The Glens Of Stone – Episode 77

Robert was clearly shocked to his core, and only when he was convinced the younger man had regained his composure did Crawford return to the pulpit.

“At least your grandfather let you keep your Christian name,” he said. “McLean learned it before he took you away from your mother. But Crawford? A surname he couldn’t abide. He had a friend, Lord Derwent, with an estate near Morpeth. Derwent was a Hanoverian, of course, and was happy to agree to your grandfather’s wishes. As it happened, the estate’s factor and his wife were childless so you were given to them.”

“Go on.” Robert’s face was ashen.

“Years passed. I had no choice but to give you up as lost. I was by then in France, as you’ll hear, but my friend Ewan was, by chance, using my home as a base for his many activities. One night he had a visitor – one of McLean’s cronies, a man close to death from consumption and wishing to confess. Thus Ewan learned of your whereabouts and travelled to Morpeth to locate you. Your parents had just tragically died. You remember?”

Robert nodded wordlessly, still struggling to take it all in.

“When I heard of this,” the colonel continued, “I had Ewan pose as a lawyer and give over sufficient funds for your further education.”

“I thought Lord Derwent was my benefactor,” Robert protested.

“No matter. You used the money to join the army and get a commission.”

“How that must have pleased you.” Sarcasm laced Robert’s voice.

Crawford smiled wryly.

“Aye, a staunch Jacobite with a Redcoat son. Not what I would have wished, as you can imagine.”

“And the book?” Robert probed. “‘The Compleat Angler’?”

“A gift to me from your mother many years ago. Hearing from Ewan of your interest in the sport, I asked him to pass it on to you.”

“Then the C on the cover stood not for Charles Derwent?”

“No. Your mother inscribed it with her own initial.”

Robert shook his head, his thoughts in turmoil.

“Why didn’t you reveal yourself to me?”

“I was abroad. But I had Ewan keep an eye on your progress, and, of course, Ann, too.”

The old woman grinned amiably.

Returning to the pulpit, Crawford looked gravely down at the upturned faces.

“Ann was one of our household; a faithful nursemaid. She shared our sorrow at Robert’s abduction. Later she was forced to leave our service.”

He looked at Lady Catherine.

“By then you were domiciled in Edinburgh, your own unhappy marriage behind you, isn’t that so?”

Lady Catherine scowled and turned to her old companion.

“No wonder you wished me to employ you! Pleaded with tears in your eyes, as I remember. You viper!” Lady Catherine hissed.

“Come now,” Crawford entreated. “Ann did no harm. She was there to liaise with Ewan, and I needed someone in the capital. Someone I could rely on and who knew what was afoot.”

Robert had been quiet as he tried to digest this volley of startling facts, but now he sprang to life again, leaping to his feet.

“And what was afoot, sir?”

The colonel sighed.

“Firstly, an invasion. I knew an uprising would take place and that our army would eventually make for Edinburgh. This presented the ideal opportunity for us to meet at last, Robert. So, thanks to Ewan and the good Sandy, strings were pulled and your transfer here was arranged well in advance.”

Before Robert could respond to any of this, John Porteous called out.

“You said you wanted someone here you could trust. What was wrong with me?”

Crawford held up his palm in a plea for understanding

“It wasn’t just a matter of trust, John, I can assure you. Ewan told me of all your good work on our behalf. But I had good reason to prefer Ann for my purpose.”

Catching Lady Catherine’s eye, Crawford went on.

“I might add that Ann’s presence in your home ensured your safety, my dear. If a violent reception for our army appeared likely, then she and Ewan had plans to evacuate you to a place of safety, if you wished.”

“Never!” Lady Catherine folded her arms, face stern.

“It would seem Lady Catherine and I . . .” Robert paused before going on mockingly. “Pardon me, Aunt Catherine, I should have said, and I are the only loyalists among this bunch of traitors!”

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.