BUT while Goarden was greatly
crestfallen over the knock-out blow his French had received, it did not in
the least interfere with his loquaciousness, and so one day, before the
road work was completed, I induced him to give me his impressions
regarding the system.
"Uv coourse, Watty," he said, "its
a dead snap fer me an me likes. Th bes times I git are a-doin uv
statue labour an tendin uv thrashin mills. Kin yeh tell me, Watty,"
Goarden broke off, an idea just striking him, "why Jock, the drover,
laffed s much when I tol him th other day I wuz a-doin uv statue
labour? He jes laffed an sed, Wall, I guess yeh is, Goarden, fer ivery
time I seed yeh on th road, yeh wuz es motionless es a statoo. There mus
be some joke about it, fer th res uv th boys laffed too."
I promised to think it over and let
him know, and then he continued : "Why, yes, es I wuz a-sayin, Watty, th
bes times I gits is a-doin uv statue labour, an tendin thrashin
mills. I hey never worked at eny place in th settlement whar my breakfas'
wuz not on th table waitin fer me, no matter how airly I got up. I hey
allus bin kep workin s late nites, an bin put t it s airly mornins,
thet Im beginnin t think sometimes Im in Heaven, cause thars no nite
"But es t th road work, yeh know
plagid well th practis. Ivery pathmaster looks out fer hisself, and sees
thet th road in front uv his own homestid is put in apple-pie order
doorin his tenoore uv office, es Jock puts it. This year its ole
Nathan Larkins es is path-master, an I spose yeh hey noticed thet th
road opposite his place is es smooth an slick es th town-line, which is
planked, an thet th ditches is cleaned out an th walk long th fence
made es smooth es a onion bed. Thar haint no flies on Nathan when hes
"But does the road need all the
improvements talked of?" I asked.
"Suttenly not, suttenly not. Usally
th road needs no fixin t all, but th statue labour hes t be done an
so we go t work. Praps yeh know thar is a scheme on t cast lots each
year an do th statue work on th lucky settlers farm who wins the
"Dont you do considerable loafing
at the road work?" I asked.
"Oh, bless yeh, yes. We do a lot uv
hivy settin roun, an th moment we git th pathmaster outen our site,
we set down an swap yarns. Thet ole sojer named Flett, who sez hes come
thru th Crimee war, is th wust ole sojer in th line uv loafin yeh iver
seed. He wont turn a han ef he can help it, an wots more, he wont let
eny one else do t. Th moment ole Nathan is out uv site, down sets Flett,
an getherin th boys aroun him, he tells th goll-darnedest yarns bout
his doins in th war, yeh iver heerd uv. Cordin t his own testmony,
he carries enywhere frum five t twelve pound uv lead in his karkis, an
he shows more scars, which he sez wuz made by baynites, then yeh could
shake a stick at. He sez thet wen he goes huntin he niver carries no
bullets fer he jest taps hisself th same es you would a tree an spills
out wot bullets he needs. Hes a queer un is Flett, I niver knowd him to
boast uv enythin pertainin t his famly cept his mothers funrel wich
he sed wuz th dog-gondest biggest funrel thet wuz iver seed in th
country whar be wuz riz.
"I mind well, one day," Goarden went
on, "thet we wuz so taken up with one uv Fletts stories bout th war
thet we niver noticed Nathan comin over th hill until he wuz clost up on
us. Then we jumped t our shovels, ploughs, an scrapers, an while Nathan
stormed an threatened t report us t th Queen (Nathan allus seemed t
be real intmate with Her Majesty doorin statue labour season), Flett wuz
likenin our suddent break-up t th army uv Wellinton at Waterloo, wich,
he sed, at one magic word wuz dissolved frum solid squares into thin red
lines, wich swep on t meet th enemy es we did t meet Nathan.
"Nothin," added Goarden, "so
zasperates Flett, es t find somebody a-doin road work who wants t work.
Its like a fishin party! exclaimed Flett, one day. Thars allus some
goll-darned fool in ivery fishin party es wants t fish. Thar wuz a
fresh Alick named Towler on th road work las year," said Goarden, "a-doin
time fer th toll-keeper, who wuz sick, an it kep Flett a-cussin th
hull two weeks at thet air chap. He would work, no matter how Flett would
cuss an no matter how entertainin wuz his stories, an Flett fairly
spread hisseif t intrest Towler an keep him idle. But twas no good.
Towler would work in spite uv enythin Flett could do er say. One day
Flett got th res uv th boys t hol a indignashun meetin right on th
road, an a resolution wuz passed condemnin uv Towler in th strongest uv
langwidge, an threatenin him with consequences ef he didnt stop his d
nonsensical work. Thet wuz th expresshun used in th motion. But Towler
kep right on, an th danger uv utter demoralisation t th res uv th
gang became s great thet Flett bribed th toll-keeper t hey Towler
withdrawn, an so he wuz, an things went on smoothly enuff agen. Flett
sez heroic misures will hev t be took, ef iver sitch a thing happens agen,
an th intrests uv honest statue labour is threatened."
"How old must a boy be before he is
permitted to do road work?" I asked Goarden.
"Oh, thet all dipends. Ef hes a
good chunk uv a boy an can show a little down on his upper lip, he
ginerally goes, but pathmasters isnt all alike on them pints. Some
will cept a youngster uv twelve er thirteen whose upper lip hes niver
even been licked by a cat, but others is different, an they zamine boys
lips very carefully, fer th lips is th test, Watty; th lips is th
test. This practis hes led lashins uv boys t scrape thar lips rigular
with thar fathers razor, so s t git th furst growth started. Then a
week er two afore th road work commences, they let up on usin th razor
so s t be able t show quite a little stubby growth. But its hard work
fer some uv them t pull thru," added Goarden, with a sigh.
"Do you ever have any quarrels on
the road during the progress of the work?" I asked.
"Oh, yes; lots uv times. This very
season Peerie Cameron an Black Dougald got into a argyment es t wich
wore th most spensive boots. Arter a wile they got to fitin right on th
road, an they wuz havin a purty rough time uv it when ole Nathan Larkins,
th pathmaster, hove in site. Nathan hustled up t th scene an tol th
men t separate. Uv course they paid no tenshun t him, so mountin a
great stone, ole Nathan said, I command peace in th Queens name. This,
uv coourse, wuz treated with contemp, an th men kep right on fitin.
Then ole Nathan pulled out uv his pocket th riot ack, wich es a
magistrate he allus carried, an thar he stood on th big stone a-readin
uv th riot ack, while Peerie punched Dougald an Dougald pounded away at
Peerie. Arter Nathan hed finished a-readin uv th ack an hed saw it wuz
no good, he sed: Peerie Cameron an Black Dougald, hevin commanded yeh
t peace in th Queens name an yeh hevin refused, I now, by virtoo o
th power vested in me, es one o Her Majestys justices o th peace,
impose a fine on both o yeh uv ten shillins an sixpence halfpenny
"T hell with yeh an yer fine!
roared Black Dougald, an Peerie muttered somethin in Gallic.
"'Black Dougald, sed Nathan, I
fine yeh one pound ten more fer insultin an defyin o Her Majestys
representative; an yeh, Peerie Cameron, arter I git yer Gallic
interpreted, ef I find yeve been insultin me, too, Ill fine yeh th
"Wall, th fighters paid no tenshun
t Nathan, but fought out thar battle t th end, an ony quit when they
hed hed enuff, wich is th usual practis with men.