The Glens of Stone – Episode 07

“Captain Marshall, isn’t it? Robert Marshall?” she’d asked bluntly.

“Indeed, ma’am.” He’d wondered how she knew his first name; the general hadn’t given it during the introductions.

“How are you enjoying Edinburgh, Captain? It’ll be a change from Carlisle.”

How the devil had she known he’d been based there?

McLaurin had cocked her head to the side, a smile creasing her face.

“You’re wondering how an old woman like me knows so much about you, isn’t that so? I make it my business tae know things.” She looked at him with hooded eyes. “I’ll be having a word with her ladyship. She has regular social gatherings to which folk of note are invited. Your name, and the general’s, will be added to her guest list. I trust you’ll attend.”

She had been true to her word: the invitations had arrived every few weeks thereafter. He had attended each, his duties permitting. It was good to escape from the grim environs of the castle.

Now, in Lady Gray’s drawing-room, he appraised the old woman.

“You look in good health, ma’am.” His words were greeted with cackling laughter.

“Good health? My bones ache, my eyes fail me, my hair is falling out and I have but two teeth in my mouth!”

Robert looked around the room, wishing for an excuse to leave the wretched woman.

“You were looking worried earlier.” McLaurin stared intently at him. “As if you’d had bad news.”

He was tempted to ignore her but forced himself to be polite.

“You and her ladyship are very observant. You’re right, of course. It was bad news of sorts.”

“You’re not leaving the area?”

“No, no. Political matters.”

The anxiety left McLaurin’s eyes.

“Dashed Jacobites again, I suppose. I remember the little rising of ’nineteen,” she muttered, “and the great one of ’fifteen. What a waste of good lives, and for what? Who wants popery and a Stuart on the throne again?”

“Quite a few, I’m afraid, ma’am,” Robert replied. “Reports indicate that a Jacobite army is being raised in France, composed of many of your countrymen. An invasion could take place within the year.” He felt guilty at revealing such military intelligence, but Lady Catherine’s allegiance to Hanoverian rule was well known throughout the city. Her late father had been a staunch supporter of King George.

McLaurin drained her tankard and wiped her lips with the back of her hand.

“Fools.” Then she spoke abruptly. “The hour is late, Captain, ’tis time I retired.”

She reached out a hand which he took to assist her to her feet. The maidservant, Jean, materialised at their side and gently led the old woman from the room.

Relieved, Robert took a goblet of claret from a salver and tried to catch the eye of the pretty daughter of a prominent banker.

* * * *

Around midnight Jean Forbes left the house and made her way stealthily along the narrow streets. Arriving at her destination, she knocked quietly on the oak door and handed a sealed letter to the man who answered it. Neither spoke and Jean, her errand done, retraced her steps.

The man gently broke the seal and scanned the letter’s contents, whistling tunelessly under his breath. When he’d finished reading he tore the paper into minute shreds, which he then cast into the dying embers of the fire . . .

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.