The Schoolmaster’s Daughter — Episode 13

AS the heckling carried on, Edward quickly thanked the speakers for their contributions and asked for a show of hands to see how many wanted the project to go ahead.

The motion was carried by a clear majority.

“Those wishing to put themselves forward to serve on the committee please leave your names at the door.”

There was another shout from the back.

“Shame on you!”

Louisa turned to identify the speaker. He looked a lot like Samuel Cronk.

Thinking of George and his dream of one day being master of his own bakery, she couldn’t help wondering whether Cronk and his cronies might have a point.

But she also knew her father was driven by good intentions and if anyone thought he would be this easily deterred, they clearly didn’t know him as well as she did.

She wasn’t surprised when her father came back from the next meeting and announced that he’d been voted on to yet another committee.

“I’ve been tasked with finding suitable premises,” he added. “I might enquire whether Mr Knibb intends to return to his shop when rebuilding is complete. We’ve already had more than fifty people wishing to become shareholders.”

He rubbed his hands together.

“I feel we’re on the verge of something rather remarkable.”

In the meantime, preparations for the Jubilee celebrations continued. The Town Council was concerned they might not have enough funds to cover the cost of treats for all the children and asked the Townswomen’s Committee to organise a bazaar, which they did.

“Here’s the notice in the newspaper,” Edith said one morning at breakfast, waving the Gazette under Louisa’s nose. She read the notice aloud.

“‘Fancy bazaar in Sunday School with refreshments in the vicarage garden. Entrance one shilling, half price after five o’clock.’”

She lowered the newspaper.

“Oh, I do hope lots of people come. I’ve embroidered so many handkerchiefs and you have your watercolours to sell.”

“We’ll need to set everything up in time,”

Louisa said. “There will be lots to do.”

Edward dabbed his mouth with a napkin.

Then he stood up.

“You’ll have help with the heavy lifting,” he said. “The evening before the bazaar is the Rifle Volunteers’ drill night, so some of the company have agreed to come around and help you set out the tables.”

They were as good as their word. When Louisa and Aunt Charlotte walked into the Sunday School carrying armfuls of starched coverings and velvet drapes, they found the men were already hard at work moving benches, setting up tables and climbing up ladders to hang decorations.

Louisa recognised some of the Volunteers but a recent recruitment drive had swelled their numbers and there were a few new faces.

Her eyes were drawn to the man in the far corner who was staring directly at her. His face was framed with dark curls and she realised with a jolt that it was George.

He looked resplendent in his uniform of dark blue serge trousers with a red stripe down the side, scarlet tunic and leather belt fastened around his waist. What a contrast to their last encounter outside the factory.

When his mouth curled into a smile, making his eyes twinkle, he looked so handsome that Louisa was afraid that she was going to swoon.

She was about to walk towards him when Edith arrived with a drink of lemonade for the men. Putting the jug and glasses down on a table, she scowled.

“Have you seen the embroidered handkerchiefs that Mrs Townsend has donated for the sale? They’re so much nicer than mine. What if nobody buys mine? It will be so embarrassing.”

“I’m sure they will, dear,” Louisa reassured her.

George queued for a drink with the other Volunteers. Louisa waited until he had finished, then held out a wooden sign.

“Please would you be so kind as to help me fasten this to the soft furnishings stall?”

“With pleasure, Miss Marchington.”

When they were out of everyone else’s hearing, Louisa smiled.

“So you’ve joined the Rifle Volunteers after all. Does this mean life is treating you better now, George?”

“I’m still employed at the factory. It isn’t the best job in the world but it pays me a wage and for that I’m grateful.”

“And it suits you, being a Volunteer?”

“At last I feel I’m doing something worthwhile.” George picked up a nail from the table and pretended to examine it closely. “Don’t think this is one I made – it’s far too straight!”

He positioned the sign and attached it to the table. When he turned to look at Louisa, he wore a serious expression.

“Now I feel I can look you in the face.”

“Oh, George,” she said earnestly. “You must know you can always look me in the face.”

Just as he was about to reply, the order was given.

“Riflemen, fall in!”

“Saturday afternoon,” he said quickly. “I’ll be at the stables at Doctor Townsend’s house at four o’clock.

“William, their groom, has been letting me visit Alfie but Mr Knibb is coming soon to take him back. I’m going to see him one last time.”


Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!