The Captain’s Bride — Episode 20

ONE afternoon when Tabitha knocked on the captain’s door, she heard him respond, then entered quietly as usual.

“Sit down, please, Tabitha.” He gestured to the chair opposite his desk. “I’m in the process of writing a letter which I trust will be delivered as soon as we reach our destination. But I require your thoughts first.”

She seated herself. Why on earth did he need to discuss something with her? She was far too lowly to warrant such a thing. But she remained patient while he scanned the words he’d written and signed his name at the bottom of the page. Only then did he sit back and meet her gaze.

For moments, Tabitha forgot where she was. Forgot who she was. Forgot her past. Even forgot about the book she hoped to finish before long. All she could think of was the man sitting opposite. She would miss him more than she could possibly say.

And her future would take place without him, except when he walked through her dreams. She blinked hard, trying to concentrate upon what he was saying.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve assisted prisoners in my charge to make a new life for themselves. The town of Fairclough isn’t far from where ‘The Lady Gwendoline’ will dock tomorrow.” He smiled. “You’re wondering what I’ll say next, aren’t you?”

She nodded.

“Most of your fellow countrymen will be taken to special encampments where they’ll be assigned work. Some of them will do well and be able one day to acquire a parcel of land. The area is fertile and though not prosperous, holds hope for those prepared to work hard and behave as good citizens should and must.”

“I understand, sir.” She still wondered why he was taking such pains to explain the situation. Was he trying to warn her how her peaceful life on board must lead to one much rougher? A shiver travelled the length of her spine. Jacob was looking down at what he’d written again.

“I want to reassure you about your future,” Jacob said suddenly. “This letter I’ve written is to a doctor friend who lives in the town I mentioned. He has a young family with twin girls needing more time than his dear wife can give.

“Their previous governess left suddenly and Dr Collins reported this fact in his last letter. I hope I’ve found a solution to his problem and the answer to the next step in your future. What do you say?”

She was apprehensive about what lay ahead, also saddened at the thought of parting from Bob and Mary and their children. But this man was once again thinking of her and she mustn’t disappoint.

“I’ve no qualifications to offer, sir. It’s years since my mother gave me lessons on the guitar and taught me something of the French language. But I’m grateful to you for thinking of me. Maybe I could help with domestic matters and free the doctor’s wife to spend more time educating her children?”

He looked at her for some moments before responding.

“Your suggestion proves your potential to make more of yourself. You think things out in a sensible manner.” He grinned. “Though it’s to be hoped, if you do join the doctor’s household, you won’t suddenly take off in some new direction.”

Tabitha gasped.

“I doubt your friends would try to marry me off, sir!” She hesitated, fearing she’d spoken out of turn. Because, strangely, Jacob’s expression was regretful. And at that moment she felt the same pain at the thought of never seeing him again. Of never knowing the joy of becoming married to the man she loved.

For, now the voyage was almost over, she knew for certain where her heart lay. But, although she might dream of becoming the captain’s bride, that dream could never become reality.

* * * *

Bright sunlight burning through her shawl. Rough, dry ground beneath her feet. Already Tabitha felt the searing heat prickling her neck, sending beads of moisture trickling down her back.

She was finally on dry land and it felt strange, walking on ground that didn’t shift and sway. Her fellow-passengers all looked as she felt. Bewildered. Apprehensive. Unkempt. No wonder the small girl she’d grown to love over the last difficult months, clung to her hand so tightly. She was to accompany the Lennox family to the encampment nearby then wait to be collected.

All Tabitha’s worldly goods were contained in the faded carpet bag Jacob had returned to her. Although she knew she should count her blessings over joining Dr Collins’s household, her excitement was dampened by having to part from Jacob Learman and before long, she’d say goodbye to people with whom she’d spent the last months.

Ahead of her trudged men, women and children. They seemed defeated before they even began this new life everyone spoke about. She wondered about Jenny, her friend from London. Where would she be sent? Might their paths cross again?

Word was being passed down the prisoner procession. Their temporary quarters were visible to those people at the front. Tabitha had been instructed to wait near the entrance. Who would collect her? What if the doctor changed his mind? Tabitha’s heartbeat quickened at the thought of what might happen to her. Jacob was no longer her protector.


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!