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
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,
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
"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
"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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