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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter XIII - Entertaining the Minister


I HAPPENED to call at the widow’s home the evening of the minister’s visit; and after he had taken his tea and his departure, I found Goarden, the hired man, at the stable. He was in a wretched humour, and was swearing profusely and artistically, for he had a remarkable power of inventing original and picturesque expressions in profanity. I asked him what was the matter.

"Oh, matter ‘nuff, Watty!" he ejaculated, expectorating vigorously against the oat bin. "It all comes uv thet confounded travellin’ sky agent a-stayin’ here fer supper."

"Why didn’t you take yourself off when you knew he was coming?" I asked.

"Wall, I should a done so ef I’d ony a knowd he wuz a-comin’. I should a knowd though, fer I wuz at church Sunday an’ heered him give it out myself thet ‘Goad wullun, he wad veesit th’ fam’lies luvin’ on th’ Ninth Concession thus week,’ an’ I might a knowd he wud stop fer tea at th’ widdy’s, ‘cause he allus does. I tell yeh what, Watty, they know whar th’ good meals is sarved, an’ yeh can allus count on them fetchin’ up at th’ widdy’s about tea time. I guess," added Goarden, reflectively, "th’ thrashin’ boys spreads th’ news whar good grub’s t’ be got."

"But why should Mr. McBean’s annual pastoral visit disturb you so, Goarden?" I asked.

"Why? Wall, ‘cause they wanted t’ ring me in t’ th’ fam’ly wuship thet follyed. ‘Twouldn’t a bin s’ bad ef I hed a bin axed in t’ supper. But yeh know how it is, Watty, at most uv th’ settlers’ houses when th’ minister stops t’ meals. There’s niver ‘nuff chairs t’ go roun’, th’ forks runs short, an’ not ‘nuff knives, an’ th’ upshot is, most uv th’ childer an’ th’ hired man hes t’ wait fer th’ second coourse. Besides, I don’t like borryin’ things frum nabours when they’s special company. I tell yeh what, Watty, I’ve bin sent many an’ many a time when I wuz a-workin’ on th’ Snow Road or th’ Tenth an’ Twelfth, t’ nabours’ houses t’ borry chairs, an’ git th’ loan uv knives an’ forks, an sitch like, when special company wuz in."

"But you were not asked to borrow to-day to help the widow out," I said.

"No, but es I tell yeh, Watty, they wanted me t’ go in an’ set down while fam’ly wuship wuz bein’ held, an’ I tol’ Lizzie who come fer me, thet ‘twan’t no use es it ‘ud take a block an’ tackle t’ bring me. ‘Twould be all I could stan’ ef I’d t’ set down t’ supper with the rest, but t’ endoor fam’ly wuship on a empty stummick wuz too much fer me, an’ so I perfurred t’ stay out here an’ cuss while th’ minister wuz a-prayin’ an’ eatin’ in th’ house."

"What bill of fare is usually presented, Goarden," I asked, "when the minister or special company stays to tea ?"

"Wall, uv coourse th’ white imytation marbel ile cloth is took off th’ table, an’ a white linen cloth is spread. Ef thar’s no fresh meat in th’ house (an’ uv coourse yeh know, Watty, thar ginerally isn’t in th’ warm weather), eggs does duty es meat, fried eggs, although I hey knowd th’ missus t’ ask th’ minister p’litely ef he perfurred ‘em biled t’ fried. Then uv coourse th’ bes’ pursurves is fetched up frum tb’ cellar, th’ pound fer pound, es they’se ginerally called."

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"Don’t know what pound fer pound means? Why,— a pound uv muscavado sugar t’ a pound uv berries. It’s ginerally strawberries, wild strawberries, es is used fer th’ purpose, an’ th’ jars is kep’ in th’ cellar an’ guarded es carefully es ole Skinny McIntosh, the miser, does his little iron box with th’ money."

"Have you ever partaken of pound for pound, Goarden?" I asked.

"Only wunst, an’ thet wuz by mistake. It came ‘bout in this way. It wuz at th’ McGlashins, an’ I happened t’ be thar a-givin’ uv ole Saunders a han’ t’ kill his pigs in th’ fall. Wall, th’ minister wuz a-doin’ uv his roun’s on th’ Twelfth thet day, an’ uv coourse I bed t’ wait fer th’ second table, although ole Saunders went in t’ th’ first. But uv coourse ole Saunders niver touches pound fer pound. His missus hes him too well trained fer thet. Wall, I wuz called in t’ th’ second table arter Kearstie hed stripped it purty bare. Yeh know, uv coourse, Watty, thet besides th’ pound fer pound, thar’s one t’ three an’ one t’ four. Thet is, one pound uv sugar t’ three er four uv fruit; an’ sometimes we git a taste uv thet. Wall, Missus McGlashin wuz a-puttin’ uv her bes’ foot first on this ‘casion, an’ she put on a jar uv pound fer pound fer th’ minister, an’ a jar uv one t’ four fer th’ rest. But when Kearstie came t’ clear th’ table afore me an’ th’ childer wuz cut loose on th’ remains, she mistook th’ one t’ four jar fer th’ pound fer pound, an’ thet’s how I came t’ hey a feed wunst in my life. When Missus McGlashin foun’ it out, Kearstie got a dreadful scoldin’.

"But I guess I hey got off th’ thread uv my story," said Goarden; "an’ comin’ back t’ th’ supper, I might add thet it is customary in th’ fust fam’lies t’ dish up potted head ef thar’s eny in stock, an’ thar ginerally is. Sometimes I hey knowd women t’ fry spiced sausengers fer th’ minister. Yeh will offens see ‘em hangin’ in long rows ‘bout th’ ceilin’, whar they ketch th’ heat, th’ dus’, an’ mos’ ginerally th’ flies. But thar great eatin’ is spiced sausengers," added Goarden, as his lips watered at the recollection of a feed he had had at some farmhouse. "Then, I mussen fergit t’ mention th’ curren bread, an’ curren buns, an’ th’ cakes with lots uv carvey (carraway) seed in ‘em. Then thar is allus twisters an’ homemade pickles, an’ homemade cheese, which is ginerally es tough es rubber. An’ offens yeh kin git maple su’rp.

"An’ oh! yes," added Goarden, as he had overlooked something, "an’ in a few fam’lies yeh kin git ‘white sugar.’ I don’t mean th’ yalla muscavado, but rale white sugar. It’s come in fashion now, fer ole John Malcolm brought a little bag uv it f rum Brockville th’ las’ time he come, an’ a few settlers hes it t’ put in th’ minister’s tea when he is a-makin’ uv his roun’s. I fergot t’ tell yeh," Goarden went on, "thet afore tea wuz in gineral use, th’ fust fam’lies giv’ rossberry vinegar an’ sometimes rhubarb wine, ef th’ minister wuzn’t a teetoller, which they ginerally wuzn’t."

"Anything else?" I asked.

"Wall, naw, not es I kin think on, ‘ceptin’ thet thar is usually a cake uv bought soap, scented up like hair ile, kep’ in ivery farmhouse, an’ when th’ minister stays t’ tea, thet air cake uv new bought soap (which one uv th’ Greig boys said wuz not made, it bein’ jes’ bought) is put on a saucer beside th’ basin an’ jug uv soft water in th’ spare room fer th’ ,minister. Uv coourse thar is allus a special tow’l niver used afore, kep’ fer th’ minister’s visit. I mind wunst, when th’ minister wuz at th’ McGlashins, th’ ole woman lef’ Kearstie t’ tidy up th’ room an’ she fergot t’ put th’ new tow’l on th’ chair aside uv th’ washdish, an’ th’ minister hed t’ wipe his face an’ han’s on a pilla slip. It caused a great scandal an’ much talk in th’ settlement fer years, but it hes blowed over, es it wuz niver knowd t’ happen agin."

As I was turning to go, Goarden said: "I fergot t’ mention th’ front room while th’ supper is bein’ got ready in th’ kitchen. All th’ members uv th’ fam’ly thet are on han’, or kin be caught, sets roun’ th’ room, bolt upright, with th’ ole uns, with thar stiddy gaze afixed on th’ minister an’ a-listenin’ t’ th’ proverbs wot falls frum his lips. An’ when th’ minister druv out uv th’ yard, arter th’ long chapter an’ prayer an’ exertashun which follyed th’ supper (fer th’ minister hed t’ giv suthin in return fer bein’ fed), th’ boys an’ the rest uv us would giv’ a whoop an’ cut up fer th’ res’ uv th’ evenin’."


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