23 May, 2017 by katelaity
The carter’s comments made me wonder if this hunt might be a bit more dangerous than I had anticipated. I was on the verge of saying something along the lines of not being in a mood for hunting haggis when I caught the smirk on Tansy’s face. As a fellow he could be as irksome as a schoolboy and I suspected that was the case now.
‘Is there really such a thing as haggis?’ I demanded of my friend, suspecting the worst already.
Tansy and the carter both burst into laughter which even the noise of the crowded lane could not mask. ‘I was hoping we could get him out to the hills before he caught on to the joke. My Mary would have loved the chance to beg him to be safe in the face of the terrible haggis.’ He was laughing so hard that he had to grab the reins all in one hand and wipe his streaming eyes with the other.
The thought of his good lady also deceiving me and laughing in her turn did nothing to improve my mood. ‘Twitting the English must be your favourite sport after haggis hunting,’ I remarked with as much dignity as I could muster. ‘It’s a good thing we have such a remarkable sense of humour!’
Tansy smothered some of the laughter he had yet to spurt. ‘You are showing very well-bred humour to take it so well. I admit that there are probably not many in London apart from natives of this land and those fond of Burns who know the “Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race” at all.’
‘It’s a pudding?!’ If it were possible to feel even more scandalised, I was then.
‘A savoury pudding,’ the carter informed me. ‘Boiled like a yule pud but mostly sweetmeats and oats. A hearty meal! That’s why the singer sang, “But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed, The trembling earth resounds his tread” for we be fierce and strong.’ If he were anything to go by the meal certainly lived up to its reputation for the carter was about as bulky a man as one might wish without getting toward ‘half a giant’ as the English poet might have said.
‘I hope that making sport of me in my ignorance is not the only entertainment to be found hereabouts,’ I said, doing my best not to sound too petulant.
‘Indeed we are on a very specific mission,’ Tansy said as preamble to explaining our quest. ‘And having heard such hair-raising stories as the confessions of Isobel Goudie on the way here, I had rather hoped that we could find something just as extraordinary.’
The carter looked thoughtful as he mulled over the idea. ‘Well, it may not be quite as wild as Miss Goudie’s tales but there is a woman who might show you a wonder or two for I know her to have a fine collection of extraordinary items.’
Tansy perked up at once. ‘Is she known to have special powers herself?’
‘Whisht! Don’t be a numpty. Mither Wishart is a collector of curiosities, a kind of historian, I suppose you might say. She has collected all manner of things that other people might throw away. If she were not a genteel woman, people might call her a magpie,’ he added with a wink.
‘Money changes everything,’ Tansy agreed.