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
"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’
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’."