13 April, 1912 6:00 AM
Although only a few days have passed since this boat set sail, this trip is beginning to feel as if it is taking a lifetime. I miss you and the children so much.
Things are going well here. It is a joy to do what I love ad have you benefit from it.
Us musicians are getting more comfortable with each other, which is very good. I haven't heard much arguing going on between Mr. Thomas Brown and Mr. James Albany recently; they seem to have formed a strange sort of truce. The rest of us are quite friendly with each other, each respecting and admiring the others for their musical talent. Each of us is very talented and I have noticed how each of us use this in different ways.
Mr. Matthew Riverton has been giving a little boy piano lessons after nearly ever meal. The boy has already begun to play short songs. Mr. Riverton seems to be quite pleased with his little friend.
Mr. James Albany seems quite preoccupied with a young lady on this ship. The other day he went away with his cello and no one knew where he went. He is quite secretive about the whole matter, but it isn't hard to figure out.
Mr. Thomas Brown plays quite a bit next door. He prefers the slow, soft tunes, which he told me he composed himself. He tells me he gets his inspiration from the people he comes across. But he has looked troubled lately, and I hope it hasn't affected his playing too much.
And Mr. Key Wilson and I practice together when time allows it, but he prefers to spend as much time as possible with his beloved, a lovely girl who resides in 3rd class.
But otherwise, nothing much occupies our time besides our music. I have tried to see as much of this ship as I can, committing each thing to memory to relate it to you upon my return. It is quite a shame that I am no artist, or I would draw them for you. I suppose I am an artist in a different sense.
I must go; it is nearly time for breakfast. I do hope everything is all right at home. Give the children my best.
With all my love,
Jimmy set the letter aside, placing his pen in its holder on the desk. He withdrew a wooden box from the top drawer of the desk and opened it.
He had acquired it from a wealthy older gentleman who had been about to throw it overboard. Jimmy had been in the vicinity and had asked him why.
The gentleman had looked at him sadly. "It belonged to my late wife." He'd said with a sad smile. "I hoped that bringing it along would help, but it is too painful."
Jimmy had jumped at the chance. "Please, sir, would you let me take it?"
The man had blinked, confused, "Why would you want to so something like that?"
He hadn't had an answer. The man hesitated, then held it out. "Just take care of it."
Jimmy nodded, holding it tight in both hands. "Thank you, sir." The man nodded wearily and walked towards the lounge.
Jimmy had gone straight to his room and went to the desk. He removed the small stack of letters from the drawer and placed them inside the box, then put the box in their place in the drawer.
He took the box out now and opened it, running his fingers over the smooth cherry wood it was made of. He placed the latest letter inside, closing the lid gently and replacing it inside the drawer.
Not a moment too soon. The door bust open and Key came running in, face flushed and jacket askew. Jimmy looked at him, eyebrows raised.
"What happened to you?"
Key doubled over, panting for breath. "Just…got away." He said, catching his breath. "You know how Mr. Albany hates us to be out right before a meal. He almost caught me."
Jimmy refrained from chuckling. With Key, he had learned not to be surprised by much. "Well, hurry up. We need to be out there in five minutes."
Key's eyes widened. "What?" He ran to his bureau and began searching frantically for a new suit to wear.
"Come to the hallway when you're presentable." Jimmy grinned at Key's distracted nod as he threw a slightly wrinkled jacket on his bed.
Jimmy went to the hall and found Thomas and Matthew already there, discussing the key for the tune they would begin with this morning.
"I think beginning in C Major would be fine."
"Yes, but I feel that A Minor could work as well."
Jimmy joined them. "We agreed on C Major last night, if you recall." He said firmly. They looked at him, then nodded, accepting his words without argument. He had been appointed the bandmaster, and they all took him quite seriously.
James joined them, yawning and bleary-eyed. He appeared to have just woken up.
"Good morning, Mr. Albany." Thomas said pointedly.
James glared at him before rubbing his eyes in an effort to look and feel more awake.
They waited around before Key came rushing out of his room, still buttoning his jacket and smoothing his hair.
"Let's go." He said, attempting to be casual. He led the way out the door and onto the stage.
Before beginning the first notes of the tune, Matthew glanced into the corner. Daniel was sitting there cross-legged with his hot cereal balanced on his lap and a beaming smile on his lips. Matthew wondered briefly about his parents, not for the first time. He smiled back at the boy, then dropped his eyes to his fingers.
Thomas scanned the crowd as he brought his violin to his chin. His eyes caught those of a man sitting at one of the closer tables and he did a double take. His bow was suddenly trembling in his hand.
He vaguely heard the other musicians beginning the song, but he didn't join in, earning himself a quizzical look from Jimmy. The man kept his gaze steady and Thomas suddenly couldn't stay on that stage a minute longer.
He lowered his violin and his head and walked back through the door into their little hallway. He felt more than just the mans eyes upon him – Matthew, Key, James, and Jimmy were all staring after him. The door clicked and he was alone.
He heard the others recover quickly and smoothly begin another song, led by Jimmy. He returned to his room and put away his violin – he didn't think he would be using it today.
He remained in his room for three hours, staring at the wall, contemplating this situation. Then he heard the hallway door open and knew he was about to be interrogated.
Sure enough, the door burst open and all four piled in. He sat up, bracing himself.
"What was that all about?" James demanded without preamble, starting in on Thomas right away. "You could have at least warned us that you were going to walk out."
"Mr. Albany, please calm down." Jimmy said, moving forward in front of him. He addressed Thomas. "What happened, Mr. Brown?"
Thomas avoided all their eyes. "I just didn't feel well." He stood up and pushed past Jimmy and James, who still looked angry, and Matthew and Key, standing silently behind them. "Excuse me, I need some fresh air."
The door closed behind him and he opened the access door for their use that led around the dining room and into the hallways above.
He breathed again, sticking his hands in his trouser pockets, when he found himself alone again. He entered the main hallway, relaxing more with every step, reassuring himself that the man was nowhere nearby.
His relief was short-lived. As he walked, someone suddenly darted out of one of the doors on the side of the hallway and grabbed him, pulling him into a small cupboard.
Thomas gave a yell of surprise and fright as he saw the door close, leaving him and his captor in darkness.
A light flickered on as the other man lit a small lantern, then he felt himself being pushed against the wall by his shoulders. He blinked, staring into the face of a man by the name of Mr. Henry Wilcaster, and old family friend.
"Mr. Brown." He began pleasantly, as if they were relaxing over a cup of tea. His face was close to Thomas', his breath hot on his cheeks. "You have been avoiding me." His voice suddenly got vicious. "You knew you couldn't for long. Either you pay up, or your precious violin will find its way to the bottom of the ocean, and," He added, "Several things will be made known, letting all know just how trustworthy Mr. Thomas Brown is." He released Thomas' shoulders and turned fro him in disgust, leaving the small room and Thomas alone.
Thomas leaned against the wall, sliding down to the floor, knowing he was trembling. He put his head against the wall and closed his eyes.
He'd known this confrontation was inevitable, but he hadn't thought Mr. Wilcaster would sink so low as to threaten him with secrets long buried.
Mr. Wilcaster knew his true age, for one thing. He knew also exactly how much money Thomas had owed him for six years now.
But one more thing he knew that Thomas had kept to himself all his life and had no intention of revealing to anyone.
Looking at Thomas, one wouldn't begin to imagine what he had been through in his youth. Thomas hated to remember it, hated to remember his father and the person he had been.
Mr. Henshaw had been a dishonest man. A swindler and a thief. His "business dealings" had left his family relatively well off. His son Lawrence and his wife Margaret had had no idea of the nature of these dealings, thinking only that he was a simple businessman.
Lawrence was thirteen when he began to suspect something. He believed that his mother did too, but preferred not to think of it. Some of his fathers business partners made themselves known as undesirable characters, and more often then not, would come over for a quick drink that ended in drunken laughter that echoed in Lawrence's room.
One night, his father was drunker than usual and had called Lawrence to the kitchen where he and his friends were sitting.
"This is my boy," Mr. Henshaw had said to his cronies. "Lawrence, a fine lad." His words were slurred, and Lawrence was scared. His father always ignored him when he was with his partners. There had to be a reason to pay attention to him and he wasn't sure he liked it.
"Come here, boy." Lawrence moved forward next to his father's chair. "It's time to start training you in the business." This earned a hearty laugh from the four other men at the table.
Lawrence looked helplessly around; maybe his mother would walk in? But she was at one of those social parties she was so fond of. He was on his own.
"Y-yes, sir." He said.
"What's the matter, boy? Aren't you excited?"
"Y-yes, sir." Maybe if he just said what was expected of him, his father would leave him alone.
"No you're not!" His father yelled, suddenly enraged. "I'm giving you a chance of a lifetime and you'd better be grateful for it!"
He lurched to his feet, swaying slightly. Lawrence backed up in fright as his father came menacingly toward him, arm raised to strike him.
He reached blindly behind him for anything to use to defend himself. His scrabbling fingertips found a drawer. He slid it open and found a knife, pulling it out as fast as he could. He brandished it in front of him, meaning only to force his father back so he could escape.
But Mr. Henshaw didn't notice it until it was too late. His swinging hand met the wickedly sharp blade and he howled in pain, leaping back and clutching his slit wrist, which was spurting blood like a fountain. He stumbled and crashed to the floor, seemingly unable to hold his weight any longer as the slit weakened him.
Lawrence stared in horror at what he had done, but of more immediate importance were the murderous looks of the four men who had been watching.
Lawrence fled, running outside in his bare feet. He ran blindly, not knowing where he was going. He sidestepped a carriage and ran on before hearing,
"Wait! Stop the carriage!" Then the sound of heels clattering to the road and a familiar voice calling, "Lawrence!"
He stopped and turned to see his mother coming closer. He completed the distance and threw himself into her arms, sobbing uncontrollably.
"Shh, shh. It's all right. Tell me what happened." But he couldn't, he could only cry until she made him tell her what had happened. "Lawrence Thomas Henshaw, tell me what happened."
Lawrence had stuttered out the story, making it sound as if his father had cut himself, rather than admit what he didn't want to think about. His mother paled and dragged him to the carriage, urging the driver to hurry them home.
When they arrived back at the house, it was ransacked; every item of value gone and nothing left but Mr. Henshaw on the floor in a large puddle of blood.
Mrs. Henshaw gasped and fell to the floor beside her husband. Lawrence held back, staying in the shadows behind the door. He knew his mother would be incapable of doing what was necessary, so he went to the telephone himself and called the police.
The rest of the night was spent in a blur. The police asking what happened, telling them how his father was holding a knife and accidentally cut himself while drunk. Pronouncing his father dead. His mother telling him to pack whatever he could, they were leaving.
The next week, Lawrence Henshaw ceased to exist, and Thomas Brown took his place.