The Glens of Stone – Episode 56

Duncan McAllan had felt it best to close the premises for a few days. The excitement generated by the invaders had disrupted the routines in the city and worship was not uppermost in folk’s minds.

Ellie Chalmers left the Mission House in search of fresh air. With its closure there was little for her to do.

She walked slowly up the Canongate through the crowds, progressing towards St Giles. The Lawnmarket was astir with Highlanders and rough barricades had been hastily erected near the approach to the castle.

“Charlie’s men have commandeered some of the houses nearby, so they can shoot any Redcoats trying to creep out.”

Ellie thought of Robert Marshall up there at the fortress. It served him right, she mused.

“Ellie.” A quiet voice came from behind her.

She looked round.

“Sandy!” she cried. “I thought you were dead.”

McCrae grabbed her arm.

“Come with me.”

He guided her across the crowded street to a dingy tavern, to vacant seats at the rear.

Ellie sat down resentfully.

“I don’t frequent such places,” she said.

“I’m sorry, but we had to get off the street.”

She studied him and was aghast at what she saw. In tattered, ragged clothes he was pale and haggard. A stained bandage covered most of his head.

“How is Alison?” he asked at once.

“Well enough, though she’s given you up for lost.” Ellie gave him an update on events since that fateful night at the Mission.

He gripped her wrist.

“I must see her, Ellie.”

“Of course. But first tell me how you come to be in this sorry state. We heard you’d joined up with Gardiner’s dragoons to keep the rebels at bay.” She smiled. “Though you didn’t make a very good job of it.”

“You could say so.”

Following a skirmish with the Highlanders, Sandy had been felled by a blow to the head, he told Ellie. When he’d come round he’d found himself alone among the dead and wounded.

Under cover of darkness he’d managed to make his way to the Edinburgh village of Corstorphine. Almost senseless, he’d lain in a hedgerow for nearly a full day before being discovered by a farmer and taken to the man’s home. There he’d been nursed until fit enough to make his way back to the city.

“But I can’t get back into the castle,” he explained. “You’ve seen the blockade.”

“Then we’ll get you down to the Mission House.”

Ellie made to rise but suddenly she froze, her eyes widening in alarm.

“It’s Ewan Ogilvie,” she whispered. “The man who nearly did for you. He’s just come in – and he’s seen us!”

Ewan pushed his way through the crowded room, his face stern. When he reached their table he stood, hands on hips, staring at Sandy who returned his gaze unflinchingly.

Then the two men burst out laughing and Ewan leaned forward to grip Sandy’s arm.

“Sandy, old friend! I thought you were dead!”

“You should know better.” Sandy rubbed the back of his head. “Mind, these Highlanders pack a good clout when they’ve a mind to.”

“Aye. ’Tis a pity they didn’t know you were on their side.”

“Wait a minute!” Ellie rose to her feet. “What is this?” She jabbed a finger at Ewan. “Two weeks ago you nearly killed this man. Now you’re acting as if you’re the best of friends!”

“We are, Ellie, we are.” Sandy laughed. “That wee fight at the Mission House had to look good. We had to fool you all.”

“Fool us?” Ellie cried. “Heavens, you nearly caused Alison’s death. Stupid big . . .! We all took you for a Redcoat toadie, using Alison as a means to spy on us.”

“That’s what everyone was supposed to think.” Sandy grinned at Ewan. “What better way to aid the Jacobite cause than by infiltrating the enemy?”

“Sandy here is actually a member of my own regiment,” Ewan explained. “He and I were friends in France and when I was sent here I requested that he accompany me.”

“What about hounding Alison’s father?” Ellie asked, accusing.

“Och, that was another ploy to satisfy Captain Marshall at the castle.”

“And I suppose our escape from there was engineered by you both?”

“Of course!” Ewan exclaimed. “Sandy smuggled me in before he marched bravely off to fight for King George.”

Sandy cocked an eyebrow.

“May I ask what you’re about today, Ewan?”

A broad smile wreathed his friend’s face.

“I’m an emissary bearing messages for the castle garrison. But also, I need you both to be at Duddingston Kirk next Monday evening.”

“Duddingston again!” Ellie exclaimed. “Why?”

“Wedding arrangements, let us say. Your friends from the Mission House will be there. Don’t worry, you’ll find it worthwhile.

“You mentioned the garrison?” Sandy waited expectantly.

Ewan undid the top button of his cloak, revealing the uniform of the Scots Royals.

“I’m off to ask General Guest to surrender. We gave him a deadline of today but the old fool hasn’t responded.”

“He’ll never give up the castle,” Sandy offered. “And they’ve provisions enough to last for months.”

“We know it, and they know we know it, but this is only an exercise. Besides . . .” Ewan paused, reflective. “I have another reason for wanting to get into the castle. As for you, my friend, it’s time to return to your true friends. Colonel Crawford is at Duddingston and will be glad to see you. Like me, he feared you dead.” He made ready to leave. “I’ll be back soon,” he promised.

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.