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 Xartis Psyxis - Chapter 12 "A Victory" (part 9)

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Nobiles Barbariæ

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Join date : 2011-12-25

PostXartis Psyxis - Chapter 12 "A Victory" (part 9)

He took a pace back, intending to ask Sam to turn around and go home, but even as he drew breath his instruction was interrupted by the sound of another carriage pulling up hurriedly at the brazier, its two horses whinnying loudly as they were arrested sharply by their driver with a loud “Whoa!” and a violent tug on the reins. The sentry, who had been standing very much in the way of the approaching carriage, jumped backwards with a start, and before he had time to recompose himself and ask the identity of this guest in such a hurry, a booming voice came from within. “Sir Humphrey Jervis and my good wife Elizabeth, man! Now let us through! Wait a moment! Hey – you there!”
To Titus’ terror he turned around to see a red faced Sir Humphrey looking straight back at him in the brazier’s light. “Mr Perry! Hello again! You invited to this thing?”
Titus cringed. He could sense the guard’s suspicions being aroused without even looking at him. The rustle of paper as the man studied his list was enough.

If Titus saw a difficulty in talking his way out of this tight corner, his fellow conspirator’s mind was made of more agile stuff. Showing a remarkably quick transformation from the distraught and doomed person she had been only moments beforehand, Sarah leapt from the carriage with a speed almost as fast as the one at which her wits were working. She quickly regained her composure, strolled as purposefully as she could to Jervis’ open window and lifted her hand. “Mrs Gilbert Lowe, Sir Humphrey! Pleased to meet you!”

Jervis took her hand and leaning his head and arm through the aperture with a broad smile on his face, held the outstretched hand and feinted to kiss it. “Pleased to meet you, Mrs Lowe.”
She withdrew her hand gracefully and linked her arm through Titus’. “Our invitation to the dance this evening appears to have been omitted from the good officer’s list. May we be so bold as to ask you to vouch for us?”

Jervis shot a quizzical glance at Titus, and then at Sam, but answered promptly enough. “Guard, I will vouch for these good people!”
The sentry interposed himself between Sarah and Jervis, and whispered in the man’s ear, making reference to the list he held. Titus knew what he was telling him. The name Lowe might not be on his roster, but it was a name that the sentry had been briefed on in advance, as a party that were to be refused admission when they arrived.
Jervis simply laughed at what he had been told. “Nonsense, sir! Moore’s brain is like a sieve, my man! Of course these people can enter. Refuse them, and you are publicly criticising my judgement of character, as well as insulting my friends! Now, let us proceed.”

The guard, if anything, seemed relieved. The small group’s lingering presence had been making him slightly nervous, and Jervis’ adamant insistence was not one that he felt he had the authority, or nerve, to gainsay. “Very well Mr…, very well, you may pass.”
Titus and Sarah climbed aboard their carriage again and Sam geed the horses into motion. They passed through the gates behind the Jervis’ coach.

When they reached the end of the drive Jervis was already standing out on the gravelled concourse before the main door waiting for them. He beckoned Titus to one side, and Lady Jervis approached Sarah with a loud greeting. “Mrs Lowe, how delightful to meet you again!” Titus and Sarah were sure that the whole household inside must have heard it, but then it struck them that that was the point. The Jervises were assisting them in their subterfuge! She smiled, curtsied, and took Lady Jervis’ hand. Meanwhile Sir Humphrey and Titus walked some distance into the gloom away from the light cast by the windows of the manor, and spoke in hushed tones.
“Mr Lowe. Funny meeting you here!”
“I can explain Sir Humphrey, but I’d rather not.” He spoke sheepishly. Titus hoped an embarrassed but polite tack might be the safest he could take.
“I dare say not! And that dead animal on your head merits explanation too, but I dare say that’s something you’d rather not divulge also.”
Titus’ embarrassment was growing. Jervis was wearing a wig comprised of such luxurious and vibrant curls that it made his own seem exactly like the gorilla’s backside of Quinn’s description.

Jervis knew exactly the effect of his banter, but he merely laughed at Titus’ discomfort. “So, you are the infamous Lowe, are you? The property lawyer?”
Titus’ face must have been a picture, though in the gloom he hoped it was hard to see. “Oh,” was all that came out of his mouth.
To his alarm, Jervis placed a genial arm around his shoulder, and his voice dropped to a near whisper. “You see, Mr Lowe, I had a brandy or two with a certain Earl a few hours ago, and it seems he is a very agitated little Droghedian indeed. He wanted to know if I was aware of the presence in Dublin of a lawyer named Lowe from London who was expressing a certain interest in irregularities concerning some property development in the city. Would you credit that?”
Titus could still find no words to counter Sir Humphrey’s, so decided to continue with the safer tack of maintaining a discreet silence.
“And my compliments to Mrs Lowe by the way. She’s a real em, belle – is she from London too?” By now Jervis was smiling broadly. He withdrew his arm from Titus’ shoulder and clapped him hard on the back. “Listen Perry, I wasn’t born yesterday, and I know a castle carriage when I see one! That old schemer DeLacey’s put you up to this, hasn’t he?”
“Oh, yes,” replied Titus, hoping that Jervis would expand further before he had to commit himself by implicating anyone else.
“Just like DeLacey to be so convoluted. Too damned risky to ask a real lawyer to do his bidding. Better to hoodwink a naïve English guest into his machinations, which, I assume from all the work you’ve put into your disguise must be to put the wind our friend the Earl in no small measure! And you of all people, now that is a surprise! I suppose the chance of an occasion to dine with the local nobility was too good to miss Perry? Eh? You’ve obviously started realising the limitations of Ormonde’s writ around these parts when it comes to knocking on doors as yourself.”
Titus thought it best to go along with Jervis’ inaccurate assessment and nodded agreement, trying to look in a small way sheepish as if his ‘childish prank’ of impersonating a magistrate was little more than just that on his part, a ploy to gain access to Moore’s estate.
“Capital! I think I’ll enjoy this! You know Moore nearly had me worried myself earlier. The poor fool’s got his sticky fingers in so many pies at the moment that he’s sweating blood trying to anticipate what you know about his business. The little runt thinks that my own is as rotten as his it seems – he wanted to get some advice from me. Me! When he said then that he had been silly enough to invite this bloody lawyer Lowe to his shindig tonight I almost burst out laughing in his face.”
If Jervis thought that this ploy was merely one of DeLacey firing a warning shot across Moore’s bows, it also seemed that he was in no way opposed to the idea. In fact, he appeared to be deriving much amusement from it. Of course, as neighbouring landowners in Dublin, this glee could be in no small part due to Jervis realising that there might be some advantage accruing to himself from the exercise. In any case, in some ways he wasn’t far from the truth about what was going on. Titus reckoned it might be better to play along.
“We just thought, for the civic good that is, that we… em, might clip his wings a bit and let him know that the law was aware of his strategies, as it were. Without implicating his good name, or the Dublin court of course.”
“Of course! It’s a brilliant trick man! And it’s working already. Seems like the damned chicken struck you off his party list in his panic! Don’t worry – I’m on your side Mr Lowe! I can’t wait to see his lead painted face when we walk in together!” Jervis was literally rubbing his hands in anticipation. “I had you down as a dry stick when we met last week – it seems I’m not the judge of character I thought I was!” Jervis chuckled, patted Titus on the back again and escorted him back to where their ladies awaited them.

The mansion’s reception room was a riot of light and colour. A massive chandelier had been fully lit, it’s magnified candle flames so intense that it hurt one’s eyes to gaze on them, and wall-mounted candelabra, numbering a dozen or more, completed the illusion of broad daylight indoors. The crystals through which the candle flames flickered seemed not only to magnify each ray of light but distort it also, so that it spread in an effect not unlike a flowing cascade of waves which danced on the plastered ceiling high above. It was almost as if one were standing on the ocean bed looking up at the canopy of the sea above, and it was a marvel to the eye. The chandeliers poured their liquid light some way down the high walls as well, which were draped with long tapestries from ceiling to floor, depicting the city and environs of Drogheda. A richly stained and banistered grand staircase augmented the colourful scene and commanded the rear of the hall, each polished step glistening and reflecting the great illumination from above.
The floor had filled with guests and more were yet arriving, all being greeted by the Earl himself at the door, his wife by his side. When he saw Jervis and Titus approach, flanked by their female consorts, his stare froze momentarily. His recovery was quick however. “Sir Humphrey, Lady Elizabeth, how do you do?” Then he held a hand out to Titus. “Mr Lowe, Mrs Lowe, so you made it. How welcome you are!”
“Damned near didn’t Henry!” Jervis chimed in from behind him. “You left them off the guest list man! I had to vouch for them to let them in.”
Moore grimaced, or it could have been a smile – it was hard to tell, and not just because of the man’s cosmetics. “Did you Sir Humphrey? Oh how grateful I am to you, what could I have been thinking of? Forgive me Mrs Lowe, Mr Lowe!”
“Think nothing of it,” Titus hoped his smile appeared less wooden than it felt. “It could happen anyone. What a nice house you have.”
Moore just nodded and took Sarah’s hand. “My apologies again ma’am. I hope you were not too cold waiting, it’s brisk enough out tonight, eh?”
“Not at all Sir Henry,” Sarah smiled benignly. “Your sentries are as efficient in lighting a brazier as they are in following your instructions to the letter. They do you proud!”
Moore smiled, but again it could just have easily been construed as passing wind. “Please, make yourselves comfortable inside. Dinner will commence shortly.”

Once inside, Titus and Sarah managed to extricate themselves from everyone for a few moments in an area near the stairs that had yet to be colonised by the revellers and which offered some degree of privacy.
“I think I preferred falling off the wall earlier as a means of gate crashing,” Titus said in a low murmur.
“Do you think those sentries will stop Cuffe?” Sarah’s smile was purely for the benefit of any onlookers. Her eyes, however, showed real concern.
“No, if he comes through the main gate he carries a warrant signed by Arran himself, we got it yesterday. It would be a brave sentry who would try to stop him with that! Knowing Robert though, when he said he’d come a way less public, I imagine by that he also meant entrance to the estate. Truthfully, that is no longer my main concern. It is Jervis who holds the key to our fates now.” Titus had meant to tell her at the first opportunity how rash she had been in assuming Sir Humphrey Jervis would help them at the gate. He knew her to be foolhardy, but her presumption on this occasion had been extremely so. Not only could the wealthy plutocrat have exposed them where they stood, but also an impromptu investigation by him into their subterfuge and why they were conducting it might have led to their ruination. In fact, Titus thought, it might yet.
“You are worried he might yet reveal us to our enemy as vile impostors?” Sarah asked, and her tone contained a levity that the situation failed to warrant by Titus’ reckoning.
“We can only wait and see. The man’s no fool, he’s read the situation for the charade it is and has drawn his own conclusions. Once he sees however that this thing is rather more than a ‘warning shot over Moore’s bows’, as he thinks, God knows what he’ll do. If he exposes us I’m afraid we’re in a worse situation than we were at the gate.”
“Oh, I don’t think so, not if I know Sir Humphrey.”
This took him by surprise. “You know him?”
She smiled. “Remember I told you about pricking the consciences laden with guilt that then gave so generously to my charitable collections? Well, if guilt was his only motivation, Sir Humphrey’s conscience must, by deduction, be riddled with the thing, though I doubt it. He was one of my most regular, and generous contributors. He’s a shrewd man Titus, but fair. And my father thought so too.”
“He might consider it only fair then to inform Lord Drogheda of his suspicions.”
Sarah shook her head. “Not if I have read the man right, no. There is little love lost between them, and besides, I have no doubt that were he of that mind we would already be in chains!”
“I only hope you’re right. What we’re asking him to do tonight far outweighs the donation of alms.”
She squeezed his hand, but could not reassure him.

A bell sounded to indicate that the guests should take their seats to dine, and a harpist at the dining hall door launched into a tune serenading the guests on their way in. The dining hall, though not as well lit as the hallway, was if anything even more impressive. As wide as it was long, the room was graced along two opposing walls with windows that started from shoulder height and rose to high gothic arches, their points tapering just below the high vaulted ceiling. Between each window was mounted a standard at tilt, suspended from which were draped flags indicating the baronial arms of County Louth and surrounding territories. Hanging from the roof was a series of heavy iron chandeliers, each festooned with wax candles all ablaze, and the scene they illuminated beneath them was breathtaking in its opulence.

The Earl had spared no expense seemingly in demonstrating his largesse. Dining tables had been arrayed continuously in a huge horseshoe shape around the large chamber, and at a glance Titus reckoned the seating could accommodate two hundred souls, if not more. Seating at these was an apparent free-for-all for the patrons, with the exception of those seats set at the slightly elevated table at the horseshoe’s bend where it curved beneath a painting at the head of the room, all of a dozen feet in height. It depicted Henry Moore himself, attired in the garb of a simple country preacher, the town of Drogheda behind him looking as if it had been accidentally dropped into a Tuscany landscape. Two nubile and attractive shepherdesses flanked him, and both of them were gazing admiringly at this rather unconvincing representation of the man in his posture of uncomplicated virtuosity. These seats had been reserved for the subject of the hideous portrait himself, his wife and daughter (the shepherdesses from the painting, Titus imagined), and his closest friends and colleagues.

In the scramble for seats, Titus and Sarah managed to secure a position at the long table that they hoped suited their purposes ideally, close enough to the Earl’s dais to be audible to its incumbents, and not too far from the door should a quick exit be required. Once seated, they found themselves flanked by two quite elderly men, indeed the one on Titus’ left seemed ready to expire at any moment. Across the table were a couple who introduced themselves loudly as the Bellinghams from Duleek, in a manner which suggested that both Titus and Sarah should immediately know both the town and its most eminent family. When both had to admit to knowing neither the family’s geographical location nor genealogical pedigree, the Bellinghams simply ignored Titus and Sarah for the rest of the evening, an arrangement that satisfied all parties to it. Finally, when everyone had been seated at the lower tables, the Earl and his entourage entered to take their own seats on high, and Titus, who had been worried when he failed to see Wilson in the hallway earlier, was relieved to see that he and his wife were in that party.

Titus, in London, had had to endure formal dinners on occasion and had grown to loath them. London society had become so mannered in latter years that it was all too easy to make a social gaffe that would be the talk of the town the next day should one do something so silly as to lift a fork instead of a knife at the crucial moment. The dishes themselves had become somewhat regimented too. It was now only acceptable to serve a meal if first each guest had been dished a bowl of soup or broth. Likewise it was frowned upon now to drink one’s beer with one’s meal. Wine was acceptable – in the French manner - but not beer. For a man more used to eating from the same pan as his men, or fending for himself in a small scullery with meagre rations, such social niceties were nothing less than an infringement on his personal liberties. A man should eat when he’s hungry, eat his fill when he can, and bar he uses the same knife to clean his boots as slice his meat, should be spared the risk of becoming a social pariah when he forgets that the wide knife goes with the fish and the slender one with the pork. To his utter relief and delight he saw that the Moores did things the old way.

Each guest had before them a set of plates - one large, one small – along with a china bowl. How they used them however seemed entirely up to them, for in front of each guest, down the centre of the table, were also placed large communal bowls filled with the meal of the day. Never had Titus seen such mountains of steak, pork, potatoes, cabbages, onions, trout, carrots, bread, pheasant, butter rolls, venison, capon, pigeon, and god knew how many other dishes, prepared in a variety of ways, and all under attack by the diners to such an extent that a legion of servants was kept on its toes constantly retrieving emptied bowls and hastening from the kitchens with steaming refills. There was soup, but it was primarily for those without teeth it seemed. And there were forks, but only used as devices to trap wayward food that threatened to shoot from the plate when being speared by the knife with which one fed one’s mouth. And though there were wines aplenty, there were even more copious quantities of ale. In fact it took two servants to manoeuvre a barrel of it around the floor, pausing only to ladle the drink into guests’ tankards as they went, in their Sisyphean task, on eternal circuits of the giant dining hall. Titus felt that if he ever died and went to heaven, with the exception of the company he was keeping, this would be how he imagined it.
It wasn’t long before he learnt that one had to be quick to grab what one liked best, as the communal dishes were not passed on request, but rather kept in continuous motion around the tables – moved as if through unspoken agreement by the guests themselves. The man, who had seemed so close to death by his side earlier, revealed himself to be not only adept at identifying his favourite dish as it came about, but agile enough to bound in before anyone else and practically clear it onto his plate in an unbroken movement that belied his great age. Titus had seen swordsmen in his day who would have yearned for half of this man’s strength, agility and timing. And amazingly, given the committed zeal with which each diner stalked and attacked their dinner, there was yet room for conversation. Not the polite inanities that passed for dinner conversation in most higher social circles these days, but good, loud, raucous profundities and profanities that made for memorable and highly enjoyable banter when conducted amongst friends. Titus had long lost Sarah to the elderly man on her right who was regaling her with stories of the Moores’ desertion of Drogheda at the height of Cromwell’s attack – hardly gratitude for the meal their descendant had provided for him this day – and Titus’ own neighbour had just broached the subject of tickling trout while at the same time gorging himself on the subject matter with gusto, when Titus saw the servants standing at the hall’s door being brushed unceremoniously to one side and Cuffe entered the room.

The captain proceeded a few paces before pausing and surveying the room, while his younger colleagues remained in the doorway, their muskets crossed. He was in full uniform, newly pressed and laundered, with buttons polished brightly and his service hat wearing the rosette reserved for members of the castle elite soldiery, and even the lads had made great effort to spruce up their own tunics and trousers so that they looked the picture of a crack regiment in miniature. “Is there a Jeremiah Wilson here?” Cuffe shouted.

Only those near the door stopped their conversations, and after a few seconds resumed it again, though there was no doubt now what everyone was discussing. Cuffe’s face grew red, and he seemed about to repeat his shouted request when he noticed the service bell that had been used to summons the diners earlier sitting on a small table by the door. He grabbed it, marched to the centre of the room between the tables and began to ring it so loudly that it easily drowned out all attempts at conversation amongst the guests. Meanwhile he turned around slowly and stared each diner in the eye. This at last had the desired effect. When he finally ceased his clamour a silence had fallen on the room. Even the harpist smothered his chords in mid-tune.
“Is there a Jeremiah Wilson here?” This time his voice was soft, but there wasn’t a person who failed to hear his question.
Titus could see Wilson. His face had gone white and his hands shook. But he didn’t respond. Moore did however, and he was none too pleased. “You! What the hell do you mean barging in here like that! Who are you, and who is your commanding officer?”
Though nearly the entire length of the room separated them, Cuffe kept his tone to that of a normal conversation, inviting everyone, including Moore, to concentrate on his words as he spoke them. “Captain Robert Cuffe of the Castle Guard. I have a warrant here from my Commanding Officer, Richard Butler, Lord Arran, for the arrest of one Jeremiah Wilson, who I am told is to be found in this room. Identify yourself sir!”
This was the crucial moment that the whole day had been leading up to. It all hinged now on Moore’s next move. If he chose to protect Wilson now and call Cuffe’s bluff their plan had little contingency to cover it. Arran had agreed to a lot when he had been apprised of the plan by Titus’ letter, but not to a confrontation with this wealthy and influential landlord who might yet hold the key to what happened next in the north. Jervis had just described him as a man with sticky fingers in many pies, and he had been referring only to his property dealings. DeLacey, and Arran, suspected his dealings extended a lot further than that.

Moore stared at Cuffe for what seemed like an eternity. His face betrayed no emotion. He slowly turned to his left and raised a finger that pointed directly at Wilson. “This is he,” was all he said. “And you had better have a bloody good reason to spoil his, and my, enjoyment this evening, sir!”
Wilson almost collapsed where he sat. His wife grabbed his hand and glared at Cuffe. “What charge have you against my husband?” She was practically screaming as she asked.
Moore was quick to interrupt. “This is all obviously a great misunderstanding. I’m sure we can resolve it without upsetting my guests further! Jeremiah, let us all three go outside and discuss this in private, now!”
But Cuffe simply ignored him. Lifting the warrant to read from it, and addressing its contents to the Wilsons directly, he read; “For the wilful, deliberate and treasonable theft of deeds entrusted to the crown for his own private use, for the theft of moneys to the value of fifty Irish pounds held in trust by the Bank of Drogheda for his own private use, and that said private use being namely the intention and subsequent action of betting these stolen properties and placing them as a gambling stake in the custody of a proven felon, already indicted for contravening the King’s own Gaming Act in that he withheld taxes from the crown, I hereby issue this writ to apprehend and place in custody Jeremiah Wilson at the pleasure of the crown until such time as a court and jury be appointed to try this case and test the validity of its charge. Signed, Richard Butler acting for the Lord Lieutenant James Butler, Duke of Ormonde and Viceroy of Ireland.”
Save for the gasps from those English guests who, unaware of the difference in value between Irish and English pounds, thought the size of the amount stolen tremendous, the silence in the room was palpable, aided in no small measure by Cuffe’s men at the door who, with muskets drawn, stood some distance behind Cuffe eyeing the diners coldly. Wilson himself seemed close to apoplexy and had difficulty breathing. Again it was his wife who spoke. “Damned ridiculous! What evidence could you have? My husband is a wealthy man, why the hell would he need to rob money?”

Moore tried one last time to end the debate and transfer it to more private surroundings, but even before he had finished his sentence Cuffe was replying to Mrs Wilson.
“I arrested a man named Brennan this afternoon at Laytown, ma’am, who I believe was there in the capacity of what they call a ‘bookmaker’. A search of his belongings turned up some interesting articles. One was a draught against the Bank of Drogheda for fifty pounds signed by your husband, the other was even more damning - the deeds for a site in Dublin owned by the Earl of Drogheda which Brennan claims were given to him to hold as stake for a gamble made by your husband. I must add that this arrest and the confiscation of evidence was executed with the full cooperation of the Earl’s own militia. Their Captain Power, at my insistence, has witnessed the arrest and co-authorised the indictment.” Cuffe spoke without emotion and as lucidly as he could, as if he were explaining something in simple terms to a child, but in reality so that no one in the room could be left in any doubt as to the charges being brought.
At last Wilson found his voice. “That’s impossible,” he stammered. “The Earl’s deeds are held in trust in Dublin, in the castle!”
“And so states the charge Mr Wilson. A search of the records however shows that the Earl’s deeds can be authorised for transfer to his own, or the bank’s safekeeping by only three men – the Earl, the bank’s president Mr John Moore, brother of the Earl, and yourself, Mr Wilson. In this case the deed thus transferred was for a tract of land adjoining the river Liffey covering two hundred and seventeen acres, which, with permission to build thereon is of inestimable value you would agree. Quite a security to give to a bookmaker, I should say.”

Titus watched Moore closely. This was where they had hoped he would abandon all attempts at protecting Wilson when he realised that it was one of his prime properties that had been used illegally to secure a wager, and for fear indeed of his own implication in shady practises being alluded to in public. Titus’ false persona had been designed to encourage him to do so. The presence of a lawyer already known to be investigating corruption in Dublin’s property market was not conducive to a public debate on the matter, especially one concerning a crime of this apparent magnitude involving his agent and his bank. If on the other hand however he still tried to call the bluff and protect the agent in question, their ploy had but one strategy left to play.

Cuffe indicated with his hand for his men at the door to go around the table and apprehend Wilson, but Moore stood up. “Stop this at once! If there has been some transgression involving my bank and my properties then it is I who will prefer the charge! And I will not do so until I investigate the matter myself. You shall not arrest this man unless and until my own investigations say that it is warranted!”

Titus felt his stomach clench inside. Moore was indeed standing by his agent. This was it then, the final throw of the dice, and a dice that could be snatched from the board in a moment if he so wished by Jervis, who up to now had sat impassively next to Moore while the drama had unfolded.
Cuffe signalled his men to stop. He addressed Moore again. “Lord Drogheda, it is not the crown’s intention to usurp your authority in your own affairs, nor is it the intention to embarrass you in any way. Indeed it is in the interests of your own protection that we act.” He turned and called down the room to Titus. “Mr Lowe, we met earlier – you are a man familiar with property and law, perhaps you can help clarify the true gravity of the charge?”
Titus took a deep breath and stood slowly. He faced the table at which Moore stood, but all he saw was the face of Jervis as he sat next to Moore with his elbows on the table, his hands clasped before his chin, and his blue eyes boring into the mapmaker with an intensity that he could barely endure.

Cuffe addressed Titus again. “Mr Lowe, is it true that you have been conducting an enquiry into certain property irregularities in Dublin of late?”
Titus cleared his throat. “I have sir.”
“Namely into the practise of employing what are called ‘names’ to artificially enhance a buyer’s holdings in the property market?”
“As background to another investigation only, but yes, such is part of my brief.” Titus tried to sound as rational as he could but he found his voice was traversing some obstacle in his throat that made it sound, to him at least, like a warble. He felt a tremor start in one knee that he could not quell.
Moore interjected. The indignation had gone from his voice but the animosity remained. “What the hell has this to do with the matter in hand?”
“Very much Sir Henry,” Cuffe replied flatly. “It seems Mr Lowe’s investigation has uncovered some strange facts concerning Pipho’s Lot. Are you familiar with the area?”
“Of course. It adjoins my own, yes. It’s the land between mine and Sir Humphrey’s.”
Jervis’ expression did not change but he turned to stare at Moore as he spoke to Cuffe.
“And it has been subdivided and sold to many different parties, has it not?” Cuffe’s voice was still factual and even.
“So I believe, yes.” Moore’s own voice however was beginning to lose the certainty it had contained up to now.
“Mr Lowe, would you care to inform His Lordship of what you have found?” Cuffe asked.
Before Titus could open his mouth however Moore preceded him. The man’s confidence had been rattled, that much was apparent. Whatever was happening in relation to Pipho’s lot was not something he wanted aired in public. He attempted again to steer the debate away from such a sensitive issue. “I still fail to see what any of this has to do with the charge you have levelled against Mr Wilson! Stick to the matter in hand, dammit!”
Jervis cleared his throat to speak and Titus’ heart sank. This was surely where their deception would come undone – Jervis was about to unmask him.
Sir Humphrey surprised him, however. “Yes Mr Lowe, what have you found?” was all he asked.

Titus coughed again and recited what he had learnt almost by heart from reading the letter that Cecil Bambrick had sent him, over and over again. “Well, sir, it seems that although the land has been ostensibly parcelled up and sold to a variety of purchasers, they have been in the main paid for by draughts drawn on only one bank, which of course is not a breach of the law as things stand. However, one name alone is common to these draughts I believe, and as you know this is indeed a serious breach of law as it effectively gives that person sole disposal rights to the properties in question until whatever moneys owed on the back of these properties is paid, if ever, though I don’t think I should state any name in public, what with a possible trial in the offing and everything as it appears now.” A breathless Titus was relieved that he had got the whole statement out without fluffing it, especially as it was implying something other than the whole truth of the matter. It was true that Moore’s bank had financed the purchases, but Cecil, on going through the records yesterday, had found that Wilson’s name appeared as guarantor for the bank on only a third of them. Moore’s own name appeared on the rest. The Earl was trying, using his bank as cover, to double his holding on the Liffey’s north bank right under the noses of his main property rivals in the area, Sir Humphrey Jervis and the Duke of Ormonde, and in flagrant breach of the latter’s own laws to boot, as well indeed as the laws of the kingdom, which had been tightened up to prevent profiteering after the disaster of London’s great fire eighteen years beforehand. Titus had effectively told Moore that his tactic had been discovered, but that the crown was willing to let Wilson take full blame. It was an escape hatch for Moore if he wished to take it. He did.

“I see,” Moore said with some resignation in his voice. “It appears I must take a firmer control of what is done in my name!”
“Yes Henry,” Jervis grinned, but his blue eyes displayed no mirth. “And to think if this hadn’t been discovered by our diligent agents of the crown here, you might have ended up with a slice of Dublin twice as big as mine! We couldn’t have that could we?” He laughed and slapped Moore on the back. Moore could only grin in reply as he sat back down.

Mrs Wilson wasn’t done yet though. “I didn’t hear anything about all that in the charge! What are they hiding? I’d like to see the evidence you have there too! There’s something going on here and my husband is being blamed in the wrong!”
Moore was quick to respond. He spoke with the reasoned tone of a doctor patiently explaining to his patient that, although he agreed that the pill tasted sour, it was in her best interests to swallow it. “That could well be Mary, but the charges must be answered I fear. It would be best that you and Jeremiah go with the Captain here and don’t worry – I’ll have a lawyer speak with Jeremiah first thing in the morning!”
“You do that Sir Henry!” She said with venom in her voice. “But don’t even think of sending us that leech MacCarthy! I want a real one!”
Cuffe coughed. “Jonathan MacCarthy is also being sought by us madam. It appears that he countersigned the draught against Sir Henry’s bank this afternoon and also witnessed the gambling bet which included the illegally acquired deeds rightly belonging to the Earl. He’ll be looking for a lawyer himself before long.”
Wilson, who had remained quiet throughout most of this, made one last stab at establishing his innocence, at least in the eyes of the Earl’s guests. “I know nothing about a deed for the property you mention. I’ve been set up by others – I swear! There was another man, and his son. Their names must be on the documents too. The deed was for his farm he said …” He realised too late what he had just admitted.
“If indeed there was such a man, or boy, there was no signature indicating such on the documents we confiscated sir. The bank’s draught was payable to the bearer and the alleged wager had only the two signatures on it that I have referred to.” Cuffe was enjoying this. “Unless the letter X can be used to identify anyone in particular? But am I to believe you to have just stated that you willingly procured a deed for a farm with the bank’s money in order to use it as a gambling stake?”
Wilson’s wife Mary was first to react again. “Of what interest is it to you what the bank does with its money? This is between my husband and His Lordship surely!”
“No Mary,” Moore replied flatly. “It is not – not now.”
Wilson groaned. His wife scowled but said nothing. Cuffe waved his men on to complete the arrest. As they left the dining hall, Mrs Wilson turned to the assembled guests and roared. “You are all in shenanigans up to your bloody necks! I’ll be damned if my husband pays the price for the lot of ye!” With a wave of her fist at the silent diners she disappeared out the door.

Titus was still on his feet and growing more self conscious by the minute, as he grew aware that all eyes were now turning to him. He tapped Sarah on the upper arm to get up, and bowed slightly to Moore. “I am afraid Sir Henry that I really think I should be, that is, it might be better…”
“Yes goodnight Mr Lowe!” Moore snapped.
Jervis laughed. “And you, Mrs Lowe, I sincerely hope I meet you both again soon!”
To the accompaniment of the harpist who had seemingly been invigorated by the rather entertaining, if unscheduled, intermission to his night’s duties and who now launched into a jaunty air designed either to lift the mood of the assembly, or to advertise his delight in its discomfiture, Titus and Sarah left with as much decorum as their wish to flee allowed.
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Xartis Psyxis - Chapter 12 "A Victory" (part 9) :: Comments

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