The Schoolmaster’s Daughter — Episode 35

WHEN Louisa awoke the next day, it was a bright and clear morning. She walked downstairs with a hopeful heart.

Her father was kind, understanding and a little unconventional. At the very least, he would listen to her, she was sure of that.

Edward was in a good mood at the breakfast table.

“The new boys seem to be settling in well, don’t you think, Stephen?”

Stephen looked up from his boiled egg and toast.

“Absolutely. By next summer I think we’ll have some promising candidates for the first-year cricket team.”

Louisa looked in on Edith after breakfast but she was sleeping, so she went to her own room and took the Jubilee photograph out from the drawer of her writing desk.

It would be nice to put it in a proper frame, she thought.

In the meantime, she decided to stand it on top of the desk, leaning against a small vase. Although Matilda did the heavy cleaning, Louisa dusted and polished her own personal belongings, and besides, what did it matter if anyone saw the photograph?

It was a souvenir of the town’s celebration. Who else would notice the two figures standing at the back in the shade? There they were, though, George and

Louisa. Their names went together well.

A warm glow spread throughout her whole body as she thought about him.

Just then, there was a clattering of wheels and horses’ hooves outside. Louisa looked down from the window.

A tall man in a black coat and top hat stepped down from the carriage. He had a thick grey beard which reached past his collar.

He’d come to see her father. Louisa heard Edward show the man into his study where they remained for some time.

When the carriage drove off, Edward walked across to the school. Later, Louisa found Aunt Charlotte in the dining-room, staring into space.

“Is anything the matter, Aunt? I saw Papa had a visitor.”

Her aunt seemed momentarily lost for words. Then she forced a smile.

“It’s been a busy morning. Your father and Stephen won’t be joining us for lunch. They have school matters to discuss. Why don’t you have lunch with Edith? I’ll ask Cook to make up two trays. I think Edith would like that.”

Charlotte was almost talking to herself as she went off towards the kitchen.

“Yes, she’d like that.”

Soon afterwards, she returned with a tray that she handed to Louisa. Matilda followed behind, carrying the other tray.

As they walked upstairs Matilda halted.

“Miss Edith will get better, won’t she?”

“Yes, Doctor Townsend is quite sure she will make a complete recovery.”

It was kind of the maid to be concerned but Louisa hadn’t known her fret so much before about anything.

The day had started so well. Now the whole household seemed perturbed.

Edith managed to eat a little, then lay back on the pillow and closed her eyes.

“This bandage around my head is so tight. Will I be scarred for life?”

“I doubt it, and if you are you can cover it with your hair. You have lovely hair.” Edith smiled weakly.

“Would you read to me for a while?”

Louisa picked up The People’s Friend magazine that lay on Edith’s dressing-table. Before long, a change in Edith’s breathing told her that the patient had fallen asleep.

Louisa tiptoed out of the room. Going into the garden, she decided to sit beneath the apple tree.

As she approached the table and chairs where she’d sat with George, she saw that her father was already sitting there.

“Papa! May I sit with you? There’s something I wish to ask you.”

“Of course. But first, there’s something I must tell you.”

There was a sadness in his eyes that scared Louisa as she sat down on the opposite side of the table.

“I had a visitor this morning.”

“Yes, I saw the carriage.”

“I have been chastised, like a naughty boy hauled before the headmaster, except that he didn’t cane me!”

Edward tried to smile but couldn’t quite pull it off.

“He came to tell me that the governors have decided I am to be relieved of my position. I must leave the school.

“I am sorry for you and Edith. I know you’ve both been happy here. But I’m afraid that I haven’t been given any choice.”

“But why, Papa? Is it because of the falling attendance?” Edward sighed.

“There have been official complaints as well as the letters to the newspaper. There is much more I would have liked to achieve here – I even planned to stand for election as mayor – but I know now I would never have sufficient support.

“The community shop is open and will manage without me. I must now do what I can somewhere else.”

“They can’t drive you out like that!”

Louisa rose from her seat in indignation but Edward gestured to her to sit.

“It isn’t all bad news. Apparently there is a new school – a boarding school – in urgent need of a headmaster and my name has already been put forward.

“Under the circumstances, it would be churlish to turn down the offer. And also very foolish.”

“Is the new school near here?” “No, it’s on the coast of Kent.”

Louisa slumped down, deflated.

“We have a month to get ready,” Edward continued. “Edith should be better by then. Now, my dear, was there something you wanted to ask me?”

Louisa shook her head as her dreams evaporated.


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!