Scene from the Cutting Room Floor, Shipbuilder: Tom Entertains

Today marks the 139th birthday of Thomas Andrews. I hope that my last few posts have given you a better idea of the kind of man he was. Yes, my posts are all fiction, but they are based on the characteristics documented elsewhere. For a true eulogy of the man, read Shan Bullock’s biography, Thomas Andrews, Shipbuilder. It’s free online, here.

Below is another cut scene from the first draft of The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder. This Austen-esque scene is one of my favorites. I was sorry to see it go, but it did not further the plot at all. Still, it shows a side to Thomas Andrews that I never had space to explore in the book. This one is called:

Tom Entertains

The lights in Ardara House shimmered through the early gloom as Tom drove over the rhododendron-lined lane after a disappointing loss in the last cricket game of the season. The moon was supposed to be full when it rose later, but would remain behind clouds tonight, and as Tom climbed out of the car, he paused to watch the tree tops wave against the blowing clouds. A good autumn storm for the weekend. Disappointing for some, but Tom secretly enjoyed storms at Ardara. The occasion would bring back memories of lying snug in bed while the elements did their best to tear down the huge, ivy-covered stone house.

The moment he opened the door, he was assailed by a piano, a barking dog, running feet and childish laughter, all coming from various rooms. Nephews, nieces, cousins—they all came as often as possible, to play in the fields and fish in the river, pick flowers, help in the garden and pester Cook. Not so often in cool weather, though, when most activities had to be kept indoors. Tonight’s houseful of children was a treat, although he expected the Law (in the form of his mother) to descend shortly, instilling calm with a disapproving brow. The children usually stayed calm for about fifteen minutes before forgetting again, but that was part of the fun.

His arrival was noticed almost as soon as he came in the door. The piano was immediately stilled, but all other noise increased exponentially, as cries of “Uncle Tommy,” “Cousin Tommy,” caused him to brace himself against the onslaught of children and dogs. There was much hugging, petting, and swinging through the air as he greeted them all, his great laugh encouraging them to louder antics in their efforts to be the first to tell him something, anything.

There were no less than four children perched on his back, arms, and head when his mother and sister descended the staircase, scattered the brood, and planted kisses on his cheeks. Various parents put in appearances to help quiet the children, and soon everyone was in the parlor and they all set about the urgent task of catching up with each other.

Home. His favorite place in the world. True, often during dinner, he had to endure the torture of the family’s half-teasing, half-serious attempts to decide on a wife for him or ply him with suggestions for winning a particular girl. This happened fairly often, although he frequently insisted his younger brothers get equal time. Since Willie was not yet 20, and James was dividing his law practice between Dublin and Belfast, they simply ignored his request, never missing a beat in their discussion. The best solution was to stay jolly about it, join in the laughter or groan when expected, and eventually, they would tire of the game. His mother, perhaps out of empathy, seldom joined in these discussions, but when it came down to it, she was the one Tom had to keep his eye on. She knew everyone, including all the young girls who would be coming out in the next few years and would no doubt pick one of them, if Tom didn’t make his own choice at some unspecified point. Tom valued her judgment and if it came to it, he would probably marry whomever she picked. But he still hoped for love to find him and had expressed this desire to his mother, who simply bided her time in silence.

Most of the troupe scattered to their homes after dinner, although several children claimed right to spend the night with Uncle/Cousin Tommy. Tom kept it to two and they drew straws to decide. His sister was the recipient of two elated female cousins, who promised solemnly to discuss hairstyles and hats for her upcoming wedding. This gave Tom and the boys plenty to do, since it was a very serious and elaborate business to annoy girls who were discussing wedding affairs. Tom brought them over to a corner and amidst much snickering and whispers, they made plans for their attack. The girls bravely ignored them, as Nina put the younger girls’ hair up in experimental styles while they flipped through magazines to look for appropriate hats.

Shortly after the senior Andrews’ had retired for the evening, Tom and the boys were ready with their plan. Leaving little Jack to guard the girls in case they decided to make a run for it, Tom and Billy went in search of materials, in this case, shawls and the ugliest hats they could find. Stashing their loot by the stair, they beckoned Jack to them and set about getting ready. Nina and the girls rolled their eyes at each other, as they continued to ignore (or tried to) the guffaws and antics reaching them from the hall.

Soon, Tom sashayed in, wrapped in his mother’s old shawl and a flowered and feathered “hat” that would have done Queen Victoria proud. Nina bent down and whispered to her charges, “Whatever they do, just ignore them!” The girls nodded solemnly and tightened their lips. Already annoyed, Tom noted. Perfect.

Tom turned in a circle and in a high, lilting voice (a nearly perfect imitation of Great Aunt Daisy) declared, “I just don’t know, Billy. I don’t think I have enough hair to hold this hat right. What do you think?” He turned to pose, facing the girls, who were trying their hardest to obey Cousin Nina and ignore the boys.

Billy came in, his great-aunt’s shawl dragging behind and a beflowered bowler hat perched on his head. He examined Tom with a critical eye and shook his head emphatically, holding hat to head (and flowers to hat) with an unsteady hand. “No, no, Cousin Tommy. You’re not wearing it right. The bridesmaids won’t dare wear it like that. They all have far more hair than you do, anyway. Here, let me show you.” He gestured imperiously and Tom obediently knelt before him, although first sighing imploringly in the girls’ direction. Billy reached up both hands and made a great show of trying various angles and sides, adding feathers or flowers from a stash in his pocket, and in the end, very deliberately placing the hat exactly where it had started. All the while he kept up inane chatter about the bridesmaids and hats and weather and photographers and persnickety brides–so much so that Tom was hard put not to laugh out loud himself. The kid was good, but then, he had two sisters.

The girls stared hard at their magazines, not daring to look at each other as Nina calmly went on fixing their hair. Billy gazed another critical moment at his cousin, then declared his work perfect. Tom stood, beaming proudly and turned to the girls for approval. When he didn’t get it (their heads were all but buried in the magazines) he sat down beside them. “Oh, tell me what you think.” He turned his head and batted his eyelashes, as a giggle escaped little Alice. “Billy’s right, isn’t he? Now that it’s fixed, isn’t this hat perfect for the wedding?”

Poor Daisy was rocking back and forth in an effort to not look at her elder cousin. Billy suddenly snapped his fingers, causing both girls to jump and look up. “I almost forgot! I’ve got the absolute latest, most perfect hat for the bride!” He turned to the door. “Jack, come show us!”

Jack entered grandly, the lace tablecloth trailing behind like a bridal train, and on his head, was Cook’s favorite festival day hat. There wasn’t an Andrews child alive who had not grown up with the instruction to “follow that hat” when assigned to accompany Cook to the fair. Jack was lost beneath the odd-shaped fruit and flowers that stood three feet above the hat’s rim and trailed another three feet behind. The effect was hilarious enough, but suddenly Jack paused, and posing haughtily with one hand on his hip, stated, “Something must be done about my hair. It must hold the hat up! I’m the bride and they must be able to see my face!” Nina shrieked with laughter and Tom’s roaring laugh filled the room as Daisy and Alice giggled into their magazines. Completely upstaged, Billy bowed to the master as Jack slowly lifted a finger to push the hat’s rim up and peek out from under it.

Daisy reached over and grabbed the hat, placing it eagerly on her head. “I must try it with my new hairdo.”

“No, me!”Alice cried, reaching up to take it. A four-way struggle ensued as each child good-naturedly laid claim to the prize. After a moment, a barely recovered Tom reached in and rescued the hat, lifting it high above their reaching hands.

“Careful, me bunnies. Anything happens to this hat, do you have any idea how much trouble we’d be in?”

This brought solemn thought to each face as they all considered that and reluctantly decided it wasn’t worth it. Tom nodded in approval. “Exactly. In fact, I’d better get it back before Cook wakes up and discovers it’s gone.” He winked broadly at Nina, bade Jack bring the tablecloth, and they headed out.

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