The Glens of Stone – Episode 12

It was a cold, dry morning as Kirsty and Malcolm set off, armed with leaflets announcing the opening of the Canongate Mission. The streets and closes were crowded with people and animals and the stench was overpowering.

“I’ll get used to it,” she replied when Malcolm sympathised with her misery.

Their progress was slow, as the majority of those who accepted the leaflets couldn’t read and the pair found themselves trying to explain the Mission’s purpose. Most of those who took time to listen lost interest quickly and Kirsty began to lose heart.

“Those that say they might come are only wanting soup and bread,” she muttered.

“That’s a start, at least. Feed their bellies first and their souls later. I think your father would be the first to agree,” Malcolm went on. “An empty stomach dulls the ear.”

“Away with you!” Kirsty laughed and playfully pushed him aside, which caused him to stumble against a great hulk of a man forcing his way through the throng.

The man grabbed him around the neck.

“Are ye blind, son?” he rasped.

“It’s my fault, sir,” Kirsty said quickly. “I pushed him and he lost his balance.”

The man leered at her.

“Well, he’s going to lose his teeth as well,” he growled. “Nobody shoves Davy Burke and gets away with it.” A few titters came from the watchers.

Still grasping Malcolm, the man looked closely at Kirsty.

“My, but you’re a pretty lassie.”

Malcolm, held at arm’s length, flailed wildly but his blows made little impact.

“Leave her alone, you great lummox!” he shouted.

“Aye, why don’t you, brother?” came a voice as another man pushed his way forward.

He was tall and sturdy and dressed in the sober black cloth of a cleric, a white ruff at his neck.

The bully turned to face the stranger.

“And who might you be?” he snarled.

“Samuel Proudfoot at your service, sir,” the other replied, raising his brimmed hat. “Reverend Proudfoot, to be precise.”

The big man spat on the ground.

“Well, Reverend Proudfoot, take yourself off afore I stick your fancy ruffles down your throat.”

The cleric raised a placating hand.

“Such threats, and against a man of the cloth, too!”

The crowd had fallen silent, wondering what would happen next.

“Come along, my dear fellow,” the reverend said softly, “be reasonable. These two young folk meant no harm. Let them be, and that’ll be an end to it.”

But Burke would have none of it.

“Take your holy hide away from here, Reverend, afore I blacken your eyes.”

Sighing, Proudfoot gave a gesture of helplessness.

“So be it,” he murmured, brushing past the hapless Malcolm. “I did my best.”

Burke jeered as the cleric passed behind him but the cry died suddenly and with a heaving gasp he staggered, releasing Malcolm. The big man’s eyes glazed and, knees buckling, he sank to the ground.

“Gracious!” the Reverend exclaimed, kneeling beside the prostrate man and peering closely. “The poor fellow has had some form of seizure!”

He placed two fingers against Burke’s neck.

“I do believe he has passed away.”

The onlookers stood in silence as the cleric removed his hat and bowed his head over the body, though no-one could catch the mumbled words.

Rising to his feet, Proudfoot looked solemn.

“Best I seek out the City Guard,” he said. “They’ll see to matters.”

Touching the brim of his hat, he made off into the crowd, then turned.

“If I were you, I’d go about my business again. Explanations may prove . . . awkward.”

“He’s right, Kirsty.” Malcolm touched her arm. “There’s nothing we can do here.”

Reluctantly the girl agreed and let him lead her away.

Minutes after they’d gone a mother and her young son came across the body.

The boy looked fearfully at the dead man.

“What’s that, Mama?” he asked, pointing.

His mother studied the ground and the growing stain beneath the body.

“Blood, son,” she muttered, pulling him roughly. “Come away.”

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.