The Glens of Stone – Episode 36

The captain’s voice interrupted Sandy’s thoughts.

“You have my sympathies,” Robert was saying, “but unfortunately this hinders the investigation at the Mission House.”

“Houses,” Sandy stressed. “It’s not just Canongate. There are similar goings-on in the Grassmarket. Old man Porteous is rushing between the two. Things are, shall we say, coming to a head.”

“No doubt because the rebels are now only a few miles south of Perth and recruiting well, I believe.” Robert looked reflective.

“True, sir. Their numbers have increased in the last weeks. I hope Colonel Gardiner is prepared for a hard fight.”

General Guest entered the room in time to catch Sandy’s words.

“Gardiner’s not the man he was,” he observed wearily. “Have you seen him since he arrived, Robert? When you do you’ll see a beaten man. The Jacobites will walk over him and his pitiful army.

“However,” the general went on, “while Gardiner has his troubles, we have ours, too.” He allowed a grim smile to cross his face. “I think it’s time you and McCrae paid a visit to these Mission Houses. And take some men with you. I intend to make an example of these sympathisers.”

“Imprison them, you mean, sir?” Sandy McCrae asked.

“Not imprisonment, Sergeant. I mean to hang them.”

The old man departed. Robert and Sandy looked at each other.

“He can’t mean it,” Sandy said. “Hanging folk? He’s insane!”

“None of that sort of talk,” Robert cautioned. “We have our orders.”

Even if they do issue from a madman, he thought.

Dismissing Sandy, Robert pulled open a drawer in his desk and took out a book. The book, close to a hundred years old, was a first edition of “The Compleat Angler” by Izaak Walton. It contained instructions for catching various kinds of fish, and that, he suspected, was precisely what they would be doing this evening.

In Robert’s sixteenth year his parents had drowned during winter floods. The orphaned youth had been taken under the wing of Lord Charles Derwent, to whom his father had been factor. Lord Charles informed him that his parents had established a small trust fund which, he suggested, could be used to give him military training.

Robert was packed off to Woolwich and in time obtained his commission. A week before the ceremony he had received from an anonymous source – though he believed it to be Lord Charles – a package containing sufficient money to purchase a commission.

It also held “The Compleat Angler”. A coincidence? Robert had spent many happy hours throughout his youth fishing with his father.

As he stood recalling those days, Robert opened the book at the flyleaf with its flowery letter C engraved on the page. Obviously the letter stood for Charles, though when he’d written to thank Lord Derwent there had been no reply.

Robert slid the book back into the drawer and turned his attention to the supplies received for the possible siege ahead.

But he couldn’t concentrate. He felt a growing dislike of army life. And the general’s threats bordered on madness. This was not soldiering as he knew it, rather a misuse of power by a senile old man.

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.