The Glens of Stone – Episode 23

General Guest studied the report on his desk and sighed, wishing he’d resigned his commission when he’d had the chance to do so in London a few months ago. After all, he was in his eighty-fifth year and doubtless the oldest serving general in the Army.

However, Edinburgh needed the services of someone with his experience and young Marshall, knowledgeable and well-intentioned as he was, still lacked the maturity necessary for full command of the castle garrison.

Guest reread the report and frowned, and rose to open the door to Robert Marshall’s office which adjoined his.

“Marshall!” he barked. “I need to discuss this report with you. And bring that sergeant fellow – what’s his name?”

“McCrae, sir,” Robert said patiently.

Exactly five minutes later Robert Marshall knocked and entered the general’s office, closely followed by Sergeant McCrae.

The old man gave a loud harrumph and grunted.

“This nonsense tonight, Robert. Must we go?”

“The soirée, sir? Yes, we must attend. After all,” he added, “you’re the guest of honour.”

The old man scowled.

“What does Lady Catherine Gray want with us?”

“With respect, sir, it was your suggestion to open the castle to local dignitaries that led to invitations such as these. The citizens are simply repaying your kindness.”

“Hmm.” General Guest did not look convinced, and turned to face Sergeant McCrae.

“Now, man. What’s this alarmist intelligence you’re giving me?” He waved the report to and fro.

“It’s not alarmist, sir,” Sandy protested. “My report is based on fact from good sources.”

The old man sighed.

“Sergeant, we know there are Jacobite sympathisers throughout the nation. Traitorous though their thoughts are, they are harmless, confining their activities to toasting the exiled Stuarts.”

“I agree that has been the case for many years now, sir, but there is change afoot.”

“He’s right, sir,” Robert put in. “There are indications that an uprising could be imminent, in all likelihood at the instigation of Charles Edward Stuart –”

“He’s no leader!” the general exclaimed. “No soldier, for that matter.”

“Nonetheless he’ll command the respect of many,” Sandy said.

“Hah. Only the papists,” the General muttered.

“No, sir!” Sandy exclaimed. “The Stuarts promise religious freedom, hence the Jacobite cells meeting where they do, in Catholic and Protestant churches. Even Mission Houses. For months I’ve kept my eyes and ears open, and from loose talk in the taverns I have suspicions of a group operating at a Mission House here in the Grassmarket.”

“And?” the general asked impatiently.

“I noticed that some of those attending were not necessarily there for reasons of devoutness. Apparent strangers would meet up later and exchange words.”

“Were you able to hear what was said?” Robert asked.

“No, sir. They clammed up if I got within earshot, which tells me they weren’t discussing religion!”

General Guest sat back, scowling.

“So much for the Grassmarket. Now you suggest a spy network has been set up in another Mission House?”

“Yes, sir. A new one, recently opened in the Canongate. A man called McAllan is the pastor but its refurbishment was largely due to help from a friend of his – John Porteous, a bookseller.”

“Porteous.” The general nodded. “I have heard the name.”

“And you suspect this new place is also being used by Jacobite sympathisers?” Robert looked incredulous.

“I’m sure of it, sir.”

“But you’ve no real evidence of treasonable activities, have you?”

“It may not be too long before I have proof. I’m currently keeping company with Porteous’s daughter, Alison. Once I’m accepted as a future member of the family, their guard might slip.”

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.