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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe O'ruddy: A Romance - Chapter 25
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The O'ruddy: A Romance - Chapter 25 Post by :JPMaroney Category :Long Stories Author :Stephen Crane Date :May 2012 Read :2523

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The O'ruddy: A Romance - Chapter 25

CHAPTER XXV

"You appear more at your ease when you are calm," said I to the Doctor as I squashed him into a chair. "Your ideas of murder are juvenile. Gardeners are murdered only by other gardeners, over some question of a magnolia-tree. Gentlemen of position never murder gardeners."

"You are right, sir," he responded frankly. "I see my mistake. But really, I was convinced that something dreadful was about to happen. I am not familiar with the ways of your nationality, sir, and when you gave the resolute directions to your men it was according to my education to believe that something sinister was at hand, although no one could regret more than I that I have made this foolish mistake."

"No," said I, "you are not familiar with the ways of my nationality, and it will require an indefinite number of centuries to make your country-men understand the ways of my nationality; and when they do they will only pretend that after great research they have discovered something very evil indeed. However, in this detail, I am able to instruct you fully. The gardener will not be murdered. His fluency with a blunderbuss was very annoying, but in my opinion it was not so fluent as to merit death."

"I confess," said Doctor Chord, "that all peoples save my own are great rascals and natural seducers. I cannot change this national conviction, for I have studied politics as they are known in the King's Parliament, and it has been thus proved to me."

"However, the gardener is not to be murdered," said I, "and although I am willing to cure you in that particular ignorance I am not willing to take up your general cure as a life work. A glass of wine with you."

After we had adjusted this slight misunderstanding we occupied our seats comfortably before the fire. I wished to give Paddy and Jem plenty of time to conciliate Strammers, but I must say that the wait grew irksome. Finally I arose and went into the corridor and peered into the taproom. There were Paddy and Jem with their victim, the three of them seated affectionately in a row on a bench, drinking from quart pots of ale. Paddy was clapping the gardener on the shoulder.

"Strammers," he cried, "I am thinking more of you than of my cousin Mickey, who was that gay and that gallant it would make you wonder, although I am truthful in saying they killed him for the peace of the parish. But he had the same bold air with him, and devil the girl in the country-side but didn't know who was the lad for her."

Strammers seemed greatly pleased, but Jem Bottles evinced deep disapproval of Paddy's Celtic methods.

"Let Master Strammers be," said he. "He be a-wanting a quiet draught. Let him have his ale with no talking here and there."

"Ay," said Strammers, now convinced that he was a great man and a philosopher, "a quiet draught o' old ale be a good thing."

"True for you, Master Strammers," cried Paddy enthusiastically. "It is in the way of being a good thing. There you are now. Ay, that's it. A good thing! Sure."

"Ay," said Strammers, deeply moved by this appreciation, which he had believed should always have existed. "Ay, I spoke well."

"Well would be no name for it," responded Paddy fervidly. "By gor, and I wish you were knowing Father Corrigan. He would be the only man to near match you. 'A quiet draught o' old ale is a good thing,' says you, and by the piper 'tis hard to say Father Corrigan could have done it that handily. 'Tis you that are a wonderful man."

"I have a small way o' my own," said Strammers, "which even some of the best gardeners has accounted most wise and humorous. The power o' good speech be a great gift." Whereupon the complacent Strammers lifted his arm and buried more than half his face in his quart pot.

"It is," said Paddy earnestly. "And I'm doubting if even the best gardeners would be able to improve it. And says you: 'A quiet draught o' old ale is a good thing,' 'Twould take a grand gardener to beat that word."

"And besides the brisk way of giving a word now and then," continued the deluded Strammers, "I am a great man with flowers. Some of the finest beds in London are there in my master's park."

"Are they so?" said Paddy. "I would be liking to see them."

"And ye shall," cried the gardener with an outburst of generous feeling. "So ye shall. On a Sunday we may stroll quietly and decently in the gardens, and ye shall see."

Seeing that Paddy and Jem were getting on well with the man, I returned to Doctor Chord.

"'Tis all right," said I. "They have him in hand. We have only to sit still, and the whole thing is managed."

Later I saw the three men in the road, Paddy and Jem embracing the almost tearful Strammers. These farewells were touching. Afterward my rogues appeared before me, each with a wide grin.

"We have him," said Paddy, "and 'tis us that has an invitation to come inside the wall next Sunday. 'I have some fine flowers in the gardens,' said he. 'Have you so?' said I. 'Well, then, 'tis myself will be breaking your head if you don't leave us inside to see them.' 'Master Paddy,' said he, 'you are a gentleman, or if not you are very like one, and you and your handsome friend, Master Jem, as well as another friend or two, is welcome to see the gardens whenever I can make certain the master and mistress is out.' And with that I told him he could go home."

"You are doing well," I said, letting the scoundrel see in my face that I believed his pleasant tale, and he was so pleased that he was for going on and making a regular book out of it. But I checked him. "No," said I. "I am fearing that I would become too much interested and excited. I am satisfied with what you've been telling me. 'Twas more to my mind to have beaten that glass-eyed man, but we have taken the right course. And now we will be returning to where we lodge."

During the walk back to the "Pig and Turnip" Doctor Chord took it upon himself to discourse in his usual style upon the recent events. "Of course, sir, I would care to hear of the tragic scenes which must have transpired soon after I--I--"

"Abandoned the vicinity?" said I.

"Precisely," he responded. "Although I was not in the exact neighbourhood during what must have been a most tempestuous part of your adventure, I can assure you I had lost none of my former interest in the affair."

"I am believing you," said I; "but let us talk now more of the future. I am much absorbed in the future. It appears to me that it will move at a rapid pace."

I did not tell him about my meeting with Lady Mary, because I knew, if occasion arose, he would spread the news over half London. No consideration would have been great enough to bridle the tongue of the little gossip from use of the first bit of news which he had ever received warm from the fire. Besides, after his behaviour in front of the enemy, I was quite certain that an imparting of my news could do nothing in the way of impairing his inefficiency. Consequently it was not necessary to trouble him with dramatic details.

"As to the part of the adventure which took place in the garden, you are consistently silent, I observe, sir," said the Doctor.

"I am," said I. "I come of a long line of silent ancestors. My father was particularly notable in this respect."

"And yet, sir," rejoined the Doctor, "I had gained an impression that your father was quite willing to express himself in a lofty and noble manner on such affairs as attracted his especial notice."

"He was that," said I, pleased. "He was indeed. I am only wishing I had his talent for saying all that was in his mind so fast that even the priest could not keep up with him, and goodness knows Father Donovan was no small talker."

"You prove to me the limitations of science, sir," said he. "Although I think I may boast of some small education of a scientific nature, I think I will require some time for meditation and study before I will be able to reconcile your last two statements."

"'Tis no matter," I cried amiably. "Let it pass."

For the rest of that week there was conference following conference at the "Pig and Turnip" and elsewhere. My three companions were now as eager as myself for the advent of the critical Sunday when I, with Paddy and Jem, were to attempt our visit to Strammers's flower-gardens. I had no difficulty in persuading the Doctor that his services would be invaluable at another place; for the memory of the blunderbuss seemed to linger with him. I had resolved to disguise myself slightly, for I had no mind to have complications arising from this gardener's eyes. I think a little disguise is plenty unless one stalks mysteriously and stops and peers here and there. A little unostentatious minding of one's own affairs is a good way to remain undiscovered. Then nobody looks at you and demands: "Who is this fellow?" My father always said that when he wished to disguise himself he dressed as a common man, and although this gained him many a hard knock of the fist and blow of the stick from people who were really his inferiors, he found his disguise was perfection. However, my father only disguised when on some secret mission from King Louis, for it does not become a gentleman to accept a box on the ears from anybody unless it is in the service of his sovereign.

I remember my father saying also these tours as a common man taught him he must ever afterward ride carefully through the streets of villages and towns. He was deeply impressed by the way in which men, women, and children had to scud for their lives to keep from under the hoofs of the chargers of these devil-may-care gentlemen who came like whirlwinds through narrow crowded streets. He himself often had to scramble for his life, he said.

However, that was many years back, and I did not fear any such adventures in my prospective expedition. In such a case I would have trembled for what might happen. I have no such philosophy of temper as had my father. I might take the heel of a gay cavalier and throw him out of the saddle, and then there would be a fine uproar. However, I am quite convinced that it is always best to dodge. A good dodger seldom gets into trouble in this world, and lives to a green old age, while the noble patriot and others of his kind die in dungeons. I remember an honest man who set out to reform the parish in the matter of drink. They took him and--but, no matter; I must be getting on with the main tale.

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CHAPTER XXVIOn Saturday night I called the lads to my room and gave them their final instructions. "Now, you rogues," said I to them, "let there be no drinking this night, and no trapesing of the streets, getting your heads broke just at the critical moment; for, as my father used to say, although a broken head is merrily come by, a clear head's worth two of it when business is to be transacted. So go to your beds at once, the two of you, if there's any drinking to be done, troth it's myself that'll attend to it." With that
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CHAPTER XXIV"Climb down, ye thief," said the grim, slow voice again. I looked once more into the mouth of the blunderbuss. I decided to climb. If I had had my two feet square on the ground, I would have taken a turn with this man, artillery or no artillery, to see if I could get the upper hand of him. But neither I nor any of my ancestors could ever fight well in trees. Foliage incommodes us. We like a clear sweep for the arm, and everything on a level space, and neither man in a tree. However, a sensible man
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