August 29, 2006


"He's the meanest man I ever saw," thought Andy. "Does he think I work
on nothing a year, and find myself? Divil a bit of work will I do for
him agin, if I know it." But better luck was in store for Andy.
Quarter of a mile farther on, in a two-story house, old-fashioned but
neat, lived two maiden ladies of very uncertain age, Misses Priscilla
and Sophia Grant. I am not aware that any relationship existed between
them and our distinguished ex-President. Nevertheless, they were of
very respectable family and connections, and of independent property,
owning bank stock which brought them in an annual income of about
twelve hundred dollars, in addition to the house they occupied, and
half a dozen acres of land thereunto pertaining. Now, this was not a
colossal fortune, but in a country place like Crampton it made them ladies of large property.
Priscilla was the elder of the two, and general manager. Sophia
contented herself with being the echo of her stronger-minded sister,
and was very apt to assent to her remarks, either by repeating them,
or by saying: "Just so." She was a mild, inoffensive creature, but
very charitable and amiable, and so little given to opposition that
there was always the greatest harmony between them. They kept a
gardener and out-of-door servant of all work, who cultivated the land,
sawed and split their wood, ran of errands, and made himself generally
useful. He had one drawback, unfortunately. He would occasionally
indulge to excess in certain fiery alcoholic compounds sold at the
village tavern, and, as natural consequence, get drunk. He had usually
the good sense to keep out of the way while under the influence of
liquor, and hitherto the good ladies had borne with and retained him in their employ.
But a crisis had arrived. That morning he had come for orders while
inebriated, and in his drunken folly had actually gone so far as to
call Miss Priscilla darling and offer to kiss her.
Miss Priscilla was, of course, horrified, and so expressed herself.
"Law, Sophia," she said, "I came near fainting away. The idea of his offering to kiss me."
"Just so," said Sophia.
"So presuming."
"Just so."
"Of course, I couldn't think of employing him any longer."
"Couldn't think of it."
"He might have asked to kiss me again."
"Just so."
"Or you!"
"Just so," said Sophia, in some excitement of manner.
"The neighbors would talk."
"Just so."
"So I told him that I was very sorry, but it would be necessary for
him to find work somewhere else."
"But who will do our work?" inquired Sophia, with a rare, original suggestion.
"We must get somebody else."
"So we must," acquiesced Sophia, as if she had suddenly received light
on a very dark subject.
"But I don't know who we can get."
"Just so."
At that moment there was a knock at the door. Priscilla answered it in
person. They kept no domestic servant, only a gardener.
"I've brought the load of wood you ordered, ma'am," said the teamster.
"Where shall I put it?"
"In the backyard. John--no, John has left us. I will show you, myself."
She put on a cape-bonnet and indicated the place in the yard where she
wanted the wood dumped.
Then she returned to the house.
"It's very awkward that John should have acted so," she said, in a
tone of annoyance. "I don't know who is to saw and split that wood."
"We couldn't do it," said Sophia, with another original suggestion.
"Of course not. That would be perfectly absurd."
"Just so."
"I don't believe there is enough wood sawed and split to last through
the day."
"We must have some split."
"Of course. But I really don't know of anyone in the neighborhood that we could get."
"John has gone away. You know why."
"Perhaps he wouldn't kiss us if we told him not to," suggested Sophia.
"I am afraid you are a goose," said Priscilla, composedly.
"Just so," slipped out of Sophia's mouth from force of habit, but her
sister was so used to hearing it that she took no particular notice of
it on the present occasion.
It was just at this time that Andy, released from his severe and
unrequited labor for Deacon Jones, came by. He saw the wood being
unloaded in the back yard, and an idea struck him.
"Maybe I can get the chance of sawin' and splittin' that wood. I'll
try, anyway. I wonder who lives there?"
He immediately opened the front gate, and marching up to the front door, knocked vigorously.
"There's somebody at the door," said Sophia.
"Perhaps it's John come back," said Priscilla. "I am afraid of going
to open it. He might want to kiss me again."
"I'll go," said Sophia, rising with unwonted alacrity.
"He might want to kiss you."
"I'll tell him not to."
"We'll both go," said Priscilla, decisively.
Accordingly, the two sisters, for mutual protection, both went to the
door, and opened it guardedly. Their courage returned when they saw
that it was only a boy.
"What do you want?" asked Priscilla.
"Just so," chimed in Sophia.
"You've got a load of wood in the back yard," commenced Andy.
"Just so," said Sophia.
"Do you want it sawed and split?"
"Just so," answered the younger sister, brightening up.
"Can you do it?" inquired Priscilla.
"Try me and see," answered Andy.
"You're not a man."
"Just so," chimed in her sister.
"Faith, and I soon will be," said Andy. "I can saw and split wood as
well as any man you ever saw."
"What is your name?"
"Andy Burke."
"Are you a--Hibernian?" inquired Priscilla.
"I don't know what you mane by that same," said Andy, perplexed.
"To what nation do you belong?"
"Oh, that's what you want, ma'am. I'm only an Irish boy."
"And you say your name is Burke?"
"Yes, ma'am."
"Are you related to Burke, the great orator? He was an Irishman, I believe."
"Just so," said Sophia.
"He was my great-grandfather, ma'am," answered Andy, who had never
heard of the eminent orator, but thought the claim would improve his
chances of obtaining the job of sawing and splitting wood.
"Your great-grandfather!" exclaimed Priscilla, in astonishment.
"Really, this is most extraordinary. And you are poor?"
"If I wasn't I wouldn't be goin' round sawin' wood, ma'am."
"Just so," said Sophia.
"To think that the grandson of the great Burke should come to us for
employment," said Priscilla, who was in some respects easily taken in.
"I think we must hire him, Sophia."
"Just so."
"Perhaps he could take John's place altogether."
"Just so."
"I must find out whether he understands gardening."
"Just so."
Andy stood by, waiting patiently for the decision, and hoping that it
might be favorable. Of course, it was wrong for him to tell a lie, but
he thought his engagement depended upon it, and, although a very good
boy in the main, he was not altogether perfect, as my readers are destined to find out.
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