The Life We Choose – Episode 26

Daniel, out of working clothes and shirt-sleeved, was stirring a pot on the range.

“Mary Ellen’s mutton stew,” he announced, before enveloping Sarah in a hug.

“I’ve peeled the potatoes,” he murmured into her ear.

Sarah laughed.

“Whispering about potatoes. Is that what they call sweet nothings, Daniel Morrison?”

At last they sat down to eat.

“Sarah,” Daniel began seriously. “We’ll have to get smaller plates or a bigger table.”

The two of them were still laughing when they heard the sound of the pony and trap.

“It’s Jess.” Sarah flew to the door. “She promised to come once we were settled in, but . . .” Her voice petered out as she opened the door to a flustered Jess, who took her hands, her expression grave.

“Sarah, you have a visitor. She came up to the farm a wee while since. I had no chance to warn you and . . .”

Behind her a woman with greying hair and a severe expression stood unsmiling. She was dressed in black.

“Aunt Bertha.” Sarah, pale with shock, stepped back. Daniel’s arms encircled her waist, holding her fast.

The other looked at her for a moment, still unsmiling.

“I expect you know why I’ve come here, Sarah,” she said.

Sarah shrank back into Daniel’s arms.

* * * *

His left arm encircling Sarah’s waist, Daniel extended his right hand.
“Sarah is now Sarah Morrison, my wife,” he said politely but firmly. “And you are very welcome in our home. Please come in.” At that, he felt Sarah relax.

With a curt nod of acknowledgement, Bertha Ogilvie stepped over the threshold. Behind her, Jess, Sarah’s friend, hesitated, looking flustered.

“Come away in, Jess,” Daniel continued while Sarah began to recover her composure.

Jess hesitated.

“But if it’s family business . . .” she began, her cheeks flushing.

Sarah reached out and drew her over the threshold.

“If it’s family business, you’re not out of place, Jess. To both of us, you’re family.”

After a little fussing, Jess agreed to wait in the bedroom while Daniel took Bertha’s coat and drew a chair for her nearer to the fire. He settled himself in the chair opposite.

“Come and sit by me, Sarah.” Again, his arm encircled her waist. There was a small silence as Bertha’s critical gaze swept round the room.

“It’s small, but we’ve made it cosy,” Daniel went on. “And we have another room. It’s big enough for the two of us, but we have plans for the future, Miss Ogilvie.” There was no reply from Bertha, but the slightest of nods which hinted at approval.

“Of course, you must realise that all of this was a great shock to your father and me. In fact, it was out of concern for him that I made the journey from Edinburgh today,” Bertha said.

“Is he ill?” Sarah leaned forward anxiously.

Bertha Ogilvie took a moment or two to choose her words, staring into the fire as she did so.

“Your father is a man of few words, Sarah,” she said at last. “And his words have become even fewer of late. He spends much of his time staring out of the window and would seem to have given up any thought of securing a teaching position in the city. Several times, I have caught him rereading your letter to him. I have begged him to reply to it, but he refuses to discuss the matter.”

At that, her voice began to quiver slightly and she stopped speaking. Daniel could feel Sarah tremble and, glancing at her, saw her eyes were tear-filled.

“I am glad, then, that you came today, Miss Ogilvie,” he said, giving his wife a reassuring squeeze. “Because if you return to give our news to Master Ogilvie it will allow him to take a step forward. He will be more content in his mind. When the time is right Sarah and I will come to Edinburgh to meet with him. Late in the day as it is, I would like to seek his approval.”

Bertha Ogilvie looked doubtful.

There was a pause, and for the first time that afternoon, she smiled.

“I had almost forgotten the eagerness of the very young,” she murmured to no-one in particular.

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”.