Well my muse fought me on this from word one to the last. I think it could have been better. Thanks to Maggie Finson for helping me, I tried Maggie, I hope I got the right idea. Again thanks again to all those that take the time to read my attempts of entertainment and your comments, they really make my day. And of course a big thank you to djkauf for editing.
“Take me away from here? Why would you offer to do so?” I asked.
“Well, I do have reasons, one of which is that it is a shame to see such a bonnie lass as yourself trapped into a life that I think she doesn’t want. Besides I was leaving on the morrow anyways; leaving earlier isn’t an inconvenience, and the thought of an attractive woman such as you traveling with me would make the journey a lot less unpleasant.”
I looked at him “This offer does solve my problem about leaving; but why does he see me as attractive?” I thought to myself. “May I have time to think about this, can I give you an answer after we dine?”
“Of course” He replied. “May I escort you back to the house, Lady Gordon?”
“Please it is getting cold, and I didn’t bring anything to cover me.” He took my arm into his and walked rather close to me through the garden back to the house. I could not figure for the life of me why, it felt so……. nice.
I wish I could say the dinner was nice, but the reception at dinner by Lord Erskine and his sister was subdued. While polite conversation was made, it did appear I had made a faux pas with my story earlier. The meal was excellent, many dishes of venison, fowl, root vegetables and one of my all-time favorites cock a leekie soup.
The bright spot of the dinner was that it seemed that both William and Sir Stewart were in some form of contest to see who could engage me in conversation the longest. I really couldn’t say much because of what I did know, and there was so much that I didn’t know. I did enjoy the banter back and forth between these two men, who obviously had a good friendship. The two of them were so different. William was dark haired, showing signs of grey and his hair was long and worn loose. With these intense dark eyes, a long face with a nose that appeared that had been broken at one time, but with a strong chin and jaw, and a somewhat small mouth, he appeared to be no more than his mid-thirties.
Sir Andrew Stewart though was almost the exact opposite, a long, straight nose, blue eyes that were full of mischief, broad cheekbones, solid jaw with a wide mouth, and thick long light brown hair that that was tied at the nape of his neck. He couldn’t have been any older than 25 at the most.
After we finished eating, wine was served to each of us. Upon completion of the glass of wine Lady Moir stood up, after which all the gentlemen followed suit, I guessed I needed to as well, Lord Erskine opened the door to the dining room; Lady Moir left the room and it appeared from the glances of Lord Erskine and Lord Moir I was to leave as well. I followed behind Lady Moir back to the main hall where we sat in silence. I tried to make trivial conversation, but she would only give curt answers in reply. It seemed Lady Moir was rather upset with me.
I decided then to accept Sir Stewart’s offer. I couldn’t see staying here waiting for a non-existent reply or father to show up. It would be unbearable, and only bring attention to my lie for what it was. I knew I had to go, but to go off with someone I didn’t know, and choose a location of where go, was a hard decision. It was, however, I think the better choice.
Soon the sounds of conversation drew closer and the men entered the main hall. Lord Erskine and Lord Moir both appeared to be a bit flushed, from drinking excessively, while William and Sir Stewart seemed to be continuing a serious conversation quite animatedly. They divided into two camps with the Lords Erskine and Moir with Lady Moir, while William and Sir Stewart encircled my chair. Why the two younger men would wish to engage me in conversation, it would have appeared at dinner that I had little to offer, and my hesitancy to answer direct questions would have made me appear shy, or worse yet aloof. However, the attention given to me by these two men was hard to understand. I wasn’t very sociable, and I didn’t think I was so attractive that I was desirable.
They seemed, however, to go out of their way to try and draw me into conversation. Then the question was brought up, and in a hushed tone “So, Lady Gordon do you support the “The King that is over the water?” asked William. I knew exactly what he was asking, and it gave me a time reference, it had to before 1745. Judging that my hosts were probably Jacobites, I answered in a whisper with “Yes, I support the true King.”
Then William raised a glass and said “To the little man in black velvet.” glasses were raised “To the little man in black velvet.” They said in unison.
Tired of sitting I stood and walked over to the fireplace and was soon joined by Sir Stewart. “So lassie have you made a decision yet?” he asked rather informally.
“I have decided to take you up on your offer, Sir Stewart.” I replied.
“I thought you might, be ready, since we will leave a couple of hours after all have retired for the night, and since we will be traveling together call me Andrew, and if I may be so bold I will call you Susan.” With that, he took my hand and kissed it. Then he stopped and talked to William in a whisper, then spoke to Lord Erskine, Lord, and Lady Moir. Then he left the room.
I turned and stared at the fire and wondered why the room seemed empty all of a sudden. I too decided if I was going to be traveling I should get some rest, looking outside I could see that night had fallen. I guessed that there wouldn’t be much time to do so. I approached Lord Erskine, and Lord and Lady Moir, made my excuses, by saying I needed to write my letter to my parents. William took my hand kissed it, gave me a strange knowing smile, and bade me good night.
When I got to my room Moira, was waiting. “Will you be retiring Lady Gordon?” she asked. I knew I was going to need her help in getting dressed into my traveling clothes, so I decided to confide in her. “What I need Moira is your help, I need to change into the clothes I arrived in, I am leaving tonight with Sir Stewart.” She looked a bit shocked, but then sort of a sly smile came over her face “Oh, he is a handsome man isn’t he, Lady Gordon? I wish I could find a handsome man like that to take me away too.”
“It isn’t like that Moira, I...I just can’t go to Aberdeen, for many reasons, and he offered to take me away as Lady Moir and Lord Erskine, want me to return there, and I have no need to, nor do I want to.”
“Well, Lady Gordon, that may be true, but you can’t say having a handsome man, like Sir Stewart wanting to take you away is a hard decision.” She unpinned my hair and let it fall, removed the beading in it, unlaced my dress and stays and helped me undress. Then she went to the armoire, and pulled out the clothes I remembered waking in which seemed like a lifetime ago.
She helped me into my clothes, with the exception of the green jacket and the large striped red cape and belt. “I think you can manage those Lady Gordon.” She said. I noticed the coin purse was still attached to the belt, I walked over opened it and took out one of the several gold coins in it. “Here Moira, take this” I as I took her hand and placed the coin into her palm. “It is for helping me and for you not to tell Lady Moir where I have gone.”
She looked at it “A gold guinea? Oh Lady Gordon this is too much, I can’t accept it.”
“Please Moira I want you to have it, we haven’t known each other long but I would like to think of you as a friend, and I need a friend right now.”
“Well Lady Gordon, I thank you, and you can count on me not to say anything, and it isn’t for the money either, you have treated me nicely, in this short time, which is more than I can say for some for whom I have worked for a longer time. If you wish, I will stay with you until Sir Stewart comes for you.”
“I would like that Moira, thank you, although I am sure I need a little rest before traveling.”
“Well Lady Gordon, let us sit in front of the fire, and you rest and I will keep you company.” She said. That is what she did, until a knock at the door aroused me. Moira answered it and Sir Stewart was there.
“You ready, lassie?” Was all he said upon entering. I just nodded, and Moira helped me with my jacket and cape. As I finished buckling the belt, I turned to Moira and gave her a hug and said
“Please take care Moira, you will be in my thoughts.” She returned the hug “You take care Lady Gordon; I do hope to see you again.”
“I guess I am ready, Andrew.” Remembering to be informal, he turned walked out the door and I followed, down the stairs and through the double doors that led outside.
There were two horses waiting, “Well lassie, I hope your ability to ride improves, we will be riding hard and fast.” He helped me mount a beautiful grey horse. “The horse’s name is Sidh* and she is a gift to you from William.” I adjusted my skirts as I sat on the horse making sure my feet were in the stirrups. He mounted his horse, and I noticed he was armed, four silver flintlocks, were clipped to a large silver buckled belt that crossed his chest it sheathed a basket hilted broadsword at his left hip and a large round studded shield was strapped to his saddle.
“Will we need weapons Andrew?” “He just smiled and said “Well lassie, I haven’t told you the whole story, we will need to avoid the Lobsterbacks, and if we are caught, before we reach Ardsheal it might get a bit messy.” With that he galloped down the road from the house, I kicked the grey with my heels and I followed him, wondering what I gotten myself into. I caught up to him easily, although I could tell my riding skills needed improvement. As we galloped down the main road in the night, I saw the moon it was waning, but judging what I could see I had nearly a month before the next full moon to find the ancient stones and get my answers.
We galloped along the road putting distance between Pittodrie House and us; until we could feel the horses laboring and we slowed down to a walk to allow them to cool down. When I caught my breath and trying not to feel sorry for myself with the aches I was feeling I asked. “Why would the government troops would be looking for you Andrew?”
He smiled “I knew you were going to ask as soon as you could, I have just returned from France, I am on a mission for the Prince, and I know word has gotten out of my return; the government as you put it would like to get their hands on what I know. I can’t allow that to happen.”
“Andrew, this Ardsheal where we are going, where is it?”
“We are going to Ardsheal House, lassie, it is the house of my cousin Charles Stewart and sort of my clan chief, If we ride hard and don’t stop maybe three maybe four days, If we stop once it might be five days, longer if we have to avoid trouble.” After another half hour or so, we started galloping again and by daybreak, we had reached Huntly. We skirted around the outside of Huntly at a trot not entering the town, slowing down when we caught glimpses of red-coated troops. Strangely, I remembered glimpses of Huntly as I drove through it nearly a week ago; it seemed smaller now than what I did remember. When we reached, a certain point, Andrew looked for a landmark then started in a different direction at a trot judging by the sun we were sort of heading west. By nightfall we were on a road again at a gallop and Huntly was long behind us I was growing exhausted by this point, was nodding off in the saddle.
I felt the reins jerk and saw Andrew grabbing Sidh’s bridle. “Lassie, why didn’t you tell me you were tired?”
“I didn’t want to slow you down Andrew.”
“You just about fell out of your saddle, there is a small village not far from here. We will stop at the inn and get some food; the horses probably need a rest anyways.” We continued down the road at a walk and by daybreak, there it was a small village constructed of whitewashed stone and thatched roofs. On the far side of the village was a larger building with stables, where we dismounted. I could barely stand the idea of walking the ten feet to the door. It seemed an impossible task. Andrew gave the stable hand some money to take care of the horses, and then practically carried me into the inn.
When we entered, the inn it wasn’t very busy, and Andrew sat me down at the nearest bench and table and he took the bench opposite me watching the door. A tired looking woman came over; she looked like she already put in a hard day’s work. “Good morning, my Lady and good morning my Lord.” She said.
“Two bowls of porridge and tea Madam.” Said Andrew.
“Right away my Lord.”
Andrew continued to look around the room if trying to find something, and then got up and walked over to the door that opened to the back of the inn and traced something that had been carved into the lintel. The woman returned with the porridge just as Andrew returned to his bench. “Do you find many white roses around here?” he asked.
She looked at him and replied. “There hasn’t been in a long time, although I hope they will return.”
Andrew said to her directly “They are returning.” She gave a bright smile at those words, left and returned with the tea. “Be careful my Lord, there are those who wouldn’t want to see those roses close by.” Those words had barely left her mouth when, four red-coated soldiers and an officer came into the inn and sat down on the far side of the room from us.
Andrew unclipped two of his flintlocks and silently eased the hammer back on each before handing them to me under the table. “Eat quickly, only use them if you have to, let’s try and leave before they do anything.” He whispered. We ate quickly and quietly the porridge was warm and filling, I did notice though it was coarse, and not anything like my Quaker Oats I remembered having. One of the pistols Andrew gave me was sitting in my lap and I could feel the weight of it, it has been sometime since I had fired a weapon, and then it was an automatic, I really hoped I didn’t have to use them. I glanced over at the soldiers, and I saw the officer pull out a piece of paper and read it then looked at Andrew and read it again, then said something to the soldiers.
Andrew hearing the noise of the soldiers getting up quickly said “Time to go lassie.” I gathered the pistols into my hands and made sure they were covered by my cape Andrew got up and made his way to the door. I clumsily followed, hampered by trying to keep the pistols covered.
We were no sooner out in the yard heading to the stables, when the soldiers stormed out of the inn two of them raising their muskets “Halt in the name of the King!” shouted the officer. Andrew quickly drew one of his remaining pistols and fired at one of the soldiers killing him instantly. I pointed one of mine in the same direction and pulled the trigger the recoil just about sent me flying, but another soldier went down. As I recovered, I raised the other pistol as Andrew fired his remaining one killing another, dropping the pistol, drew his sword with his right hand, and with his left a dirk that was belted to his right hip. Then he charged the remaining soldier. The soldier fired his musket at Andrew and in the black smoke, I lost sight of Andrew and the soldier. I adjusted where I was pointing the pistol towards the officer who was drawing his sword and fired. As the smoke cleared, I saw Andrew coming out of a crouched run quickly batted the soldier’s musket away with his left arm and hacked him with his broadsword. I saw the officer lying dead by the door and fainted.
*Notes on this chapter Sidh means Fairy in Scottish Gaelic. The White Rose was a symbol that Jacobites used to show support of James III in exile, and "the wee man in black velvet" was a toast they used to express support, what does it mean? Well I wish I knew, I couldn't find anything that explained what it meant, so your guess is as good as mine.
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