The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 21

"Dunallon," Thomas Andrews' home in Belfast.
“Dunallon,” Thomas Andrews’ home in Belfast.

Chapter 21

April 1907

Casey struggled to button her delicate, flouncy blouse before Tom arrived on Saturday afternoon to drive them to Ardara. Why is Edwardian fashion so enamored of fastenings in the back? It’s like they expect everyone to have a personal maid. She stared at her face in the mirror of her vanity: skin flushed, eyes wide, like a deer in the headlights. I can’t figure out what my role is supposed to be in Tom’s family. They think I was born in 1885! In how many ways am I screwing up what they expect to see? What do they expect of me as Tom’s wife, as daughter-in-law or sister-in-law or aunt?

Her stomach felt like a mass of buzzing bees. And even in her thoughts, she knew she was avoiding the Real Issue.

Irritated, she gave up on the blouse and pounded downstairs, demanding that Sam please get those last two buttons in the middle of her back. He did, but used the opportunity to bring up another sore point.

“We should think about hiring a maid for you, Casey.”

“What?” She whirled to face him, causing him to draw back in mock alarm. He spread his hands to show his innocence.

“It’s just a suggestion, dear. You’re going to have to have one sooner or later. Sooner would be better, for a couple of reasons.”

“Like what?” She tapped her toe, but Sam ignored it.

“You’ll be going out more often now, both with Tom, and with other women. Tea times. Shopping.” He watched her as she narrowed her eyes. “You’ll have to dress up more often and you need help with these outfits. And you’ll need a chaperone whenever you’re with Tom, and I don’t want to always have to be available.”

“I don’t want someone following me around all day. I’m still working. I don’t need a maid, there.”

“No, but perhaps we should hire a woman to be available on evenings and weekends. I’m not sure how it’s done, exactly, we’ll have to ask.”

“No, Sam.” The bees in her stomach began doing flips. “Constant chaperones are just another way of keeping women as chattel. I will not subject myself to that. I’m an adult; I’ve been on my own for almost four years. I’m not retreating into childhood, again.”

“Case, you have to consider how you look to the rest of society. At least, to Tom’s family. This isn’t about independence. It’s about fitting in. They don’t see you as a child.”

“No, they see me as woman. So I’m either weak and silly, and therefore unable to take care of myself, or I’m a source of evil temptation that Tom and I both must be protected from! This all makes me so mad, I could spit!”

“Yes, very mature.”

You don’t have to deal with it, Sam!”

“Casey, people will talk about you. You and I know it’s ridiculous, but they’ll do it. And they’ll talk about Tom. He’ll never force you to do anything, but if you run around without a maid or chaperone, it will end up reflecting poorly on him.”

She closed her eyes. This was the one argument for which she had no response. Whatever else she did, she was determined that Tom Andrews would never suffer because a girl from the future had stumbled into his life one day in 1906.

“Am I making a mistake, Sam?”

He laughed, making her tighten her lips in frustration. “This is all just a case of second thoughts, isn’t it?” he said.

She glared at him. “Not exactly.” She didn’t sound convincing, even to herself.

“You’re nervous about going to church aren’t you?”

There it was. The Issue. She and Sam were spending the weekend at Ardara and tomorrow, she had agreed to accompany Tom and his family to church. Sam had politely refused and Tom had accepted that. But Casey didn’t have that option. She had been attending Tom’s church in Belfast and in truth, she did not like it, although the music was nice. But the Andrews family had attended the church in Comber for literally centuries. Casey knew she’d be on display. Tom had tried to reassure her. She wouldn’t have to always attend, he had said. But for now, it was important.

She thought about ignoring Sam’s words, but knew it wouldn’t do any good. “I love him, Sam. But I’m not so naïve that I think love answers all problems. I don’t know if I can spend the rest of my life going to church every Sunday.”

“I thought you two worked out a compromise. He doesn’t expect you to always attend church, does he?”

“His family expects certain behavior from me, even if he doesn’t. All of society expects me to be pious and submissive. I’m not sure I can deliver that. Another thing I do that will reflect poorly on him.”

“Nonsense. Remember, you won’t be living in Comber. Tom believes in Christianity but after all, he usually only goes to church when he’s at Ardara and only occasionally when he stays in Belfast. He’s already said you won’t be spending every weekend with his family. Maybe just once a month or so.”

She nodded, disturbed. “I know, I know. I’m just worried that once people start expressing disapproval, Tom will cave. You know how he hates to disappoint people. And this is an important issue in this society.”

Sam shrugged. “You’ll always be the “odd” member of the family, along with your equally “odd” guardian. We won’t be able to change that.” He studied her for a moment. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but it might help to remember you’re not the center of the universe. They aren’t going to be watching you closely for the rest of your life. In a short time, you’ll just be another member of the family, and it’s a big family. If we play our cards right, you and I will just get lost in the jumble.”

***

Tom did not seem surprised at Sam’s question about a personal maid as they drove through Belfast in Tom’s Renault. The day was warm for early spring and although Casey was wrapped in a travel cloak to keep her clothes clean, the men wore just their jackets and bowler hats. Their usual habit was for Casey to sit up front with Tom, while Sam relaxed in back, so Tom directed his remark over his shoulder in an attempt to be heard by both of them, but he glanced apologetically at Casey. “My mother brought this up when we spoke on the phone the other night. They were all quite surprised that you didn’t have a maid.”

“Meaning I am supposed to have one?” Casey couldn’t keep the defensiveness she felt out of her tone.

He shrugged. “They just put it down to being American.” He gave her a teasing smile and reached over to squeeze her hand. “You can get away with a lot using that excuse.”

Sam laughed at that and Casey let her lips twitch, but she was too upset to enjoy his teasing. She sighed in defeat. “So how do we find a maid? Do we advertise in the paper?” She remembered seeing lots of advertisements for servants back when she and Sam were scouring the classifieds for jobs.

“You could,” Tom said, “or there are agencies you can use, but Mother had a different suggestion, if you don’t consider it meddling.”

Grabbing the door of the car as they went over a steep bump, Casey shook her head. “No, of course not. In fact, I’d love suggestions.” Just please don’t stick me with a stern, bitter spinster who doesn’t think girls should ever have fun. The bees returned to her stomach as she considered possible options.

“Do you mind if we make a quick stop?” Tom asked. “It’s just a short detour and I’d like to show you something.”

They had no objections, and as he turned right at the next street, he continued with the previous discussion. “You’ve met Penny Altwright, haven’t you? She’s an upstairs maid at Ardara.”

“Of course,” Casey told him. “She was very sweet.”

“Yes, she is. And Mother thought she’d be perfect for you. Evidently, Penny’s been a bit homesick since moving to Comber. Her family’s all in Belfast and she isn’t always able to come see them on her off days.” He glanced at Casey with a small smile. “She’s just sixteen and she’s never been away from home before.”

Casey felt the twitch return to her lips at this evidence of cunning in her future mother-in-law. Penny would be back in Belfast and able to see her family more often. Casey would have a maid, but not a stern spinster. A girl, even younger than Casey, might understand her need to be free much of the time. They might even be friends. Could employer and servant be friends in this society? Well, no matter. As well, it was just possible that Mrs. Andrews expected Penny to provide regular reports about her daughter-in-law, although Casey was willing to believe that Mrs. Andrews was not that nefarious.

She took a few moments to think it through, calling Penny to mind. The girl was taller than Casey, but just as thin, with rich brown hair, and blue eyes above freckled cheeks. She had indeed been sweet during the short time when the women were washing up for lunch and all the maids were helping their mistresses straighten hair or clothing. Penny had come to Casey’s rescue, helping with those infernal buttons, and fluffing the short hair in wonder. The smile she gave at Casey’s words of thanks had seemed genuine, but Casey had been too distracted to think any further about the moment.

The suggestion had appeal. Casey could accept Penny Altwright as a maid and she hoped they would get along well. If friendship came along, so much the better.

Cautiously, she returned Tom’s smile. “That sounds like a good idea. I think Penny and I might be good for each other.”

His smile widened. “I think so, too. She’ll be able to help you navigate society, but she won’t be intimidating. Although,” he spared her another glance, with raised eyebrows, “I’m not sure anyone could intimidate you. You’d probably spend all your time arguing with someone who tried to be strict about things.”

“How well he’s gotten to know you, dear,” came Sam’s voice from the back and Casey just smiled at them both, as Tom pulled the car off to the side of the road.

She looked up, curious. They were on a street near the outskirts of Belfast. There were two houses farther down from them, the closer one on the other side of the street. To the right, several blocks away, an area of houses and shops could be seen; just beyond them was the university. To the left and front, hills and fields spread out, Irish green visible everywhere among scattered trees and bushes. The view was interrupted by a new house, still under construction. It was red brick with lots of window openings waiting for glass. Columns on both sides of the front door outlined a large front porch. Casey glanced at Sam, who shook his head once, as bewildered as she was.

She turned to Tom, who was resting his hands on the wheel and staring at the house, chewing his lip in an uncharacteristic, distracted way. She touched his hand. “Tom? What is this place?”

He looked at her, then turned back to the field in front of them, one hand gesturing to take it all in. “This…” he paused and a small smile tugged his lips. “This is Dunallon.”

Behind her, she heard Sam breathe out a slow “Ah…” of comprehension, but the name meant nothing to her. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.” She said it with care. She hated to disappoint him.

He turned to her, watching her face, his expression an odd mixture of pride, uncertainty, and hope. “It’s mine.” He tilted his head and amended, “Ours. I bought the land a few years ago, with the idea of settling down here. I started building the house last year.”

She didn’t dare even breathe, as the bees in her stomach stilled into a bunch, and a slow, warm feeling began to spread throughout her body. Not sure if it was panic or love, she stared at him, overwhelmed with a desire to sink into his arms.

He waited, holding her gaze with that odd expression. He’s afraid I won’t like it, she thought with wonder. This means everything to him. This time, when she reached for his hand, she lifted it and cradled it in both of hers, watching his eyes. “It’s beautiful, Tom.” He smiled through his uncertainty and she squeezed his hand. “Show it to me.”

It was what he was waiting for. He was out of the car in a moment and around to her door, reaching to help her down. Not forgetting his manners, he glanced a question at Sam, who waved them away. “Go on, look around. I’ll do some bird watching.”

Accepting his excuse, they turned toward the house, Tom holding her elbow while the other hand supported her waist, as the ground was uneven. “It’s too dangerous to go inside, but we can look in through the windows,” he said, helping her climb the inclined board stretched to the porch. “We’ll build steps here.” They peered in at the construction: wood and dust and ladders littered the room. Casey gasped at the large fireplace, while her heart pounded at the nearness of Tom, standing behind her at the window. She turned her head to look at him.

“Are you building this yourself?” Not only had he never mentioned it, she couldn’t imagine when he had time.

But he laughed and shook his head. “No, of course not.” He seemed more relaxed, as if reassured by her reaction. “I did a bit at first, but you’ve kept me too busy the last several weeks. The builder’s relieved to have me out of his way, I think.” He pointed, guiding her eyes back to the window and to the room beyond. “This is the parlor. Behind it, is a library. On the other side, across the hallway, is a ballroom. Not as big as the ones at the dances we’ve gone to, but big enough for about twenty people and an orchestra. We’ll be able to host our own dances.”

He took her hand. “Come around back. I think you can see the kitchen.”

She followed him, picking her way over loose dirt. “Did you draw the plans, Tom?” She could see his handiwork, similar to some of the rooms on ships.

“I drew the original plan in a general way,” he admitted. “But I’m a naval architect, not a civil one. I had someone else draw up the official plan based on mine.” He turned to her, his face creased in amusement. “It turns out there are a lot of differences when something doesn’t have to float.”

There was a mud room in back, which prevented a close look at the kitchen, but they looked through everything they could and he described what she couldn’t see. “I’ll bring the plans over on Monday, if you’d like,” he offered. “You can read plans pretty well, and you’ll see what the final house should look like.”

She held both his hands. “Tom, it’s just amazing. I can’t describe how marvelous I think I it is.”

He lifted her hands to his lips, the simple gesture filling her with desire. “I’m glad you like it, sweetheart. I was so nervous about showing it to you.”

“Well, silly, you could’ve mentioned it earlier. It’s like an entire side of you I never knew about. But what a fun surprise this has been!” She turned to look at the land, then moved past the loose construction dirt to the undisturbed soil a few yards away, kneeling to dig into it. Dark, rich soil crumbled between her fingers and she smiled up at Tom, kneeling beside her. “Can we have a garden?”

His eyes were serious as he gazed at the fields stretching to the hills in front of them. “I missed living at Ardara,” he said, as if he were explaining something. “I love my work. You know I don’t want to do anything else. But I miss the farm, the flowers, my bees.” He looked at her, diffidently. “I bought enough land to have a nice kitchen garden, and lots of flowers and trees. I want to bring one of the hives over, too, and we’ll have our own honey.” His fingers touched her hair. “I planned on hiring a crew to do all that and maintain it, but it’s what you do, isn’t it? Will you make Dunallon your garden, sweetheart?”

She stood, overcome with what he was giving her. As he stood, she slipped into his arms and lifted her face to his, holding him close as they lost themselves in a long kiss.

***

“I knew his house was called Dunallon.” It was several hours before Sam and Casey had a chance to talk privately at Ardara and she could ask him about the house. They had wandered over to a shed to admire a new litter of puppies. “But honestly, I never thought about it until he told us the name.” He smiled up at her as two of the pups wrestled in his lap. “Another example of history repeating itself, unless we interfere, somehow.”

“Well, we’re going to interfere, big-time,” she reminded him, scratching the ears of the energetic rascal in her arms. Her expression darkened. “I’ll interfere in any way I have to, to keep him safe. He’s going to live at Dunallon for a long, long time, if I have anything to say about it.”

***

Church was easier than she thought it would be. The Andrews were Unitarian, a faith that had been popular among her parents’ liberal friends. But there were a lot of differences between the Unitarians of twenty-first century Berkeley, and those in Edwardian Ireland, and Casey did not harbor any illusions that an atheist would fit in here. But Tom had given her a brief word of advice about that.

“The less said, the better, perhaps,” he had told her, as she nervously put on gloves while they waited by the carriage the next morning. “If someone asks specifically, I suppose you’d have to say you’re an atheist. But I can’t imagine anyone asking that. The closest you’ll get is someone asking what church you attended in America, and the main thing they’re wanting to know is whether or not you’re Catholic.” He had tilted his head to look at her with a tender smile. “Is there a particular church your family went to for any reason at all?”

She thought about it and shrugged. “There was a Congregational church down the street that had Bach concerts. We went to those, sometimes.”

For some reason she couldn’t figure out, he thought this was funny, and he was still chuckling as his parents and a few servants began to join them near the carriages.

But he had been right. No one accosted her or grilled her about her beliefs. They shook her hand, teased Tom about her, and went on to talk about the latest cricket match and North Down’s prospects for the season. They all knew the story, of course, of her employment at the shipyard. Tom’s brother, Will, had made sure she knew it was common knowledge, so she wasn’t surprised when the topic came up in the teasing. The most frequent comments were along the line of Tom “needing glasses if he ever mistook her for a boy.” They all had great fun with it. Casey began to get a sense that most people understood life was hard for the poverty-stricken, and they were willing to overlook a certain amount of “creativity” in the pursuit of sustenance. The Irish had been suffering for a long time.

The church had an amazing organ, and Casey loved the Bach interlude. They didn’t attend Sunday School so she didn’t have to endure any in-depth Bible study, or worse, be separated from Tom to attend a women’s class, so in general, she thought the experience was bearable. Especially since Tom was so pleased to have her there.

She suspected it could get more intense over the next several months or years. But Sam was right. She and Tom would ease into their own schedule and for the most part, people would not be interested in what they did. They would just be part of the community.

***

In bright sunshine that afternoon, Casey stood at a safe distance while Tom worked with his bees in the field at Ardara. This wasn’t conducive to intimate topics, so he soon abandoned his inspection and removed his protective gear. Taking Casey’s hand, he guided her out past the wall to the trees at the river’s side. This was as far as they could get without a chaperone, most often in the form of several children, being sent out to keep them company.

They would have just a few minutes of privacy so as soon as they were out of sight of the house, he stopped and took her into his arms, kissing her as if he’d been waiting all day to do it. After a minute, he murmured into her ear, “When will you marry me? Tell me the day.”

“Do we have to wait for the house to be finished?” she asked. He was usually firm about following the restrictive courtship rules, so she took advantage of his current lapse, pressing into him, her hands under his jacket, caressing his back.

His arms tightened around her. “Aye, mostly. It should be close to ready by the end of August.”

“So I’ll marry you at the end of August.”

“The last week of the month. We’ll take a honeymoon for a week or two. Anything left to do in the house can be done while we’re living there. Is that all right?”

In answer, she kissed him hard, urging him to the ground. He followed her down, his lips demanding more kisses. His hands sent shivers down her spine as he caressed her shoulders and back, until he let go of her with a gasp, and turned to stare at the river, running a shaky hand through his hair. She sat for a minute, trying to calm her own shaking, longing for him to touch her again.

“Tom?” She touched his hand and he gently folded it around hers, but didn’t look at her, yet.

“Hmm?”

“Are we going to wait until we’re married to make love?”

A laugh burst from him in a heavy sigh as he shook his head, still not looking at her. “Casey, most unmarried young ladies are so sheltered they don’t even know about that, and I’ve heard they don’t want anything to do with it when they do find out. Just what I’ve done right now, is highly improper.”

“Not as far as I’m concerned.” She squeezed his hand. “I love you, Tom. Every inch of me wants to make love to you. Are you telling me that this society really expects that I don’t have any desires like that?”

He looked at her then, his face red at the intimate topic, but thoughtful. “That’s what I’ve always been told.” She shook her head in astonishment and he shrugged a bit. “Truly, it’s what I’ve been told. That women don’t like it and they don’t really desire it. That…” he hesitated, but went on, “only… well, only harlots like it.”

She laughed, a short bark of laughter. “What a crock!”

He smiled a little at her language. “Why would we be told something like that if it’s not true? I don’t understand the purpose.”

She shook her head. “I don’t know. Another way of controlling women, or of men excusing their own behavior? If you think your wife hates sex, then you’re free to fool around with all the harlots you want. After all, you want to give your wife a break once in a while. It’s more of that religious claptrap telling us that women are evil, and the cause of all the sin in the world. Misogyny, free and simple.” She examined him a moment. “Do you think I’m a harlot?”

His mouth dropped open. “What? For God’s sake, Casey! Of course not!” He gripped her shoulders. “I’ve told you before, you are a product of your own time, just as I am of mine. Your society was far more open about a lot of things, and you are too.” He touched her face lightly, smiling a little. “I think you are the most amazing and wonderful person in the world, Casey. I’m glad you want to make love to me. I can’t even say how precious that is.”

She smiled back at him and ran her finger over his lips, feeling his hands tighten on her arms in response. “In the future, we’re pretty casual about sex. It’s seen in movies and TV, and most people don’t think anything about people my age having relations with someone. Couples often live together first and marry when they’re ready.” She hesitated as he shook his head, clearly disturbed at her words. But she went on, “And I’ve had boyfriends. I won’t pretend otherwise. But,” she shrugged, embarrassed. “I am still a virgin. Not because I thought it was wrong. I’ve just never felt that close to any of the boys I dated. I swear Tom, you are the first man I’ve met that I’d go to bed with—anytimeanyminutejustaskme. You completely overwhelm me, Tom. You always have.”

He moved to kiss her again, but they were interrupted by a crash, and yells of “I beat you!” “No fair, you pushed!” as a mob of children burst into the cove. “There you are!” “Dinner’s ready! Grandma says to come home!” “We’ve been looking everywhere for you!”

“Okay. Okay.” Tom rose and pulled Casey up. “Get going, scalawags, we’ll be there in a minute.”

They were instantly gone, as dinner really was ready, and Tom turned to Casey with a grin. “You see one of the problems we face.”

She nodded. “I do, yes.”

He took both her hands in his, looking at her in earnest. “When I make love to you, Casey, I want time to be with you. I don’t want to rush or sneak around. I don’t want to leave you and have to pretend I’m not the absolute happiest man in the world.” He pulled her into a hug. “The last week of August. That’s four months, and I’ll be gone for over a month of that on Adriatic. Can we wait that long?”

“Yes,” she murmured into his shoulder. “August. Here at Ardara?”

“Exactly where I want to be married.”

***

After lunch, Sam, Casey and Tom sat down with Mrs. Andrews and Penny, to discuss Penny’s new employment. She and Casey were both nervous, but Penny was excited about the new arrangement, Casey slightly less so. Penny might be the best choice, but she still didn’t want a maid.

Mrs. Andrews had tried to think of everything. “Now Penny, Miss Wilson is not familiar with the ways of Irish society, but she still must follow them. I’m depending on you to let her know the right and wrong of things. I have no doubt that Miss Wilson will do our family proud, but she must be aware of what needs to be done. Can you do this with proper respect for her position, exactly as if you were working for me?”

Penny nodded, her face solemn. “Oh yes, ma’am, certainly.”

Mrs. Andrews turned to Casey. “Casey, I know you are unfamiliar with the protocols for servants. Employing servants and running a household, which you will soon be doing, requires both knowledge and skill. I will be available to help you with both. Penny’s primary job should be to take care of you, your clothes and your belongings. A personal maid is an assistant and often, a confidant. Since Penny is close to your own age, I’m hoping the two of you will get along well, but never forget that you are the employer. You and Dr. Altair can decide what her schedule should be, and any other duties you wish her to perform. She’s an excellent upstairs maid and she may be able to help out around the house in addition to her duties for you.”

She handed Casey a stack of small books, all tied with a red ribbon. Tom began to laugh, causing Casey to glance in bewilderment at him and then at her future mother-in-law. Mrs. Andrews gave her son a small glare and turned back to Casey. “These are manuals that describe each servant’s position and duties. You’ll need to know them all, dear.”

Casey stared in dismay at the title of the top book, “The Duties of the Housekeeper.” Not quite daring to be free with Mrs. Andrews, she turned to Tom with her own glare. “Will there be a test?”

He laughed louder and nodded. “The worst kind. Day-to-day life. You don’t dare get it wrong.”

“Nonsense.” His mother slapped his knee. “Don’t scare her.” She turned to Casey. “It’s mostly commonsense, dear. You’ll see when you read them.”

Casey looked at Penny. “Have you read them?”

The girl nodded. “I’ve read the one for the upstairs maid. And Mrs. Andrews gave me my own copy of the Personal Maid.” She sounded a little proud when she said that.

Casey kept her face straight as she nodded. “We have homework,” she told Sam, who held up both hands in protest.

You have homework. I plan on just loitering and watching things.”

Casey felt okay about turning to Mrs. Andrews with that one. “He’ll find out otherwise.”

She nodded sagely. “He will, dear. He will.”

***

Casey and Sam were not prepared to take a maid into the house, so they asked for a few days leeway. Casey would read her manuals, and she and Sam would go through the house and hide all indications of the twenty-first century.

“That will be one of the difficult things,” Sam said from the back seat, as Tom drove them home. “We both find it relaxing to be able to talk to each other just as we would in our own time. With someone else in the house, we won’t have that privilege, anymore.”

Casey agreed. “We’ll be constantly on guard. It will be stressful.”

Tom looked despondent. “I’m sorry about that. It’s not intended to be a hardship, but you’re right. You’ll have to watch what you say.” His lips tightened briefly. “As well as how you say it. And how you act.” He brightened. “It may improve though, once we’re at Dunallon. There’ll be more servants and they’ll have more work to do. Servants love nothing better than to ignore the masters and be left alone. You’ll have the convenience of anonymity, at least a little bit.”

With some trepidation, they acknowledged the truth of that and Tom reached over to hold Casey’s hand. “They all like you, Casey. They still have misgivings, but they like you. I think that soon they’ll all feel good about our marriage.”

Sam had his own version. “She does offer something upper-class society is desperately in need of.”

Tom glanced back. “What’s that?”

“New blood. I bet if you did a DNA analysis of the top fifty families of Belfast society, they’d all be related somehow. Scary, that.”

Tom understood the gist of it and laughed with them. But he made them explain DNA.

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