TWO GENTLEMEN who were in the lavatory at the time tried to lift him up: but he was quite helpless. He lay curled up at the foot of the stairs down which he had fallen. They succeeded in turning him over. His hat had rolled a few yards away and his clothes were smeared with the filth and ooze of the floor on which he had lain, face downwards. His eyes were closed and he breathed with a grunting noise. A thin stream of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth.
These two gentlemen and one of the curates carried him up the stairs and laid him down again on the floor of the bar. In two minutes he was surrounded by a ring of men. The manager of the bar asked everyone who he was and who was with him. No one knew who he was but one of the curates said he had served the gentleman with a small rum.
"Was he by himself?" asked the manager.
"No, sir. There was two gentlemen with him."
"And where are they?"
No one knew; a voice said:
"Give him air. He's fainted."
The ring of onlookers distended and closed again elastically. A dark medal of blood had formed itself near the man's head on the tessellated floor. The manager, alarmed by the grey pallor of the man's face, sent for a policeman.
His collar was unfastened and his necktie undone. He opened eyes for an instant, sighed and closed them again. One of gentlemen who had carried him upstairs held a dinged silk hat in his hand. The manager asked repeatedly did no one know who the injured man was or where had his friends gone. The door of the bar opened and an immense constable entered. A crowd which had followed him down the laneway collected outside the door, struggling to look in through the glass panels.
The manager at once began to narrate what he knew. The costable, a young man with thick immobile features, listened. He moved his head slowly to right and left and from the manager to the person on the floor, as if he feared to be the victim some delusion. Then he drew off his glove, produced a small book from his waist, licked the lead of his pencil and made ready to indite. He asked in a suspicious provincial accent:
"Who is the man? What's his name and address?"
A young man in a cycling-suit cleared his way through the ring of bystanders. He knelt down promptly beside the injured man and called for water. The constable knelt down also to help. The young man washed the blood from the injured man's mouth and then called for some brandy. The constable repeated the order in an authoritative voice until a curate came running with the glass. The brandy was forced down the man's throat. In a few seconds he opened his eyes and looked about him. He looked at the circle of faces and then, understanding, strove to rise to his feet.
"You're all right now?" asked the young man in the cycling- suit.
"Sha,'s nothing," said the injured man, trying to stand up.
He was helped to his feet. The manager said something about a hospital and some of the bystanders gave advice. The battered silk hat was placed on the man's head. The constable asked:
"Where do you live?"
The man, without answering, began to twirl the ends of his moustache. He made light of his accident. It was nothing, he said: only a little accident. He spoke very thickly.
"Where do you live" repeated the constable.
The man said they were to get a cab for him. While the point was being debated a tall agile gentleman of fair complexion, wearing a long yellow ulster, came from the far end of the bar. Seeing the spectacle, he called out:
"Hallo, Tom, old man! What's the trouble?"
"Sha,'s nothing," said the man.
The new-comer surveyed the deplorable figure before him and then turned to the constable, saying:
"It's all right, constable. I'll see him home."
The constable touched his helmet and answered:
"All right, Mr. Power!"
"Come now, Tom," said Mr. Power, taking his friend by the arm. "No bones broken. What? Can you walk?"
The young man in the cycling-suit took the man by the other arm and the crowd divided.
"How did you get yourself into this mess?" asked Mr. Power.
"The gentleman fell down the stairs," said the young man.
"I' 'ery 'uch o'liged to you, sir," said the injured man.
"Not at all."
"'ant we have a little . . . ?"
"Not now. Not now."
The three men left the bar and the crowd sifted through the doors in to the laneway. The manager brought the constable to the stairs to inspect the scene of the accident. They agreed that the gentleman must have missed his footing. The customers returned to the counter and a curate set about removing the traces of blood from the floor.
When they came out into Grafton Street, Mr. Power whistled for an outsider. The injured man said again as well as he could.
"I' 'ery 'uch o'liged to you, sir. I hope we'll 'eet again. 'y na'e is Kernan."
The shock and the incipient pain had partly sobered him.
"Don't mention it," said the young man.
They shook hands. Mr. Kernan was hoisted on to the car and, while Mr. Power was giving directions to the carman, he expressed his gratitude to the young man and regretted that they could not have a little drink together.
"Another time," said the young man.
The car drove off towards Westmoreland Street. As it passed Ballast Office the clock showed half-past nine. A keen east wind hit them, blowing from the mouth of the river. Mr. Kernan was huddled together with cold. His friend asked him to tell how the accident had happened.
"I'an't 'an," he answered, "'y 'ongue is hurt."