Echoes From The Past – Episode 14

By the time Thomas, son of Herbert the forester from Wessex, returned to his duties in Stirling Castle, his heart was in serious trouble. It didn’t show, and no-one else knew about it, but he was making the cardinal error of becoming too interested in one of the natives. He had known various women in the past, but none had affected him the way Mirin did. On the journey back to town, she had asked him about himself and his family in a genuinely interested fashion.

The fact that he didn’t have much family made it easier for him to travel with his master. He was squire to William de Vere, an officer in Stirling Castle, under the overall command of Sir Philip Mowbray.

It was the same William de Vere who met him by accident as he returned to his quarters.

“Ah, Thomas. Just the very man. There’s something I want you to check with the armourer. I think rust has got into my visor. It’s getting too stiff to move. It must be all this accursed rain.”

“I’ll see to it, sir.”

William took a second look at him.

“Are you well? You look as though you’ve had bad news.”

Thomas smiled.

“No, sir. Not at all.”

William’s gaze intensified.

“So where have you been? Come, Thomas, tell me. What has Stirling town got to offer a youth like yourself?”

Thomas avoided a direct reply to that, but answered the first part.

“I escorted someone to Cambuskenneth Abbey.”

William frowned.

“Someone in need of your protection? These natives are tough as leather buckets. You’re more likely to need protection from them, especially if you go about without your sword. What are you thinking of, man?”

Thomas could hardly say that he was thinking of a pretty woman with the dark hair and blue eyes of the typical Celt. His hesitation was his undoing.

“I presume there’s a woman involved?” William asked with some astuteness. “Ah, I thought so. Well, by all means take your pleasures where you can, but remember that these people are savages. They’re not like us English. They know nothing of manners and civilised behaviour. I do not mean to criticise Sir Philip, but he is far too lenient with them. He should show them who is master.”

Thomas said nothing, not wishing to disagree with his superior. But it seemed to him impolitic to alienate the people unnecessarily. Sir Philip Mowbray had a more reasonable approach. And at the end of the day, those who held the castle were indeed masters. There was little point in rubbing salt in the wound.

*  *  *  *

Holly’s great-aunt Bea was showing signs of a good recovery from her operation, though things were going far too slowly for her satisfaction. Holly did not like to point out that at her age Bea could not expect to be cantering round the ward in a matter of hours. Even a younger person would find major surgery fairly weakening.

“That’s why I’m here, after all,” Holly said, visiting her aunt with a selection of fruit and paperbacks. “So that you don’t have to rush about like a teenager. Don’t the physios tell you to pace yourself?”

“They’re very keen to get you on your feet in here, actually.”

“I’m sure they are. And they know what they’re talking about. But that doesn’t mean you should be running a marathon. You don’t want to undo all of their good work.”

“Angela came yesterday, which was very kind of her. She leads a busy life, you know, what with her husband on the rigs and her useless son.”

Holly’s eyebrows rose.


“Well, she’s very protective of him, but honestly, he’s a pain in the neck. Technically, he’s still at school, but dear knows how often he darkens the school door.”

Holly frowned.

“That must be a worry for her.”

Bea nodded.

“Yes, it is. Anyway, thanks for the books. And how are you? Are you managing to work on that dining-room table?”

“Yes, it’s fine. Angela put on the protectors before I put up the sewing machine, so your high gloss finish is safe. I knew you would be concerned.”

Bea laughed.

“You know fine I don’t worry about things like that, but Angela takes such good care of it that I don’t want to offend her.”

“Of course not. She’s a real gem, isn’t she? I’ve never seen bath taps with a gleam like that. How on earth does she do it?”

“You should ask her. She’ll be back at the house tomorrow, won’t she?”

“So she said. She’s keeping your bedroom in tip top condition, in case you’re sent home early.”

“Bless her.” Bea sighed. “It’s nice in here, and they’re very kind and all that, but there’s no place like home.”


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!