Author: Kerrigan Sheehan PM
A 1000 word piece inspired by "The Dubliners" by James Joyce and the Sherlock Holmes stories set in the British Empire during the 1880s. Part 7 of a series of 10.Rated: Fiction K - English - Words: 1,016 - Published: 01-30-09 - Status: Complete - id: 2629013
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The name is Patrick O'Reilly Junior. The man is nearly six feet tall with hair as black as coal and eyes as blue as the sea. The date is 17 March 1880, his thirty-third birthday. The place is Liverpool. He comes from County Kerry, or so he was told. He was born on the feast of Saint Patrick in 1847, shortly thereafter, his family fled Ireland because of the famine. He grew up with nothing in England. His father was killed at the point of a knife when he was only seven. His mother died when he was three from Typhus. He was the youngest child, only son, and the only child to survive out of four. Now, with no family or money, he wants something he knows he is never supposed to have: a normal life. He pawned everything he had managed to save up or steal in the past several years and bought a nice suit and a gold ring and began to seek a wife.
If only his parents could see him now. Patrick O'Reilly, Dandy and Gentleman. He learned to read in the orphanage, and, despite what anyone said about the Irish being stupid, he managed to apprentice himself to a doctor, who swore that he would never make any money because he was too sympathetic to poor patients. For all he knew, the poor patients might as well be his cousins. Nobody could answer that. He is still alive, as usual, proving everyone else wrong. The doctor he saw at the orphanage said that, although he had no lice or contagious diseases, he would die of malnutrition within the year. That was over a quarter century ago, and he is still alive.
Thirty-three. He cannot believe that he is thirty-three years old. He has nobody and nothing. He strolls along the River Mersey, thinking to himself. River Mersey…by the Mercy of the Lord he lived. In the whole stinking city of Liverpool nobody knows him well enough to call him anything but Doctor O'Reilly. He laughs to himself. Doctor O'Reilly. It sounds so strange to him. He sees a wallet laying on the ground. Out of instinct, he picks it up and finds a considerable sum of money. He counts it out and realizes that it is more than he has ever held in his life. He knows he should return it to the police, but he does not trust the police, and they do not trust him. He makes sure nobody is looking and puts the money into his pocket. The wallet has no calling cards, nor any personal items. He casually tosses it into the River Mersey so that he cannot possibly be caught with the wallet on his person and thanks the Almighty God and Saint Patrick, as it is his day, for a perfect birthday present. Immediately, Patrick goes to a church and gives his thanks to the collection plate, lest his gift be taken from him. His father always told him that if he had anything, it was wise to share it with the Lord, lest the Lord catch him not sharing.
The other thing Patrick's father, Patrick O'Reilly Senior, always said was not to trust the English. His father would be proud to know that little Patrick, who nobody thought would survive, had, for seemingly no reason, stumbled across a small fortune. The other thing that would make his father proud would be if Patrick would only go and find himself a girl, marry her, and produce a Patrick O'Reilly the Third. For a boy who grew up in a series of church homes, back alleys, storerooms, abandoned buildings, and orphanages, Patrick had not done too poorly. He at least knew how to read and write, perform a trade that people called for, and behave like a gentleman, which is more than he can say for most, if not all, of his childhood acquaintances. Then there is Bridget.
Bridget is a beautiful girl of twenty years, poised, sophisticated, and sensible. Her mother was Irish and her father English. Neither the Irish nor the English were willing to take her in as one of their own. Her mother died of a fever, and her father drowned himself in the grief only two years earlier. No man has proposed to her since. She has long golden hair and such beautiful green eyes. Patrick does his best to look like a gentleman, which is not the easiest thing for him to do. He owns but two good suits, two vests, three good shirts, and one pair of braces. His hair simply will not lie flat, and, no matter how hard he tries, he cannot seem to convince himself that the gentleman in the mirror is him or that he is, indeed, the gentleman in the mirror and not just a boy whose family left County Kerry carrying him in their arms only to die on him in England.
It is his proposal. He will not mess this up. He has his nicer suit and the golden ring. He knows Bridget very well, and he knows her to be a beautiful, educated, mannerly girl with a kind heart. She is also the most eligible girl in all of Liverpool, but he tries not to think upon how many others might want her hand as he sits in the barber's chair hoping for a miracle which, for the first time, he can afford. Patrick walks up to Bridget's door terrified. What if she refuses? What if she is already engaged to another? What if she sees him for who he truly is and hates it? Perhaps his thirty-third birthday is not the best day to propose. He mutters a prayer to Saint Patrick as he walks up her stairs. He knocks at the door anyhow, and there she stands with her golden hair and green eyes, and all of his poise and practiced speech leaves him. He looks into her green eyes and asks.