Christmas Eve dusk falls early as heavy clouds have been gathering all afternoon,Peter closes the curtains and puts another log on the fire, pours himself a large malt and a glass of wine for his wife,he lifts his glass to Jock he says ,to Jock his wife murmurs.
Her mother having died recently Claire was spending Christmas in the village, having no living relatives she had gladly excepted the invitation of an old school friend to spend Christmas with her family in the country,anything was better than spending Christmas alone in the house she had shared with her mother.Claire had many friends and work colleagues but they would all be spending Christmas with their families, Christmas is a lonely time when you are on your own.
Christmas Eve dawned clear and bright a marked contrast to the previous days squally snow showers , and touch of frost at dawn with the result that by mid morning it was a clear sunny day there was even a touch of warmth in the sun especially if you could keep on the move.
Claire's friend Fiona has some family business to attend to that would keep her occupied until late afternoon,so Claire decided she would go for a walk to kill a couple of hours, she had spent the odd weekend here in the past with her friend and they had taken several walks in the glen, she remembered in particular the stunning views from the stalkers path and that's where she headed now.
Claire had been walking for half an hour or so and was on the path that zigzaged its way up the hill above the old ruined shooting lodge,the present estate owners having built a new house in a more accessible part of the glen,suddenly she was abruptly roused from her daydream by a shout
looking up she spotted a tall bearded figure on the path a little way ahead he had a rifle slung on his shoulder and was accompanied by a large dog a deer hound she thought, by his dress she was pretty sure she had encountered the estate stalker,he continued to shout and swear at her telling her she had no right to be there and must go back immediately he carried on this foul, mouthed tirade for some time before abruptly turning his back on her and striding off up the path .
Determined to tell him what she thought of his manners Claire set off in hot pursuit after him, young and fit though she was Claire found that he was drawing further and further ahead of her, until eventually she lost sight of him completely.
Claire was determined that he would not get away with his foul mouthed rant and had made enquiries as to where the estate stalker lived, thus she found herself stood at his cottage door nursing her anger as dusk fell, as soon as her urgent knocking was answered she knew she had made a mistake , this was a much younger man, not nearly so tall,and clean shaven, I have made a mistake Claire stammered I am looking for the tall bearded stalI am the only stalker here these days Peter replied though in times gone past there were three, well she said I met him on the path above the old lodge and he was extremely rude to me.
I think you have had the misfortune to meet auld Jock peter said, he appears to walkers on the stalkers path from time to time come in take a seat and I will tell you all about him.
That's why each Christmas Eve for the past forty odd years Peter and Claire drink a toast to auld Jock because if she had not encountered him on the stalkers path, then she and Peter would have been unlikely to ever meet,