The Mishaps of Handy Andy by Unknown

Andy Rooney was a fellow who had the most singularly ingenious knack of doing everything the wrong way. He grew up in his humble Irish home full of mischief to the eyes of every one save his admiring mother. But, to do him justice, he never meant harm in the course of his life, and he was most anxious to offer his services on every occasion to all who would accept them. Here is the account of how Andy first went into service:

When Andy grew up to be what in country parlance is called “a brave lump of a boy,” and his mother thought he was old enough to do something for himself, 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 heads into every iron pot that stood outside the kitchen door, until chance might give her “a sight of 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’—nothin’ comes wrong to him.”

“I suppose the English of all this is, you want me to take him?” said the squire.

“Throth, an’ your honor, that’s just it—if your honor would be plazed.”

“What can he do?”

“Anything, your honor.”

“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.

“Let him come, then, and help in the stables, and we’ll see what we can do.”

The next day found Andy duly installed in the office of stable-helper; and, as he was a good rider, he was soon made whipper-in to the hounds, and became a favorite with the squire, who was one of those rollicking “boys” of the old school, who let any one that chance threw in his way bring him his boots, or his hot water for shaving, or brush his coat, whenever it was brushed. The squire, you see, scorned the attentions of a regular valet. But Andy knew a great deal more about horses than about the duties of a valet. One morning he came to his master’s room with hot water and tapped at the door.

“Who’s that?” said the squire, who had just risen.

“It’s me, sir.”

“Oh, Andy! Come in.”

“Here’s the hot water, sir,” said Andy, bearing an enormous tin can.

“Why, what brings that enormous 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.


“The maids in the kitchen, your honor, say there’s not so much hot water ready.”

“Did I not see it a moment since in your hand?”

“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; whereupon Andy retreated, and, like all stupid people, thought himself a very ill-used person.


Andy was soon the laughing-stock of the household. When, for example, he first saw silver forks he declared that “he had never seen a silver spoon split that way before.” When told to “cut the cord” of a soda-water bottle on one occasion when the squire was entertaining a number of guests at dinner, he “did as he was desired.”

He happened at that time to hold the bottle on the 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 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, at every fizz it made, exclaiming: “Ow! Ow! Ow!” and at last, when the bottle was empty, he roared out: “Oh, oh, 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 eyes 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.” Suspended from indoor service, Andy was not long before he distinguished himself out of doors in such a way as to involve his master in a coil of trouble, and, incidentally, to retard the good fortune that came to himself in the end.


The squire said to him one day:

“Ride into the town and see if there’s a letter for me.”

“Yes, sir,” said Andy.

“Do you know where to go?” inquired his master.

“To the town, sir,” was the reply.

“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?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And why don’t you?”

“I don’t like to be troublesome, sir.”

“Confound you!” said the squire, though he could not help laughing at Andy’s excuse for remaining in ignorance. “Well, go to the post-office. You know the post-office, I suppose?” continued his master in sarcastic tones.

“Yes, sir; where they sell gunpowder.”

“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.”

“Yes, 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, broadcloth, and linen-drapery), Andy presented himself at the counter, and said:

“I want a letther, sir, if you plaze.”

“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, in his ignorance and pride, 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 plaze.”

“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 master.”

“And who’s your master?”

“What consarn is that of 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’ impident 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 impidence!” said Andy. “Is it Squire Egan you dare to say goose to?”

“Oh, Squire Egan’s your master, then?”

“Yes. 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 to whom Andy was known entered the house, who vouched to the postmaster that he might give Andy the squire’s letter. “Have you one for me?”

“Yes, sir,” said the postmaster, producing one. “Fourpence.”

The gentleman paid the fourpence postage (the story, it must be remembered, belongs to the earlier half of the last century, before the days of the penny post), 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.”

“Get out wid you! Didn’t I see you give Mr.  Durfy 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 welkum, to be sure; but don’t be delayin’ me now. Here’s fourpence for you, and gi’ me the letther.”

“Go along, you stupid thief!” (the word “thief” was often used in Ireland in the humorous way we sometimes use the word “rascal”) said the postmaster, taking up the letter, and going to serve a customer with a mouse-trap.


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, and at last left, when he found it impossible to get 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 meantime, 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 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. Durfy got before my face for fourpence.”

“You’ll provoke me to break your neck some day, you vagabond! Ride back for your life, and pay whatever he asks, and get me the letter.”

“Why, sir, I tell you he was sellin’ them before my face for fourpence apiece.”

“Go back, you scoundrel, or I’ll horsewhip you; and if you’re longer than an hour, I’ll have you ducked in the horsepond!”

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 large parcel that lay before him on the counter. At the same time many shop customers were waiting to be served.

“I’ve come 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 which 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, rattled along the road homeward as fast as the beast 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, I brought your honor the worth o’ your money, anyhow.”

Now, the letter addressed to the squire was from his law-agent, and concerned an approaching election in the county. His old friend, Mr. Gustavus O’Grady, the master of Neck-or-Nothing Hall, was, it appeared, working in the interest of the honorable Sackville Scatterbrain, and against Squire Egan.


This unexpected information threw him into a great rage, in the midst of which his eye caught sight of one of the letters Andy had taken from the post-office. This was addressed to Mr. O’Grady, and as it bore the Dublin postmark, Mr. Egan yielded to the temptation of making  the letter gape at its extremities—this was before the days of the envelope—and so read its contents, which were highly uncomplimentary to the reader. As Mr. O’Grady was much in debt financially to Mr. Egan, the latter decided to put all the pressure of the law upon his one-time friend, and, to save trouble with the authorities, destroyed both of the stolen letters and pledged Andy to secrecy.

Neck-or-Nothing Hall was carefully guarded from intruders, and Mr. Egan’s agent, Mr. Murphy, greatly doubted if it would be possible to serve its master with a writ. Our friend Andy, however, unconsciously solved the difficulty.

Being sent over to the law-agent’s for the writ, and at the same time bidden to call at the apothecary’s for a prescription, he managed to mix up the two documents, leaving the writ, without its accompanying letter, at the apothecary’s, whence it was duly forwarded to Neck-or-Nothing Hall with certain medicines for Mr. O’Grady, who was then lying ill in bed. The law-agent’s letter, in its turn, was brought to Squire Egan by Andy, together with a blister which was meant for Mr. O’Grady. Imagine the recipient’s anger when he read the following missive and, on opening the package it was with, found a real and not a figurative blister:

My dear Squire: I send you the blister for O’Grady as you insist on it; but I think you won’t find it easy to serve him with it.
“Your obedient and obliged,
Murtough Murphy.”

The result in his case was a hurried ride to the law-agent’s and the administration to that devoted personage of a severe hiding. This was followed by a duel, in which, happily, neither combatant was hurt. Then, after the firing, satisfactory explanations were made. On Mr. O’Grady’s part, there was an almost simultaneous descent upon the unsuspecting apothecary, and the administration to the man of drugs and blisters of a terrible drubbing. Next a duel was arranged between the two old friends. Andy again distinguished himself.


When his employer’s second was not looking, Andy thought he would do Squire Egan a good turn by inserting bullets in his pistols before they were loaded. The intention of Andy was to give Mr. Egan the advantage of double bullets, but the result was that, when the weapons were loaded, Andy’s bullets lay between the powder and the touch-hole. Mr. O’Grady missed his aim twice, and Mr. Egan missed his fire. The cause being discovered, Andy was unmercifully chased and punished by the second, and ignominiously dismissed from Mr. Egan’s service.

By an accident, Andy shortly afterward was the means of driving a Mr. Furlong to Squire Egan’s place instead of to Squire O’Grady’s. Mr. Furlong was an agent from Dublin Castle, whose commission it was to aid the cause of the Honorable Mr. Scatterbrain. Of course, Andy, when he was told, on taking the place of the driver of the vehicle in which Mr. Furlong was traveling, to drive this important personage to “the squire’s,” at once jumped to the conclusion that by “the squire’s” was meant Mr. Egan’s. Here, before the mistake was found out by the victim, Mr. Furlong was unburdened of much important information. While this process was going on at Mr. Egan’s, a hue and cry was on foot at Mr. O’Grady’s, for the lost Mr. Furlong, and poor, blundering Andy was arrested and charged with murdering him.


He was soon set free and taken into Mr. O’Grady’s service when Mr. Furlong had made his appearance before the owner of Neck-or-Nothing Hall. But a clever rascal named Larry Hogan divined by accident and the help of his native wit the secret of the stolen letters, and Andy was forced by terror to flee from Neck-or-Nothing Hall.

His subsequent adventures took him through the heat of the election, at which his ingenuity was displayed in unwittingly stopping up the mouth of the trumpet on which the Honorable Mr. Scatterbrain’s supporters relied to drown Mr. Egan’s speeches and those of his men. He thus did a good turn to his old master without knowing it, having merely imitated the action of the trumpeter, who had pretended to cork up the instrument before momentarily laying it aside.

When his fortunes seemed to be at their lowest ebb, Andy was discovered to be the rightful heir to the Scatterbrain title and estates, his claims to which were set forth in the second of the two letters stolen from the post-office, which had been destroyed by the squire without his reading it.


Soon afterward, through his old master’s influence, Andy was taken to London, and by dint of much effort remedied many of the defects of his  early education. Then, marrying his cousin, Onoah, who had shared his mother’s cabin in the old days, and to save whom from a desperado Andy had, this time knowingly, braved great personal danger, our hero settled down to the enjoyment of a life such as he had never dreamed of in his humble days.