The Captain’s Bride — Episode 28

CAROLINE raised her teacup to her mouth and for the first time he noticed she wore a thin gold ring on the third finger of her left hand. He thought the gemstone was a sapphire.

How had he not noticed it earlier? Probably because he’d believed he and Caroline were to become formally betrothed. Yet, here he was, still a free man, though numb with shock.

“I hope we can remain friends, Jacob. One day I hope you’ll find happiness and perhaps settle down in London?”

“Who knows?” He gave a wry smile. “Does your future husband work in the city?”

“He does.” She met Jacob’s gaze. “I’ve seen my sister spend too many lonely hours with George away at sea. To be honest, I’m relieved not to be placed in that position.”

At that moment, he realised how badly he’d misread Caroline’s situation, having imagined her sitting at home, waiting for him to make advances.

Yet he didn’t feel heartbroken as he knew he ought. She was pretty. She still smelled of flowers. But she’d never made him feel as he felt when he thought of the brown-eyed girl with the glorious copper tresses. He refused an invitation to dinner and to meet Thomas, giving the excuse that his brother and sister-in-law would be expecting him.

He hailed a cab and was driven back to his brother’s house where he dined with his hosts, still dazed by the afternoon’s revelations but deciding not to confide in anyone. He needed time to absorb this news and time to reflect upon his future.

He decided to leave London and take himself off to Brighton. He enjoyed Brighton in winter and planned to take long walks, read and think.

And when it was time to report to the shipping company once again, there was no question of handing in his notice and leaving his employment after his next two voyages.

Jacob’s one thought was whether to renew his acquaintance with Tabitha Westwood. He knew what he wanted, but must possess himself in patience. After all, she, too, might have attracted the attention of some young man looking for a wife.

* * * *

It was the morning after the dance and Kitty was teasing Tabitha mercilessly.

“You’re a fast worker, I’ll say that for you! Once Archie clapped eyes on you, I could tell he was hooked for life!”

Tabitha knew she was blushing like a beetroot.

“Goodness, Kitty, just because I didn’t dance with anyone else . . .”

“And why was that?” Kitty was stirring a pot of porridge.

“Because Archie didn’t leave my side for long enough and I don’t suppose anyone else wanted to dance with me anyway.”

The older woman chuckled.

“Maybe they were all afraid Archie would see them off. Are you glad you went?”

“Yes, I wouldn’t have met Jenny again if I hadn’t.”

“Hmm . . . I should watch out for that wench if I were you. I saw her making eyes at Archie whilst she was dancing with someone else. Brazen, if you ask me.”

“Maybe, but I’m not looking for a husband. I’m still only seventeen and there’s so much I want to learn. Being married would mean saying goodbye to all that.”

Kitty shook her head.

“Who knows?”

“It’s obvious that becoming a farmer’s wife would mean lots of chores, probably lots of children, and no time for studying.” Horrified, she remembered Kitty was on the verge of exactly such a fate!

“I’m sorry, Kitty. It’s just that I’ve been given a second chance and I want to make the most of it. If marriage happens, I’d prefer it not to be too soon.”

“Well, that’s told me, then!” Kitty began ladling out porridge.

“Shall I take those through?” Tabitha asked.

“That’d be kind. Where are the children?”

“With their mother. She’s resting in bed and reading to them. I’ll tell her their breakfast’s ready.”

“She’s fond of you, Tabitha. People take to you, don’t they?”

“Not everyone does! Especially my grandma.” Tabitha had told Kitty about her past.

Kitty shrugged.

“More fool her. She’ll probably regret what she tried to do with you. But do you ever wish you’d stayed put?”

Tabitha paused on her way out.

“I regret ending up in jail, but being transported meant I met people I became fond of. Also, I believe I have more chance of leading a full life here than I’d have had in England.” She still shuddered when she thought what her life might be now, had she not escaped.

The rest of the morning passed speedily, allowing no time for her to ponder Kitty’s remarks. Archie was a handsome fellow but she thought it highly unlikely their paths would cross.

Nor would she make a suitable wife for him – or anyone else – while Jacob still haunted her thoughts and dreams. She knew she was being ridiculous. She might be considered a suitable wife for Archie, but as for marrying a man of Jacob’s calibre . . . that only happened in fairy tales, didn’t it?


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!