The Glens of Stone – Episode 28

General Guest accepted a glass of wine from the tray proffered by Jean Forbes and studied it closely. Lady Catherine smiled as she watched him sniff the liquid apprehensively.

“I’m sure you’ll find it to your liking.”

“I’m sure I will, madam. It’s just that I’m more partial to the hop than the grape.”

Lady Catherine forced a smile.

“Then I must cater for your preferred taste, sir.” She asked Jean to fetch a tankard of ale and watched as the general drank deeply from the foaming vessel.

“Better, General?” she asked archly.

“Indeed,” the old man replied.

“And now, if I may, can I ask you for a sentiment?”

Standing nearby, Robert Marshall watched his superior officer’s face redden. He knew the general abhorred the growing practice of giving toasts which dominated soirées in the higher reaches of Edinburgh society.

Nevertheless, aware of his position as guest of honour, the general allowed Lady Catherine to call for silence then squared his shoulders and raised his glass.

“May the friends of our youth be the companions of our old age,” he stated solemnly.

A polite ripple of applause greeted the sentiment.

“Load o’ nonsense,” the old man muttered, sidling up to Robert. “When do we get some food? My belly’s fair rumbling.”

“Shortly, sir, although you’ll recall there’s to be a recital beforehand – the two young ladies.”

The general puffed out his cheeks.

“Stap me, are things not bad enough without some wailing women being inflicted upon us?”

“Come, sir, remember that McCrae informed us they were pleasing both to the ears and eyes.”

A flicker of interest crossed the old man’s face.

“Heaven knows we could do with a little female beauty here this night. Apart from our hostess there isn’t a good-looking woman to be seen.” Looking furtively around the crowded room he murmured, “At least there’s no sign of the old harridan.”

“Talk of the devil.’ Robert groaned as Miss McLaurin stumped into the room, her hair and clothing dishevelled, eyes glittering. They made to edge further to the back of the room but Robert placed a restraining hand on the general’s arm.

“If you please, sir, the artistes have arrived.”

Robert saw that McLaurin had preceded two young girls and was leading them towards Lady Catherine.

The girls curtseyed as they were introduced, and then her Ladyship brought them to where he and General Guest stood.

“General,” Lady Catherine said, “may I introduce Miss McAllan and Miss Porteous who have kindly agreed to entertain us this evening? This, my dears,” she continued, “is General Guest, commander of the castle garrison, while this rather shy young man,” she teased, indicating Robert, “is his aide, Captain Marshall.”

The girls bobbed demurely. Robert was immediately struck by their beauty. One as dark as the other was fair, deep blue eyes that sparkled and challenged with mischievousness, though there was an aloofness about the Porteous girl.

Normally at ease in female company, he found himself tongue-tied.

“We are all looking forward to your performance, ladies. Your fame has spread throughout the city.”

The dark-haired girl, Miss McAllan, smiled.

“Thank you, Captain, I hope our performance meets all expectations.”

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.