The Glens of Stone – Episode 65

Ellie Chalmers peered at herself in the bedroom mirror. The cut at her left temple was still evident and her bruised cheekbone defied all attempts at cover.

Close to despair, she was toying with the idea of staying away from the ball altogether, were it not for the thought of being with Ewan again.

She recalled fondly his previous visit. She’d still been abed and the old lady, Miss McLaurin – a kindlier soul than Jean had led her to believe – had acted as chaperone.

As Ewan had taken his leave he’d given her a lingering kiss, though as their lips met McLaurin had emitted an indignant snort.

Now, sadly, tonight’s ball might be the last chance they would have to be together since he would soon have to leave with the Prince’s army.

Ellie gritted her teeth and again applied the powder brush to her face. As she worked she glanced at her costume, draped over the chaise longue.

Helen, daughter of Zeus? There was no likelihood that her face would cause one ship to be launched, let alone one thousand!

* * * *

Grateful for the evening’s darkness, Malcolm Porteous walked alongside the sedan in which Kirsty sat, Agnes and Alison’s chairs following close behind.

He was aware that the chair bearers were striving to stifle their laughter lest they lose a handsome gratuity. The reason for their amusement was Malcolm’s decision to adopt the guise of a jester. On first donning the costume, he’d enjoyed prancing around with his jester’s wand, making the girls and his mother giggle helplessly.

Now, in front of hundreds of passers-by, he wished he could cast his three-pronged, bell-jingling cap into the nearest midden heap!

As the line turned into the West Bow, to his horror he saw hordes of onlookers drawn to the spectacle of the arrival of the cream of society.

Duncan had warned him, but he was in no way prepared for their jeering. The Town Guard were in attendance, but from their demeanour it seemed unlikely they would do much policing.

Ignoring the catcalls, Malcolm waited as the bearers assisted the womenfolk from their chairs. Kirsty and Alison looked lovely in their guise of Muses, and as they alighted, the rabble’s shouts gave way to approving handclaps and whistles.

The Assembly balls were held in a large mansion, the former home of a prominent Edinburgh family, and light streamed from the leaded windows. Malcolm led the way up the precarious narrow spiral stair.

They arrived on the second floor where, in a lofty, wainscoted room with an ornately carved oak ceiling, the dancing would take place. Malcolm waited patiently while Agnes and the two girls disposed of their cloaks, the noise of excited chatter assailing his ears.

Masks hid the guests’ features. Was Ellie Chalmers already here? He did spot their hostess, Lady Catherine, discernible only because of the unmasked old woman clinging to her side.

At the far end of the hall he saw the decorated, raised throne on which sat a somewhat plump, mature lady – the dance directress, clad, he assumed, as Queen Boadicea.

At sporadic intervals when the hubbub subsided, he could hear the fiddlers tuning their instruments.

Kirsty and the others returned to his side and he led them forward to find seats.

“Ah, here you all are.” John Porteous, soberly dressed as a parson, joined them, taking a seat beside Agnes.

The girls enjoyed trying to identify those around them, Alison scanning the men, trying to spot Sandy. They also searched for sight of Ellie.

“There she is!’ Alison cried. “Over there, talking to someone.” They waved to catch her attention.

“Ellie? It is you, isn’t it?” Kirsty peered at her friend intently.

Her question was met with a subdued giggle.

“Aye, who else?”

The girls embraced, though the fervent hugs made Ellie flinch from her sore ribs.

“Did you not recognise with whom I was speaking?” she asked, mischief sparkling in her eyes. “’Neath the guise of the monk beats the heart of your beau, Alison.”

“Sandy? Then why didn’t he come across?”

“He will in a moment. He needs to have a word with Ewan when he arrives.”

“Ewan!” Alison burst out. “He who caused all that bother at the Mission? What could they possibly have in common?”

John Porteous stood with a knowing expression while Ellie’s voice dropped to a confidential whisper.

“All is not as we thought it was.” Quickly she told Alison of the secret liaison between Sandy and Ewan. “So you see, they are both on the same side!”

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.