Another tale, from the Shetlands this time.
There was a laird once, who was not a very virtuous person perhaps, but whose business had recently been most successful. Factories on his lands were thriving, the harvest had been bountiful and his son had just bought some very promising acres of sugar cane fields in Jamaica. He had reasons to be satisfied, but the icing on the cake was a present that his son had just sent him to celebrate their good fortune: a green and red parrot from America, a beautiful bird indeed, and one that could talk in fairly good English. That bird could actually learn so fast that while on the ship from the West Indies to Scotland, it had memorised quite a few colourful specimens of the sailors’ language. In other words, it was the foulest-speaking parrot in the entire continent and the entire world, but since the laird was no blushing maiden himself, this didn’t bother him a bit. In fact, he couldn’t wait to invite a few friend to his manor, to show them his son’s present and boast about his never-ending luck.
That was the only problem. The part of Scotland where he lived was fairly remote. He couldn’t decently invite peasant and factory workers to his manor, but there was nobody else that could have dinner with him on short notice. Well, one person, actually. He was the minister of the nearest chuch; but this minister had a wife, who happened to be a very prim and proper lady, and it just wouldn’t do to show her such a splendid but foul-beaked animal. He was quite annoyed, but he readily decided that a prim and proper guest was better than none, and he sent a formal invite to the minister’s home.
The minister’s wife was not too pleased. She knew the laird for a ruffian, and she had no wish to have dinner with the sort of person he was. So she excused herself under the first pretext she found, and told her husband to go there alone. He was quick to accept, and so he turned up at the laird’s manor the next day. The laird was much relieved to see him alone. He promptly invited him into the smoking parlour where the parrot was royally perched in his cage, and produced a box of some fine American tobacco and a bottle of the best whisky in his cellars. The minister’s pious guilt faded after a couple of drinks, and the rest of the evening was spent in the most pleasant fashion.
Scottish gentlemen know how to entertain their guests, you see. Indeed the minister was so well entertained that it was well past midnight when he realised that his wife would be waiting for him. He took his leave from the laird, thanked him again several times, and made his way towards the door as best he could, on unsteady legs.
The way was long and windy and particularly dark, and the minister, who didn’t think he had drunk that much, was surprised how long it took him to arrive home. As he was reaching the front door, however, he was feeling less surprised and more worried about his wife’s reaction. It was pitch dark inside; he climbed up the stairs hoping his heavy steps would not wake her, and slipped into the bed.
The sun woke him up very late. He sat on his bed feeling terribly unwell. He could hear his wife’s angry pacing downstairs, and braced himself for the argument to come.
‘Good morning, dear,’ he ventured as he stumbled into the living-room.
Instead of answering his greetings, his wife handed him a letter.
‘Here’s from the laird,’ she said, icily, before storming out.
The letter began in a very polite fashion, with renewed thanks about the pleasant evening they had spent together, and inquiring about his health and sending his kindest regards to his wife. After a few lines, the minister started to wonder what this was all about, when he came to the ending, where the laird stated in his usual courteous manner–
‘If you would be so kind as to return me my parrot,’ it said, ‘you can of course have your lantern back…’