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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter LVII - Goarden applies for a New Job


COLIN found an old friend waiting for him at Mrs. McNabb’s. It was no less a personage than Goarden Weaver, the hired man. Goarden had just returned from "the drive" (the floating of logs down the streams to the sawmills). He had spent the entire winter in the shanty, working with a large gang on the Opeango, a small tributary of the Grand or Ottawa River. On the break-up in the spring, Goarden followed "the drive" down to Quebec, where, true to the practice of the average "shanty lad" (to say nothing of his own instincts), he had gone on a spree, and wound up without a penny of his hard-earned wages left. He was, in fact, obliged to borrow from a chum who was less prodigal than he in his carousings, in order to pay his passage home. He had heard of Colin’s good fortune, and determined to apply for a job.

"Yeh see, it’s jist like this," said Goarden, hitching up his braceless trousers, which always had a tendency to hang down and "bag." "I’ve about decided t’ cut th’ hull bizness an’ make a noo deal. Th’ cards hasn’t come my way uv late, an’ I’m so down on my luck thet I want a noo deck altogether. Th’ shanty’s all right, an’ th’ boys is all right, but th’ cards is unlucky, an’ ef I don’t make a change, I’m li’ble t’ go t’ th’ divil altogether. When a man gits it into his head thet he’s down on his luck an’ thet th’ cards is stacked agin him, he may jist as well quit. He’s like a house as is haunted. Nobody ‘11 live in it. Jist so if a man’s luck’s gone bad, he’s got no confidence. Th’ ony thing fer t’ do is t’ get out, t' jump th’ job, t’ cut an’ run, t’ hunt noo diggin’s. I thort uv goin’ t’ Californy an’ diggin’ gold, but I don’t know nobody thar, an’ I’d get lonesome-like, an’ p’r’aps blow my brains out. I thort uv Africky, but th’ blacks is sitch uncanny critters thet I quit the idee. Yisterday one uv my fren’s said:

‘What about th’ noo dook, young Colin? ye needn’t go no furder ‘n him. His nibs ‘II give ye a job t’ look arter his hosses an’ dawgs in Englan’.’ I knowed as how I hadn’t much experience wit dawgs, fer I ony owned but one, Coaley, in my life, an’ Jock, th’ drover, said thet as he wuz curly he must be a spaniel. But I knowed better. He wuz a coaley because "Coaley" wuz his name when I got him frum Mrs. Bedor, th’ Frenchwoman up th’ Snow Road. But I think, Colin, thet I could lick dawgs with any uv yer bloomin’ Englishmen, fer my fren’ tells me thet th’ job is whipper-in uv th’ houn’s."

"I think you could make a better success with the horses, Goarden," said Colin, after a pause. "There is quite a lot of them, and I believe that if you are sincere in your desire to reform, I could arrange to get you into the stables."

"That’s zactly my lay!" said the delighted Goarden. "I’ll show them infernal furriners in Europe thet I kin give ‘em cards an’ spades in han’lin’ hosses, an’ beat ‘em. Why, Colin," he continued, rising and walking about enthusiastically, while his blazing red necktie flowed down over his shirt bosom, "I driv Bill Pepper’s bay team half last winter, an’ ye know how skittish th’ off mare is, although a better nag flyer looked through a boss collar! One day some sneaky scut stuck some big burrs roun’ th’ mare’s legs an’ tail unbeknown t’ me, an’ I hed th’ divil’s own time with her. She kicked an’ kicked, till she smashed th’ whippletree an’ broke th’ harness, an’ snapped th’ ribbons, an’ nearly killed th’ chore boy. Oh, if I ony knowed who done it," said Goarden, with fire flashing from his eyes, "I’d break him in two an’ lam both pieces together quicker’n chain lightnin'd chase a squ’r’l roun" a crooked~grained hemlock with tb’ bark off!"

"Oh, hold on!" said Colin. "You wouldn’t do all that!"

"That I would, an’ more too," said the blood-thirsty Goarden.

"Well, then, Goarden," said Colin, "we shall consider that you are engaged to look after the horses at Beaumont."

"Mairsee, marisee, bien buckoo," said Goarden, seizing Colin’s hand.

"See here," said Colin, "none of that, Goarden! Don’t work off any of your French jargon on me, or the engagement is cancelled at once. You can see how it will take on the natives in Europe, but I should think, after your experience that day when the road work was being done, and you tried to work off your ‘tourley, lourley, lipsey ring,’ that you would have retired from the French business in this country."

Goarden was quite crestfallen. However, after thanking Colin in English, he went off in fairly good humour, which rapidly increased as congratulations were showered upon him by his friends.

That same evening several old friends dropped in to see Colin. Among the number were Muckle Peter, Jock the drover, and old Nathan Larkins.

The object which Nathan had in view was to confer his blessing upon Colin in "the noo spear," as Nathan put it, to which the young man had been called, and incidentally to request Colin to send him out from the old country one of those latest Bible Concordances about which he had read, in one of the religious monthlies. Nathan "allowed as it was mighty handy" for a man like himself, who was frequently called upon to officiate at religious and other ceremonies, "to hey one o’ them air Concordances by him so that he might cover the ground thorally both in prayer and exhortation."

Colin promised to send him the volume; although, after Nathan departed that evening, Jock, the drover, did his best to persuade Colin to substitute "Jack Sheppard’s Murders" or some other exciting volume for the Concordance.

"It’s all very well fer you, Colin," Jock said, "because you’re goin’ to be three er four thousand miles away; but think uv us poor divils who hey hed t’ listen t’ Nathan’s long prayers an’ exertations fer fifty odd years! When Nathan gits a Concordance, there’ll be no endoorin’ uv him. Why, Colin, he’ll ring in the Concordance Ofl everythin’ in th’ good book frum th’ Garden uv Eden down to John’s Revelation! No, Colin, it’ll niver do; either you’ll hey to go back on your promise or we’ll hey t’ kill off Nathan."

But Nathan received his Concordance all the same, and he still survives in the settlement, although Jock, the drover, declares that if the old man is not " removed" (that is the diplomatic expression he employs), an awful lot of souls will be lost, as the length of his prayers and exhortations has been productive of widespread profanity.

Nathan would have liked exceedingly to "put up a prayer" on behalf of Colin that evening, before he left, but Jock, suspecting his design, would commence the relation of some exciting and racy yarn whenever the old man veered round in that direction. So they tired him out, and he finally took his leave, content with laying his hands upon Colin’s head and repeating several passages of Scripture, more or less appropriate.

After he was gone, Colin had a chat with Muckle Peter, while Jock talked to the widow and joked with Katie about her approaching marriage. Poor modest Katie, she blushed like a rose when any one referred to the matter!

"What am I going to do, Peter," said Colin, "when I can’t hear you sing the Psalms any more?"

"Thet Ah canna tell," answered Muckle Peter; "although Ah suppose they’ll be havin’ braw singers in th’ auld lan’."

"None, I think, so powerful as yourself, Peter," answered Colin.

"Weel, weel, ye’ll no’ be sayin’ sae?" said the precentor, greatly pleased at Colin’s ambiguous compliment.

"I do say it, indeed, Peter. While I was in the old land, I frankly confess I heard no such’ voice as yours."

Again Peter was so pleased that he said: "Why, but you’d be gettin’ a church f’r me in th’ auld countree, Coalin, lad! Ah’m no’ sae attached to th’ ain here thet Ah wouldna pull up stakes an’ gang back tae th’ lan’ frae whuch Ah cam’ whan Ah wis but a chiel. Ah’ll no’ say but what Ah would accept a temptin’ offer, even if Ah hed tae leave ma chairge here; an’ forby, Coalin, lad, Ah’m no’ sae shure thet they a’ appreciate me here, an’ it wad dae them muckle guid tae be left wi’oot onybody tae raise their tunes. Yoan pasty-faced clown wha keeps th’ toll-gate hes a notion ‘at he can carry on th’ Psalmody, but Ah’ll wager ma new buckskin moggasins agin his meersham pipe ‘at he canna sing th’ first fower bars o’ Auld Hunner, an’ Ah’ll raise th’ tune f’r hum an’ gie hum a guid stairt!"

"Well, well," said Colin, not wishing to have Muckle Peter continue in a controversial mood, "I’ll keep my eye about me, and if I see a good musical opening in one of the great churches, that I am confident you can fill with credit to yourself and with satisfaction to the congregation, I’ll be sure to send you word."

Although Colin never sent for Muckle Peter, he frequently wrote him the kindest of letters, sending him music books and asking his opinion upon musical questions. The letters, the questions, and the music books pleased Muckle Peter mightily, and he used to exhibit them among his neighbours, and sound Colin’s praises, while to those who did not know Colin personally Muckle Peter referred to him as "a frien’ o’ mine wha’s awa’ up in th’ gentry o’ Englan’."

Colin loved Muckle Peter for the way he stood by him during his early experiences with Simon, the schoolmaster, and for his early kindness to the Widow McNabb. Never a Christmas passed but Colin contrived to send the stern old Scottish precentor a twenty or twenty-five pound note for some little service he had asked him to perform.


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