The Captain’s Bride — Episode 24

TABITHA’S new charges stood, hand in hand and side by side before the fireplace when she entered the parlour. Each twin wore a pale green cotton dress. Each little girl looked as though butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.

“Miss Westwood, may I introduce my daughters?”

“I’m Daisy and she’s Edie!” They looked at Tabitha expectantly. Their mother caught Tabitha’s eye. Tabitha knew she’d be safe and happy here. Her employer was smiling.

“Why don’t you two show your governess the gardens before you start work? Is that all right, Miss Westwood?”

“I’d like that very much. I’m looking forward to seeing your spring flowers.”

The rest of the morning passed quietly. Tabitha felt pleased about her first meeting with her charges and ate lunch with them before reading a story from a book in the nursery bookcase.

Their mother had given strict instructions that the children were to rest in the early afternoon and, sure enough, two pairs of eyelids were drooping by the time the story finished. Tabitha escorted them to their bedroom, making sure they were settled before returning to her own room.

Having requested permission to borrow a book from the bookcase in the hallway, she lay on her bed to read.

She must have dozed off, because on waking, she heard voices floating upwards from outside. Might this be the company Kitty had mentioned earlier?

Tiptoeing across, she peered cautiously out. Her heart appeared to leap in her chest, so surprised was she to see Captain Learman. But Jacob stood alone now, gazing at the garden. Where were his host and hostess? So near and yet so far . . . dare she hurry down to speak to him?


* * * *


Jacob had mixed feelings. He’d enjoyed a good lunch with his friends. He told them he’d proposed to Caroline and felt sure this was a wise decision. At that point, he thought Flora looked strangely at him, as if doubting his sincerity. But he’d pushed away the thought. His hostess had gone upstairs to rest, and while he was enjoying his coffee, the maid knocked on the door with an urgent message.

The doctor had left in a hurry, grabbing his medical bag after shaking hands with Jacob and assuring him Will Mackie would drive him back into town once he returned from the hospital trip.

Now, alone in the garden, listening to the song of a bird he couldn’t identify, he longed to hurry indoors and ask the maid if he could speak to Miss Westwood. He was scolding himself for being a chump when he heard his name called and light footsteps approaching. Whirling around, he stood face to face with Tabitha. Without hesitation he reached for her right hand and cradled it between his. They stared at one another, lost for words.

She held his gaze.

“I . . . I saw you from my window and couldn’t resist coming to say goodbye again. I . . . I hardly recognised you without your beard!”

He squeezed her hand but still clung to it.

“I didn’t ask to see you, in case I disturbed Flora and the children. So, you think you’ll be happy here?”

“Oh, yes, I do. Captain Learman, you’ve shown me such kindness. When I think of how I might have been treated, had you not found me this position . . .”

“Hush, no need for dark thoughts. And I think you might call me Jacob now you’re no longer under my care. What do you say?” He watched her face light up.

“Of course. Thank you, Jacob. How . . . how much longer do you stay in Fairclough?”

He wanted to say not long enough.

“Several days, mostly spent supervising the loading of my next ship and spending time in the shipping company’s offices.”

In a wild moment, he considered inviting her to take supper with him at the hotel next evening. But that would scandalise the doctor and his wife and might place Tabitha’s position at risk. Common sense prevailed and he quashed any thoughts of asking permission to write to her. Reluctantly, he released her hand.

“I must go to the children,” she said. “They’ll be waking soon and I don’t want them to disturb their mother. She’s a very kind lady, Jacob. I do realise not everyone would allow a convict into their home, let alone permit her to tutor their children.”

“Flora knows your story, Tabitha. She agrees with me it’s quite evident you should never have been transported.” He hesitated. Silently he thanked his lucky stars this young woman had been sent to his ship.

“Farewell, Tabitha. I wish you good health and happiness.” He couldn’t bring himself to tell her, should their paths cross in future, he’d be a married man.

“Goodbye, Jacob. I wish the same for you.”

She stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek, so swiftly, so lightly, he felt the touch of her soft lips far too fleetingly. But before he could undo all his good intentions, she was fleeing from him. Returning to her new life, leaving him alone with his thoughts, while his fingers touched the freshly shaven cheek her lips had caressed.


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!