27 June, 2017 by katelaity
On that note of amusement we set off, for there was rather a long ride ahead of us to the mystical place, which I understood to be our destination. We followed the River Dee for some time and then began to skirt along the hills that rose up to the west. As we road along our guide shared with us various stories about the famed or ill-famed people who had lived in this or that village.
There seemed to be a surprising number. Scotland certainly maintained its reputation as a wildly untamed place.
We broke for a meal at midday and to rest the horses. After consuming the cold meats and cheeses—not to mention a fine Dundee cake the generous Mither Wishart had supplied up, we sat back to digest our food, feeling quite tip top. Chambers pulled out an old clay pipe to smoke and the puffs of white smoke rather made me wish I had thought to supply myself with cigars for the journey, but they were in my trunk back in Aberdeen, so there was nothing to be done but enjoy the smoke at second hand as it were.
‘What is this area?’ Tansy asked, making a memorandum in his little book. I imagine a good boys adventure publisher might simply take that book and sell it in the shops. I can’t imagine any serious adult believing a word of our exploits, but the youth might.
‘We’re near a town called Brechin,’ Chambers said as he tapped the ash out of his pipe.
‘I suppose it has a long history of most unexpected things occurring, like everywhere else in this wild land.’ I had begun to wonder if there was any corner of Scotland not steeped in the most curious lore. One wonders how the people were able to survive in such harsh place.
‘No, very quiet these days. Simple folk whether in the sheep trade or the sailing life. Some coos as well, here and there, mostly for the family milk.’ Chambers stretched a little as he spoke but Tansy must have seen something in his expression.
‘But it was not always so,’ Tansy insisted, picking up a pippin and biting into it with some vehemence. ‘Back in the day a madness swept all of this nation and Europe.’
‘True t’is.’ Chambers considered the matter for a moment, then reached in his pocket for more tobacco. As he tamped it down into the bowl of his pipe, I helped myself to another slice of cake and settled back. I recognised at once the signs of a storyteller preparing his tale. A good bowl of the brown flake seemed to fire the engines of the raconteur.
‘Back in the day, as you say, there were many mysterious things happening—or many accusations thereof.’ Chambers drew in a breath as he sparked the pipe up, blowing out the white smoke like a man considering turning into a dragon. ‘One of the queerest sort of tales from that time was about a woman accused of sorcery name of Catherine Lyall. If you listened to her neighbours—and as it happened, the committee of townsmen responsible for keeping the peace certainly did—there was no end of goblinry that Lyall had made happen.’
‘I suppose crops that failed and cows that wouldn’t give milk,’ Tansy said with a frown.
‘Oh aye, that and more. Bad milk, they said she could bewitch a cow to give. Bad for the cow, bad for anyone to drink. She was accused of causing the mill to burn down, too. But the worst accusation was something much stranger.’
‘What was that?’ Tansy asked, looking far too excited.