The Glens Of Stone – Episode 79

“What of the child? Did it survive?” Lady Catherine’s question echoed in the hearts of everyone there.

Instead of replying, Colonel Alastair Crawford cocked an eyebrow at Miss McLaurin, who immediately understood his meaning.

“Thomas McLean threatened Meg and me with death if we revealed what had occurred,” she said calmly. “I’m certain he reported back to Sir Patrick that his quest had failed. That Catriona had died in childbirth before he reached her, and that the child had been stillborn. In fact, he flung Catriona’s body overboard during the journey to the mainland.”

There was a stunned silence as the cruelty of that dreadful act sank in.

“Then the child did die?” Alison cried at last.

Miss McLaurin pursed her lips.

“We were ordered, again on pain of death, to take the crib and cast it from the cliffs into the sea.”

“With Catriona’s child in it? You were to murder a defenceless babe?”

Again horror rippled around the assembly.

“How could you do that?” Alison whispered.

“She didn’t.”

All eyes turned towards John Porteous. His face was pale, his lips trembling as he rose to his feet. He moved forward, to halt in front of the old woman.

“You and Meg didn’t commit murder, did you?”

“You know I did not, John,” McLaurin whispered. “Meg and I could never have done such a terrible thing.” She looked knowingly at the man. “And you have good reason to accept my word, have you not?”

As the impact of her words struck him, Porteous gave a hoarse cry which caused his wife to leap from her seat to join him. They clasped each other fervently.

Bewildered, Alison took a faltering step towards them.

“What is it?” she asked, placing a hand on Agnes’s shoulder.

Disengaging himself from his wife’s arms, Porteous took Alison’s hands in his. She saw tears in his eyes and was about to repeat her question when he placed a finger to her lips.

“Hush, my dear.”

He looked reproachfully at Alastair Crawford.

“This is a day I hoped would never come.”

“You were warned it would.” Crawford’s face was impassive.

“Aye.” Porteous sighed. “But it’s been so long, I hoped . . .” He pulled Agnes to him. “We hoped we’d be left in peace.”

“Will someone tell me what this is about?” Alison pleaded.

Agnes Porteous, her eyes wet, looked longingly at her.

“Oh, lass,” she murmured. “It’s him.” She pointed to Crawford. “He’s your father.”

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.