Read CHAPTER II of Handy Andy‚ A Tale of Irish Life‚ Volume One, free online book, by Samuel Lover, on ReadCentral.com.

Andy walked out of the room with an air of supreme triumph, having laid the letters on the table, and left the squire staring after him in perfect amazement.

“Well, by the powers! that’s the most extraordinary genius I ever came across,” was the soliloquy the master uttered as the servant closed the door after him; and the squire broke the seal of the letter that Andy’s blundering had so long delayed. It was from his law-agent on the subject of an expected election in the county, which would occur in case of the demise of the then sitting member; it ran thus:

“Dublin, Thursday.

“My dear Squire, I am making all possible exertions to have every and the earliest information on the subject of the election. I say the election, because, though the seat of the county is not yet vacant, it is impossible but that it must soon be so. Any other man than the present member must have died long ago; but Sir Timothy Trimmer has been so undecided all his life that he cannot at present make up his mind to die; and it is only by Death himself giving the casting vote that the question can be decided. The writ for the vacant county is expected to arrive by every mail, and in the meantime I am on the alert for information. You know we are sure of the barony of Ballysloughgutthery, and the boys of Killanmaul will murder any one that dares to give a vote against you. We are sure of Knockdoughty also, and the very pigs in Glanamuck would return you; but I must put you on your guard on one point where you least expected to be betrayed. You told me you were sure of Neck-or-nothing Hall; but I can tell you you’re out there; for the master of the aforesaid is working heaven, earth, ocean, and all the little fishes, in the other interest; for he is so over head and ears in debt, that he is looking out for a pension, and hopes to get one by giving his interest to the Honourable Sackville Scatterbrain, who sits for the Borough of Old Goosebery at present, but whose friends think his talents are worthy of a county. If Sack wins, Neck-or-nothing gets a pension that’s poz. I had it from the best authority. I lodge at a milliner’s here: no matter; more when I see you. But don’t be afraid; we’ll bag Sack, and distance Neck-or-nothing. But, seriously speaking, it’s too good a joke that O’Grady should use you in this manner, who have been so kind to him in money matters: but, as the old song says, ’Poverty parts good company;’ and he is so cursed poor that he can’t afford to know you any longer, now that you have lent him all the money you had, and the pension in prospectu is too much for his feelings. I’ll be down with you again as soon as I can, for I hate the diabolical town as I do poison. They have altered Stephen’s Green ruined it I should say. They have taken away the big ditch that was round it, where I used to hunt water-rats when a boy. They are destroying the place with their d d improvements. All the dogs are well, I hope, and my favourite bitch. Remember me to Mrs. Egan, whom all admire.

“My dear squire, yours per quire,

“Murtough Murphy.

“To Edward Egan, Esq., Merryvale.”

Murtough Murphy was a great character, as may be guessed from his letter. He was a country attorney of good practice; good, because he could not help it for he was a clever, ready-witted fellow, up to all sorts of trap, and one in whose hands a cause was very safe; therefore he had plenty of clients without his seeking them. For if Murtough’s practice had depended on his looking for it, he might have made broth of his own parchment; for though to all intents and purposes a good attorney, he was so full of fun and fond of amusement, that it was only by dint of the business being thrust upon him he was so extensive a practitioner. He loved a good bottle, a good hunt, a good joke, and a good song, as well as any fellow in Ireland: and even when he was obliged in the way of business to press a gentleman hard to hunt his man to the death he did it so good-humouredly that his very victim could not be angry with him. As for those he served, he was their prime favourite; there was nothing they could want to be done in the parchment line, that Murtough would not find out some way of doing; and he was so pleasant a fellow, that he shared in the hospitality of all the best tables in the county. He kept good horses, was on every race-ground within twenty miles, and a steeple-chase was no steeple-chase without him. Then he betted freely, and, what’s more, won his bets very generally; but no one found fault with him for that, and he took your money with such a good grace, and mostly gave you a bon mot in exchange for it so that, next to winning the money yourself, you were glad it was won by Murtough Murphy.

The squire read his letter two or three times, and made his comments as he proceeded. “’Working heaven and earth to’ ha! so that’s the work O’Grady’s at that’s old friendship, foul! foul! and after all the money I lent him, too; he’d better take care I’ll be down on him if he plays false; not that I’d like that much either: but let’s see who’s this coming down to oppose me? Sack Scatterbrain the biggest fool from this to himself; the fellow can’t ride a bit, a pretty member for a sporting county! ’I lodge at a milliner’s’ divil doubt you, Murtough; I’ll engage you do. Bad luck to him! he’d rather be fooling away his time in a back parlour, behind a bonnet shop, than minding the interests of the county. ’Pension’ ha! wants it sure enough; take care, O’Grady, or, by the powers, I’ll be at you. You may baulk all the bailiffs, and defy any other man to serve you with a writ; but, by jingo! if I take the matter in hand, I’ll be bound I’ll get it done. ’Stephen’s Green big ditch where I used to hunt water-rats.’ Divil sweep you, Murphy, you’d rather be hunting water-rats any day than minding your business. He’s a clever fellow for all that. ’Favourite bitch Mrs. Egan.’ Aye! there’s the end of it with his bit o’ po’thry, too! The divil!”

The squire threw down the letter, and then his eye caught the other two that Andy had purloined.

“More of that stupid blackguard’s work! robbing the mail no less! that fellow will be hanged some time or other. Egad, may be they’ll hang him for this! What’s best to be done? May be it will be the safest way to see whom they are for, and send them to the parties, and request they will say nothing: that’s it.”

The squire here took up the letters that lay before him, to read their superscriptions; and the first he turned over was directed to Gustavus Granby O’Grady, Esq., Neck-or-nothing Hall, Knockbotherum. This was what is called a curious coincidence. Just as he had been reading all about O’Grady’s intended treachery to him, here was a letter to that individual, and with the Dublin post-mark too, and a very grand seal.

The squire examined the arms; and, though not versed in the mysteries of heraldry, he thought he remembered enough of most of the arms he had seen to say that this armorial bearing was a strange one to him. He turned the letter over and over again, and looked at it back and front, with an expression in his face that said, as plain as countenance could speak, “I’d give a trifle to know what is inside of this.” He looked at the seal again: “Here’s a goose, I think it is, sitting on a bowl with cross-bars on it, and a spoon in its mouth: like the fellow that owns it, may be. A goose with a silver spoon in its mouth well, here’s the gable-end of a house, and a bird sitting on the top of it. Could it be Sparrow? There is a fellow called Sparrow, an under-secretary at the Castle. D n it! I wish I knew what it’s about.”

The squire threw down the letter as he said, “D n it!” but took it up again in a few seconds, and catching it edgewise between his forefinger and thumb, gave a gentle pressure that made the letter gape at its extremities, and then, exercising that sidelong glance which is peculiar to postmasters, waiting-maids, and magpies who inspect marrowbones, peeped into the interior of the epistle, saying to himself as he did so, “All’s fair in war, and why not in electioneering?” His face, which was screwed up to the scrutinising pucker, gradually lengthened as he caught some words that were on the last turn-over of the sheet, and so could be read thoroughly, and his brow darkened into the deepest frown as he scanned these lines: “As you very properly and pungently remark, poor Egan is a spoon a mere spoon.” “Am I a spoon, you rascal?” said the squire, tearing the letter into pieces, and throwing it into the fire. “And so, Misther O’Grady, you say I’m a spoon!” and the blood of the Egans rose as the head of that pugnacious family strode up and down the room: “I’ll spoon you, my buck! I’ll settle your hash! may be I’m a spoon you’ll sup sorrow with yet!”

Here he took up the poker, and made a very angry lunge at the fire that did not want stirring, and there he beheld the letter blazing merrily away. He dropped the poker as if he had caught it by the hot end, as he exclaimed, “What the d l shall I do? I’ve burnt the letter!” This threw the squire into a fit of what he was wont to call his “considering cap;” and he sat with his feet on the fender for some minutes, occasionally muttering to himself what he began with, “What the d l shall I do? It’s all owing to that infernal Andy I’ll murder that fellow some time or other. If he hadn’t brought it I shouldn’t have seen it, to be sure, if I hadn’t looked; but then the temptation a saint couldn’t have withstood it. Confound it! what a stupid trick to burn it! Another here, too must burn that as well, and say nothing about either of them:” and he took up the second letter, and, merely looking at the address, threw it into the fire. He then rang the bell, and desired Andy to be sent to him. As soon as that ingenious individual made his appearance, the squire desired him, with peculiar emphasis, to shut the door, and then opened upon him with

“You unfortunate rascal!”

“Yis, your honour.”

“Do you know that you might be hanged for what you did to-day?”

“What did I do, sir?”

“You robbed the post-office.”

“How did I rob it, sir?”

“You took two letters that you had no right to.”

“It’s no robbery for a man to get the worth of his money.”

“Will you hold your tongue, you stupid villain! I’m not joking: you absolutely might be hanged for robbing the post-office.”

“Sure I didn’t know there was any harm in what I done; and for that matther sure, if they’re sitch wonderful value, can’t I go back again wid ’em?”

“No, you thief! I hope you’ve not said a word to any one about it.”

“Not the sign of a word passed my lips about it.”

“You’re sure?”

“Sartin!”

“Take care, then, that you never open your mouth to mortal about it, or you’ll be hanged, as sure as your name is Andy Rooney.”

“Oh! at that rate I never will. But may be your honour thinks I ought to be hanged?”

“No, because you did not intend to do a wrong thing; but, only I have pity on you, I could hang you to-morrow for what you have done.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“I’ve burnt the letters, so no one can know anything about the business unless you tell on yourself: so remember, not a word.”

“Faith, I’ll be dumb as the dumb baste.”

“Go now; and once for all, remember you’ll be hanged so sure as you ever mention one word about this affair.”

Andy made a bow and a scrape, and left the squire, who hoped the secret was safe. He then took a ruminating walk round the pleasure-grounds, revolving plans of retaliation upon his false friend O’Grady; and having determined to put the most severe and sudden measure of the law in force against him, for the money in which he was indebted to him, he only awaited the arrival of Murtough Murphy from Dublin to execute his vengeance. Having settled this in his own mind, he became more contented, and said, with a self-satisfied nod of the head, “We’ll see who’s the spoon.”

In a few days Murtough Murphy returned from Dublin, and to Merryvale he immediately proceeded. The squire opened to him directly his intention of commencing hostile law proceedings against O’Grady, and asked what most summary measures could be put in practice against him.

“Oh! various, various, my dear squire,” said Murphy; “but I don’t see any great use in doing so yet he has not openly avowed himself.”

“But does he not intend to coalesce with the order party?”

“I believe so that is, if he’s to get the pension.”

“Well, and that’s as good as done, you know; for if they want him, the pension is easily managed.”

“I am not so sure of that.”

“Why, they’re as plenty as blackberries.”

“Very true; but, you see, Lord Gobblestown swallows all the pensions for his own family; and there are a great many complaints in the market against him for plucking that blackberry-bush very bare indeed; and unless Sack Scatterbrain has swingeing interest, the pension may not be such an easy thing.”

“But still O’Grady has shown himself not my friend.”

“My dear squire, don’t be so hot; he has not shown himself yet.”

“Well, but he means it.”

“My dear squire, you oughtn’t to jump at a conclusion as you would at a twelve-foot drain or a five-bar gate.”

“Well, he’s a blackguard!”

“No denying it; and therefore keep him on your side if you can, or he’ll be a troublesome customer on the other.”

“I’ll keep no terms with him; I’ll slap at him directly. What can you do that’s wickedest? latitat, capias fee-faw-fum, or whatever you call it?”

“Halloo! squire, your overrunning your game: may be after all, he won’t join the Scatterbrains, and ”

“I tell you it’s no matter; he intended doing it, and that’s all the same. I’ll slap at him I’ll blister him!”

Murtough Murphy wondered at this blind fury of the squire, who, being a good-humoured and good-natured fellow in general, puzzled the attorney the more by his present manifest malignity against O’Grady. But he had not seen the turn-over of the letter: he had not seen “spoon,” the real and secret cause of the “war-to-the-knife” spirit which was kindled in the squire’s breast.

“Of course, you can do what you please; but, if you’d take a friend’s advice ”

“I tell you I’ll blister him.”

“He certainly bled you very freely.”

“I’ll blister him, I tell you, and that smart. Lose no time, Murphy, my boy: let loose the dogs of law on him, and harass him till he’d wish the d l had him.”

“Just as you like, but ”

“I’ll have it my own way, I tell you; so say no more.”

“I’ll commence against him at once, then, as you wish it; but it’s no use, for you know very well that it will be impossible to serve him.”

“Let me alone for that! I’ll be bound I’ll find fellows to get the inside of him.”

“Why, his house is barricaded like a jail, and he has dogs enough to bait all the bulls in the country.”

“No matter: just send me the blister for him, and I’ll engage I’ll stick it on him.”

“Very well, squire; you shall have the blister as soon as it can be got ready. I’ll tell you when you may send over to me for it, and your messenger shall have it hot and warm for him. Good bye, squire.”

“Good bye, Murphy! lose no time.”

“In the twinkling of a bedpost. Are you going to Tom Durfy’s steeple-chase?”

“I’m not sure.”

“I’ve a bet on it. Did you see the widow Flannagan lately? You didn’t? They say Tom’s pushing it strong there. The widow has money, you know, and Tom does it all for the love o’ God; for you know, squire, there are two things God hates a coward and a poor man. Now, Tom’s no coward; and, that he may be sure of the love o’ God on the other score, he’s making up to the widow; and as he’s a slashing fellow, she’s nothing loth, and, for fear of any one cutting him out, Tom keeps as sharp a lookout after her as she does after him. He’s fierce on it, and looks pistols at any one that attempts putting his comether on the widow, while she looks ‘as soon as you plaze,’ as plain as an optical lecture can enlighten the heart of man: in short, Tom’s all ram’s horns, and the widow all sheep’s eyes. Good bye, squire.” And Murtough put his spurs to his horse, and cantered down the avenue, whistling the last popular tune.

Andy was sent over to Murtough Murphy’s for the law process at the appointed time; and as he had to pass through the village, Mrs. Egan desired him to call at the apothecary’s for some medicine that was prescribed for one of the children.

“What’ll I ax for, ma’am?”

“I’d be sorry to trust to you, Andy, for remembering. Here’s the prescription; take care of it, and Mr. M’Garry will give you something to bring back; and mind, if it’s a powder ”

“Is it gunpowdher, ma’am?”

“No you stupid will you listen? I say, if it’s a powder, don’t let it get wet as you did the sugar the other day.”

“No, ma’am.”

“And if it’s a bottle, don’t break it, as you did the last.”

“No, ma’am.”

“And make haste.”

“Yis, ma’am;” and off went Andy.

In going through the village, he forgot to leave the prescription at the apothecary’s and pushed on for the attorney’s: there he saw Murtough Murphy, who handed him the law process, inclosed in a cover, with a note to the squire.

“Have you been doing anything very clever lately, Andy?” said Murtough.

“I don’t know, sir,” said Andy.

“Did you shoot any one with soda-water since I saw you last?”

Andy grinned.

“Did you kill any more dogs lately, Andy?”

“Faix, you’re too hard on me, sir; sure I never killed but one dog, and that was an accident ”

“An accident! curse your impudence, you thief! Do you think, if you killed one of the pack on purpose, we wouldn’t cut the very heart o’ you with our hunting whips?”

“Faith, I wouldn’t doubt you, sir; but, sure, how could I help that divil of a mare runnin’ away wid me, and thramplin’ the dogs?”

“Why didn’t you hold her, you thief?”

“Hould her, indeed! you just might as well expect to stop fire among flax as that one.”

“Well, be off with you now, Andy, and take care of what I gave you for the squire.”

“Oh, never fear, sir,” said Andy, as he turned his horse’s head homewards. He stopped at the apothecary’s in the village, to execute his commission for the “misthis.” On telling the son of Galen that he wanted some physic “for one o’ the childre up at the big house,” the dispenser of the healing art asked what physic he wanted.

“Faith, I dunna what physic.”

“What’s the matter with the child?”

“He’s sick, sir.”

“I suppose so, indeed, or you wouldn’t be sent for medicine, you’re always making some blunder. You come here, and don’t know what description of medicine is wanted.”

“Don’t I?” said Andy, with a great air.

“No, you don’t, you omadhaun!” said the apothecary.

Andy fumbled in his pockets, and could not lay hold of the paper his mistress entrusted him with, until he had emptied them thoroughly of their contents upon the counter of the shop; and then, taking the prescription from the collection, he said, “So you tell me I don’t know the description of the physic I’m to get. Now, you see, you’re out; for that’s the description!” and he slapped the counter impressively with his hand as he threw down the recipe before the apothecary.

While the medicine was in the course of preparation for Andy, he commenced restoring to his pockets the various parcels he had taken from them in hunting for the recipe. Now, it happened that he had laid them down close beside some articles that were compounded, and sealed up for going out, on the apothecary’s counter: and as the law process which Andy had received from Murtough Murphy chanced to resemble in form another inclosure that lay beside it, containing a blister, Andy, under the influence of his peculiar genius, popped the blister into his pocket instead of the package which had been confided to him by the attorney, and having obtained the necessary medicine from M’Garry, rode home with great self-complacency that he had not forgot to do a single thing that had been entrusted to him. “I’m all right this time,” said Andy to himself.

Scarcely had he left the apothecary’s when another messenger alighted at its door, and asked “If Squire O’Grady’s things was ready?”

“There they are,” said the innocent M’Garry, pointing to the bottles, boxes, and blister, he had made up and set aside, little dreaming that the blister had been exchanged for a law process: and Squire O’Grady’s own messenger popped into his pocket the legal instrument that it was as much as any seven men’s lives were worth to bring within gunshot of Neck-or-nothing Hall.

Home he went, and the sound of the old gate creaking on its hinges at the entrance of the avenue awoke the deep-mouthed dogs around the house, who rushed infuriate to the spot to devour the unholy intruder on the peace and privacy of the patrician O’Grady; but they recognised the old grey hack and his rider, and quietly wagged their tails and trotted back, and licked their lips at the thoughts of the bailiff they had hoped to eat. The door of Neck-or-nothing Hall was carefully unbarred and unchained, and the nurse-tender was handed the parcel from the apothecary’s, and re-ascended to the sick room with slippered foot as quietly as she could; for the renowned O’Grady was, according to her account, “as cross as two sticks;” and she protested, furthermore, “that her heart was grey with him.”

Whenever O’Grady was in a bad humour, he had a strange fashion of catching at some word that either he himself, or those with whom he spoke, had uttered, and after often repeating it, or rather mumbling it over in his mouth, as if he were chewing it, off he started into a canter of ridiculous rhymes to the aforesaid word, and sometimes one of these rhymes would suggest a new idea, or some strange association which had the oddest effect possible; and to increase the absurdity, the jingle was gone through with as much solemnity as if he were indulging in a deep and interesting reverie, so that it was difficult to listen without laughing, which might prove a serious matter when O’Grady was in one of the tantarums, as his wife used to call them.

Mrs. O’Grady was near the bed of the sick man as the nurse-tender entered.

“Here’s the things for your honour, now,” said she, in her most soothing tone.

“I wish the d l had you and them!” said O’Grady.

“Gusty, dear!” said his wife. (She might have said stormy instead of gusty.)

“Oh! they’ll do you good, your honour,” said the nurse-tender, curtsying, and uncorking bottles, and opening a pill-box.

O’Grady made a face at the pill-box, and repeated the word “pills” several times, with an expression of extreme disgust. “Pills pills kills wills ay make your wills make them take them shake them. When taken to be well shaken shew me that bottle.”

The nurse-tender handed a phial, which O’Grady shook violently.

“Curse them all!” said the squire. “A pretty thing to have a gentleman’s body made a perfect sink, for these blackguard doctors and apothecaries to pour their dirty drugs into faugh! drugs mugs jugs!” he shook the phial again, and looked through it.

“Isn’t it nice and pink, darlin’?” said the nurse-tender.

“Pink!” said O’Grady eying her askance, as if he could have eaten her. “Pink, you old besom, pink” he uncorked the phial, and put it to his nose. “Pink phew !” and he repeated a rhyme to pink which would not look well in print.

“Now, sir, dear, there’s a little blisther just to go on your chest if you plaze.”

“A what?”

“A warm plasther, dear.”

“A blister you said, you old divil!”

“Well, sure its something to relieve you.”

The squire gave a deep growl, and his wife put in the usual appeal of “Gusty, dear!”

“Hold you tongue, will you? How would you like it? I wish you had it on your ”

“Deed-an-deed, dear,” said the nurse-tender.

“By the ’ternal war! if you say another word, I’ll throw the jug at you!”

“And there’s a nice dhrop o’ gruel I have on the fire for you,” said the nurse, pretending not to mind the rising anger of the squire, as she stirred the gruel with one hand, while with the other she marked herself with the sign of the cross, and said in a mumbling manner, “God presarve us! he’s the most cantankerous Christian I ever kem across!”

“Shew me that infernal thing!” said the squire.

“What thing, dear?”

“You know well enough, you old hag! that blackguard blister!”

“Here it is, dear. Now just open the burst o’ your shirt, and let me put it an you.”

“Give it into my hand here, and let me see it.”

“Sartinly, sir; but I think, if you’d let me just ”

“Give it to me, I tell you!” said the squire, in a tone so fierce that the nurse paused in her unfolding of the packet, and handed it with fear and trembling to the already indignant O’Grady. But it is only imagination can figure the outrageous fury of the squire when, on opening the envelope with his own hand, he beheld the law process before him. There, in the heart of his castle, with his bars, and bolts, and bull-dogs, and blunderbusses around him, he was served absolutely served and he had no doubt the nurse-tender was bribed to betray him.

A roar and a jump up in bed, first startled his wife into terror, and put the nurse on the defensive.

“You infernal old strap!” shouted he, as he clutched up a handful of bottles on the table near him and flung them at the nurse, who was near the fire at the time: and she whipped the pot of gruel from the grate, and converted it into a means of defence against the phial-pelting storm.

Mrs. O’Grady rolled herself up in the bed-curtains while the nurse screeched “Murther!” and at last, when O’Grady saw that bottles were of no avail, he scrambled out of bed, shouting, “Where’s my blunderbuss?” and the nurse-tender, while he endeavoured to get it down from the rack where it was suspended over the mantel-piece, bolted out of the door and ran to the most remote corner of the house for shelter.

In the meantime, how fared it at Merryvale. Andy returned with his parcel for the squire, and his note from Murtough Murphy, which ran thus:

“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.

“To Edward Egan, Esq., Merryvale.”

The squire opened the cover, and when he saw a real instead of a figurative blister, grew crimson with rage. He could not speak for some minutes, his indignation was so excessive. “So,” said he at last, “Mr. Murtough Murphy, you think to cut your jokes with me, do you? By all that’s sacred, I’ll cut such a joke on you with the biggest horsewhip I can find, that you’ll remember it. ’Dear Squire, I send you the blister.’ Bad luck to your impidence! Wait till awhile ago that’s all. By this and that, you’ll get such a blistering from me, that all the spermaceti in M’Garry’s shop won’t cure you.”