The Schoolmaster’s Daughter — Episode 02

BY the time she’d reached the end of the street, Louisa had delivered all of the leaflets and secured many pledges of contributions.

A job well done, she told herself. She fastened the shoulder cape on her coat tightly against the biting wind and headed home.

It had been a long, harsh winter and spring seemed slow in coming. How she longed for a warm summer and hoped the Golden Jubilee in June would be blessed with sunshine.

Louisa was thrilled to be playing her small part in the celebrations being planned in towns across the land. She marvelled at the fact that, when Queen Victoria came to the throne fifty years earlier in 1837, she had been just eighteen, the same age that Louisa was now.

Taking the gravel path that led through the graveyard – her usual shortcut – Louisa found herself wondering how old George Jevcott might be.

His voice had a quiet maturity and he was physically strong but at the same time he seemed vulnerable. Why did Mr Knibb treat him so badly?

Still thinking about George, Louisa didn’t notice the puddles that lay on the ground as she crossed in front of the church, nor the mud that splattered her skirt.

Reaching the schoolhouse, she bounded up the steps and through the front door, forgetting to wipe her boots until a stern voice stopped her in her tracks.

“Louisa, feet!”

“Sorry, Aunt Charlotte,” Louisa said, throwing off her coat.

The stout older woman gestured to her to slow down.

“Your father is working in his study.”

When Aunt Charlotte went to the kitchen to talk to Cook, Louisa tapped softly on the study door.

“Come in.”

Edward Marchington was pleased to see it was his eldest daughter who entered the room. He was sitting at his desk, his spectacles perched on his nose. His headmaster’s gown and mortarboard were hanging on a peg.

“Tell me about your morning, Louisa. Are the women and girls of our town keen to honour their Queen? Will the merchants’ wives give willingly from the profits they make regardless of their customers’ ability to pay?”

Louisa smiled as she sat down beside her father.

“I have a whole streetful of pledges, from the bakery at one end to the haberdashery at the other.”

She longed to tell him more about her visit to the bakery but, kind man though her father was, she knew that would be unseemly.

She would confide in her sister Edith later. Instead, she looked over the papers on the desk.

“And what of the men of this town?” Louisa asked playfully. “What will their contribution be?”

Edward leaned back in his chair, used to his daughter’s teasing.

“At last night’s committee meeting we agreed to provide a treat for all the schoolchildren and the aged poor. We’ll be inviting subscriptions to cover the cost and will ask local tradespeople to provide the catering. We were thinking of a meal of cooked beef with various accompaniments. It will take a good deal of planning but if everyone pulls together, it is sure to be grand.”

“What a wonderful idea!” Louisa said, clapping her hands. “With you involved, Papa, I’m sure it will be a great success. Oh, I’m so glad we came to live here.”

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!