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 Xartis Psyxis - Chapter 9 "The Mustering" (part 7)

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Nobiles Barbariæ

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PostXartis Psyxis - Chapter 9 "The Mustering" (part 7)

A mumble of affirmation came from the assembly.

“Good.” His speech had been made stridently, as if it had been prepared beforehand, and Sarsfield’s almost smug appearance at its denouement, despite having being himself contradicted, somehow suggested to Titus that in fact the whole exchange had been rehearsed. But Hamilton had not yet quite exhausted his theme. He relaxed and sat back again into his chair, and in more measured tones continued his discourse. “Gentlemen, there is something else that marks this out as something other than a normal abduction, if such is a term one can use. I would welcome your views, as to be honest it defeats my own analysis. What I fail to understand is why we have heard nothing from his abductors. They hold an ace and they know that we know that.” He waited a moment for a response but none came, so he resumed his argument. “Lord Ormonde’s disappearance is forcing our hand. We must assume then that they know also that we must now accelerate our own designs. In fact we must even assume that such is their aim. So, we are like horses in a two-horse race that the starter announced before we were either of us ready to gallop, and the abductors must have wanted it so. But why?” Again he waited a moment, and again the ensuing silence forced him to continue. “Very well. I will hypothesise. Personally, I can see only one advantage to be gained by our foe with his tactic. We are struggling to get into our stride. We know that this foe is not the other rider in the race, so who is he? What does he hope to achieve? It can only be one thing; some type of reward for his aid in stalling the race so that we can regroup, or to make a similar offer to the other jockey – knobbling us completely for a small fee and thereby ensuring the other’s success. But of course for such to be true, we would either of us have been approached to this end already. Our intelligence suggests that our competitor has not, and we know for certain that neither have we. Our man holds only one card, but it is the trump in the pack. Yet he has not played it. So why has he not? Or is it perhaps that he can not? What do you think, Arran?”

Lord Arran seemed surprised at being addressed. He thought for a moment and answered the query with studious carefulness. “I tend to the latter conclusion, sir; that he cannot. Something prevents him. But I disagree that he is a foe outside our ken. I believe my father is in the hands of Presbyters, possibly even a private militia, which might account for their lack of skill in card playing. We had no wind of it coming, and we know that the abduction was executed with a good degree of planning and resources. That leads me to conclude that it was performed by an individual or unit operating independently of command, perhaps to curry favour with superiors. Such individual, or one of the unit’s number, had wealth sufficient to hire men and vessels in their venture. But I believe that he or they have bitten off more than they can chew, and have only belatedly realised it. They know not what to do with their prize as it is too strong a hand, even for them, to play now that they hold it. If they execute my father now, they risk the wrath of those on whom they might later have to depend. If they release him, it is at the obvious risk that he has deduced their identity, and will exact a revenge on them and their colleagues. In truth I feel that they of course know they hold a trump card, but it is in a game that their masters were not yet ready to play, and that they have been instructed therefore to sit on it.”
“Why Presbyters?” Hamilton was not openly critical of Arran’s theory, even though it contradicted his own, and seemed genuinely interested in Richard Butler’s line of thought.
“I can think of no other sect who would see any benefit in such a drastic manoeuvre. But we live in strange times. There are as many who hold grievances against what they think will transpire as those who resent what has. Perhaps, as you say, it is indeed the work of a lunatic who wishes to benefit from all this strife, both real and imagined. But I think not, for it would be a lunatic indeed who would then hold his prey captive in the heartland of those with whom he wished to trade, and such is where we think he is held.”
“I take your point, sir. And I take well the other that you made. There is still reassurance to be derived from the fact that we have not learnt of his murder. And where there is life there is hope, yes?”

Arran nodded, but before he could voice his agreement a loud voice from behind his back caused him to start and turn around. “No, we cannot do any such thing!” All eyes turned to the speaker, another man whom Titus did not recognise, and who had been seated silently throughout the meeting next to Patrick Sarsfield. Unlike his uniformed neighbours he was dressed in a sober suit with a dark cloak draped across his shoulders, such as was popular amongst well-to-do city folk and practitioners of the law. His pale face and hands, almost luminous in comparison to the weathered soldiers around him, spoke of a man whose life had been spent indoors, and his lazy, arrogant expression spoke of one who saw his opinion as equal or superior to any man’s, but most probably because it was ever voiced in the company of lesser lights who dare not rebut it. Unlike Sarsfield, he did not stand to address Hamilton, but instead leaned back in his chair, an evident satisfaction on his face that he at last had the floor. “I must concur with Mr Sarsfield’s scepticism, I am afraid. And it matters not a damn whether Ormonde was taken by Presbyters, lunatics or the devil himself. There is another conclusion to be drawn from an absence of news. We must accept the possibility that they have indeed overplayed their hand and lost their ace, but that terror of the consequences renders them dumb. Ormonde might already be dead and we should face that fact.”
“Always gloomy, Stafford, eh?” Hamilton remarked pointedly. “And crass as ever I see!”

Titus and Sarah both started at the mention of the name. Sarah and Jack, up to now, had been seated like two quiet and obedient children to either side of him, while their elders talked around them – which was in effect not too far from the truth. Titus had felt a little like that too, though his interest in the discussion had somewhat overtaken his initial awe at being in such august company and had even mitigated his affront at being so lightly dismissed by Hamilton, as he felt he had. Now his left shoulder was jarred as Sarah suddenly leaned forward to scrutinise the man across the room, and even without turning to look at his neighbour Titus could sense the hatred burning in her eyes. Surely Stafford noticed it. Several of the men had certainly noticed her gasp at the mention of his name. Yet the man kept his eyes arrogantly fixed on Hamilton as the emissary spoke.

“I disagree with you, Stafford. I think Ormonde lives yet. And whether you agree or not, you are not here for either your political acumen or your opinions, as well you should know. It would serve you better to keep your mouth shut and your ears open in this company, though personally I would prefer if neither orifice had bothered to attend. Do you understand me?” He looked around the room as if daring any man to gainsay him or speak in Stafford’s defence. None did, and Stafford’s eyes lowered as his face reddened, and he sought to recover his dignity by smiling conspiratorially at Sarsfield, as if his interjection had been a private jest that the two men shared. Sarsfield responded by pointedly pulling his stool away from his companion and leaning forward, arms on table, so as to effectively block the man from his view. Stafford’s arrogant demeanour evaporated in an instant, to be replaced by a sullen glare, and this he directed across the room to where Sarah sat. Titus could feel her bristle beside him, and was in no doubt that Stafford was enjoying her discomfort. He discreetly patted her arm to indicate both that he was aware of this and that an outburst from her would serve no one’s end; at which she relaxed, sat back, and muttered a barely audible oath. Stafford, as if hearing it, smiled in reply and then shifted his attention back to the speaker. Hamilton seemed satisfied that he had quelled any further opposition to his view. “But no matter, we have limited time here. We must utilise it to devise our strategy over the dangerous time ahead. I leave in two hours from Skerries and must report to James Stuart in London by nightfall tomorrow. Let us concentrate on the less imponderable, gentlemen. Arran, inform me of your thoughts.”

For an hour or more, Arran, with only a few occasions for input from his colleagues, expounded on his plans. From what Titus could follow – there were a lot of references to people, places and legislation that he did not understand – Arran’s plan was basically to pre-empt the policy of the Parliament in London, which even though prorogued, was still heavily influencing the policy of the court, the king’s advisors being themselves split on the question of the succession. The monarch’s death however would necessitate parliament’s recall, and the fact that this now seemed imminent meant that the debate had merely moved outside the confines of the Commons chambers and into the streets, taverns, and drawing rooms of the country. All those in authority – be it the court, the Lords, or the Commons, and indeed all the way down through the county and town councils were gradually polarising into two distinct camps – pro or anti-James. But Arran cautioned that even a sizeable proportion of Englishmen supporting the Duke of York was of little solace to Irishmen, as the only unifying factor between both camps was their seeming agreement that Ireland should play no undue role in deciding the question. Whoever came to power, and however it would be organised, it was obvious that James’ advertised view of Ireland as almost his personal fiefdom which would serve as both a retreat and a power base in his expected battles with parliament, would have to be nipped in the bud by that parliament. The monarch, if such was his aim, would find therefore no recourse open to pursue it, and the first stages of this neutralisation of Ireland’s perceived threat were already underway. Despite the best efforts of the Butlers, both father and son, it was indeed already costing Ireland dear, and this deprivation had effectively produced a third camp, represented by this small group meeting secretly in a Balgriffin inn – an Irish administration that saw a staunch and unqualified support for the Duke of York’s accession as the only viable solution to the country’s current ills, just as it did the need to raise a strong indigenous force to fight its cause when, rather than if, the need arose to do so. In England, the Duke could not count on such staunch support from anyone, save the small Catholic minority who had seen their power and wealth diminished throughout his predecessors’ reigns. Instead, the bulk of his support came from those who called themselves the Tory faction, but these were a Protestant group who wished in the main to ply a middle course, hoping to persuade the population to accept a Catholic king by planning to control him in the areas that mattered most – foreign policy, taxation and the role of religion within the administration, thereby reassuring the population while securing their own power and influence during his reign. In effect, they hoped to carry parliament and then use it both as a foundation for James’ authority as well as a threat hanging over his head should he overstep his mark – a policy that would not only enhance their own power, but practically guarantee them a control in England that would survive through generations. It was a bold ambition, according to Arran, but one major potential stumbling block lay in its path. Ireland, with its Catholic majority, its long memory of unfulfilled treaty obligations on the part of its neighbour and an undisguised, almost innate distrust of England, would work to ensure that the monarch should not be so hamstrung by his minions. If it was not led to do so, it would do so anyway, and without leadership this could be catastrophic. England’s retaliation would be ruthless and swift. It would not cost parliament a thought to raise an army to subdue the country with force, especially if such a campaign against a longstanding foe distracted their own population from all the other grievances they harboured and saved England from civil war. The only sensible course, unless Ireland was to descend into ungovernable anarchy, was to channel this opposition into a single force, with the men in this room at its head.

But they would have to move quickly, as the Tories were already preparing the ground for battle, and even if the Whigs later took the upper hand, those assembled in this room could be sure it would still be a battleground used in a campaign fought to Ireland’s detriment. The Tories’ present policy was to nullify any potential opposition to their ambitions from an Irish source by tying Irish hands beforehand with restrictive legislation. The next imminent step would be to turn the screw, having replaced the authorities in Ireland piecemeal with handpicked cronies of their own. This was where they were being doubly clever, as some of these appointees were indeed men who would normally stand opposed to their policies, but who would still not decline an elevation when offered one. That this tactic was already underway had merely been confirmed with the news of Rochester’s appointment as Lord Lieutenant once Ormonde’s tenure ended.

Mention of Rochester drew an assortment of grunts and oaths from the assembly. Laurence Hyde was not a man well regarded by the company, it seemed, and to set a man of Ormonde’s stature aside in order to accommodate him as Irish Lord Lieutenant was adding insult to injury. It had long been assumed that the position would go to Arran, as if by birthright, but if Richard Butler was aggrieved at this development personally he did not show it. Instead he smiled, and raised his hand to silence the dissent. He no longer assumed, he assured them, that he or any of his family could ever presume favour from an English monarch such as his father had received from three. But that was not the point. It was not the fate of the Butlers that was at issue, but the fate of the Lord Lieutenancy itself. If a self-serving fool such as Hyde was seen as meet for the role, then it was the role itself that was being relegated, and not his family. And it was vital therefore that they use their powers, while they still had them, to ensure such a blatant slap in Irishmen’s faces did not go unanswered. Arran’s suggested strategy in response to this was straightforward, if not downright rebellious. The Tories had made a mistake by starting at the top of the pyramid, he said, thinking the cap stone most important of all the parts that comprised it. What Rochester would in fact find on his arrival would be a country wherein the Catholics, and other pro-James supporters, held all the offices beneath him of consequence, the most important being the control of the army. He indicated Talbot’s uniform with a flourish as he added that this army, for the first time, would be an entirely Irish organisation and not a combination of diverse commands as it had been up to now. Ormonde had gone a long way to achieving it, but now Charles’ own new Irish Regiment of Foot was the royal seal on its inauguration, and the incorporation eventually of Ossory’s mounted regiment would make it a formidable force indeed. It might never have been the king’s intention when he approved it, but this new Irish army would be a Catholic one, under a Catholic commander and in the service of a Catholic king. Moreover, it would stand ready to be deployed not for the Catholic cause, but for the Irish cause, and though this might take some time to be understood by the country’s Protestant elite, even they eventually would see the logic of its existence, and the benefit of it too.

Privately Titus wondered if Arran’s assurance, though seemingly accepted readily enough by those present, was not a trifle optimistic. It was not just in Ulster that a Catholic ascendancy was regarded with anything other than terror and suspicion. Arran, himself a Protestant, was still hardly representative in that regard, and could not claim that all of his co-religionists in Ireland would think as he did. The middle classes might be flexible enough to accept a Catholic army as their ‘defenders’ but above and below them stood ranks of men who had staked too much on the opposite. Titus could see that the army in question might have to be deployed sooner than Arran thought, and against quite a different foe than the one he had assumed in his speech. But then, if a mere mapmaker from London could deduce as much, then surely so too had these powerful Irishmen in his midst, who therefore must have chosen for the purpose of this meeting to ignore that deduction, or to take it as said. In the meantime the immediate effect of this army’s formation was what concerned them, and was also what met with their unanimous approval. The threat of this army should be sufficient to ensure, at least for a while, that Rochester dare not take on his subordinates. It would also send a clear signal to the Tories in England that they should curb their enthusiasm in no uncertain terms with regard to arbitrarily interfering in Irish affairs. Not only that, but it would send an equally clear message to James himself. He had a strong and able vanguard at his disposal should he require it, but it was no longer one that could be deployed without regard to Ireland’s betterment. ‘A faithful and well trained hound,” was how Arran had described this new Irish force, “but one that no English leash will ever restrain again.”

The completion of the strategy was simple, at least in Arran’s view. With the Tories’ worst excesses curbed, James, upon succeeding his brother, would complete the task of extricating English involvement from the Irish parliament. The phrase had become something of a joke in recent years. The laws it passed had then to be ratified in London, who often returned a bill with approval, but with so many amendments added that it no longer bore the character of what had been referred in the first place. It was worse than a joke indeed, as it meant that England executed Ireland’s affairs through this convenient ‘back door’, without either deference or reference to its elected or appointed leaders. The system had been devised to ensure against Irish rebellion, but in latter years had been openly abused and put to the service of wilfully creating instability and economic hardship in the country, so as to preoccupy the Irish administrators with justifying policy, and the Irish people with merely struggling to survive day to day. Arran did not have to go into detail on the matter. What he said was well understood by all present. This ruse had already been used to enforce the ban on livestock, as well as a selection of other once profitable exports, and this embargo had, even in a short time, already bitten so deep into Irish landowners’ wealth as to be causing real hardship. Arran’s assurance that the new regime would see a return to an autonomous parliament in Dublin was therefore rather more than mere patriotism. It was fighting talk, but the fight concerned livelihood rather than nationhood.

Arran then approached the conclusion of his synopsis of this new status quo as he thus envisaged it, with a strong and autonomous Ireland pledging allegiance and support to England’s Catholic king. Unlike ever before, he maintained, there would exist a mutual guarantee between the new king and his Irish subjects. A ‘live and let live’ agreement that would ensure the continuation of both – even contribute to both party’s prosperity, something that the Stuarts had been sorely lacking since their restoration, and that Ireland had never been given a fair chance to acquire. No threat to James would be mounted from Ireland from any quarter, and he was thus free to secure his succession, his dominion, and indeed his wealth in England - his treasury free at last from the open drain that was the current cost of policing this troublesome corner of the kingdom, and his concentration on keeping his foes at bay immeasurably helped by having one less source of dissent to worry about. In return, the shift of power ensured a degree of independence for an Irish parliament that could be maintained free from English interference and therefore consolidated. A truly independent legislature, free at last to raise its own taxes and govern its own internal affairs, would be the cornerstone of a new Ireland which could make its own way in the world, and profit tremendously in the process. He paused, with a broad smile on his face, having painted a picture of paradise for his audience. By their expressions he could see that it was a vision that they were all too prepared to contemplate with some relish.

But one man retained his dour expression, and chose this moment to burst the rosy bubble that hovered in the wake of Arran’s monologue. There was an obvious question to be asked and it was Talbot who asked it. “And you, Sir Richard? Where do you sit in this new scheme of things?”
Arran’s smile did not diminish at all. “At home, I hope, as I have told you many times before, Richard. I have served my country well for many years, and for little reward. But the greatest reward I could ever hope for would be to see it secure in the hands of men like yourself, and in the knowledge that I have done my part in so securing it.”
Talbot grunted, though it might have been a stifled laugh. “You will be a tired man indeed then, with so many homes to choose from.” He was about to add more but Hamilton intervened.
“Lord Arran, thank you for your, em, eloquent summary of what we envisage. It never hurts to remind ourselves of our goals, lest at times we think the means of achieving them arduous or lengthy. Gentlemen, I thank you for your frankness, and there is much to report to my master, the Duke. He has communicated with some of you seated here individually in the past as you know, but he was desirous to know how you sounded as an assembly. I am delighted to be able to report to him that he need have no fears on that score. This he will accept, and with some gratitude I add, as it frees him to devote his attentions to other urgent matters that concern him, in the knowledge that his plans for this country of yours have been so well assimilated by such an able crew, and that this crew speaks with one voice, and an eloquent voice at that.” He looked pointedly at Talbot as he made his last remark, but Talbot did not respond in any way. Hamilton shrugged and addressed the gathering again. “He has always been keen to let you know that your pledge of allegiance would be well rewarded, and in his magnanimity he has also always maintained that this reward be of your own choosing, save that it be one to split the kingdom. In this I must say he has been wise, both to make such a magnanimous offer and to make it to so reasonable a parliament as yourselves. I note well what you demand of the Duke of York, and can assure you that it is no more or no less than he himself is wont to supply you. I can see no difficulty with anything there.”

Titus noted the look of smug satisfaction that visited the features of many of those assembled around him. This meeting had been convened then for both parties to see how the land lay – James Stuart needed to know that he could safely leave Irish affairs to sort themselves out without the fear that they might later explode in his face, and this rag-taggle band of self-appointed parliamentarians needed to know that the free hand they had been offered did not hold a hidden leash in its grip. As far as he could see neither side could safely say that the other had delivered everything asked, but Hamilton’s effusive praise had been so eagerly lapped up by those gathered around him that he doubted such reservations would be voiced by the Irish contingent in the room. Hamilton allowed them to wallow in their self-congratulatory stupor for a moment before he spoke again. When he did so, it was with a grave expression on his face. As Arran had been speaking, Hamilton had withdrawn a document from his pocket and placed it on the table before him. Now, he picked it up and looked at Arran, still standing conspicuously in the centre of the room.

“But I feel, Sir Richard, that you have glossed over several points.” He held up the document and passed it to Arran, who seemed to recognise immediately what it was. “My master is less than pleased with this, for example.” Hamilton looked to the group as he spoke. “He has striven to be open with you all. He has never hidden his strategies from you, and, as I have said, he has ever been magnanimous in the rewards he will bestow upon you when his, and your, plans come to fruition. Through all this he has made little demands himself, save that the Dublin administration never deviate from its allegiance to his cause, and that it accommodate him in several small matters regarding his own debts of allegiance and support to others. This is a reference to one such debt my master feels obliged to pay. As you know, his years of military command have been mostly spent in foreign fields, during which time he has had reason to be grateful to several of your countrymen, men you would class as Gaelic exiles, but who class themselves as titled Earls of Ireland, eager to return to their mother country and pledge their considerable forces and expertise to your, and our, cause. Do you recognise your hand, Lord Arran? It is your response when he requested that the Earls in exile be accommodated.” Arran was about to answer but Hamilton continued. “Mr Sarsfield, you will know of whom I speak as you yourself have served, like me, in their battalions – hardened commanders all and deserving of a place in the new army to be raised within these shores. An army, I might add, that would never have seen the light of day without my Duke of York’s efforts on your behalf.” He turned again to Arran. “Yet you see fit to advise against this course.”

Arran reddened. Hamilton had touched on a subject that he had obviously wished not to be discussed, and Titus could see Talbot lean forward in anticipation of his reply. “Yes sir, I did. But nevertheless I have done as I was bid. A line of communication has been established, let us say, and as yet nothing more.”
“Indeed?” Hamilton seemed unsatisfied with Arran’s response. “Then may I request that you enhance your efforts? Indeed, may I instruct you to do so, and with some urgency?”
Arran recovered his poise. “Sir Anthony, let me make it a little clearer. We have, as you requested, approached the men of whom you speak. At first their response was, let me say, unreasonable. It was they who broke the communication, and not I, by demanding not just a restoration of their privileges and titles, but effectively and end to the Dublin administration itself. That was when I sent your master the letter that you now hold. However, since then they have communicated with me again, and I detect fission in their ranks. Some have toned their demands down, though I must add that a reasonable one has yet to emerge.”
“Oh?” Hamilton was curious. “And what now are their demands?”
“I would rather not discuss that here, if I may be so rude as to suggest it. The matter is precariously balanced, and it would serve no one’s purpose to have it said, even accidentally, that the negotiations currently in progress were aired in another forum, even one such as this one devoted to achieving much of what they desire.”
Hamilton seemed satisfied with this. “Very well, Sir Richard. But you will in future communicate more effectively the status of these things. As I said, it is a matter close to my master’s heart.”

Arran nodded, and the matter seemed about to be dismissed when Talbot rose to his feet. Titus could discern that this man was one who would never deign to hide his anger, it seemed, and that right now this anger was directed at Richard Butler. “What is this?” he shouted. “You told me only yesterday that this matter was settled, and that we would not be so encumbered. Yet now you say that you have established a line of communication with these wastrels? What exactly of our plans has been communicated, may I ask?”
“Nothing more than that they have been informed of our ultimate aim, and of what we are poised to immediately achieve. That is all.”
“That is all? Good Christ man! Am I to be commander of this force or not? I have told you before, and I tell everyone here present now, there is no possibility of success in what we are about to undertake if these people are invited to participate, and especially if they are assured of any – any – reward for that participation! I know the men you speak of too, Sir Anthony, and know them well. There is not one amongst them would share our goals except as a stepping stone to achieving their own. And may I add that if theirs are achieved, then we might all as well pack our bloody bags and move to England now!” He turned to Arran again. “You have invited them, admit it!”
Hamilton intervened. “If so, then it is no more than the Duke of York requests, Mr Talbot. They have served him well abroad, and he sees no reason to believe that they will not serve with equal fervour here.”
“That is the bloody problem, is it not?” Talbot was livid, and did not seem to care who he was addressing. “Abroad they fight for fame and fortune. In Ireland they will fight for rather more, and I dread to think of the cost! Give those men a foothold in this country, and an equipped army under their command to boot, and you may as well open the doors to Dublin Castle now and throw away the keys. While you’re at it, you may as well dig a million graves in Ulster, Munster and Leinster for when they choose to settle the old scores that rankle them. Sir Anthony, what your master proposes is folly in the extreme, and murderous folly too! I pray that you reconsider these overtures that you make to their nature, for that nature is corrupt, and the exercise of it will wreak only havoc on this country!”
“You overestimate their ambitions and their strength, Mr Talbot. The Duke of York is satisfied with their service, but has already warned them to be realistic in their payment for that service. He believes that they have agreed to this.”
“Does he then? So what is Butler doing now? Brokering the terms of an agreement already made? Am I the only man in this room who knows when he sees a battle being lost before it is even fought?”

There was a silence in which Titus could hear Arran breathing heavily, obviously furious at Talbot’s insolence. But he kept his composure, and eventually answered in a quiet voice. “Richard, I know well that you do not want these men under your command. You think little of their value to our cause, and in military terms I agree with you. In fact, whatever they think they might achieve on their return – and I hasten to add that this is not yet by any means a certain return – they will ever be your cohorts, Richard, and strictly under your command. Any deviation from any instruction you issue would result in their dismissal from the ranks. That much will be made plain to them, and it will be no idle threat, believe me. But what Sir Anthony, and His Lordship the Duke are thinking of, is not their contribution to our forces’ strength. It is the strength of that force’s appeal to our people that they consider.”
“Appeal?” Talbot had been halted in his tracks by Arran’s assurance.
“Yes,” Arran answered. “You are the finest commander of men that I know of, Richard. But let me tell you, you would make one lousy ambassador!” Some laughter echoed around the table and Titus saw that even Talbot himself smiled. “But we require recruiting into your army men who would never have dreamt in a million night’s sleep that such would be asked of them by a Dublin administration. Catholic men, with Gaelic names, and old Irish grievances against us all. Like it or not, it will do us no harm to add the appeal of an exiled earl or two amongst our ranks! Our force needs to be raised quickly and effectively. Such appeal will give us that force.”
Hamilton added. “And from what I have just witnessed, your force could do with such appeal. It is sorely lacking in that commodity as things stand!”
The tension had been broken. Hamilton’s jibe at Talbot elicited some more laughter, and Richard Talbot seemed to accept his rebuttal in good spirit. “I apologise for venting my spleen, sirs. But I speak ever only with the interests of us all at heart. I agreed to this command only on the basis that it would be mine, to deploy and arm as I saw fit, when I saw fit, and with only generals under me that I saw fit to so command. There must be never be interference in that command, nor deals struck behind the commander’s back that would later cost him – and you – dearly.” He bowed. “You can see that I am totally committed to our success, at least.”
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