Friday, October 31, 2014

A Halloween story, passed down through the generations

This was told to me by my grandmother, who heard it from her grandmother, who heard it from her grandmother, to whom it happened.

It was when she was a lass living in Dumbarton near the kirk on the last street next to the water. It was Halloween and time for guisin so she went out with a teacup on her head calling herself the French queen. She met an old woman on the street who, greeting her as once-dead queen to live once-more, handed her a chess king and told her to look at the water.

Out on the water were great large ships o' war flying the flag of France, but there came from them not a sound other than the wind. The crone said it was Bonaparte, arrived to raise the Highlands and marry his sister to a Stuart; and that all remained to happen was for the devil to come sanctify the event, which would happen if the guisin lassie gave away the teacup crown to the crone.

The ancestor lass was all ready to hand over the teacup when there was music. Two guisers came marching down the street, one a hoboy and the other a jingling johnny contraption, and the song was Devil in the Kitchen.

Then came shooting out of the kirk a massive red carriage, which went lumbering up and around the street, clattering and clanking and making a great noise that was joined by booming from the ships o'war. The street filled with pikemen and horsemen, and the massive red carriage played them all like skittles amid the noise.

Then as soon as it began it was all gone and quiet, all except the jingling johnnyer, who took the lass aside and said that she had done right by not giving the teacup crown to the crone; that it was just as he had dreamed it; so that now none of it would ever happen; that he would himself never even know of it; and that all she should remember was his name, which name was Jonathan Strange; even though the actual Jonathan Strange himself was asleep and dreaming in a bed far away, employed unbeknownst by the gentleman with the thistle-down hair to stifle the military plans of Bonaparte by preventing the best ideas from occurring to him.

My grandmother and her grandmother before and her grandmother before remembered more than just his name and said it was thanks to this that Bonaparte never invaded Britain.