The Captain’s bride — Episode 27

JACOB had been stuck in port at Capetown for several days and when at last his ship sailed, he still hadn’t heard from Caroline.

Now and then, Tabitha’s face still appeared in his mind’s eye, although he’d learned to prevent his thoughts from wandering too much. He was even considering seeking employment other than as a ship’s captain, feeling, at times, strangely unsettled and wishing for a proper home and family of his own.

Obviously, that must wait until he’d placed an engagement ring upon Caroline’s finger and they could discuss their nuptials and their future together. They hadn’t seen one another for about eight months and if she’d written to him during that time, her letter must have gone astray.

He worried she might never have received his proposal and was already promised to another.

At last the day came when Jacob guided his ship safely back to Blackfriars Bridge. He sent a messenger boy to his friend George’s house, stating his intention to stay at his brother’s residence that night and would call upon George or indeed his wife or sister-in-law, should George be away at sea. Jacob needed, of course, to wait until fully relieved of his responsibilities.

He received no reply from George or his wife and it was around four o’clock next day that Jacob took a horse-drawn carriage from his brother’s house to Knightsbridge. Jacob passed the journey deep in thought as to what lay ahead. Not for the first time, it occurred to him Caroline might out of town.

Jacob alighted from the carriage outside George’s house, paid off the driver and took the flight of shallow stone steps two at a time. The imposing brass knocker gleamed as brightly as usual and within moments someone opened the door. To his amazement, Caroline stood there, fresh and pretty in her blue velvet gown and fur tippet. Temporarily robbed of speech, he made a swift bow and reached for her hand, to land a kiss on the back of it.

“This is a surprise! Please, come in, Jacob. I’m pleased to see you again, though I’m afraid George and my sister have taken the children to visit their grandparents.” Caroline stood back to let him enter.

“I hope you’re not alone in the house, Caroline. Are there no servants with you?” His mouth was dry, his heart beating too quickly, his thoughts in turmoil.

She led the way to the parlour.

“I’m on my own with two servants to look after everything. I happened to be gazing through the window when your carriage pulled up, so I took it upon myself to open the door. I’ll ring for tea, Jacob. Do take a seat beside the fire.”

A maid arrived within moments and Caroline sat down opposite him, with a strangely wary look upon her face, he thought.

“My dear,” he began, “I trust you received my marriage proposal.” She gasped, but he persevered. “I’m sad to say I’ve heard nothing from you in return, so can only assume your response was lost in the mail. Dare I ask whether you received my proposal favourably?”

She was looking at him with amazement.

“But I answered your letter months ago. Are you saying you never received it?”

“Well, it would seem so.” He got up and went over to her, kneeling and reaching for her hands to clasp them between his own. “I’m very sorry to hear this but let me make amends now we’re together again. Caroline, will you do me the honour of becoming my wife?”

There! He’d said the words. But why did he feel no rush of joy? Nor, apparently did Caroline. Her expression spoke volumes. He’d been about to reach for the beaten silver bracelet he carried in his pocket, but instinct told him otherwise.

“Jacob, I can’t accept your proposal, because . . . because I’m promised to another.”

Slowly he released her hands and got to his feet again.

“You’re engaged to be married to someone else?”

She nodded.

“I’m so sorry. After your letter arrived, I took some time to reply because I had by then met another young man at a party and he’d begun calling.”

Jacob’s head swam.

“So, you wrote a letter, turning me down, and all these months, I’ve been wondering whether we were engaged or not?”

She gave him an anguished look as the tea tray was brought in. They sat in silence while cups were filled and macaroons offered and the maid left them alone again.

“I was of course flattered by your marriage proposal, Jacob, but because Thomas had entered my life, I didn’t think it fair to . . . to. . .”

“To keep me dangling on the end of a string?”

“Exactly! But, poor dear Jacob, it seems that’s exactly what has happened and through no fault of my own, I assure you. I took pains to compose a letter I thought explained my decision honestly.” She was looking at him with a woebegone expression.

“Drink your tea,” he said gently, picking up his cup though his thoughts were whirling.


Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, I have found my perfect place on the “Friend” as I’m obsessed with reading and never go anywhere without a book! I read all of our stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!