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The Amazing Adventures of Dr. Nell - Part II

Story ID:2979
Written by:John Ward (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family History
Writers Conference:$500 2007 Family Memories Writing Project
Location:Clough County Down Ireland
Year:1883
Person:Dr. Nell
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OurEcho Preface This post deals with a mature theme or contains explicit language. While the post is not extremely violent or pornographic, it does contain language or explore a subject matter that may offend some readers. If you do not wish to view posts that deal with mature themes, please exit this post.
Gullible people are generally merely honest people who would never lie to anyone. Because of this they never expect anyone to lie to them and thus often have advantage taken of them.

Bridget Fitzpatrick was just such a person. She’d lost her husband Seamus to the sea when he left “Auld Ireland” to join the British merchant marine on a clipper that ran between Shannon, in the West of Ireland, and Newfoundland on the North American coast. During a terrible squall off the coast of Canada while trying to secure some stores on deck, he was washed overboard and never seen again.

Seamus had left Bridget the stone cottage with an outhouse that had never been moved and smelled to high heaven, four sheep, two pigs and a cow. The cottage sat on about thirty acres of very good real estate in the village. Seamus had received instructions from his father never to sell the place, “for it will appreciate and the village will buy it later for twice the price!”

For a while Bridget managed to survive her widowhood with the help of friends and the little family she had, but as time wore on making a life became harder and harder. Despite her situation, Bridget continued her charitable work, taking soup, fruit and bread to poor shut-ins and caring for the sick of her village. Her life became more burdensome than she could stand and after selling all the animals, she started to dispose of furniture and household necessities, making do with what was left.

Still, her life spiraled downward until she was in desperate straits. A wealthy, opportunistic nabob, who had recently arrived from England, heard of her travails in a local pub and saw an opportunity to steal her property, so he went to her cottage the next day, Thursday, and stood outside with a note pad, taking a look around the place and making sporadic notes.

After a while, Bridget Fitzpatrick came out and asked if there was anything she could do for him. He said no, that he just had to make a few more notes and he would be off. She asked who he was and he explained that he worked for the government and that the government might be needing Bridget’s place in the near future and if that was the case they might exercise their “right of eminent domain” and take the place.

The poor and gullible Bridget was shocked. She said, “Oi’ve never heard o’ such a thing! How will oi live if dey takes me place?” The pommy, while busily scratching notes, explained that the government would give her some money, but it would be a token amount. He paused and Bridget’s eyes began to tear. “Look sur: oi’ve people dependin’ on me and oi’ve no where to go. Could the government not look elsewhere?” He shrugged and said “No, I think they’re rather set on this place, actually. They need a communal grain and equipment storage facility and this place is perfectly located.” Bridget was distraught. “But sur, how much will deys give me for’t?” “Oh they’ll probably give you a couple of hundred pounds so you can move in with relatives” the man replied. “But sur, my relatives have all died and oi couldn’t impose upon my friends loik dat!” cried the desperate Bridget. “Well… I’ll tell you what. I know someone who might be willing to buy this property off you for a little more than the government would offer… if you like I’ll try to contact him…” Oh sur, if you could do dat, oi’d be eternally grateful to you…” and just like that the wheels of a coldly opportunistic confidence game, were set in motion.

The man, a Mr. Delmont Harrison, told Bridget that his friend was an important man in the British government and that if she mentioned this to anyone, the deal would be off. In addition, it would be worth it to his friend because: due to his friend’s position in the British government, he would be able to stop the local government from exercising their right of eminent domain and the property would stay private. He said that his friend would also give her a month to leave after they sealed the deal, if she agreed to the terms within a week.

That Saturday my Grandfather, now around fifteen years old, and the inscrutable Dr. Nell were walking along the main street of Clough. The two of them had long since become fast friends and developed a unique symbiotic friendship. They were always together wherever they went and that day while visiting the village they decided to go to the town orchard and pick some apples to eat and to take to Bridget Fitzpatrick who, they knew, would take them to the people she cared for in town.

When they got to Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s stone cottage they found her crying in the kitchen. My Grandfather, Johnny Ward, was a great listener and people opened up to him quite readily, so it was not long before Bridget swore him to silence and revealed the reason for her misery. As she spoke, Dr. Nell stood leaning against the wall listening wordlessly too. He was about twenty five years old at the time and surprisingly astute for a tramp. Johnny Ward tried to comfort Mrs. Fitzpatrick and then, after leaving their apples on the kitchen table, they left to head home.

Dr. Nell, who hardly ever spoke, stopped him and said: “Johnny, that man is trying to rob Bridget.” “Why do you say that?” asked my Grand-dad, “He said he’d try to get her a decent price from his friend. He hasn’t a friend Johnny, at least not in the government. He’ll put up the money himself and say he’s buying it for his friend, but it’s for himself and it won’t be a fair price.” “What’ll we do?” asked Johnny. “Let me think on it me boyo…” said Dr. Nell and with that my Grandfather and the Doctor walked back towards their home.

Michael Murphy was considered special by some of the town folk of Clough and “just an eejit” by others. He was, what has been uncharitably referred to as, a “Village Idiot.” Michael was about forty years of age, stout and with a full head of prematurely white hair. This combined with the fine donated clothing he wore, gave him the appearance of being quite prosperous, that is until he opened his mouth. He was harmless and gentle so his inability to fit was tolerated and he was looked after by whoever ran into him.

Dr. Nell approached him after Mass on Sunday and after a few pints paid for by Johnny’s allowance, he had Murphy’s agreement to participate. Dr. Nell then called a meeting at Bridget Fitzpatrick’s cottage for Monday and the conspirators met under her thatched roof, to hatch the doctor’s plan.

Mr. Harrison could barely contain his glee when he left the small hotel in Clough and headed to the Fitzpatrick farm with all the legal documents drawn carefully by a local Solicitor. He was trying to control his steps and the uncommonly jittery feeling he had inside as he strode down the street to the cottage. He never noticed the ill-concealed stares from shop keepers along the street. Clough was small and news traveled fast. No-one liked the idea of Bridget being fleeced, especially by an Englishman, but they knew that Dr. Nell had everything firmly in hand.

As Delmont Harrison approached the cottage, he noticed that there were two other gentlemen standing in the yard talking to Bridget Fitzpatrick. With an air of irritation he entered the front gate and asked what the Dickens was going on. Bridget was elated as she told Mr. Harrison that these two decent gentlemen had made her an offer of thrice the value of her land. She would be selling to them and not to Mr. Harrison. Delmont was taken aback. Thrice the value; that would mean approximately three thousand pounds!

“Gentlemen” he began, “I don’t know if you are aware, but I had an agreement to buy this land and I intend to enforce that agreement.” “Well now sir, I don’t know who you might be, but I represent the interests of Mr. Michael Murphy, Irish industrialist and Amateur Archeologist; my calling card, sir,” said the impeccably dressed Dr. Nell, snatching the card back before the ink could get on Mr. Harrison’s fingers. “But, my agreement?” raged Mr. Harrison. “Would you care to show us this signed agreement sir? I thought not. Mrs. Fitzpatrick said it was a verbal agreement and that you told her if she mentioned the sale of her estate to anyone, the deal was off. I believe she mentioned it to Mr. Murphy here.” At hearing his name, Michael Murphy threw away an apple he was eating and turned around to look at Harrison. “How djyi do?” Murphy asked in his best imitation of an educated accent. “This is outrageous! I had…. My friend in the government had plans for this land and will not be happy about this situation!” cried Harrison. “Well then, you should not have included the secrecy clause and all would have been well.” Dr. Nell was the epitome of a young upstart Irish lawyer. “Look, gentlemen, may we discuss this over dinner this evening, at my hotel and at my expense?” asked Mr. Harrison. Dr. Nell had to struggle to keep Murphy from running over to embrace the crest-fallen Delmont Harrison. “Well, if my employer does not mind. Allow me to have a word with him…” said the doctor.

They walked a little way from Harrison and Dr. Nell began: “Mrs. Fitzpatrick, it would be normal to be happy about the new offer, but please stop giggling! Michael, I want you to look seriously at me. Michael, do you see anything in my eye?” Michael frowned and looked into Dr. Nell’s eyes… “Nope,” he said shaking his great mane of white hair. “Good” the doctor continued. “Now stay here while I speak with Mr. Harrison and Mrs. Fitzpatrick, try to control your laughter.” Dr. Nell walked back to Harrison and said: “I have good news: I can attend your dinner invitation, but unfortunately Mr. Murphy can’t. He must take the coach to Dublin later today. Shall we say six o’clock at your hotel?” “Yes, yes, it’s the ‘Motte and Bailey’ on McFarland, my name is Harrison and I’ll expect you then, shall I?” “Mr. Nell to you sir, I’ll see you then Mr. Harrison, rest assured” said the doctor as Harrison turned on his heel and, mustering as much confidence as he could, strode towards the center of the village.

“Why can’t oi come doctor, oi loiks to eat good food too ye know?” asked poor Murphy. “It’s important that I go alone Michael, I can’t explain why,” answered Dr. Nell, “but I’ll bring you a little something special afterwards, alright?” “Yes, thank you doctor,” said Murphy beaming.

That afternoon Dr. Nell discussed the plan for the evening with Johnny Ward and by the time twilight fell he was wearing my Great Grandfather’s best suit and looking as dazzling as a Prince at a ball.

Harrison had left word at the front desk that a young attorney would be coming to have dinner and should be ushered into the private dining area where they could discuss business. When Dr. Nell arrived most of the staff did not recognize him at first, but when they did they knew enough not to react inappropriately, all except Billy Sullivan, who burst out laughing and was taken to the stables quickly and quietly, to have a few facts of life explained. Dr. Nell was ushered into the private dining room where Delmont Harrison waited impatiently sipping a Guinness. “I am so glad you made it Mr. Nell. Please have a seat. Do you know I must say you are rather young to be a qualified lawyer; congratulations.” “Oh I’m not as young as I look,” said Dr. Nell, “it runs in the family. Shall we get down to business?” The waiters brought Vichyssoise for the first course. Dr. Nell made a mental note to chide them for not heating the soup!

“I am rather astonished at your employer’s offer,” said Harrison. “Three times the value, my, my the property must be very important to him. Would you like some wine?” “It is that sir, very important” said the doctor taking a glass “in fact this is his most important purchase to date. He has quite the eye for value, if no manners” Dr. Nell added as Harrison’s eyebrows shot up. “D’you know, I noticed that too…” Harrison sensed a chink in the armor, “he was rather stand-offish to me this morning.” “Well I am sure he has a lot on his mind” Dr, Nell back pedaled, “but there are certain things…” “Do go on” Harrison prompted in his most compassionate voice. “Oh it’s nothing, I’ve said too much already.” Dr. Nell looked at the compassionate eyes and saw the steel behind them. “Some more wine” Harrison called and then in a conspiratorial voice he said: “I once worked for a man who was ever so cruel. I did everything for him, but I never got a thank you, no appreciation and at Christmas, I might as well have been dead for all he cared.” “Oh don’t talk to me about Christmas. I may not be married but my poor dear parents depend on me,” the doctor lied “not a penny did Mr. Murphy part with. What’s the next course?” Dr. Nell had stopped eating the cold potato and leek soup and was trying to keep his stomach from screaming “feed me you bastard” in Gaelic.

The waiter came over and cleared the soup-plates looking frightened at Dr. Nell’s angry stare. “We follow with Boef Burginion” he pronounced phonetically “accompanied by pommes frittes and endive.” Dr. Nell took his arm and pulled him close: “Jimmy, don’t you have any Irish food?” “Trust me” said Jimmy, “’Tis nothing but meat and potatoes.” “Well make sure you cook it this time!” whispered the angry doctor.

“More wine?” Harrison was beaming and Dr. Nell thought: “Oh it’s the old ‘more wine’ routine is it?” So he accepted a glass and started to act as if he was unable to hold his liquor, probably the best acting he did all night. Half way through the beef Harrison said: “Mr. Nell, I have an idea that there is more to this purchase than you’re telling me.” “How so?” slurred the good doctor. “Well twice the price I can see, but thrice? There is something afoot here. Now you and I are kindred spirits.” That we are, that we are.” agreed Dr. Nell. “Well now, how would you like enter into an agreement with me?” asked the ever more confident Mr. Harrison. “And what would that agreement be pertaining to?” asked Dr. Nell appearing more inebriated than curious. “Why don’t you tell me what Mr. Murphy sees in that acreage?”

After a brief show of wrestling with his own ethical code Dr. Nell blurted: “Treasure! He sees treasure.” Mr. Harrison cajoled “Yes, but you see, he will not realize much profit when he sells, if he buys at three times the price, so you can hardly call that a treasure.” “Oh” said the doctor, “but he’s not thinkin’ of sellin’. He’s thinkin’ of diggin’.” Dr. Nell said in a quiet conspiratorial voice. “What, underground? I say old chap I think you’ve had a few too many!” “NO, you haven’t seen the map!” Dr. Nell played the drunk so convincingly that the Hotel sommelier left to get help from the kitchen if he should get up to leave. “The map?” Harrison was intrigued. “I told you my employer was an amateur archeologist. He has a map that he found hidden in the leg of an antique table he purchased. He had it authenticated and it shows that there is plunder, put there by Granuaile!” Harrison was thunder-struck. Of course he had heard of the famous sixteenth century O’Malley clan; of Granuaile or Grace O’Malley who had taken to piracy and plundered ships entering Galway Bay. He’d read of the terrible Granuaile who made her base of operation Clare Island and plundered wherever there was loot to be had.

“I’d like to get me maulers on some of that” said Dr. Nell enticingly, slipping into a thicker Irish Brogue for credibility. “Listen Mr. Nell, if you can get that map, I can guarantee you will get a share of that treasure.” “What?” asked the seemingly sozzled doctor. “Can you get that map my good man?” Asked Harrison, excitedly. “I s’pose I could… why?” Dr. Nell was the picture of drunken innocence. “If you can get me that map, I will guarantee you a share of twenty, no thirty percent, at least.” No, no, no, no,” said Dr. Nell, “that won’t do, I cannot rob my employer and anyway, I don’t want any percentage, don’t you know sir, that there is probably over ten million pounds sterling in treasure there? When Granuaile met with Queen Elizabeth for her pardon in September of 1593, she bought it with half her treasure and even then it was a fortune! No sir, what would I do with three million pounds, there isn’t a bank that would take it.” Suddenly Dr. Nell realized he had made the calculation too easily for a drunk and noticed a skeptical look on Harrison’s face. Fortunately Harrison’s greed superseded his suspicion and he continued. “Well Mr. Nell what would it take to get that map?” “I’ll tell you what,” said the doctor, if you will give me four times the value of that land, I will get you the map.” “Four times the value! Are you mad sir?” “No, I am not mad” said the drunk ‘Mr. Nell’ “I am greedy and if you aren’t interested, I don’t care, because I don’t want to get caught robbing my employer anyway.”

Harrison thought for a minute. The land was probably worth a thousand pounds. He would get the land from Mrs. Fitzpatrick for 500 pounds easy, after the deal with Murphy fell through. Four thousand five hundred was an enormous amount to come up with, but if he stood to gain ten million and that is at Elizabethan value, over three hundred years ago, four thousand five hundred pounds was a small primer. He would have to empty his savings account to do it. There’d be no money for equipment, he’d have to dig with a pick and shovel. For more than ten Million, who cares? But what if Murphy wanted to buy the land anyway? No! He wouldn’t, not if the map had disappeared, there’d be no point, the land was worthless to Murphy without the map. He couldn’t dig up all thirty acres, the District Council wouldn’t allow it. He would have to dig in a specific place only and even then he’d have to get permission and obtain the mineral rights.

Harrison signaled the waiter for his account. “Alright I’ll get you that amount!” Dr. Nell smiled inwardly. There was no-one as easy to con as a greedy man. “Well, I’m not sure I want to take the chance. What if my employer finds out it was me who took the map and has me arrested?” The doctor was playing his part to perfection. “Look he won’t find out, who’s going to tell him dear chap? All you have to do is bring me the map and I’ll give you a cheque…” “No, no, no… No cheques, - cash or nothing. I don’t trust cheques, just cash.” said Dr. Nell.

The waiter arrived with the bill for dinner. Harrison signed it and wrote in “No gratuity.” “Fine, it will be cash then, but you’ll have to wait until next week for the bank to have my money. In the mean time get that map!” “I will do that and I will have to explain to Mrs. Fitzpatrick that the deal with Mr. Murphy is off. She’ll have to take whatever you offer her. I’ll tell you what else, for the price I will perform the transaction with Mrs. Fitzpatrick for you as well. But I must have my money in the palm of my hand first.” “Yes, yes,” said Harrison, getting aggravated at the sloppy Mr. Nell, “Now if you’ll get the map before Mr. Murphy gets back from Dublin, I’d be much obliged.”

The dinner ended with some waiters helping the inebriated lawyer, his pockets stuffed with scones for Michael Murphy, out to his hansom cab. The footman looked astonishingly like the young heir apparent to the Earldom of Ulster, Johnny Ward.

The week passed with Johnny pushing Dr. Nell to contact the Englishman, but the doctor would not do it. He explained that it would sour the con if he looked too eager.

At a prearranged time, Dr. Nell went to the Motte and Bailey hotel and asked for Mr. Harrison. Delmont Harrison came down the stairs and took the doctor by the arm leading him into the billiard room. “Alright, Mr. Nell I have the money, where is the map?” “Now put that money away, you don’t think I have the map in my pocket do you?” asked the doctor. “Where then?” Harrison was looking as eager and irritable as the doctor had planned. “Come, we’ll go and get it.”

They hailed a coach which took them to the National Bank of Ireland in Dundrum, about three miles from Clough, where Dr. Nell, with the help of Johnny, had arranged for a private, walnut paneled room. He opened a wall safe and brought out a very distressed looking parchment map that he and Johnny had created in the last four days. They had used the Ward seal assuming Harrison couldn’t tell one seal from another and they had forged a document that would have fooled all but an antiques dealer. Harrison stared at the map as if trying to memorize it. There were symbols and scribbles that would have to be interpreted. Dr. Nell snatched it up. “The money if you please sir” he said indignantly. “Yes, of course, the money.” Harrison reached into his inside jacket pockets and pulled out four bundles of cash. Up until that moment Dr. Nell had only dealt with ten shilling notes which were brown and the green pound notes shook him for an instant, but he recovered himself, counted and said “Well now, everything looks in order. Here’s the map, please put it away and never let it be seen as I shall have to tell Mr. Murphy the map is nowhere to be found and it wouldn’t do to have it show up in your hands.” “Rest assured I will not let it out of my satchel.” said Harrison. “Let’s go and break the news to Mrs. Fitzpatrick.”

Bridget did such a good job of wailing that Dr. Nell wondered if Johnny had indeed explained the deal to her! She seemed inconsolable as she took the five hundred pounds off Mr. Harrison and signed the deed to her property. Tears dropped onto the paper and had to be blotted with the India ink and Dr. Nell was quite shaken until he saw her wink at him through her tears. “I am terribly sorry madam, but since you vacillated on the deal my friend in the government refused to come up with his original offer and five hundred is as high as he will go.” Harrison’s demeanor was cold and matter-of-fact. He gave Bridget one week to vacate the premises, but since she hadn’t much to take to her new home in the downtown area, she was out in only two days. Having paid one thousand five hundred for her large new town house, Bridget had two thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine pounds in the National Bank of Ireland earning interest. She had offered the doctor whatever he wanted, but he only took one pound. “God bless you Dr. Nell – and the little pot that boils your tea” said Bridget. “You will always be welcome at my house.”

In the Cock and Barrow Pub later the next day my Grandfather said: “My only regret was that this man still got the land and even though he paid four times the value, nothing really happened to him, he’s now a neighbor.” “Well” replied the doctor, “He is surely a neighbor, but no-one likes him and he’ll not have an easy time of it. He got the land, but you should always leave a man with something, because a man with nothing to lose is a danger to all. As for nothing happening to him, wait until he realizes where the map says the treasure is buried.” “Why’s that?” asked Johnny. “When he eventually figures out the codes and follows the directions he will find that the treasure is buried right under the outhouse!” “Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph, you’re joking!” said my Grandfather “not at all, at all,” said Dr. Nell, “he’ll be digging in shite for years to come. How’s that for something happening to him?”