The Glens of Stone – Episode 18

Ewan Ogilvie carefully locked his upstairs room in the Sheep Heid Inn and made his way down the rickety stairs, past the main bar room from which sounds of revelry filled the air.

At the outside door he paused, taking a clay pipe of French design from a pocket and lighting it. Puffing contentedly he stepped into the night and walked past the old Norman kirk down to the moonlit waters of Duddingston Loch.

Beneath his feet many white protuberances lay half-buried in the road – sheep skulls embedded as stepping stones for the villagers to use when heavy rain turned the paths into a quagmire.

Within the last two days Ewan had furthered the causes for which he was responsible. He congratulated himself on a job well done and wondered what further tasks lay before him.

The path became steeper as he climbed to the rocky promontory known as Hangman’s Rock from which, legend had it, a former city executioner had hurled himself to his death during a fit of remorse.

At last he stood at the rock’s edge looking down at the water far below. A lone owl flitted across the surface and behind him, on the towering mass of Arthur’s Seat, came the occasional grunts and snuffles of nocturnal animals foraging for food.

He tapped the embers from his pipe and replaced it in his pocket. Then, from his belt pouch, he pulled out a length of white material, part of his disguise as the Reverend Proudfoot. He rolled it into a ball and hurled it into the air. As it fell it unravelled and fluttered, a snake-like ribbon, down to the cold, rippling surface of the loch.

He stood for a while more, then turned and retraced his steps to the village whistling quietly to himself, a satisfied smile on his face.

* * * *

Edinburgh baked in the warm, humid July weather. The streets and wynds lacked their usual bustle as the citizens sat on the numerous outside stairways, fanning themselves in a vain attempt to remain cool and dissipate the foul smell of the heaps of rotten garbage that littered the walkways.

Gingerly Kirsty sidestepped the piles of refuse, a large basket on her arm and accompanied by Ellie. The Mission had been functioning well for three months now and the two girls were on their daily shopping round. A strong bond of friendship had grown between them.

Arriving at the baker’s shop Ellie waited while Kirsty went in to emerge with her basket laden with loaves covered with a cloth to protect them from the flies.

“What next?” Ellie asked.

“Just a few potatoes then it’s back to the kitchen. I hope Alison hasn’t gone off again – we need a third pair of hands.”

“You think she’s gone off with her young man again, don’t you?” Ellie suggested. “Sandy’s a gem. So devout and interested in the Mission.”

“And I wish them both well, but she’s aye away when she’s supposed to be helping out.”

“That’s what love does for you,” Ellie said. “There’s them as say it’s a form of madness.” Looking slyly at Kirsty she added softly, “Though it hasn’t affected you that way. We’ve all noticed the way you and young Mr Porteous look at each other.”

“Malcolm and I? There’s nothing between us. Oh, he’s nice enough, and we’re close friends, but . . .” Kirsty fought for words of explanation.

Cocking an eyebrow, Ellie smiled.

“Lassie, as Shakespeare wrote, ‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks’.”

Kirsty looked at her in surprise.

“My, but you’re well read for a . . .”

“For a kitchen maid?” Ellie asked archly. “I may have been a foundling but God gave me a brain and I try to use it.”

“I’m sure you do,” Kirsty said softly. “Father says you’ve a good head on your shoulders and it’s true.”

Ellie made no reply but Kirsty saw she looked pleased. Together the girls walked up the street with Kirsty deep in thought. Was the mutual attraction shared by her and Malcolm so obvious? And did she care what others might be thinking? Deep down she knew she didn’t. Truth to tell, she was secretly delighted.

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.