The Glens of Stone – Episode 01

Elgol, Skye, 1723

Oblivious of the storm raging outside, the tall, stooped man rose from the bedside and turned to face the two onlookers.

He took the hand of the woman lying motionless in the bed.

“I don’t hold out much hope. What happens next is in God’s hands.”

The watchers, anxious-looking women approaching middle age, pursed their lips.

“Bless you anyway, Doctor, you did your best for the poor lass.”

“Aye, maybe so,” the doctor replied. “Few women would survive such a birth.”

A whimper was heard from the ornate crib standing in the corner of the room.

“I’m surprised the mother’s hung on to life these two days. She has a strong constitution.”

He made ready to leave.

“I can call again tomorrow?”

The women looked at each other.

“No need, Doctor,” one said hastily. “We’re trained birth-wives.”

“As you wish.”

Closely followed by one of the women, the doctor made his way down the steep, winding stairs. Opening the door, he recoiled as a blast of icy wind and hail blew in.

“Good night to you,” he said, and disappeared into the darkness.

Closing the door firmly, the woman turned and then nearly jumped out of her skin as a figure stalked towards her in the gloomy corridor – that of a man, medium-sized, burly, hook-nosed and heavily bearded to hide numerous pockmarks.

“Lord save us, Mr McLean!” she cried. “You near frightened me out ma wits!”

Thomas McLean scowled.

“That’s the doctor away?”

“Aye, and he’ll no’ be back, either.”

“Did you pay him for his services?”

“Of course, Mr McLean, just as you said.”

“Good. I take it the bairn survived the birth?” He waved a dismissive hand. “Not that it matters. No-one cares.” He yawned loudly. “I’m away to ma bed, for I’ve much to attend to when day breaks. In the meantime, you and Meg know what to do – what you’ve been well paid for.”

“We know what’s to be done, Mr McLean, never fear.”

“I’ll be leaving at dawn, so make sure I have no cause for concern.”

With a final glare he stumped off down the corridor.

The woman sighed and made her way upstairs to join her companion. Together they stood in silence, looking into the crib.

“Did you tell him, Ann?” one said at last.

“I tried, Meg, but he wasn’t interested. No-one cares, he says.”

Meg shook her head.

“A cold-hearted wretch he is.”

“Aye, he is that,” her companion said.

In the cold moonlight the two women left the farmhouse, carrying the crib between them by its brass handles. Slowly they made their way through bracken and sodden grass, frequently lowering their heavy burden and pausing for breath until they reached the cliff-top.

They looked down at the thundering, foaming waters of Loch Scavaig lashing the rocks far below. Moments later, as if by some prearranged signal, they grasped the crib’s handles more firmly. Slowly they swung it to and fro between them until, almost reluctantly, their eyes met.

“Now,” one mouthed.

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.