Third in a sturdy trilogy concerning the fortunes of a Scots mining-and-farming clan, the Stalkers, this stanza begins in 1896 and involves the outbreak of a miner's strike and the arrest of young Neill Stalker for murder in a melee with strikebreakers ('twas an accident). Neill is the bastard son of Drew Stalker, now a successful Edinburgh barrister, who pried loose from his humble origins and left his far-from-humble sisters Mirran and Kate (Kate was gifted with newborn nephew Neill long ago). Secure in the social whirl of Edinburgh, Drew, who has never bothered to set eyes on Neill, keeps uneasy watch over yet another sister, Elizabeth, who married wealth but boasts of affairs. Suddenly, the arrest of Neill churns up all these folks and brings on a welter of problems. To everyone's amazement, Drew undertakes Neill's defense, albeit for all the wrong reasons, while the rural Stalkers peripherally work through: Mirran's old flame; Mirran's husband Tom's encroaching blindness; a humiliating affair for Elizabeth; and financial chicanery involving the mine. A fair boodle is going on, in fact, in this gossipy mÃ‰lange of town and country: high-life abounding, but also much kitchen talk and clanking of milk pails.