The Glens of Stone – Episode 22

Gently Malcolm tapped at the door of the girls’ bedroom on the upper floor of the Mission.

“Kirsty, there’s a messenger downstairs – a maidservant. She has a letter for you.”

The door opened and Kirsty appeared, sleepy-eyed and dishevelled.

“I was having a lie-down,” she said, stifling a yawn. “A letter, you say?”

“Aye. Your father’s close to bursting with curiosity.”

Her father was pacing to and fro.

“At last,” he said when he saw her. Beckoning to a young woman standing nearby, he smiled. “Miss Forbes – my daughter, Kirsty.”

The girl held out a letter.

“Jean Forbes,” she said by way of introduction. “I have this for you from my mistress, Lady Catherine Gray.”

Kirsty broke the seal and extracted the letter. While she read the contents Alison walked into the hall and joined the group.

“It’s an invitation!” Kirsty exclaimed. “Lady Catherine Gray requests my company, and yours, too, Alison, at a soirée next week, the twenty-sixth of July. It seems we are to provide the musical entertainment for her guests!” Astonished, she looked at her father. “I don’t know her Ladyship!”

“But she knows of you, miss,” Jean Forbes put in. “Many are talking of your talents. And those of Miss Porteous,” she added.

Alison took the letter and scanned it quickly.

“It seems in order,” she said, and Jean Forbes looked affronted.

“Of course it is! Lady Catherine’s soirées are the talk of the city. It’s a privilege tae be invited. Next week’s gathering is in honour of the castle commander, General Guest.”

Malcolm whistled in surprise.

“Well, ladies, it seems the pair of you are much thought of in high circles.”

“We can’t possibly go,” Kirsty argued. “We’re needed here.”

“Nonsense!” Duncan McAllan protested. “The Mission will survive for one night without your services. You and Alison must attend this occasion.”

“Of course you should,” Malcolm agreed. “Please tell your mistress that Miss McAllan and Miss Porteous will be honoured to provide entertainment,” he told Jean.

“Well, I never,” Duncan said when Jean had gone.

Alison looked at Kirsty.

“I suggest we practise our repertoire,” she said, and made for the meeting-room to rummage through the music piled beside the spinet. “Purcell, of course,” she muttered, “and perhaps I could play something by Signor Vivaldi . . .”

Somewhat bemused by the turn of events, Kirsty shrugged. At least the invitation had excited Alison, she thought. Perhaps now she would be more friendly?

* * * *

Malcolm scratched his chin thoughtfully as he sat at supper after the evening’s service. He was alone at a table, Kirsty having gone to join Alison for further practice.

He was watching the dozen or so people who’d been at the service earlier in pairs or threesomes and who now sat at adjacent tables.

The strange ones, as he thought of them, though they bothered no-one, spoke in soft tones and attended regularly three nights each week.

Malcolm was wishing he could hear what they were discussing when his father appeared in the doorway.

Realising that the two men at the next table were hiding him from his father’s view, Malcolm made to wave to attract his attention, but some impulse made him stay his hand.

His father scanned the room, then joined some of the group Malcolm had been studying. Porteous wished them all good evening in his usual loud, booming tones, asking if they had enjoyed the service.

Nothing unusual there. Malcolm relaxed. But then, as he was about to leave, he noticed his father surreptitiously slipping a piece of paper to the man nearest him before he strode away.

The recipient glanced at it, placed it in his pocket, and whispered something to his neighbour. It was repeated to the others, whereupon they began to leave in twos and threes, leaving Malcolm to ponder upon what he’d seen.

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.