The Glens of Stone – Episode 53

Lady Catherine Gray laid aside her embroidery and rubbed her hand over her face.

“I must be getting old,” she said to McLaurin, seated opposite. “My eyes tire so easily these days.”

She strode to the window.

“What’s happening out there? The bells have been sounding for well nigh an hour.”

“Jean should be back any minute now: she’ll tell us.”

As if on cue the door burst open and Jean Forbes rushed in.

“Oh, ma’am, you should see it! The rebels are here in the city!”

“The Prince, too?” Lady Catherine asked, hand at her mouth.

“No, not yet. He’s making his way to the King’s Parkland. You can see the army, hundreds of men, fierce-looking, too. What a sight it is!”

“Aye,” Lady Catherine said softly, “it must be.” She glanced at McLaurin. “What’ll become of us?”

The old woman shook her head.

“They’re not the rabble they’re made out to be.” A knowing look entered her eyes, “Besides, we’ll be safe whatever happens.”

Ignoring her mistress’s bewilderment, she prodded Jean with her cane.

“You said the rebels are inside the city yet the Prince and his men are still outwith the walls?”

“Aye, he’s with the main army,” Jean explained. “But a group of rebels breached the gate at the Netherbow, sending the soldiers scuttling back up to the castle.”

“So the whole length from the Lawnmarket down to Holyrood is in Jacobite hands now?” Lady Catherine still sounded afraid, yet McLaurin remained unconcerned.

“We’ll be perfectly safe,” she insisted.

Lady Catherine toyed with her embroidery but her agitation was too great and she laid it aside.

“I think I’ll hold a ball,” she declared. “An act of defiance to show the Jacobites that Edinburgh society cares not a hoot for their cause and will not attend the Prince or grant him favours.” She clapped her hands excitedly. “It’ll be the biggest and best affair we’ve ever had. A masquerade with costumes!”

* * * *

Ewan looked down from the slopes of Arthur’s Seat at the vast army encamped in the King’s Park. Cooking fires burned and columns of smoke spiralled into the air. The air was filled with the men’s laughter and raucous shouts.

Ewan watched with a feeling of great pride, heightened when he saw hundreds of citizens streaming into the park. Many carried bundles of food and drink for the clansmen.

Not all were sympathetic to the rebel cause, he knew; many were simply curious, with the womenfolk hoping to catch sight of the Prince to see if he was as handsome as rumour had it.

Ewan eventually spotted the colours of his own regiment, the Scots Royal, and with mounting anticipation, he made his way down the steep slopes to find his colonel, Alastair Crawford.

* * * *

“Should we not barricade the front door?” Duncan McAllan asked as he lit an oil lamp in the kitchen.

“Och, no, Duncan.” Agnes was contentedly reading a book of poems. “No need for that. The Highlanders may look fierce but . . .”

“Of course, they’re your friends, after all,” Malcolm said sarcastically.

“And yours, too, if you but knew it,” his mother replied.

“How can you say that? Whatever possessed you and Father to support the papists?’’

“We’re no papists!” Anger crept into Agnes’s voice. “Neither are half that army out there. And yes,” she cried, “I knew what John was doing and why!”

“I had no idea you were involved with them,” Duncan broke in. “You never mentioned it.”

“There was no need, Duncan,” Agnes said. “You’re a man of God, and politics distress you, I know. Better you knew nothing than fret and worry. I can only say John had good reason for supporting the Stuart cause, and as his wife I support him.”

“You could both have hanged for treason,” Alison said bluntly. “Indeed, you still might if this uprising fails.”

“True, my dear, but we weren’t and we won’t be! Charles Stuart will be on the throne in a matter of months.”

“My, such faith, Mother,” Malcolm said in a bitter tone that drove Duncan to cry out.

“Enough! Listen to us! You’d never think we were friends, Malcolm.”

“Friends? Would a friend use your Mission Houses for his own purpose?” Malcolm protested. “First the Grassmarket, and then he lured you here just so he had a safe place for his plotting friends.”

Before Agnes could reply, the kitchen door opened and two figures rushed in.

“John!” Agnes ran forward to embrace first her husband, then Ellie, right behind him.

“Where have you been?” Kirsty asked.

“Duddingston,” Ellie said. “Ewan took us to a tavern there.”

“Where we stayed until we heard the Jacobites had occupied this area and it was safe to return,” John added.

“We’ve much to tell you,” Duncan exclaimed, “especially the good news that Malcolm and Kirsty are to be wed!”

“But afore he gives us his blessing, best my father answers a question I posed before he and Ellie arrived.” Malcolm stared fixedly at John, daring him to respond.

“And just what was that question, son?”

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.