- 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
- 36. The Captain’s bride — Episode 36
- 37. The Captain’s Bride — Episode 37
TABITHA closed her eyes as his arms enveloped her. His kiss was as welcome and as delightful as last night’s. The notion of becoming Mrs Jacob Learman, so often imagined in her dreams, seemed not so nonsensical now.
She still feared gossip, though – even scandal – if people should suspect her of being involved with a ship’s captain. And what if Flora should walk in? She drew back a little, hating to see the hurt expression in Jacob’s eyes.
“Oh, please, don’t look like that, Jacob! My love for you began when I was far too young to know what love was. Now I‘m in my nineteenth year and you seek me
out . . . it’s almost too wonderful to bear. Yet, I’m so afraid Mrs Collins will suspect something.”
“You’re right. But after months at sea, you, my lovely Tabitha, are like an oasis glimmering in the desert – so near and yet so far.”
“You’ll be writing poetry next, Jacob. What a beautiful thing to say.”
He took her hand in his and kissed the fingers.
“The plans I have for my future have one flaw, which is that so far, you’re not included. Tell me, Tabitha, when the time is right, will you do me the honour of becoming my wife?”
For moments, Tabitha felt as though the world had stopped turning.
“Please don’t be afraid, my sweet. I realise I can’t ask your father for your hand in marriage, but if he were still alive, I would assure him of my eternal love and determination to look after his daughter to the very best of my ability. Do you doubt my intentions? Or is it that you fear I’m too old for you?”
“Oh, Jacob! No, no, of course I don’t think that. And how could I doubt your sincerity after all you’ve done for me? No, it is I who I doubt. For how can I possibly be the woman you deserve to make your bride? Me, with my humble background and criminal record!”
There! She’d confessed the thing she most loathed about herself.
“Seeing how you conduct yourself, I think your background’s probably less humble than my own. And as for being a criminal – after your seven-year sentence ends, I intend to ensure that false pronouncement is struck from the records.”
Jacob was down on one knee, holding both her hands between his own.
“Tabitha Westwood. Will you make me the happiest man on earth by consenting to be my wife?”
Doubts and fears disappeared. Knowing he shared her own dreams, more than ever she longed to become his wife.
* * * *
Jacob realised his friends would be astonished by the news. He was determined to tell them of his marriage proposal and Tabitha’s acceptance, rather than expect her to do so. He waited until the evening meal when he, Edward and Flora, were gathered round the dining table.
“I have something to tell you,” Jacob said as they began on their vegetable soup. “Something which will doubtless surprise and possibly concern you. But I hope you’ll hear me out and accept my decision.
“You’ve both known me for some years and you, Edward, for longer than I care to remember!”
Edward raised his eyebrows.
“This is concerning the plan you shared with me, Jacob? You know how pleased we both are, knowing you want to settle here.”
“I do, my friend. Can you recall something you said during our discussion? How you felt it would be difficult to find the right woman to share my life?”
“Yes, I still believe that’s very important.”
Flora leaned forward, eyes sparkling.
“Jacob, does this mean you have good news from the young lady in London? You were hoping she’d look favourably upon your marriage proposal.”
“My apologies, Flora. I should have told you before. Caroline’s letter, rejecting my proposal, never reached me. Stupidly, I didn’t write again, imagining she’d reply when she was ready. It seems she was waiting to hear from me, but in the meantime met a young man who I gather swept her off her feet. She’s probably married by now.”
“Goodness, you must be very disappointed.”
“Fate moves in strange ways.”
“But that’s not all you have to say, is it?” Edward poured more wine.
“No. Over the time I’ve known her, I’ve become more and more fond of a certain young woman. My position enabled me to make life easier for her during the voyage she undertook from England to Australia last year.
“Furthermore, I was able to ensure she went to live with a fine family who I knew would treat her with the respect she deserved. I’ve been proved right. I’ve proposed marriage to this young woman. I’m delighted to say she has accepted.”
Flora clapped her hands.
“Another wedding! How exciting!” She frowned. “But I’m puzzled, Jacob. How have we not met your bride-to-be if she lives nearby?”
Edward was ahead of his wife.
“We have met her,” he said quietly. “She’s already here, living beneath our roof. Is that not so, Jacob?”
Flora looked from one to the other.
“But surely you can’t mean. . .?”
Jacob reached across and took her hand.
“Yes, Flora, Tabitha is whom I love.”
Edward sighed. Flora burst into tears. Jacob feared the worst.