Handy Andy by Anonymous

Andy Rooney was a fellow who had the most singularly ingenious knack of doing every thing the wrong way; disappointment awaited on all affairs in which he bore a part, and destruction was at his fingers' ends: so the nick-name the neighbours stuck upon him was Handy Andy, and the jeering jingle pleased them.

Andy's entrance into this world was quite in character with his after achievements, for he was nearly the death of his mother. She survived, however, to have herself clawed almost to death while her darling babby was in arms, for he would not take his nourishment from the parent fount unless he had one of his little red fists twisted into his mother's hair, which he dragged till he made her roar; while he diverted the pain by scratching her till the blood came, with the other. Nevertheless she swore he was "the loveliest and sweetest craythur the sun ever shined upon;" and when he was able to run about and wield a little stick, and smash every thing breakable belonging to her, she only praised his precocious powers, and used to ask, "Did ever any one see a darlin' of his age handle a stick so bowld as he did?"

Andy grew up in mischief and the admiration of his mammy; but, to do him justice, he never meant harm in the course of his life, and was most anxious to offer his services on all occasions to any one who would accept them; but they were only those who had not already proved Andy's peculiar powers.

There was a farmer hard by in this happy state of ignorance, named Owen Doyle, or, as he was familiarly called, Owny na Coppal, or, "Owen of the Horses," because he bred many of these animals, and sold them at the neighbouring fairs; and Andy one day offered his services to Owny when he was in want of some one to drive up a horse to his house from a distant "bottom," as low grounds by a river side are always called in Ireland.

"Oh, he's wild, Andy, and you'd never be able to ketch him," said Owny.—"Throth, an' I'll engage I'll ketch him if you'll let me go. I never seen the horse I couldn't ketch, sir," said Andy.

"Why, you little spridhogue, if he took to runnin' over the long bottom, it 'ud be more than a day's work for you to folly him."—"Oh, but he won't run."

"Why won't he run?"—"Bekase I won't make him run."

"How can you help it?"—"I'll soother him."

"Well, you're a willin' brat, any how; and so go, and God speed you!" said Owny.

"Just gi' me a wisp o' hay an' a han'ful iv oats," said Andy, "if I should have to coax him."—"Sartinly," said Owny, who entered the stable and came forth with the articles required by Andy, and a halter for the horse also.

Handy Andy

Handy Andy

"Now, take care," said Owny, "that you're able to ride that horse if you get on him."—"Oh, never fear, sir. I can ride owld Lanty Gubbin's mule betther nor any o' the other boys on the common, and he couldn't throw me th' other day, though he kicked the shoes av him."

"After that you may ride any thing," said Owny: and indeed it was true; for Lanty's mule, which fed on the common, being ridden slily by all the young vagabonds in the neighbourhood, had become such an adept in the art of getting rid of his troublesome customers, that it might be well considered a feat to stick on him.

"Now, take grate care of him, Andy, my boy," said the farmer.—"Don't be afeard sir," said Andy, who started on his errand in that peculiar pace which is elegantly called a "sweep's trot;" and as the river lay between Owny Doyle's and the bottom, and was too deep for Andy to ford at that season, he went round by Dinny Dowling's mill, where a small wooden bridge crossed the stream.

Here he thought he might as well secure the assistance of Paudeen, the miller's son, to help him in catching the horse; an he looked about the place until he found him, and, telling him the errand on which he was going, said, "If you like to come wid me, we can both have a ride." This was temptation sufficient for Paudeen, and the boys proceeded together to the bottom, and they were not long in securing the horse. When they had got the halter over his head, "Now," said Andy, "give me a lift on him;" and accordingly by Paudeen's catching Andy's left foot in both his hands clasped together in the fashion of a stirrup, he hoisted his friend on the horse's back; and, as soon as he was secure there, Master Paudeen, by the aid of Andy's hand contrived to scramble up after him; upon which Andy applied his heels into the horse's side with many vigorous kicks, and crying "Hurrup!" at the same time, endeavoured to stimulate Owny's steed into something of a pace as he turned his head towards the mill.

"Sure aren't you going to crass the river?" said Paudeen.—"No, I'm going to lave you at home."

"Oh, I'd rather go up to Owny's, and it's the shortest way acrass the river."—"Yes but I don't like—"

"Is it afeard you are?" said Paudeen.—"Not I, indeed," said Andy; though it was really the fact, for the width of the stream startled him; "but Owny towld me to take grate care o' the baste and I'm loath to wet his feet."

"Go 'long wid you, you fool! what harm would it do him? Sure he's neither sugar nor salt that he'd melt."

"Well, I won't, any how," said Andy, who by this time had got the horse into a good high trot, that shook every word of  argument out of Paudeen's body; besides, it was as much as the boys could do to keep their seats on Owny's Bucephalus, who was not long in reaching the miller's bridge. Here voice and rein were employed to pull him in, that he might cross the narrow wooden structure at a quiet pace. But whether his double load had given him the idea of double exertion, or that the pair of legs on each side sticking into his flanks (and perhaps the horse was ticklish) made him go the faster, we know not: but the horse charged the bridge as if an Enniskilliner were on his back, and an enemy before him; and in two minutes his hoofs cluttered like thunder on the bridge, that did not bend beneath him. No, it did not bend, but it broke: proving the falsehood of the boast, "I may break, but I won't bend:" for, after all, the really strong may bend, and be as strong as ever: it is the unsound, that has only the seeming of strength, that breaks at last when it resists too long.

Surprising was the spin the young equestrians took over the ears of the horse, enough to make all the artists of Astley's envious; and plump they went into the river, where each formed his own ring, and executed some comical "scenes in the circle," which were suddenly changed to evolutions on the "flying cord" that Dinny Dowling threw the performers, which became suddenly converted into a "tight rope" as he dragged the voltigeurs out of the water; and, for fear their blood might be chilled by the accident, he gave them both an enormous thrashing with the dry end of the rope, just to restore circulation; and his exertions, had they been witnessed, would have charmed the Humane Society.

As for the horse, his legs stuck through the bridge, as though he had been put in a chiroplast, and he went playing away on the water with considerable execution, as if he were accompanying himself in the song which he was squealing at the top of his voice. Half the saws, hatchets, ropes, and poles in the parish were put in requisition immediately; and the horse's first lesson in chiroplastic exercise was performed with no other loss than some skin and a good deal of hair. Of course Andy did not venture on taking Owny's horse home; so the miller sent him to his owner with an account of the accident. Andy for years kept out of Owny na Coppal's way; and at any time that his presence was troublesome, the inconvenienced party had only to say, "Isn't that Owny na Coppal coming this way?" and Andy fled for his life,

When Andy grew up to what in country parlance is called "a brave lump of a boy," his mother thought he was old enough to do something for himself; so she took him one day along with her to the squire's, and waited outside the door, loitering up and down the yard behind the house, among a crowd of beggars and great lazy dogs that were thrusting their herds into every iron pot that stood outside the kitchen door, until chance might  give her "a sight o' the squire afore he wint out or afore he wint in;" and, after spending her entire day in this idle way, at last the squire made his appearance, and Judy presented her son, who kept scraping his foot, and pulling his forelock, that stuck out like a piece of ragged thatch from his forehead, making his obeisance to the squire, while his mother was sounding his praises for being the "handiest craythur alive—and so willin'—nothing comes wrong to him."

"I suppose the English of all this is, you want me to take him?" said the squire.—"Throth, an' your honour, that's just it—if your honour would be plazed."

"What can he do?"—"Anything, your honour."

"That means nothing, I suppose," said the squire.—"Oh, no, sir. Everything, I mane, that you would desire him to do."

To every one of these assurances on his mother's part Andy made a bow and a scrape.

"Can he take care of horses?"—"The best of care, sir," said the mother, while the miller, who was standing behind the squire waiting for orders, made a grimace at Andy, who was obliged to cram his face to his hat to hide the laugh, which he could hardly smother from being heard, as well as seen.

"Let him come, then, and help in the stables, and we'll see what he can do."—"May the Lord—"

"That'll do—there, now go."—"Oh, sure, but I'll pray for you, and—"

"Will you go?"—"And may angels make your honour's bed this blessed night, I pray!"

"If you don't go, your son shan't come."

Judy and her hopeful boy turned to the right-about in double-quick time, and hurried down the avenue.

The next day Andy was duly installed into his office of stable-helper; and, as he was a good rider, he was soon made whipper-in to the hounds, as there was a want of such a functionary in the establishment; and Andy's boldness in this capacity made him soon a favourite with the squire, who was one of those rollicking boys on the pattern of the old school, who scorned the attentions of a regular valet, and let any one that chance threw in his way bring him his boots, or his hot water for shaving, or his coat, whenever it was brushed. One morning, Andy, who was very often the attendant on such occasions, came to his room with hot water. He tapped at the door.

"Who's that?" said the squire, who was but just risen, and did not know but it might be one of the women servants.—"It's me, sir."

"Oh—Andy! Come in."—"Here's the hot wather, sir," said Andy, bearing an enormous tin can.

"Why, what the d—l brings that tin can here? You might  as well bring the stable-bucket."—"I beg your pardon, sir," said Andy retreating. In two minutes more Andy came back, and, tapping at the door, put in his head cautiously, and said, "The maids in the kitchen, your honour, says there's not so much hot wather ready."

"Did I not see it a moment since in your hands?"—"Yes, sir, but that's not nigh the full o' the stable-bucket."

"Go along, you stupid thief! and get me some hot water directly."—"Will the can do, sir?"

"Ay, anything, so you make haste."

Off posted Andy, and back he came with the can.

"Where'll I put it, sir?"—"Throw this out," said the squire, handing Andy a jug containing some cold water, meaning the jug to be replenished with the hot.

Andy took the jug, and, the window of the room being open, he very deliberately threw the jug out. The squire stared with wonder, and at last said,

"What did you do that for?"—"Sure you towld me to throw it out, sir."

"Go out of this, you thick-headed villain!" said the squire, throwing his boots at Andy's head, along with some very neat curses. Andy retreated, and thought himself a very ill-used person.

Though Andy's regular business was "whipper-in," yet he was liable to be called on for the performance of various other duties: he sometimes attended at table when the number of guests required that all the subs should be put in requisition, or rode on some distant errand for "the mistress," or drove out the nurse and children on the jaunting-car; and many were the mistakes, delays, or accidents arising from Handy Andy's interference in such matters; but, as they were never serious, and generally laughable, they never cost him the loss of his place or the squire's favour, who rather enjoyed Andy's blunders.

The first time Andy was admitted into the mysteries of the dining-room, great was his wonder. The butler took him in to give him some previous instructions, and Andy was so lost in admiration at the sight of the assembled glass and plate, that he stood with his mouth and eyes wide open, and scarcely heard a word that was said to him. After the head-man had been dinning his instructions into him for some time, he said he might go until his attendance was required. But Andy moved not; he stood with his eyes fixed by a sort of fascination on some object that seemed to rivet them with the same unaccountable influence that the snake exercises over its victim.

"What are you looking at?" said the butler.—"Them things, sir," said Andy, pointing to some silver forks.

"Is it the forks?" said the butler.—"Oh no, sir! I know what forks is very well; but I never seen them things afore."

"What things do you mean?"—"These things, sir," said Andy, taking up one of the silver forks, and turning it round and round in his hand in utter astonishment, while the butler grinned at his ignorance, and enjoyed his own superior knowledge.

"Well!" said Andy, after a long pause, "the divil be from me if ever I seen a silver spoon split that way before."

The butler laughed a horse-laugh, and made a standing joke of Andy's split spoon; but time and experience made Andy less impressed with wonder at the show of plate and glass, and the split spoons became familiar as 'household words' to him; yet still there were things in the duties of table attendance beyond Andy's comprehension,—he used to hand cold plates for fish, and hot plates for jelly, &c. But 'one day,' as Zanga says,—'one day' he was thrown off his centre in a remarkable degree by a bottle of soda water.

It was when that combustible was first introduced into Ireland as a dinner beverage that the occurrence took place, and Andy had the luck to be the person to whom a gentlemen applied for some soda-water.

"Sir?" said Andy.—"Soda-water," said the guest, in that subdued tone in which people are apt to name their wants at a dinner-table.

Andy went to the butler. "Mr. Morgan, there's a gintleman——"—"Let me alone, will you?" said Mr. Morgan.

Andy manœuvred round him a little longer, and again essayed to be heard.

"Mr. Morgan!"—"Don't you see I'm as busy as I can be! Can't you do it yourself?"

"I dunna what he wants."—"Well, go and ax him," said Mr. Morgan.

Andy went off as he was bidden, and came behind the thirsty gentleman's chair, with "I beg your pardon sir."

"Well!" said the gentleman.

"I beg your pardon, sir; but what's this you ax'd me for?"—"Soda-water."

"What, sir?"—"Soda-water; but, perhaps, you have not any."

"Oh, there's plenty in the house, sir! Would you like it hot, sir."

The gentleman laughed, and, supposing the new fashion was not understood in the present company, said "Never mind."

But Andy was too anxious to please, to be so satisfied, and again applied to Mr. Morgan.

"Sir!" said he.—"Bad luck to you! can't you let me alone?"

"There's a gintleman wants some soap and wather."

"Some what?"—"Soap and wather, sir."

"Divil sweep you!—Soda-wather you mane. You'll get it under the sideboard."

"Is it in the can, sir?"—"The curse o' Crum'll on you—in the bottles."

"Is this it, sir?" said Andy, producing a bottle of ale.—"No, bad cess to you!—the little bottles."

"Is it the little bottles with no bottoms, sir?"—"I wish you wor in the bottom o' the say!" said Mr. Morgan, who was fuming and puffing, and rubbing down his face with his napkin, as he was hurrying to all quarters of the room, or, as Andy said, in praising his activity, that he was "like bad luck,—everywhere."

"There they are!" said Morgan, at last.

"Oh! them bottles that won't stand," said Andy; "sure, them's what I said, with no bottoms to them. How'll I open it—it's tied down?"—"Cut the cord, you fool!"

Andy did as he was desired; and he happened at the time to hold the bottle of soda-water on a level with the candles that shed light over the festive board from a large silver branch, and the moment he made the incision, bang went the bottle of soda, knocking out two of the lights with the projected cork, which, performing its parabola the length of the room, struck the squire himself in the eye at the foot of the table, while the hostess at the head had a cold-bath down her back. Andy, when he saw the soda-water jumping out of the bottle, held it from him at arm's length; every fizz it made, exclaiming, "Ow!—ow!—ow!" and, at last, when the bottle was empty, he roared out, "Oh, Lord!—it's all gone!"

Great was the commotion;—few could resist laughter except the ladies, who all looked at their gowns, not liking the mixture of satin and soda-water. The extinguished candles were relighted,—the squire got his eye open again,—and, the next time he perceived the butler sufficiently near to speak to him, he said, in a low and hurried tone of deep anger, while he knit his brow, "Send that fellow out of the room!" but, within the same instant, resumed the former smile, that beamed on all around as if nothing had happened.

Andy was expelled the salle manger in disgrace, and for days kept out of his master's and mistress's way: in the mean time the butler made a good story of the thing in the servants' hall; and, when he held up Andy's ignorance to ridicule, by telling how he asked for "soap and water," Andy was given the name of "Suds," and was called by no other, for months after.

But, though Andy's function in the interior were suspended, his services in out-of-door affairs were occasionally put in requisition. But here his evil genius still haunted him, and he put his foot in a piece of business his master sent him upon one day, which was so simple as to defy almost the chance of Andy making any mistake about it; but Andy was very ingenious in his own particular line.

"Ride into the town, and see if there's a letter for me," said the squire, one day, to our hero.—"Yis, sir."

"You know where to go?"—"To the town, sir."

"But do you know where to go in the town?"—"No, sir."

"And why don't you ask, you stupid thief?"—"Sure, I'd find out, sir."

"Didn't I often tell you to ask what you're to do, when you don't know?"—"Yis, sir."

"And why don't you?"—"I don't like to be throublesome, sir."

"Confound you!" said the squire; though he could not help laughing at Andy's excuse for remaining in ignorance.

"Well," continued he, "go to the post-office. You know the post-office, I suppose?"—"Yis, sir; where they sell gunpowdher."

"You're right for once," said the squire; for his Majesty's postmaster was the person who had the privilege of dealing in the aforesaid combustible. "Go then to the post-office, and ask for a letter for me. Remember,—not gunpowder, but a letter."

"Yis, sir," said Andy, who got astride of his hack, and trotted away to the post-office. On arriving at the shop of the postmaster, (for that person carried on a brisk trade in groceries, gimlets, broad-cloth, and linen-drapery,) Andy presented himself at the counter, and said,

"I want a letther, sir, if you plase."

"Who do you want it for?" said the postmaster, in a tone which Andy considered an aggression upon the sacredness of private life: so Andy thought the coolest contempt he could throw upon the prying impertinence of the postmaster was to repeat his question.

"I want a letther, sir, if you plase."

"And who do you want it for?" repeated the postmaster.

"What's that to you?" said Andy.

The postmaster, laughing at his simplicity, told him he could not tell what letter to give him unless he told him the direction.

"The directions I got was to get a letther here,—that's the directions."

"Who gave you those directions?"—"The masther."

"And who's your master?"—"What consarn is that o' yours?"

"Why, you stupid rascal! if you don't tell me his name, how can I give you a letter?"—"You could give it if you liked; but you're fond of axin' impidint questions, bekase you think I'm simple."

"Go along out o' this. Your master must be as great a goose as yourself to send such a messenger."—"Bad luck to your impidince!" said Andy; "is it Squire Egan you dar to say goose to?"

"Oh, Squire Egan's your master, then?"—"Yis; have you anything to say agin it?"

"Only that I never saw you before."—"Faith, then you'll never see me agin if I have my own consint."

"I won't give you any letter for the squire, unless I know you're his servant. Is there any one in the town knows you?"—"Plenty," said Andy; "it's not every one is as ignorant as you."

Just at this moment a person entered the house to get a letter, to whom Andy was known; and he vouched to the postmaster that the account he gave of himself was true.—"You may give him the squire's letter. Have you one for me?"—"Yes, sir," said the postmaster, producing one: "fourpence."

The new-comer paid the fourpence postage, and left the shop with his letter.

"Here's a letter for the squire," said the postmaster. "You've to pay me elevenpence postage."

"What 'ud I pay elevenpence for?"—"For postage."

"To the divil wid you! Didn't I see you give Mr. Delany a letther for fourpence this minit, and a bigger letther than this; and now you want me to pay elevenpence for this scrap of a thing. Do you think I'm a fool?"

"No; but I'm sure of it," said the postmaster.—"Well, you're welkim to think what you plase; but don't be delayin' me now; here's fourpence for you, and gi' me the letther."

"Go along, you stupid thief!" said the postmaster, taking up the letter, and going to serve a customer with a mousetrap.

While this person and many others were served, Andy lounged up and down the shop, every now and then putting in his head in the middle of the customers, and saying, "Will you gi' me the letther?"

He waited for above half an hour, in defiance of the anathemas of the postmaster, and at last left, when he found it impossible to get the common justice for his master which he thought he deserved as well as another man; for, under this impression, Andy determined to give no more than the fourpence.

The squire in the mean time was getting impatient for his return, and, when Andy made his appearance, asked if there was a letter for him.—"There is, sir," said Andy.

"Then give it to me."—"I haven't it, sir."

"What do you mean?"—"He wouldn't give it to me, sir."

"Who wouldn't give it to you?"—"That owld chate beyant in the town,—wanting to charge double for it."

"Maybe it's a double letter. Why the devil didn't you pay what he asked, sir?"—"Arrah, sir, why would I let you be chated. It's not a double letther at all: not above half the size o' one Mr. Delany got before my face for fourpence."

"You'll provoke me to break your neck some day, you vagabond! Ride back for your life, you omadhaun! and pay whatever  he asks, and get me the letter."—"Why, sir, I tell you he was sellin' them before my face for fourpence a-piece."

"Go back, you scoundrel! or I'll horsewhip you; and if you're longer than an hour, I'll have you ducked in the horse-pond!"

Andy vanished, and made a second visit to the post-office. When he arrived, two other persons were getting letters, and the postmaster was selecting the epistles for each, from a parcel of them that lay before him on the counter; at the same time many shop customers were waiting to be served.

"I'm for that letther," said Andy.—"I'll attend to you by-and-by."

"The masther's in a hurry."—"Let him wait till his hurry's over."

"He'll murther me if I'm not back soon."—"I'm glad to hear it."

While the postmaster went on with such provoking answers to these appeals for despatch, Andy's eye caught the heap of letters that lay on the counter; so, while certain weighing of soap and tobacco was going forward, he contrived to become possessed of two letters from the heap; and, having effected that, waited patiently enough until it was the great man's pleasure to give him the missive directed to his master.

Then did Andy bestride his hack, and, in triumph at his trick on the postmaster, rattle along the road homeward as fast as his hack could carry him. He came into the squire's presence, his face beaming with delight, and an air of self-satisfied superiority in his manner, quite unaccountable to his master, until he pulled forth his hand, which had been grubbing up his prizes from the bottom of his pocket; and holding three letters over his head, while he said "Look at that!" he next slapped them down under his broad fist on the table before the squire, saying,

"Well! if he did make me pay elevenpence, by gor, I brought your honour the worth o' your money, any how!"