The Glens of Stone – Episode 30

“Problems, Captain?” Lady Catherine had materialised at his side.

Quickly he explained.

“We’ll have to go down.”

“Nonsense! He must join us. Jean, bring the visitor up here.”

“Who the devil is it?” the general grumbled.

The answer came as Sandy McCrae appeared in the doorway. Jean led him over.

“McCrae! What brings you here?” General Guest whispered.’

“My apologies, sir. A rider has just arrived at the castle with an urgent dispatch for your immediate attention.”

Breaking the seal the general scanned the contents and frowned.

“Seems there’s been some activity with French boats over on the west coast. One, the Du Teillay, has been seen at Eriskay and is now off Borrodale where a party of men has landed.”

“French soldiers, sir?” Robert asked.

“No. A dozen civilians or so. But they’re worse than any army, I fear.”

Robert quickly understood the implication.

“You mean?”

“Aye, Captain,” General Guest said worriedly. “From all accounts, the description fits the Young Pretender, Charles Stuart, and his cohorts . . .”

* * * *

“If this news is as I fear it to be, we’ve a rebellion in the making,” General Guest said.

“You think the rebels will make for here?” Robert asked.

“Eventually, provided they raise a big enough army. Come, let us give our apologies to our hostess.”

As it happened Lady Catherine was making her way towards them, McLaurin behind her.

“Is your business over, gentlemen?” she asked.

“It is, ma’am. But I regret we must return immediately to the castle. Pray give our apologies to the young ladies. I hope we may hear them on another occasion.”

“I can assure you that they will join us here again very soon. Let me see you to the door.”

Lady Catherine led the old man away, closely followed by Robert and Sandy. The latter kept his head low. He didn’t want Alison to spot him and discover his identity.

As they left, McLaurin beckoned to Jean Forbes.

“Well,” she demanded, “did you get the gist of what they were saying?”

“Yes, ma’am. As you said, no-one notices a maidservant and they spoke freely in front of me.”

The old woman smiled.

“Come with me and tell me what you know.”

The pair moved off, closely watched by William Watt, who followed them from the room.

*  *  *  *

“I have them, sir, the parties you seek,” Tam McAdam said. It was the morning after his last meeting with Thomas McLean and both men now stood in the shadows of St Giles surrounded by the milling crowds attracted to the Luckenbooth shops nearby.

“Good.” McLean grunted, suspecting the guide had known their whereabouts all along but had wanted to earn himself a good fee. “Where are they?”

“Not two minutes from here, sir, in the West Bow. I can lead you there.”

“Take care. I do not wish to be seen.”

They made their way up the Lawnmarket and turned left into the West Bow. Halfway down the steep street, McAdam stopped and placed a hand on his companion’s arm.

“There, sir,” he said, pointing, “that entrance with the oaken door.”

McLean took in the tall houses with their dovecot-like gables.

“A fine-looking street,” he murmured. “A fitting place for a lady indeed.”

His eyes narrowed.

“Who is that?” He pointed to a young woman who had stepped out of the house.

“The maidservant, sir, Jean Forbes. Comes out each day for a wee stroll. Likes a sup of ale, too. She patronises John Dowie’s tavern. Fond of the menfolk, is Jean.”

“Is she now?” McLean reached into his pocket and placed two coins in the cadie’s outstretched hand. “Payment as agreed. And remember, not a word of this to anyone.”

For some time Thomas McLean stood, whistling under his breath, watching the house opposite. So this was where his acquaintances of old were living.

Now he must think. And he had plenty of time to do so.

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.