Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > British
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. VI–IX: British
 
Andy as Waiter at Table and Messenger to the Post-Office
By Samuel Lover (1797–1868)
 
From “Handy Andy”

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.
  1
  “What are you looking at?” said the butler.  2
  “Them things, sir,” said Andy, pointing to some silver forks.  3
  “Is it the forks?” said the butler.  4
  “Oh, no, sir! I know what forks is very well; but I never seen them things afore.”  5
  “What things do you mean?”  6
  “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.  7
  “Well!” said Andy after a long pause, “the divil be from me if ever I seen a silver spoon split that way before.”  8
  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, etc. But “one day,” as Zanga says—“one day” he was thrown off his centre in a remarkable degree by a bottle of soda-water.  9
  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 gentleman applied for some soda-water.  10
  “Sir?” said Andy.  11
  “Soda-water,” said the guest, in that subdued tone in which people are apt to name their wants at a dinner-table.  12
  Andy went to the butler. “Mr. Morgan, there’s a gintleman——”  13
  “Let me alone, will you?” said Mr. Morgan.  14
  Andy manœuvred round him a little longer, and again essayed to be heard.  15
  “Mr. Morgan!”  16
  “Don’t you see I’m as busy as I can be! Can’t you do it yourself?”  17
  “I dunna what he wants.”  18
  “Well, go and ax him,” said Mr. Morgan.  19
  Andy went off as he was bidden, and came behind the thirsty gentleman’s chair, with “I beg your pardon, sir.”  20
  “Well!” said the gentleman.  21
  “I beg your pardon, sir; but what’s this you ax’d me for?”  22
  “Soda-water.”  23
  “What, sir?”  24
  “Soda-water. But perhaps you have not any.”  25
  “Oh, there’s plenty in the house, sir! Would you like it hot, sir?”  26
  The gentleman laughed, and, supposing the new fashion was not understood in the present company, said, “Never mind.”  27
  But Andy was too anxious to please, to be so satisfied, and again applied to Mr. Morgan.  28
  “Sir!”  29
  “Bad luck to you! Can’t you let me alone?”  30
  “There’s a gintleman wants some soap and wather.”  31
  “Some what?”  32
  “Soap and wather, sir.”  33
  “Divil sweep you! Soda-wather, you mane. You’ll get it under the sideboard.”  34
  “Is it in the can, sir?”  35
  “The curse o’ Crum’ll on you—in the bottles.”  36
  “Is this it, sir?” said Andy, producing a bottle of ale.  37
  “No, bad cess to you!—the little bottles.”  38
  “Is it the little bottles with no bottoms, sir?”  39
  “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.”  40
  “There they are!” said Morgan at last.  41
  “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.”  42
  “Cut the cord, you fool!”  43
  Andy did as he was desired. 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, he exclaimed “Ow!—ow!—ow!” and, at last, when the bottle was empty, he roared out, “Oh, Lord! it’s all gone!”  44
  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, he resumed the former smile, that beamed on all around as if nothing had happened.  45
  Andy was expelled the salle à manger in disgrace, and for days kept out of his master’s and mistress’s way. In the meantime 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 wather,” Andy was given the name of “Suds,” and was called by no other, for months after.  46
  Though Andy’s functions 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.  47
  “Ride into the town, and see if there’s a letter for me,” said the squire one day to our hero.  48
  “Yis, sir.”  49
  “You know where to go?”  50
  “To the town, sir.”  51
  “But do you know where to go in the town?”  52
  “No, sir.”  53
  “And why don’t you ask, you stupid thief?”  54
  “Sure, I’d find out, sir.”  55
  “Didn’t I often tell you to ask what you’re to do, when you don’t know?”  56
  “Yis, sir.”  57
  “And why don’t you?”  58
  “I don’t like to be throublesome, sir.”  59
  “Confound you!” said the squire, though he could not help laughing at Andy’s excuse for remaining in ignorance.  60
  “Well,” continued he, “go to the post-office. You know the post-office, I suppose?”  61
  “Yis, sir—where they sell gunpowdher.”  62
  “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.”  63
  “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, broadcloth, and linen-drapery), Andy presented himself at the counter, and said:  64
  “I want a letther, sir, if you plase.”  65
  “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.  66
  “I want a letther, sir, if you plase.”  67
  “And who do you want it for?” repeated the postmaster.  68
  “What’s that to you?” said Andy.  69
  The postmaster, laughing at his simplicity, told him he could not tell what letter to give him unless he told him the direction.  70
  “The directions I got was to get a letther here. That’s the directions.”  71
  “Who gave you those directions?”  72
  “The masther.”  73
  “And who’s your master?”  74
  “What consarn is that o’ yours?”  75
  “Why, you stupid rascal, if you don’t tell me his name, how can I give you a letter?”  76
  “You could give it if you liked; but you’re fond of axin’ impident questions, bekase you think I’m simple.”  77
  “Go along out o’ this. Your master must be as great a goose as yourself to send such a messenger.”  78
  “Bad luck to your impidence!” said Andy. “Is it Squire Egan you dar to say goose to?”  79
  “Oh, Squire Egan’s your master, then?”  80
  “Yis. Have you anything to say agin it?”  81
  “Only that I never saw you before.”  82
  “Faith, then you’ll never see me agin, if I have my own consint.”  83
  “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?”  84
  “Plenty,” said Andy. “It’s not every one is as ignorant as you.”  85
  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?”  86
  “Yes, sir,” said the postmaster, producing one; “fourpence.”  87
  The new-comer paid the fourpence postage, and left the shop with his letter.  88
  “Here’s a letter for the squire,” said the postmaster. “You’ve to pay me elevenpence postage.”  89
  “What ’ud I pay elevenpence for?”  90
  “For postage.”  91
  “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?”  92
  “No; but I’m sure of it,” said the postmaster.  93
  “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.”  94
  “Go along, you stupid thief!” said the postmaster, taking up the letter, and going to serve a customer with a mousetrap.  95
  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?”  96
  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 fourpence.  97
  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.  98
  “There is, sir,” said Andy.  99
  “Then give it to me.”  100
  “I haven’t it, sir.”  101
  “What do you mean?”  102
  “He wouldn’t give it to me, sir.”  103
  “Who wouldn’t give it to you?”  104
  “That owld chate beyant in the town, wanting to charge double for it.”  105
  “Maybe it’s a double letter. Why the devil didn’t you pay what he asked, sir?”  106
  “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.”  107
  “You’ll provoke me to break your neck some day, you vagabond! Ride back for your life, you omadhaun! Pay him whatever he asks, and get me the letter.”  108
  “Why, sir, I tell you he was sellin’ them before my face for fourpence apiece.”  109
  “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!”  110
  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.  111
  “I’m come for that letther,” said Andy.  112
  “I’ll attend to you by-and-by.”  113
  “The masther’s in a hurry.”  114
  “Let him wait till his hurry’s over.”  115
  “He’ll murther me if I’m not back soon.”  116
  “I’m glad to hear it.”  117
  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.  118
  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 held 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:  119
  “Well! if he did make me pay elevenpence, by gor, I brought your honour the worth o’ your money, anyhow.”  120
 
 
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