Tuesday, 29 March 2011
One wintry day in February Father Ignatius was in his meditation corner at about 1 o’clock in the morning with his dog Canis. He was alone in the house. Father Donald was away traveling and Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, had long retired to her small cottage at the back of St Vincent House.
Father Ignatius could not get to sleep so he decided to go up to the attic for some reading of the Bible and cross-referencing it with several other books he had collected over the years.
Suddenly, the dog woke up from his sleep and started growling quietly. His ears were standing to attention as he looked at the priest as if to say: “Come on … open the door. I’ve heard something downstairs!”
The priest did nothing for a moment or two but the dog was insistent, growling all the time and jumping at the door handle.
Father Ignatius got up from his chair and opened the door as Canis shot out at full speed down the stairs. There was a sudden sound of running, then an almighty crash followed by the dog barking menacingly as if ready to attack.
Father Ignatius rushed from the fourth floor attic and by the time he reached the second floor, switching on lights as he moved hurriedly, he saw a young man lying on the floor waving his hands in the air to keep the dog from attacking him. Canis was a few feet away barking loudly and was about to pounce when Father Ignatius called him to stop. Luckily the dog stopped and sat down at the priest’s feet growling all the time.
It took a moment or two for the priest to assess the situation. An intruder had broken into the house thinking it was empty, and in his escape had tripped down the stairs and lay there injured.
“I think I’ve broken my foot” said the young man, “it hurts very much. I tripped on that worn out carpet”.
“Let me see,” replied the priest gently. He approached the intruder cautiously in case the man attacked him, and all the time keeping an eager Canis at bay. “Stretch your foot towards me …”
The man did as he was asked and the priest gently held the foot in his hand. “Can you move it freely?” he asked. And the man moved the foot once or twice backwards and forwards.
“It hurts …” he said, and then, to the priest’s surprise he added, “I shall sue you …”
Father Ignatius raised his eyebrows in surprise as the man continued, “That carpet there is worn and I tripped on a torn bit … it’s dangerous and I’ll sue you for negligence …”
“The carpet is in a private property” said the priest, “and you had no reason to be in the house at all at this time of night. How did you get in?”
“I broke the kitchen window … I thought the place was empty …”
“Perhaps I’d better call an ambulance and the police …” replied Father Ignatius as he got up from the man’s feet. “I’d advise you not to go anywhere with this injury, I doubt you can outrun the dog!”
The priest phoned the emergency services and walked down to the front door to let them in. The police were first to arrive ten minutes later followed by an ambulance. They walked up to the second floor to find the man still motionless on the floor with the dog staring at him a few feet away.
They put the man on a stretcher and as he was carried away he complained to the police that he wanted to sue for compensation for the accident caused by the worn carpet.
“Yes Harry … I understand. We’ll sort it out later” said one of the policemen as he followed him into the ambulance.
The other policeman stayed behind to take a statement from the priest as to what had happened. He inspected the damaged window in the kitchen and then went up to inspect the worn carpet.
“Technically, Harry is correct Father” he said, “this carpet is dangerous and you are liable for causing an injury to a visitor.”
“But … but … he is not a visitor. He is an intruder in the middle of the night having broken a window to get in. He could have attacked me …”
“Be that as it may Father … you caused the injury which landed him in hospital. You are fortunate that the dog didn’t attack him as we would have had other claims to deal with …”
Father Ignatius was at a loss for words. His mind was so confused by what he’d just heard that momentarily he forgot to pray about it. He was too concerned about facing substantial claims for injuries which the church could not afford to pay.
“We know the lad,” said the policeman, “he’s wanted for other break-ins. We’ll interview him in hospital in the morning and keep in touch Father.”
As the policeman left Father Ignatius shut the door and looked up at the Crucifix on the wall in the entrance hall and said, “What now? How do you intend to solve this Lord?”
He then went to the kitchen to pick up the broken glass and somehow secure the window for the night. He glanced at Mrs Davenport’s cottage which had not been disturbed whatsoever. “No doubt she’s tucked in bed” he thought to himself.
The next day, at about ten in the morning, the two policemen returned.
“We’ve interviewed the young man,” said one of the policemen, “he’s wanted for a number of robberies from houses in this area and we found several stolen items on his premises.
“We’ve come to an agreement regarding the injuries sustained whilst on your property. He has badly bruised his ankle but, fortunately for him and you Father, there are no broken bones.
“As he has not stolen anything from your property, we have agreed not to take into consideration the break-in here if he doesn’t pursue a claim for injury from you.
“Is this arrangement agreeable to you Father?”
“Er … yes … yes, of course.” replied a confused Father Ignatius.
“As it is,” continued the police officer, “he’ll be facing a number of other charges relating to all the stolen property we’ve recovered … and he’s likely to be put away for a long time. So there’s no need to mention the break-in here.”
“I understand,” mumbled the priest.
“And it’ll save us a lot of paper-work writing a report about your break-in,” continued the policeman, “although, you should have that carpet fixed Father. You may not be so lucky next time if an intruder were to get injured in a fall!”
As the two men left, Father Ignatius looked up to the Crucifix and said, “You have a novel way of sorting things out. I’d better get the carpet and kitchen window fixed I suppose!”