The Schoolmaster’s Daughter — Episode 14

WITH that, George took his place in the line and the company marched back to the Drill Hall.

Was that an invitation, Louisa wondered. The butterflies in her stomach stirred up joyous hope that not even Aunt Charlotte’s look of disapproval could destroy.

The following day the weather was kind and the bazaar was a roaring success. Louisa was amused to see Stephen buy one of the white handkerchiefs on which Edith had embroidered a seashell. Did her little sister have an admirer?

Louisa’s own small watercolours also sold well, even though she didn’t consider herself to be any more talented than other young ladies who had been taught to draw and paint as part of their education.

Mrs Townsend contemplated the framed oil paintings displayed on another stall.

“Mountains or meadows? What do you think, Miss Marchington?”

“I would choose mountains,” Louisa said. “So much more dramatic. Which would Doctor Townsend prefer?”

“He would agree with you, I’m sure.”

As the painting was being wrapped by the stallholder, Louisa took a deep breath.

“How is Alfie, Mr Knibb’s pony? Is he still at your stables?”

“I believe he is, although my husband did say that Mr Knibb would be collecting him soon. I understand the Knibbs are opening a new business some distance from here. Mrs Knibb found it too upsetting to return to their former shop.”

“I should like to see him – the pony – if I may, before they take him. He had such a shock when the bakery burned down. I should like to see him recovered.” Mrs Townsend smiled.

“Of course. Next time you come to call, I’ll ask William to take you down to the stables. I shall be at home this Saturday.” The butterflies had returned.

* * * *

The days slowly ticked by until at last it was Saturday afternoon. Louisa changed her mind and her clothes several times until she settled on a purple dress with a ruched skirt and modest bustle.

She took extra care with her hair, too. She wanted to look her best without looking unapproachable. One thing she’d learned about George Jevcott was that he had his pride and would be easily deterred if he thought she was in any way above him.

She put on her dark blue three-quarterlength coat and a small blue hat with two white feathers sticking out of the band, and quietly left the schoolhouse.

Normally she would make social calls in the company of Edith and Aunt Charlotte. She hoped Mrs Townsend wouldn’t think that calling by herself was too irregular.

As she walked through town, she reassured herself that it would be fine. After all, she had no mother to accompany her and had made calls of a charitable nature with Mrs Townsend.

By the time she arrived at the Townsends’ house, she had convinced herself that all would be well.

Louisa rang the doorbell as the town hall clock in the distance chimed half past three.

The maid showed her through to the drawing-room where Mrs Townsend was waiting.

They talked about how successful the bazaar had been and the preparations for the Jubilee and enquired after everyone’s health. Though her heart was jumping, Louisa focused her attention on the conversation and thought she acquitted herself quite well under the circumstances.

Just before four o’clock the doorbell rang again as another caller arrived. This was Louisa’s signal to leave.

Mrs Townsend was blessed with an excellent memory and asked the maid to fetch William so that Louisa might inspect the pony.

The groom led the way to the stables.

“Here’s Alfie, Miss Marchington, in the stall here at the end.”

The pony was looking out over the stable door and lifted his head as they approached but Alfie was looking beyond them at someone else. William glanced over his shoulder at George who was walking down the path.

“Excuse me, Miss Marchington,” William said. “I’ll ask George to come back later.”

“There’s no need to do so on my account,” she said quickly. “Mr Jevcott and I are acquainted.”

Alfie moved his head closer to George who put his broad hands either side of the animal’s neck. When he spoke to Alfie, their foreheads were touching.

“I’m going to miss you, old fellow. We’ve had some good times together.

“Maybe you thought pulling the cart wasn’t much fun when it was raining or snowing, but when the sun came out and there was a soft breeze to keep us cool, it was grand. Goodbye, my friend.”

Seeing the tears well up in George’s eyes, Louisa longed to comfort him but didn’t know how.

“You cared for him well,” she said. “I’m sure he knows that.”

“Thank you. It’s good of you to say so.”

George let one arm fall to his side so that his hand brushed against her gloved fingers. Out of sight, William whistled as he swept out the other stall.

“I pray that Mr Knibb will be kind,” Louisa said, her voice starting to tremble at the nearness of George.

“Amen to that.”


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!