“Why is everyone wearing a skirt?” A young girl asked innocently to her companion.
The man who was helping in unloading their baggage from the coach almost drops his suit case. The other passengers snickered. There was something refreshing when someone pointed out the obvious especially if that someone was a small innocent child.
The people’s reaction in the town was different from the passengers though. The women just went, “Awww… How adorable!” While the men gave “Kids say the darndest things!” look. All of them thought of the same reply to the girl which her companion immediately voiced out.
“That’s not a skirt, lassie. That’s a kilt.” The other men around them mentally nodded their heads in agreement.
The young girl looks at her surroundings once more. They had stopped the coach near an inn so she could see different kinds of people entering and exiting the inn. There were also shops and a bakery. The women wore beautiful dresses, some she had seen in the city. Some men wore trousers like the other passengers but some men wore knee-length skirts. She could see their calves especially since she was small.
Though she liked this place better than the city she thought of. The city was dirty and stinky and it rained a lot. It rained here too as confirmed by the mud on her boots but at least the air smelled far better than the city. And the men wore more interesting clothes too.
“Aren’t they cold Uncle Morgan? Their skirts look too short.”
The people in their surroundings waited in anticipation for ‘Uncle Morgan’s’ reaction. This is the town between England and the Lowlands, some consider it as a border town. So people here are used to travelers who have seen a kilt for the first time or how the English women wore bulkier gowns compared to the Scotswomen. Rarely do they blurt it out loud like this child though. They would usually tactfully ask in a shop or in the tavern.
“Well, you see lassie, the Scots are made out of hard stuff. They can stand bare in a storm and snow and they wouldn’t feel a thing! Why, we have been known to hunt in bare as a test of manhood!” He said offhandedly.
The child’s eyes grew wide under her long bangs. The people around them rolled their eyes in exasperation. Even a child would not believe such a lie.
“T-that’s amazing!” The child said breathlessly, “as expected from your countrymen Uncle Morgan.”
The townspeople simultaneously looked at the child with their jaws drop in disbelief. Morgan had a grin on his face.
“That’s almost as amazing as the Englishmen who can swim the sea while battling sharks and whales.”
Hey! What kind of lies have you been teaching that child? They all thought. One particular Scot elderly woman who overheard the conversation could not restrain herself.
She gave Morgan a reproachful look while the middle-aged man shrugged. The elderly woman bent on her knees in front the child and tried to fix her tangled black hair that covered most of her face.
“Lass, you should not always believe what others tell you, especially if it is such nonsen-Oh my!” The woman exclaimed.
The elderly woman got a good look at the child’s face. She had never seen such features before; a small round shallow face with white skin and a small nose. But most of all her eyes, they were slanted, small but her pupils were dark and they held a shadow of sadness, like she had seen too much already.
She jumped when she felt a hand against her shoulder.
“I’m sorry but I need this lassie’s help.” Morgan said.
The woman stood and held her hand against her mouth. “Why, I have never seen someone like her before.”
“Maybe it’s because she came from another country far from here; towards the east actually.” Morgan ruffled the child’s hair as she giggled.
“Oh my! Oh my! How wonderful! You must tell me of your travels.” The woman said excitedly. Morgan raised one of his brows. There were people like this. People who were interested whenever they hear about the east, the exotic orient. Of course there were some who harbored extreme dislike also.
“I’m afraid we will not be staying here for too long. We need to get to the highlands before the winter starts.”
“You may stay in my home tonight. I insist. This lassie needs to rest and a warm meal. You may repay me by telling me of your travels.” She said with a twinkle in her eyes.
Morgan could just laugh at the persistence of the elderly woman. Nobody would say no to a free meal and board. And looking at the quality of the elderly women’s clothes, they must have hit the jackpot.
“Mr. Morgan, we really could use your help.” Several grunts could be heard at the back of the coach.
“I will leave one of my servants here to guide you to my house.” She nodded to the woman on her left. The servant girl curtsied with an “Aye, madam.”
Morgan bowed and watched the elderly woman leave.
“Mr. Morgan, what in the name of saints is this thing?”
“Come on, lassie.” He grabbed the hand of the small child.
They went to the back of the coach and saw two boys, brothers probably, age 15 or 16, in the coach carrying each end of a 5 foot length long item wrap in layers of cloth. Beads of sweat had formed in their temples.
“You can just throw it in the ground, laddies.” The two swung the item side to side then let go with an “ooof!”. The item didn’t even bounce of the ground instead landed with a solid sound of THUD.
The two boys got off the coach and collapsed on the ground. They were tired but they also felt lightheaded. Like when they secretly got themselves drunk from the ale that they stole from the tavern.
The young girl quickly moved towards the item. She grabbed the leather and held the item that was 3 feet taller than her in her chest and ran towards Morgan.
The boys jaw dropped. The way she was embracing, it was like how a child would hold her doll. It looked like it was light as one too. But the feeling of numbness in their arms and the sweats on their brow reminded them that it was something that two adolescent boys could barely lift and not something a small child could carry alone.
Morgan threw a coin to one of the boys. He reflexively caught it. When he looked at the coin his eyes became as round as saucers. It was a whole pound. The other boy took a look at it and his eyes became the same.
Morgan went to them and closed the hands holding the coin. The boys look at him with a dumbfounded look. He spoke in a whisper, “Remember laddies, not a word to the others about what happened here.”
The boys nodded vigorously. This money was more than enough for their family to survive the winter. Of course, they would do anything to keep it.
Morgan ruffled the heads of the two boys. He placed a satchel around his shoulders then carried two suitcases on both hands. The girl was holding the leather bound item with ease as they walk towards the servant girl. The girl gestured them to follow her.
The little girl felt so excited. Uncle Morgan had told her that they were only a few weeks away from their destination. That was only a few more weeks before their journey ends.
“What kind of person is he Uncle Morgan?” A small voice came from the girl beside him. Morgan looked at the child carrying something so big for her size.
“Hmmm… Let’s see, I guess he’s the type that likes to take care of people.”
The girl gave her a questioning look. Morgan just shrugged his shoulders.
“I guess. You should wait until you meet him lassie. You remind me a little of him so I am sure you would get along with him just fine.” The girl gave him a bright smile. He wanted to ruffle her hair but he was carrying their luggage with both hands so he just smiled at her.
“I hope he’s not wearing a skirt.” The girl said with a serious look in her face.
Morgan laughed out loud.