The Schoolmaster’s Daughter — Episode 15

GEORGE’S hand pressed against hers with increased urgency.

She could feel his anguish and wanted so much to throw her arms around him and hold him close to ease his pain.

“Is there any chance he’ll offer you employment in his new shop?” she asked instead.

George shook his head.

“He terminated the apprenticeship after the fire. To give him his due, he did buy me out fairly. But it’s on to pastures new for both of us now.”

Hearing William getting closer, they increased the space between them. “I’d offer to walk back to the school house with you but I wouldn’t want to ruin your reputation,” George said. “And you should leave here through the front door while I go out the back.”

He turned to look deeply into her eyes.

“But if you’ll permit me to say so, one day I’d like to walk beside you.” Before Louisa could catch her breath,

William’s footsteps crunched on the path.

George gave a little bow.

“Give my regards to Mr Marchington.”

“Thank you, please extend mine to Mr and Mrs Jevcott.”

With one last pat for the pony, George nodded his thanks to William as the groom stood ready to escort Louisa back to the house.

“‘One day’,” she whispered as she walked home alone, taking her usual shortcut through the graveyard. “That was what he said.”

She felt sure that he meant it. But how on earth was it ever going to happen?

Louisa thought she’d made it back unobserved, but when she went into her bedroom to change her clothes Edith slipped in behind her and closed the door.

“Did you have a nice walk, Louisa, dear?” she probed.

“I went to call on Mrs Townsend.”

“In your prettiest day dress?”

“Yes, truly I did.” Louisa took off her gloves and laid them carefully on the linen mat on her dressing-table. “Did anyone else miss me?”

“No. Aunt Charlotte also went out calling and Papa has been ensconced in his study with Mr Allsop, looking over particulars of shops for rent.”

Edith sat on the padded stool.

“What do you think of Mr Allsop?”

“I like him well enough. I’d be happy to have him as a brother-in-law.”

It took Edith a moment to realise what her sister meant.

“Oh, no!” she squealed, rising in alarm.

Louisa laughed.

“Now leave me to dress for dinner.”

After Edith had gone, she picked up the glove that had touched George’s hand and pressed it against her cheek, wondering whether he was thinking of her.

* * * *

The next few weeks were a whirl of committee meetings and checking lists. It had been declared that Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee would be celebrated with a public holiday on Tuesday, June 21, when the schools would be closed.

The last time a British monarch had reached such a milestone was in 1809 and there weren’t many people still alive who’d been old enough to remember George III reaching 50 years on the throne.

Besides, at that time the country had been at war with France so it was a different situation. Now there was great enthusiasm, with many events planned to take place before and after the day itself.

The Queen’s own schedule was planned to start with a Royal banquet on Monday, June 20, and to continue into July.

Excitement was building throughout the town. The grammar school’s pupils were no exception and as the holiday drew near, Edward and Stephen struggled to maintain discipline.

Louisa’s own emotions were swirling around in a way she had never experienced before. She kept away from the nail factory when George was likely to be leaving at the end of his shift, not wishing to cause him further embarrassment.

However, the Drill Hall wasn’t far from the school and the Gazette helpfully listed the days and times that the Rifle Volunteers were due to meet there each week.

Twice she managed to time her evening walk with Edith so that she saw George on his way to the Drill Hall.

The first time he was with his father and they passed in silence.

On the second occasion, George was alone and they wished each other good evening as their eyes said a good deal more.

How Louisa wished her mother was alive so she could confide in her and ask advice. Edith was too young and Aunt Charlotte too much of a stickler for convention.

On Monday evening, the day before the celebrations, while everyone was marvelling at the fine weather they’d been having Aunt Charlotte was predicting rain. But her pessimism didn’t dampen the atmosphere in the school house.

Louisa and Edith had spent several days sewing fabric letters on to a large banner. After dinner Stephen helped them to hang it over the front door.

When the banner was fixed in position, they ran outside to inspect their handiwork. People in the nearby houses were also putting up flags and bunting and there was a buzz of activity all around.

“I don’t know how I shall ever sleep tonight!” Edith declared. “Oh, doesn’t it look splendid?”

They gazed up at the golden message on purple material.


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!