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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter XV - "Doin’ Statue Labor"


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, "it’s 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 mornin’s, thet I’m beginnin’ t’ think sometimes I’m in Heaven, ‘cause thar’s no nite here.

"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 it’s ole Nathan Larkins es is path-master, an’ I s’pose 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 hain’t no flies on Nathan when he’s pathmaster."

"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. P’raps yeh know thar is a scheme on t’ cast lots each year an’ do th’ statue work on th’ lucky settler’s farm who wins the cast."

"Don’t 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 he’s come thru th’ Crimee war, is th’ wust ole sojer in th’ line uv loafin’ yeh iver seed. He won’t turn a han’ ef he can help it, an’ wot’s more, he won’t 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 doin’s in th’ war, yeh iver heerd uv. ‘Cordin’ t’ his own test’mony, 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 w’en 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. He’s a queer un is Flett, I niver know’d him to boast uv enythin’ pertainin’ t’ his fam’ly ‘cept his mother’s 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 Flett’s 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 int’mate with Her Majesty doorin’ statue labour season), Flett wuz likenin’ our suddent break-up t’ th’ army uv Wellin’ton 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. ‘It’s like a fishin’ party!’ exclaimed Flett, one day. ‘Thar’s 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’ int’rest 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 didn’t 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’ int’rests 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 he’s a good chunk uv a boy an’ can show a little down on his upper lip, he ginerally ‘goes,’ but pathmasters isn’t all alike on them p’ints. 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 father’s 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 it’s 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’ Queen’s 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’ Queen’s name an’ yeh hevin’ refused, I now, by virtoo o’ th’ power vested in me, es one o’ Her Majesty’s justices o’ th’ peace, impose a fine on both o’ yeh uv ten shillin’s an’ sixpence halfpenny each.’

"‘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 Majesty’s representative; an’ yeh, Peerie Cameron, arter I git yer Gallic interpreted, ef I find ye’ve been insultin’ me, too, I’ll fine yeh th’ same figger.’

"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.

"Yes," added Goarden, as I was leaving, "statue labour is all right, but yeh want a good pathmaster, an’ it’s a fine thing t’ hey a cove like Flett t’ amoose th’ boys an’ keep thar speerits up."


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