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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter XIV - Goarden’s French is challenged


"Mo share effa mo rear saw twah."

The speaker was Goarden Weaver, the hired man, who sat, one day in midsummer, on the top rail of a crooked fence on the Ninth Concession, surrounded by an admiring circle of lads, while the older men were engaged, at a "by-the-day" pace, in making some improvements to the road. It was the season for doing the statute labour.

Old Nathan Larkins was the pathmaster, and he had "warned the settlers out" a week previously to do the statute labour assigned them. Nathan dearly loved office, and he was prepared on all occasions to accept such a position, no matter how insignificant it might be. It pleased him to be even allowed to witness a document, and he fairly revelled in such official distinction as pathmaster, or as chairman at a meeting, no matter what its purport.

The slightest elevation always induced him to swagger and "lord it over" his neighbours. Jock, the drover, opined that if he ever attained to the high office of a county councillor, it would be necessary to provide him with a double expansion hat or let him go bareheaded.

On the present occasion Nathan had two gangs under his supervision, one working near the town-line, and the other over the hill three-quarters of a mile down, and not visible from the point where the first gang was at work. This was exactly what the boys desired, for when Nathan was with one gang, the other could loaf, and "terra firma," as Goarden would say.

At the particular time when this chapter opened Nathan was over the hill with the other gang, and Goarden, the hired man, was, as he would say himself, "doin’ a lot of hivy settin’ round," and trying to prevent the others from working.

It was on such occasions as this that Goarden loved to air his alleged knowledge of the French language, and now and then he would burst into some such expression as that which opens the chapter. As he had shantied most of his life, he professed to have learned the French language during his shanty life.

Now there happened to be a stranger, a youth of nineteen or twenty summers, working in the gang. Though Goarden did not know it, this young man was a French Canadian from the Gatineau, who had driven to the settlement with Malcolm, the beer pedlar, and as he had a few days free on his hands, he undertook to do the road work for Dooley, the blacksmith. Dooley had gone up the country to see a sick horse, — for he deemed himself a horse doctor as well as a horseshoer, and professed to know all about the diseases to which horseflesh is heir. When summoned to the stable, he would examine the animal, look into its mouth, check its pulse by his watch, and talk knowingly about the "main stay" being affected. If the animal recovered after taking his prescription of herbs, he would chuckle proudly and declare that he had just reached the brute in the nick of time "to snatch him from the jaws of death." If, however, the horse died, Dooley would shake his head and declare that the owner had delayed too long in sending for him, as the "main stay" was gone before he reached the animal.

When Goarden, seated proudly on the top rail of the fence, delivered himself of the expression, "Mo share effa mo rear saw twah," Jock, the drover, stepping jauntily up to Goarden, looked at him roguishly from under his tam-o’-shanter, and said : —"Say, Goarden, there’s a chap here es says yeh can’t talk French fer sour apples, an’ thet yeh couldn’t ast a gurl in French t’ dance with yeh."

"Where is he?" roared Goarden. "I’ll make him eat his words!"

"Think ye’d better jest test th’ French question fust, afore fumin’ ‘bout like a crazy dawg," suggested Jock.

"Joe, the Frenchman here, heered yeh get off thet air Jargon ‘bout ‘maw share saw pat,’ or whatever it wuz, an’ he seys yer a-givin’ us all guff, an’ t’ save yer neck yeh couldn’t ast a gurl in French t’ dance with yeh."

For a moment Goarden hesitated; it was a desperate chance to take, but he decided to bluff it out. Then he turned, and walking up to where Joe stood, looked him hard the eye and said : —"Yeh want me t’ ast a gurl in French t’ dance with me?"

"Oui," answered Joe; "dat is wat I want."

"Well," said Goarden, looking the Frenchman hard in the off eye, "Parley-vous le tourley loorey lipsy ting."

The Frenchman gave Goarden one look, the embodimerit of contempt, and said, "Parley-vous le tourley loorey lipsy — hell !"

A roar of derisive laughter went up from the crowd, for every one of them realised, as perfectly as if they were all accomplished French scholars, that Goarden’s bluff had been "called," and that as far as his French was concerned, he had now entirely lost his prestige.

Goarden himself realised that there was no use attempting any explanation; it would be received with ridicule and contempt. And so lighting his pipe, and casting a malicious look at the Frenchman, he said, as he started to join the gang over the hill: "I’ll meet yeh at th’ poplars (the poplars was the place where most of the disputes in the settlement were settled by an appeal to physical force) one uv these fine evenin’s."

"Ef you no fite better dan you spik de French," replied Joe, "you be de damnedest easiest ting dis side Gatineau. I meet you at wat you call de poplares or anny odder place dat you mak’ — what you call dat— de ‘p’intment."

But Goarden was not anxious to meet the Frenchman in physical combat, and contented himself, after Joe had returned to his home, with talking about what he would have done with that "frog-eatin’ furriner" if had ever met him in mortal combat.

The exposure had a distinctly "bearish" effect upon Goarden’s prestige, for at the next dance, because of the humiliation he had suffered at Joe’s hands, he was refused by no less than three of the lasses whom he asked "to do a turn" with him "at the quittilon."


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