The Glens of Stone – Episode 67

Miss McLaurin was tired. She was too old for functions like this and regretted her decision to accompany Lady Catherine. Much better had she remained in the house with a glass or two of hot whisky.

As she looked around her at the guests, one thought sustained her spirits. The young ones, at least, were enjoying themselves, and rightly so. It was only a pity that they couldn’t all be so relaxed.

Her musings were interrupted by a voice close to her ear.

“A most enjoyable affair, is it not?”

Bemused, she peered at the speaker.

“Who might you be?” she rasped.

“A guest, ma’am. I saw you alone and thought you would appreciate some company.”

The old woman looked at the man’s uniform and sniffed.

“A Roundhead, eh? I suppose it does look more manly than the lace and feathers of their foes.”

“Why, thank you, Miss McLaurin. Or is it simply Ann?”

Startled, McLaurin licked her lips.

“My name, how came you by it?”

“Someone told me it, though now I see you more closely I would have recognised you, my dear old friend.”

There was no warmth in his voice and the old woman felt the first stirrings of fear.

“Who are you?”

The man’s mouth drooped in feigned disappointment.

“Oh, my, Ann, it’s sad to think you don’t recognise me,” he hissed. “We were so close all those years ago. You, me . . . and poor Meg. She’s dead now. Drowned, would you believe?”

McLaurin squinted at him.

“It canna be!” she whimpered, taking a step backwards. “McLean?”

The eyes behind the mask glinted coldly.

“The very same, come to look up an old friend – a loyal servant he trusted.” Casually he placed a hand on the hilt of the dagger tucked in his belt.

“You betrayed me and others. You and Meg both.”

McLaurin saw the gleam of steel and tried to edge away, but found herself too jammed in by the laughing crowds around her, and her mouth too dry to utter even the faintest scream.

*  *  *  *

Jean Forbes could have kicked herself. How could she have been so stupid? Only now had she remembered she’d omitted to tell her new-found friend something.

She searched the crowded room with eager eyes and spotted the man in Roundhead costume only a few yards away. She worked her way through the crowd until she reached him.

“Sir!” She gasped. “I’ve just remembered!”

The helmeted head turned to her.

“When you asked me if the whole household was here I said it was, but I should have mentioned the young captain. He’s held prisoner there and has two guards. He was brought to Lady Catherine’s house by the man Ogilvie.”

She was disappointed to receive only a cursory nod, and pushed her way back to her station, convinced that her chance of better employment had gone for good.

* * * *

Ewan watched her go. What the devil had the girl been prattling on about? And who had she thought he was?

With mounting unease he scanned the room. It was only by chance that he noticed another Roundhead uniform with Miss McLaurin and realisation dawned.

Determined to find out who the other was, Ewan veered off towards his quarry, his worry growing as he saw the fear on the old woman’s face.

He was just a few feet from them when the other man spotted his approach. For a brief moment the two men stared, then, lips drawn back in a snarl, the other backed away into the crowd.

Keen though he was to pursue him, Ewan saw McLaurin sway and quickly grabbed her to prevent her falling. Her mouth opened to scream.

“Wheesht, woman, it’s me – Ewan,” he muttered.

“Thank God!” the woman whispered. “He was going to kill me.”

“Who is he?”

“McLean,” she said fearfully. “Thomas McLean.”

Leading her to a seat, Ewan waited until the old lady was fully composed. He was joined soon by Lady Catherine, wondering what was wrong.

Ewan caught the warning in McLaurin’s eyes.

“Nothing to worry about, my lady,” he said. “Miss McLaurin simply felt a little faint. The excitement, you know.”

Lady Catherine nodded.

“Poor old soul . . .” She patted the old lady’s cheek. “I’ll get Jean to see you home.”

“Perhaps a wee brandy afore I go?” came the plea.

“Of course.” Lady Catherine snapped her fingers at one of the many tray-bearing men positioned around the hall.

Ewan took advantage of her distraction to whisper to McLaurin.

“Who is this man McLean?”

“An evil man. You must warn the colonel.”

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.