The Life We Choose – Episode 27

The visit became warmer and more cordial from that point on. Refreshment was offered and accepted, and Jess was brought in to share tea and cake with the visitor. Outside, Tricky Binnie had assumed the task of minding Jess’s pony and had rounded up his children to assist him. Mingled shouts of warning and delight made Miss Ogilvie start in alarm at first as they floated into the room and interrupted the conversation, but as Daniel and Sarah embarked on tales of Tricky and his exploits, the visitor permitted herself more than one smile. She noted, with approval, the embroidered tea cloth and the china cups which Sarah set out.

“I’m pleased to see that you’ve kept up standards,” Bertha whispered to her niece when Daniel was occupied in chatting to Jess.

When talk turned to the Wee School, Bertha permitted herself another smile.

“Your father will be pleased to hear that you’re teaching the younger children,” she told Sarah. “He’d be more pleased still to hear that you intend to continue your studies in some form or another,” she added.

There was a pause.

“Sarah’s studies are part of our plan for the future,” Daniel said confidently. “She attends to her books when she can, but there’s little time these days.”

“It won’t always be so, as Daniel says.” Sarah directed a fond gaze at her husband. “Please tell my father that, Aunt Bertha.”

A glance at the clock reminded them all that it was getting late and a flurry of arrangements for Bertha’s return journey began. Daniel insisted that he would drive her to the Junction for the train to Edinburgh.

Bertha Ogilvie hesitated, looking slightly nervous.

“Does the pony know you well enough to do your bidding, Daniel?” she asked as he held her coat.

Jess laughed.

“That pony’s everybody’s friend, as long as they feed him titbits. And Daniel always has something for him in his pocket. They’re the best of friends,” she told the visitor.

There was a catch in Bertha’s voice as she took Sarah’s hands in hers.

“I have news which will cheer your father,” she said. “And I’ll write to you with news of him. That is at least a beginning.”

Sarah felt like throwing her arms round her aunt, but knew that the Ogilvies did not approve of such displays of affection, so she simply nodded.

“Safe journey,” she added as Daniel handed the visitor into the trap.

Indoors, Jess seated herself in a fireside chair while Sarah bustled off to make another pot of tea. As the two settled down, tea poured, lamps lit against the gathering gloom of an approaching evening, Jess gave a sigh of relief.

“I didna know what to expect, Sarah,” she said at last.

“I was worried, too,” Sarah confessed. “But Daniel saved the day, didn’t he?”

Jess nodded.

“Spoke like a gentleman, he did. Could charm the birds out o’ the trees, that Daniel.

“Mind you,” she added after a beat of silence. “That same Daniel could haud his own in the worst o’ tirryvees, if I’m no’ mistaken. A bit like my Sandy,” she added, and the two of them laughed. Then, smiling, Jess began to tell Sarah her much-delayed news.

“Sandy and me’ll be havin’ company afore long,” she began.

Sarah looked at Jess, plump and contented, face rosy with the heat of the fire, and she suddenly knew.

“When?” she asked.

“Come the spring.” Jess jumped up and hugged Sarah. “A bairn for Sandy and me, Sarah. We’ve only told my mother. We’ve saved the news for you and Daniel afore we’d tell anybody else.”

The two of them laughed and cried by turns as they turned the good news over and over again.

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”.