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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter VI - Great Days for Auld Peggy

NEEDLESS to say, the greatest excitement prevailed in the settlement during the summer months that intervened between Wasby’s arrest and his trial. All sorts of wild and even absurd stories were circulated. But all the narrators were far out-distanced by Auld Peggy. She positively revelled in the sensation and in all conceivable details connected with the crime. The event was a veritable windfall for her, — nay, a harvest; and she regarded as particularly well and justly earned all donations that came to her that summer.

"Losh me, Mrs. McNabb," she said on one occasion, "but did ye hear the latest? It’s no’ but what Ah wis astonished mesel’, an’ couldna believe Mustress McKinnon when she tell’t me, but me an’ Dugal went oorsel’s an’ investigatit, an’ we can vouch f’r ivery word o’t.

"Weel, ye see, it’s like thus. Mustress McKinnon tell’t us ("us" meant Auld Peggy and Dugal) that a strange auld man hed been seen nicht an’ mornin’ set-tin’ on th’ logs o’ th’ Wasby shanty an’ talkin’ tae himsel’ aboot th’ end o’ th’ warld, an’ that th’ burnin’ wis foretold in Scrupture as ane o’ they tarrible things that wad come tae pass afore th’ warld passit awa.

"Weel, th’ morn’s mornin’ me an’ Dugal daundered awa doon tae th’ Twalfth Concession tae see f’r oorsel’s, an’ what dae ye think we foon? Weel, sure enough, we foon th’ auld loon seated on th’ logs, an’ we hed a lang crack wi’ hum. It wad hae made yer fleesh creep tae hear hum talk.

"He tell’t us that th’ deil hed formed a partnership wi’ Washy, an’ that th’ crime wis but th’ first instalment, an’ that afore lang anither an’ more tarrible event wad happen in th’ settlement, somethin’ that wad shake th’ verra foondations o’ society (not for nothing had Auld Peggy listened weekly to pulpit eloquence) and cause deep consternation throughout th’ warld. He tell’t us too that Wasby wis Beelzebub or Anti-Christ, an’ that his meesion on airth wis tae destroy th’ Protestant releegion an’ turn us all into Papishes. Whiles as th’ auld loon talkit tae us, his face an’ form wad change, an’ ane time he frichtened us tarrible like by turning humsel’ intil a wild animal, th’ verra image o’ ane o’ they pictures on th’ wa’ at th’ toll-gate; I think they ca’ it a tang-o-rankin (orang-outang). When we were aboot tae rin, he ca’d after us no’ tae be frichtened, as he wad dae us nae hairm, his meesion bein’ jist tae warn th’ sinfu’ tae flee frae th’ wrath tae come."

Here is another of Auld Peggy’s yarns just as she told it:—

"Losh me, Mustress McNabb, an’ did ye hear th’ news? Weel, it’s like thus. As we (Dugal and Peggy) wis a-comin' through th’ Black Swamp beyant Duffy’s Corners th’ nicht afore last, when we wis in th’ middle o’t, an’ th’ nicht wis as black as a wolf’s mouth, we wis stoppit by a tall maun wearin’ a robe like ane o’ they papish priests, an’ he demandit frae us whaur we wis gaun, an’ what wis oor errant. We wis gey frichtened an’ trimmled frae heed tae fit, sae that it tuk oor breeth awa, an’ it wis some time afore we could whusper that we wis jist puir Auld Peggy an’ Dugal, on oor way hame frae travellin’ th’ rawd syne early mornin’, an’ that uf he didna mind we wad be gled uf he wad jist let us pass on tae oor hames an’ dae us nae hairm, as th’ twa bairns wis awaitin’ us an’ must be gey hungry, f’r they hed hed naethin’ tae eat syne th’ mornin’.

"Weel, th’ figure startled us sae that we trimmled a’ th’ more, hum declarin’ that he wis Washy in fleesh an’ bluid. Noo we kent gey weel that Wasby wis lockit up in th’ coonty jail an’ couldna be at lairge. Sae we jist wis preparin’ tae surrender whan he tell’t us no’ tae be frichtened as he wad dae us nae hairm. He then tell’t us that he hed kill’t th’ puir woman an’ a’ her bairns, an’ that it hed been his intention tae kill wee Coalin as weel, an’ that uf th deil helpit hum yet, he wad hae th’ lad’s life. Sae that, Mustress McNabb, I’d advise ye tae keep a shairp look-oot on th’ lad, an’ no allow hum tae wander frae th’ hoose sae lang as yon tarrible fiend is above groon’. Wasby also tell’t us that uf they hangit hum he wadna dee, but wad continue tae haunt th’ settlement an’ work evil tae a’ th’ settlers."

After a pause Auld Peggy said, "Ah feart as much, f’r Ah suspeekit th’ verra first moment Ah pit eyes upon Wasby that he wis a bawd ane an’ bawd wad come o’ hum." She continued: "An’ noo Ah’m certain o’t, an’ Ah’m fear’t it wull no’ end tull we are a’ wipit oot frae th’ face o’ th’ airth. Hoo weel it wull be f’r us a’ tae be ready tae gang, whan th’ summons comes!"

Auld Peggy always deemed it best to import a spice of religious sentiment into her conversation with Mrs. McNabb. With all her mental shortcomings and superstition, the old woman possessed an amount of cunning and an acquaintance with human nature that stood her in good stead with the settlers, and won for her many a loaf of bread, bar of home-made soap (of the personal application of which, to speak the truth, she seldom availed herself), ladle of meal, or "chunk" of meat. She understood, perhaps as did no other inhabitant, their prejudices and peculiarities, and played upon their hobbies as willingly as Muckle Peter, the precentor, upon his bagpipes, after he had had a sufficiently copious indulgence "at his bitters." And it used to be said of Muckle Peter that he could take fourteen glasses of whiskey, and after he got five more he had had enough, and could then play anything from "The Campbells are Comin’" to "Darlin’ Daisy Dean."

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