The Life We Choose – Episode 63

Bunty regarded the chaos of her room with a deep sigh.

Her bed was unmade, the fire unlit and the small table in the window embrasure was littered with the household accounts. She sighed again as she gathered up a sheaf of papers from the carpet. As she’d slammed the door behind her, the draught created had blown half of her paperwork off the table. Her accounts were now all mixed up. A bit like her life, she reflected grimly, gathering up the papers.

Downstairs, the house was silent. Bunty knew that it was the calm before the storm. The housekeeper Mrs Goudie had threatened to hand in her notice, was refusing to prepare any more elaborate dinners and was deliberately letting the fire in the big kitchen range go out just to drive home her complaint.

Giles and new employee Tricky Binnie had forged an unlikely alliance and could be found drinking tea together in the library when taking a break from making lists of suggested improvements to the house.

Sighing at the thought of it all, Bunty sank down on the bed and read again the letter she’d received that very morning. It was from her brother, the colonel. He and his wife Fleur were on their way home, their arrival imminent.

“Giles,” she said aloud as she crammed the letter back into her pocket.

It was all Giles’s fault. He had upset the balance of the house, made a favourite of Tricky and had to be despatched back to Edinburgh before the travellers returned.

Strengthened by a sudden sense of urgency, Bunty abandoned her accounts and went downstairs.

Her usual good temper having deserted her, she cut a swathe through the household, from the stables to the drawing-room. Her stentorian tone sent Tricky scuttling back to his duties. The fire in the kitchen range was relit when Mrs Goudie was reminded that she and her husband lived rent-free in a tied cottage, and Giles beat a hasty retreat to the library, taking care to stand on the spot where a hot cinder had burned a hole in Colonel Grant’s special carpet. It didn’t save him.

“If you’re looking for something to do, the dogs need walking,” he was told by Bunty.

Giles gazed adoringly at her. Here was a different Bunty – a warrior queen, he decided, quite lost in admiration.

Back in the kitchen, a little girl was standing just inside the back door. Dark eyes were regarding an irate Mrs Goudie.

“The letter’s no’ for you. It’s for Miss Bunty, Mary Ellen says.”

Less than half an hour later, Bunty Grant was sitting in Mary Ellen Walker’s kitchen, listening to the details of Daniel Morrison’s dismissal and of the Morrisons’ pending eviction.

As the tale unfolded, her expression darkened. She waved away the offer of tea and got up from her chair.

“Would you care to get your coat, Mrs Walker, and to come with me? There’s something that must be done without delay, and I’ll need a witness to that.”

They found Rushforth in the pit office. When challenged by Miss Bunty about Daniel Morrison, he gave an unpleasant laugh.

“A young whipper-snapper, that he is. Troublemaker. Needs put in his place. That’s what I did. Guid riddance.”

There was an ominous silence. Bunty took a step towards him and he glanced uneasily at her.

“An’ I take the decisions when the colonel’s no’ here,” he added smugly.

Bunty took a deep breath.

“Not any more, Rushforth,” she said quietly. “As part owner of this pit, I’ll take a decision that’s long overdue. Get your things together and get out of the manager’s house by the end of the week.”

Rushorth stared at her for what seemed a long time.

He leaned forward, an unpleasant expression on his face.

“If you’re tryin’ to gie me the sack, we’ll see what the colonel has t’say aboot that when he gets back,” he said. “An’ I dinna ken what she’s daein’ here.” He gave a dismissive nod at Mary Ellen.

Miss Bunty took a deep breath.

“Mrs Walker is here to witness the fact that I have just sacked you, giving you a week’s notice. You can collect your letter of dismissal from this office tomorrow, and I would be obliged if you would not set foot in colliery premises thereafter.”

Rushforth stood there as if rooted to the spot.

“Don’t let me keep you,” was Miss Bunty’s parting shot. “You have packing to do.”

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”.