The Schoolmaster’s Daughter — Episode 38

LOUISA slumped into an easy chair in the parlour and warmed her hands on the fire burning brightly in the grate. The evenings were starting to draw in, bringing with them the chill of autumn.

Two weeks had passed since Edward had been given notice to leave. Worrying about the future tired her and today’s Sunday school had been a challenge, although she had found it satisfying.

A new little girl had come to the class. She’d been brought by her older brother who said she’d been missing school while their mother was ill with consumption, from which she hadn’t recovered.

The girl’s name was Tulip but she didn’t know how to write it down.

When Louisa gave her a slate and chalk and showed her how to form the letters, she’d burst into tears. So Louisa wiped the slate clean and drew a picture of a flower.

“This is a tulip, just like you.”

That had made Tulip smile so they’d started again slowly and by the end of the class, she had managed to write a capital T.

Louisa had promised her that, when she could write all five letters of her name, Louisa would paint a proper picture of a tulip for her.

The parlour door opened and Stephen came in, catching her off guard. She tried not to be alone with him, but it didn’t really matter now that she was moving to Kent.

“Have you started to look for new lodgings yet?” she asked. “The new headmaster might need all of these rooms if he has a large family.”

Stephen looked surprised.

“Hasn’t your father told you? I’m coming to Kent with you. It turns out that the boarding school has a vacancy for an assistant schoolmaster.”

“I had no idea. Wouldn’t you rather stay here?”

“I want to do the right thing by your father,” he replied. “I feel that I’ve played a part in bringing this situation about. After all, it was me who suggested the idea of a community shop in the first place.”

“Then shouldn’t you continue his work at this school?”

“I will better serve him by supporting him in this new venture.” Stephen smiled. “I have to confess to having another motive.”

“Oh?” She tried to sound relaxed but wondered whether he was about to make another unsolicited approach towards her.

“In Kent I’ll be nearer to my family so it will be easier to visit them.”

“Of course, you must miss them.”

“To an extent, but Louisa, you’ve all made me so welcome that I’m beginning to feel part of the Marchington family.”

Louisa wasn’t sure what to say to that. Stephen had fallen silent, too, and was contemplating the flames licking around the hot coals.

He was handsome in profile, she conceded, but he didn’t have the same presence as George.

He didn’t make her heart beat faster just by walking into the room or thrill her with the sound of his voice. She didn’t long for the touch of his hand.

Stephen turned and smiled at her.

“Just think,” he said softly. “We’ll be able to go for long walks across the cliffs. Imagine the sense of freedom. On a clear day we might even see all the way to France. Won’t that be wonderful?”

Put like that, it did sound enticing, romantic even.

Oui, c’est vrai,” Louisa murmured.

She was thinking how wonderful it would be to walk across the cliffs with George, if he managed to find work in Kent.

Then where would he live, she mused? Not at the school with the Marchingtons. At least, not until they were married.

While here was Stephen, with his feet under their table, warming his hands at their hearth. It would be so much easier if she was in love with Stephen.

But she wasn’t. She loved George.

Stephen raised his eyebrows.

“You speak French? I am impressed.”

“Only a little. Un petit peu.”

“Perhaps we’ll take a boat trip across the Channel one day so that you can try out your language skills.”

Before Louisa could respond, Edith made a surprise appearance.

“Well, this is cosy,” she said, looking from one to the other. “What was that about a boat trip?”

Louisa stood up.

“Stephen was saying that, from our new home in Kent, we might be able to sail to France. Would you enjoy that, Edith?”

“It depends what kind of boat you have in mind. I hope you’re not expecting me to row across! Let’s ask Papa about it. I came to tell you that dinner is ready.”


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!