The Schoolmaster’s Daughter — Episode 18

THERE were coconut shies and sideshows and an egg and ladle race for children. Over the scene drifted the smell of a roasting ox.

A noisy crowd was starting to gather in one corner. Edith consulted the programme they had bought at the entrance gate. “It’s a tug-of-war between the Fire Brigade and the Rifle Volunteers. Do we want to watch that?”

“Oh, yes,” Louisa said. “Let’s show them our support.”

In the clearing in the centre of the crowd, the two teams were already in position. They were all in their shirtsleeves with their braces hanging loose at their waists.

George was holding the rope with the Rifle Volunteers. On the signal, he dug in his heels, tightened his grip and pulled with all his might.

Louisa put up her parasol, partly to protect her head from the sun’s rays and partly to prevent other people from seeing her reaction.

George’s face was set with determination as his broad shoulders stiffened and his damp shirt clung to his back.

Remembering how his back had felt beneath her hand that day in the bedroom, Louisa gripped the handle of her parasol and urged him on as his arm muscles grew more taut.

The firemen put up a good fight and the rope was pulled first one way and then the other, but the Volunteers were stronger and gradually gained the edge. With one last heave, they were victorious.

Louisa joined in the cheering and, when the winning team acknowledged the crowd, she was sure she caught George’s eye. She would have waited for him to put on his jacket but Edith was already eager to move on.

“Let’s go and see the acrobats.” Louisa raised her eyebrows at Stephen.

“Are you sure you’ll be able to keep up with my sister, Mr Allsop? I fear she is determined to tick off every entertainment on the programme.” Stephen chuckled.

“I will do my best. However, should we be split up from one another, I suggest we meet at the gates at the end of the evening so that I may walk you both home.”

His suggestion was music to Louisa’s ears, unlike the comic singer who followed the acrobats onto the stage, though many seemed to find him uproariously funny.

Then it was time for the dancing to begin.

As the band started to play a lively polka, George was suddenly by her side.

“Miss Marchington, may I have this dance?”

Louisa hesitated. She wanted to say yes but was unsure whether it would be wise to do so.

George gestured towards the dance floor that had been set up beneath a canvas awning.

“I’m not the most nimble of dancers, I’ll admit, but I’m not as clumsy as some of those clodhoppers out there. Not that anyone else will notice on a day such as this. They’re all too busy having their own fun and not caring if they make fools of themselves either.”

That was true, she thought.

“Then thank you,” she said. “I’d be delighted.”

Before she knew what was happening, George swept her up in his strong arms and guided her to the dance floor.

Whether it was the heat, the beer or just wild spirits, enthusiasm rather than decorum was the order of the day. So many couples were swirling around that she stopped worrying about who might be watching and just enjoyed holding on to George as they stepped and hopped with abandon.

She’d never dared to dream that she’d be this close to him so soon.

Afterwards they both needed a rest but their eyes were shining with elation as they leaned against a tree and caught their breath.

“What we should do now,” George said, “is find a good place from which to watch the fireworks.”

“What about the bridge?” Louisa suggested. “Or the terrace?”

“Let’s try the terrace.”

They made their way to the broad stone steps that led to the wide terrace with its ornamental balustrade.

So many other people had had the same idea, though, that they found themselves jostling for space.

“I know,” George said. “There’s a small area beside the large fountain where we can stand away from the crowd.”

They managed to get to the walled space which was just large enough for two people to squeeze into.

When they looked up, they still had a clear view of the darkening sky.

As they waited for the display to start, George took hold of Louisa’s hand.

“I don’t have much to offer,” he said, “but if I could I would give you all the stars in the sky.”

He was serious now, his brown eyes looking into hers as though he could see into her soul.

As Louisa gazed up at him, she was engulfed by a feeling of excitement and inevitability, a sensation that was new and thrilling.

Their heads gradually moved closer together until their lips were touching and he cupped her face in his hands.

She uttered a little sigh as their mouths found each other and they kissed, hesitantly at first, then with the passion that had been building all day.

Louisa closed her eyes as she melted into George’s embrace. When she opened them again, she saw an explosion of golden stars overhead.


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!