The Glens of Stone – Episode 70

Lips pursed, Ewan turned to the sergeant, his eyes questioning.

The man nodded.

“Aye, sir, she’s dead all right. If you turn her over you’ll see the head wound. She’s been shot at close quarters.”

Ewan rose to his feet, his mind racing. Dimly he heard the sergeant’s question.

“Aye,” he replied, “I know her. Her name’s Jean Forbes and she was Lady Catherine Gray’s maidservant.”

“A shame it is, sir. Such a young lass.” The sergeant shook his head dolefully. “Where will we take her? To her ladyship?”

“Heavens, no!” Ewan exclaimed. “Is there not a resting place in the tolbooth where she can be laid?”

“Aye, though her relatives must claim the remains quickly or she’ll be placed in a pauper’s grave.”

“So be it.” Ewan stood impassively as Jean’s body was lifted and carried off.

He did not wish to go back to Lady Catherine’s and rouse the woman. It could wait until morning, though the pale grey streaks of dawn were already in the sky.

His main duty was to seek out Colonel Crawford and acquaint him with events. Ewan had no doubt that the madman McLean had killed the girl, possibly to prevent her from gossiping about their relationship.

From what old McLaurin had said earlier, Ewan judged the colonel knew of this man and what further threat, if any, he might be.

Ewan hurried the few yards down to the Grassmarket, there to commandeer a horse and ride to the Jacobite encampment.

*  *  *  *

In the Mission House the occupants were too excited to sleep. Sandy and Malcolm had escorted the girls home and then gone their separate ways, Sandy to the army camp and Malcolm to his parents’ house since Ewan had assured them it was safe to return.

Captain Marshall had lost interest in the Porteous family, it seemed.

Kirsty roused her father from sleep as she’d promised she would; he’d wanted to hear how things had gone.

Over cups of hot milk the girls – Alison and Ellie having joined them – regaled Duncan with a minute-by-minute account of the evening’s revels. At last he put up a protesting hand.

“Enough, my dears! I lack your youth and must return to bed. I’d advise the three of you to do likewise and you can tell me the rest when we’re all refreshed.”

Bidding them farewell, he went upstairs, leaving the girls to their giggling.

Soon it was Kirsty’s turn to yawn.

“I’m away to bed, too, for I’ve had enough of ‘Sandy this’, ‘Ewan that’ for the present.” She smiled at their happy faces. “My, but it looks as if Malcolm and I had better decide on a date or you’ll be at the altar before us.”

Alison and Ellie nudged each other delightedly. They waited until Ellie had snuffed out the lamp, then all three trudged, with rising weariness, upstairs.

As Kirsty lay in bed she suddenly remembered Sandy’s message.

“What do you think this meeting at Duddingston is for?” she called softly to the others. “Father was quite taken aback when I told him he was to attend, too.”

“So was I,” Alison’s sleepy voice replied, “but Sandy wouldn’t tell me anything more.”

“What about you, Ellie?” Kirsty persisted. “Don’t you think it’s all very strange?”

The sound of gentle snoring was the only answer and, smiling to herself, Kirsty turned on her side, welcoming sleep.

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.