The Captain’s Bride — Episode 11

CAPTAIN JACOB LEARMAN heaved a sigh of satisfaction as his ship left its mooring at the appointed time. At the wheel, he watched familiar landmarks appear then slide into the distance as ‘The Lady Gwendoline’ forged her way through the Thames estuary towards the North Sea.

Jacob had always wanted to see the world. He’d served his apprenticeship from his tenth birthday through the years until his thirtieth. His seafaring friends gradually became more like family, something which he greatly valued, as neither of his parents was still alive.

His only brother lived in London and, several years older than Jacob, had a wife and four children. He visited them occasionally when his voyages permitted.

But for the last couple of years, he’d envied his brother and wondered how he could possibly meet a suitable young lady and win her hand when he was away from England so much.

His dilemma ended when one of his friends, another captain, found Jacob was not only in London between ships in late December, but had no plans for Christmas Day.

“Good heavens, man,” George had said, “you must come to my humble abode and meet my family.”

Jacob accepted the invitation gratefully, totally unaware he’d be seated at luncheon next to George’s sister-in-law, a young woman of twenty or so years. He feared Caroline would be bored with him – another seafaring man, as unlikely to entertain her with tales of parties and balls as her brother-in-law George would be!

But Jacob and Caroline discovered a mutual love of music and at the end of the celebrations, he was enquiring whether she had any admirers or whether he might be permitted to call upon her next day.

He smiled to himself as he remembered how her face lit up and how her sister, George’s wife, had conveniently ignored the rules of etiquette and taken the children out for half an hour, leaving the young couple to become better acquainted.

He’d liked the way Caroline’s blue eyes sparkled. He’d noticed how the scent of lavender clung to the silky folds of her gown.

Months later, between voyages, Jacob talked himself into asking for her hand in marriage before taking over his next ship and leaving for the coast of south-eastern Australia. However, illness in the family prevented him from visiting George’s residence.

The womenfolk and children were in strict quarantine and, with time against him, Jacob decided to write a letter to Caroline after his ship sailed and ensure it was posted at the next port of call. She was a sweet girl, polite and good with her young nieces and nephews.

Jacob longed for children of his own and though he knew he wasn’t head over heels in love, he was extremely fond of her. And he was well aware his lifestyle wasn’t the most secure in the world. Not only was the sea an unpredictable workplace, but many young ladies wouldn’t relish the prospect of being left husbandless for months on end. He felt this particular one would probably take it in her stride.

The pilot was preparing to leave the ship. Jacob shook the man’s hand and thanked him. They exchanged a few words before the fellow wished him a good voyage and left the bridge. Jacob squared his shoulders and gazed into the distance as his crew members went about their duties. He frowned as he realised it was time to show his face on deck.

“Take over, Robert. I shan’t be long.”

Jacob left his second-in-command in charge and headed for the main deck. Here he saw the usual scene – yet, he frowned as someone caught his eye. He stopped in his tracks. A slight young woman, huddled into her grey woollen shawl, stood gazing out at the water.

Jacob frowned. What was this all about?

He cleared his throat. The young woman whirled round to face him. She staggered slightly and Jacob reached out both hands to hold her firmly but gently by the shoulders. A lock of hair, the colour of molten copper, peeped from beneath her sturdy cap. A pair of brown eyes beneath shapely brows met the captain’s gaze.

At that moment, he knew his life would be for ever linked with hers. He banished this ridiculous notion from his mind.

“What are you doing here, child? Why are you not below with the others?”


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!