The Schoolmaster’s Daughter — Episode 42

AFTER they had left the church, they made their way to the graveyard where the vicar concluded the service and then the firing party stepped forward.

The strain on George’s face was all too evident but he steeled himself and grimaced as he raised his rifle. The group fired three volleys over the grave and then the buglers sounded the “Last Post”.

When it was all over, the band marched away but George stayed behind to meet the mourners who wished to express their sympathy.

He consoled his mother for a short while then went to stand by himself beneath a tree. After expressing her own condolences to the other members of his family, Louisa went over to him.

“May I join you?”

There was a pause before George nodded but he didn’t speak.

“It’s a good turnout,” she said gently. “I see that some of those who have turned against my father have come to church today to honour yours.”

George swallowed hard.

“My father was a good man who worked hard to provide for his family. For some men that would have been enough. But he also cared about those he worked with and he gave much of what little free time he had to the Rifle Volunteers to help keep the peace. It’s good to see how many people appreciate that.”

He leaned against the tree trunk and broke off a small twig from a low branch, cracking it in his strong fingers.

“Your father is also a good man, spending his own time and money to do what he can for the poor by supporting the community shop and other ventures. But instead of being honoured like mine, he’s been vilified and driven out of town.”

He looked into her eyes.

“Yes, I know that I was guilty of speaking against him for a while and I’m truly sorry that I did.”

“So what will you do now?” she asked. “The other day you spoke of not wanting to pursue your own ambitions after all. Did you mean that?”

“I need some time to think clearly. But there’s one thing I do know. My father was very proud to serve in the Rifle Volunteers and wanted to see the company grow and flourish to be the best in the battalion, the best in the whole regiment. I’m not sure if I can live up to him but I’m going to give it my best shot.”

“You’re going to carry on where he left off,” Louisa said thoughtfully.

“Aye, that’s it. His unfinished business.”

“My father also has unfinished business in this town. The community shop was only the start. He’s already improved the Grammar School but he wanted to do more to help those who can’t afford to send their sons to a school like that. He recently confided in me that he’d been planning to stand for election as mayor.”

George smiled for the first time that day.

“Dearest Louisa, I can see what you’re thinking, but you can’t become the mayor any more than you could join the Rifle Volunteers. Women don’t do that sort of thing.”

“I don’t see why not, but you’re right, I can’t step into my father’s shoes in the same way that you can yours.

“But I am starting to see where my future lies and I’m going to do what I can to make that happen.”

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!