From the day he was born, Andy Rooney was a mischievous troublemaker. When he was old enough to work, his mother took him to Squire Egan of Merryvale Hall, who hired him as a stableboy. His literal mind and naive ways frequently caused his superiors great agitation.
One day, Squire Egan sent Andy to the post office to get a letter. Thinking the postage unduly high, Andy stole two other letters in order to get his money’s worth. The Squire’s letter was from Murtough Murphy, an attorney, and it concerned a forthcoming election for a county seat held by Sir Timothy Trimmer, who was expected to die soon. Murphy warned Egan that although he could be certain of most of the votes in the election, Squire O’Grady of Neck-or-Nothing Hall was likely to support the Honorable Sackville Scatterbrain, another candidate. It happened that one of the purloined letters was addressed to Gustavus O’Grady. Peering through the envelope, Egan made out some unflattering words about himself. In anger, he threw the letter into the fire. To cover up his error, he also burned the other letter and then told Andy that he destroyed them to protect such a foolish gossoon from detection.
Andy could never get anything straight. When Squire Egan sent him on an errand to get a document from Murtough Murphy and Mrs. Egan sent him to the apothecary shop, Andy left Murphy’s paper on the counter of the store and took up, instead, O’Grady’s packet of medicine. The apothecary then unknowingly gave O’Grady the document from Murphy. On receiving O’Grady’s medicine, Squire Egan was insulted and challenged Murphy to a duel. O’Grady, insulted at the contents of Murphy’s legal document, challenged M’Garry, the apothecary. The matter was soon straightened out; Handy Andy fared the worst.
Edward O’Connor was a gallant cavalier. Well-educated and gifted as a poet, he was a favorite among the men of the community. He was in love with Fanny Dawson but had not declared himself as yet. A misunderstanding between Fanny’s father and Edward had resulted in the young man’s banishment from the Dawson house. After the quarrel, Major Dawson maintained an intense dislike for the poet. Although she brooded over the absence of her lover, Fanny was forced to obey her father’s wishes.
While walking one night, Andy stumbled over a man stretched out in the middle of the road. He hailed a passing jaunting car. The driver, learning that the drunken man was his brother, stayed behind to care for him and asked Andy to drive his carriage. The passenger, Mr. Furlong, said he was on his way to visit the Squire. Assuming that he meant Squire Egan, Andy took Furlong to Merryvale Hall, but Furlong had wanted to see O’Grady on election business. Egan, continuing to deceive the visitor, sent for Murphy, and the two men contrived to pump as much information from Furlong as they could.
When the truth was revealed, Furlong set out for Neck-or-Nothing Hall. He met with more mischief there. O’Grady was in a terrible mood, for he had discovered that the letter announcing Furlong’s arrival had gone astray. The climax came when O’Grady’s daughter Augusta happened into Furlong’s room while he was dressing. A moment later, O’Grady’s knock at the door sent her hiding under the bed to avoid discovery. O’Grady caught her, however, and insisted that Furlong marry her.
The Honorable Sackville Scatterbrain arrived in time for the nomination speeches, a lively affair with a great deal of shouting and much merriment. On election day, Egan supporters succeeded in irritating O’Grady, who had no sense of humor and plenty of temper. O’Grady thought that the crowd was too boisterous and aroused the people by sending for the militia. When he ordered the militia to fire into the angry mob, Edward O’Connor rode into the crowd to disperse it and prevent the militia from firing. Impressed by his bravery, the militia captain refused to fire. O’Grady then challenged O’Connor to a duel. O’Connor wounded O’Grady. When the Honorable Sackville Scatterbrain won the election, Squire Egan began a suit to dispute its result.
Larry Hogan, one of O’Grady’s employees, had learned about the purloining of O’Grady’s letter, which Squire Egan had burned, and he hoped to put his knowledge to use by intimidating the Squire. One night, Andy happened to overhear Larry, who was very drunk, talking about his scheme. Confused, Andy went to Father Phil, his confessor, for advice. It so happened that the priest was attending to the nuptials of Matty Dwyer and James Casey. At the wedding feast, Casey failed to appear. Fearing that his daughter would be disgraced, Jack Dwyer asked if any of the guests present would marry Matty. Andy boldly offered himself, and the marriage was performed. After the couple had been left alone in their new cottage, James Casey arrived, accompanied by a hedge-priest who performed a second ceremony. Andy, protesting, was dragged outside and tied to a tree.
O’Grady died from the ill effects of the wound O’Connor had given him. Because the dead man had been deep in debt and unpopular in the community, his body was in danger of being confiscated. To prevent such an action, the family made two coffins; one, the true coffin, was to be buried secretly at night. O’Connor, stumbling upon the scene of the clandestine burial, was struck with remorse at his own deed, but young Gustavus O’Grady forgave his father’s slayer, who in return pledged himself to lifelong friendship with Gustavus.
When a beggar warned Mrs. Rooney that someone was plotting to carry off her niece Oonah, Andy disguised himself as the young girl. He was kidnaped and taken to Shan More’s cave, where Andy’s wild entreaties so aroused the pity of Shan More’s sister Bridget that she took the distressed captive to bed with her. Discovering her error in the morning, Bridget lamented her lost honor, which Andy righted by marrying her. Andy discovered too late that he really loved Oonah and that he had married a woman of bad reputation.
It was discovered that Lord Scatterbrain, disguised as a servant named Rooney, had married Andy’s mother, only to desert her before Andy’s birth. After the death of the old nobleman—the Honorable Sackville Scatterbrain, his nephew, did not dispute the succession—Andy became his heir, with a seat in the House of Lords. He went off to London to learn fine manners and to enjoy his new estate. Shan More and Bridget followed to demand a settlement for the deserted wife. To escape the vulgar and persistent pair, Andy gladly gave Bridget some money.
Major Dawson met with an accident that resulted in his death. With the Major gone, all obstacles between Fanny Dawson and Edward O’Connor were removed, and O’Connor was finally able to enter the Dawson house and to marry Fanny.
Shan More made an attempt upon Andy’s life. When the attempt failed, Andy went to Shan’s den, where he found a wounded man, an escaped convict, who proved to be Bridget’s true husband. Rid of his wife, Andy was free to marry Oonah.
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