The Schoolmaster’s Daughter — Episode 24

THIS time, the clock seemed to tick the minutes by all too quickly. As four o’clock approached, Louisa gulped down her drink, trying not to burn her mouth.

She could picture George waiting for her on the bridge, wondering whether she was going to arrive. He would have heard the church clock chiming on the hour, then at a quarter past. By now he was probably pacing impatiently.

Finally, Stephen stopped asking questions and Edward closed the newspaper.

“So, we are all agreed,” he said. “A seaside excursion it is.”

“Thank you, Papa. Edith will be so excited.” Louisa stood up. “Please excuse me, I feel the need for some fresh air.”

She left the room before either of them could offer to go with her. Pausing only to put on her boots and hat, Louisa set off and walked as fast as she could.

She prayed George hadn’t left, but if he had, she might meet him along the road.

She passed the first turning where she’d found Alfie waiting with the cart while George made his morning deliveries in what now seemed so long ago.

Straight ahead, the road went to the railway station but Louisa took the second turning. When the houses ended, she came to a junction.

Taking the right fork, she reached the bridge but there was no-one in sight. Her heart dropped. She was too late.

She waited a few moments to be sure, then hurried back to the junction. The other fork was a narrow lane with a few cottages.

In the distance, a dejected figure was walking away. It looked like George, but before she could be sure, the figure disappeared around the bend.

Louisa blinked back the tears that threatened to fall. The slow walk home seemed to take for ever.

* * * *

On Sunday the Marchingtons went to the morning service. Louisa hoped desperately that George would be there and she’d have a chance to explain.

Glancing around the church at the end of the first hymn, she thought the congregation seemed smaller than usual. This made it easier to spot the Jevcott family, seated near the back.

There was George, his parents, one sister and both brothers. Unable to catch his eye, she turned back to her prayer book.

As soon as the service ended, while the rest of her family lingered to converse with the vicar, she made her way outside. The Jevcott family were walking down the path, George side by side with his sister.

Just when Louisa thought it was hopeless, she saw him put his hand on his sister’s shoulder and say something to her. Then he broke away from the group and meandered through the graveyard.

Checking that no-one was watching, Louisa took a different path through the trees and headstones. They came face to face behind a large stone monument topped by an angel with outspread wings.

“George, I’m so sorry,” Louisa began. “I did go to the bridge yesterday but I couldn’t get there in time. Can you forgive me?”

George took both of her gloved hands.

“There’s nothing to forgive. I’m the one who should be sorry for having put you in a difficult position. I just needed to see you again.”

“And I you – your letter was so beautiful.”

“Not as beautiful as you.”

Gazing into each other’s eyes, they both felt the power of expressing their emotions aloud in this of all places.

George grasped her hands more tightly.

“I’ll look out for you on your evening walk when I next go to the Drill Hall.”

“I will probably be accompanied by Edith.”

“Then our smiles will sustain us.”

Reluctantly letting go of his hands, Louisa pulled her prayer book from her skirt pocket. Opening it, she took out a photograph and handed it to George.

“I thought you would like this, even though we’re in the shadows. You can see us well enough if you look carefully.”

His expression showed how pleased he was, as he looked at the Jubilee photograph before tucking it away in his jacket.

“Thank you. And I promise you, we won’t always be in the shadows.” Louisa nodded.

“I must go,” she whispered.

Not daring to risk a kiss, they went their separate ways. Louisa wanted to dance her way home. The sun had come out again.


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!