The Captain’s Bride — Episode 25

THE months went by and Tabitha had her hands full with two lively children to supervise and their mother handing more and more responsibility over now she was with child. Tabitha didn’t mind working hard. She’d grown fond of the children and their mother, and Dr Collins, after his initial reserve, was pleasant and appreciative so her working hours passed pleasantly.

Slowly she learned not to think of Jacob as the days went by. Christmas came and went and she realised one morning he was probably back in London.

Acknowledging such a man must surely be married or betrothed, she agreed to attend a dance being held at a nearby farm the following Saturday night. Kitty, the dark horse, or so Tabitha called her, confessed to having an admirer and was hoping for a marriage proposal.

“Benjamin Gingham lost his wife early last year,” she said. “He’s a decent man and though I’m happy here, I don’t want to remain in this job till I pop my clogs, now do I? I know he sorely misses his helpmeet and I’m willing to work hard and hope to please him.”

Tabitha saw the reasoning in that. But she didn’t expect to hear what came next.

“Mr Gingham has a son who works with him on the farm. His name’s Archie and he’s twenty. It’s time you had a night out and Archie’s keen to meet you. What d’you say?”

“Surely you and I can’t both go out at the same time?”

“I’ll speak to the mistress. She knows my younger sister who works in town and who’d keep an eye on the girls, so long as Mr Mackie can collect her and take her back.” Kitty winked at Tabitha. “He has a liking for my peach pie. Says it’s better than his wife’s recipe but on no account is she to know!”

Tabitha chuckled.

“In that case, yes, I’d like to go to the dance but I don’t know what I can wear.”

“Gracious me, one of your everyday frocks will do fine.” She bustled off, leaving Tabitha to prepare a light meal for the children. As she cut slices of peach pie, she wondered what Archie Gingham was like. But she wasn’t seeking a husband.

After she settled the children into bed on the Saturday, Tabitha reported all was well to their mother before hurrying to her room to change into the pretty rosebud-sprigged muslin gown Flora insisted she borrowed. There was also a pair of lightweight shoes and an emerald green ribbon to tie back her hair. She picked up a white shawl she’d bought with some of her wages and arrived in the kitchen where she found Kitty waiting.

Tabitha gasped.

“My word, you look lovely, Kitty. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Mr Gingham proposes marriage to you tonight.”

“And you’re a picture, Tabitha. That gown could’ve been made for you.” Kitty hurried to the back door and peered out. “That’s Mr Mackie coming up the drive. Soon as my sister’s inside and settled, he’ll take us to the dance.”

* * * *

The farm wasn’t far away and after a few minutes of rattling along country lanes in the twilight, Will Mackie pulled up alongside a big barn which he told Tabitha was a wool shed, empty at that time of year. He assured her he’d drive her and Kitty back later.

“But maybe your admirer will insist on driving you back, Kitty?” he teased.

“Do you know everything that happens in these parts, Will Mackie?” But Kitty was in a good mood, catching hold of Tabitha’s hand and leading her into the woolshed.

Tabitha could hear the sort of lively music that made her want to tap her toes. Inside, most folk were standing around or seated in groups so she and Kitty found a quiet corner and watched the dancers.

“Which one’s Mr Gingham?” Tabitha asked.

“He’s coming across now!”

Tabitha saw a bearded, powerfully built man, probably ten years older than Kitty. He nodded a greeting to her, took Kitty’s hand and swept her away.

Tabitha wondered where Archie Gingham was. If he was that keen to meet her, why hadn’t he come over with his father? She hoped she wasn’t going to be left sitting down all night.

“Miss Westwood?” A slim young man, his hair jet black and curly, stood in front of her. “Would you care to dance? I’m Archie Gingham.”

Tabitha nodded and smiled.

“Pleased to meet you.” She got to her feet and followed him on to the makeshift dance floor.


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!