand and within only three years had established a reputation for draughtsmanship and accuracy of detail, sufficient for Bennett to assign him those commissions which emanated from the firm’s most wealthy and prestigious clients. Another three years saw him reach the zenith of his career. Bennett offered young Perry a partnership in the business, a huge compliment to a draughtsman of a mere six years profession. Perry had accepted, and then had seen his name match Bennett’s on the firm’s bills, and on the brass plate that advertised their presence to the street. And all the time the business expanded, and so too it seemed did the young mapmaker’s potential for happiness.

He had fallen in love, or at least this time so it felt, after having already enjoyed the company of many young ladies on his meteoric rise through fortune in the great city. But this time was different. This time there had been no sudden infatuation or whirlwind-like rising of hope, only to be dashed when the winds died down and the ground loomed large, as had so often been the pattern before.

He could honestly say that he could never remember when first he had seen her - she had just seemed to grow into his world. In fact, such was not far from the truth of it. Mary Bennett was her name, daughter to his employer and partner, who Titus even now could still recall being no more than a child when she called to the firm on an errand from her mother, or to speak with her father. Sometimes they must have met in passing; Bennett’s house on The Strand was large, but had only one door to the street, so their paths must have crossed. But if there were such times, they had not registered in his mind or memory sufficiently to isolate one such memory as the first time he had actually seen her. There were the days also when he had been working intently at his drawing desk in the sunny south room for hours, oblivious to the world, only to be disturbed by a strange sensation and look up from his work to see her sitting in the window seat, gazing at him. He supposed he must have smiled in greeting, but she had most often run away, or smiled embarrassedly back and muttered a polite farewell. Or so he imagined, as he could not quite recall. Then, as his responsibilities in the firm grew, so did his absences from the house on the Strand, and he had quite forgotten that she existed at all. His days filled less and less with the execution of his draughtsmanship, and more and more with the entertaining of clients, who often entertained in return when he travelled to the estates that they wished him to map. It was at such a ball, held in honour of the opening of Lord Frobisher’s grand manse in Mayfair that he saw her again, and this time he well remembered the moment. How could he forget it?

As the evening had progressed, and Titus had grown weary of the flippant and shallow company that he found himself more often immersed in these days, but who were attracted to balls such as this as flies were to cowpats, he had formulated a plan of escape from the house in a manner which he hoped would go unnoticed. This method was made all the more necessary by the congregation at the orthodox exit of a small coterie of people who he would rather avoid – elderly dames who had stationed themselves at this junction purely to trap would-be suitors for their plain, or plain ugly, charges. This was a hazard at any such function and one that he had yet to negotiate successfully without causing offence through either speaking his mind, or not speaking at all, either course of action being taken in poor light by the sentinels of the doorway who often had reached the point where they could not take ‘no’ as an answer and, most dangerously of all, would willingly take false flattery as a ‘yes’.

Having visited the house many times in surveying its gardens already, he was aware of a small lane that connected the pantry, directly beneath the ballroom, to a small kitchen garden which lay secluded behind a high wall. Once within its boundary he could effect his escape unseen over the perimeter and into the safety of the Mayfair Fields. To reach this lane meant slipping behind a large curtain that conveniently shrouded a window right above where it ran, easily opened and large enough to step through without bending. The drop to the ground below was a mere four or five feet.

He had managed the difficult part, manoeuvring himself to a point beside the drape and then sneaking behind its cover as all eyes had been diverted by the commencement of a lively hornpipe, only to find that he was not alone. A young lady had already taken up residence there, and her look of terror and astonishment as he slipped into her hideaway had matched his own, or so he felt. He tried, by using his eyes to indicate the window, and with a nod towards the garden indicating his desire to escape, to assuage her fears and explain his presence, though even as he did so he realised that his gesture could equally be interpreted as having a more lewd meaning indeed. And so it seemed was how she had understood it. Her attitude switched abruptly from astonishment to annoyance, and he immediately attempted to correct her wrong impression through an elaboration of his earlier mime in which his thumb indicated the direction of his escape while two fingers imitated the motion of him running to freedom. He apparently convinced her, as her frown switched to a pained look of mirth, and she stifled her barely suppressed laughter with a hand over her mouth. Then, with a smile, she whispered “Find your own bloody way out Mr Perry!” It was only then that he had recognised her. The young girl who had flitted through her father’s business place, too shy to say hello and too callow to realise that her fumbled inarticulacy merely drew attention to her shyness, had grown a lot in the intervening few years. She had ‘the grace of a tall woman without the impediment of the height’, as his father would have said, and her looks had matured to a point of perfection. Judging by her last remark, her shyness had been overcome too.

While she had been whispering, his hand had found the latch behind him, and with a silent twist he had opened it and pressed the window outwards an inch on its hinge. “I am afraid the dance is nearing completion Miss Bennett,” he whispered, “and our cover will soon be discovered. Let us argue which of us originated the plan in more genial surroundings!” Without another word he had launched himself through the aperture and landed neatly on the grass below. His gesture to aid his fellow escapee received a snort of disdain from the prisoner still on the window ledge, and with a leap as graceful and svelte as a deer she joined him by the lane. Then, without even a backward glance, skirts hitched high the better to facilitate her sprint, she was off into the darkness of the kitchen garden. An astonished Titus paused almost long enough to be caught, the swathe of light that resulted from someone in the room above drawing back the drape and exclaiming that the window was open spurring him into rapid pursuit.

And so they had met, and in the long walk through the Mayfair and Soho lanes had fallen if not in love immediately, at least in thrall with each other, so much that they promised they would meet again, which they did, and again, until there was hardly a day went by in which no communication passed between them and in which they often indeed shared several hours joyful conversation and company. Titus had purchased a small lease on a house in Billiter Lane, and soon grew used to Mary’s presence there. She helped him to furnish it, and chose the drapes and tapestries with which he decorated it. She supervised the pantry, even to the point of purchasing supplies herself without his knowledge, and cooked meals for him when he returned from his work. Titus found more and more reasons to avoid those commissions that took him too far from this domestic haven, and even more reasons to spend time with Mary. They walked together. They dined together. As summer came, they hired coaches and went on excursions to the countryside together. And it was on one of these excursions, when a lame horse had necessitated that they stay in a country inn, that the inevitable consummation of their growing love and devotion occurred.

It had started with a misunderstanding on the part of the old innkeeper, who had mistaken them for a married couple upon their arrival and assigned them the one bed. Titus had tried to correct the old man’s impression, though in truth with only half a heart, and had been both thrilled and astonished when Mary had stopped his pleading with the old man, and taken the key to their room. There, in the rudimentary cot of a Windsor hostelry, had Titus and Mary discovered the true depths of their feelings for each other, and the heights of passion each aroused. He had vowed to be gentle and chivalrous, but she had vowed nothing of the sort, and so he had broken his word with abandon. It is said that in lovemaking, two can become one, but to Titus it had seemed the opposite. It was as if there were a thousand Mary’s and he was discovering, and absorbing, each one in turn. And he himself had grown diffuse in the act, so that he no longer felt bound by his solitary form, but too was expanded into a myriad versions of himself, each one with limitless potential, and each one ecstatically happy. They had lain together well after the hour when they should have arisen, and only were motivated to move from their cradle of self discovery by an angry rapping on the door by the innkeeper’s daughter, a formidable woman in both appearance and manner, who chided her father unmercifully for having admitted the couple, and almost spat at them as she took the money for the room and bid them good day without even an offer of breakfast. But this had meant little to Titus, whose ecstasy could not be breached by so sullen and direct an assault. He had ridden back to London on a cloud.

If ever a moment in a man’s life can be chosen as that fulcrum on which the span of his existence then balances, Titus knew now that his night with Mary in the inn was such. When they reached London he had arrived at Bennett’s to find his partner waiting for him in the presence of a lawyer, and was given a simple choice; sell back his share in the firm or face prosecution in court for having raped his employer’s daughter. It seemed that Bennett had long known of and resented Titus’ love for Mary, a woman for whom he and his wife had planned greater things than to marry a junior partner. Titus, in his happiness, had not even noticed. Nor had he noticed, as he spent less and less time on the partnership’s more prestigious commissions, that Bennett had not once rebuked him for his absences from the firm. In truth it appeared in retrospect that Bennett had regretted his decision to promote the young Perry almost from the moment he had done so. It had taken Titus a long time afterwards to understand all this; how Bennett had seen client after client insist that it was Perry who execute the commission and not he, and how these wealthy clients had even begun to consider the firm as Perry’s first and Bennett’s second. If Titus had been an ambitious man he would have understood this even before his employer, but in truth he had grown to hate these small surveying jobs around London amongst the estates of the nobility. They had taken him away from the woman he loved and immersed him in a society he had grown to loathe. Now, as far as Bennett could see, the impertinence of his young partner had exceeded in ambition that of merely stealing his business and prestige. It now extended to his kin. In later years, Titus would see that in some ways Bennett, despite all this, had in fact promoted and facilitated their relationship too. Mary’s visits to Titus’ new house, which might have been deemed offensive to more puritanical sensibilities, had been allowed to go unchecked and unhindered. He was now of the belief that Bennett had hoped for this day when he could confront Titus with the charge that he had, in fact actively encouraged it. His alacrity in having a lawyer and lawsuit at the ready that afternoon was evidence enough.

As for Mary, she was immediately banished to stay with an aunt in Bath, as far from London as Bennett could safely ensconce her. Titus only knew this much when an apprentice at the firm, who he himself had employed and who was less afraid of offending his senior employer than the rest, informed him that he had heard as much but knew no more.

Much happened in the weeks that followed his enforced dismissal from the firm, but all that happened mattered less to the lovelorn young man than that there had been no letter from her. Bennett had indeed bought his junior partner’s share of the company back from Perry, more to give the sheen of legality to the circumstances of his dismissal than to give succour to the young mapmaker. For Titus to continue paying for his lodgings and food it was vital that he invest this small sum immediately in property and equipment with which he could restart his trade, albeit for much reduced rates than he had hitherto been accustomed. But, in the absence of news from Mary, he went about this task half heartedly, and soon found that he could not do it at all, so great was his agony at her absence. At last he could bear it no more and so decided to seek her out. He paid off the lease on his property in Billiter Lane, packed his meagre equipment and belongings into two chests, and spent the last of his money on the hire of a coach to take him and his chests to Bath.

In a true nightmare, each horror merely presages an even greater one, until the mind feels that it cannot even bear to anticipate what is next in store. So the journey to Bath, and his time there, proved to be. Upon arriving, it had taken him several days longer than he had hoped to find the address at which Mary was staying. Even when he did so it was by pure coincidence, when he had overheard a labourer in a tavern speaking of a couple called Harris who were then entertaining a niece from London and for whom he had been working. When Titus had asked him to describe the niece, the labourer had said that she was a bit of a mystery woman, since he had spent two whole weeks repairing the roof and outhouses of the property, a handsome cottage some miles from the city, but had never seen the drapes of the niece’s quarters drawn open once, even at the height of the day. Titus had ridden to the house on the pretext of being a land assessor checking the property’s tax liability, and had met with Mrs Harris, a woman so like her brother John Bennett in London in appearance that there could be no doubting that this was Mary’s aunt. The lady had spent some time searching for a deed indicating the house’s acreage and hearth count, her husband being away on business, and Titus had utilised her absence from the room by making subtle enquiry with the maid regarding other tenants. From her he learnt that there was indeed a niece of her mistress lodging there, but that she and her master had both left that morning on a long journey. She knew no more.

And so Titus came to live in Bath for a while, regularly checking as surreptitiously as he could to see if Mary had returned. He had been fortunate to find work with a local surveyor called Gray, who was a civilian employed by the army to map defences along the Severn. Thus began Titus’ relationship with the army, one that paid little but often, and one that he used to avoid starving in the years to come. Many months passed before he realised that Mary was not ever returning to the city, and it was even more weeks before he could afford to make the long journey back east to London, a broken man in spirit, in heart and in finances.
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Xartis Psyxis - Chapter 14 "Awakening" (part 1)

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