The Glens of Stone – Episode 16

For the past hour Malcolm Porteous had stood at the Mission’s doorway greeting those who timidly entered. As the numbers rose so did his spirits. He was happy for Kirsty and her father, knowing how they longed for the success of this new challenge.

As folk appeared, Malcolm mentally categorised them.

Those without hope or homes – they’d come for warmth and succour with little thought for religion.

Those who were lonely and sought the company of others.

Those who were staunch worshippers and believers, clasping well-worn psalters.

Then, and this puzzled him, there were those who seemed out of place. Men mostly, well-dressed and quietly spoken.

At the Grassmarket Mission house which he and his family had attended, there had regularly been ten or twelve of such people. They would sit together, talk quietly among themselves during suppers and act respectfully towards all around them.

Once, Malcolm had voiced his puzzlement to his father.

“They are model worshippers,’ he’d said, “but they seem false, as if they’re here under some pretence.’

His father had airily dismissed his doubts.

“Many answer the Lord’s call and varied are their reasons for so doing. Let’s leave judgement of their intent to he who knows all,” he’d intoned solemnly.

Malcolm tiptoed to the door of the meeting room and studied the seated worshippers. He spotted at least a dozen “strange ones”, as he’d come to call them, seated in groups of two or three. Occasionally an almost imperceptible nod, a sign of recognition, would pass between them.

“Odd,” he murmured. “Very odd.”

Promptly on the hour, Duncan McAllan entered the meeting hall, gratified at the numbers which had swelled to nearly seventy, many of whom had to stand. He made his way, psalter and bible in hand, to the lectern. He bowed his head in silent prayer, and when he raised his eyes Kirsty and Alison had entered at the rear of the room. The girls had removed their aprons, and now wore simple white dresses which enhanced their youthful beauty.

He gripped the edges of the lectern and spoke in clear ringing tones.

“Welcome, my friends! God and we, his servants, bid you all welcome to this Mission house. May you find peace, comfort, companionship and grace within these walls.”

“Amen to that!” John cried from the back of the room.

Duncan went on to explain that the Mission would be open each evening for worship and supper and that shortly, with God’s help, resources would be such that food could also be supplied each noon for the poor and needy.

Duncan felt his audience warming to him and he was encouraged by the occasional smiles and nods.

“Now let us join together in singing that old psalm, number thirty three in the books my young friend Malcolm has passed out among you. ‘Ye Righteous In The Lord Rejoice’.”

He waited, watching as the worshippers turned the pages. Some looked embarrassed and confused and he guessed they couldn’t read.

“Over the years I’ve learned there are many who do not wish to sing,” he said. “Rather they prefer to listen to the words. Rest assured the Lord will not criticise. Feel free to worship as ye wish!

“In this psalm,” he went on, “reference is made to ‘a ten-string’d instrument making sweet melody.’ Well, my friends, we have a multi-stringed instrument.” He pointed at the spinet and Alison taking her seat at it. “It will, I’m sure, render a sweet melody indeed through the skilful fingers of Miss Alison Porteous, who will accompany us as we sing.”

Alison played a short introduction. At Duncan’s signal the worshippers rose to their feet and began to sing. At first their voices were faint and faltering but, with growing confidence, the singing grew louder and more melodic.

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.