Echoes From The Past – Episode 11

Etta scuttled across the floor and came back with a piece of old drapery, already sodden from frequent moppings. Murdo took it out into the garden and wrung it out as hard as he could, though the whole thing seemed like a losing battle. Weather always seemed to win, be it rain or wind or both. He looked forward to the summer when he and his friends could sail their home-made boats down on the river while the sun baked the town roads and the kale stood high in the Cockerel’s garden.

By the time Murdo had dried the floor, the rain had eased and the wind was drying the roof again. The thatcher still had not arrived. Hector reckoned there were worthier patrons in the town than a mere innkeeper. Perhaps the provost’s roof had been similarly afflicted.

“Can we go now, Faither?” Murdo pranced at Hector’s heels. “Can we go to see the abbot now? It’s still early. The ferry will still take us.”

“What did I tell you, boy?” Hector snapped.

“I’ll take him,” Mirin said out of the blue. She was carrying a tray of tankards, sweeping past the pair of them and leaving them open mouthed. On her way back from the farthest table, she carried on. “The customers have all been fed and they’ll be going soon. I’ll take Murdo. I’d fair like to see the abbey. They say the herb garden is a sight to behold.”

“You can’t go. You’re just a lass,” her father expostulated.

“Of course I can. Indeed, Murdo could go alone. But the abbot might prefer a family member to be there. Even a woman would be better than nothing.”

Hector protested some more, but even as he spoke he realised that Mirin might well be able to handle the interview better than he could. She would know the right questions to ask, for a start.

None of them realised that their discussion was being partly overheard until the English soldier called Thomas appeared at Mirin’s elbow.

“If Mirin needs to be escorted, I will be happy to do it.”

That surprised everyone.

“What?” Hector asked.

“That will not be necess –” Mirin began.

“We don’t need an English sol –” Murdo started.

“Of course you don’t need me,” Thomas said mildly. “I only offer out of courtesy, and because I would like to keep in with a man who makes such wonderful meat pies.”

Mirin gave a surprised laugh.

“Well, thank you, sir.”

“Thomas Forester, at your service.” Thomas gave a formal bow. He was so far from the usual swaggering English soldier that she could not help warming to him.

“We have met before,” she said dryly.

“Not formally. Just over the pies and ale.”

Mirin took off her canvas apron, and tossed it on to a table.

“I accept your offer, Thomas Forester. When would you be free to go?”

Thomas shrugged.

“My master doesn’t need me till this evening. I can go now, if you like.”

Murdo started bouncing on his toes again.

“Now? Now, Faither?”

Hector gave a sigh of resignation mixed with relief.

“Very well. You do as Mirin tells you, Murdo. And be respectful. The abbot is a man of God, not accustomed to laddies’ nonsense.”

Mirin thought that might well be exactly what he was used to, but said nothing. Murdo stopped bouncing and headed for the door.

“Aye, Faither. Come on, then, Mirin.”

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!