The Captain’s Bride — Episode 21

SOMEONE was calling Tabitha’s name. She turned her head and to her delight, saw Jenny hurrying to catch her up.

“I’m glad to see you,” Tabitha said. “At least we both survived the voyage.” At once she regretted making that remark. Her voyage had been a very different one from Jenny’s.

Her friend almost stumbled and Tabitha grabbed her arm to steady her.

“Anyone’d think I was still onboard ship!” Jenny grinned. “I’ve decided I’m going to work like there ain’t no tomorrow and hope to find a farmer or someone like that to marry me!”

“My goodness! I hope you get your wish, Jenny.”

“What about you, Tabby?”

Tabitha knew better than to lie.

“I’m to join a doctor’s household. Captain Learman decided I’d gained enough experience helping with the Lennox children to offer myself as a helper to another family.”

“Bless my soul! That’s good to hear. But where does this other family live? Have you more travelling to do?”

“They live on the outskirts of town. Someone’s supposed to be collecting me but I have to wait at the entrance to the encampment.”

“So, our paths may cross again. What’s the name of this town?”

“Fairclough, Jenny. If only things were different! If only you too were going to a nice family and we could exchange addresses and. . . and keep in touch.”

At once she remembered her friend couldn’t write. Tabitha felt saddened that she hadn’t been able to begin teaching Jenny her letters because of the captain’s decision to take her beneath his wing. She realised she’d been lucky but couldn’t help wondering whether that luck would continue to hold.

* * * *

Tabitha’s spirits were low. She’d said goodbye to Jenny and wished her well. Now she stood, her bag at her feet, thanking her lucky stars for the early evening cool. This was spring in Australia but the changing seasons would have brought autumn to her homeland. She yawned, shuffling her feet and wondering what to do if she’d been forgotten.

She looked up, hearing a distinctive sound. A pony and trap were approaching, the pony’s hooves kicking up reddish swirls. Whoever was driving must end up covered with that dust. She’d had very little to eat or drink that day and suddenly she yearned for a bed that remained still while she stretched out in it.

The driver called to the pony.

“Whoa, there, boy. Whoa, now. . .” He spotted Tabitha and called out. “You for the doctor’s house? Are you Miss Tabitha?”

“Yes, I’m Tabitha.”

“Then get up beside me. Throw your bag up first.”

Tabitha did as he said. She settled herself beside him and he clicked his tongue against his teeth and pulled on the reins. The pony set off again at a trot and Tabitha wondered why the man hadn’t given the animal some rest.

As if he’d read her mind, the driver spoke.

“The house isn’t far away.”

Tabitha frowned. What was that accent?

“Where are you from?” she asked. “I’m sorry, nobody told me the name of the person who’d be collecting me.”

He touched his cap.

“The name’s Will Mackie. Born in Glasgow. Worked in the dockyard then got carried away by the promise of a job in London and ended up homeless. I stole to stay alive.”

“So, that’s why you’re over here?”

He shot her a curious glance.

“Aye. Beg pardon for asking, miss, but with you speaking so nicely and being a governess and all, how come you arrived on the convict ship?”

“It’s a long story, Mr Mackie.”

“You can call me Will.”

“Thank you. And it would be good if you called me Tabitha.”

“Better not, lass. Unless you happen to call on me and the missus at home.”

“That sounds lovely. But to answer your question, I too was led down the garden path but I lived in Lancashire, not London.” She was about to admit she’d never before been employed as a governess but decided against it.

He whistled.

“You’ve come a long way too. Must’ve been hard on your family, seeing you carted off to Blackfriars?”

“I’ve hardly any family left, I’m afraid. How about you?” This man, she realised, was as easy to talk to as her father had been.

“Lost touch with my sisters and brother. Married a local girl ten years ago – daughter of the farmer I used to work for. Me and the wife have three nippers. My Nellie’s a good seamstress. The doc’s wife heard about her and she’s Nellie’s best customer now.

“I got my job with the family after their old employee retired. Nearly on his knees he was, poor fellow! Taught me a lot though. I’m Jack of all trades now.”

“Are the doctor and his wife good people to work for?”

“I should say so! Kind as a rainbow, the doctor is. His missus, too. Whoever put you forward for the governess job did you a big favour, miss.”


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!