The Captain’s Bride — Episode 10

JENNY leaned forward.

“You gave me such a shock. I’m glad, though. I meant what I said about us being like sisters.”

“I know you did.” Tabitha began on her broth, which didn’t taste too bad. “It was true what I said about my grandma. I knew I could never do what she wanted.”

“You never told me what she were really planning.”

“If you must know, she wanted to marry me off to the local clergyman.”

Jenny stopped spooning broth into her mouth.

“But you’d have been set up fer life, you numbskull! What I wouldn’t give for such a chance . . .”

“You wouldn’t say that if you’d seen him!”

The two locked gazes and suddenly each began to giggle. A jailoress walked across and clamped a meaty hand on Tabitha’s shoulder.

“Up you get. Take your bowl and sit somewhere else.”

“We’re doing no harm,” Jenny muttered.

The woman scowled and wagged her finger in Jenny’s face.

“Oh, please!” Tabitha got to her feet. “It was my fault for making her laugh.”

“Oh, whatever you say, your highness!” The older woman looked contemptuously at Tabitha. “You’ll be laughing on the other side of your face before long. Now, get on your way before you annoy me any more.”

* * * *

Tabitha waited her turn to get on the next carriage. This would take her to Blackfriars Bridge where the convicts would embark on a ship known as The Lady Gwendoline, which would sail to the New World she’d heard people talk about. It seemed some saw that continent as a personal kind of hell while others viewed it as somewhere to make a fresh start.

Tabitha preferred the second option, but a long, arduous voyage lay ahead before she discovered what life had in store next.

She jumped as someone pushed her from behind.

“Get a move on, dearie. Anyone’d think you didn’t want to go nowhere!”

Tabitha heard a cackling laugh then a sharp elbow nudged her in the ribs and she shuffled forward dutifully. Once in the carriage, jammed shoulder to shoulder with the other female convicts, Tabitha gazed at the drab London streets. Almost everyone, she noticed, was doing the same.

There was no chatter and she thought this must be because they’d all finally realised this departure was really about to happen. The day when they left familiar things behind and sailed for an unknown land, had arrived.

As the coach pulled up at the quayside, Tabitha heard some of the women murmuring to each other and craned her neck to see what was catching their attention. She saw the tall masts of a vessel and knew it must be the ship soon to become their temporary home.

Now the first of the convicts were leaving the coach, some looking wildly around as if contemplating escape. But the guards loomed, their faces grim as they shepherded the women into a line ready to board the Australia-bound vessel.

Clutching her beloved carpet bag with one hand and holding on to her shawl with the other, Tabitha walked up the gangway. There were plainly dressed women on deck, chivvying the new arrivals and escorting them below deck.

Ahead of her, women were being herded towards a gangway leading into the depths of the vessel. Would the prisoners not be allowed to stay on deck for a while and enjoy the fresh air? Was there no clemency in this world in which she now found herself? She hadn’t seen Jenny since the pair were ordered to board different coaches. You’re on your own, Tabitha, she told herself.


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!