The Glens of Stone – Episode 17

The rest of the service proceeded as successfully as the opening moments. Prayers and a short sermon were received with rapt attention and further singing, as Duncan was to say later, “came close to bringing the rafters down.”

A highlight of the service, however, took place near the end when Kirsty sang the twenty-third psalm, accompanied by Alison.

As her pure, clear voice rang through the room the worshippers sat spellbound. Malcolm noted that some of the women were dabbing their eyes.

When they finished there was a brief moment of silence then, with one accord, the assembly rose to their feet and applauded.

The man next to Malcolm turned to him.

“It’s not often you hear handclapping in a place like this,” he said.

“True enough,” Malcolm agreed, “but it’s not often you hear such a lovely voice and such playing, either.” He’d heard his father talk of Kirsty’s singing but this was the first time he’d heard her.

As he watched Kirsty and Alison standing together, he spotted Ellie Chalmers sidling in at the far door. Idly he let his gaze travel between the three girls.

They were all so different in temperament and colouring but they were all most attractive. Once it became known that they were here at the Mission house, the attendance would be such that folk would have to be turned away.

His thoughts were interrupted by the scraping of chairs as the worshippers began to leave for the kitchen. The “strange ones” had come together as a single group but intriguing though he found this, there was nothing sinister about their behaviour.

Later, though, something else nagged at him. Something he’d noticed. But the implications were so ridiculous that he dismissed them immediately. It couldn’t be, he thought, it simply could not be . . .

* * * *

The rider crested the hill and looked across the sun-sparkled River Forth towards the port of Leith and the dark mass of Edinburgh beyond. Another hour or so and his journey would be over.

Wearily he passed a hand across his forehead, feeling every one of his fifty-nine years. He was tired and ached from weeks in the saddle. Not for the first time he toyed with the idea of giving up his mission, but the thought of vengeance could not be banished from his mind.

Had it only been two months since the chance meeting with that raddled old woman in an Aberdeen tavern? She’d recognised him immediately despite his whitened hair and the legacy of too much drink. It was obvious she’d lost her fear of him, too, evidenced by the delight with which she’d narrated her tale of duplicity.

“Let bygones be such,” he’d said carelessly, luring her to the nearby harbour area. There, he’d pushed her into the water where, drunk and befuddled, she’d quickly drowned.

He dug his heels into the horse’s flanks. There were those in Edinburgh who would come to regret their actions. No-one crossed Thomas McLean. Ever.

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.