The Schoolmaster’s Daughter — Episode 36

LOUISA no longer knew what to think. She wondered what on earth to tell George. What future could there be for them now?

The entire household was in shock, although it was decided not to tell Edith for the time being.

That night Louisa went to bed hoping that she’d wake up to find it was all a bad dream, but when morning came – after a restless night – it was all too real.

After breakfast she went for a walk to try to clear her head.

There were so many thoughts swirling around in her mind that she found she’d walked almost as far as the railway station before she turned back.

Returning through the garden gate, she was walking down the path towards the house when she heard the sound of someone sobbing.

She pushed open the scullery door and found Matilda bent over the ironing table with a flat iron in her hand and tears streaming down her face.

“Matilda, whatever’s the matter?”

Startled, the maid wiped her eyes with her sleeve and looked up.

“Nothing, Miss Louisa.”

“It must be something to upset you so. Are you unwell?”

Matilda shook her head and pushed the hot iron firmly across the fabric.

A scorched smell rose up and she started crying again.

“Leave that until later,” Louisa said, taking the iron from her and standing it safely on the trivet. “Come into the parlour and tell me all about it.”

The young girl hesitated. She had never sat down in the parlour before, not even when she was cleaning it and there was no-one around to see.

But Louisa insisted. After all, they were only three years apart in age and listening to Matilda’s troubles would take her mind off her own cares for a while.

“Now tell me, what’s wrong?” she said patiently.

“I heard Miss Charlotte talking to Cook. She said that the master is moving to another school and the whole family will have to go, too.”

Louisa gave a sympathetic smile.

“And you’re worried about your situation? There’s really no need. You’re honest and hardworking. You might be able to come with us. Or, if you don’t want to move away from your family, the new headmaster will probably be glad of a maid. We can give you a good character reference.”

“With respect, miss, you don’t understand. This is all my fault.” Louisa was perplexed.

“Your fault? I don’t see how. I don’t imagine for one minute that it was you who complained to the inspectors.”

“No, miss.”

Matilda whimpered and twisted on the chair like a frightened child.

“But I am responsible for those notes, the ones that said something terrible would happen to your father if he kept going with the new shop.”

Louisa couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“You? Why? Why on Earth would you do that?”

Matilda began to gabble.

“I didn’t write them, miss. That was my brother, Joseph. He’s apprenticed to Mr Baines, the butcher. Mr Baines said the shop would put them out of business and in the workhouse and Joseph was scared he’d lose his job.

“He wrote the notes to frighten the master and make him stop saying the shop was a good thing. He gave them to me and I put them on the floor to make it look as though someone had posted them through the letterbox.”

Then she began wailing.

“I’m so sorry, miss! I didn’t think it would come to this.”

Louisa’s compassion turned to anger.

“You silly girl,” she snapped. “My father was trying to do something good to help families like yours. Was your brother also involved in the attacks with the brick and the chamber pot?”

“I don’t know anything about a chamber pot, miss, but he never threw the brick and he didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt. And now Miss Edith is injured and all of you have to move to the other end of the country!” Matilda’s voice faltered and she began sobbing again.

Louisa put her arm around her shoulder as Matilda took out a cotton handkerchief and blew her nose.

“Thank you for telling me the truth. What’s done is done. The decision has been made and none of us can change that.” “Will you tell the master and Miss Charlotte?”

“I’ll have to tell my father when the time is right, but I know he’ll understand that your brother was worried for his livelihood.” George had expressed the same concern.

Louisa realised she needed to see him now more than ever.

She looked Matilda in the eye.

“We’ll keep this between ourselves for now. Would you do something for me? I need to get a message to George Jevcott and I understand he’s a friend of your brother.”


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!