The Life We Choose – Episode 08

It was hard work and the mining village seemed a grey and noisy place, but Sarah seemed to light up with pleasure and anticipation as she approached it.

Master Ogilvie had said he had much to do and couldn’t go there to help. He added that Sarah could not be permitted to go alone, so Jess had become her friend’s companion and helper.

Once or twice, Sandy had complained that he was having to live on love instead of a nice hot dinner when he came back in from the fields. She blushed at the thought.

When the last of the baking was safely in the oven, and Jess had helped with the clearing up, the three of them settled down to a welcome cup of tea and the conversation turned to the schoolroom at Langrigg.

Again Jess saw the change in Sarah as she spoke of the place and the people. Her eyes sparkled as she told of the progress that had been made, the miners who had helped set to rights the run-down little house in the Raws, of Mary Ellen and Pate, with his pithy sayings.

“Daniel Morrison came by a few times to help as well,” Jess prattled on.

Sarah flushed slightly.

“My, it’s warm in here,” she said brightly.

Mrs Brodie rose to open the kitchen door and the talk turned to the curtains she had promised to give Sarah for the new schoolroom.

“They’ll keep out the draughts. It’ll be a cold corner in the wintertime,” Mrs Brodie said.

Sarah glanced at the clock.

“You’ll have to excuse me. Father wants me home early, and I’ve been enjoying myself so much that I quite lost track of time.”

“Wait a wee minute,” Jess’s mother said. “I’ve baked two caraway seed cakes, so that you can take one home to your father. The master’s aye been partial to a bit o’ caraway seed cake.”

Amid the flurry of farewells that followed, Sarah was instructed to come back to
Mrs Brodie’s very soon, and that she had been away far too long.

Jess hurriedly put on her shoes and gathered up her basket, putting the cake on the top.

“Wait, Sarah,” Jess said. “I’ll walk part of the way with you. I can cut across to the top field and meet Sandy. Give him a nice surprise.” She smiled at the thought.

“You’d give him a better surprise if you were home and had his tea ready,” her mother said, trying to sound severe.

Jess giggled a little and blushed.

* * * *

As they made their way across the fields, Jess glanced anxiously at her friend, hoping for a chance to discuss the letters she’d mentioned earlier that day. She’d spoken of them as she and Jess had made their way back from Langrigg, and as she did, the light had gone out of her eyes all of a sudden.

Jess had been puzzled. Two letters from her aunt Bertha in one week, and one official-looking one which would likely be school business – there was nothing strange about that, Jess reflected. The master’s sister, Bertha, was a bit distant, right enough, and Jess had always avoided her on her visits. Maybe Sarah was worried in case her aunt wanted to come to stay for a while. And she knew that Master Ogilvie regularly got official letters about school business.

As she made her way to meet Sandy, Jess recalled what he’d told her about Daniel after they’d met at the Gowan Fair.

“He’s a bit of a mystery man,” Sandy had said. “Came looking for work on our farm a while back. Helped at the harvest, then got a job down the pit at Langrigg. Turned the heads o’ the girls that work in the dairy, but he paid no heed to that. A deep fellow, Daniel Morrison. Keeps himself to himself.”

Jess thought again of the Gowan Fair. Daniel, the man who kept himself to himself, had paid great attention to Sarah.

“That must have been the start of it,” she said aloud.

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”.