The Captain’s Bride — Episode 05

A HORSE and carriage stood on the driveway below, while Mr Yates, the elderly gardener, made haste across the lawn to help the occupant exit the carriage. Mr Yates led the horse away while a portly gentleman approached the front door.

Tabitha noted his sombre suit and clerical collar. Could this be the clergyman her grandma mentioned? Surely not! Looking at the gentleman’s wispy grey hair escaping from his hat and his pale complexion, Tabitha, whose knowledge of men was limited, reckoned this one must have reached the age of forty. He couldn’t be Edgar Kershaw – of that she was certain.

Someone, probably Pinkerton, opened the door and the caller removed his headgear, bowed and disappeared from view. Because of his clothes and his beaky nose, he reminded Tabitha of a large black crow, a dismaying image which was to haunt her for a very long time.

She crept downstairs to the kitchen and found Alice preparing a tray of tea.

“My grandmother has a visitor, I see.”

Alice frowned.

“Aye, it’s fortunate there’s cake in the larder because he has a sweet tooth, does our vicar.”

Tabitha froze.

“That gentleman is Mr Kershaw? But he is so very old!”

The cook chuckled.

“To you, maybe, Miss Tabitha. He doesn’t seem as such to me.”

“Alice, please call me Tabitha. You’ve been so kind to me, even in the short time I’ve been here.”

Alice nodded.

“When we’re alone, then. I wish you were staying longer than a few months, my dear. It’s like a breath of fresh air, having you here. Now, would you like to take this tray into the parlour?”

Tabitha hesitated. Would Margaret Entwistle be furious if her charge suddenly appeared? Maybe the clergyman would take an instant dislike to his prospective bride? Oh, if only! She was still hovering when Pinkerton arrived.

“Tray’s ready, Mrs Pinkerton,” Alice said. “Miss Tabitha was just about to bring it in.”

“No need, Alice, thank you. I’ll take it. Tabitha, best you don’t interrupt your grandmother while she’s talking to her visitor.” Pinkerton picked up the tray and headed for the door. Tabitha darted ahead to open it wider and was graced with a small smile.

How she longed to protest at the unfairness of all this, especially now she’d seen the man who would be her husband. She was even more determined to avoid her fate and all the more convinced she daren’t confide in either Alice or Pinkerton.

* * * *

After the midday meal, during which Tabitha found it difficult to making polite conversation, Margaret Entwistle, who according to Alice had enjoyed a couple of glasses of Madeira wine with the clergyman, made it clear she intended taking a rest.

“You may continue with our reading at four o’clock,” she said.

“Yes, Grandmother.” Tabitha hid her glee.

This was the perfect opportunity, though she must take care not to cause noise, or attract suspicion. Knowing which room her late grandfather had used, she intended searching for garments to help achieve her escape plan.

She’d asked Alice what build of man her grandfather had been, holding her breath when the older woman described him as short in stature with a slight frame. He’d spent much time with Yates in the garden and enjoyed walking. Alice called him a kindly man, who was devastated when his only daughter left home.

Tabitha’s plan depended upon her getting hold of masculine attire. She feared, unless disguised, setting off by herself would prove hazardous. A lone boy, travelling to the nearest large town, surely wouldn’t cause comment? And if her grandfather liked being outdoors, she’d surely find suitable clothing?

Once upstairs, Tabitha crept along the corridor, pausing outside her grandma’s bedroom. Hearing the faint but regular sound of snoring encouraged her to walk on to the room she required. Would her luck hold? Breathing a sigh of relief that the room wasn’t locked, she entered, closing the door quietly after her.

She tiptoed across the faded carpet to the wardrobe. The door swung open to reveal jackets, trousers and a formal suit, but at the wardrobe’s base were two sturdy drawers. Tabitha knelt down and helped herself to a few items before returning to her room.


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!