Echoes From The Past – Episode 29

That is what the Provost said, Faither.” Mirin was back in the Cockerel, trying to find a way to relay to Hector that the English were at Berwick-upon-Tweed, without revealing anything about the scrip. She certainly did not want him to know why she had been up near the castle. Hector had no objection to Thomas as a man, apart from the fact that he was English, but he would certainly object to him as a swain for his daughter. Not the way things were at the moment. Not with two converging armies making life extremely problematic.

“Where were you that you heard the Provost? Was he making a public announcement?”

Mirin thought swiftly.

“They were all talking about it in the street,” she said evasively. “Some of his men will be round to make sure everyone knows. He’s putting extra guards on all the gates, and we’ve to make sure our folk are either in the town or far enough off.” She paused. “Do you think the abbey is far enough off? Or should I go and get Murdo?”

Hector frowned abstractedly.

“It’s a worry. Did the Provost say when the English would be here?”

She shrugged.

“I couldn’t say. But the border isn’t that far away, is it?” she asked.

“Days,” Hector mused. “Certainly not weeks, at any rate, not if they put a spurt on. Do you think anyone has told the abbot?”

“They might not have had time,” Mirin said. “Oh, Faither, where will the boy be safer?”

Hector chewed his lip.

“I cannot think that any army will harm the monks. Not if they value their immortal souls. I think the boy will be safer there.”

“Aye, maybe. But –”

“What are you thinking about, lass?” her father asked.

“I just want to see him, to have him beside us. Does that sound foolish?”

“No. I understand you perfectly. I just wish I could decide what’s for the best. Let’s sleep on it. We’ve got time to make the right decision.”

It was the following day that Mirin agreed to go and get Murdo. Hector felt it was his duty to go, till she pointed out that he would be much more use in the Cockerel, making sure of supplies for what might turn into a siege. Beasts would have to be gathered in and grain preserved. Etta the kitchen maid would never manage on her own. Hector could not be spared to go for his son.

As she set off through town, Mirin was aware of the unusual bustle of activity. Folk scurried as they hadn’t done for years. They had got used to the English in Stirling Castle, and had ceased to feel particularly threatened. Sir Philip Mowbray, the castle’s commander, was a sensible man, and saw no point in antagonising the locals. The same did not hold, presumably, for the King of England and his entire army.

People ran to meet each other, to share their goods, or just to share their anxieties. Hawkers were selling, shops were trading before they boarded up their doors. Lawyers in their black capes and skinny legs scuttled from one office to another, as if a document could stop a rampage. The Provost’s men were building barricades and warning people of closing gates.

Mirin hesitated. There was no point in going out of the town for Murdo if neither of them could get back in. The English army was still days away, but the Provost’s men were intent. The town must be protected. There could be no delay. Who knew how near
the English might be, how fast their horses, how strong their men? There was no time to be lost, no wavering.

“I’ll risk it,” Mirin found herself saying out loud, as she gathered up her skirts and made for the gate nearest to the ferry over to Cambuskenneth. “They’ll let a maid and a boy back in. They will. They’ll know we’re Hector’s kin.”


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!