The Schoolmaster’s Daughter — Episode 27

HOW is the community shop coming along, Papa?” Louisa asked one morning.

“Why don’t you come and see for yourself?” he replied. “I’m going to walk over there today.”

They set off together, strolling along a smart street of Georgian townhouses. A cat sitting at the top of some whitewashed steps watched them go by.

Further ahead, a well-dressed middle-aged woman emerged from a house fronted by wrought-iron railings and started to walk in their direction.

As she approached, Edward nodded and lifted his hat.

“Good morning, Mrs Jennings.”

The woman kept her eyes fixed on a point somewhere in the distance and passed them without a word.

“Was that deliberate?” Louisa asked in astonishment when she was out of earshot. “Did Mrs Jennings just cut us?”

“Perhaps she has something on her mind and didn’t recognise us,” Edward ventured.

“Or she was dazzled by the morning sun.” Louisa looked at him, unconvinced.

Mrs Jennings’s husband owned a poultry business. It was Edith’s least favourite shop. She hated seeing the plucked birds hanging in the window.

Her father’s expression told Louisa that he understood only too well why the shopkeeper’s wife had given them the cold shoulder.

Reaching a less prosperous area, they turned into Armitage Street where a group of children were playing hopscotch on the pavement and an unseen dog barked.

About halfway along, a workman on a stepladder was cleaning the bare window of a small shop.

Edward stopped and turned proudly.

“This is our new shop. What do you think? It still needs a few finishing touches but we’re nearly there.”

“It looks marvellous!” Louisa gazed at the shop. “The staff and stock are all ready?”

“Mr Stafford, the general manager, has it all in hand. I know you hoped for a position in the bakehouse for George Jevcott and I will mention it to Mr Stafford if he finds he can take on another assistant in due course. We must start small, though, and see if the customers come.”

“Thank you, Papa, and I’m sure they’ll come. This is the perfect location for those who need it most.”

She took her father’s arm.

“I’m so proud of you.”

The workman finished polishing the glass and stepped off the ladder.

Edward nodded at him.

“Good job.”

“Thank you, sir.” The workman touched his cap, picked up the ladder and carried it into the empty shop.

Next door there was a pawnbroker’s and, further down, several businesses had their offices. A public house stood at the end of the street.

The brewery dray had arrived and was standing outside, the carthorses patiently exhaling as the beer barrels were noisily unloaded onto the cobbles.

Edward let go of Louisa’s arm and, putting his hand on her back, gently guided her towards the edge of the pavement.

“It will be best to cross the road here.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Louisa suddenly spotted what she thought was a large white bird flying through the air.

Before they had time to move out of the way, a chamber pot hit the pavement with a crash just in front of them, the pottery shattering into jagged pieces and its putrid contents splashing the ground.

Somewhere up above, a sash window slammed shut.

Edward pulled Louisa back and looked up

to see who could have thrown it. The closed windows silently stared back.

Outside the public house, the brewer’s men continued to unload the barrels, oblivious to what had just happened.

“Are you hurt, Papa?” Louisa was both scared and incandescent with anger.

Edward bent to examine his trousers and shoes.

“I’m unhurt. And you, my child? Did anything hit you?”

Louisa scowled and shook her head.

“Who threw it? Were they aiming at us?”

“Perhaps.” He sighed. “Probably. At least, I assume they were aiming at me. Now it seems I may have even upset the pawnbroker.

“They should not have put you in danger, and I should not have put you in danger.”

He looked at the broken pot, reluctant to walk away without sweeping it up.

The workman who had been cleaning the shop windows came to the rescue, armed with a mop and wooden broom.

“Let me deal with that, sir. I didn’t see where it came from but I heard the noise. Disgraceful way to behave, if you ask me.”

“Thank you and God bless you. Come, Louisa, we have things to do at home.”


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!