- 26. The Captain’s Bride — Episode 26
- 27. The Captain’s bride — Episode 27
- 28. The Captain’s Bride — Episode 28
- 29. The Captain’s Bride — Episode 29
- 30. The Captain’s Bride — Episode 30
- 31. The Captain’s Bride — Episode 31
- 32. The Captain’s Bride — Episode 32
ALONE in his cabin, Jacob took out Tabitha’s letter as if it was a box of sweetmeats waiting to be relished. She wrote a good hand, with excellent spelling and grammar. He’d made the right decision in recommending her to the doctor and knowing she was happy and in gainful employment meant a lot.
He’d also made another decision since Caroline’s announcement. The postal service had failed him, but he’d been released from a life he realised would have been wrong for him and for her, too. He felt ashamed of his presumptuous thoughts and wished her happiness for the future.
As for his future? He’d had ample time to think while walking on Brighton’s pebbly beach and strolling through lanes and byways. There was a project so dear to his heart, he could hardly bear to contemplate it for fear he was again thinking ahead without being certain his suggestion would be welcome.
He needed to purchase a suitable property, one where he could write and study and start a small school. The population in Victoria was growing and families would be looking to educate their children to help them on in life.
His decision made, he longed to share his thoughts with Tabitha. He didn’t intend trying to steal her away from her current position. That wouldn’t be fair, especially as his friends had housed her and entrusted their children to her care, on his recommendation.
No, the months would pass and it would take time to arrange everything to his satisfaction. Jacob intended to look at possible houses while in Fairclough this time, also to enquire whether he’d find it easy to rent a house when he returned after his last voyage, in case it wasn’t possible to buy or build the right property in time.
He smiled as he thought how, after ensuring Tabitha’s feelings matched his, he’d ask her to hear his plan and consider whether, one day, she would become his wife and work beside him in their new school.
He hoped Edward and Flora’s children would become the first pupils, but he knew much depended upon Tabitha and, until he spoke to her, he daren’t be too cock-a-hoop. Losing Caroline to another was what he deserved. Losing Tabitha, he knew now, would be a dreadful blow. But even if she turned him down, he resolved still to make a new life for himself in Australia.
* * * *
The following Sunday afternoon, Archie’s father arrived at the back door, asking to see Kitty. Tabitha answered his knock as Kitty was in her room. Both she and Tabitha were allocated small but comfortable bedrooms and both appreciated their good fortune.
“Kitty? You have a visitor.” Tabitha waited.
Kitty poked her head around the door.
“Is it my sister?”
“Not your sister. This is a gentleman caller.” To Tabitha’s delight, Kitty could still blush. “Where is he?”
“Waiting at the back door. Looks like he wants to take you for a drive so you’d better look sharp.”
“Two minutes,” Kitty hissed.
Tabitha went back to report. Mr Gingham thanked her politely. She didn’t like to walk away and wasn’t sure if it was her place to invite him in. So, she asked after his family.
“All in good health, Miss Westwood. And my Archie asks to be remembered. He mentioned you specially, should I bump into you.”
“Please give him my best wishes, Mr Gingham.”
She hoped this innocent remark wouldn’t turn into something more flirtatious but luckily Kitty appeared and Mr Gingham swept her off in his pony and trap.