The Glens of Stone – Episode 55

Ewan himself was lying in bed, bitterly regretting that he hadn’t left Colonel Crawford’s encampment much earlier the previous night before “a glass or two” of French brandy had escalated. He only dimly recalled staggering back to Duddingston.

Duddingston was usually the quietest of villages, but he became aware of noise outside. Marching feet, laughter, shouted commands, drumbeats . . . Ewan recalled that the greater part of the Jacobite army was leaving the parkland to set up a new encampment here, in preparation for battle. General Cope and a vast English army were a mere 30 miles to the east.

Ewan tried to recall all he and Colonel Crawford had discussed. At his report the senior man had nodded his approval.

“You did well, Major, despite heavy odds. I have just one more task for you, Ewan, and then it’ll all be over.”

Ewan staggered from his bed, grabbed a jug and filled a basin with cold water. Splashing some on his face, he dried it with a flannel cloth and peered at himself in the mirror. A haggard, unshaven and bleary-eyed face glowered back at him.

An hour later, shaved and with bread, ham and oysters inside him, he felt better and left the Sheep Heid for the nearby manse.

The Reverend Pollock had his hand on the manse door knob as Ewan appeared on his doorstep.

“My apologies,” Ewan said. “Are you going or coming?”

The minister beamed at him.

“Going, my dear sir. Pastoral duties call. Perhaps you might return this afternoon?”

“Alas, that will not be possible.”

“Then will you walk a little with me?” the minister suggested.

The two men strolled along the cottage-lined roadway.

“I have been asked to enquire about wedding arrangements for friends of mine,” Ewan began. “I speak of a Miss McAllan and a Mr Porteous. Her father runs a Mission House in the Canongate; his owns a bookshop in the Grassmarket.”

“Laudable callings,” the minister murmured, “but both parties reside outwith this parish.”

“Forgive me,” Ewan interrupted, “but all concerned have a liking for Duddingston. There will be a fee, of course. A most handsome fee.”

The minister stroked his chin.

“I don’t usually . . . But if, as you say, the parties prefer this fine old kirk, then I see no harm in accommodating them.”

“A wise decision,” Ewan said quietly, the threat implicit.

“When may I meet the young couple?” the minister asked.

“In due course. First, however, they, their families and certain friends would like access to the kirk to see it for themselves. Today is Thursday,” Ewan said. “I would suggest next Monday evening, say seven o’clock?”

“Excellent. I will be free to . . .”

“No, sir, your presence is not required, not yet. They simply wish to study the interior. You’ve no objection, I trust?” Again came the threatening undertone. “Good. Then our business is concluded, sir. We will arrive at the kirk on Monday night and will expect to find it open.”

The two men shook hands and the minister hurried off, as if glad to get away from someone he regarded as dangerous.

Ewan was satisfied. All he had to do now was contact the people on Colonel Crawford’s list and ensure they came to Duddingston on Monday night.

* * * *

“The effrontery of the man!” General Guest muttered, referring to Prince Charles Edward Stuart. “He’s had himself proclaimed Regent!” He turned to Robert, standing with him on the eastern ramparts of the castle. “What do you make of his demands?”

“That we surrender the castle to him or face a blockade?” Robert laughed. “He knows we can withstand a siege. We’re impregnable; you and I could defend the castle on our own if it came to it.”

The general smiled.

“You’re right, of course.” He gazed down to the lower levels. “These cannons. No chance their fire could reach Holyrood?”

“I’m afraid not, sir. The distance is too great.”

Guest brightened.

“It would cause alarm if we fired them off, nonetheless. This is war, Captain. We can’t let the rebels think the King’s army is toothless.”

“Perhaps so,” Robert cautioned, “but a salvo which might kill innocent folk will hardly endear us to anyone!”

“Marshall, the rebels have not exactly been spurned by the citizens. They’re being made welcome.” The general slapped the stone ramparts with his hand. “Have the gunners put on standby. Ensure the guns are ready and trained eastwards down Castle Hill.”

“As you wish, sir.”

Robert Marshall saluted, but he was profoundly unhappy at the old man’s decision.

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.