The Glens of Stone – Episode 31

August was no cooler than July had been and the man who made his way to the Canongate Mission House mopped his brow and cursed the heavy, sombre garments he was wearing.

At the door he paused, then reached for the solid iron knocker. In response to its distinct raps, there came measured footsteps and the door was opened by Duncan McAllan.

“Good morning to you, sir,” the man announced. “Would I be addressing Mr McAllan?”

“Indeed you would,” Duncan replied, “but if you come as a worshipper I should advise you that the Mission service is not until this evening, though there will be bread and soup at midday.”

The man shook his head.

“I come on other matters. My name is Josiah Davidson. May I offer you my card?”

Curious, Duncan peered at it.

“A lawyer. What would bring a man such as yourself to see me? I take it you do not seek pastoral care?”

“Alas, no, Mr McAllan. The Lord and I are not exactly on good terms.”

“Sad words, sir. You need only hold out your hand and he’ll take it.”

Duncan ushered the man indoors, noticing he walked with a pronounced limp. He led the visitor to a room off the meeting hall and bade him be seated.

“Before we start, may I offer you something cool to drink? Milk, perhaps, or water?”

“Thank you, but I am pressed for time. I come on a somewhat strange errand, at the instigation of a client who wishes to remain anonymous.” Steepling his fingers, Davidson coughed. “You are a widower, I believe?”

Duncan nodded.

“Aye. My dear wife Elizabeth went to the Lord’s keeping many years ago.”

“My condolences, sir. And your daughter?”

“Kirsty? What of her, Mr Davidson?”

“She is the lawful issue of your union?”

The old man rose to his feet, his face reddening.

“I regard this intrusion into my affairs as impertinence, sir.”

“I am sorry, but I regard your reticence as strange, so humour me, Mr McAllan. Is she your daughter?”

Duncan licked his lips.

“I think you already know the answer to that question.” The old man hung his head, his fingers resting on a large Bible on the desk. “No, Kirsty is not my own daughter, though I have always treated her as such.”

The lawyer nodded.

“My late wife was a widow when I married her. Kirsty was born to her and her first husband.” Duncan turned his face to the window. “I loved my late wife in my youth, but her father would not countenance her marriage to a man intent on becoming an impoverished pastor. So she married another. Years later I learned of her widowhood and courted her anew. She consented, the more so because I assured her of my love for the babe, Kirsty. I promised to be a good father to her.”

Davidson inclined his head, smiling.

“Who better than a man of God to be charged with a child’s wellbeing? You’ve brought the lass up well. She’s a delightful girl. Lovely voice, too.”

“You know her?” Duncan asked in surprise.

“Oh, yes,” the reply came. “I’ve seen and heard her, too, Mr McAllan.”

“Would that my wife had lived to see her as she is today,” Duncan murmured, then, intrigued, he probed. “Where . . .?”

“It is of no importance.” Delving into an inside pocket, the lawyer produced a sheaf of papers. “Is the girl on the premises at present?”

“She is. But Kirsty is unaware of the situation, sir,” Duncan said, alarmed. “She believes I am her real parent. I have promised myself that one day I’ll acquaint her with the true position but –”

“Ah, how often I have heard of such promises, sir. The fact that they are seldom carried out results in much work for those of my profession.” Davidson gave a contented sigh. “May I see the girl alone? Rest assured I will mention nothing of our conversation, sir. All I require is her signature.”

“As you will.” Duncan left the room and returned a few minutes later with Kirsty. He introduced her to the lawyer, then took his leave, his mind troubled. What business had Davidson with her?

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.