The Captain’s Bride — Episode 23

WHERE was she? Why could she hear a cock crowing when there were no hens aboard? Tabitha opened her eyes. She lay in a bed, not a bunk. There was no movement. No hullabaloo as people stumbled past. Realisation flooded her as she remembered her whereabouts.

Quickly she jumped from beneath the blankets and pattered across to the window, pulling open the shutters. Sunlight streamed in but she’d no idea of the time. She was about to get dressed when she heard the door at the end of the corridor open.

“So, you’re up and about already? It’s still early. When you come to the kitchen, you and me can break a crust together. There’s fresh milk from the cow.”

Kitty retreated and Tabitha felt relieved, knowing she wasn’t expected to join her employers so early in the day, especially as she was still in awe of the doctor.

She shut herself in her room again and poured water into a bowl so she could splash her face. She dressed quickly, decided the simple gingham dress fitted very well then dug into her bag, her fingers finding her mother’s hairbrush. Using it soothed her spirits. Tabitha gave a little twirl before pushing her feet into her boots and leaving the room.

She found Kitty chopping vegetables.

“Can I help?” Tabitha asked. “Are you the cook as well as the maid, Kitty? Goodness, you must be kept busy.”

The woman raised her eyebrows.

“You’re friendlier than that one that used to be here. But I need no help, thank you. Sit yourself down. Cut yourself some bread and I’ll be there before long.”

Tabitha was eyeing the food. After shipboard rations, the soup she’d eaten last night and the freshly baked loaf in front of her were manna from heaven. She cut herself a slice of bread, spread it with yellow butter and almost swooned with delight as Kitty placed a honeycomb upon the table.

“I’ve kept a boiled egg for you. If ever a body needed feeding up it’s you!” Kitty put down the brown egg beside Tabitha’s place. “You’re a lucky young woman to have survived that long journey.”

Seeing the curiosity in her eyes, Tabitha knew the maid must wonder what crime the new governess had committed. She nodded.

“I’m fortunate indeed. Some time I’ll tell you my story, Kitty. Believe me, I’m no thief. Nor am I a woman of ill repute.”

“I never thought that for one minute, Miss Westwood.”

“Please can you call me Tabitha? At least while it’s just you and me in the kitchen?”

Tabitha watched Kitty’s expression change and knew she’d made a friend.

“All right. Tabitha it shall be. Now, eat up and be ready for the mistress to speak to you about your duties. There’s company arriving for luncheon today so I’ll be busier than usual.”

* * * *

Jacob Learman awoke in his hotel room. For moments he wondered where he was. Of course, he was between ships once more. For several days he could forget his duties and enjoy the mild Australian spring.

When he eventually sailed back up the River Thames to Blackfriars, it would be to the bleakness of a British winter, though he doubted he’d make England before December. As always, it would depend upon prevailing winds and good fortune.

Collecting his thoughts, he realised he must visit George and his family, possibly even stay with them now he’d made a formal proposal of marriage to his friend’s sister-in-law.

She danced in his head again. But not Caroline. No, it was Tabitha he carried with him like a lucky gold charm. What kind of man was he? Why couldn’t he realise he was due to sail back and claim his bride to be? His thoughts shouldn’t dwell on the girl whose sparkling brown eyes and ridiculously creamy skin persisted on tantalising him.

Today he was to lunch with his friend, the good Doctor Collins, and his beautiful wife. Would he see Tabitha?

But the governess wouldn’t be lunching with her employers and their guest. This was her first day of employment. She’d had no time to settle in and acquaint herself with her charges and the domestic routines.

He’d done his best to ease her path into this strange new world which was now her home. It was time to let go. But why should he feel so miserable? There could be no future for Tabitha Westwood and Jacob Learman. This thought caused a pang so sharp, he groaned aloud.

He closed his eyes, struggling to picture golden-haired Caroline. Well, if he found difficulty, that was understandable, wasn’t it? They hadn’t seen each other for many months. Doubtless, when the time came, she’d find a suitable husband. Someone nearer to her age. . .

He got out of bed. The hotel wasn’t far from The Lady Gwendoline’s berth. He smoothed his beard and decided to visit a barber before his luncheon appointment. Dr Collins’s note awaiting him last night stated he’d be sending someone to collect him from the hotel at noon. It would be good to see his friends again

It was time to return to earth. Perhaps Flora Collins could advise him regarding a suitable present for his intended? Choosing a betrothal gift would surely convince him, as well as Caroline, of the sincerity of his intentions?


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!