The O'Ruddy/Chapter 15
AS we ambled our way agreeably out of Bath, Paddy and I employed ourselves in worthy speech. He was not yet a notable horseman, but his Irish adaptability was so great that he was already able to think he would not fall off so long as the horse was old and tired.
"Paddy," said I, "how would you like to be an Englishman? Look at their cities. Sure, Skibbereen is a mud-pond to them. It might be fine to be an Englishman."
"I would not, your honour," said Paddy. "I would not be an Englishman while these grand—— But never mind; 't is many proud things I will say about the English considering they are our neighbours in one way; I mean they are near enough to come over and harm us when they wish. But any how they are a remarkable hard-headed lot, and in time they may come to something good."
"And is a hard head such a qualification?" said I.
Paddy became academic. "I have been knowing two kinds of hard heads," he said. Mickey McGovern had such a hard skull on him no stick in the south of Ireland could crack it, though many were tried. And what happened to him? He died poor as a rat. 'T is not the kind of hard head I am meaning. I am meaning the kind of hard head which believes it contains all the wisdom and honour in the world. 'T is what I mean. If you have a head like that, you can go along blundering into ditches and tumbling over your own shins, and still hold confidence in yourself. 'T is not very handsome for other men to see; but devil a bit care you, for you are warm inside with complacence."
"Here is a philosopher, in God's truth," I cried. "And where were you learning all this? In Ireland?"
"Your honour," said Paddy firmly, "you yourself are an Irishman. You are not for saying there is no education in Ireland, for it educates a man to see burning thatches and such like. One of them was my aunt's. Heaven rest her!"
"Your aunt?" said I. "And what of your aunt? What have the English to do with your aunt?"
"That 's what she was asking them," said Paddy; "but they burned her house down over a little matter of seventeen years' rent she owed to a full-blooded Irishman, may the devil find him!"
"But I am for going on without an account of your burnt-thatch education," said I. "You are having more than two opinions about the English, and I would be hearing them. Seldom have I seen a man who could gain so much knowledge in so short a space. You are interesting me."
Paddy seemed pleased. "Well, your honour," said he confidentially, "'t is true for you. I am knowing the English down to their toes."
"And if you were an Englishman, what kind of an Englishman would you like to be?" said I.
"A gentleman," he answered swiftly. "A big gentleman!" Then he began to mimic and make gestures in a way that told me he had made good use of his eyes and of the society of underlings in the various inns. "Where 's me man? Send me man! Oh, here you are! And why did n't you know I wanted you? What right have you to think I don't want you? What? A servant dead? Pah! Send it down the back staircase at once and get rid of it. Bedad!" said Paddy enthusiastically, "I could do that fine!" And to prove what he said was true, he cried "Pah!" several times in a lusty voice.
"I see you have quickly understood many customs of the time," said I. "But 't is not all of it. There are many quite decent people alive now."
"'Tis strange we have never heard tell of them," said Paddy musingly. I have only heard of great fighters, blackguards, and beautiful ladies, but sure, as your honour says, there must be plenty of quiet decent people somewhere."
"There is," said I. "I am feeling certain of it, although I am not knowing exactly where to lay my hand upon them."
"Perhaps they would be always at mass," said Paddy, "and in that case your honour would not be likely to see them."
"Masses!" said I. "There are more masses said in Ireland in one hour than here in two years."
"The people would be heathens, then?" said Paddy, aghast.
"Not precisely," said I. "But they have reformed themselves several times, and a number of adequate reformations is a fine thing to confuse the Church. In Ireland we are all for being true to the ancient faith; here they are always for improving matters, and their learned men study the Sacred Book solely with a view to making needed changes."
"'T is heathen they are," said Paddy with conviction. "I was knowing it. Sure, I will be telling Father Corrigan the minute I put a foot on Ireland, for nothing pleases him so much as a good obstinate heathen, and he very near discourses the hair off their heads."
"I would not be talking about such matters," said I. "It merely makes my head grow an ache. My father was knowing all about it; but he was always claiming that if a heathen did his duty by the poor he was as good as anybody, and that view I could never understand."
"Sure, if a heathen gives to the poor, 't is poison to them," said Paddy. "If it is food and they eat it, they turn black all over and die the day after. If it is money, it turns red-hot and burns a hole in their hand, and the devil puts a chain through it and drags them down to hell, screeching."
"Say no more," said I. "I am seeing you are a true theologian of the time. I would be talking on some more agreeable topic, something about which you know less."
"I can talk of fishing," he answered diffidently. "For I am a great fisherman, sure. And then there would be turf-cutting, and the deadly stings given to men by eels. All these things I am knowing well."
"'T is a grand lot to know," said I, "but let us be talking of London. Have you been hearing of London?"
"I have been hearing much about the town," said Paddy. "Father Corrigan was often talking of it. He was claiming it to be full of loose women, and sin, and fighting in the streets during mass."
"I am understanding something of the same," I replied. "It must be an evil city. I am fearing something may happen to you, Paddy,—you with your red head as conspicuous as a clock in a tower. The gay people will be setting upon you and carrying you off. Sure there has never been anything like you in London."
"I am knowing how to be dealing with them. It will be all a matter of religious up-bringing, as Father Corrigan was saying. I have but to go to my devotions, and the devil will fly away with them."
"And supposing they have your purse?" said I. "The devil might fly away with them to an ill tune for you."
"When they are flying away with my purse," he replied suggestively, "they will be flying away with little of what could be called my ancestral wealth."
"You are natural rogues," said I, "you and Jem Bottles. And you had best not be talking of religion."
"Sure a man may take the purse of an ugly old sick monkey like him, and still go with an open face to confession," rejoined Paddy, "and I would not be backward if Father Corrigan's church was a mile beyond."
"And are you meaning that Father Corrigan would approve you in this robbery?" I cried.
"Devil a bit he would, your honour," answered Paddy indignantly. "He would be saying to me: 'Paddy, you limb of Satan, and how much did you get?' I would be telling him. 'Give fifteen guineas to the Church, you mortal sinner, and I will be trying my best for you,' he would be saying. And I would be giving them."
"You are saved fifteen guineas by being in England, then," said I, "for they don't do that here. And I am thinking you are traducing your clergy, you vagabond."
"Traducing?" said he. "That would mean giving them money. Aye, I was doing it often. One year I gave three silver shillings."
"You 're wrong," said I. "By 'traducing' I mean speaking ill of your priest."
"'Speaking ill of my priest'?" cried Paddy, gasping with amazement. "Sure, my own mother never heard a word out of me!"
"However," said I, "we will be talking of other things. The English land seems good."
Paddy cast his eye over the rainy landscape. "I am seeing no turf for cutting," he remarked disapprovingly, and the potatoes would not be growing well here. 'T is a barren country."
At nightfall we came to a little inn which was ablaze with light and ringing with exuberant cries. We gave up our horses and entered. To the left was the closed door of the taproom, which now seemed to furnish all the noise. I asked the landlord to tell me the cause of the excitement.
"Sir," he answered, I am greatly honoured to-night. Mr. O'Ruddy, the celebrated Irish swordsman, is within, recounting a history of his marvellous exploits."
"Indeed!" said I.
"Bedad!" said Paddy.