April 10

"Is this satisfactory, sir?"

"Hm? Oh, yes." George Stuart gave the room the most cursory of glances and nodded to the eager young steward who hovered in the doorway, hoping for a good tip. George's eyes lit up as he spotted the latest copy of The London Times on a table and a moment later he was immersed in the business section.

"Yes, yes, these will do very well," Mrs. Stuart said, emerging from the adjoining stateroom, where her daughter, Emily, was watching the maid unpack the trunks. "Very well. Lovely, lovely!" The steward smiled and watched as Mrs. Stuart continued to flitter about the room, looking out the windows at the teeming dock, testing the mattress on the bed, and stripping off her gloves. "Excellent, much better than the Lusitania. Don't you think, Emily?" Emily shrugged, removing her own gloves slowly, one finger at a time.

"It's nice," she said. "Gets us from here to there, doesn't it?" Her mother sighed, and George raised his eyes from the business section of the newspaper long enough to say:

"Can't you be pleased with anything? These rooms cost me a fortune."

"Don't talk about money, dear," his wife admonished him, glancing at the steward and giggling a little nervously. "Tip the young man, George." He dug into his pocket and held out a bill without looking up from the newspaper he was once again engrossed in. The steward darted forward, took the money, and backed out of the room.

"Thank you, sir," he said, bowing slightly. "If you need anything, anything at all--" George closed the stateroom door before the man could finish.

"At last, a little peace and quiet," he sighed, settling down in a chair and propping his feet on a mahogany table. His wife winced slightly but declined to comment, heading instead into her daughter's stateroom.

Emily was sitting listlessly near the window while the maid pulled satin gowns, lace trimmed petticoats, silk stockings and embroidered blouses out of the trunk: the entire collection just acquired from the finest fashion houses in London and Paris. Mrs. Stuart paused in the doorway to observe the maid's progress, looking pleased with herself.

"A very successful trip, I think," she said, picking up a tulle and rose trimmed straw hat. "Don't you think, Emily?"

"We certainly spent enough money."

"You're just like your father, always talking about money," said Mrs. Stuart, putting the hat down. "You shouldn't; it's not ladylike."

"I don't know why you're so against money talk," said Emily. "You're happy to spend it. What's wrong, aren't father and I genteel enough for you?"

"That's enough, Emily!" said Mrs. Stuart, glancing at the maid, who curtsied and withdrew, closing the door behind her. Mrs. Stuart sighed and sat down next to her daughter. "I thought this trip would make you happy, you've always said you wanted to see Europe."

"All I ended up seeing was the inside of dressmakers' studios! This whole trip was only to kit me up for the wedding."

"Well, every young lady needs a proper trousseau! I don't want the Spencers to think we don't know how to do things properly."

"And we wouldn't want the Spencers to think badly of us, would we?" said Emily tartly. Mrs. Stuart sighed.

"I don't know what to do with you," she said. "I really don't." She rose and left, shaking her head, and Emily went back to looking out the window at the dock.

"Better hurry, Dicky boy, you'll miss the boat!"

"Don't want to miss the boat, now, do you?"

"He'd never miss a ship full of American beauties, would you, Dicky?"

"Watch, now!" The open-topped touring car overflowing with grinning young men swung wildly to the left, narrowly missing a crew of porters and an elegantly dressed couple, who frowned at the car's occupants. The woman was holding the leash of a puffy little dog, which yapped at the car. The men in the car laughed wildly and screeched to a stop, tumbling out and clapping one of them—the tallest and handsomest—on the shoulder.

"Close call, but we didn't kill anybody," one of them said to the driver.

"This time," he said ruefully, leaning way back to look at the ship and emitting a low whistle. "Very impressive." The other young men turned to stare at the massive black hull rising sharply out of the water, topped by a graceful white superstructure and four enormous funnels.

"Think she'll make record time?" one of the others asked.

"She'll never beat Mauretania, Titanic's going for luxury," said the handsome one, waving over a couple of porters. "These four," he said to them, gesturing to the suitcases piled in the back of the car.

"We'll miss you, Dicky," the driver said to him. "Mind you come back fast and tell us all about it."

"Don't worry, I will," Dicky promised, grinning.

"Better yet, send us a wireless from the ship," one of the others piped up. "Tell us all about those beauties!" Dicky laughed.

"I'll do that," he said. "Goodbye, gentlemen!" He tipped his hat to his friends and hurried away towards the gangplank as they shouted their farewells. Laughing, he fell into step behind the elegant couple his friend had nearly run over a few minutes before. The man glanced at him and his mouth tightened slightly, but his wife's face softened when she caught sight of him.

"Afternoon," Dicky said congenially. "Sorry about that before…"

"Oh, it's all right," the woman said. Her husband tugged at her arm.

"We're holding up the line, Beatrice," he said. She smiled brilliantly at Dicky before heading up the gangplank.

"Welcome to Titanic, sir," a steward said, taking Dicky's ticket at the top of the gangway.

"Happy to be here," said Dicky with an amiable smile.

"C-76, very good sir," said the steward. "Jones will show you the way." Dicky nodded and followed Jones to his cabin, which he found very satisfactory.

"Should do the trick," he said, flipping Jones a tip. The steward withdrew and Dicky took a moment to peruse the dinner menu and toss aside his walking stick before heading back out towards the deck. It was ten minutes to twelve, and the ship would be casting off soon.

It seemed that everyone else had the same idea: most of first class was streaming up the elegant Grand Staircase, heading up to A-deck or the boat deck to wave goodbye to people they didn't know, who waved just as cheerfully back. Dicky took the stairs two at a time and almost collided with a pretty blonde girl, who was coming down the stairs from B-deck.

"Sorry," he said. "I say, don't you know you're going the wrong way?"

"Oh," the girl said, blushing. "Yes, I know, I mean, I wasn't going out on deck, I was just exploring."

"You have to go out on deck," said Dicky. "Last chance to sight England, you know. Come on." He took her hand and dragged her up the stairs, ignoring her feeble protests.

"No, really, I don't need to see us cast off, I just wanted to get away from my parents for a while…"

"They'll never find you out here," he said as they emerged onto A-deck and blended into the crowd. "Over here." He found a place by the rail and leaned halfway over, waving wildly. The girl backed away a few steps, looking pale, and Dicky looked back at her with a frown.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"Nothing," she said, backing up some more and flattening herself against the wall. "I'm just—just—would you please not lean over the rail so far?!" Dicky drew back, frowning even more.

"What's the matter?" he asked again.

"I'm afraid of water," she blurted out, grimacing and squeezing her eyes shut. "Please don't lean over the rail like that." Dicky's easy smile returned as he left the rail and joined her at the wall.

"Sorry, I didn't know," he said. "Guess you don't take too many boat rides, do you?"

"No," she whimpered, opening her eyes slightly. The ship's whistles blasted and she winced again. The people on the decks and dock began cheering, waving and shouting their goodbyes as the ship heaved itself away from the dock. The deck began to shudder under their feet.

"I wouldn't worry so much," Dicky said. "Titanic's as safe as they get these days, you know. Like sailing on the Rock of Gibralter." She sighed and opened her eyes fully.

"I know," she said. "It's an irrational fear." He shrugged.

"I don't mind. We'll take it slow. My name's Richard, by the way. Richard Langley-Folkes." He held out his hand to her.

"Emily Stuart," she said, shaking his hand.

"Nice to meet you, Emily Stuart-who's-afraid-of-water. Would you like to head back inside now?"

"Yes, please." He smiled easily at her as he held the door and followed her back in.

"You didn't need to make such a spectacle of yourself," Sir Arthur Briggs fumed, stalking back and forth across the cabin floor. Beatrice Briggs watched her husband with a bored expression on her face as she absently petted her Papillon.

"I thought this would be a peaceful voyage," she sighed. "And I didn't make a spectacle of myself, I was only being polite to the boy."

"You practically threw yourself at him," her husband shouted. Beatrice rose and began putting on her hat.

"I'm going out on deck to wave goodbye," she said abruptly. "Come along, Cecil." The dog yipped and followed her out of the cabin.

It was nice to be out in the sunshine and fresh air; the cabin seemed stifling to her. Beatrice strolled along the boat deck as people hung over the rails, shouting and waving madly. They were making spectacles of themselves. Beatrice would never act that way. She was more subtle than that, or so she liked to think. Still, people were very good inspiration for her characters.

She settled down on a deck chair with Cecil beside her, wincing as the ship's mighty whistles blasted over her head. Too loud, in her opinion. But as the whistle died away, another noise began. A sharp snapping sound, like fireworks or gunshots. People at the rail began to point and exclaim and Beatrice, unable to resist, rose and joined them. Another ship, moored at the pier, was yanking itself free of its enormous ropes and was drifting towards the Titanic, sucked in by the mighty ship's wake. Someone nearby shrieked as the two ships got closer and closer…Beatrice braced for an impact…

A tugboat suddenly darted out of nowhere and managed to get a hold of one of the other ship's ropes. The ship sluggishly turned away from the Titanic, reluctantly following the tug, and the way was clear for them to leave Southampton.

"Close call," a gentleman nearby said, shaking his head. "Would have made us late into New York if we'd crashed. Can't have that."

Indeed, thought Beatrice. She didn't think she could stand another few days in the hotel with Arthur. At least on the ship they could avoid each other, which would leave her time to follow her own pursuits…