The Glens of Stone – Episode 60

Jean Forbes arrived at the Canongate Mission just as Duncan McAllan was leaving. He touched the brim of his hat.

“Miss Forbes, what brings you here again? It’s but a day since you brought the invitation to your mistress’s ball.”

The girl paused to catch her breath. Her rising agitation made it difficult to deliver her message coherently.

“It’s Miss Ellie,” she blurted out. “She’s hurt.” Then, seeing his alarm, she rushed on. “But she’s going to be all right . . . just some bruising.”

“Gracious, lassie, come in and tell us the full story.” He ushered her to the kitchen area where Kirsty and Alison looked up in surprise.

Together the three listened as Jean told them of the cannons.

“Did we not wonder at the noise, Father?” Kirsty cried.

Duncan nodded.

“Aye, but what of Ellie? We must see to her – bring her here for nursing.”

“No, sir, there’s no need. Lady Catherine will attend to her as the doctor sees fit. My message is simply to assure you that she’s in good hands. And that she hopes to be present at the masquerade,” Jean said as an afterthought.

Kirsty and Alison looked cheered at the prospect. As Jean went to leave she gave cry.

“Oh, Miss Alison, I nearly forgot! I was told to inform you that the sergeant, Sandy McCrae, is safe and will visit you soon.”

“Sandy?” Alison looked at Kirsty. “You hear that? My Sandy’s safe!”

The two girls hugged, almost weeping with relief.

* * * *

When Jean had gone Kirsty sat listening to Alison’s promises of what she would say to Sandy when he appeared.

“I’ll not chase him away with tantrums this time,” she said. “Indeed, it may be that I lead him to the altar before you get that brother of mine there!”

But even as she spoke her eyes darkened.

“What’s the matter?”

“I keep forgetting that John and Agnes are not my parents, so Malcolm isn’t my brother, is he?”

Kirsty shot a wary glance at her father, who raised a hand.

“I know what Alison’s fears are. I’m ashamed to say I overheard you both discussing this.”

“I see.” Alison showed no surprise. “And as my father’s friend I suppose you knew it all along?”

“Aye, lass, I did. But John and Agnes love you as their own. You give them such joy. I was going to tell John that you were aware of this, but . . .”

“Can you tell me whose child I am?”

“Alas, my dear, I cannot. John never confided in me to that extent. I doubt if even he and Agnes knew the truth of your birth.”

“Are you going to challenge your fa – Mr Porteous when you see him next?’ Kirsty asked.

She saw the glint of tears in Alison’s eyes.

“No. I intended to. I wanted to shock them. After all, I was barely five years of age when I learned the truth. But something held me back. Fear? Or perhaps I loved them too much!”

Alison dabbed at her eyes with a lace handkerchief.

“If you’ll forgive me, I think I’d like some time to myself. There is one thing, though.”

She turned to Duncan.

“Does Malcolm know? That I’m not his sister?”

“No, my dear,” he said knowingly. “John had no need to tell Malcolm.”

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.