The Life We Choose – Episode 32

The back door banged just as Bunty had got to her feet and was taking her leave. Daniel put his begrimed face round the kitchen door.

“I’ll just get shifted, love,” he began. “Bit o’ a mess, though. Workin’ in water the day. No’ a sign o’ Rushforth.” His voice, roughened with pent-up anger, tailed off as he caught sight of Bunty.

“Miss Bunty . . .” was all he could manage.

Sarah stood, unsure, between her husband and her visitor. Bunty Grant took charge of the situation. Sitting down again, she spoke firmly.

“Working in water? Now I’ve no wish to impose on you both, but I’d like to hear more about this.

“Take your time, Daniel,” she added. “Get out of those wet clothes and take care not to track dirt into your wife’s lovely sitting-room, or you’ll be in trouble.”

Her lighthearted tone helped things along, although she waved away an offer of more tea from Sarah, who looked more than a little flustered.

At last, when Daniel sat down opposite Bunty, his face pallid against the white of his best shirt, his eyes still rimed in coal dust, she saw a young man filled with anger that was pushing its way past fatigue.

Sarah, in the scullery, struggling with a pile of wet working clothes, could hear the rise and fall of the conversation, quiet at first, then infused with anger as Daniel’s voice rose. Alarmed, she slipped back into the room and listened.

“That seam’s not safe,” Daniel was saying. “Two roof falls in the last week, and now the water. But there’s plenty of coal there and Rushforth wants it. It’s not safe, though. The older men have told him, but all they get is threats by return. Conditions down there are no’ fit for man nor beast. I’m tellin’ you, Miss Bunty, even the old stagers who’ve seen most things down the pit in their time are frightened for their lives when they start their shift.”

Bunty listened intently, impressed by Daniel’s knowledge of the network of tunnels that made up Langrigg pit. For her, this was a revelation. This was not the handsome, laughing boy who had stolen away Master Ogilvie’s pretty daughter. This was a man who could lead others, who could put into words what they felt but could not express. There was intensity in his dark-eyed gaze, power in the way he spoke.

“There’s talk of a meeting,” Daniel said.

“The colonel will be home soon,” Bunty said, alarmed, playing for time. “And in the meantime the matter will be taken in hand. I will speak to Rushforth.” But as she said the words, Bunty suddenly knew why Rushforth was keeping out of her way.

Riding away from Langrigg, she startled the bay by urging him into a gallop. She had to write a letter and send it to Venice without delay.

*  *  *  *

After the excitement of Miss Bunty’s visit, it was something of a relief to Sarah to get back to normality. Daniel seemed suddenly preoccupied and a little tired. The two of them ate their much-delayed meal in something approaching silence.

Sarah turned over in her mind the image of the different Daniel she had seen that afternoon – a man with a commanding presence, his voice sounding loud in the little room. She felt a sudden chill creep round her heart.

This was Daniel Morrison, son of a known agitator – a man with the power to make others rise up in rebellion against their employers. Was he truly his father’s son? And if he was, would their plans collapse into ruin? She had to say something.

“Daniel . . .” Sarah leaned forward and took his hand. “Please step back from all this trouble at the pit.”

He shook off her hand and stood up so suddenly that his chair was upended behind him.

Dark eyes fixed her in their gaze.

“I’m already involved,” he said. “I’m a miner.”

She knew then, with sinking heart, that nothing would stop him.

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”.