How Hefty Burke got Even

Hefty Burke was once clubbed by a policeman named M’Cluire, who excused the clubbing to His Honour by swearing that Hefty had been drunk and disorderly, which was not true. Hefty got away from the Island by swimming the East River, and swore to get even with the policeman. This story tells how he got even.

Mr. Carstairs was an artist who had made his first great success by painting figures and landscapes in Brittany. He had a studio at Fifty-eighth Street and Sixth Avenue, and was engaged on an historical subject in which there were three figures. One was a knight in full armour, and the other was a Moor, and the third was the figure of a woman. The suit of armour had been purchased by Mr. Carstairs in Paris, and was believed to have been worn by a brave nobleman, one of whose extravagant descendants had sold everything belonging to his family in order to get money with which to play baccarat. Carstairs was at the sale, and paid a large price for the suit of armour which the Marquis de Neuville had worn, and set it up in a corner of his studio. It was in eight or a dozen pieces, and quite heavy, but was wonderfully carved and inlaid with silver, and there were dents on it that showed where a Saracen’s scimitar had been dulled and many a brave knight’s spear had struck. Mr. Carstairs had paid so much for it that he thought he ought to make better use of it, if possible, than simply to keep it dusted and show it off to his friends. So he began his historical picture, and engaged Hefty Burke to pose as the knight and wear the armour. Hefty’s features were not exactly the sort of features you would imagine a Marquis de Neuville would have; but as his visor was down in the picture, it did not make much material difference: and as his figure was superb, he answered very well. Hefty drove an ice-waggon during business hours, and, as a personal favour to Mr. Carstairs, agreed to pose for him, for a consideration, two afternoons of each week, and to sleep in the studio at night, for it was filled with valuable things.

The armour was a never-ending source of amazement and bewilderment to Hefty. He could not understand why a man would wear such a suit, and especially when he went out to fight. It was the last thing in the world he would individually have selected in which to make war.

“Ef I was goin’ to scrap wid anybody,” he said to Mr. Carstairs, “I’d as lief tie meself up wid dumb-bells as take to carry all this stuff on me. A man wid a baseball bat and swimmin’ tights on could dance all round youse and knock spots out of one of these things. The other lad wouldn’t be in it. Why, before he could lift his legs or get his hands up you cud hit him on his helmet, and he wouldn’t know what killed him. They must hev sat down to fight in them days.”

Mr. Carstairs painted on in silence and smiled grimly.

“I’d like to have seen a go with the parties fixed out in a pair of these things,” continued Hefty. “I’d bet on the lad that got in the first whack. He wouldn’t have to do nothing but shove the other one over on his back and fall on him. Why, I guess this weighs half a ton if it weighs an ounce!”

For all his contempt Hefty had a secret admiration for the ancient marquis who had worn this suit, and had been strong enough to carry its weight and demolish his enemies besides. The marks on the armour interested him greatly, and he was very much impressed one day when he found what he declared to be blood-stains on the lining of the helmet.

“I guess the old feller that wore this was a sport, eh?” he said proudly, shaking the pieces on his arms until they rattled. “I guess he done ’em up pretty well for all these handicaps. I’ll bet when he got to falling around on ’em and butting ’em with this fire helmet he made ’em purty tired. Don’t youse think so?”

Young Carstairs said he didn’t doubt it for a moment.

The Small Hours Social Club was to give a prize masquerade ball at the Palace Garden on New Year’s Night, and Hefty had decided to go. Every gentleman dancer was to get a white silk badge with a gold tassel, and every committee-man received a blue badge with “Committee” written across it in brass letters. It cost three dollars to be a committee-man, but only one dollar “for self and lady.” There were three

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