Diary of Eleanor Phillips- Friday, March 22, 1912
Today was...extraordinary, to say the very least. It started normally
enough. I awoke and dressed for breakfast; helped Mother dress and we went
to eat with Father. They gave me this diary as a present for my birthday,
which is tomorrow. Father is leaving early tomorrow morning, and he wanted
to give me the gift himself.
The diary itself is lovely, with a red velvet cover upon which Mother
embroidered my name and a gorgeous lily. Inside, was a red ribbon bookmark.
When they gave it to me, Father said, "Now you can record all the amazing
adventures you and William shall have together as husband and wife."
I blushed and gave Father a kiss. I know it is going to be hard
for him to give me away this summer when I marry William. He is as excited
as Mother and I. I have been trying to talk them into moving the wedding up
to next month, but they said a six month engagement isn't quite long
enough. In any event, now it would be quite impossible, for William and I
are going to America! And if that news weren't wonderful enough, we will be
travelling on the RMS Titanic, the grandest ship ever created! They say
God, Himself cannot sink it. It all seems impossible, but it is quite real.
This all began when I was sitting in Mother's dress shop working on
the hem for Kate Witfield's debut gown when a woman I had never seen before
walked in and began looking at some of the examples we had hanging about.
She eyed the gown I was making and asked, "Are you Miss Phillips?" Her
American accent was very strong, like the sort I've heard is common in New
I nodded and said "Yes, I am. Is there anything in particular that I
may help you with, Miss-"
"Mrs. L.J. Keates," she said, introducing herself. "Is your mother
here? I should like to speak with her on a matter of some importance."
I hadn't the slightest idea what she could have needed to speak with
Mother about. I did not recognise her in the slightest. As it turned out,
we hadn't sold her anything at all, so there was no possibility of her
being angry about a faulty hem or missing buttons. But of course, I was
unaware of this, so I excused myself and went to fetch Mummy from the back-
room, where she was doing a fitting.
"Eleanor, have you finished Miss Witfield's gown yet?" Mother said,
through a mouth full of pins.
"Not quite, Mummy, but-"
"Eleanor, that dress simply must be done by tonight. I will not have
you sitting up until all hours finishing it for Monday and you will not
take it home to work on it Sunday." It surprised me that she could lecture
so well through the pins. Then again, this is Mother that I write of, and
though I love her dearly, mothers have a tendency to find any way possible
to lecture their daughters.
"Of course, Mother, but-"
"Now no more excuses, Eleanor. I allowed you to attend the dinner party
that William's sister held last Friday when you still had work to do. You
ask your father and me to move the date of your wedding up, but you are
showing us no reason to believe that you are ready to be a wife. Now please
get back to your work."
Though some of her comments hurt me considerably, I knew it was best to
keep a civil tongue with Mother. She has been under much stress, too much,
as Father would say. Spring is always hard, for so many girls make their
debuts during this season so we get an overwhelming amount of work. This
always causes Mother to be a bit short-tempered and melancholy, and today
it was more of the former rather than the latter.
"Mother," I said calmly, "There is a lady here who wishes to speak
She took a few pins out of her mouth and began hemming the dress she
was working on. "Did she say what about? If she wishes to have a dress
made, she can simply speak to you about it."
"She asked specifically for you, Mummy. I think it would be best if you
spoke with her."
Mother sighed and took the pins out of her mouth. "Try to pin up the
hem of this dress, then get back to your work, please."
I sat on the floor and tried to make conversation with Martha Ryan,
the girl who was being fitted for the dress. It felt like over a century
had passed when Mother called for me.
"Eleanor," Mother began when I entered the room. "Mrs. Keates should
like to know if you would be willing to go to America."
It took every bit of restraint I had to keep myself from gasping.
William and I had been discussing just that at his sister's dinner party!
"I should like nothing more," I said as calmly and lady-like as I could.
"Well it's all settled, then," Mrs. Keates said, clapping her hands
Then Mother broke in, "Actually, the matter must be discussed with her
father and her fiancé before she has permission to go."
"How soon can they make their decision? The ship leaves in less than a
month and I'd like to have every necessary arrangement taken care of. Mr.
Keates and his associate will not be able to make the return trip with me
and I do not wish to travel without a companion. I have three cabins booked
aboard the R.M.S. Titanic and while I do not wish to give up my chance of
being on the ship's maiden voyage, and I also do not wish for my children
to stay under the care of their aunt in the States any longer. I have been
told by many of my acquaintances that your daughter is quite well-bred and
would fit in with the first class scene rather nicely."
Mother must have taken this as a great compliment to her parenting
skills because she immediately said, "Mr. Phillips is away on business, but
I can have a wire sent to the hotel where he will be staying. And Eleanor
can send a note over to her fiancé, William, at the school. I'm sure both
of them will see the wonderful possibilities this could create for her."
I took a pen and paper out from under the counter and began to write a
note when a wave of realisation swept over me. "Actually, Mrs. Keates" I
said. "Though I am greatly flattered by your offer, I don't see how I could
possibly go to America."
"Eleanor, why ever not?" Mother asked, looking slightly alarmed.
"Mother, I couldn't possibly go without William. I intend to marry him
and that should be quite impossible if I was all the way across the
Atlantic. Mrs. Keates, again I'm terribly flattered, but it would be
unimaginable for me to leave my fiancé. I'm sorry if this inconveniences
you in any way."
Suddenly, Mrs. Keates looked as if she had come up with a brilliant
idea. "Your fiancé, did I hear you mention that he worked at a school?"
"Yes, he's a teacher at the dame school."
"As I said, I have three cabins booked aboard the Titanic. I intended
to use one cabin for my companion, but the one we had for my husband's
manservant I meant to use for a tutor for my children. Would your fiancé be
interested in filling the position?"
I was surprised that I hadn't thought of that myself. William had said
that once we went to America he would like to tutor or even start his own
school eventually. I could then work as a seamstress until we had a family.
"He'll have to be asked," I said. "But I'm sure he would be happy to.
I'll send a message to him right away."
"And your father will be much more agreeable if William will be joining
you," Mother interjected.
"Well," Mrs. Keates said. "Once your father and your fiancé have been
contacted would you be kind enough to send a message to me at my hotel?
I'll be staying at the Savoy." She handed me a piece of paper with her
suite number written on it. With that, she bid Mother and me farewell and
went on her way.
I was absolutely speechless after she left. "I...I suppose I'll go
finish Miss Witfield's gown," I said, returning to my chair in the front of
"What are you doing?" Mother said, apparently shocked that I was doing
my work. "You must write out a note for William and a telegram to send to
Father. She shoved paper and a pen under my nose, and slipped some money
into my purse. "Do this straight away...Eleanor, do you even realise what
an amazing opportunity this is for you?"
I looked up from my note. Did she think I was so dense not to realise
what going to America meant for me? "I know, Mummy. I just hope to make you
and Father proud."
She wrapped her arms around my shoulder. "I'm certain you will. Now
hurry! That telegram must get to Father straight away!"
I quickly finished the two messages and hurried to the telegram office
before everyone there left for dinner. I then gave the note for William to
one of the other teachers at the dame school. I did not get a response from
him until much later, when Mother and I were having tea in our sitting room
The doorbell rang and no sooner had our housekeeper, Lottie announced
him, William ran into the room, lifted me clear off my feet and spun me
around. Mother cleared her throat loudly, clearly shocked at our behaviour.
We sat again and after I offered him some tea, he said, "She honestly wants
me as her children's tutor?"
I nodded, but he still looked incredulous. "Mother and I assured her
that you were of the highest quality. She seemed quite pleased with the
prospect of having you educate her children."
"And she offered us free passage to America?"
"On an unsinkable ship," I said.
"First-class!" Mother added. "Of course, it all depends on whether or
not Mr. Phillips agrees. Of course, now that you will be travelling with
Eleanor, he'll be more willing to allow her to go."
And as if the Lord himself had been listening to Mother's words, Lottie
came in with a telegram from Father. Mother read it quickly, her eyes
shining. "Mr. Phillips believes that this would be a most exciting
opportunity for the both of you and is glad to give his consent." She flew
across the room and threw her arms about William and me. "My children, this
is more than I could ever have dreamed for you!"
After a tearful tea (Mother was overwhelmed with joy), we sent William
with a telegram to Mrs. Keates. She has yet to reply, but no doubt she has
a pressing social engagement tonight. William returned and dined with
Mother and me. He insisted that two ladies should not be left without the
company of a gentleman. Then Mother left us (with Lottie sitting a close
vigil, of course) to discuss our plans for the future. He has just left,
and now I have finally had the time to start this diary. I hope that all of
the entries will follow the same extraordinary and extremely joyful mood
that this entry has started.