The Captain’s Bride — Episode 42

A FEW days later, Tabitha set off for church with the doctor and his family. Jacob had spent the night before his wedding at the hotel used by the shipping company and he’d been joined there by his best man. On arrival at the church, Tabitha was surprised to find a small knot of folk gathered, one of whom she saw was Jenny.

Her friend rushed over to kiss her when she alighted from the doctor’s trap.

“I couldn’t stay away! Don’t you look beautiful in that blue gown!”

“I’m delighted to see you, Jenny, but how in the world did you know?”

“Muriel couldn’t resist telling her sister and Kitty told Mr Gingham and he told Archie, who told me! I know in the beginning he was sweet on you, Tabby, but I had a feeling you’d lost yer heart to the captain. And,” she said shyly, “Archie and me might be following you two up the aisle one of these days!”

How could Tabitha possibly send her away?

“You’re very welcome. We decided to postpone our wedding breakfast until after Jacob retires from voyaging. You and Archie will receive an invitation then, never fear.”

Edward cleared his throat.

“Tabitha, it’s time we went in. Your bridegroom and his best man are waiting.” He offered her his arm.

The twins beamed at the bride, each girl clutching a small posy.

“Thank you, Edward, for all your kindness.” Tabitha hoped her mother and father were looking down on their daughter on her wedding day. “Let’s go and find Jacob.”

* * * *

After waving her husband off at the quayside two days later, Tabitha knew the only way to survive this separation was to work hard. Or, even harder than usual. He’d taken her to see the land which he’d purchased and which was only a half-hour’s walk from the doctor’s house. There was a grove of trees nearby and plenty of ground for growing their own vegetables.

Tabitha knew nothing about building but she wasn’t afraid to ask questions and the workmen grew accustomed to her turning up, writing notes and making little sketches.

They weren’t to know these would help keep her husband informed of progress when she wrote him her next letter.

The family’s anticipated happy event occurred one stormy night when Flora gave birth to a baby boy. Henry Jacob entered the world, red-faced and bawling, much to the delight and relief of his proud parents. Tabitha was touched when she and Jacob were asked to be the new baby’s godparents.

Again, days and weeks turned into months. Tabitha, using the list of ports and dates Jacob had given her, timed her correspondence so when The Lady Gwendoline tied up at the next port of call, her letter would await him. In his turn, he wrote to her and through these expressions of love, each grew to know more about the other.

My darling Tabitha,

I know I’m asking a lot of my lawyer and my family, but you’ll understand, my love, how much I long to return to you and to begin our new life together. What good news about Edward and Flora’s little son! They must be so very proud. Please convey my congratulations, dear Tabitha. One day, my love, God willing, we too will know the joy of welcoming a son or daughter into our lives.

Tabitha, seated at the kitchen table, pressed his letter against her cheek after reading those words.

Jacob’s next letter was written from Baker Street in London on February 14, 1866.

My darling Tabitha,

I write to you on St Valentine’s Day. I have no pretty card to send, but through this letter, will try to communicate my loving feelings towards you, my dear wife. It gives me much joy to address you as such.

As you can see, I’m at my brother’s house and pleased to report he and his family are well. They are delighted to learn of our marriage and send congratulations and best wishes for our future health and happiness.

Thank you for the letters I’ve found waiting for me at the ports. I like to hear about your busy days and to know the men are making progress with our new house.

I pray that the ocean will be kind when I make my final voyage for the company next Thursday. It’s fitting, I think that I shall be taking over my last command on ‘The Lady Gwendoline’ – a vessel you know I am fond of and which I reckon should go down in history as the ship where Captain Jacob Learman first met Miss Tabitha Westwood.

Please count the months from Saturday the 17th of February, my angel. For by the time you receive this letter, I shall be well on my way back to you. I hope the postal services as well as the seas look kindly upon us and that we continue to keep in touch until I return and take you in my arms as I so long to do.

Your loving husband,



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!