The Captain’s bride — Episode 36

TABITHA felt the arm encircling her waist tighten a little. He was holding her slightly closer. Over his shoulder she could see Dr Collins and Jacob entering the room. When would this dance end, for goodness’ sake?

But the musicians kept playing and Tabitha, keeping sight of Jacob, saw him turn his head and notice her. At once his expression brightened and he smiled and locked gazes with her. But Archie twirled her round, changing direction so they were lost in the midst of a crowd of dancers.

Did he do that on purpose? She was probably getting nervous for nothing, but instead of enjoying the party, she now worried Jacob might consider her to be a flirt.

To her relief, when Archie escorted her back to her seat, she noticed her friend Jenny sitting nearby.

“Let’s go and say hello,” Tabitha said. “She’s on her own over there and I’m sure she’d love it if you asked her to dance.”

Archie muttered something but did as he was told. Jenny got to her feet and hugged Tabitha as they reached her.

“I couldn’t get time off to come to the wedding,” Jenny said. “But Kitty sent me an invitation so I walked here . . . but don’t let me stop you two from dancing.”

“I expect Archie’s pleased to have a rest from me trampling on his feet,” Tabitha said.

Archie protested while Jenny looked from one to the other, as if unsure what to say.

“I’ll come back to you both soon, I promise,” Tabitha said. “But I should really go and speak to Dr Collins and Captain Learman. I don’t want them to think I’m ignoring them.”

She turned away and hurried off, skirts swishing as Archie looked longingly after her. He turned to Jenny.

“Would you like to dance, Miss Jenny?” He held out his hand and she accepted it, smiling.

“I’d love to dance, thank you, Mr Gingham.”

But as she approached the doctor and Jacob, Kitty and her new husband beat her to it, so she stopped, not wishing to interrupt. Within moments, Jacob noticed her and she swallowed hard as his gaze met hers.

Neither Dr Collins nor the happy couple were aware Tabitha was standing nearby and she sucked in her breath as she saw Jacob offer a brief apology before detaching himself from the group and walking towards her.

“Good evening, Tabitha,” he said, his deep, mellow voice.

“Good evening, Jacob.” She spoke softly and smiled up at him, wondering whether her guardian angel would truly guide her into marriage with the man she so loved.

“Do you still think we shouldn’t dance together?” He spoke softly, too.

“I think it’s best, but I’m sure the bride would be delighted to partner you.” She smiled mischievously at him.

“Tabitha, I think, as we cannot dance together, we should mingle. I’m noticing an occasional curious gaze as people dance past.” He bent to retrieve a blossom that had fallen from her hair. Instead of handing it to her, he reached out and slipped it behind one of her ears.

Swiftly, she bobbed him a curtsey.

“I’m indebted to you, Captain. I’m pleased you were able to come and congratulate the bride and groom.”

With that, she turned away and hurried back to where she’d been sitting. There was no sign of Jenny or Archie. Nor anyone else nearby whom she knew until Will Mackie appeared.

“May I sit beside you awhile, Miss Westwood?”

“Of course, Will. Don’t Benjamin and Kitty look happy?”

“Aye, indeed they do. But did I catch you looking a little sad? You can tell me to mind my own beeswax if you wish!”

Tabitha shook her head.

“I’ll do nothing of the sort. But I’m not feeling sad – only a little thoughtful.”

“Maybe you’re thinking of your own wedding day? There’s more than one young man around who admires you and that’s a fact. It’s possible you’re thinking of one in particular . . .”

Tabitha felt embarrassed though she knew Will Mackie would never wish that to happen.

“Um . . . I’m still making my way in this new world, Will. I need to gain more teaching experience before I contemplate marriage, no matter who my husband might be.”

“An answer I’d have expected, knowing your way with words and your sensible outlook, but might I offer a word of warning?”

Before she could respond, she saw Jacob making his way through the groups of chatting people surrounding the dance floor. She shot to her feet, with Will almost as speedy.

“Jacob, what is it?”

“One of Edward’s children is poorly. Flora asked a neighbour to ride here and inform him. Will, can you take the doctor and me back to the house, please? Miss Westwood, will you come, too? I’m sure Flora will be glad of your help. I’ll return to Edward and see you both outside.” Jacob set off.

“I need to tell my missus before we go,” Will said. Tabitha followed Jacob.

“I’ll see you outside, too, Will.”

As she left the party, Tabitha noticed a fair-haired girl in a corner, perched on Archie Gingham’s knee. She wondered whether the warning Will was prevented from giving her, could be connected with the young couple in the corner.


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!