The Other Highland LairdBy: Riley Moreno
Marion examined her reflection in the mirror and adjusted her gown of crimson and turquoise velvet edged with gold, while her maid fitted a caul of gold net on her hair with a gorget that revealed the delicate contours of her throat. The broad sleeves of her dress hung down to below her wrists and the maid arranged them, even as she slipped a bracelet onto her mistress’s wrist and clipped a turquoise necklace around her throat.
‘Do I look presentable, Netty?’ Marion asked, appearing to pose the question to her reflection in the mirror rather than to the maid. The maid smiled. ‘You look more than presentable, my lady,’ she replied softly and stepped back to admire her handiwork.
Marion slid her small, slim feet into a delicate pair of leather shoes and then glanced at her reflection again.
‘You seem anxious, my lady,’ Netty observed.
‘I feel like a colony of butterflies has taken wing in my belly,’ Marion replied, her hands on her slender waist. ‘Coming here to Scotland has been such an adventure, because of my roots…and now, attending a wedding at Bothwell Castle!’ Marion sighed ecstatically.
‘I have heard it is a very fine castle indeed, my lady.’ The maid looked away, afraid of what her eyes may betray – that Marion’s mother had emphasized several times that she must ensure her daughter looked her best because she was to be presented to one Lord Robert Murray. A quick engagement followed by a not too hastily arranged wedding was what Marion’s mama had in mind for her daughter, and rapid relocation to France where Lord Robert had taken up residence to escape the rigors of life in the Highlands in the wake of the third English Civil War.
‘I rather fancy meeting a Scotsman,’ Marion said, stealing a look at her maid, ‘so if that’s what mama has in mind for me, then I hope you’ve followed her instructions and done your best with my appearance, Netty.’
Netty started and threw Marion a guilty look. ‘How did you know, my lady?’
‘I know my mama well, and I also have a keen ear,’ Marion smiled. ‘It’s alright, I am going to be twenty soon and I’m sure mama and papa are concerned that I will be left on the shelf if they don’t do something about getting me off their hands.’ Marion sighed, ‘Marrying a Scotsman and staying here would be really romantic! I do wonder what Lord Robert Murray is like. That is who mama and papa have in mind for me, isn’t it? I’ve heard his name mentioned often enough.’
Netty fussed around Marion’s gown, though she had arranged and rearranged it several times already.
‘Out with it, Netty!’ Marion said, ‘You know something else and you’ve doubtless been told not to let me know.’
Netty blushed a vivid red. ‘Oh no, my lady. But yes, it is Lord Robert Murray whose name I have heard being mentioned.’
Marion turned to look more closely at her maid, but she could hear her mother summoning her in a stentorian tone. ‘You must tell me if you know anything else, Netty,’ Marion said, as Netty assisted her out of the room.
Bothwell Castle was bathed in the delicate hues of a magnificent Scottish sunset and Marion felt a cloak of enchantment settle about her as she stepped out of the carriage that had transported her and her parents to their destination. They made their way to the chapel in the Castle grounds, where the nuptials of Lord Robert’s brother William were taking place. The Bride’s arrival being suitably delayed, the members of the Murray family were basking in the sun outside the Chapel as Marion arrived with her mama and papa.
‘Lord Buchane!’ an elderly gentleman exclaimed, walking up to the carriage.
‘My dear Lord Murray!’ Marion’s father replied, greeting their host, ‘I am delighted to be here on such a fine occasion!’
Lord Murray bowed as Marion’s mother alighted from the carriage with Marion following suit. Lord Buchane swiftly performed the introductions and Lord Murray turned around to call forth, one after the other, the members of his family to be introduced. William, the bridegroom, looked nervous as he awaited the arrival of his bride. Marion gave him a cursory glance and turned her attention to the next in line - Robert. Marion’s mama held her breath as Robert and Marion greeted each other. Robert was rather handsome, Marion thought, but looked disappointingly more English than Scots, dressed as he was in a jacket and trews.