The Glens of Stone – Episode 51

Three hours later, John Porteous was preparing for sleep, grimacing at the louse-infested palliasse at his disposal, when the door of his prison vault opened. Although the only light came from two candle stubs, he recognised his visitor.

“You!” he exclaimed.

The man raised a finger to his lips.

“Hush,” he warned, “we haven’t much time. We must move quickly.”

“What about Ellie?”

The man held a keyring aloft, jangling it.

“Don’t worry, she’s next.”

The pair emerged into the dark passage and crept a few doors along. The man inserted a key in the lock. Ellie had been lying down, close to sleep, but she scrambled to her feet on seeing the two men.

“Mr Porteous! And Ewan! Is it you?”

“It’s me, all right,” Ewan Ogilvie answered. “Explanations later, Ellie. For now, let’s get out of here.”

The three crept their way through the maze of corridors and up the steps to ground level. Small torches blazed in elaborate sconces and by their light Ellie could see Ewan more clearly.

“I hardly know you, Ewan! Your face – those pock marks! And what’s this? A Redcoat uniform! How could you?”

“Heaven preserve us from prattling women!” Ewan muttered fiercely. “Ellie, never mind my appearance. Follow my instructions and we’ll be out of here shortly.”

Satisfied he had their attention, he went on.

“In the courtyard outside you’ll see a supply wagon drawn by two horses. Clamber on to the wagon and cover yourselves with the straw. I’ll drive the horses – all you have to do is lie low.”

“What of the guards?” John asked.

“Leave them to me,” Ewan assured him. “Are you ready?”

He pulled open the heavy door and escorted them to the waiting wagon. It took very little time to hide them from prying eyes and, satisfied, Ewan climbed into the seat and urged the horses forward.

Ellie lay curled up, hardly daring to breathe and with her heart beating wildly, as the wagon clattered over ruts and cobbles until at last it drew to a halt. She heard the sentry’s challenge and Ewan’s affable response.

“I wasn’t told of this,” the guard was grumbling.

“Of course not, it’s top secret.” Ewan put a finger to his lips.

“Supplies for the Canongate Mission House?” The man sounded doubtful, but then he grinned. “Oh, I remember – I was with the captain that night he promised a lassie some provisions. He was fair embarrassed at having to apologise, as I recall.”

“Was he now?” Ewan pretended amusement.

The sentry frowned.

“It’s a bit late at night to be taking this stuff down there, isn’t it?”

“When else could it be done?” Ewan adopted a conspiratorial tone. “Castle provisions being given to civilians? The captain’s ashamed enough as it is without it becoming public knowledge.”

“I take your point,” the guard said, gently slapping the neck of the horse nearest him. “Off you go, then.” He stood aside and watched as the wagon trundled off.

The wagon slowed when they reached the high street.

“You can come up for air now,” Ewan called out.

Ellie’s face broke through the straw at once.

“Another minute back there and I’d have sneezed my head off!” She gasped.

“Me, too.” John Porteous heaved himself up, spluttering.

He looked around, squinting to see where they were.

“Just at the tolbooth,” Ewan told him.

“We’re making for the Mission, then?” John sounded eager.

“No! That’s the first place the soldiers will search when they realise you’re missing. I think you know where we’ll be safe, John,” he said, “but for now I’m laying a bit of a smokescreen in case any of the military are still carousing in the taverns. They’ll swear they saw the supply wagon leaving by the Netherbow Port and assume we’d take the road to Leith or the east.”

“So?” John queried.

“So I’m taking you both to Duddingston. Marshall will never think of looking for you there, even if he could be bothered to search for you.”

“Of course he will,” John said. “He’ll be spitting mad when he learns we’re gone.”

“Perhaps so,” Ewan admitted, “but I have the feeling Marshall regrets ever arresting you, and I’m sure he tried to get you released early – or even to persuade General Guest to let you go.”

“You seem to know a lot about what the captain feels and does, Ewan,” Ellie said suspiciously.

“Not really. Just a wild guess now and again.”

They reached the quiet village of Duddingston shortly before midnight and Ewan roused the landlord of the Lochside tavern. John and Ellie were shown to two bedrooms where, tired out, they quickly fell asleep.

Satisfied, Ewan drove the wagon the few yards uphill to the Sheep Heid inn. There he had a bleary-eyed groom unload it and store the provisions.

Then, assured the horses would be well looked after, he headed for his own room, pleased with his night’s work.

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.