The Captain’s Bride — Episode 03

THE wallpaper was blue and white. The curtains were faded pink velvet. On the window-sill sat a small collection of dolls. Here she was, gazing at her mother’s past and suddenly it all became too much to bear. Tears streamed down her cheeks and she made no effort to stem them.

“What is it?” Pinkerton was looking at her in surprise. “Ah, I see,” she exclaimed, before taking her bag and handing her a large white handkerchief.

“I’m sorry,” she said gruffly. “Dear me! Your grandmother should have thought about this before.”

Tabitha tried to pull herself together, feeling better now she knew Pinkerton possessed a streak of human kindness.

“It’s all right,” she said. “I should have realised when my grandmother mentioned where I’d be sleeping.”

“We can arrange things later. Your grandmother hates to be kept waiting.”

Tabitha brushed down her skirt, pleased to see no signs of mud on the hem, and smoothed down her curls, using both hands.

“Why not use your mother’s hairbrush? It’s where she left it.” Pinkerton pointed to the dressing table.

Tabitha picked up the silver-backed brush. The precious metal shone, with no signs of tarnishing.

“Who keeps the room looking so well? There’s no sign of dust and this brush is gleaming.” She raised it, tidying her hair while watching her reflection in the mirror.

“Alice and I take turns. You remind me very much of your mother . . . but we must make haste so not to keep Mrs Entwistle waiting.”

“I. . . I didn’t know you knew my ma.” Tabitha replaced the brush and followed the little woman from the room.

“I never met her. I answered Mrs Entwistle’s advertisement for a companion housekeeper and at that time your grandmother was alone here, except for Mr Yates in the gardener’s cottage.

“But I’ve seen likenesses of Elizabeth, of course. Your grandparents must have been very proud of their only daughter.”

“Until she displeased them by running away to get married!” Tabitha knew she shouldn’t be gossiping about her own kin, but Pinkerton seemed to be warming to her and she didn’t want to appear standoffish.

“I dare say she had her reasons.”

By the tone of Mrs Pinkerton’s voice, Tabitha knew this conversation was at an end.

They hurried downstairs and into the parlour where Margaret Entwistle sat in a winged armchair, her spine straight as the ebony-topped cane she’d used when she came to collect Tabitha.

She waved to the settee opposite and Pinkerton began pouring tea into rose-splashed china cups, the finest Tabitha had ever seen.

“Sit opposite me so I can see you. I’d like you to read to me later. You can read, I suppose?”

“Yes, Grandma.”

“I imagine your mother taught you? Or did you go to school before your father lost his money? Remind me how many years old you are!”

Tabitha’s hands were clasped in her lap but this cruel comment caused her to squeeze her fingers together. She held the old lady’s gaze.

“I’ve reached sixteen years and six months and, yes, my mother taught me to read. My other grandma used to tell me about foreign countries and their different languages and wild creatures.”

“Did she indeed? And where is she now, may I ask?”

Tabitha bowed her head.

“She’s gone to be with her maker.”

The elderly lady didn’t respond, except to harrumph a bit and shift in her chair. Tabitha sipped her tea, secretly enjoying having silenced her grandmother, if only temporarily. She eyed the cake greedily. How long was it since her last meal?

Pinkerton came to her rescue by putting a slice upon a plate and placing it before her. Tabitha looked up.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“Now then,” Margaret Entwistle picked up her cup, “we need to prepare you for your new life. You’re a mite scrawny for a gentlewoman, so Alice’s pastry pies and beef and bone stew will be the making of you. How long since you took a bath?”

“Um. . .” Tabitha couldn’t remember the last time she cleansed herself except by washing at the kitchen sink. And she’d never once considered herself as a gentlewoman.

“No matter. Tomorrow you shall bathe and we shall purchase clothes for you. I have a plan for your future but you’re not, as yet, ready to meet the gentleman to whom I’ve decided you will become betrothed. Your life is about to be transformed.”


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!