The Glens Of Stone – Episode 78

His words caused a hubbub of protest to rise around them. Glaring down at Robert, the colonel raised his hand for silence.

“I can appreciate that you’ve received a great shock this evening but I deplore such unjustified accusations. Most of those present here had no inkling of what was taking place.”

“If you please, Colonel?” Kirsty had risen, seeking Crawford’s attention, and he gave her an encouraging smile.

“Yes, Miss McAllan?”

“When Captain Marshall questioned you earlier about what was afoot, you said, ‘Firstly there was the invasion.’ May I ask, sir, what was second in your considerations?”

A murmur of agreement rose from the others.

“Well said,” Crawford conceded amiably. “Let me answer by taking you back to the days following Robert’s abduction. With him stolen from us and seemingly lost for ever, Catriona and I tried to live normal lives.

“I thought it best that we should leave Perthshire and its unhappy memories. After the rebellion of thirty years ago many Jacobites had fled to Italy and France for safety, and over the years they prepared for the next attempt to return the exiled Stuarts to the throne.”

Ignoring a derisory snort from Robert, he went on.

“I decided I would make for France, offer my services to the military and then send for Catriona to join me.” Without warning he struck the ledge of the pulpit. “The stupidest thing I’ve ever done!”

“Are you saying you abandoned your wife, this woman you say was my mother?” Robert shouted up to the pulpit.

“Abandoned? How dare you, sir? I loved your mother dearly! I would never knowingly have hurt her. I meant only to set up a home for her abroad.” In the candle’s glow the watchers saw the glint of tears in the colonel’s eyes.

Crawford rubbed his forehead, composing himself.

“I set sail for France, leaving Catriona in the hands of Ann and another woman companion called –” He snapped his fingers. “What was her name, Ann?”

“Meg Lawson,” McLaurin told him. “She’s dead now. McLean told me he killed her. But she was with me when . . .” Her lips trembled. “When we . . . oh, sir, I’d rather you told it.”

“Of course. Calm yourself, Ann.”

Crawford made his way down the pulpit steps to where Lady Catherine was seated. He stood before her, his expression sorrowful.

“In my absence your father had a change of heart. Did you know that?”

Staring up at him, the woman shook her head.

“He wanted a reconciliation with Catriona, but he was too ill to travel himself. So he sent McLean again, this time to fetch her and assure her of his forgiveness. Of course, she was still unaware of her father’s earlier duplicity.”

He frowned.

“She made McLean welcome and agreed to accompany him back to Sir Patrick. She was in the last few days of her second pregnancy and was reluctant to travel. McLean insisted, however, and they set off, Ann and Meg in attendance.

“Instead of making for the Crichton estate, McLean took them to Skye on the pretext that Sir Patrick would join them there. Catriona barely made the journey safely before she went into labour.”

The silence in the kirk was palpable.

“What was this man McLean’s intent?” Malcolm Porteous asked.

“He was misguided enough to think he was acting for the good of Catriona’s father. Her first child had been taken from her, and here was another on the way!”

McLaurin turned towards Malcolm.

“He took us to this deserted house in a wee place called Elgol and bade Meg and me make it habitable.

“We had a few belongings with us – food, blankets and a fine crib . . .” She broke off, pointing at Robert. “The very one you lay in as a babe, my lad. We’d scarce arrived before Catriona went into labour.”

“Thank you, Ann.” Crawford’s face was sorrowful. “The birth was long and exhausting and my dear Catriona died hours later.”

Lady Catherine wiped a tear from her eye.

“The child, Alastair! What of the child? Did it survive?”

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.