The Glens of Stone – Episode 39

Thomas McLean watched as Jean Forbes left her mistress’s house in the West Bow and made for John Dowie’s tavern in Liberton’s Wynd.

He followed her inside as she pushed her way through the throng until she came to the smallest of the establishment’s rooms, known to patrons as the Coffin. There was room for only two tables and a few chairs, all unoccupied.

Waiting until she was seated, McLean advanced towards her, forcing a smile.

“May I join you?”

Her face revealed her disappointment: a younger and more handsome man would have been more welcome.

“Miss Forbes, isn’t it?” he said, taking a seat.

Surprised, the girl asked how he knew.

“You were pointed out to me one day by a friend,” McLean said. “I’m thinking of coming to live here in Edinburgh and will be in need of a good cook and maidservant. I understand you’re one of the best maids hereabouts.”

“That’s kind of you to say so, sir.” Jean blushed furiously.

Before McLean could continue, a serving girl appeared at their table. He raised an eyebrow when Jean ordered a tankard and small beef pie.

“Doesn’t your mistress provide food, girl?”

“Aye, she does, sir. But Dowie’s pies are famous and I’m awfy fond o’ them. Besides, well, Miss McLaurin keeps an eye on what I eat. If she had her way it would be gruel every day.”

“Ah,” McLean said, his voice laced with sympathy. “You don’t like this McLaurin woman much, do you?”

“No, sir, she’s an old besom, and she is not even my mistress. I work for Lady Catherine Gray. Miss McLaurin’s only her old nursemaid and companion, though she tries hard to rule the household.”

The serving girl appeared with the food and drink, for which McLean insisted on paying. As Jean ate, he coaxed her into describing her daily routine.

Flattered, her tongue ran away with her so that she told him not only of her duties but also what she knew of Lady Catherine, Miss McLaurin and even regular visitors to the house.

At last McLean sat back, smiling.

“My, but they work you hard. And they even, you say, have you carry messages to and fro.”

“Aye. But I suppose there are worse jobs.”

They parted on the understanding that they would meet two days later at the same time.

“Remember,” McLean warned, “not a word. We don’t want your mistress suspecting she’s soon to lose her precious maid!”

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.