Chapter 36 - An offer of marriage
During the time since Albert’s death one constant friend who would turn up unannounced whenever he heard of any trouble was Derek. As he lived alone, he would seldom cook for himself and since the Dunbar’s had taken her in Jane, was suitably chaperoned. She would invite Derek to the kitchen for dinner. He was a lonely man with few interests or friends outside the pub. He had, after Albert’s death, turned to the bottle more than he should have and for a time it was said that he might go either way.
There were several occasions in those early days when one of the local children had been sent for her with the message “Your Derek’s in the street again.” It was never a suggestion that there was ever any impropriety between them. It was generally known that Derek had no family and a plutonic relationship between Derek and her had existed since they were children. If you asked any one of the relationship they had, most would have sworn he was her brother or cousin.
However, change with Derek was afoot! All had remarked on his appearance over the last year in that, his drinking was by all standards bordering on negligible from his previous consumption, he had invested some money in his outward appearance. His work wear and his eveningwear were previously nearly unidentifiable, now even his black beard and moustache were trimmed well, he was well groomed. In his new skin he seemed more awkward and not as comfortable. The overall appearance was indeed favourable, to judge his age, previously you might have said fifty, but now thirty-five would have been a more suitable conclusion.
He was a catch by any standard, he had devoted himself since Albert’s death to taking advantage of any trick he knew to ensure he was the premier Foy boatman on the river, and as such, had with his success invested in a larger craft, which allowed him any job of work he chose on the river.
It was that evening as Jane took her position as landlady of the General Wolf that Derek as usual arrived. He was prompt for opening time and stood at the bar even more uncomfortable in his new suit, today he even had kid skin gloves and a stiff hat matching his suit, which he took off and placed on the counter.
‘Hello Derek, my you’re looking smart’, Jane stated as she lifted the counter.
‘Come through the back, I’ve something to ask you.’
‘Oh,’ he said as he picked up his hat and gloves, he made his way through to the back of the bar where there was a kitchen which served the pub at one time.
‘Sit down pet, I thought you might be in, so I cut a few sandwiches from the beef joint.’ She laid a plate in front of him with thick cut beef sandwiches and mustard. He thanked her, he had not eaten much that day, but that was on account of the question that he wanted to ask her. He was finding it difficult to pose his question, Jane was positively radiant her day with the boys had put colour in her cheeks and she seemed to be reinvigorated. At length she told Derek all about her day at the beach, how she was to have the boys next weekend, before Matt was to join the army.
She had arranged with the Dunbar’s to have the weekend off and all her family were invited, that of course meant the grandparents and obviously Derek, who was closer than family.
‘Of course, I will, you know I love the boys as if they were mine.’
She agreed ‘I know Derek, and I want it to be so special for Matt.’
He agreed with her whole heartedly, it was now that he cleared his throat, he pushed the plate to one side and stood up, then as promptly sat down as though he had thought better of it and faced her. Jane looked at him for a moment, it was curious behaviour.
‘Jane, I want to pose you a question, and it may sound blunt, but I’m not a man of words.’
She stared at him. ‘Well Derek, I think we’ve known each other long enough to tell each other most things.’ He cleared his throat again.
‘If you remarried, Matt and Luke would not need to go in the army... Would they?’
She looked at him, with his new hat and gloves she, felt herself flush slightly, she didn’t need intuition with Derek, she answered him resolutely.
‘If I knew a good man who I respected and could bring my sons back to me and reunite us as a family, I know Albert god rest his soul, would not object.’
He turned and looked very serious. ‘But Jane could by any miracle could it bring happiness to you again?’
She looked at him directly in the eyes ‘If the right man was to ask me, yes it would.’ She paused for a moment.
‘You see Derek a woman is different to a man in many ways, that is why God gave us children to bring-up, a home to build and the want of a man to look after. For a man who wanted those things, I would give my unconditional love.’ She paused briefly before continuing.
‘You’re a good man Derek Beech and I’ll know I’ll worry about you every waking hour while you are out on that boat. But you’ll worry as much about us, making sure that we are always provided for.’
He was now transfixed by her. ‘Well, I’m asking you Jane, I know I can’t be Albert, but I can be as good a husband if you’ll let me and I’ll treat the boys as if they were my own.’
She smiled at him ‘God bless you, Derek Beech I know you will, of course I’ll marry you.’
She stretched her slim hand out and placed it on his, they both smiled. ‘Shall we go and tell the orphanage tomorrow, see about getting our boys back?’ he asked.
She smiled ‘Yes Derek, tomorrow, you don’t know how happy you have made me.’ She leant forward and kissed him on the cheek. But for tonight, I have my regulars too look after, stay here and finish your supper.