- 23. The Glens of Stone – Episode 23
- 24. The Glens of Stone – Episode 24
- 25. The Glens of Stone – Episode 25
- 26. The Glens of Stone – Episode 26
- 27. The Glens of Stone – Episode 27
- 28. The Glens of Stone – Episode 28
- 29. The Glens of Stone – Episode 29
In the act of drying her face Kirsty paused.
“What do you mean, Alison?”
“Just what I said. Not knowing who your parents are is awful.”
Kirsty saw the glint of tears in her eyes.
“Come and sit down,” she urged, and Alison allowed herself to be guided to a chair where she slumped dejectedly, tears flowing.
Kirsty kneeled down and took her hand.
“Do you want to tell me?”
She saw the girl stiffen.
“I’ve never told anyone, but the fact is, I don’t know who my parents are,” Alison finally confided.
“Surely it’s John and Agnes?”
“No. They’ve raised me, but they’re not my real parents.” She turned her head away. “Many years ago, when I was five or six years old – just a few days before you and your father came to visit us at Ardrishaig, remember?”
“I do. That was when I pushed you and Malcolm into the loch.” She frowned. “I can’t remember why, though.”
“I can. It was my fault. I was jealous of you and began to torment you.”
“Jealous of me, a parson’s daughter? But why? What had I that you lacked?”
Alison rose and walked to the window.
“Shortly before you came I overheard Agnes and John talking. They know nothing of this. I was in the box bed and they thought I was asleep.”
She turned to face Kirsty.
“Do you know they get a payment every few months for my upkeep? I’ve seen the banker’s drafts in my father’s – sorry, in John’s bureau.
“That’s what they were talking about that night. The money had been late in arriving and they were struggling to make ends meet. I was just another mouth to feed, another person to clothe.”
Alison dabbed at her eyes.
“John was saying how he wished he’d never agreed to take me but Agnes was telling him to hush and that what they were doing was what good Christians would do.”
“Oh, Alison, I can see how that must have hurt you.”
“Yes, it hurt all right. That night, the next day and every day since.”
“And then you came a few days later with your ‘Father’ this and ‘Father’ that. I cried each night, thinking how dared you have a real father when I hadn’t?”
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. Who have you told apart from me?” Kirsty asked.
“No-one.” Alison made a despairing gesture. “I was going to tell Sandy. I even gave him a hint but the time wasn’t right.”
“Don’t you feel you should be honest and tell the others that you know?” Kirsty was thinking of the Porteous family.
“No. Well, perhaps Ellie some time. She and I have that in common, after all.” Alison gave a hollow laugh. “The bookseller’s ‘daughter’ and the kitchenmaid. Both orphans.”
There was more Kirsty wanted to ask but she was aware of the passing of time.
“Best we get ready. We’ll talk later,” she promised.
She noticed the bedroom door was slightly ajar and when she went to shut it she saw a figure outside in the corridor.
Duncan looked flustered.
“I . . . I was just coming to tell you lassies the chairs should arrive in ten minutes or so,” he stammered.
The old man gave a perfunctory nod and walked away. Watching his retreating figure Kirsty’s thoughts were racing. Had he heard what Alison had said?
* * * *
Downstairs, a few minutes later, John Porteous entered the Mission House by the main door to find Duncan waiting fretfully for him.
“What’s the matter?” he asked Duncan. “Your face is like Samson’s when he found his hair shorn.”
“And so will yours be when I tell you, John. I’ve just –”
A loud knock at the door interrupted him. Frowning, Duncan pulled it open. It was the men with the sedan chair for the girls.
He turned to his old friend.
Then he called for Kirsty and Alison to come down.