The Glens of Stone – Episode 72

The first to arrive was Lady Catherine Gray accompanied, as always, by her faithful beldam McLaurin.

Ewan could hear the old woman grousing as she followed her mistress into one of the pews, and also Lady Catherine’s gentle remonstrances. His ears caught a whispered “God’s House” which served to quieten the old lady.

Their shock on learning of what had befallen Jean Forbes had been tempered by the knowledge of the girl’s treachery. Nonetheless, the news had frightened the women and only the presence of a party of six Highlanders on security patrol outside their house in West Bow had allayed their anxiety.

Within minutes the door creaked open again and Duncan McAllan, wearing a worried expression, entered, ushering Kirsty before him and, to Ewan’s relief, Ellie.

The girl’s face still seemed starkly pale in the dim light but her step was steady. The excitement and physical strain of the ball had not affected her recuperation.

They took seats across the aisle from Lady Catherine, nodding to her in recognition.

Robert Marshall, loudly protesting, was next to come, propelled firmly by Sandy McCrae. Robert looked dishevelled and annoyed at the way Sandy was treating him, but once they took their seats in the chancel his muttering ceased as the sanctity of the place overwhelmed him.

Soft footsteps heralded the approach of the Porteous family. John, his face stern, stood aside to let Agnes, Malcolm and Alison precede him into a pew near the front.

Alison’s expression betrayed her bewilderment, but she relaxed as she recognised the others, giving a tentative wave to Kirsty and Ellie.

Ewan allowed a few moments to pass before rising to his feet, amused at the gasps from those seated below who had been unaware of his presence.

Satisfied he had their attention, he leaned on the lectern, clasping his hands and smiling benignly.

“Thank you for coming,” he began, looking down particularly at Robert, who scowled in response.

“I had little option,” the young man groused.

“True,” Ewan admitted, “but as you’ll learn, it was in your interest that you attend.”

He addressed the others.

“Most of you know each other well enough, but lest you do not, let me introduce you.” As he read out the names of those present they each stood briefly, highly embarrassed.

“As for myself,” Ewan went on, “most of you now know me as Ewan Ogilvie. I am a major in the Scots Royal and also an agent provocateur acting on behalf of the Jacobite Cause.”

“Then you should be ashamed of yourself, sir!” Robert Marshall rose to his feet. “One day you’ll be brought to justice.”

“Hold your tongue, Captain,” Ewan said pleasantly. “We are not here for a discussion on political matters – at least, not directly.”

Duncan McAllan stood up.

“Then why precisely are we here, Major? I find this clandestine gathering unwholesome and troubling.”

Kirsty grasped the old man’s hand.

“Hush, Father. I’m sure he means us no harm.”

“You may be assured of that, Miss McAllan,” Ewan called down from the pulpit. “Indeed, I can say that some present here this evening will hear of things to their advantage. And now, if I may continue?”

Silence fell and the listeners waited expectantly.

“Some of you have met me in other guises,” Ewan began. “Miss McAllan; Master Porteous?”

Both became more alert.

“You may recall the Reverend Samuel Proudfoot who despatched a ruffian who was molesting you?”

Malcolm’s jaw dropped and Kirsty raised a hand to her mouth.

“You!” They gasped almost simultaneously.

“Aye, to be sure.”

Turning to look down at Robert, Ewan raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“I also paid you a call, Captain.”

Robert thought hard, and recalled being floored by the man shortly after having Ellie shut away for her insolence.

“I remember,” he said tersely.

“We couldn’t have you harming the lass, could we?” Without waiting for a response, Ewan shrugged. “And, of course, you’ll recall the words of warning from the merchant William Watt at Lady Catherine’s soirée?”

“You again?” Robert sat back, his face showing disbelief.

“Me again.” Nodding, Ewan smiled.

“But why?” Kirsty cried, her voice agitated.

“All in good time.”

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.