Garrison Fields

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Chapter 37 - Telling Mrs Dunbar

The morning came and Mrs Dunbar came round as usual to go over the evening’s takings. As they went into the kitchen she stopped and looked at Jane.

‘There’s something up, you’re as happy as the cat with the cream… What’s going on Jane. Anything that I should know about?’

She laughed gently and guided Mrs Dunbar to a chair in the kitchen, the tea things were already laid in preparation.

‘It’s Derek Beech, he came round last night and proposed.’ She continued with the full story, how Derek had turned up dressed in his best, and popped the question.

‘Well, I never...’ was the reply. ‘That Derek is a sligh old dog and no mistaking.’ The pair of them laughed. ’Mrs Dunbar continuing ‘and him all dressed up like a turkey at Christmas... By, I bet he were a sight for sore eyes; I would have paid good money to have seen it.’

‘He was very smart and behaved very properly.’

‘And you accepted?’

‘I did.’ Mrs Dunbar congratulated her, though she was unsure if this meant they needed a new manageress. Just as everything, including their semi-retirement was coming along nicely.

But there were more pressing Matters. ‘So when and where, does Ted know and who’s going to tell the boys?’

Each question was addressed in turn, she would let Ted know that morning before Derek arrived, Derek was going to come to the General Wolf after last orders this afternoon. She would tell Ted and then all three of them would walk up to the Seaman’s Mission orphanage to tell the boys and see about them being allowed home after the marriage to live with them again. The only part she was apprehensive about was telling Albert’s parents and letting them know, it would be a shock, but she was sure everything would be fine.

After several minutes Mrs Dunbar posed a question which had been on the tip of her tongue for some time. ‘I need to ask you a question Jane, are you marrying Derek for the right reasons or is it just for the boys?’ There was a small pause as Jane measured her answer.

‘You would know it would be untrue, if I said Derek could ever replace Albert in my affections. They are so different, but I have thought long and hard and, there is no one on earth I would rather spend the rest of my life with. We’ve known each other since we were children, I don’t need to learn anything about him that I don’t know already.’

She paused for a second and then continued ’I haven’t answered your question fully though. Again, a pause and again a silence that Mrs Dunbar did not break, she did not want to break this tale now coming from Jane, let her take her time and get it fully off of her chest, let her take her time and she would either realise her folly or her joy.

‘Derek could have waited a few more months until both boys were in the army, he chose not to.’ This was true.

‘Derek never expected me to say yes, I know he thought his only hope for me to say yes was to take us all on.’ She looked at her teacup to gather her thoughts before continuing.

‘Derek has always been a second father to the boys and no man has tried more to help us when we were down, even this job. And more if I had let him, but my own silly pride got in the way.’ These were indeed all good reasons Mrs Dunbar could not object, now Jane continued with her last.

‘The day of Albert’s funeral, I’m ashamed but we never had the time to tell Derek, you know that I go and visit Albert’s grave whenever I can, well a year after it happened a gravestone was erected on the spot where we buried Albert from his friends the river-men.’

‘But what has this to do with Albert?’ enquired Mrs Burns.

‘I know it was Derek that paid for it so the boys could visit their father, I also talked to the grave diggers sometime later, they told me he had arrived late the day of the funeral, having run in his work clothes from the quay-side. He waited for all to go as he didn’t want to disturb us, but went over and sobbed like a baby by the graveside for his friend.’

Mrs Dunbar pulled a hankie out of her sleeve and dried her eyes which were welling up.

‘Oh, dear look at me, aren’t I silly.’

Jane now finished her story ‘That’s the man I am marrying, and I am happy to do so.’

‘Oh lass, I am so proud of you.’ They both agreed that it was a good match. There was only one final question that Mrs Dunbar posed.

‘I expect Derek will be wanting you at home, once you’re wed?’ There was this expected implication in her marriage.

‘I asked Derek last night, if he expected me to give up my work’. She drew breath.

‘He said that I had to make what decisions made me happy, he would love me to be at home, but if work meant that much to me, we would fit our lives around it.’

Mrs Dunbar nodded in agreement. ‘Only time will tell, you know I want you to stay on as long as you can, well you know we rely on you more and more.’

It indeed was true, and Jane did feel an obligation to the Dunbar’s without their kindness, God only knows what would have become of her. Tea and discussion were over, Mrs Dunbar and Jane rushed through their work ensuring that they could be on time for the rest of the day.

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