The Glens of Stone – Episode 48

Thomas McLean and Jean Forbes had again met in the Coffin Room of Dowie’s tavern. The girl appeared restless and ill at ease and he strove to placate her.

“And what exciting events have befallen you these last two days, my dear?” he asked with apparent sincerity and warmth, then listened with little interest as Jean prattled on about a friend who had been arrested by the military.

Deftly he brought the subject around to Lady Catherine’s household.

“This old lady you spoke of, her that makes your life miserable. She reminds me of someone I once knew. Would you know her first name?”

“Her ladyship only refers to her as ‘McLaurin’, sir.”

McLean strove to conceal his disappointment. He tried another tack.

“Have things been quiet? No exciting visitors to brighten your life?”

Jean was about to shake her head when she remembered.

“There was this Mr Ogilvie, sir, him I mentioned before.”

McLean nodded.

“He came to see the old lady. Went away with a flea in his ear.”

“Goodness! Any idea why?”

Reluctant to admit her habit of eavesdropping, Jean was about to say no, but this elderly man seemed so kind and gentle. And what did she owe the old witch? She wouldn’t betray Lady Catherine’s confidences, but McLaurin was another matter.

“I believe there was mention of his failure to attend to something… and of someone else. Crawford, I think, some sort of army man.” As she recalled what she’d heard, her excitement rose. “Yes, another person mentioned was Captain Marshall – him who is up at the castle.”

As she rambled on, McLean filed the information in his mind for later use. When it came time to go, he pressed a coin into the girl’s palm.

“Thank you, Miss Forbes. Will you meet with me again in two days’ time?”

“Tae be sure, sir!” As she rose to leave she gave a small cry. “Sir! I’ve just remembered old McLaurin’s first name! I recall her ladyship chiding her one day. She called her Ann, sir. Definitely Ann.”

* * * *

“What news of your father?” Kirsty asked Malcolm as they sat together in the meeting hall.

“He’s fit enough and being treated well. Our family lawyer has been seeking his early release.”

Malcolm sighed with exasperation.

“Stupid man! Says he was acting on orders, though obviously he supported the Jacobites in the first place.” Impulsively he reached out and took Kirsty’s hand. “You’d think a son would know, but I had no idea he was involved in such matters until the last few months when I noticed his interest in – in those people who attended the meetings. If only I’d…”

“Hush, Malcolm. It’s no use blaming yourself.”

Her face was suddenly so close… He cleared his throat.

“I love you, Kirsty McAllan.”

With a tender laugh, she gently ruffled his hair.

“It’s about time you said something,” she said, her eyes shining. “I’ve been waiting for you to pluck up the courage.” She gave him a playful push. “I’d almost given up.”

“And so had I!”

They turned to see Alison leaning against the door frame, her face beaming. She was allowed up for a few hours each day if she promised not to strain herself.

“You’ve been listening,” Kirsty accused.

“Them as want to be all lovey-dovey should close doors if they don’t want to be overheard.” Alison laughed at the couple’s embarrassment. “Anyway, we’ve all been expecting this to happen. You with the love-light in your eyes, Malcolm, and you –” she pointed to Kirsty “– sneaking wee glances at Malcolm whenever he’s around.” She wagged a finger. “And don’t dare sin your souls by denying it. We’ve all seen you – even the parents.”

“You mean Father has –?”

“Poor man has been wanting to give you both a wee push, but –” she gave Malcolm a look “– your father and mother assured him you’d get round to it soon enough.”

Kirsty noted that little comment about his parents, which showed that Alison still felt hurt that John and Agnes were not hers.

Alison straightened, ready to leave.

“Well, children, I’ll let you discover the joys of being in love.” With a wave she closed the door, leaving them alone.

Malcolm reached out, pulling Kirsty to her feet. Then, with one quick, impulsive movement they were in each other’s arms.

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.