- 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
- 33. The Captain’s Bride — Episode 33
- 34. The Captain’s Bride — Episode 34
- 35. The Captain’s Bride — Episode 35
TABITHA carried her plate and cutlery out to the scullery. Kitty had already gone to bed, exhausted after a busy day. Supper for two was laid on the dining-room table and hearing the sounds of movement along the hallway, Tabitha knew the gentlemen were about to begin their meal.
She yawned and put down her mending. The lamp was lit and her eyes were tired. She could hear the diners returning to the parlour. Tabitha had been trying not to think about Jacob since the mistress told her the captain would arrive that evening.
She completed her tasks and left the kitchen pin-neat ready for Kitty next morning. The gentlemen might remain talking for a while yet. Tabitha wiped her damp brow with her handkerchief. The kitchen felt stuffy. She needed to step outside and take some air before bed. Stepping from the house, she gazed up at the darkened sky, stars glistening like crystals scattered upon soft, black velvet. A full moon painted the garden with silvery light.
“Tabitha? I hope I didn’t startle you. It’s Jacob.”
To hear his voice after all this time sent shivers of delight down her spine. Slowly she turned to face the man walking towards her. She couldn’t move. She daren’t let herself do so for fear of running straight into his arms. He was close to her now. So close, she could reach out and touch him. But before she could utter a polite greeting, he stepped even closer, put his arms around her and held her as if he never wanted to let her go.
Tabitha relaxed in his arms, eyes closed so she could pretend the embrace was something much more intense than a friendly hug. As if in a dream, she allowed him to tip her chin upwards. Was this really happening? The moment Jacob’s lips touched hers, softly and a little hesitantly at first, she knew what she so longed for was really happening. Their kiss deepened, making Tabitha wish it would last forever.
He stopped kissing her but still held her in his arms.
“I’m sorry, darling. I apologise for my lack of consideration in taking you by surprise, but now I’m here with you. . . well, the truth is, I’ve fallen in love with you. I think it happened not long after we met, but at that time I was under the illusion that I was an engaged man.” He hesitated. Still she remained silent.
He tipped her chin upwards once again, his expression tender.
“You’re not running away from me, then? Like you did from the clergyman?”
“I would never run away from you, Jacob. But what are you saying? You’ve been at sea for months. I’m so pleased to see you, yet I fear you may be a little light-headed. What if the doctor should step outside?”
“Edward has gone to his room. I looked for you in the kitchen before turning in, then decided I needed some fresh air and a chance to stargaze. There’s so much I want to say, my dear, but let us enjoy the night sky for a while.”
He hugged her closer.
“I’d better let you go,” he murmured all too soon. “I’ll seek an opportunity to talk to you again, but am I allowed one more kiss, my sweet girl?”
She didn’t answer. There was no need. And when their kiss ended, Jacob murmured tenderly.
“I love you, Tabitha.”
“And I you, Jacob.”
* * * *
After such a startling event, Tabitha knew it was inevitable she’d spend much of that night tossing and turning.
Next morning, Tabitha’s recollection of last night’s events flooded her mind, making her wonder whether Jacob holding her in his arms and kissing her had been a dream after all. Did he really say he loved her? And had she really dared to reveal her true feelings after all this time?
Tabitha washed her face and dressed quickly. Leaving her room, she realised the house was still quiet, so she tiptoed down the corridor and opened the kitchen door.
“Kitty, this is your last day as a single woman,” Tabitha said.
The older woman beamed as she cut bread.
“Who’d have thought it, eh? Me about to become Mrs Gingham! Oh, Tabitha, whatever will I do if he should change his mind? Men can be fickle creatures, you know.”
For moments Tabitha wondered if Kitty suspected something and was issuing a warning, but she banished the thought.
“He won’t do anything of the sort. You’re just what Benjamin Gingham needs and you know it! Now, what shall I help you with before I wake the children?”
Tabitha was taking newly baked bread and a dish of butter to the breakfast table when she realised the two men were standing by the window, talking quietly.
They glanced at her and she gave a quick bob, taking care not to meet Jacob’s gaze. Tabitha was very aware of her social standing. She was still classed as a convict even though the drab brown dress was long gone, thanks to Flora Collins.
Jacob would understand her plight. Tabitha left the room. Now, more than ever, she was determined to follow the advice Flora gave her when she first arrived. She would hold her head high.