The Schoolmaster’s Daughter — Episode 23

THE paper was slightly coarse but that didn’t matter. It could have been written on an old newspaper for all she cared. It was the words that were important.

My dear Louisa,

I hope you still wish me to call you by your Christian name and I humbly apologise for taking so long to write to you. The truth is that I began this letter several times but was unsure how to proceed.

I cannot express how wonderful it was to dance with you and to watch the fireworks together. A gentleman perhaps should not mention what else passed between us except to say that I have never felt such happiness before.

I wish that every day could be Jubilee Day! It was a day when the poor were served dinner by the wealthy and a working man danced with the headmaster’s daughter.

For one day, the world turned upside down. But today we are back to normal and I do not know where we go from here.

How can I ask you to walk out with me when I have so little to offer you? I cannot begin to imagine asking your father for your hand in marriage.

Yet still I dare to dream. I will improve my circumstances and I will make myself worthy of you.

Louisa stopped reading while she wiped away a tear.

“Oh, George,” she whispered. “You are already worthy of me.” The letter continued.

I do not wish to harm your reputation nor to place you under any obligation to reply. However, should you happen to be passing by, on Saturday at four o’clock I shall be on the bridge that leads to Green Farm.

Yours affectionately, George.

Louisa put down the letter. She knew the bridge well. It wasn’t far from the schoolhouse, on a quiet lane heading out of town, where the lane crossed the river.

Why would George be there on Saturday, she wondered? Was he going fishing?

It dawned on her that he might be going there specifically to wait for her, if she wished to meet him away from prying eyes.

A nervous thrill shot through her body.

She wanted to be there with all her heart.

Reading through the letter again, more slowly this time, she could see that he, too, had struggled to express his feelings.

His spelling was immaculate, she noted. He must have paid attention at school in his younger days. Whether or not he should have addressed her as Louisa or Miss Marchington under the circumstances, she didn’t know but she really didn’t care.

Louisa clasped George’s letter to her bosom. At last he had called her by her first name.

* * * *

Saturday couldn’t come soon enough. Louisa resisted Edith’s entreaties to tell her what was in the letter or even to confirm that it was from George.

She considered asking her sister to walk with her part of the way to the bridge, but Edith might insist on coming all the way and that probably wasn’t what George had in mind.

As it happened, on Saturday afternoon Aunt Charlotte decided to go shopping for new summer gloves and invited them to go with her.

Edith jumped at the chance but Louisa politely declined.

She didn’t give a reason – not wanting to tell either the truth or an untruth – but just then, Edward and Stephen joined the ladies in the parlour.

Her father came to her rescue.

“I have something that I wish to discuss with Louisa – and Stephen, too.”

If Louisa wasn’t mistaken he gave Aunt Charlotte a conspiratorial wink.

“Of course,” she said, nodding so vigorously that the small stuffed bird on her hat appeared to come to life. “Come, Edith. We will leave the others to their plans.” After they’d gone, Edward beamed at Stephen and Louisa.

“It will be Edith’s seventeenth birthday in a few weeks’ time and I have an idea of how we can celebrate it.

“You know how much she loves fairs and shows. I’ve been looking at the advertisements in the newspaper for something appropriate and I think I’ve found the very thing. There are several railway excursions to the seaside advertised and one happens to be on her birthday. What do you think? We could all go, including you, Stephen. You’d be most welcome.”

There was something about the look on her father’s face that Louisa found slightly unsettling. She hoped he wasn’t harbouring any ideas about Stephen becoming one of the family.

He certainly seemed happy enough for Stephen to continue living at the schoolhouse for the foreseeable future. It would soon be the end of term and he’d made no sign of looking for lodgings.

Maybe he was waiting until the summer holidays when he would have more free time.

Edward had spread the newspaper out and was looking at her expectantly.

“That’s a lovely idea, Papa.” She smiled and sat down to read the details.

As Stephen also pulled up a chair, Edward rang the bell and asked Matilda to bring a pot of tea.


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!