The O'Ruddy/Chapter 28
IT was a beautiful day, as lovely as any an indulgent Providence had ever bestowed upon an unthankful generation.
Although I wished I had had an hour or two to spend with Mary wandering up and down that green alley through which we had rushed with such indecent haste, all because two aged and angry members of the nobility might have come upon us, yet I walked through the streets of London as if I trod on the air, and not on the rough cobble-stones of the causeway. It seemed as if I had suddenly become a boy again, and yet with all the strength and vigour of a man, and I was hard put to it not to shout aloud in the sunlight, or to slap on the back the slow and solemn Englishmen I met, who looked as if they had never laughed in their lives. Sure it 's a very serious country, this same land of England, where their dignity is so oppressive that it bows down head and shoulders with thinking how grand they are ; and yet I 'll say nothing against them, for it was an Englishwoman that made me feel like a balloon. Pondering over the sobriety of the nation, I found myself in the shadow of a great church, and, remembering what my dear Mary had said, I turned and went in through the open door, with my hat in my hand. It was a great contrast to the bright sunlight I had left, and to the busy streets with their holiday-making people. There were only a few scattered here and there in the dim silence of the church, some on their knees, some walking slowly about on tiptoe, and some seated meditating in chairs. No service was going forward, so I knelt down in the chapel of Saint Patrick himself; I bowed my head and thanked God for the day and for the blessing that had come with it. As I said, I was like a boy again, and to my lips, too long held from them, came the prayers that had been taught me. I was glad I had not forgotten them, and I said them over and over with joy in my heart. As I raised my head, I saw standing and looking at me a priest, and, rising to my feet, I made my bow to him, and he came forward, recognizing me before I recognized him.
"O'Ruddy," he said, "if you knew the joy it gives to my old heart to meet you in this sacred place and in that devout attitude, it would bring some corresponding happiness to yourself."
"Now by the piper that played before Moses, Father Donovan, and is this yourself? Sure I disrecognized you, coming into the darkness, and me just out of the glare beyond,"—and I took his hand in both of mine and shook it with a heartiness he had not met since he left the old turf. "Sure and there 's no one I 'd rather meet this day than yourself,"—and with that I dropped on one knee and asked for his blessing on me and mine.
As we walked out of the church together, his hand resting on my shoulder, I asked how such a marvel came to pass as Father Donovan, who never thought to leave Ireland, being here in London. The old man said nothing till we were down the steps, and then he told me what had happened.
"You remember Patsy O'Gorman," he said.
"I do that," I replied, "and an old thief of the world and a tight-fisted miser he is."
"Whist," said Father Donovan, quietly crossing himself. "O'Gorman is dead and buried."
"Do you tell me that!" said I, "then rest his soul. He would be a warm man and leave more money than my father did, I 'm thinking."
"Yes, he left some money, and to me he left three hundred pounds, with the request that I should accomplish the desire of my life and take the pilgrimage to Rome."
"The crafty old chap, that same bit of bequestration will help him over many a rough mile in purgatory."
"Ah, O'Ruddy, it 's not our place to judge. They gave a harder name to O'Gorman than he deserved. Just look at your own case. The stories that have come back to Ireland, O'Ruddy, just made me shiver. I heard that you were fighting and brawling through England, ready to run through any man that looked cross-eyed at you. They said that you had taken up with a highwayman; that you spent your nights in drink and breathing out smoke; and here I find you, a proper young man, doing credit to your country, meeting you, not in a tavern, but on your knees with bowed head in the chapel of Saint Patrick, giving the lie to the slanderer's tongue."
The good old man stopped in our walk, and with tears in his eyes shook hands with me again, and I had not the heart to tell him the truth.
"Ah well," I said, "Father Donovan, I suppose nobody, except yourself, is quite as good as he thinks, and nobody, including myself, is as bad as he appears to be. And now. Father Donovan, where are you stopping, and how long will you be in London?"
"I am stopping with an old college friend, who is a priest in the church where I found you. I expect to leave in a few days' time and journey down to the seaport of Rye, where I am to take ship that will land me either in Dunkirk or in Calais. From there I am to make my way to Rome as best I can."
"And are you travelling alone?"
"I am that, although, by the blessing of God, I have made many friends on the journey, and every one I met has been good to me."
"Ah, Father Donovan, you could n't meet a bad man if you travelled the world over. Sure there 's some that carry such an air of blessedness with them that every one they meet must, for very shame, show the best of his character. With me it 's different, for it seems that where there 's contention I am in the middle of it, though, God knows, I 'm a man of peace, as my father was before me."
"Well," said Father Donovan slowly, but with a sweet smile on his lip, "I suppose the O'Ruddys were always men of peace, for I 've known them before now to fight hard enough to get it."
The good father spoke a little doubtfully, as if he were not quite approving of our family methods, but he was a kindly man who always took the most lenient view of things. He walked far with me, and then I turned and escorted him to the place where he resided, and, bidding good-bye, got a promise from him that he would come to the "Pig and Turnip" a day later and have a bite and sup with me, for I thought with the assistance of the landlord I could put a very creditable meal before him, and Father Donovan was always one that relished his meals, and he enjoyed his drink too, although he was set against too much of it. He used to say, "It 's a wise drinker that knows when geniality ends and hostility begins, and its just as well to stop before you come to the line."
With this walking to and fro the day was near done with when I got back to the "Pig and Turnip" and remembered that neither a bit of pig nor a bit of turnip had I had all that long day, and now I was ravenous. I never knew anything make me forget my appetite before; but here had I missed my noonday meal, and not in all my life could I overtake it again. Sure there was many an experience crowded together in that beautiful Sunday, so, as I passed through the entrance to the inn I said to the obsequious landlord:
"For the love of Heaven, get placed on my table all you have in the house that 's fit to eat, and a trifle of a bottle or two, to wash it down with."
So saying, I passed up the creaking old oaken stair and came to my room, where I instantly remembered there was something else I had forgotten. As I opened the door there came a dismal groan from Paddy, and something that sounded like a wicked oath from Jem Bottles. Poor lads! that had taken such a beating that day, such a cudgelling for my sake; and here I stood at my own door in a wonder of amazement, and something of fright, thinking I had heard a banshee wail. The two misused lads had slipped out of my memory as completely as the devil slipped off Macgillicuddy Reeks into the pond beneath when Saint Patrick had sent the holy words after him.
"Paddy," said I, "are you hurted? Where is it you 're sore?"
"Is it sore?" he groaned. "Except the soles of my feet, which they could n't hit with me kickin' them, there is n't an inch of me that does n't think it 's worse hurted than the rest."
"It 's sorry I am to hear that," I replied, quite truthfully, "and you, Jem, how did you come off?"
"Well, I gave a better account of myself than Paddy here, for I made most of them keep their distance from me; but him they got on the turf before you could say Watch me eye, and the whole boiling of them was on top of him in the twinkling of the same."
"The whole boiling of them?" said I, as if I knew nothing of the occurrence, "then there was more than Strammers to receive you?"
"More!" shouted Jem Bottles, "there was forty if there was one."
Paddy groaned again at the remembrance, and moaned out:
"The whole population of London was there, and half of it on top of me before I could wink. I thought they would strip the clothes off me, and they nearly did it."
"And have you been here alone ever since? Have you had nothing to eat or drink since you got back?"
"Oh," said Jem, "we had too much attention in the morning, and too little as the day went on. We were expecting you home, and so took the liberty of coming up here and waiting for you, thinking you might be good enough to send out for some one who would dress our wounds; but luckily that 's not needed now."
"Why is it not needed?" I asked. "I 'll send at once."
"Oh, no," moaned Paddy, "there was one good friend that did not forget us."
"Well," said Jem, "he seemed mighty afeerd of coming in. I suppose he thought it was on his advice that we went where we did, and he was afeerd we thought badly of him for it; but of course we had no blame to put on the poor little man."
"In Heaven's name, who are you talking of?" said I.
"Doctor Chord," answered Jem. "He put his head inside the door and inquired for us, and inquired specially where you were; but that, of course, we could n't tell him. He was very much put out to find us mis-handled, and he sent us some tankards of beer, which are now empty, and we 're waiting for him because he promised to come back and attend to our injuries."
"Then you did n't see Doctor Chord in the gardens?"
"In what gardens?" asked Bottles.
"You did n't see him among that mob that set on you?"
"No fear," said Jem, "wherever there 's a scrimmage Doctor Chord will keep away from it."
"Indeed and in that you 're wrong," said I. "Doctor Chord has been the instigator of everything that has happened, and he stood in the background and helped to set them on."
Paddy sat up with wild alarm in his eyes.
"Sure, master," says he, "how could you see through so thick a wall as that?"
"I did not see through the wall at all; I was in the house. When you went through the back door, I went through the front gate, and what I am telling you is true. Doctor Chord is the cause of the whole commotion. That 's why he was afraid to come in the room. He thought perhaps you had seen him, and, finding you had not, he 'll be back here again when everything is over. Doctor Chord is a traitor, and you may take my word for that."
Paddy rose slowly to his feet, every red hair in his head bristling with scorn and indignation; but as he stood erect he put his hand to his side and gave a howl as he limped a step or two over the floor.
"The black-hearted villain," he muttered through his teeth. "I 'll have his life."
"You 'll have nothing of the sort," said I, "and we 'll get some good attendance out of him, for he 's a skillful man. When he has done his duty in repairing what he has inflicted upon you, then you can give him a piece of your mind."
"I 'll give him a piece of my boot; all that 's left of it," growled Jem Bottles, scowling.
"You may take your will of him after he has put some embrocation on your bruises," said I; and as I was speaking there came a timorous little knock at the door.
"Come in," I cried, and after some hesitation the door opened, and there stood little Doctor Chord with a big bottle under his arm. I was glad there was no supper yet on the table, for if there had been I must have asked the little man to sit down with me, and that he would do without a second's hesitation, so I could not rightly see him maltreated who had broken a crust with me.
He paid no attention to Jem or Paddy at first, but kept his cunning little eye on me.
"And where have you been to-day, O'Ruddy?" he asked.
"Oh," said I, "I accompanied these two to the door in the wall, and when they got through I heard yells fit to make a hero out of a nigger; but you know how stout the bolts are and I couldn't get to them, so I had just to go out of hearing of their bellowings. On the way back I happened to meet an old friend of mine, Father Donovan, and——"
Here Paddy, forgetting his good manners, shouted out:
"Thank God there 's a holy father in this hole of perdition; for I know I 'm goin' t' die to-morrow at the latest."
"Stop your nonsense," said I. "You 'll have to hold on to life at least a day longer; for the good father is not coming here until two days are past. You 're more frightened than hurt, and the Doctor here has a lotion that will make you meet the priest as a friend and not as a last counsellor."
"As I was saying. Doctor Chord, I met Father Donovan, and we strolled about the town, so that I have only now just come in. The father is a stranger in London, on a pilgrimage to Rome. And sure I had to show him the sights."
"It was a kindly action of you," said Doctor Chord, pulling the cork of the medicine-bottle. "Get those rags off," he called to Paddy, "and I 'll rub you down as if you were the finest horse that ever followed the hounds."
There was a great smell of medicine in the air as he lubricated Paddy over the bruised places; then Jem Bottles came under his hands, and either he was not so much hurt as Paddy was, or he made less fuss about it, for he glared at the Doctor all the time he was attending him, and said nothing.
It seemed an inhospitable thing to misuse a man who had acted the good Samaritan so arduously as the little Doctor with three quarters of his bottle gone, but as he slapped the cork in it again I stepped to the door and turned the key. Paddy was scowling now and then, and groaning now and again, when the cheerful Doctor said to him, as is the way with physicians when they wish to encourage a patient:
"Oh, you 're not hurt nearly as bad as you think you are. You 'll be a little sore and stiff in the morning, that 's all, and I 'll leave the bottle with you."
"You 've never rubbed me at all on the worst place," said Paddy angrily.
"Where was that?" asked Doctor Chord,—and the words were hardly out of his mouth when Paddy hit him one in the right eye that sent him staggering across the room.
"There 's where I got the blow that knocked me down," cried Paddy.
Doctor Chord threw a wild glance at the door, when Jem Bottles, with a little run and a lift of his foot, gave him one behind that caused the Doctor to turn a somersault.
"Take that, you thief," said Jem; "and now you 've something that neither of us got, because we kept our faces to the villains that set on us."
Paddy made a rush, but I cried:
"Don't touch the man when he 's down."
"Sure," says Paddy, "that 's when they all fell on me."
"Never strike a man when he 's down," I cried.
"Do ye mean to say we should n't hit a man when he 's down?" asked Jem Bottles.
"You knew very well you should n't," I told him. "Sure you 've been in the ring before now."
"That I have," shouted Bottles, pouncing on the unfortunate Doctor. He grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and flung him to his feet, then gave him a bat on the side of the head that sent him reeling up toward the ceiling again.
"That 's enough, Jem," I cautioned him.
"I 'm not only following the Doctor," said Jem, "but I 'm following the Doctor's advice. He told us to take a little gentle exercise and it would allay the soreness."
"The exercise you 're taking will not allay the soreness on the Doctor's part. Stop it, Jem! Now leave him alone, Paddy; he 's had enough to remember you by, and to learn that the way of the traitor is the rocky road to Dublin. Come now. Doctor, the door is open; get out into the passage as quick as you can, and I hope you have another bottle of that excellent lotion at home."
The threatening attitude of both Jem and Paddy seemed to paralyse the little man with fear, and he lay on the boards glaring up at them with terror in his eyes.
"I 'm holding the door open for you," said I, "and remember I may not be able to hold Paddy and Jem as easily as I hold the door; so make your escape before they get into action again."
Doctor Chord rolled himself over quickly, but, not daring to get on his feet, trotted out into the passage like a big dog on his hands and knees; and just then a waiter, coming up with a tray and not counting on this sudden apparition in the hallway, fell over him; and if it were not for my customary agility and presence of mind in grasping the broad metal server, a good part of my supper would have been on the floor. The waiter luckily leaned forward when he found himself falling, holding the tray high over his head, and so, seizing it, I saved the situation and the supper.
"What are ye grovelling down there for, ye drunken beast?" shouted the angry waiter, as he came down with a thud. "Why don't you walk on your two feet like a Christian?"
Doctor Chord took the hint and his departure, running along the passage and stumbling down the stairway like a man demented. When he got down into the courtyard he shook his fist at my window and swore he would have the law of us; but I never saw the little man again, although Paddy and Jem were destined to meet him once more, as I shall tell later on.
The supper being now laid, I fell at it and I disremember having ever enjoyed a meal more in my life. I sent Paddy and Jem to their quarters with food and a bottle of good wine to keep them company, and I think they deserved it, for they said the lotion the Doctor had put on the outside of them was stinging, SO they thought there should be something in the inside to counteract the inconvenience.
I went to sleep the moment I touched the pillow, and dreamed I was in the most umbrageous lover's walk that ever was, overhung with green branches through which the sunlight flickered, and closed in with shrubbery. There I chased a flying nymph that always just eluded me, laughing at me over her shoulder and putting her finger to her lips, and at last, when I caught her, it turned out to be Doctor Chord, whereupon I threw him indignantly into the bushes, and then saw to my dismay it was the Countess. She began giving her opinion of me so vigorously that I awoke and found it broad daylight.