The Glens of Stone – Episode 11

Ellie had been working in the castle kitchens for five months or so, and Robert vividly recalled the day she’d arrived seeking employment. Normally the quartermaster interviewed applicants for civilian duties but, captivated by her looks and spirit, Robert had taken her to his office for questioning.

“How old are you?” had been his first question.

“Twenty, perhaps? I can’t be sure. I’m a foundling, sir. Dumped on a manse doorstep with a pouch of coins, so I believe.”

“So you’ve no idea who your parents were?”

“Long dead, I imagine. Anyway, fortune favoured me, for the minister and his wife gave me their name and raised me as their own until I was twelve years old.”

Robert had seen from her faraway look that she was reliving those early years.

“They were good to me, sir. Clothed and fed me well . . . and taught me, too. I’m well read and can write. I can do needlework, sketch, paint and cook. But then came an outbreak of cholera. They devoted themselves to attending the sick, and died within days of each other.”

Robert had commiserated with her misfortune.

“What happened then?”

“The minister’s brother took me to the home of the laird in the next shire and I was taken into service.”

“A different way of life, I’m sure.”

“You might say that, sir. Beatings, abuse, near starvation and barely four hours sleep each night. I stood it for two years then ran away.”

She’d spent a year with tinkers, she told him, and then taken a variety of menial jobs.

“What brought you to Edinburgh?”

“I was working as a maid in a big house near the Border. One day the master summoned me. ‘Ellie,’ he said, ‘you have tae leave us.’ He told me I must come here to Edinburgh. He said it was none of his doing or wish that I leave him but that once I had settled here, everything would become clear.”

“And has it?”

The girl had shaken her head. Moved by her story Robert had given Ellie a position in the castle kitchens.

Now his thoughts were in turmoil. How could he have over-reacted to such an extent? But the girl had slandered his quartermaster and would have to pay for that.

Reaching the guardhouse he found Ellie flanked by two soldiers. She held herself proudly and showed no sign of fear. He squared his shoulders.

“Take her to the Great Hall and down to the vaults.”

Following on, he waited as Ellie was unceremoniously bundled into the dark room and made sure the soldiers locked the door. At least the room would be dry and free of the rats to be found in the castle’s dungeons.

“Release her at the same time tomorrow,” he commanded, “and not a drop to eat or drink.”

He was still racked with guilt at his actions. What worried him most was the possibility that the girl’s accusation had been true.

“Fetch Quartermaster Anderson here immediately,” he snapped when he returned to his desk.

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.