15 September, in the year of our Lord 2021
Up very betimes and against my wishes, gravely sick with a fever, and an akeing weaknesse all over, and did make a great puke, onlie crawled not quite to the bath room before making it so it was all over the floor, being the illest I ever was in my entyre life and foreswearing of Scots wine forever. Witheld from solid food at breakfast, unable to trust in the dependibility of either end of my elimentary Tract, and swallowed water brash a-plenty and clenched my buttocks while Mr. Jones put away a platter of a transluscent egg, barely half-fryed, bacon afloat in a puddle of grease, toast blackened against the weevil, hash browns and a deep-fryed black pudding that resembled nothing less than a fat bloody turd in batter.
‘I remember climbing Mont Blanc and the man on the rope above me had the most terrible looseness of the bowels,’ says he, reminiscing fondly. ‘What you need is castor oil and a soapsud enema.’
Whereupon fled I back to our room, skidded on the slimy floor and slid under the notice about emergency evacuation, which was in a sense apt for the Accident that promptly occurred.
Collapsed in wretched misery in Mr. Jones’ coach while he settled the reckoning with the surly innkeeper: 6s. 9d., plus 9d. for a servant to cover my effluent with sawdust, for the benefit of the next guest.
‘We shall take the high road along the side of Loch Lomond,’ says Mr. Jones, consulting his pocket screen while I groan, slumped in the seat beside him, ‘for it is a route quicker by a full half hour, and the scenery is of an unparralelled beauty.’
‘I have read of a danger from outlaws and bandits by that road,’ moan I, weakly.
‘Those days are long gone,’ scoffs Mr. Jones. ‘You must rest, and I wager you shall regain your strength before you can say Ecclefechan. Have another Emmodium and enjoy the ride.’
By and by, reached the peaks of the southern Trossacks, and beside us the long stretch of water known as Loch Lomonde.
‘It is time, if you are up to it, to admire the bonnie banks,’ says Mr. Jones. ‘We may be delayed. Googly Mappes is warning of a hold up.’
‘These cloud-enshrouded hilltops harbour a savage tribe of robbers and rustlers of cattle,’ say I, warylie, ‘known as the Clan MacFarlane — ’
Whereupon at that very instant come great shouts and threatening cries that bring our coach to an emergencie halt, for impeding our progress upon on the road is a band of hairy brigands in plaid kilts and caps, brandishing firearms.
‘Loch Sloy! Loch Sloy!’ is their battle cry, though the impackt undermined by their tartan Covey masks, as they a-line to oppose our passage. Their uncouth and hirsute leader approaches.
‘Where are ye bound tae?’ demands he, advancing close and waving a muskett in our faces.
‘No further!’ cries Mr. Jones. ‘Special distancing!’
‘Oh, sorry!’ He retreats two paces, then: ‘Where are ye bound tae?’ bellows he a second time.
‘We are northbound, to Forty Williams via Glencow and beyond!’ answers Mr. Jones, resolutely. ‘Let us pass!’
‘Ye’ll pass when I say ye’ll pass! Lads — the coach!’
But as they approach and open the doors a colick comes of a sudden upon me, and although my bowels are devoid of solids they are inflated with a copiose amount of wind that they can hold no longer and erupt with the most gaseose volume of flatulence I ever emitted in my entire life.
‘Jesus!’ cries the outlaw leader as his band all jump back several paces in disgust. ‘What the fook was that?’
‘McSalmonella,’ says Mr. Jones in distaste, wafting his face with one hand.
‘Wait!’ cries one of a pair in the unkempt troupe of a sudden, shouldering his rifle and peering closer from under bushy brows at my forlorn form. ‘I know that noxiose stench!’
I squint at his wildly bearded face and that of his more lightly whiskered accomplice.
‘Ye’ve been at the bloody oyesters again, Pepys!’ cries he, as the pair whip off their tartan masks.
‘Ye mean ye know these bastard sassenachs, ye mercenary pair?’ roars their leader.
And so did it transpire that amity supplanted enmity, and as we shared of their strong water, which was the deepest gold in a liquid I did ever see in my life, and a great physick and Balm for my guts, as much as it was a restorative for my miserable spirits, so I emptied my pockets and shared with them our last pork scratchings, and, all merry, had much good discourse around a camp fire with MacSporran and his wife, who having fled England for whatever work they could find in the land of their Fathers, and arriving destytute on the shores of Loch Lomond, had sold their services to the highest bidder and so found themselves taken to little Loch Sloy in the hills, home to the thieving Clan MacFarlane, though lately dammed for hydreau-elecktric Power.
‘Don’ mine ’f I do,’ slur I some while later, accepting yet another top up of the local distillacion. I am by now somewhat enebriated, since I am drinking on a stomach emptied of every last morsel, and dare to pose an audaceous question of the clan chief.
‘So, what do you do…when you are not committing theft, robbery, murder…theft an’ tyranny?’ venture I, concentrating on stringing together the words in the right order.
‘Aye, well,’ says he, with a disarming bashfulnesse, ‘every few weeks we’ve a Book Club.’
‘Aye, Book Club,’ comes a general murmur of approval from around the fire.
‘Really?’ say I, for they look not the reading sort. ‘What do you read?’
‘Well, Crime and Punishment we did last year. Just now we’re doing Scottish police procedurals. The characterisation’s shite but we’re picking up some guid tips.’
‘Do you have a favoured author?’
‘Well,’ says the Scotsman, poking the twigs, ‘if I’m honest, I’ve a wee predilection for Edith Wharton.’
‘A fine writer,’ say I, wondering who he is, for I never heard that a woman wrote a book before.
‘We’re looking for new members, if ye’re interested.’
‘I fear it is impractickle,’ say I, though I bask in the warmth of goodwill, flames and liquor. ‘Nice tartan, by the way,’ I add, happily emboldened by the latter. Mr. Jones flashes a warning glance.
‘D’ye think so?’ says the clan chief. ‘D’ye no think the purple’s a wee bit garish?’
‘Goes with y’r nose — ’ say I, drunkenly waving a forefinger in the general direction of his face and snorting back a giggle.
‘Better with the heather!’ interjects Mr. Jones, hastilie, for he feels the camaradery hath gone too far, but our host has a capricious change of mood anyway.
‘Enough o’ this! My men want tae see what kind of men ye are! ’Tis time for a toast!’ cries the MacFarlane of MacFarlane and fixeth us with an unflinching stare. ‘Do ye uphold the Covenants of the Scots and wi’ all yer hearts and wi’ all yer minds, God help ye till the day ye die, pledge allegiance to Scotland and the wee lass Sturgeon?’
‘Who?’ say I, blankly.
‘We do!’ enthuses Mr. Jones quickly, looking dangerosely at me.
‘We do!’ cry I, taking my cue.
‘A toast then tae the wee lass Nicola Sturgeon!’ cries the clan chief to a great roar around the fire and a raising of tankards all round.
‘Tae the wee lass Nicola Sturgeon!’ choruses the band.
‘To the wheelless Nicholas Turgeon!’ cry I, giving it my all.
‘Well,’ says Mr. Jones, finally, ‘I think we should be on our way, Pepys, and leave these good people to their reading and their rustling.’
‘Ve’y well,’ manage I, clambering unsteadily to my feet and there rocking, ‘if w’ muss. ’Sbeen lovely Mcmeeting all of you Farlanes…and nest time I see the beaut-iffle Joodith…I sh’ll make sure…that she shall…toss my caber…in the tradish’nal way…Hah!’
‘I’ll drive,’ says Mr. Jones, hauling me swiftly down the hill.
And so we on the road again, and the next I knew was that I awoke, it dark and the coach come to a stop on gravel by a low guest house upon a shore.
‘Where are we?’ yawn I.
‘We have arrived at our destinacion,’ says Mr. Jones, with satisfacktion. ‘Welcome to the Midge Coast.’