The Life We Choose – Episode 42

In her heart, Sarah knew what he was going to say. At the fireside, she shrugged away from him and sat in the chair facing him while he spoke.

“It’s all come to a head,” Daniel said. “The poor wages, the bad conditions, Rushforth’s threats. The men have had enough. Now, it’s all or nothing.”

As he spoke, his voice rose, colour seemed to flood into his face. He got to his feet, his arm raised as he spoke.

“Rushforth’s a coward, Sarah. A bully. And like any bully, he thinks that threats will work. But we’ll show him. Left to me, there’ll be no more laddies like Jackie, no more fellows like Josh Makin, lookin’ for overtime to feed his pack o’ bairns when the man’s exhausted as it is.”

Sarah remained silent. She had never seen her Daniel like this. Angry, excited, aflame with emotion. Inwardly, she was shaking with the beginnings of fear.

“He’s banned meetings, has he? Well, there’ll be a meeting tonight.” Daniel’s voice had risen. “And they’ve asked me to act as their leader. Which I will be honoured to do.”

Sarah knew then that he was in a place where she could not reach him, a place that had once been occupied by Geraint Morrison.

“And what will you say to them, Daniel?” Sarah’s voice was quiet.

“I’m calling a strike,” was the answer, as Daniel Morrison glanced at the clock on the mantlepiece and picked up his jacket and his boots.

Sarah fought to find her voice.

“But meetings are banned on pit premises, Daniel. Do you want to have us put out of house and home?”

He gave a short laugh.

“The meeting’s no’ on pit premises. It’s in the barn up at Main’s farm,” he said. “We’re no’ without friends.”

Sarah knew then that nothing she could say would stop him. At the door, he turned.

“Will you wish me, luck, Sarah?”

She didn’t reply, and he turned away.

Sarah tried to collect her wits, shivering slightly despite the heat in the room. Then, grabbing her shawl, she fled out of the house, leaving the front door open, and presented herself, breathless, in Mary Ellen’s kitchen.

“Where’s this meeting, lass?” she said, taking off her apron as she spoke.

Sarah told her.

Mary Ellen took her coat from the peg behind the door and struggled into it.

“Come wi’ me,” she said, her voice grim. “You an’ me are goin’ to Main’s farm.”

* * * *

Pate was drowsing in his chair as Mary Ellen came into the kitchen. The fire had burned low and only one lamp shone in the corner. With a sigh of sheer weariness, she sank into a chair without taking off her coat and sat there, unwinding a shawl that was soaked through from her head and shoulders. For a moment she drank in the silence, and from it began to gather her strength.

“You’d best get that wet coat off or you’ll catch your death o’ cold.” Pate’s voice made her start.

“Just gie me a minute or two to gather mysel’ up, Pate.”

Her voice was weary as she stared into the remains of the fire. Pate had never seen her like this but stayed silent. Only when she had removed her coat and boots and began to busy herself bringing the fire back into life did he dare to speak.

“What happened at the meetin’?” he asked.

Mary Ellen turned to him with a weary smile.

“We stopped a strike, young Sarah and me. It was hard. Daniel was speakin’ to the men when we got there, and he was makin’ a guid job o’ it. He had them in the palm o’ his hand. They would ha’ followed him anywhere, and he was goin’ to take a vote, so I had to have ma say.”

“You interrupted the meetin’?”

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”.