The Captain’s Bride — Episode 38

OUTSIDE, Jacob took Tabitha’s hand and drew her across the garden towards Flora’s flowerbed. Tabitha marvelled to see a large butterfly, jet black with kingfisher blue markings, seeking nectar amongst the bright blossoms.

“I wanted to say again, both Edward and Flora were glad to hear the news of our engagement, my dear. However, I think you’ll agree, this isn’t the time to consider our future while they have so much on their minds.”

“Yes, I think the same. We must think first about the family and leave our plans for now.”

He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.

“Wise words. I’d expect nothing less of you. But there’s something troubling me and I know you won’t mind if I ask you about it.”

Tabitha frowned.

“Is it something I’ve said? I ‘d hate to think I’ve upset you, Jacob!”

“It’s something I overheard last evening at the celebration. Two people were talking about you as a possible bride for someone called Archie Gingham. Is he a relation of the farmer who Kitty’s married to now?”

Tabitha felt her cheeks burn.

“Archie is Benjamin Gingham’s son, yes. But there’s no question of him being a possible match for me. I wish people wouldn’t gossip!”

“I wasn’t introduced, but was he the young man you were dancing with when Edward and I arrived?”

He looks so stern, Tabitha thought.

“That was Archie, yes.”

“A handsome young fellow and about your age, I think. One couldn’t blame him for being smitten.”

“I cannot help his feelings, Jacob. Believe me, Archie hasn’t been on my mind since you came to stay and I’m horrified to hear people are saying otherwise.”

To her dismay, Jacob dropped her hand as though it was in flames.

“Does that mean you were attracted to him whilst I was away from you all those months? Please be honest with me.”

She stared at him, her heart thumping like a frightened bird’s.

“I’d never lie to you, Jacob. You must know that. I might have wondered if something could come of my friendship with Archie, though I’ve seen very little of him. There was a time when I felt things were not to be between you and me. A time when I feared my status would prevent you from having anything more to do with me.”

All she could hear was birdsong. Jacob was staring at her as though she’d turned into a stranger.

“Surely you couldn’t think that? From the moment I set eyes on you, I felt our lives were destined to be entwined. Did you not feel that, too? I thought we were of the same mind.”

This couldn’t be happening! Tabitha’s mouth dried so she could barely form the words to reassure him. Her world was falling apart because of a silly remark he’d overheard.

She tried to tell him how she’d seen Archie canoodling with her friend, Jenny and how she’d been relieved, but the power of speech had deserted her.

Jenny had liked the look of Archie that time she’d clapped eyes on him and Tabitha suspected Archie’s feelings for her had never been exactly deep, having seen him with Jenny the night before. Why was Jacob speaking like this?

“I think we’re both overwrought from worry and lack of sleep,” Tabitha said. “You’ve heard something that’s not true. Please believe me.”

But to her dismay, he turned away and strode back to the house.

* * * *

Tabitha hurried to her room to wash the tears from her face. She could hear voices and best of all, a peal of laughter that must have come from one of the twins. This made her smile, for as long as all was well, that was what really mattered. With all the hardships endured so far in her life, perhaps she’d been foolish to imagine a dream could come true.

As soon as she’d tidied herself, she put on a clean pinafore and went to the kitchen.

The doctor was there, speaking to Muriel. Little Edie was sitting at the kitchen table, eating bread and jam. There was no sign of Flora or Daisy. As for Jacob, he was probably packing his bag, having decided he never wanted to set eyes on Tabitha again.

She walked towards Edward Collins and as he turned towards her, she thought he looked tired, but that wasn’t unusual for the only doctor for miles around.

“I want to thank you for your help last night, Tabitha. Also, I want to apologise for being a little unwelcoming towards you when you first arrived.”

“Please, Dr Collins, you’ve nothing to apologise for, but tell me, please, how Daisy is this morning, and your wife, of course?”

He beamed.

“I’m pleased to say Daisy’s out of danger and sleeping normally now. Children’s ailments are often not as serious as one might fear, but their constitutions make them vulnerable, of course. My wife has hardly left her side so I’m sure Edie will be glad to have your company today, as long as you’re not too tired to carry out your duties.”

The little girl smiled shyly as Tabitha assured her employer all was well. Unless, she thought, you counted a broken heart. For Jacob had seemed so angry when they were talking in the garden. It was as thought he’d been a tinderbox waiting to flare!

And she daren’t even ask after him, as the doctor had enough to worry about. Maybe he’d even be relieved to know his friend wasn’t intending to whisk the children’s governess away after all. Who knew?


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!