The Glens of Stone – Episode 20

Lady Catherine Gray paused in her needlework and coughed gently to catch her snoozing companion’s attention.

“You have let me down badly, I fear,” she said.

McLaurin sat bolt upright.

“In what way?”

“By failing to acquaint me with the latest intelligence sweeping through the city.”

McLaurin’s alarm eased as Lady Catherine burst into peals of laughter.

“Ah, McLaurin, it’s not often I’m the recipient of news ahead of you. I’m referring to the Nightingale. Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of the delightful and talented Miss McAllan?” she teased. “Her praises were being sung by most of the guests at my last soirée.”

“Oh,” the old woman muttered, “her. The psalm singer at that new Mission in the Canongate.”

“Exactly! The girl’s the talk of Edinburgh and the Mission’s meetings are being well attended, albeit by those more eager to hear her voice than the word of God.”

McLaurin knew what was coming next.

“My gathering next week is in honour of General Guest, the castle’s commander. We must have this Miss McAllan and, of course, her accompanist, a Miss Porteous, to entertain us. I will see to it this very instant.”

Lady Catherine clapped her hands merrily.

“I trust you’ve no great objection, McLaurin? I know this form of entertainment is not dear to your heart.”

“I’m sure the young ladies will be a source of great interest and pleasure for your guests.”

Lady Catherine failed to notice the exultant gleam in her companion’s eyes.

*  *  *  *

Thomas McLean did not take kindly to the teeming streets and wynds of Edinburgh. He preferred the higher lands and the majestic glens, lochs and hills.

He felt at home there, not in this odorous, disease-ridden slum of a place.

He was in a foul mood, as he’d realised the enormity of the task before him when he’d ridden through the West Port into the bedlam that was the Grassmarket at mid morning.

So many people. So many tall buildings housing numerous families. He’d been told the nobility shared the vast tenements with the poorer classes!

Those he sought might even now be but a stone’s throw from where he sat astride his horse. Up there behind these bow windows, perhaps. Or perhaps bargaining with a stall holder?

He scanned the numerous signs dangling from the buildings and, espying an inn, urged his horse forward. First he needed food and rest. A good night’s sleep would rekindle his desire for revenge . . .

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.