The Schoolmaster’s Daughter — Episode 16


ON Tuesday June 21, 1887, Louisa awoke at six o’clock to the sound of the church bells ringing.

Lying on her back beneath the sheets, she listened to their joyous chimes which were being replicated in every village, town and city across the land.

How marvellous it felt to be part of such a momentous occasion. Each community would be celebrating in its own way.

Queen Victoria herself would be waking up in Buckingham Palace, having travelled there from Windsor the day before, preparing to take part in the biggest celebration of all.

In London there was to be a grand procession to Westminster Abbey where kings, queens, princes and princesses from far and wide would attend the service of thanksgiving.

What would it be like to be to be queen, Louisa wondered, staring up at the ceiling. You’d think a queen could do whatever she wanted but there would still be rules and conventions.

Always dressed in black, Queen Victoria was still mourning Prince Albert, her husband who had died before Louisa was born. What a great love theirs must have been.

A smile crept over her face as she thought about George. Today there would be no chance meetings or meaningful looks. Everybody would be out and about and she could talk to whomever she wished.

Throwing back the bedcovers, she bounded out of bed and dressed for breakfast.

Aunt Charlotte’s forecast of a change in the weather proved false. By nine o’clock the sun was already shining as Louisa and Edith walked arm in arm to the town hall, where the band of the Rifle Volunteers was playing a selection of merry tunes.

All around, people were laughing and chatting as though they hadn’t a care in the world, a sea of summer bonnets, bowler hats and straw boaters bobbing up and down.

Louisa was glad she’d chosen to wear a white blouse although she was already feeling warm.

“Look, there’s Papa,” Edith said, pointing to where Edward Marchington stood with the mayor and town clerk, all looking smart in their frock coats and shiny black top hats.

Above them, the town hall was bedecked with banners and streamers.

One of the council officials was checking that the watch he wore on the end of a gold chain was synchronised with the large clock on the front of the building. Another was starting to marshal people into position to join the parade.

A young boy who had climbed halfway up a lamppost to get a better view waved his cap as he gave a shout.

“Here come the Volunteers!”

Louisa’s heart missed a beat as she craned her neck to see the rest of the company come marching around the corner to take their place behind the band at the start of the procession.

As they came to a halt, she saw George towards the rear of the ranks. It was the first time that she had seen him in full dress uniform complete with his dark green helmet.

How strong and handsome he looked!

As the clock struck half past nine, the band struck up the National Anthem. Everyone in the crowd joined in and gave great cheers at the end.

Then the order was given and the Rifle Volunteers set off again, led by the regimental colours. The procession was underway.

Next came the Fire Brigade on their horse-drawn fire engine, which received a hearty response from the spectators who remembered how they’d stopped the bakery fire from spreading and destroying even more shops.

Their gleaming golden helmets were never more appropriate than today.

They were followed by the mayor and the town clerk. Edward Marchington was in the next group, walking in front of the various local societies.

Louisa grabbed Edith by the elbow.

“Quick! Let’s cut through the alley and watch them go down Market Street.”

“Shouldn’t we go to the church and take our seats for the service?”

“Don’t worry, there’s enough time.”

By taking the shortcut they managed to join the throng standing three-deep on the pavement just as the procession appeared at the end of the street.

While Edith delighted in reading the patriotic slogans on the banners strung between the shops on either side, Louisa only had eyes for George.

As he smartly marched past, Louisa waved and cheered, hoping that he would spot her in the crowd or might at least recognise her voice.

They watched until the tail end of the parade had passed by, then walked to the church as quickly as they could.

Aunt Charlotte raised her eyebrows as they slid into the pew beside her. Louisa just had time to straighten her skirt before a fanfare of trumpets announced that the procession had arrived outside.

After the service, they went home for a cold lunch that Cook had prepared before she and Matilda were given the rest of the day off.

 

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, I have found my perfect place on the “Friend” as I’m obsessed with reading and never go anywhere without a book! I read all of our stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!