The Life We Choose – Episode 03

Sarah’s father was rather startled, but managed to make an apology for not having answered Mary Ellen’s letter. Sarah tried to ease the formality of the situation by offering tea to the visitor. Her offer was accepted and when Sarah came back into the room, bearing a tea tray, Mrs Walker had unbuttoned her coat and placed her handbag on the floor beside her chair.

“I’ve just been telling Master Ogilvie about the bairns that canna get up here to the school, especially in the wintertime. The walk’s too long in bad weather an’ it’s too long at any time o’ the year for the wee anes. Langrigg’s a fair step away.”

Sarah’s father looked mildly annoyed.

“I really can’t make it my business, Mrs Walker. The only answer to that particular problem is to open a school in Langrigg, and my position is here.”

“D’you think it’s right for bairns to go uneducated an’ no’ lift a finger t’help them?”

“It’s not right, Mrs Walker. I just wish I could do something to help.”

Mary Ellen leaned forward.

“You can help, Master Ogilvie. I have the makin’s o’ a schoolroom for the wee bairns down at Langrigg. Miss Ogilvie here kens what’s needed t’teach them. If she’s willin’, she could come and –”

Master Ogilvie held up his hand.

“My daughter is a pupil teacher here, Mrs Walker. She will be busy with her own studies over the holidays, and her household duties, too, of course.”

“Then I’ll no’ take up your time, Master Ogilvie.” Mary Ellen’s voice held a trace of contempt. She gathered up her handbag. “I’ll be on my way, for it’s a long walk back to Langrigg. Mebbe I was foolish to think that the walk a’ the way up here would be worth it.”

She stood up, unsmiling. Sarah’s father stood up, too, looking suddenly uncertain.

“Wait,” Sarah began. “I’d like to help, Mrs Walker.” She turned to her father. “I could at least go over to Langrigg and see what’s available for a schoolroom.”

“It’s an empty house in the Back Raw.” Mary Ellen managed the ghost of a smile. “An’ it’ll no’ stay empty for ever, if ye know what I mean.”

Master Ogilvie held up a restraining hand.

“You might provide a schoolroom, but who will teach the little ones?” He glanced at Sarah.

“I’ll teach them if there’s nothin’ else for it,” was Mary Ellen’s answer.

She looked at Sarah.

“I’m a fast learner, Miss Ogilvie.” She smiled for the first time. “If you can spare the time to tell me what t’do, I’ll give the bairns some learnin’.”

Master Ogilvie sat down, knowing that this formidable woman had somehow achieved her purpose. He gave an almost imperceptible nod to Sarah.

“That seems to be a reasonable arrangement,” he admitted.

As the visitor took her leave, she thanked Sarah for the tea and wrote her address on a slip of paper.

“Thank you, Miss Ogilvie. Come to my house an’ I’ll show you where the schoolroom’s goin’ to be. And if you can find time to write down a few wee instructions about teachin’ the bairns their letters and numbers, it’ll give me a start.”

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.