The Glens of Stone – Episode 04

Captain Robert Marshall looked down at the courtyard from his office in the recently built Governor’s House in Edinburgh Castle. A squad of red-coated soldiers manhandled heavy cannon towards the north battery area in readiness for firing practice later in the day.

Robert walked over to his desk and picked up a letter he’d recently sealed. He buttoned up his tunic and clattered down the staircase to the corridor below. He reached the kitchen, where a group of women were clustered around steaming pans from which came a variety of cooking smells.

His eyes fell on a young girl.

“Ellie. I’ve an errand for you.”

“Sir?” Ellie Chalmers curtsied.

The captain held out the letter.

“Be so good as to convey this to her ladyship at once.”

“Lady Catherine Gray, sir?”

“Who else?” Robert scowled. How was it this lassie’s good looks were offset by her insolence? “Off with you, girl.”

Robert remained in the kitchen, curtly refusing the cooks’ suggestions that he sample the contents of the pots. He knew the food was appalling and was convinced that the cooks, all Edinburgh women, deliberately created these foul concoctions in revenge against the castle’s English garrison.

Robert sought fresh air outdoors. As he strode down the Lang Stairs to the stables, he was accosted by a man in civilian clothes.

“Captain Marshall, sir? Sergeant McCrae of the Argyll militia.”

“Sergeant?” Robert studied the man more closely. “Times must be grim with the Argyll militia if uniforms are hard to come by.”

McCrae’s face reddened.

“Sir, I am on intelligence duties. A uniform would hinder my task.”

“I apologise, Sergeant. There is much on my mind. General Guest is away and in his absence I am in command.”

“So I understand, sir.”

The sergeant looked tired.

“Have you eaten?”

McCrae shook his head.

“I’ve journeyed far and my last real meal was at Stirling.”

“Come with me. I’ll have them provide a meal for you in the guardhouse.” They walked through the cobbled passageways. “You have a report for me?”

McCrae’s face was troubled. He patted a pouch he was carrying.

“The news is not good. If the rumours be true there’s talk of yet another Jacobite uprising.”

* * * *

Ellie Chalmers reached Lady Catherine Gray’s house in the West Bow. Her knock was answered by a maidservant whose eyes lit up.

“Ellie!” she cried. “What brings you here?”

“This.” Ellie passed the letter over. “It’s from the captain for her ladyship.”

Jean Forbes examined the letter.

“It’ll be his reply to her invitation. She’s holding another of her soirées tomorrow night.” Lady Catherine’s regular social evenings were well known in the capital. “And how is the handsome captain?” the maid asked.

Ellie made a face.

“Worse than usual because he’s in full charge these days.”

A sly look crossed Jean’s face.

“And here’s me thinking you were fond of the man,” she said, giving a low laugh. “How did you describe him when he first arrived?” She pretended to think deeply. “Oh, aye, as I recall, your words were ‘a Greek god who joogled your heartstrings’.”

“Aye, well, the Greek god has pebbles where his heart should be.” Ellie looked wistful. “Besides, even if he was the kindest man alive he wouldn’t pay attention tae a humble kitchen maid.”

They were interrupted by a bell tinkling in the far reaches of the house. Jean gave an exasperated sigh.

“That’ll be Miss McLaurin.”

“Lady Catherine’s old nursemaid?”

Jean made a face.

“She’s in her seventies yet as active as someone half her age. Her bell goes all day long.”

Ellie was smiling as she walked back to the castle.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.