The Schoolmaster’s Daughter — Episode 25

FOR the next few weeks life continued on a more even keel. Louisa managed to see George quite a few times near the Drill Hall and at church parade. In between times, she had her copy of the Jubilee photograph, which she put beneath her pillow when she went to bed, happy to know that George had a copy of the same picture.

When they were apart, the photograph joined them together.

Edith was happy to accompany Louisa on her walks, perfectly aware of the reason they had become more frequent.

“I could be your chaperone if you wish to take tea with George Jevcott or go for a walk with him,” she said one day as they sat at the table in the parlour, “instead of just smiling and wishing him good evening. I would be discreet and keep my distance.”

“But would you keep your tongue, dear sister?” Louisa asked, laughing.

Then she deliberately changed the subject.

“Were you reading Papa’s newspaper? Is there anything in there of interest?”

“Oh, yes, as a matter of fact there is.” Edith turned back to the relevant page. “Look, the Queen has thanked all contributors to the Women’s Jubilee Offering. She says it was a very kind and generous present and will value the gift of the statue of her beloved husband.”

She put down the paper with a sigh.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go to Windsor to see the statue of Prince Albert when it’s been erected, and know that we helped to pay for it?”

Edward Marchington spent even more time at committee meetings as the community shop moved closer to fruition. A shop manager was appointed, the premises fitted out and contracts signed with suppliers.

Louisa suspected that her father may have received more threatening notes, but if so, he kept them to himself and pressed on with his usual dogged determination.

A few days before Edith’s birthday, they let her into the secret of the planned trip to the seaside. As Louisa had predicted, Edith was delighted.

Stephen was also looking forward to the excursion – surprisingly, in Louisa’s opinion, but she thought perhaps he was homesick or nostalgic for his childhood as he’d grown up by the coast.

When the day came, they all rose at what felt like the crack of dawn and walked to the railway station.

As they got nearer, the early-morning mist gave way to the belching steam of an engine departing in the opposite direction.

Other eager day-trippers were also arriving. Children’s chatter mingled with the shouts of the station staff and the bangs and clangs of carriage doors.

Holding on to her straw hat, Louisa waited while Edward helped Charlotte and Edith into the compartment. Then she, too, got on board – with Stephen’s assistance – and settled into her seat.

She heard the children further along cheer loudly when the guard blew the whistle and the train began to chug out of the station.

The onlookers standing on the platform waved their handkerchiefs, appearing to shrink as the journey got underway.

While Edith craned her neck to look out of the window, Louisa found it hard to share her excitement. Each mile they travelled took her further away from George. If only he could have come, too.

The fields and villages slipped by as they headed north and she tried to focus on the conversation taking place around her, doing her best to answer her sister’s many questions about how they were to spend the day.

They arrived at their destination mid morning. As soon as they left the station, the saltiness of the air and the sound of gulls overhead welcomed them to the seaside.

Edith, naturally, was keen to sample the entertainment on offer.

“We could start with the pier or the funfair. Or what about the circus?” Edward laughed.

“Let’s make our way to the beach first of all and see what we come across on the way.”

They meandered downhill towards the golden sands dotted with bathing machines, donkey rides and sideshows.

The promenade was already crowded with day-trippers strolling in the bright sunshine.

Some of the other families on the same excursion had gone on ahead, the younger children running towards the waves in a race to be first to put their hands in the sea.

Holding up their skirts, Louisa and Edith trotted along behind, trying to retain their dignity.

Then they, too, bent down to scoop up the foamy water as it ran towards their feet before they began searching for the prettiest seashells along the shore.

Stephen, meanwhile, terrified Aunt Charlotte by picking up a small crab that he found in a rock pool.


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!