August 25, 2006


Andy Burke was not the boy to run away from an opponent of his own size and age. Neither did he propose to submit quietly to the thrashing which Godfrey designed to give him. He dropped his stick and bundle, and squared off scientifically at his aristocratic foe. Godfrey paused an instant before him. "I'm going to give you a thrashing," he said; "the worst thrashing you ever had." "Are you, now?" asked Andy, undismayed. "Come on, thin; I'm ready for you." "You're an impudent young ruffian." "So are you." Godfrey's aristocratic blood boiled at this retort, and he struck out at Andy, but the latter knew what was coming, and, swift as a flash, warded it off, and fetched Godfrey a blow full upon his nose, which started the blood. Now, the pain and the sight of the blood combined filled him with added fury, and he attempted to seize Andy around the waist and throw him. But here again he was foiled. The young Irish boy evaded his grasp, and, seizing him in turn, by an adroit movement of the foot, tripped him up. Godfrey fell heavily on his back. Andy withdrew a little, and did not offer to hold him down, as Godfrey would have been sure to do under similar circumstances. "Have you got enough?" he asked. "That wasn't fair," exclaimed Godfrey, jumping up hastily, deeply mortified because he had been worsted in the presence of John, who, sooth to say, rather enjoyed his young master's overthrow. He rushed impetuously at Andy, but he was blinded by his own impetuosity, and his adversary, who kept cool and self-possessed, had, of course, the advantage. So the engagement terminated as before--Godfrey was stretched once more on the sidewalk. He was about to renew the assault, however, when there was an interruption. This interruption came in the form of Colonel Preston himself, who was returning from a business meeting of citizens interested in establishing a savings bank in the village. "What's all this, Godfrey?" he called out, in a commanding tone. Godfrey knew that when his father spoke he must obey, and he therefore desisted from the contemplated attack. He looked up at his father and said, sulkily: "I was punishing this Irish boy for his impertinence." John grinned a little at this way of putting it, and his father said: "It looked very much as if he were punishing you." "I didn't get fair hold," said Godfrey, sulkily. "So he was impertinent, was he? What did he say?" "He said I was no gentleman." Andy Burke listened attentively to what was said, but didn't attempt to justify himself as yet. "I have sometimes had suspicions of that myself," said his father, quietly. Though Godfrey was an only son, his father was sensible enough to be fully aware of his faults. If he was indulged, it was his mother, not his father, that was in fault. Colonel Preston was a fair and just man, and had sensible views about home discipline; but he was overruled by his wife, whose character may be judged from the fact that her son closely resembled her. She was vain, haughty, and proud of putting on airs. She considered herself quite the finest lady in the village, but condescended to associate with the wives of the minister, the doctor, and a few of the richer inhabitants, but even with them she took care to show that she regarded herself superior to them all. She was, therefore, unpopular, as was her son among his companions. However, these two stood by each other, and Mrs. Preston was sure to defend Godfrey in all he did, and complained because his father did not do the same. "I didn't think you'd turn against me, and let a low boy insult me," complained Godfrey. "Why do you call him low?" "Because he's only an Irish boy." "Some of our most distinguished men have been Irish boys or of Irish descent. I don't think you have proved your point." "He's a beggar." "I'm not a beggar," exclaimed Andy, speaking for the first time. "I never begged a penny in all my life." "Look at his rags," said Godfrey, scornfully. "You would be in rags, too, if you had to buy your own clothes. I think I should respect you very much more under the circumstances," returned his father. "The colonel's a-givin' it to him," thought John, with a grin. "'Twon't do the young master any harm." "What is your name?" inquired Colonel Preston, turning now to our hero, as his son seemed to have no more to say. "Andy Burke." "Do you live here?" "I've just come to town, sir. My mother lives here." "Where does she live?" "I don't know, sir, just. He knows," pointing out John. "I calcerlate his mother lives in old Jake Barlow's house," said John. "Oh, the Widow Burke. Yes, I know. I believe Mrs. Preston employs her sometimes. Well, Andy, if that's your name, how is it that I catch you fighting with my son? That is not very creditable, unless you have good cause." "He called my mother a low woman," said Andy, "and then he run up and hit me." "Did you do that, Godfrey?" "He was putting on too many airs. He talked as if he was my equal." "He appears to be more than your equal in strength," said his father. "Well, was that all?" "It was about all." "Then I think he did perfectly right, and I hope you'll profit by the lesson you have received." "He is a gentleman," thought Andy. "He ain't hard on a boy because he's poor." Colonel Preston went into the house, but Godfrey lingered behind a moment. He wanted to have a parting shot at his adversary. He could fight with words, if not with blows. "Look here!" he said, imperiously; "don't let me see you round here again." "Why not?" "I don't want to see you." "Then you can look the other way," said Andy, independently. "This is my house." "I thought it was your father's." "That's the same thing. You'd better stay at home with your mother." "Thank you," said Andy; "you're very kind. May I come along the road sometimes?" "If you do, walk on the other side." Andy laughed. He was no longer provoked, but amused. "Then, by the same token, you'd better not come by my mother's house," he said, good-humoredly. "I don't want to come near your miserable shanty," said Godfrey, disdainfully. "You may come, if you keep on the other side of the road," said Andy, slyly. Godfrey was getting disgusted; for in the war of words, as well as of blows, his ragged opponent seemed to be getting the better of him. He turned on his heel and entered the house. He was sure of one who would sympathize with him in his dislike and contempt for Andy--this was, of course, his mother. Besides, he had another idea. He knew that Mrs. Burke had been employed by his mother, occasionally, to assist in the house. It occurred to him that it would be a fine piece of revenge to induce her to dispense hereafter with the poor woman's services. Bent on accomplishing this creditable retaliation, he left his young opponent master of the field. "I must be goin'," said Andy, as he picked up his bundle and suspended it from his stick. "Will I find the house where my mother lives, easy?" The question was, of course, addressed to John, who had just turned to go to the stable. "You can't miss it," answered John. "It's a mile up the road, stands a little way back. There's a few hills of potatoes in the front yard. How long since you saw your mother?" "It's three months." "Does she know you are coming to-day?" "No. I would have wrote to her, but my fingers isn't very ready with the pen." "Nor mine either," said John. "I'd rather take a licking any time than write a letter. Come round and see us some time." The boy'll lick me," said Andy, laughing. "I guess you can manage him." Andy smiled, for it was his own conviction, also. With his bundle onhis shoulder he trudged on, light of heart, for he was about to see his mother and sister, both of whom he warmly loved.


"John, saddle my horse, and bring him around to the door." The speaker was a boy of fifteen, handsomely dressed, and, to judge from his air and tone, a person of considerable consequence, in his own opinion, at least. The person addressed was employed in the stable of his father, Colonel Anthony Preston, and so inferior in social condition that Master Godfrey always addressed him in imperious tones. John looked up and answered, respectfully: "Master Godfrey, your horse is sick of the disease, and your father left orders that he wasn't to go out on no account." "It's my horse," said Godfrey; "I intend to take him out." "Maybe it's yours, but your father paid for him." "None of your impudence, John," answered Godfrey, angrily. "Am I master, or are you, I should like to know!" "Neither, I'm thinking," said John, with a twinkle in his eye. "It's your father that's the master." "I'm master of the horse, anyway, so saddle him at once." "The colonel would blame me," objected John. "If you don't, I'll report you and get you dismissed." "I'll take the risk, Master Godfrey," said the servant, good-humoredly. "The colonel won't be so unreasonable as to send me away for obeying his own orders." Here John was right, and Godfrey knew it, and this vexed him the more. He had an inordinate opinion of himself and his own consequence, and felt humiliated at being disobeyed by a servant, without being able to punish him for his audacity. This feeling was increased by the presence of a third party, who was standing just outside the fence. As this third party is our hero, I must take a separate paragraph to describe him. He was about the age of Godfrey, possibly a little shorter and stouter. He had a freckled face, full of good humor, but at the same time resolute and determined. He appeared to be one who had a will of his own, but not inclined to interfere with others, though ready to stand up for his own rights. In dress he compared very unfavorably with the young aristocrat, who was biting his lips with vexation. In fact, though he is my hero, his dress was far from heroic. He had no vest, and his coat was ragged, as well as his pants. He had on a pair of shoes two or three times too large for him. They had not been made to order, but had been given him by a gentleman of nearly double his size, and fitted him too much. He wore a straw hat, for it was summer, but the brim was semi-detached, and a part of his brown hair found its way through it. Now Godfrey was just in the mood for picking a quarrel with somebody, and as there was no excuse for quarreling any further with John, he was rather glad to pitch into the young stranger. "Who are you?" he demanded, in his usual imperious tone, and with a contraction of the brow. "Only an Irish boy!" answered the other, with a droll look and a slight brogue. "Then what business have you leaning against my fence?" again demanded Godfrey, imperiously. "Shure, I didn't know it was your fence." "Then you know now. Quit leaning against it." "Why should I, now? I don't hurt it, do I?" "No matter--I told you to go away. We don't want any beggars here." "Shure, I don't see any," said the other boy, demurely. "What are you but a beggar?" "Shure, I'm a gintleman of indepindent fortune." "You look like it," said Godfrey, disdainfully. "Where do you keep it?" "Here!" said the Irish boy, tapping a bundle which he carried over his shoulder, wrapped in a red cotton handkerchief, with a stick thrust through beneath the knot. "What's your name?" "Andy Burke. What's yours?" "I don't feel under any obligations to answer your questions," said Godfrey, haughtily. "Don't you? Then what made you ask me?" "That's different. You are only an Irish boy." "And who are you?" "I am the only son of Colonel Anthony Preston," returned Godfrey, impressively. "Are you, now? I thought you was a royal duke, or maybe QueenVictoria's oldest boy." "Fellow, you are becoming impertinent." "Faith, I didn't mean it. You look so proud and gintale that it's jist a mistake I made." "You knew that we had no dukes in America," said Godfrey, suspiciously. "If we had, now, you'd be one of them," said Andy. "Why? What makes you say so?" "You're jist the picture of the Earl of Barleycorn's ildest son that I saw before I left Ireland." Godfrey possessed so large a share of ridiculous pride that he felt pleased with the compliment, though he was not clear about its sincerity."Where do you live?" he asked, with a slight lowering of his tone. "Where do I live? Shure, I don't live anywhere now, but I'm going to live in the village. My mother came here a month ago." "Why didn't you come with her?" "I was workin' with a farmer, but the work gave out and I came home. Maybe I'll find work here." "I think I know where your mother lives," said John, who had heard the conversation. "She lives up the road a mile or so, in a little house with two rooms. It's where old Jake Barlow used to live." "Thank you, sir. I guess I'll be goin', then, as my mother'll be expectin' me. Do you know if she's well?" and a look of anxiety came over the boy's honest, good-natured face. The question was addressed to John, but of this Godfrey was not quite sure. He thought the inquiry was made of him, and his pride was touched. "What should I know of your mother, you beggar?" he said, with a sneer. "I don't associate with such low people." "Do you mane my mother?" said Andy, quickly, and he, too, looked angry and threatening. "Yes, I do. What are you going to do about it?" demanded Godfrey. "You'd better take it back," said Andy, his good-humored face now dark with passion. "Do you think I am afraid of such a beggar as you?" sneered Godfrey. "You appear to forget that you are speaking to a gentleman." "Shure, I didn't know it," returned Andy, hotly. "You're no gentleman if you insult my mother, and if you'll come out here for a minute I'll give you a bating." "John," said Godfrey, angrily, "will you drive that beggar away?" Now, John's sympathies were rather with Andy than with his young master. He had no great admiration for Godfrey, having witnessed during the year he had been in his father's employ too much of the boy's arrogance and selfishness to feel much attachment for him. Had he taken any part in the present quarrel, he would have preferred espousing the cause of the Irish boy; but that would not have been polite, and he therefore determined to preserve his neutrality. "That ain't my business, Master Godfrey," he said. "You must fight your own battles." "Go away from here," said Godfrey, imperiously advancing toward that part of the fence against which Andy Burke was leaning. "Will you take back what you said agin' my mother?" "No, I won't." "Then you're a blackguard, if you are a rich man's son." The blood rushed to Godfrey's face on the instant. This was a palpable insult. What! he, a rich man's son, the only son and heir of Colonel Anthony Preston, with his broad acres and ample bank account--he to be called a blackguard by a low Irish boy. His passion got the better of him, and he ran through the gate, his eyes flashing fire, bent on exterminating his impudent adversary.

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