The Captain’s Bride — Episode 26

ARCHIE took her in his arms and whirled her away so fast she had a job keeping up with him. They jigged around the floor until the musicians announced they were taking a rest and Archie took Tabitha by the hand and led her to a table where jugs of lemonade stood ready. She drank the cool liquid gratefully, looking round to see if she recognised anyone and almost spluttering when someone tapped her on the shoulder. She turned to find her friend Jenny grinning at her.

“I knew I’d meet you again some time, Tabby!” Jenny flung her arms round her. “My, you look in the pink.”

“The food probably has something to do with it!” Tabitha gazed at Jenny. “You look well, too. Where do you work?”

“I’m maid to an elderly couple. They’re really kind to me and their house is in the middle of town. How are you getting on?”

“I’m happy with the doctor’s family. The house isn’t far from here and I rarely go into town so no wonder we’ve not met before.”

Tabitha was aware of Archie standing patiently by and moved to include him in the conversation.

“Jenny, this is Archie Gingham. His father owns this farm. And Archie, this is my friend, Jenny. We met on the voyage over.”

Tabitha startled herself by the way she hadn’t tried to hide her background. Kitty must have told Archie’s dad anyway and she still determined to walk tall, as Mrs Collins had advised.

“Pleased to meet you, I’m sure.”

Tabitha decided Jenny was bowled over. Archie was a fine-looking fellow but he’d taken Tabitha’s hand back in his and though smiling politely, obviously wasn’t interested in listening to the girls chattering.

She turned to him.

“Jenny and I haven’t seen each other for months, Archie. Do you mind if we catch up for a few minutes?”

He shrugged.

“It’s fine by me. But I don’t want to lose you to one of the other fellers. If someone asks you to dance, would you mind telling ’em you’re spoken for, Miss Tabitha?”

“My goodness . . . um, yes, all right then. We won’t be long.”

Archie moved off.

“He ain’t gone too far,” Jenny whispered. “I reckon he’s smitten all right. How long have you two been seeing each other?”

“We met for the first time this evening.”

Jenny laughed out loud.

“And already I can hear wedding bells ringing. Well done, girl!”

Tabitha’s heart almost stopped beating, or so it felt. Her self-control and determination over the last months melted like butter pats left on a sunny window-sill. She knew for sure there was only one man she wanted to marry.

“That won’t happen. I enjoy my work and I’m continuing to learn all the time so I keep ahead of the children. One day, I’d like to be qualified to teach in a proper school.”

Jenny stared at her.

“Tell me those rumours weren’t true.”

“What rumours?”

“About you and the captain. Everyone knew you were sweet on him and he on you. Did he make advances?”

Tabitha’s cheeks were burning and there was a drumming sound in her ears.

“Jenny, the captain was a true gentleman at all times. He was only ever interested in helping me improve my situation.”

“If that’s what you believe, then so be it. I don’t want to fall out wiv you, Tabby, but likely you wasn’t the only girl on that ship wrongly convicted of a crime.

“Yet he picked you out, didn’t he? I always stood up for you when the harpies gossiped but I reckon you still hold a torch for the captain and that’s why you’re not interested in Archie.”

“Jenny, it’s unlikely Captain Learman’s not married! It’s a fat lot of good me mooning over someone else’s husband, now isn’t it?”

“I s’pose. Anyhow, if you ask me, that Archie’s a much better bet. Not much older than us, I reckon, and pretty enough to eat!”

“What will I do with you? But it’s good to see you again. You and I went through such a lot together.”

“You oughter write it all down one day. Do you send letters to your family?”

“You mean my grandmother?”

“Oh, sorry, Tabby, I’d forgot your folks is dead.”

“It’s all right. I wrote to Grandma, giving my new address but she’s probably still too furious to answer my letter. Hey, the music’s starting again and there’s a young man staring at you. I think he’s coming to ask you to dance.”

Jenny turned away to face her new partner and at once Archie was at Tabitha’s side.

“Please may I have the pleasure, Miss Tabitha?”

She hoped he wouldn’t claim her for every dance, but she’d no intention of upsetting him. Already she was feeling much more at home in Victoria. And if it was her destiny to remain there, she must accept that.


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!