The Glens of Stone – Episode 63

“I’ve never been to a masquerade ball,” Kirsty said on Saturday morning. “Why do you think Lady Catherine invited us?” She turned to Duncan, sitting supping his porridge. “What’s so special about us, do you think?”

“I don’t know,” Duncan said. “Alison’s parents are also to attend, I believe?”

“Yes,” Alison agreed, “and Malcolm, too. Costumes for an affair like this will cost us a great deal.”

“We could use some of the money we were given by the lawyer,” Kirsty suggested.

Duncan rose and paced the floor.

“Actually, I have to say you have another benefactor – or perhaps the same one.”

The previous evening he had opened the offerings box in the meeting hall and found a package inside. Now he drew a package from the folds of his coat and offered it to Kirsty.

“It contains a short letter and banknotes to the sum of seventy pounds.”

“Seventy pounds!” Alison cried. “But who . . .?”

Kirsty had been reading the enclosed note.

“It’s unsigned. It says part of the money is for the Mission funds, and part is for the purchase of finery.” She looked from one to the other. “We’ve to buy suitable costumes for the ball.”

“It is a strange affair,” Duncan said, still pacing.

“What’s so strange?” Malcolm stood in the doorway.

Quickly Kirsty explained.

“So now we can afford to attend this ball,” she finished.

“My dears,” Duncan began, “I don’t wish to be a Jeremiah, but I confess to having doubts about attending this function. Kirsty knows my views about dancing.”

All eyes turned to Kirsty.

“It is deemed by some to be unseemly,” she explained. “Indeed, the local Assembly Rooms have scarce been open these last years, such is the animosity displayed to those who would frequent them.”

“Well, I, for one, am accepting the invitation,” Alison announced. “Kirsty, Malcolm – what about you?”

Kirsty took hold of one of her father’s hands.

“Is it true?” she asked. “Is dancing really the Devil’s work and forbidden in the Scriptures?”

“It is not forbidden, it’s just . . .”

“It’s just that it’s frowned upon by a lot of sour-faced joykillers! I certainly intend going.” Alison stomped away.

“Leave her be,” Duncan advised when Kirsty would have followed her. “I shouldn’t have said anything. You young ones must go and enjoy yourselves. It’s a fine opportunity for you and Malcolm to celebrate.”

* * * *

Robert sat and fumed in the locked room. How had he been stupid enough to let Ewan Ogilvie take him prisoner? The general would be thinking he’d deserted. And what would he say when he learned of McCrae’s perfidy?

There was, of course, the matter of General Guest’s bombardment of Castle Hill and the Lawnmarket. At least, so he’d heard from the Forbes girl, Ellie Chalmers had almost fully recovered from her injuries and was apparently to be attending Lady Catherine’s masquerade ball this very evening.

Robert had to admire her ladyship’s determination to ignore the unrest caused by the arrival of the rebel army. He felt a rather wistful longing to attend the function himself.

He had no hope of that, with two heavily armed Highlanders outside the door.

“Mr Ogilvie arranged it,” Jean Forbes told him when she brought him an early supper.

“He would,” Robert said bitterly.

He was surprised to learn that she was accompanying the others to the ball.

“And why not?” she demanded. “Her ladyship is adamant that I attend.” She didn’t reveal that her presence was only required so that she might wait on the others. “You’re just as Ellie says: your nose is that high in the air, it’s aye frosted.”

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.