The Glens of Stone – Episode 62

Duncan had a faraway look in his eyes as he prepared to confide the mistake that had so nearly ruined his life.

“My mentor was a kindly man eager to guide me along God’s path. Yet I was lonely and wanted the company of those my own age. So one night I found myself in a tavern swilling the Devil’s brews with new-found friends.” Duncan wrung his hands.

“Friends who let me drink myself into oblivion, who robbed me of the little money I had and who left me lying in a wynd near the harbour! There was an English man o’war in the harbour. I woke up aboard it, press-ganged into Naval service.”

“Oh, Father,” Kirsty cried, “you poor man!”

“It wasn’t so bad, though there was a war on – trouble with Spain.” With an air of pride he went on. “I served in the fleet that captured Gibraltar, would you believe it? I was away for near four years, long enough for poor Elizabeth to give me up for lost. I learned later she journeyed often to Dundee to seek news of me, but to no avail.

“In any event, her father had no time for me, since I was not entering a lucrative profession, and he had warned Elizabeth that he would ban our marriage.”

He looked grim.

“When I returned, it was to find Elizabeth married to Jamie Fraser, now the village dominie. My parents had died and there was nothing there for me, so I left the area. I had the good fortune to be befriended by a pastor and learned all I could about the calling.”

“But you saw my mother – Elizabeth – again?” Kirsty asked.

“Yes. God’s will was such that we were to be reunited.”

The room was growing dark as night approached and Duncan rose to light a lamp.

“When I found myself at a Mission in Perth, I travelled north to see her. I found her widowed, and you a mere babe in arms. Poor Jamie had died from a lung infection a few months previously.”

“I was a baby? But my parents had been married for seventeen, eighteen years!”

Duncan nodded.

“Elizabeth confessed she had given up all hope and then to her eternal joy, she said, you came along.” Happier now, his eyes twinkled. “Elizabeth agreed to marry me and we continued to live in Perth. We had but three brief years together before the onset of the illness that took her. But, oh, my dear, they were three of the happiest years of my life.

“It was then that we renewed our friendship with the Porteous family. They had not fared well and their finances were meagre. Then Malcolm had been born – a further drain. Fortunately, John found a position as beadle in his parish kirk which gave them a roof above their heads and a small income. It was then that they were asked if they would take a baby girl into their home.”

“Alison!” Kirsty whispered.

“Aye,” Duncan agreed. “They took the babe in, and the rest you know.”

Thoughtfully, Kirsty ran her fingers over the table top.

“Alison said that she overheard John and Agnes discussing their lack of money and how difficult it was for them to make ends meet.”

“Yet not long after we visited them at Ardrishaig they wrote to tell us they were moving to Edinburgh as John was buying a bookshop there.” Duncan glanced quizzically at Kirsty. “What do you make of that?”

“A reward from someone for their kindness?”

“So it would seem,” he agreed. “Anyhow, they prospered thereafter, and have raised two fine children.”

They sat in thoughtful silence, until Duncan spoke again.

“There’s one more mystery about all of this, though,” he continued. “John once said that he’d been told he and Agnes had been recommended as parents by Jamie Fraser.”

“The man you say was my real father?” Kirsty stared at him.

“So it would appear.” His eyes began to droop. “I’m getting drowsy,” he said, rising to his feet. He looked deep into Kirsty’s eyes. “Am I forgiven?”

“Of course.” She planted a gentle kiss on to his forehead. “You are still my father. You always have been and you always will be.”

Despite having unburdened himself, Duncan still felt uneasy. What he hadn’t told her was how his poor wife, gripped by fever, had wished to tell him something. But she had gone to her Lord before the words had formed . . .

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.