We’re having fun in the humid heat. Little Alan is moving kind of slow, but we got a nice walk accomplished.
The note was on pale pink paper, with an even, flowing script, and a coat of arms seal on the back. It was addressed to “Miss Casey Wilson” and was delivered to the house on Tuesday of Casey’s second week after leaving Harland and Wolff.
The sender was Lady Margaret Pirrie.
Casey stood at the small desk in the parlor as Sam lit a fire to ward off the evening chill. She held the note with care, afraid to move for fear that movement would acknowledge the paper in her hand and force her to deal with it. What did Lady Pirrie want with her? Was this prelude to arrest? Announcement to sue? Some other alarming deed?
Sam noticed her stillness and glanced over, moving to her side in alarm at her expression. “What is it? Are you all right?”
She couldn’t focus on him, but handed the note in his direction. Confused, he took it and read the front, noting sender and addressee. Eyebrows severely elevated, he managed a sideways smile. “Honestly, dear. The company you keep.” His voice was mild.
Her lips trembled, eyes wide. “What does she want with me? Why would she send me a note? Am I going to be arrested?”
He held it out to her. “Arrest notices seldom come on scented pink paper. I hate to be pedantic, but the only way you’ll find out is to open it.”
Her lips twitched ever so slightly as she snatched the paper out of his hand and sniffed gently at it. Sure enough, roses. Taking a deep breath, she broke the seal and forced herself to scan the note. She felt her face flushing as she gaped at the invitation to: “Tea? She wants me to come to tea?”
Sam peeked over her shoulder at the elegant script.
Lady Margaret Pirrie requests the company of
Miss Casey Wilson
Two o’clock in the afternoon
Friday 22 November, 1906
at Ormiston House, Belfast
“Why would she want me to come to tea?” Casey shouted at Sam.
He lifted his shoulders. “Maybe she’s just curious. She did meet you at the shipyard at least once. Maybe she wants to see you as a girl.”
“For tea?” she repeated. “With Lady Pirrie? At Ormiston House?”
“Now, Casey, surely you know the rules of teatime. You attended Queen’s University for two-and-a-half years and I don’t think they’ve let the basics slide that much. You’ve attended formal teas, I’m sure of it.”
“Yes.” She looked doubtful. “But not by myself, and certainly not with a lady of the realm. Especially one who has a complaint against me.” Each remark got louder.
Sam sat in the desk chair. “I had a colleague once who always said to never admit fault until it was in your lap.” He sighed at Casey’s expression. “You don’t know that Lady Pirrie is offended. She may think it’s hilarious.”
Casey nodded in mock optimism. “I’m sure she does.”
Sam ignored the sarcasm as he gazed at the lace curtains over the window. “In fact, Lady Pirrie could be a real asset.”
“What do you mean, asset?”
Sam settled into his lecture mode. “According to history, Lady Pirrie had a lot of influence with her husband. She was practically a partner in the business. You mentioned she was often at the yard.” He looked at her for confirmation.
“So when you go to tea, you should feel her out. She’d be a formidable ally if she knew about the Titanic.”
“The Titanic?” Casey threw the note on the desk, face flushed and angry. “You want me to tell her about the Titanic? About us? Are you out of your mind, Sam?”
“Only if you’re comfortable with it, of course. I haven’t met her at all; you have. I’m sure you’ll get to know her a bit better on Friday. I’ll leave it to your discretion.”
“Sam.” Casey was flabbergasted and showed it. “Sam, the Pirries are not interested in us. Lady Pirrie probably wants to meet me to make sure I’m not up to espionage or something. That’s okay, I can understand that. But everyone says they’re extravagant, haughty social climbers. Their fondest wish is to be the darlings of London society. I’ve seen how Lord Pirrie runs that company like it’s his own personal little fiefdom. If anyone disagrees with him, he doesn’t promote them. Even his own nephew got that treatment because they disagreed about Home Rule. The Pirries are the problem, Sam.”
Sam was nodding. “I know, I know. They also live well beyond their means and when he dies, he leaves his wife destitute, and at the charitable mercies of friends and relations. He also cooks the books, although none of it is actually illegal these days. Still, Harland & Wolff is nearly as destitute as Lady Pirrie. But that’s all beside the point. The thing is, Casey, she knows ships. She really does. If you give her our information, she just might persuade Pirrie to change the ship.”
“She just might have us locked up for good, too. Worse, she might turn us over to the government. If he’s so desperate for society approval that he cooks the books, we’d be a real prize, wouldn’t we? Heck, the King might make him a Duke or something, for turning over time travelers. I don’t trust her at all, Sam. I don’t even trust her long enough to have tea with her. I wouldn’t dare tell her about us.”
He threw up his hands. “I told you. Do what you think is best. You know more about the woman than I do.” He reached over and lifted a fold of her black working skirt, eyeing it critically. “So, what do you plan on wearing to tea?”
Since Casey didn’t trust Lady Pirrie, she felt no need to go out of her way to impress her. She didn’t quite dare to refuse the invitation, however, and she responded with a polite note informing Her Ladyship that she was honored by the invitation, and looked forward to tea on Friday.
She would wear her nicest dress and shoes, which, while quite presentable for a woman of the middle class, would still never measure up to Lady Pirrie’s standards. Nevertheless, Casey was content. Her station in life was not a secret, so surely Lady Pirrie would understand. Casey did have a new hat.
Transportation was a thornier issue, with Sam vetoing all the possibilities. She couldn’t take a tram and walk onto the Ormiston property and up to the front door, not to mention leaving the same way. She couldn’t take a cab for the same reason. How would she summon another one when it was time to leave? In the end, Sam splurged and hired a driver and carriage for the afternoon. Like any other lady paying a call, Casey would be taken to the front door by her driver, who would then park the carriage at the designated spot for visitors. The horse would be allowed a drink of water and the driver some tea. When Casey was ready to leave, her driver would be summoned by the butler and Casey could enter her carriage at the door, as was proper.
“As long as you don’t make a habit of these teas, of course,” Sam teased her on Thursday. “If you get too popular, one of us will have to take a second job.”
So it was that on Friday, Casey let ‘her’ driver help her out of ‘her’ carriage and she rang the bell of Ormiston House precisely at two o’clock. She managed a polite smile for the butler in spite of sweaty palms and a pounding heart. He ignored it, bowing formally and taking her cloak before handing it off to a young girl in a maid’s uniform. He interrupted Casey’s awed examination of the proverbs carved into the walls, and led her to the drawing room, where he stiffly announced her to Lady Pirrie, who remained regally seated in front of a shining tea service.
Casey curtsied and murmured her how-do-you-do’s, having polished up on her lessons from Queens. Lady Pirrie broke into a delighted smile and stood, reaching to take both of Casey’s hands into her own. Flustered, Casey stood still and allowed the Lady’s scrutiny.
“My dear.” Lady Pirrie tilted her head graciously and gestured to the chair on the other side of the tea service. “I’m delighted you could come.” She returned to her seat as Casey sank into the indicated chair, an elegant open-arm affair with pink upholstery, identical to the one in which Lady Pirrie sat. The entire room was filled with color: the furniture in pink or green upholstery, gleaming gold and crystal chandeliers, polished wood armoires and side tables with gold handles. Casey felt like a child in a museum, hearing a distant docent’s voice admonishing her to “not touch the display.”
Lady Pirrie continued, “I must tell you, I was amused beyond words at the trick you played on our Tommy. I simply had to meet you, and see for myself the young lady who could accomplish such a task.”
Casey reddened and sat straighter in her chair. “Madam, I assure you. My motive was not to trick Mr. Andrews at all. I hold him in the highest esteem, and I am truly sorry if my deception has caused him any hurt.”
The tilted head was more intently critical this time. “Is that so?” the Lady murmured, but adroitly did not pursue the topic. Instead, she began the process of serving tea to her guest and herself, a ritual familiar and comforting to Casey. When both were outfitted with tea and small sandwiches, Casey’s fear began to return. What did Lady Pirrie want?
“My nephew, Miss Wilson,” began Lady Pirrie, with an air of resignation, “would rather die than add injury to someone already in distress, most particularly a young lady in distress. Surely, you realize he let you off astonishingly easy?”
Casey held her teacup gingerly and nodded. “I do, Lady Pirrie.” Ignoring the advice of Sam’s colleague, she added, “I would not have been so kind in his place.”
“Indeed? How would you have handled such a transgression, Miss Wilson?” Lady Pirrie seemed genuinely curious.
Casey set the teacup down, afraid of dropping it. During the months of her employment, she had imagined many dreadful things happening when Mr. Andrews found her out. In the few days since the confrontation, she had considered further which of the dire imaginings could have been most likely. “I imagined arrest or humiliation, although,” she added hastily, seeing Lady Pirrie’s insulted expression, “I’m sure that was more my own guilt speaking than anything else. After becoming better acquainted with him, I knew he would never do such a thing.”
“At the least, Madam, I would have given me a severe dressing down.” Casey looked down at her hands, clenched tightly in her lap, as she confessed, “to have him speak to me in that way would have been the most painful punishment. His good opinion of me meant so much. I am sure I have lost it and…well, I know I deserve that.”
Lady Pirrie sighed. “As to that, I cannot say. I know he forgives you, but whether he would trust you, that’s another story.”
He hasn’t contacted me or Sam about the warning, Casey thought miserably. Obviously, he doesn’t trust me. He probably never wants to see me again.
“How did you do it, Miss Wilson?”
Casey looked up, startled. “Do, Lady Pirrie? I don’t understand.”
“How did you manage to pass yourself off as a boy for all that time?” Lady Pirrie’s gaze wandered frankly over Casey’s form. “I talked to you myself for several minutes and I never guessed at all. But I don’t understand how you pulled it off. You look nothing like a boy, although your hair is an abomination.”
Casey’s hand went to her head in embarrassment. “I know. I had such wonderful hair, too. I miss it so much. But it will grow back. That, at least, is not permanent.” Her fingers uselessly fluffed the short curls in a mindless and habitual fashion. “I had it cut in order to sell it, when we needed money. Putting on pants and shirt with the cap completed the costume. I had noticed the boys on the street that were always out looking for odd jobs.” She shrugged delicately. “People see what they expect to see, for the most part. I didn’t plan to make a career out of it, but at that point, any money earned could only help us.” She frowned sternly at her hostess. “Obviously, Lady Pirrie, I could not go out on the streets to look for work as a girl. Society really gives women abysmal choices. We can starve. Or we can prostitute ourselves. But we are not allowed to do honest work for honest pay.”
Lady Pirrie flushed. “I know, dear. Without condoning what you did, I can only agree with you. Still, it seldom bodes well to toss society’s grievous conventions back into its face. Somehow, the victim always ends up paying the price.”
Casey nodded, acknowledging the truth of that. But she felt no guilt as she spoke. “I have no apologies for looking for well-paying jobs to help my guardian and I survive. I did good work, and I don’t believe anyone suffered because they unknowingly hired a girl instead of a boy. Not even Mr. Andrews, and Harland & Wolff.” She shrugged in self-deprecation. “I’m afraid I have a strong rebellious streak in that matter. If society insists on certain rules, however discriminatory or illogical, then I’ll work within the rules as I see fit.”
“They’d have burned you as a witch two hundred years ago, dear,” Lady Pirrie said. “You are fortunate society has matured in some fashion since then.”
“No doubt,” Casey agreed.
“And what are you doing since leaving the shipyard?”
“An acquaintance of my guardian is a horticulture professor at Queen’s. He needed some help with a project at the Palm House. This was my field of study in California, so I applied.” Casey found herself smiling. “I thought shipbuilding was fascinating, but I am overjoyed at working with plants again.”
Lady Pirrie blinked in astonishment, then shook her head, laughing a little. “It wouldn’t appeal to me, but I can see you enjoy it.” She filled Casey’s cup and leaned back to regard her solemnly. “Are you familiar with the Agriculture Society, and the work of Sir Horace Plunkett?”
Casey gulped in astonishment. “Yes, of course. He has established the society as a department of the government and is working throughout the country to help farmers form co-operatives and earn a living wage. I think his work is marvelous.”
Lady Pirrie seemed surprised she knew so much. “Indeed. I didn’t realize an American would be so familiar with the work, but it is true that Sir Plunkett spent a few years in America. Are you familiar with him from his time there?”
“His writings were often brought up during my studies, Lady Pirrie,” Casey said, quite truthfully.
The older woman nodded. “That’s wonderful! I ask because if you are truly interested in pursuing this work, I can arrange to introduce you to the local chapter. I have no way, myself, of determining whether you are qualified to help them, but they will know. Would you be interested in meeting them?”
Casey’s smile was answer enough, but she tried to sound calm and assured as she answered, “I would be honored, ma’am. I would love to help in any way I can.”
Lady Pirrie nodded again, pleased with this result. “I will be in contact with you then, once I’ve made arrangements.” She was not done, though, and continued with a slightly chiding tone. “My nephew will be glad to know you are doing well. I will talk to him, of course, but you might consider sending him a note and letting him know.”
Casey flushed. “I did write him, Lady Pirrie, when I first started the project. I sent a note to Mr. Andrews and to Mr. Hamilton, as I worked closely with both of them. Mr. Hamilton wrote me back, saying only that they were pleased and wished me luck.” She licked her lips and ran a finger around the rim of her cup. “I do not wish to make a pest of myself.”
“A wise decision, dear. I will say they have had a difficult time replacing you, which amuses my sense of feminine justice. You went a long way toward convincing some of them that a woman can work as well as a man.”
Lady Pirrie rose to indicate the interview was ended. Casey hastily placed her cup on the table and stood as Lady Pirrie rang for her butler and turned to face Casey. “Thank you for coming, my dear. I’m afraid I really was quite curious about you. But I rather have the impression that you’ll be an asset to the people of Belfast.”
Casey curtsied, managing to look elegant in spite of her poor dress and abominable hair. “I hope so, Lady Pirrie. And the pleasure has been mine. Your graciousness in this situation is most appreciated.”
She followed the butler out to her carriage, leaving a bemused Lady Pirrie to her thoughts.
On Tuesday, at the shipyard, Tom was sidetracked from an errand by a familiar voice calling him toward the Corridor of Power, the stairway leading to his uncle’s office.
“Oh, Tommy dear!” His aunt was just coming down the stairs, resplendent in her purple dress and matching parasol. Tom paused in his dash and gave her a peck on the cheek.
“Hello, Aunt Marge. Come to make sure Uncle Willie is handling things all right?”
“It’s a constant battle,” she said, smiling up at him in delight. “How have you been, dear? I’m just on my way to visit your mother and I’ll have to give her a report.”
Tom gave it some thought. “Now, I just saw her on Sunday, so I suppose you can tell her that I’ve been on an even keel and remain as content as I was then. Although,” and he anxiously rubbed at a small cut on his neck, “I did nick myself shaving yesterday. She might feel that’s significant news.”
They laughed together. She held up a hand as she remembered something. “By the way, I had your young lady over for tea the other day.”
He looked blank. “Has someone not informed me of something?” he asked her, puzzled. “What young lady is that?”
“Silly dolt,” she murmured. “I meant your former employee.”
“Oh,” he replied in despair. He was still putting up with teasing from the men; now Aunt Marge would be added to his list of torturers. “That young lady.”
“Why Tommy,” Lady Pirrie suddenly reached up and firmly rubbed a spot on his cheek. “You have egg on your face.”
He couldn’t help it; the joke caused him to roar with laughter. Too bad, too, because it would only encourage her. “Aye, so I do, so I do. Will I ever live this down?”
She smiled. “We’ll tire of it eventually.”
“Humph,” was his only response, but he suddenly realized what she had said, and he stared at her in shock. “Did you say you had her over for tea?” He could almost feel the blood draining from his face.
“Why yes, dear. On Friday.”
“Friday,” he said weakly. She nodded. “Why’d you do that?” he asked.
“Why?” Her brows rose, but she shrugged slightly. “Curiosity, dear. The story was quite amusing, of course, but I was fascinated at what she had done. I had to meet her for myself.” The parasol tip hit the floor sharply as Lady Pirrie tapped it. “I’m surprised you haven’t made the effort yourself. Aren’t you at all curious about her?”
Curious? he thought. That’s not quite it. Uneasy… perturbed… yes, curious as well, but… Almost without effort, he heard Casey’s warning again, and Dr. Altair’s enigmatic rejoinder. Most unsatisfactory.
He blinked, bringing himself back to the current conversation. His aunt was looking at him strangely. He cleared his throat. “Curious, yes. Of course. What did you think of her?”
The strange look remained, but she answered calmly enough. “I found her quite charming, Tommy. Truly, if I had not met her when she worked here, I would never have believed the young lady I was talking to could have pulled off such a deception.”
“Really?” Now he was curious. “How so?”
She examined him for a moment, tilting her head quizzically. “She’s very pretty, Tommy. Very feminine. I do not understand at all how she passed herself off as a boy.”
Tom grabbed a quick thought. “Are you certain it was the same person? None of us has ever met her as a girl.”
But his aunt merely nodded. “I am certain, yes. I talked to her for several minutes one day, while I was working in Saxon’s office. It’s subtle, but there were too many similarities for it to be a different person. In fact, I asked her about it.”
“What did she say?”
“She explained about her ‘costume,’ as she called it. How she used the clothes to cover herself and make her appear younger and boyish. She also said that in general, people see what they expect to see. She tried hard to never give us a reason to expect anything other than a boy.” She shook her head, clearly befuddled. “I don’t quite understand how that helped, but there you are.”
Tom could see it, as he thought back to the first moment he saw her. Part of it was the context: it would never have occurred to him that a girl would be loitering on the street, looking for work. She was dressed as a boy and his expectations told him to expect a boy. So that’s what he saw.
His aunt continued. “Frankly, I was concerned that she may have been part of some kind of espionage attempt, or something. I thought that talking to her would alleviate my fears, and I do feel better about her now. In fact, I’m introducing her to the Horticulture Society. I think she may fit in there.” She shrugged. “Really, Tommy, she’s very young. American, orphaned, in the care of an old man who has never married or raised children…. It’s a miracle the child can function in society at all. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. At least, I’m convinced she was doing just what she told you she was doing. Trying to survive.”
Tom nodded, disturbed, but gave his aunt a quick hug. “I’ve got to run, Aunt Marge. Thanks for telling me about this. Be well, and tell my mother hello for me.”
She kissed his cheek. “I will. Be well, Tommy.”
Tom sat at his desk for several minutes after Casey had gone, staring at the door and trying to comprehend what she had said. His emotions were in such a whirl, he couldn’t concentrate. What did all that mean? The image of a ship scraping along an iceberg sent chills down his spine. He wanted to laugh it off as nonsense, but the scenario Casey described was plausible.
“Going too fast.” What did she mean by that? “A ship called Titanic”? There was no ship by that name even being considered. Was Casey, perhaps, a bit crazy? A harmless crazy, to be sure, but one that made her pretend to be a boy and then leave random warnings of disaster in her wake? But would craziness like that allow to her work hard and accurately every day?
Tom slowly shook his head, unsure of what to do. How could this happen? How could he not see that she was a girl? All the comments from men in the yard: “He sure is a pretty boy,” or “No growth spurt, yet, eh?” Tom had for the most part ignored these, thinking only that the trueness of them must have meant that life was even more difficult for the lad.
Gullible, Tommy. Gullible, that’s what you are. Always willing to take people at their best. Someone’ll always take advantage of that. Ach, but it’s no good being any other way.
Eventually he came back to his original problem: what to tell his uncle. He almost laughed at that, hearing his own voice exhorting Casey to avoid any further lying. Best take his own advice and just confess his gullibility to Lord Pirrie and have it done. He did take some comfort in the knowledge that he wasn’t the only one taken in by the deception.
He heard Ham come in and sighed. Might as well get it over with, then he could head over to his uncle’s office. He wasn’t going to be able to concentrate on these reports anyway.
Predictably, Ham was astonished when Tom broke the news. His ears reddened as he no doubt considered the odd remark that would never have been made had he known he was talking to a girl. Tom could think of a few unwise comments he’d said himself. Not to mention exposing her to all the rough and tumble of the men in the shipyard. Good men, all of them, but still men, who were assuming there were no women around. They acted a bit coarser under those circumstances.
After a few minutes, Ham recovered. “We were going to keep him on. How’re we going to replace him… I mean her? She was all trained and doing a proper job. Good ideas, too.” Ham sounded miserable; after all, he was going to have to go back to all that running around and extra work.
Tom tapped his pencil on the desk as he thought about it. “Tell you what. Let’s put out the word to everyone we talk to today. Start with the men in the drafting room. We need a youngish lad who can read, write and figure to replace Casey. Someone who can start right away. We’ll see what we get.”
Lord Pirrie’s reaction was also predictable. He stared at Tom in disbelief, then let loose a roar of laughter that all but alerted the shipyard that something was up. Tom reflected that there was no way he was getting away easy on this one.
He didn’t, either. There were few places where gossip could travel faster than a shipyard. First, they were looking for a replacement for Casey, which was enough to raise lots of questions. Everyone liked Casey, why’d they let him go? Lord Pirrie was more than happy to tell a few people, and like magic, they all knew. Tom found that on his forays through the yard, he’d suddenly be following a man swinging his hips and twirling an imaginary umbrella. Or upon getting the attention of a man he needed to talk to, the alerted fellow would pouf imaginary hair or bat his eyelashes. These antics were followed by peals of laughter from anyone around.
There was nothing for it but to take it in good humor and let it run its course. He did manage to put an early stop to it in his own department, by noting as how the men perhaps needed to do some rudimentary drawing exercises for their eyes, since they had worked closely with Casey, too, and had not noticed anything untoward. So the snickers died down quickly there, especially since the work that Casey used to do fell to them until a replacement could be secured.
His talk with Sloan was brief. This was not the first time Tom had had to deal with Sloan’s troublemaking, and the man’s self-righteous air at the news that Casey had left nearly sent Tom over the edge. He actually shoved Sloan into a chair and yelled at him, while struggling to keep his clenched fists at his side, rather than using them to wipe the smugness from Sloan’s face.
“I don’t care what her crime was,” he said. “If you thought she was a girl, your treatment of her was outrageous. You understand, sir, that if any harm comes to that young lady, any at all, I will personally see that you are brought before the magistrate to answer for it. Are you clear on that?”
Sloan had acquiesced, humbly protesting that he never truly thought she was a girl, he was just trying to shame the boy into confessing his sins. But the triumphant gleam never left his eye, and Tom was determined to keep a watch on him.
He approached his supervisor, Alexander Carlisle, about the iceberg problem, who thought it was an interesting, although unlikely, possibility. Tom then put the problem to his design team as an exercise. The easy solution, a double hull, was a sensitive one because of cost. If they couldn’t do that, what other solutions were there?
Any mention of Titanic, he kept to himself.
“It was the housekeeper, in the parlor.” Sam said, as soon as he came in the kitchen, an open letter in his hand.
Casey looked up from dinner preparations, her face showing the results of an afternoon of sobbing into her pillow. She had called Sam at work as soon she’d gotten home, and told him what had happened. He had been suitably sympathetic, and furious at Sloan, but she knew he was also relieved that the truth was out. On some level, she was glad of that herself, but still sick with worry over Tom Andrews.
“What are you talking about?” She didn’t feel up to his usual puzzles and chipper conversation.
He waved the letter. “How Sloan found out about you. It was the housekeeper.”
She tried to focus on that. Ann Malone? The young woman who came two times a week to sweep and dust and do their laundry? Casey had only met her a couple of times, first when she interviewed for the job and again a week ago, when she had been working late and Casey had come home…
…dressed as a boy.
She leaned against the counter, folded her arms over her apron, and gazed thoughtfully at Sam. “Pray tell, what is the connection between our housekeeper and Mike Sloan?”
Sam blinked at the letter in his hand. “Evidently, she’s his cousin.”
Casey sighed. “God save me from the Irish and their infernal relations.”
Sam laughed. “It can be a tricky road to traverse,” he agreed. “Buried mines, everywhere.”
“I take it that letter is from her?”
“Aye.” Sam offered it to her but she just raised an eyebrow and waited. He shrugged. “She is informing us that her cousin has forbidden her to continue in our employment. She regrets this and sincerely hopes she has not caused us trouble. She had only thought that Mr. Sloan would find the story amusing.”
“Why? For thinking Sloan would be amused, or expecting us to believe she thought that?”
“Either one.” Casey returned to cooking. “So, mystery solved. It’s nice to know he didn’t figure it out on his own.” She stirred the stew to avoid Sam’s gaze, one thought shouting itself in her mind: He knew. That whole time, with those men there, threatening to strip me, he knew I was a girl.
Sam dropped a kiss on her head. “Can you call the agency tomorrow and ask them to send ‘round another housekeeper? And no, you can’t do the work. I have a possible job for you.”
That got her attention and he smiled wickedly. “I have some connections now, you know.”
Her eyes narrowed. “What job?”
“Know anything about the Palm House?”
She gasped. “Don’t be ridiculous. The greenhouse in the Botanic Gardens. I worked there for over a year in the future.”
“I know.” He sat on a stool, quite proud of himself. “A colleague has a relative who’s heading the program to build up the tropical section. They’re using Queen’s students, of course, but they need some help from outside the university. He’s agreed to talk to you.”
“Tomorrow, if you can get there in the afternoon. Rupus Mangold is his name. Go and see what you think.”
She squealed and hugged him. “Thank you!”
He chuckled, glad to see her smile.
A few days later, Sam received a phone call from Tom Andrews. Tom sounded genuinely concerned about Casey and wanted to meet with Sam in person, to discuss the situation. Sam agreed to meet him after work at a pub.
He called Casey to tell her.
“He said he would talk to you about Sloan,” Casey reminded him.
“I know.” Sam was nervous. “This is silly, especially since you’ve been working with him all this time. But this guy was one of my childhood heroes. I can’t believe I’m actually going to meet him.”
“Yeah, well, try to put in a good word for me, okay?” Casey was depressed. “And try to tell him more about Titanic!”
Sam recognized him right away, having seen pictures of the man as he studied the Titanic in school. If Tom thought it odd that this stranger walked right up and introduced himself, he didn’t let on. Maybe he’d given up on anything connected with Casey making sense.
Tom didn’t drink, so he sipped the tea Sam bought for him and said that he was uncertain of Sloan’s sincerity in promising to leave Casey alone. “He knows where you live. He has connections everywhere. I hope you can keep Casey from running around on her own, especially dressed as a boy.”
Sam was thoughtful. “I don’t think she’ll do that anymore, Mr. Andrews. She had a real scare, and she’s heartbroken over deceiving you. She was never comfortable with it, you know. She simply felt she had no other choices.”
“What is she going to do, now?” Tom asked him.
“Fellow I work with has a brother-in-law teaching horticulture at Queen’s. That was Casey’s field of study. They’re starting a project at the Palm House in the Gardens, and he agreed to let Casey help them out.” Sam raised his glass. “She’s thrilled about it. It will be good for her. She’ll be working with plants and won’t be cooped up in a factory or sitting in front of a typewriter all day. She’d do those jobs if she had to, but it would drive her insane.”
Tom shook his head. “She’s a very strange girl, Dr. Altair. Don’t get me wrong, please. I like her. At least, I liked him and I assume she’s the same… Oh, for heaven’s sake.” He stopped talking, befuddled, and Sam laughed.
“I know what you mean.” He sobered, though, and looked at Tom seriously. “She truly admires you, sir, and is quite concerned for your welfare. It’s not my place to say, but I hope you see a way to get to know her as herself.” He smiled a little. “I think you’ll find that her strangeness is overwhelmed by her goodness.”
Tom nodded, his lips tight, one finger tapping the table. He opened his mouth, but closed it again, then abruptly asked, “Do you know why she told me about a ship called Titanic crashing into an iceberg? I’ll tell you, Dr. Altair, that gave me the chills, but it also lends a lot of credibility to the notion that she’s more than just a little strange.”
Sam stared at him for several seconds, his mind racing, before deciding on a course of action. “The answer to that is not simple, Mr. Andrews. From what Casey tells me, she just gave you a brief description, yes?”
“Brief?” Tom spread his hands. “How would I know? I guess it was brief. A large ship, going too fast and can’t miss the berg. The berg scrapes along the side and tears holes in the hull for several hundred feet. A nasty story, Dr. Altair. But do you know it’s almost word-for-word, the plot of a work of fiction written about ten years ago?” Sam nodded as Tom continued. “She wasn’t talking about that book, though. I don’t know why, but I know she wasn’t. But what was she talking about?”
Sam sighed. “As I said, sir, the answer is not simple and this is not the place to discuss it.” He sat back and observed Tom for a minute. “Mr. Andrews, you have a standing invitation to dinner anytime you’re ready for the whole story.” He held up his hands. “If you’re uncomfortable about being with Casey, I’ll arrange to have her be somewhere else. Is this acceptable?”
Tom looked confused, but he just nodded. “All right. I’m sure I’ll be in touch.” He didn’t sound sure, but Sam let it drop.
A few thoughts about this:
1. “MLK-like” – the civil disobedience of MLK was to end laws and practice of inequality and discrimination. That’s exactly opposite of what Huckabee, et al want to do. Sure, maybe they’re just referring to the civil disobedience part, but it’s disingenuous (deliberately so) to bring the Civil Rights movement into it.
2. There’s nothing in the law that forces any minister anywhere to marry any particular couple. Ministers right now, have the right to say “sorry, no” to any couple for any reason. Reasons may be “I only marry couples who are members of my church,” “I only marry couples who are of the same religion and promise to bring their children up in said religion,” “I only marry couples who go through our pre-marriage counseling program,” I don’t marry couples if one or both have been divorced,” or even, “I don’t have room in my schedule.” Having a rule to only marry couples of the opposite sex is not any different.
If you’re gay and you want your religion to recognize your right to be gay, that’s something you work out within the religion. The law of America is very clear that the government does not dictate religious creeds.
3. Government employees whose duties involve issuing marriage licenses have no right to pick and choose to whom they issue a license. Doing your job does not interfere with your religious practice in any way. If you belong to a teetotaler religion and you work as a grocery store cashier, you don’t get to refuse to scan the booze. This is’t any different.
4. If the Republicans hate that a few unelected people (SC justices) are “‘making law” and “ruling the country,” then maybe they should stop filing lawsuits. Yes, in this case, they were the defendants, but they’re busy taking point in lots of things. And of course, they only complain when those “few unelected people” rule against them, such as in Obamacare and gay marriage. Citizens United? Hobby Lobby? Those few unelected people are saints.
For the record, I’m not thrilled either, that such important issues basically come down to the vote of one person. That’s not a stable platform in my opinion, and in the long run, it doesn’t really solve anything. We’re still fighting on the abortion front forty years after the ruling. The Repubs won’t give up on Obamacare and gay marriage, and progressives won’t give up trying to turn around Citizens United and Hobby Lobby. Rulings like this just draw a line for the rest of us to dig trenches next to and accelerate the arguments.
Will shots be fired soon?
Here is a tidy explanation of pagan practice and beliefs.
Originally posted on Humanistic Paganism:
A longer version of this essay was originally published at Eric S. Raymond’s website Oct. 22, 2010.
The neopagan phenomenon is a loose collection of religious movements, experiments, and jokes combining some very new thinking with some very old sources.
This FAQ, originally prepared in 1992 at the request of a number of curious net.posters, offers a brief description of neopagan thought and practice.
II. What is a neopagan?
I used the term `religious’ above, but as you’ll see it’s actually more than somewhat misleading, and I (like many other neopagans) use it only because no other word is available for the more general kind of thing of which the neopagan movement and what we generally think of as `religion’ are special cases.
Neopaganism is `religious’ in the etymological sense of `re ligare’, to rebind (to roots, to strengths, to the basics of things), and it deals with…
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Here’s an important lesson for good food on a very limited budget. It really can be done.
Arms full of rolled up plans, Casey dashed along the lower catwalk of the gantry, shivering in the November cold. She’d just left Tom and several foremen on the gantry, and now she hurried to get the plans back to Ham so Mr. Carlisle had them for a meeting. As she rounded a corner, though, Trouble appeared, in the overbearing person of Mike Sloan. He stepped in front of her, holding up a hand to stop her headlong rush. She skidded to a stop, struggling to keep hold of the plans as several rolls tried to make an escape from her arms. She managed to glare at Sloan at the same time.
“Can I help you with something?” she asked in annoyance. What a jerk!
His slow grin made him look like a satisfied fox, knowing the hen was cornered. “It’s almost lunch time,” he pointed out, nodding back toward the platers’ shed. “Wanted to ask you again to come to our meeting.”
“And again, no thank you,” Casey replied, tossing a recalcitrant plan toward her shoulder and taking a step to continue past him.
He moved to block her. “Thought you might reconsider,” he said, looking her over with sharp eyes. “Seems like if you don’t want trouble, you might consider meeting us halfway. Show a little concern for your soul.”
Casey stayed still, balancing on the balls of her feet. She answered with care. “I don’t want trouble. My soul is feeling fine. I still don’t want to go to your meeting.”
Again, he looked her over, tilting his head thoughtfully. “Boy like you has a lot of demons in his heart. Sooner you ask the Lord to heal you, the better off you’ll be. Or is it,” his voice softened dangerously, sending a chill down Casey’s back, “maybe you’re not a boy. If you’re not, I’d say there’s still a lot of demons in your heart, but they’d be different ones. Which is it, Casey?”
“This conversation is over,” she replied, her voice almost sounding calm. She turned back to the slips, where she knew there were a lot of people, but came up against a human bulk whose name escaped her. A glance to her left and right revealed similar bulks waiting patiently. She turned back to Sloan and tried to sound threatening and bored. “Not a good idea, Sloan.”
He ignored her comment and spread his arms in an attempt to look reasonable. “Prove it to us, Case. Prove you’re a boy and we’ll let it go, for now. Just drop ’em quick-like. Don’t need more than a glance, do we?”
Fear hammered at her chest. She could take on a couple of them, but never all four. Her only hope would be to make a lot of noise and hope there were people close enough to get here fast. Unfortunately, Sloan had picked his place well. They were in a fairly isolated part of the yard.
“I’d never give you the satisfaction, asshole,” she said in a low voice. All her muscles tensed as she prepared to drop the plans and start with a swift kick to the guy behind her, when a mild voice, moving toward them, broke into the tableau.
“What’s the problem, here?”
Fire burned through Casey as she closed her eyes in despair. Tom Andrews! Sure, she needed someone to come along, but why him?
The goons all looked at each other innocently, and Sloan shrugged, shaking his head. “No problem at all, Mr. Andrews, sir. Almost time for horn-blow, we was just discussing the meeting.”
Tom’s eyes narrowed, but his voice remained mild. “Wait for horn-blow, please. You are all still on the clock.” His chin jerked at Casey. “Ham is waiting for those plans, Case. Get a move on, please.”
“Yes sir.” She was past Sloan in a nanosecond, nearly running to the safety of the drawing office. Whatever happened behind her, she didn’t care to know.
She tried to slow herself as she dashed into the room, not wanting to bother the men working at the tables. She moved quickly to the back office, dropping the plans on Ham’s desk as he turned from the filing cabinet.
“Thanks Case! I was wondering where you were.” He peered at her. “You okay?”
“Yeah, fine,” she muttered, turning to her desk, her whole body shaking. She pulled out the inventory sheet and some pencils, trying to look busy. Her shaking hands dropped the pencils everywhere but into the cup on her desk, causing a breathless, and nearly silent, “fuck!” to escape her as she tried to pick them all up. If Ham heard that, she could be in real trouble, but he said nothing.
The lunch horn blew just as the shadow of doom fell across her desk. Tom said, “Case,” and gestured toward his inner office. She gave up on the pencils and, without looking at him, walked past him into the office.
“Have a seat,” he said, sitting himself.
With great effort, she moved to obey, clenching her hands to stop the shaking. Tom looked at her in concern.
“Are you all right? Did they hurt you?”
Her voice shook. “Just scared. I’ll be all right in a few minutes.”
He hesitated, then got up, turning to the sideboard along the wall, and poured some water into a glass, coming around his desk to hand it to her. “Take your time. Take some deep breaths.”
She did, feeling the first stirrings of anger begin to take the place of fear. Damn that Sloan! Now she was in trouble, and she wasn’t the one who caused the problem! No, she told herself without mercy, you’re just the one going around pretending to be someone you’re not. How much had Mr. Andrews overheard? And what had Sloan told him?
His concern still showing, he sat back down and watched her, giving her a minute before speaking. “Casey, Mike Sloan is a troublemaker. Always has been. Don’t think at all that I believe you were the cause of that problem, back there.”
A relieved laugh escaped her in a gasp and she nearly spilled the water, looking at him for the first time. “I appreciate that, sir. Whatever I’m guilty of, it has nothing to do with Sloan.”
His eyebrows rose and he sat back in his chair, as if inviting her to continue.
She stared at him a moment. This had to end. She couldn’t keep lying to him. “Mr. Andrews,” she started, then stopped, not sure what to say first. She heard her dad’s voice, If you’re really confused, start at the end. Or at least, the middle. Makes you figure out what’s important and what’s not.
“My contract is up in a couple of months, isn’t it?” she asked.
His eyebrows climbed higher, but he nodded. “Middle of January.”
It was painful to look at him and Casey glanced at the water glass, then placed it with deliberate slowness on the desk. “I wanted to finish out the contract and not leave you in a lurch, but,” she hesitated, “maybe I should resign now.”
He shook his head. “That’s unacceptable, Casey. I told you, Sloan’s a troublemaker. I can’t let him run off a good worker just because he objects to his religion.”
“Religion?” Casey blinked in surprise. “Is that what he told you?”
Tom pursed his lips, looking at her thoughtfully. “He said you told him you’d decided to convert to Catholicism. He was trying to talk you out of it.”
Casey surprised herself by laughing. “Converting?” she repeated, shaking her head. “I’ve sometimes been accused of looking for trouble, but I’d have to be suicidal to say something like that to Sloan.”
Tom laughed a little, too. “Well, that’s what I thought, too. So you’re not converting to Catholicism?”
“Not even close!”
Now Tom just looked bewildered. “So what’s it about?” He suddenly held up both hands, forestalling her answer. “I’ll tell you, normally I’d drop this. It doesn’t do any good, usually, to get too involved in the workers’ personal issues. As long as people are steady, they can have all the disagreements they want. But I get the impression you’re really frightened. I don’t like to see that. If you need help, you need to say so.”
She looked at her hands, silently asking her father what the next step was. He had no answer, beyond the obvious one. Tell him the truth.
She removed her cap and ran a hand through her short hair, roughly at first, then falling into her habit of fluffing the curls, in an unconscious attempt to encourage growth. She took a deep breath and looked up at Tom, who was watching her curiously. She felt a stab of pain. He was so handsome and so good! How could she have lied to him like this? And now she was going to have to confess the deception. What would he think? Would he hate her forever? She wanted him to love her. How had she screwed this up so badly?
He was waiting, and she had to say something. She put her hands in her lap and looked down at them. “This isn’t easy, but I know you’re busy, so I’ll try.” Her heart wouldn’t stop racing and she took another deep breath. “I don’t know if what I’ve done is illegal, but I never meant it to be. I never meant to cause any harm. Please believe that.”
Tom sounded bewildered. “Have you done something wrong and Sloan found out about it? Has he threatened you?”
She shrugged at her hands. “He’s only guessing. Thing is, he guessed the truth. I don’t know about threats, but,” she hesitated, “he might feel violence is called for. He might even think it’s his religious duty.”
When Tom spoke next, he sounded uncomfortable. “Casey, let’s talk plain.” He was silent, so she nodded, still afraid to look at him. “Has Sloan accused you of any…perversion? Does he have some proof of it?”
She shook her head, sure that Mr. Andrews was referring to homosexuality, which is what Sloan had suspected, at first. This was not a safe topic of conversation, so she kept her answer vague. “He seemed to suspect something, although he never had any proof of anything. Now he says he suspects I’m really… a girl. He wanted proof I’m not a girl, which is what you interrupted.”
She raised her head then, forcing herself to face him. “I don’t know what he’ll do if he finds out he’s right.”
He blinked. “What?”
Her voice was a whisper. “I’ve been pretending to be a boy, Mr. Andrews. But I’m really a girl.”
She saw his expression change from strained, to disbelief, to horror, as he stared at her. For a moment, she thought she would faint, she was so afraid of the way he looked. What would he do to her? Her body tensed, ready to run as she clenched her hands tightly against her stomach.
He didn’t speak for a minute. Gods, what was he thinking?
He seemed to recover a bit as he studied her, his eyes moving down her body. His face reddened, but he leaned over his desk, holding out a hand. “A girl? Why, Casey? Why would you do this? Why would you tell such a lie, for such a long time?”
She closed her eyes against the pain in his voice. He truly felt betrayed. “It wasn’t safe on the streets for a girl, and I was trying to find odd jobs to make money.” Her voice sounded high and whiny. She realized she was pleading with him. “I had more opportunities for that as a boy. My guardian was trying to find work too, but then he got sick. He needed medicine and a doctor. I took your offer so I could help him. That was all, really.”
“But,” he couldn’t seem to comprehend it. “Case, there are places you could have gone for help. The poorhouse, charities…” he stopped as she shook her head.
“We tried those. But they aren’t good places, Mr. Andrews. I think that’s where Sam got sick, ’cause they crowd so many people in, and lots of people are really ill.” A hint of defiance crossed her face. “We weren’t used to being poor. We wanted out of it and those places seemed designed to keep us in it.”
He rubbed his forehead, nodding. “Aye, I’ve heard that said of them, but I never really knew.” His hand moved through his hair in frustration. “Is your guardian still sick, Casey?”
She shook her head again. “He’s fine, now. The doctor put him in touch with someone at the telephone company, and Sam got a job there. He’s a physicist, and they have him doing research and development.”
“I wish you’d told me the truth sooner,” Tom told her. “I understand your reasons… I just don’t know what to do, now.” He absent-mindedly rolled a pencil around, thinking hard. “You’re right, though. I was hoping we could keep you on. I was going to speak to you about that in a few days. But now, you won’t be able to continue working. I certainly can’t let you finish out your time as a boy, and there’s no possible way you can come in here as a girl. And we have to do something about Sloan.”
She thought about it, relieved that he seemed willing to work something out. At least, he wasn’t yelling at her. “He doesn’t know where I live. If I’m not around here and not a threat to him, maybe he’ll just forget about me.”
Tom nodded, but he looked doubtful. “You’ll have to keep an eye out. I will talk to him, though. I’ll make it very clear to him that nothing is to happen to you, or I’ll see that the blame goes to him. I’d like to talk to your guardian, too, and make sure he’s aware of the problem.”
Casey nodded and then looked up at him through tears. “I’m sorry for this, Mr. Andrews. I know it’s inadequate, but I really am sorry. I’ve put you in a terrible position and I had no right to do that.”
A small smile crossed his face and he looked grateful. “I forgive you,” he told her in all seriousness. “But I hope you stop this nonsense, Casey. I know you meant no harm, but you must be who you are. This constant deception has to be bad for your health, and your soul.”
Despondent, she looked at her hands, nodding. “I miss being a girl.”
It was a few moments before he spoke, and when he did, his voice sounded thick, as if something blocked his throat. “You’ve done everything we needed you to do. You have a right to survive, and you have a right to try and better your life. I want to help you. There are jobs you can do as a girl, if it’s work you want. With your education, you should be able to find something that you would enjoy. I can certainly recommend you–your work here has been excellent, once I get past the necessary explanations. Let me ask around. I’m sure I know someone who could use you, or maybe you could go back to school. You mentioned that you were doing that before.”
She nodded. “It would be nice to finish. To study plants again.”
He tilted his head and asked suddenly, “Have you considered marriage?”
This startled her. “Marriage? No, I hadn’t considered marriage.” She added sardonically, “There’s been a real dearth of opportunities.”
His smile was rueful. “I imagine there’d be more if you wore a dress.”
She laughed a little at that. “I’m not opposed to the idea in general, Mr. Andrews. But I’m only twenty-one. I don’t think I’m ready for marriage, yet.”
He nodded again. “I understand. But it’s something to keep in mind. With your guardian’s occupation, and your education, I think you could make a good match. You could marry just about anyone you want.”
You? She thought. No, of course, you’re not even thinking of yourself. She decided to change the subject.
“I’ll keep it in mind. Sam has not said anything about marriage, so I don’t have any idea what his thoughts are. I think he’s just been trying to take care of me and he knows I’m happier if I’m doing something, so he’s always encouraged me to find work.”
“Well, I truly hope he puts a stop to this boy nonsense, Casey. I know things were desperate, but he should never have allowed you to do this.” Tom sounded indignant.
But Casey shook her head. “Sam has never been able to stop me from doing anything. He wasn’t happy about it, truly.” She sighed. “I’m concerned that this will reflect badly on you, since you hired me.”
Tom harrumphed and tilted his head as he looked at her. “Perhaps, but everyone else was fooled, as well. I’ve had a few comments here and there about you, but no one ever suggested they thought you were a girl. Until Sloan, anyway, and he’s always looking for trouble.” A quick smile touched his lips. “You did a good job, pretending to be a boy.”
He tapped the table and Casey jumped a bit. “Go on home, Casey. I’ll have Ham handle the paperwork, and we’ll send you any pay you’re owed. I’ll have to figure out what to tell Lord Pirrie and talk to Sloan. Looks like I’m in for an interesting day.”
She stood. “I really am sorry, Mr. Andrews.”
He waved her away. “You did your job and you did it well. Take some pride in that. Just please, don’t make a habit of this kind of thing. You could make yourself a miserable life, I fear.”
She nodded and turned to go, but abruptly turned back. “Can I say one more thing, Mr. Andrews? This has nothing to do with any of this, and it’s not going to make any sense to you, but I have to give you some warning or I won’t be able to live with myself.”
His eyes narrowed as he gazed at her. “Go ahead.”
She licked her lips and plunged on. “I’ve heard you say that when you build a ship, you think about how it can sink, and that helps you build it so it floats.” His eyes widened. Whatever he was expecting, it wasn’t this. She continued, somewhat frantically, “Well, just think about a large ship, bigger even than the Adriatic, going too fast, about to hit an iceberg. They try to turn the ship and it misses mostly, but the iceberg scrapes along the side, punching holes for several hundred feet, all under the waterline.” She took a step toward him, pointing at his desk, at the drawings. “You’ll be a Managing Director someday. Build that ship so it doesn’t sink, Mr. Andrews. Especially, if it’s a ship called Titanic. That’s all I know to tell you.” And she turned and left.
This is a perfect course for medical schools. Huzzah to those schools using it!
Now if we could just get them to include natural childbirth…
Casey dashed past the Number Seven slip, with a stack of logbooks for the office. She met up with Tom at an intersection. His grin grew wider as he shifted the machine parts in his hands, tucked some rolled plans under an arm, and handed her a few sheets of paper. “You’re on the way to the office, aren’t you?” he asked hopefully. “Just drop these on my desk. I’ll get to ’em later.”
“Sure,” she replied, following his example and placing them in a pocket. That kept them from getting mixed in with her other stuff. She paced alongside him as he made his way past the slip. “I’ve got a quick question,” she told him and he nodded as she jumped into some recent confusion about the figures from the plating shed. He was in the middle of clearing up her confusion when he went silent, lifting his head and looking around quizzically.
Suddenly, he tossed the rolls and parts at her, ran down a path and disappeared around a corner of boxes. Puzzled, she followed, and stopped in astonishment at the intersection. He was tearing through a gang of men, all of them scrambling in haphazard panic to get out of the way, as he did a credible imitation of a jig, running this way and that, knocking over tea kettles, cups, and tins of tea and sugar. Cries of consternation could be heard as several men tried to claim their crockery before it broke, some slipping in the spilled water. Tom stopped then, arms akimbo, as he regarded the dismayed gang with unforgiving sternness.
“Heating your tea water already! It’s five minutes before horn-blow! I’d like to know where the honor is in stealing time from your employer!” His glare took in each man individually, but none of them seemed willing to attempt an answer, as they looked down and mumbled a bit, most offering shamefaced apologies. One of them glared at a pale-faced youth peaking from behind a plating machine. “Ye was supposed to keep a look-out and warn us if ‘e came through!”
The boy nodded enthusiastically, eyeing Tom with awe. “Aye, I was looking. But ‘e didn’t come that way, like usual. He slipped in the back, sneaky as you please!”
“Aye,” said another, “and came tearin’ through here like a racehorse, hittin’ every bit of our mess!”
They all agreed with admiring head shakes. Tom grinned, confident they’d gotten the point. “Becker!” he roared, spying the men’s supervisor coming up the path. “Five minutes off the break for these men. They’ll have to drink their water cold, this morning! And make sure they wait for that horn from now on!”
Becker lifted an arm in acknowledgment, waving the men back to work, as Tom turned to Casey, his face split in a happy grin. He started grabbing back his papers. “Thanks for catching all that, lad. Good reflexes!”
She handed him back the rolls, shaking her head at him in mock consternation. “You had entirely too much fun with that. Sir.”
The grin turned into a laugh as they continued on their way. “Aye, well, I’ll tell you. Becker and I have been suspecting something of the sort was goin’ on, but we could never catch them. That’s why I went around back this time. Worked like a charm!”
His laugh was always infectious, and Casey joined in for a moment, then she shook her head. “But you just docked them five minutes instead of something harsher. That was kind of you.”
His smile remained in place, but he looked at her earnestly. “They’ll have to clean up that mess on their break, too, you know. But I don’t think it’s necessary to treat people harshly. I started here as an apprentice and I worked in all these departments. I know the work is hard, and it’s tempting to take it easy or skip a step. But for their own safety, we have to maintain discipline. A supervisor should build his men up, while making sure they learn self-discipline. Those men are all good workers, and their crime was mild. It’s important to me what a person’s intention is, too. I’m always willing to give someone another chance so long as they meant no real harm.” He shrugged a bit. “Provided they didn’t cause any real harm, of course.”
The smile came back in full force. “So there’s your Andrews lecture for the day, lad. Ye bore it well.” He tipped his hat at her and took off down another path. After a moment, Casey resumed her hurried pace to the drawing office, feeling some real hope that Thomas Andrews might–might–understand about, and maybe forgive her for, her own crime.
In the office later that day, Casey turned from the tonnage projections she was working on. “Have I picked up the wrong formula for figuring the number of lifeboats?” she asked Tom. “It seems wrong.”
He looked over her shoulder, checking what she had written. “Looks correct to me. What don’t you understand about it?”
“Why it’s used,” she said, looking at him curiously. “I suppose the tonnage relates to how much room there is for lifeboats, and to the number of people the ship can carry. But why not just provide enough seats for each person the ship can carry? The other way seems so inefficient. Not to mention inaccurate.”
Tom smiled thoughtfully, as he turned and leaned against the table, arms crossed. “Now that’s something that needs to change,” he said. “Knowledge has been increasing so quickly over the last twenty years or so, that rule-making bodies are struggling to keep up. It’s also true that a governing board is typically conservative and slow-moving.” He gave her a rueful look. “We’ve been lobbying for more lifeboats for a long time. For the most part, the board doesn’t see the need to change the rule, and until the rule is changed, the people who control the purse strings aren’t going to spend the money.”
She shook her head. “It always comes down to money, doesn’t it?”
He looked despondent. “Aye, Casey. It always does. But we keep hounding them. Eventually, they’ll come around.”
“Not before a lot of people die,” she murmured, staring at her figures.
“Oh, not necessarily,” he protested. “There are other ways of effecting rescues, you know. All the ships have the wireless now, and can call for help, if it’s needed. And the ships themselves are better built and more stable, more able to withstand the storms and other dangers. ‘Tis true that no ship is unsinkable, but we do everything we can to keep them afloat for as long as possible, if damaged.” He held out a hand. “No one wants people to die.”
Casey stamped down on her nervousness. This was the first real opportunity she’d had to even begin to warn him and she didn’t want to blow it. “I was reading about the Great Eastern,” she began, and stopped when he raised both eyebrows in astonishment.
“You were?” he asked. “Why?”
She was puzzled. “Why not?”
“I just didn’t realize you were that interested in this, that you’d be reading about it in your spare time.”
She shrugged. “It’s your fault,” she told him, laughing at his expression. “You give me a job here and I find it’s fascinating stuff. So I start reading about ships.”
He seemed amazed. “So what about the Great Eastern?”
“Well, it seems that we don’t use even the technology we have available to build safer ships. The Eastern was built almost fifty years ago, with a complete double hull and watertight bulkheads that rose thirty feet above the water line. When she ran into a rock and had severe damage, she was still able to make it to harbor. Because of the double skin.”
He looked at her for a moment, then held a finger up to indicate she should wait. He went into the drawing room and came back in a couple of minutes with a few rolls of plans. He spread them out on the table. “These are the early drawings for Cedric and Adriatic. I don’t know if you can read these well enough yet, but can you see the double hull? And here,” he pointed to a dotted line that ran the length of the ship, “this is the waterline. The bulkheads extend thirty feet up.” He pointed them out, then looked at her, quite seriously.
“Every ship we design starts out with these. Our first design is always an engineer’s dream—the perfect ship, as near as we can make it. And every time, our first design is denied. It’s like a play. We all know our roles and we all play them.” He sounded surprisingly bitter. “You’ve seen the figures, Casey. Shipping is extremely competitive and the profit margins are almost nonexistent. The ship’s owners want a ship that will make them money. Shareholders want dividends. So we end up building a ship with features that sell: comfort, beauty, service. Safety is important, but it’s one place that owners feel we can cut corners and get away with it. Because we have gotten away with it, Casey.” He rubbed his hand gently over the plans. “There have been no major accidents in all this time. We’ve been lucky.”
She watched him, uncertain. The situation troubled him, and she was about to make it much worse. If he was already doing everything he could, what more could she ask of him? Well, she could ask him to live. That was the bottom line.
“Say there is a major disaster, with a large loss of life,” she said carefully. “Suddenly the public is outraged, and there are inquiries and trials and they begin demanding these features. I’m cynical enough to believe that the money would be there, in that situation. How can we convince them to spend the money before the disaster?”
He looked at her in amazement, shaking his head. “Where did this come from?” he asked. “Of all the issues in shipbuilding you could investigate, why this one?”
She smiled ruefully. “I have a vivid imagination. I watch that ship being built,” she gestured vaguely in the direction of Adriatic, “and I’m simply amazed at it. But I see these figures, and I see what’s not going into the ships. If I, as a customer, wanted to buy a ticket to America, I would know there’s more danger than is being admitted by White Star Line, or even by Harland & Wolff. And I would like to know there’s a seat on a lifeboat, if I need it.”
He nodded, thinking about it. “What would it take to get those features? You already said it: public demand. Across the board, though. If I sat down with Bruce Ismay today, and convinced him to allow those features on his ships, it could bankrupt White Star. If they raised prices to cover the cost, people would go with another line. If they swallow the costs, they’ll never make it up.”
“But they can use the extra safety in marketing, can’t they? If they talk about the features and what they mean, won’t people be willing to pay more?” Casey realized she was thinking of twenty-first century marketing techniques, but she thought it was worth a try.
“Only in a perfect world, lad.” Tom looked apologetic. “Aye, some people will pay more, but most won’t. Most people, if it comes down to it, would rather take the risk, if given the choice. I’m afraid that even the paying public may need your major disaster before they are willing to pay for safety.”
He touched her shoulder. “You can talk to people, write letters, maybe talk to a newspaper and see if they’ll write about it. The only way to begin changing public opinion is by first telling them about the problem.” He looked alarmed. “But I don’t think you, personally, should do anything. Do you have any idea what it would look like, if an employee of Harland & Wolff started a campaign like that? It would look like disgruntlement, like you were trying to harm the company. It could hurt you and us.”
He held up a finger. “I’m serious about that, Casey. Forget I even made the suggestion. Let me keep working on it through inside channels, all right?”
She nodded. “All right.”
He smiled at her. “I promise I’ll work on it more.” He picked up the blueprint and started rolling it up. “I have a meeting. But thanks for your concern. You have very good ideas.”
She couldn’t shake the worry and remorse that she felt. She told Sam about the conversation, suggesting that perhaps he could approach a newspaper about the issue.
“I’m reluctant to do that, Casey,” he told her. “For one thing, I’m only one step removed from the situation. It would still look like a campaign of some kind. Why don’t you give him a chance to see what he can do? We still have several years before Titanic sails.”
“Five,” she said under her breath, then louder. “We have five years. He’s been trying for years and hasn’t made any progress. And based on our history, he doesn’t make any progress in the next five years. I’m worried, Sam.”
“But he didn’t have this conversation with you in our history. Maybe it will give him an impetus.”
Casey left the dinner table and went to stand at the window, staring at the street. “I want to tell him,” she told the window.
At the table, Sam sighed. “How do we do that?” he asked her. “Casey, right now, he respects you. He knows you’re intelligent and curious, and that you’re interested in the ships. You go to him spouting about time travel and shipwrecks, and he’ll be convinced you’re crazy. You’ll lose all the ground you’ve made with him.”
“We have our gadgets,” she said, not turning from the window. “They convinced Riley.”
“Who promptly left town.”
She rested her forehead against the window, as if weary with the turmoil that boiled within her. “I can’t let him die, Sam.” Her voice was barely more than a whisper.
He turned to look at her. She was still looking out the window, a small, thin girl, her short hair disheveled. As usual, she had changed into a skirt. Sam was glad that she still looked “normal” to him, although at times, it was beginning to look odd: her Edwardian clothes with the short curls, instead of the elegant up-dos all the women wore. Not for the first time, Sam wished he’d had a daughter, or just more experience with young women. What could he say that would help her?
He went to stand next to her, also looking out the window. “I’d rather he didn’t die, either, Casey. He was a real asset to this town, and he could’ve done so much more if he’d lived. He might even have been able to knock a peace agreement together. He had that kind of respect from both sides.” He rubbed the windowsill thoughtfully, staring at his hands. “I just don’t know how we tell him. We have to be careful, Case. We need to really think this through. Please don’t do anything rash.”
She sighed. “Sam, I’m aware this does not involve just me. I won’t do anything that we both don’t agree to.”
He nodded, gazing at her in concern. She looked so pale, with those two high spots of red on her cheeks. “Casey, can I try to appeal to your logical side?” She closed her eyes as if in pain, but nodded. “Case, Tom Andrews is never going to love you.” She jerked once and flushed, half turning away from him. “Wait, Casey, listen.” He touched her shoulder. “Not just because he thinks you’re a boy, although God knows what he’ll feel when he finds out the truth. But he’s gentry, Casey. They have their own ways of doing things and they rarely deviate. One of those things is who and how they marry. He’s constrained by society. Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t marry you. I’m just saying that you need to make your own choices for your life without hoping that he’ll be in it. We can try to help him with Titanic. But can you understand why we need to be careful about telling him about us? I’m concerned that you want to tell him because of your feelings for him, not for any logical reason. Will you just think about it?”
She didn’t look at him, but after a moment, she nodded, and went to her room.
Too many women face authoritarian procedures and care providers when they go into labor. This is one of the biggest reasons why I teach natural childbirth. I want women (and their partners) to understand that they have the right to consent or not consent to any medical procedure. In this case, the video clearly shows the women repeatedly saying “no” to an episiotomy. Her doctor essentially commits assault against her while she is helpless to stop him.
This article is by a surgeon who viewed the video. The post and the comments that follow are all worth reading.
I continue to hope this woman gets justice for what was done to her. I also hope that the doctor who did this to her loses his license. He should not be allowed to practice medicine!