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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter LVI - Auld Peggy’s Gratitude

DURING the days that Colin remained in the settlement, he went about among his old friends, and sought by every means possible to have them realise that the changed conditions of his fortunes had made no difference in the disposition of his mind. Indeed, he sought to be plainer and more homelike than ever; for he realised how sensitive his old neighbours would be, and how likely even to misunderstand and exaggerate any act, however trifling, if they fancied he was conscious of the position to which he had fallen heir.

The worst danger that he had to fear arose from the national pride of the Scottish people. There were many whom Colin would have liked to assist, but he did not dare to propose it, for fear of offending them, and lest they should think he was seeking to make a display of his newly acquired wealth. But he helped those whom he could without risking any offence.

Meeting Auld Peggy on the road one day, he stopped her to ask how she was getting along.

"Muckle bawd," replied Peggy, who conceived that her expectations would be more likely to be realised by putting on what she called "a poor mouth," when talking to Colin. "Ah’m sair troubled wi’ th’ rheumatiz; an’ as f’r Dugal, ye can see he’s waur crippled up nor masel’. Aye, aye," she went on, as if ruminating, "poverty’s an unco inconvanient thing, thet it is, Coalin, lad. But ye’ll naver hae ony experiences yersel’ th’ noo, wi’ yer graun’ hoose an’ a’ yer servants tae wait on ye, haun’ an’ fit. Aye, but ‘twill be th’ lucky woman ‘11 get ye, Coalin. But iverybody unnerstauns thet thet’s a’ settled an’ arranged f’r, an’ thet yer gaun tae tak’ th’ wuddow’s Katie aff wi’ ye whan ye start f’r th’ auld countree agen."

Colin smiled good-naturedly, and told Auld Peggy not to be too sure, as there was "many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip."

"Aye, thet there is," answered Peggy, ruefully. "Whan Ah marrit McCallum, ower fufty year ago, Ah little dreamt thet Ah wad hae tae mak’ ma ain way thru th’ wand. Although Ah thocht thet he wis a’ richt, an’ Ah wis anxious-like tae get marrit an’ hae a hame o’ ma ain. Ah hae aye regrettit iver syne thet thar hadna hae been a slup ‘twixt th’ cup an’ th’ lup, an’ thet afore he marrit me, McCallum hed not rinned awa’ wi’ yoan hussy thet he took aff wi’ hum tae Wast Constant. But Ah’m no’ complainin’, f’r, as ye know, th’ Laird is guid tae His ain, an’ Auld Peggy’s no’ been thet bawd thru life es tae forfeit a’ claim tae His protection. Ah hae aye been es guid’s ma neighbours, an’ sa lang’s ma bonnet wis fut tae wear tae meetin’, Ah wis aye tae be foon in ma seat, whuch, es ye know, Coalin, wis th’ second ane till th’ back on th’ maun’s side."

It should be explained that in the old established kirk in the settlement, the men sat upon one side of the aisle, while the women sat upon the other side. The entire congregation remained seated during the singing of the Psalms, and stood up with their backs to the minister during prayer. Colin assented to the words of Auld Peggy, and she proceeded : "Ah naver made much noise aboot ma releegion; Ah wisna like they Methody folk wha tried tae stairt a kirk in th’ settlement an’ wha aften thank Goad thet they hae been regenrit f’r th’ eleventh or twalth time. Ah dinna believe in yoan, dae ye, Coalin, lad?"

Without waiting for an answer, Auld Peggy continued: "It hes aye been ma opeenion thet we’re saved by grace, an’ no’ by ony lang prayers an’ blitherin’ experiences, sic es auld Nathan Larkins tawks aboot whan he’s pittin’ up what Jock, th’ drover, ca’s ain o’ his ‘powerfu’ peteetions.’ Ah hae aye been thankfu’ thet Ah hae been regenrit aince, tae say naethin’ o’ a dizen er twa o’ times. Ah canna staun’ they blitherin’ Methodys, onyway, can ye, Colin?" said Auld Peggy, appealing to the young man.

Colin did not share the old woman’s antipathy to the Methodists, but knowing how mightily she was down on them ever since they endeavoured to establish an organization in the neighbourhood, he gave an evasive answer.

"Ma opeenion hes aye been," continued Peggy, anxious to give a parting shot to the denomination which she so much disliked, "thet they Methodys are entoorely tae familiar wi’ th’ Almichty. They tawk tae Hum es uf He wis ain o’ theirselves. Th’ verra presumption o’ th’ creatures. Ah hae aye felt like takin’ aff ma shoon whan Ah enter Goad’s hoouse, but they presumptious people wad walk in wi’ their hats an’ caps on, an’ Ah’m no’ verra shaire thet they wadna wear moggasins uf they hadna shoon. Ah’m shaire th’ Loard hates presumption, Coalin, f’r disna th’ guid buik say, ‘Blessed are th’ meek an’ lowly in hairt’? Ah’m fear’t whan it comes tae distributin’ th’ rewards at th’ great white throne, thet there’ll be some people wha’ll come gae shoart."

It was with difficulty that Colin could switch the old lady off her favourite theme, "the Methodys," and induce her to talk about herself, for he wanted an opening to tell her what he had decided upon. "You’ll not be travelling the road this winter?" he asked.

"Losh, maun, an’ what wad Ah dae tae keep boady an’ saul tegither? Ma bairns hae growed up an’ gane aff an’ left me tae fish f’r masel’, an’ uf Ah didna stick tae th’ rawd, what’ll become o’ us Dugal an’ me f’r we maun jist stairve."

Here was Colin’s opportunity, and he told her that he had arranged to give her a small allowance every month, sufficient to provide for her wants. The poor old woman was so filled with gratitude that for a time she could scarcely find words to express herself. Instead of trusting herself to speak to Colin, she stooped down, and patting Dugal, who wagged his stub tail industriously, she talked to him instead.

"An’ we’re tae hae na mair trampin’ aboot th’ rawds in th’ cauld, Dugal; na mair journeyin’s in th’ weet an’ slush an’ rain. We’re tae hae planty o’ wood an’ planty o’ meat an’ planty o’ averythin’. Aye, won’t it be a graun’ day, Dugal, whan we can gang till oor ain cupboard an’ fin’ planty thar tae eat an’ drink! Aye, Dugal," she added, patting the faithful dog vigorously, "ye may weel wag yer bit tail, f’r it’s mony a bane thet Mother Hubbard ‘11 fin’ f’r ye in th’ cupboard after thus. Sae, Dugal, oor troubles are a’most ended, f’r th’ Loard hes keppit His proamise tae provide f’r th’ wuddows, an’ noo thet we’re baith grown auld an’ no’ es able f’r th’ rawd es we aince were, He’s cam’ tae us in th’ person o’ oor auld frien’ Coalin, an’ He jist tak’s th’ burden frae aff oor backs, sae thet we’re like Christian in Bunyan’s "Proagress," whan th’ load wis lifted frum aff his shouthers. Ah can scarcely believe it’s true, sae aften hae we been disappointit in th’ years gone by. It’s no’ thet Ah would like tae say thet Ah wis losin’ coanfidence in th’ proamise, but Ah must freely admit thet Ah wis beginnin’ tae think thet it wis lang aboot comin’. But th’ airm o’ th’ Loard isna shoartened, es we see th’ day, Dugal, an’ we musna forget th’ means o’ deluverance. What wull we say, Dugal, tae oor frien’ an’ benefactor wha staun’s afore us, an’ through whase boonty oor troubles are tae disappear?"

Dugal, the brief stub of his tail wagging vigorously, turned his eye gratefully towards Colin, when the old woman pointed to him.

"Don’t mind any thanks, Peggy," said Colin, in the kindliest tone. "I have more than I need, and why should I not share it with a poor old woman who was kind to the widow’s family in the days of need? I would not be quite happy, Peggy, in my house in England, if I felt that you and Dugal were in want in this settlement. I have arranged with my lawyer in town to send you ten pounds every month. I think that will help you to keep the wolf from the door."

"May Goad bless ye, Coalin, lad, f’r this!" said Auld Peggy with emotion; and Colin noticed that her withered eyes, which had not known tears for perhaps two score years, were moist, and that her voice, always strong and masculine, trembled. "Aye, an’ He wull bless ye!" continued Peggy, "f’r it’s happy ye hae made twa hairts th’ day! Me an’ Dugal wull naver forget ye!" And followed by her abbreviated and faithful though now crippled companion, the old woman, in her own language, "daundered awa’ doon" the Concession line, talking to herself and to Dugal, and calling down blessings on the head of her young benefactor.

Colin watched her till she was out of sight and then, quickening his pace, for the evening shadows were lengthening, he hurried homewards.

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