The Schoolmaster’s Daughter — Episode 22

NEXT morning at breakfast, Edith’s pale face showed that she, too, had been tossing and turning. Slowly buttering her toast, she stifled a yawn.

Edward looked at his daughters with concern, hoping his sister wouldn’t ask what was the matter with the two of them.

“It looks like another fine morning,” he said. “Why don’t you both go for a walk? The Jubilee photographs might be ready for viewing and we should purchase some.” Edith perked up immediately.

“I wonder if we are in any of them?”

“We should definitely buy one or two pictures of the schoolchildren enjoying their tea,” Louisa agreed.

“That’s settled.” Edith was eating more quickly now. “We’ll go as soon as we’re ready.”

They both put on summer hats with pretty ribbons. The morning weather was indeed fine, but despite their efforts to be cheerful, they didn’t talk very much on the way to the photographer’s studio.

Louisa found herself looking at everyone they passed, wondering whether they’d written the threatening note.

At the studio the photographer and his assistant had put on an exhibition, with the photographs arranged around the walls.

“Goodness, there certainly are a lot of pictures,” Edith said, looking around.

They joined the small crowd already browsing the images. There were photographs of the band at the town hall and the dignitaries at the start of the parade.

“This is a lovely one of Papa with the mayor,” Louisa said, smiling proudly.

There was a large selection of shots of the Jubilee dinner. Squinting at one of them, Edith pointed to a small figure behind the row of diners.

“That’s me! You’re probably in one or two of them, too. Let’s see if we can spot you.” But Louisa was looking for someone else. She scrutinised every photograph showing the Rifle Volunteers.

One was of the Company marching in formation. There was Sergeant Jevcott, George’s father, near the front.

Further back, she was sure, was George but his face was partly obscured by the helmet of the man he was marching alongside.

Moving on, she discounted several more photographs before she caught her breath. In a picture taken when the plum puddings were being served, she noticed two people talking in the background.

There she was with George. They were in the shadows – it was quite likely that noone else would recognise them – but Louisa had no doubt.

She made a mental note of the number so that she could order a copy. Should she also order a copy for George, she wondered.

Deciding not to say anything to Edith, she dragged herself away and turned her attention to the photographs of the children’s tea.

The walk home was more pleasant as they both felt more relaxed and they decided to take a detour through the pleasure gardens.

Passing the fountain, Louisa felt her heart flutter as she remembered standing in the tiny walled space behind it, kissing George with fireworks exploding overhead. They walked along Market Street, savouring the sight of the fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese and fish laid out on the market stalls.

“Well, that was a very nice morning,” Louisa declared when they arrived home.

She opened the front door, then stopped suddenly. She’d been about to step on an envelope that was lying on the hall floor.

Edith almost bumped into her. “What is it?” Then she saw it, too.

“Oh, no! Is that another of those horrid letters?”

Louisa frowned.

“I don’t know. The first one wasn’t in an envelope.”

Taking a deep breath, she reached down, picked up the envelope and turned it over.

“This one has a stamp. It’s been delivered by the postman . . . oh! It’s addressed to me.”

Her name was written in neat handwriting in black ink. She hardly dared to hope who it might be from.

“Well?” Edith asked impatiently. “Aren’t you going to open it?”

Louisa shook her head.

“Not yet. This looks private.”

Edith raised her eyebrows quizzically as Louisa began to climb the stairs, her pace quickening with every step.

Reaching her bedroom, she closed the door and sat down at her desk.

For a few moments, she held the envelope in her hand and stared at it, willing it to be from George. Then she took a small ivory paper knife, carefully slit open the envelope and removed the letter it contained.


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!