The Captain’s Bride — Episode 43

TABITHA was counting the days until ‘The Lady Gwendoline’ was due to dock in Fairclough. She could only use an approximate date and knew how tides and prevailing winds affected the ship’s progress.

One Saturday morning in August, Tabitha was only just dressed when she heard a banging on the back door. She hurried to open it but Muriel was already there.

“What’s all this noise, Mr Mackie? You’d better have a good reason!”

“I have, Mrs Taylor.” His gaze moved to Tabitha. “I know it’s early, but the missus and me thought you’d want to know, lass.”

“Goodness! What’s happened, Will?”

“Himself’s been sighted along the coast! Your man’s bringing in ‘The Lady Gwendoline’ – I was feeding the chooks when my neighbour came back from night fishing and told me he’d seen the ship and got out his telescope to see which one it was.”

Muriel gasped and clapped her hands. Tabitha stood beside her, too stunned to speak. Muriel put her arms round her.

“D’you hear what he says? What wonderful news, Tabitha!”

“I didn’t expect him until next week. Oh, my goodness. When do you think he’ll reach Fairclough, Will?”

“In an hour or so, I reckon. With the doctor’s permission, I can drive you there so the captain sees you waiting on the quayside.”

Sensible, practical Muriel almost choked and Tabitha realised she was overcome with emotion. She, however, remained strangely calm.

“That would mean so much to me, but my duties . . .”

She was interrupted as the doctor came in.

“Good man, Will. Yes, please take Mrs Learman down to the quayside. He’ll be kept busy for a while, won’t he, Tabitha?”

She nodded, suddenly overcome with the reality of Jacob’s nearness.

“Thank you,” she said. “He can probably see me for a few minutes but there’s always a lot for the captain to oversee before leaving his ship.”

Tabitha hurried back to her room. Her fingers trembled as she found a jacket, knowing the morning air would be chilly. But her husband was coming home to her. And once more her life was about to change.

When she returned to the kitchen, Muriel had made tea.

“Drink that and there’s a chunk of bread and honey. I need to go to my room. Won’t be long!”

Gratefully, Tabitha sipped the hot brew. She felt too excited now to eat but knew better than not to make an attempt. Before long, Muriel appeared, holding a dark red velvet cape in her arms.

“Never mind that jacket – I want you to wear this.”

“It’s beautiful, Muriel, but why? I won’t touch it for fear my fingers are sticky.”

“You can wash them in a moment. I want you to wear my cloak because I wore it on my wedding day. For all I go on about men’s cranky ways, I was a happy girl when I got married. And I’d like the captain to see you when he’s heading into port – your beautiful hair loose and all.” She hung the cloak on the back of a chair.

* * * *

Jacob felt a mixture of elation and wistfulness as he guided ‘The Lady Gwendoline’ towards harbour. In the distance he could see the scattered buildings of Fairclough and drawing closer, he blinked hard, unsure whether he was imagining things. Slowly, the vessel moved through the water towards her berth. And on the quayside, stood no apparition, but his darling wife. Her glorious coppery hair blowing in the breeze, she wore a ruby-red cloak over her neat grey gown.

Jacob felt a surge of emotion. His first reaction was to let his lieutenant take over the wheel – the man was perfectly capable – but the captain remained in position, knowing Tabitha would understand how on this last voyage, he wanted to retain command until the end.

He raised one hand in salute and before long, the ship was berthed and its captain released to make his way to the gangway.

“I’ll be back soon,” he called to his second-in-command before hurtling down from the bridge. Sailors made way for him. The gangway was barely in position when he jumped on and hurried along it, to land on the quayside.



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!