The Schoolmaster’s Daughter — Episode 41


THE next morning, Louisa walked through the town with the doctor’s wife. They had several other families to visit on the way, all with their own problems.

Finally, they arrived at the small two-up, two-down where the Jevcott family lived.

As Mrs Townsend knocked on the door, Louisa felt her heart pounding in rhythm.

George opened the door and invited them in, his voice barely more than a mumble.

He looked tired and his eyes had lost their usual sheen.

They were met with a scene of immense sadness. Mrs Jevcott was sitting in an old rocking chair, her older children by her side and the youngest sitting on the rag rug on the floor.

She spoke with a quiet dignity but her pain was clear to see. George’s oldest sister stood up and offered Mrs Townsend her chair so that she could sit beside Mrs Jevcott.

When the conversation turned to practical matters, George put his hand on Louisa’s arm and led her out to the back yard.

As soon as they were alone, he threw his arms around her and began to weep silently on her shoulder.

Knowing there was nothing she could say that would ease his grief, she held him tightly while his body pulsated and pressed her head against his.

When the shaking stopped, he stepped back to compose himself, his eyes now red rimmed against the pallor of his face.

“I’m so sorry, George,” Louisa whispered, frightened by the intensity of his emotion.

“I’m sorry, too,” he growled.

He clenched his fists by his side, as she’d seen him do before when he was angry.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there for my father when he needed me. I should have been with him in the factory.”

“Doctor Townsend said he got there as quickly as he could but there was nothing he could do. You’re not a doctor, George.”

“I should have been by his side, instead of being ashamed to work where he did.” George raised his voice now.

“Instead of being selfish and pursuing my own ambitions to rise above my station, I should have been proud to take my orders from him!”

He took a deep breath.

“You realise what this means, don’t you?”

She shook her head, not sure where he was going with this.

“I’m now the head of the household and my place is here with my family.”

He spoke more quietly, looking at her with an expression of regret.

“My heart will always be wherever you are – but I cannot go with you to Kent.”

****

John Jevcott’s funeral took place on a crisp autumn afternoon. The leaves on the trees had started to fall and fluttered down like tears as the mourners lined the streets.

Some in the crowd may have come out

just to witness the spectacle of the funeral procession but many were there out of genuine respect for a man who had served in the Rifle Volunteers for more than a quarter of a century.

Dressed from head to toe in black, Louisa stood outside the church with Edward, Edith and Aunt Charlotte, waiting for the cortège to arrive.

“Will George walk with the family or march with the soldiers?” Edith asked.

“I believe he’ll be marching with the men. Listen! I think I hear them.”

The spectators had fallen silent and carriages had come to a halt as the procession passed. The only sounds were the approaching footsteps and the band of the Rifle Volunteers playing a funeral march.

As the cortège came around the corner Louisa saw that George was marching with the firing party, their bright red jackets providing a splash of colour amongst all the black.

How brave of George to take on that role, Louisa thought.

His mother led the Jevcott family into the church. Louisa’s heart went out to them all.

The coffin was draped with a Union Jack. Sergeant Jevcott’s helmet, sword and belt had been placed on top.

The sight of these caused Louisa’s eyes to well up with tears and she dabbed at them with a handkerchief throughout the service.

If it had been George’s helmet, she wouldn’t have been able to bear it at all.

 

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, I have found my perfect place on the “Friend” as I’m obsessed with reading and never go anywhere without a book! I read all of our stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!