Tag Archives: Shipbuilder

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.

The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 20

Chapter 20

April 1907

Tom played on the North Down Cricket Team, and he invited Casey and Sam to the game in Belfast on a Saturday afternoon in late April. There was no rain, so Casey spread a blanket on the grass with the other spectators. Tom loved seeing her there, looking over often enough that a few of his mates felt it necessary to remind him to play cricket. They were jovial about it, since he managed to score a respectable amount.

He kept looking because she was the perfect picture of a fashionable lady. Her beige skirt and white blouse were exactly right for a sunny afternoon, and the wide hat she wore hid her short hair. She had a parasol, but had deemed it superfluous with the hat, and besides, holding it kept her from clapping whenever he made a hit.

His friends approved of her. He hoped she would find a friend or two among the women. George’s wife, Susan, had promised to make Casey a special project of hers. Tom noticed when Susan arrived and sat next to Casey, who began playing with Susan’s five month old son. He liked seeing her laughing and chatting with the women. He wanted her to feel as if she belonged. He wanted her to say ‘yes’ when he asked her to marry him.

He had called his mother before leaving work, to let her know he wouldn’t be over this weekend. Somehow, it had not occurred to him that he’d done the same thing the week before, and the week before that, and just possibly, the week before that. His mother, of course, remembered this, and she had never spoken to him in such an exasperated tone.

“Dear, perhaps it’s not a good idea to pursue the girl with such dedication. There is something to be said for suspense, you know.”

He trusted her advice, as always. So, touching the ring in his pocket, he considered her words for a moment before answering. “I can’t play games with her, Mother. If I came to Ardara and didn’t see her, I’d be miserable. I just want to be with her. It’s not like I get to see her very much, you know.”

“I understand she has been attending church with you in Belfast,” she replied. “Is she willing to attend with us in Comber? She and Dr. Altair are, of course, welcome for the weekend.”

“I know that Casey would be delighted,” Tom said. This was, perhaps, a bit strong, but anyway, he knew she would go. Nervous, he plunged ahead. “Mother, I am in love with Casey. I want to marry her and I want to ask her as soon as possible. Will you and Father give your blessing? I know you have concerns, but I’m asking you to trust me on this. She is trying to meet your conditions, in spirit as well as practice. Please welcome her into the family.”

He was surprised at her answer. “Tommy,” with a sigh, “Your father and I have already discussed this, and we both agree that we have no real right to interfere in your decision. You’re a grown man, and a good one. We have nothing but pride and love for you, and we want you to be happy.”

She was quiet for a moment. “You’re right, we still have concerns. But we know she is trying, and we have agreed that if this is really what you want, and if Casey will be your wife, then she will be our daughter.”

***

After the game, Tom, Casey, and Sam strolled the market for food to take home for dinner. Now with the meal cooking, they settled in the parlor, Sam and Tom in chairs and Casey on the window seat, catching the late afternoon sun.

“So, what do you miss the most about the twenty-first century?” Tom asked them. He liked to ask things like this; he never got tired of hearing about the future.

“Miss the most?” Sam repeated, giving it some thought. “Television, I think.”

“Television!” Casey was appalled. “How can you miss T.V.?”

“Oh, are you one of those snobs who never watched?”

She lifted her eyes heavenward and shrugged. “I suppose. I was a busy person. I didn’t have time to watch.”

Sam nodded in understanding while Tom looked on in amusement. He had no idea what they were talking about, but they’d get around to explaining. “It’s not so much that I miss what was on the telly,” Sam explained, “it’s the idea that I could watch something if I wanted to. That’s what I miss.”

“Oh.” Casey thought about it. “I can see that, sure.”

She was outlined in the sun; her hair seemed aflame. Tom smiled at her, enjoying the pleasure he got from looking at her. “And what do you miss the most about the twenty-first century, dear?”

Her glance returned to the window and her expression was melancholy. “My mother,” she said.

Sam folded his hands and looked at the ceiling. Tom got up and went to sit by her on the window seat, cupping her face in his hands and kissing her forehead. “Sweetheart, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you sad.”

She smiled a little. “I wish she could meet you.”

“Ah, I wish that too, lass.” He tilted his head, eyes crinkled with curiosity. “Would she approve? And your father?”

Her smile widened. “Oh yes. I think if they could meet you, they would not be worried about me at all.” She turned her face to kiss his palm, her expression thoughtful. “It’s silly, maybe, to miss her like this. After all, she lived in Berkeley and I lived in Belfast. But we used to talk all the time, almost every day.”

This kind of statement always gave Tom the shivers. What kind of technology was it, that allowed a mother and daughter to talk every day between Berkeley, California and Belfast, Ireland?

Casey gave a little laugh. “She had this uncanny knack for calling me just as I sat down at a pub to do some serious drinking with my friends. It never failed that my phone would ring within ten minutes of sitting down.” Her voice changed as she mimicked the call. “’Hi, Mom.’ ‘Hello, Sweetie. How are you? What are you doing?’ ‘Getting drunk, Mom. So, what are you doing?’“

They both laughed, and Casey looked at Tom in embarrassment. “You must think I’m awful, going out and drinking at pubs.”

He touched her hair, his expression serious. “You and I have had quite different upbringings, even not accounting for the time difference,” he said. “My mother was firm that none of us ever drink alcohol, and none of us does to this day. Alcoholism is such a problem in this country that I could never fault her for her insistence. But according to your society you weren’t doing anything wrong. It comforts me that you weren’t doing anything your parents weren’t aware of.” His fingers caressed her cheek. “I know you well enough to know how good you are. I think you’re…young.” He shrugged. “Maybe I never drank, but I did not always make excellent choices either, when I was your age.”

“I never got very drunk, you know,” she clarified, patting her stomach. “I can’t hold enough beer.”

He gave a little laugh and hugged her, more content than he had ever felt in his life. When Sam cleared his throat they broke the embrace, but didn’t move more than a few inches apart.

Sam just grinned and went into the kitchen to get dinner.

Tom stood and pulled Casey to her feet. “Come walk in the yard with me.”

She wrapped her fingers through his and led him through the house to the back door. It had been a warm spring day, but with the fading light, a breeze had come up. Tom slipped his jacket off, to help her into it. The yard had submitted to Casey’s ministrations and the grass was thick, with early plants beginning to rise along the border. Ash trees were spreading with leaves and some birds had built a nest. Tom smiled when he saw it, considering that a good sign.

It was a small yard and they soon traversed it, even though they strolled. They paused next to the hedges in back, to admire an early and brave rhododendron Casey spied within the branches. Rather, Casey admired the flower while Tom admired her, hands in his pockets, fingers caressing the ring he had there. He smiled steadily at her until she turned with a laugh. “There are other nice things to look at, sir.”

He tilted his head. “I’ll be the judge of that, Miss.” He reached into the hedge and plucked the flower, bringing it out and cupping it in his hands. Its red was almost black in the gathering twilight and he presented it to her, keeping the stem covered by his fingers.

“For you, my flower,” he whispered.

She didn’t take it right away. Instead, she reached to cup his face in her hands, her lips meeting his in a tender and languorous kiss. Not wanting to crush the flower, he could only stand there and return her kiss, shivering under her lips. He felt as if a wave of love had crashed over him, and he would gladly drown in it.

She pulled away, her expression dreamy, her hands a feather-light stroke on his face. She laughed a little as she remembered the flower and she took it in both hands, with a slight, teasing curtsey. He couldn’t speak, just watched her pleased smile change to astonishment as her fingers found the ring he had slipped around the stem, the diamond sparkling in the light from the house. As her eyes went back to his face, he took both her hands, enclosing the flower and ring, in his hands.

“I love you, Casey. I need you for all my life. Please Casey, will you marry me?”

His heart overflowed with joy as she nodded. He would forever hear her answer, “Oh yes. Yes, Tom,” and forever remember the look on her face. He slipped the ring onto her finger, joyful, nervous and excited all at once. He had no doubts at all.

The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 19

Cornerstone for the Thomas Andrews Memorial Hall in Comber.
Cornerstone for the Thomas Andrews Memorial Hall in Comber.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 19

March 1907

I was right about the look on his face, Casey thought, hardly able to breathe as Tom gazed at her in the green dress when he first arrived to pick them up. The moment was so tense with desire that neither one of them felt able to move or speak. Sam broke it up, muttering out loud as he walked past Tom, “They never understand how cruel it is to look like that when you’ve got some place to be.”

They both laughed and Tom took her hand, safely remaining a few feet away from her. He bowed, kissing the back of her glove. “How did I ever mistake you for a boy?” he asked. He squeezed her hand before dropping it and offering her his arm. “You are beautiful beyond belief, Casey. I must warn you: My family are simple folk. They will be overwhelmed by you.”

She stopped in alarm, suddenly afraid again. “Is the dress wrong?” she asked him anxiously. “Is it improper for this?”

He laughed again, but didn’t answer, which wasn’t particularly reassuring, as he brought her out to the car. Sam was already waiting, and Tom helped Casey with her travel gear before seeing her safely ensconced in the front seat. When she was seated, he kissed her lips lightly. “The dress is perfect, sweetheart. They’re going to love you.”

***

She hoped that they did, because almost from the first moment, Casey loved Tom’s family. She realized she should have known it would be like this. Tom was sunny and empathetic, loving to laugh, and to make others laugh. It should not have been a surprise to discover his family was more or less the same.

If she had thought this would be a calm and cultured introduction to Tom’s parents, her notion was disabused as they entered the house. It turned out that anyone claiming relation to “Tommy” had insisted on being there, so in addition to his three brothers, sister-in-law, and nephew, there were cousins galore–first, second, third–Casey lost count. Even Alexander Carlisle was there with his family. He was, after all, first cousin to Tom’s mother. There were people everywhere, children and babies in abundance, with dogs and the occasional cat showing up to be petted by someone. This could not have been further from Lady Pirrie’s drawing room, and Casey felt it hard to believe the relationship existed between the families.

She would not have said they were “overwhelmed” by her, but everyone was friendly, and included her and Sam in any conversation. Tom’s brothers were all together in a corner when he brought her over to meet them. The three men were standing tall and stiff, with arms crossed over their chests. They looked down at her with stern disapproval as she approached with Tom, and her steps slowed. Her hand, resting on Tom’s arm, trembled. He looked heavenward in brief exasperation as they stopped in front of the solemn blockade.

“My brothers,” he said to her. “Harmless as kittens, I assure you.”

Men in Black. That’s exactly what they look like. Casey laughed, aware she sounded slightly hysterical. The tableau broke up, as the brothers gave in to snickers, poking each other, shaking her hand, and all talking at once. John was the eldest, two years older than Tom, and every bit as handsome. James was the shortest–which didn’t mean much–and Willie, the youngest, was the tallest of all. After a minute, an elegant woman joined them and was introduced as John’s wife, Jessie. Their sister, Nina, was in England, and they all expressed hopes that Casey would meet her soon. Tom stayed at her side, but their banter was amusing and friendly, and she did not feel uneasy for a single moment.

Tom was careful to stay with her as much as possible. If he was called away, he tugged her along with him, so that she never felt deserted. But he couldn’t help her through every moment, and when they gathered in the sitting room and he formally introduced her and Sam to his parents, he had to sit back and leave her to it.

The room was large and formal, but crowded with bright fabrics and bric-a-bracs. A massive fireplace provided warmth, the flames reflecting off brass fixtures and gleaming in the polished wood of the elegant furniture. The multitude moved in and out of the room and the noise continued, but for a few moments, Tom’s immediate family existed in a bubble as they appraised the girl who had captured his heart.

“Tommy has told us you came to Ireland upon the deaths of your parents, Casey,” Mrs. Andrews began, “Allow me to express our condolences for your loss. You must have felt so alone.”

Casey swallowed hard at the formal words. But they’re not dead! she still wanted to scream whenever she heard this type of thing. She struggled to smile and accept the sentiment, if not the facts. “Thank you ma’am. That’s very kind.”

“We understand you’ve had a difficult year,” Mr. Andrews said. “I hope you’re finding Ireland a more pleasant place now that your situation is improving.”

“Oh, I always have,” Casey replied. “It’s a beautiful country and so full of possibilities.”

They seemed amused at this, but Tom spoke up. “Aunt Marge may have mentioned that Casey is working with the Horticulture Society. She was already familiar with Lord Plunkett’s work in agriculture and the use of land.”

This created quite a stir among the family, as Horace Plunkett was a close friend. The conversation centered for a while on the plight of Ireland’s farmers and the work being done to improve their lot. None of the family acted surprised or insulted that a woman had knowledge of this, or that she had strong, educated opinions about what needed to be done. Their calm acceptance of her went a long way toward helping her relax, so she almost missed the religious question when it came up. It turned out it was directed at Sam.

“You’re from Belfast, Mr. Altair?” The question came from Mr. Andrews and Casey saw Sam was startled. He had told her he was just going to have a good time being in the presence of people he’d read about in history books.

“Londonderry, actually,” he replied. He and Casey had decided it was better to have him living just a few years in Belfast, rather than the true tale of moving there at eight years of age. It helped explain his lack of current connections. “I spent several years in the States and have only recently returned.”

“Tom tells us you haven’t settled on a church, yet. Do let me know if I can introduce you to one of the ministers in Belfast. I think you’ll enjoy meeting them.”

Sam simply nodded and they lost themselves in the rest of the conversation and soon, dinner was announced. As the adults prepared to enter the dining room, another issue of import raised itself. The children were gathered up to pay their respects before heading off to the nursery and their own meal. As they bowed and curtsied, Casey overheard a small girl whisper in a voice filled with disdain, to the older child standing next to her. “She has red hair!” The older child whispered a mortified “Hush!” before quickly offering a curtsey. A nanny descended to take the little girl in hand, leading her away, but the plaintive voice clearly reached the adults, “But why would Cousin Tommy want a wife with red hair?”

The embarrassed silence was broken by Casey’s giggle, which she tried to muffle behind her hand. She looked up at Tom’s pink but grinning face, and added, “It’s short, too!”

Amid the general laughter this brought, she accepted their apologies, as well as a grateful kiss from Tom, which caused more laughter and some teasing. They went on in to dinner.

***

It was unusual for Tom’s parents to make the trip to Belfast on a weekday, but they were at his flat when he came home from work on Monday. His mother had prepared a meal and they poured him some tea while he tried to stay calm. This did not bode well.

“There’s no point beating the bush, Tommy,” his father said as they sat down to eat. “You’ll be knowing we have concerns about your young lady.”

Tom wasn’t hungry. “Aye,” he said, watching his father’s face. “I expected so.”

His mother reached over and squeezed his hand. “Don’t look so nervous, Tommy. We’re not here to condemn her.”

A small smile tugged at his mouth, but he was finding it difficult to breathe as he turned to her. “You would never condemn anybody,” he told her. “But you understand I’m hoping for approval.”

Her gaze flicked to her husband before she nodded, once. Then she looked at her son and sighed. “My greatest wish for my children is that they find love in their marriages. And I have no doubt that young woman adores you. But Tommy,” she shook her head a little, “how can you have a marriage with someone you can’t pray with? Someone who will not read Scripture with you? Who will not even attend church with you?”

“She’ll come around,” he said, knowing he had no right to say it. “She’s just never been taught.” He turned in his chair to face her. “Consider the changes she’s been through in the last year or so. Her life has been a struggle for survival after horrible loss. Give me time with her. She needs love and care.” He swallowed, feeling misery rising in his gut. “She’ll come around,” he said again.

“She must, Tom.” His father’s voice was quiet, but Tom didn’t miss the firmness with which he spoke. “At the very least, she’ll attend church regularly. You must make sure she understands that.”

Tom tried to make himself nod, but found he couldn’t. His father studied him a moment and continued. “Your sister-in-law is a godly woman, and an excellent example of the traits you should look for in a wife. She comes from a church-going family, she prays with her household staff, and sees to their religious duties. We are willing to overlook Casey’s family situation, her months of deception, even the fact that she is American. But I would be a most negligent father if I allowed you to marry a girl who could not raise your children according to Scripture, or who will run your household without the guidance of the Heavenly Father.”

“It won’t be like that.” Tom looked from one to the other. “I promise, I’ll work with her on it. We’ll work it out.” He held out a hand, begging. “You saw how wonderful she is. How good she is, even if she’s not religious. Please, just give me time.”

They seemed to relax. “We will,” his mother said, rising to warm the tea. She kissed the top of his head. “Your good influence will do wonders, I’m sure.”

***

He felt it best to be honest with Casey when he talked to her the next night. To his relief, she seemed grateful.

“I knew this would be the sticking point,” she said, as they talked over hot chocolate in the parlor. Her face was sad and she stared into her cup, as if the answer would appear there. She sat on the window seat, her stocking feet tucked under her. She had taken him seriously when he said she could take her shoes off when he was around, and he was glad she had. It reminded him of the trust she had in him.

“Sam tells me I won’t be able to get around this,” she continued. “He says it’s too ingrained in the culture.”

“I have to leave it up to you Casey,” Tom said. He felt as if his heart was going to stop beating. He wanted to get through this more than anything, with Casey still at his side. “I would never try to force you to do this. But…” he waited a moment, trying to get control of his voice, “I’m begging you to do it.”

She didn’t answer for a minute. Her eyes were dry, but when she spoke, her voice was husky with tears. He had to lean forward to hear her. “I could go. Every week. But I still won’t believe it. I’ll end up hating it. And resenting it.”

“If you do, then I would want you to stop,” he said. “But you have to take it one step at a time.”

“What’s the barest minimum I can do?” she asked. He saw her shaky attempt at a smile and he gave up trying to not touch her. Moving to sit beside her, he pulled her against him, relieved when she snuggled into his shoulder. He could never give her up. In the other timeline, had he ever come this close to rebelling against his family’s wishes? He was going to marry her, no matter what happened.

“Sunday mornings,” he said. “Just the church service. You might consider Sunday School or one of the women’s groups, just to find friends. But you don’t have to. Come to Comber on weekends and go to church with my family.” He squeezed her briefly. “Bow your head during family prayers.” She giggled. Neither she or Sam had done that when the family prayed before dinner and one of the older children had mentioned it, and was promptly called to task for not bowing his own head. He touched her hair and she raised her head to look at him. “That’s all for now. Start small.”

She nodded, and he felt a slight loosening in his chest. There was a chance.

 

The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 18

Queen's University students relax in the botanic gardens.
Queen’s University students relax in the botanic gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 18

March 1907

During her lunch break, Casey went outside to escape the heat of working in the tropical section of the glass Palm House. She ate on the lawn, with a partial view of the herbaceous border, and re-read a note from Tom that had arrived that morning. Especially the part that made her knees shake.

“My parents have invited you and Sam to dinner at Ardara, on Saturday. Will you come? I am so anxious for all of you to meet. It can only do my nerves good to have it done sooner rather than later!”

His nerves! She was going to be tried and judged, and she suspected the verdict had already been decided. She could never measure up to those people. Whatever had she been thinking to let this go so far?

She finished her lunch and stood to return to the Palm House, pausing when she recognized Mrs. Herceforth’s carriage on the nearby path. Casey grinned and waited. Mrs. Herceforth continued to sponsor their project, and since her private tour of the Tropical Section, had begun to take an active interest in their work. She stopped by frequently to look around, tell jokes, and chat with Casey, never failing to ask about any possible young men in Casey’s life. Casey had so far refrained from mentioning Tom. She suspected Mrs. Herceforth was just lonely and wanted company. But she suddenly saw an opportunity, and as the two of them walked back to the building, she plunged in.

“Mrs. Herceforth, may I ask your advice on something?”

“Oh certainly, dear. What do you need to know?” The old blue eyes twinkled; Casey supposed it was seldom anyone actually asked for advice.

“Dr. Altair and I have been invited to someone’s home for dinner this weekend. They are very well respected, and I’m afraid I’m a bit unsure of what I should wear. I’m certain I’ll need to buy something, but do you know of a good shop with appropriate dresses?”

Mrs. Herceforth leaned forward. “Are they wealthy, dear?” she whispered gleefully.

Casey blushed. “I think so.”

“Is there a young man involved?”

The blush deepened and she could only nod. Oh please, don’t let this be a mistake.

Mrs. Herceforth straightened, her face thoughtful. She looked Casey up and down, as if she were not already aware of what Casey looked like. Then abruptly she held out a hand, which Casey took with some hesitation.

“Can they spare you for a few minutes at the House? I have something to show you.”

Casey glanced at the students talking at the entrance. “I can catch up later, sure.” She wandered over to them while Mrs. Herceforth waited. “I’ll be gone a bit with Mrs. Herceforth. Will an hour be all right?”

The senior student nodded, winking as he turned to go inside. “Never hurts to butter up the sponsors.”

Casey followed Mrs. Herceforth into her carriage, not missing her order to the driver to take them “home.” “Mrs. Herceforth?” she said weakly, but her anxiety was waved down.

“It’s not far, dear. You’ll see.”

It wasn’t far, either. In ten minutes, during which Mrs. Herceforth kept up a running commentary about the buildings they passed and the people who lived or worked inside them, they drove through a large, formal garden of cut grass, trimmed hedges and roses, stopping in front of a three-story mansion, covered with ivy, and complete with white columns gracing the front. Casey followed her hostess into the house, where she was ushered through a cavernous front hall and up a wide, carpeted stairway, past a chandelier over a story tall. They entered a lavish bedroom while Mrs. Herceforth called for “Daisy.” Casey had no time to ogle the furnishings, which surely belonged in a palace, for Daisy came immediately, her maid’s uniform immaculate. She curtsied, eyes flicking a critical perusal over Casey’s working clothes. “Yes, ma’am?”

“Oh there you are, Daisy. Please pull out the dresses that Miss Olmstead left here.” Mrs. Herceforth turned to Casey, beaming with pleasure. “My niece from Kilkenny recently stayed with me, and she did quite a bit of shopping while she was in Belfast. She didn’t take everything back with her, and I’ll be amazed if you are not exactly her size. In fact, I have in mind the exact–ah, here we are!” She turned to Daisy who had emerged from an armoire with several dresses in her arms. Without hesitation, she reached over and snagged the dress that was second from the top and held it up for Casey to see.

Casey could only stare. It was the prettiest dress she’d ever seen. The material looked like silk with a chiffon layer, a very pale sea green with a darker green pattern woven sparingly throughout. The sleeves were long and slender, the collar a V-neck with a faint bit of lace in the ‘V.’ The skirt was flared slightly from the waist. It had none of the yards and yards of material Casey had noted at the dance, and which she had instinctively decided would be “too much” for a dinner.

Mrs. Herceforth nodded smartly at her expression. “Daisy, let’s help Miss Wilson try this on. We must be sure.”

Expression neutral, Daisy immediately went to Casey’s aid, helping her undress. She sniffed in disapproval at the absence of a corset, but Mrs. Herceforth clapped her hands in delight. “Oh, it’s fine, Daisy. She’s much too thin to need a corset, anyway. I think she’s smart not to wear one. Dreadful things.”

Daisy was unconvinced, but Casey smiled slightly in vindication; she simply refused ever to wear one. Then the dress was on her, Daisy doing up the buttons in back and Mrs. Herceforth applying a smart brown belt to the waist. They stepped back, Mrs. Herceforth smiling grandly as she moved Casey in front of a mirror. Casey stared. She still was not used to women’s clothes in this era, and even the simple work clothes she wore made her feel dressed up. This though, this was a dress royalty could wear, if royalty wanted to appear confident and elegant. The green was the perfect shade for her coloring, and the dress fit as if it were made for her. Her eyes were greener than ever and the bodice emphasized her small bust in a way her twenty-first century outfits never did. She could just imagine the look that would be on Tom’s face, when he saw her.

Mrs. Herceforth gazed with a critical eye at Casey’s reflection, then nodded with approval. “All you’ll need is a hat and some gloves. Short gloves, dear, since the sleeves are long. A parasol would be nice, too, if you could find one the proper shade and with flowers. Do you have any other shoes?”

Casey nodded. “I have a nice pair that I wore for the dance the other night. I think they’ll work.”

Mrs. Herceforth nodded. “That’s fine, then. Daisy, let’s get her back into her clothes; I’m sure she needs to get back to work.”

Befuddled, Casey let them undress her and she slipped quickly back into her simple work clothes, as Mrs. Herceforth dismissed Daisy with instructions to pack the dress for Miss Wilson to take with her. When she turned to Casey, the twinkle was back in her eyes. “Now, dear, this is not charity. I’m afraid I have a price.”

Casey stood still, hands clasped in front of her. Her eyes flicked once after the dress. “I’ll pay it if I can.”

“Oh, it’s not difficult. Just have a seat and tell me about the young man. I promise I won’t gossip, but I do miss seeing the young people make their matches. Are you meeting his family at this dinner?”

Casey nodded.

“So you’re quite nervous, I take it?”

Another nod, and Mrs. Herceforth laughed gaily. “Oh this is marvelous. My dear, you are going to dazzle them, you know. I have always found you charming and well-behaved. Even the best families are usually satisfied with that, at least at dinner.”

Casey laughed, feeling a little better. “I suppose I should concentrate on just that, but I hope they like me for longer.”

“Who are they, dear?” As Casey hesitated, she reminded her, “I said I wouldn’t gossip.”

Casey stared at the carpet a moment. Was it okay to tell her? Would the Andrews family find out she bought her dress with gossip about them? Still, Mrs. Herceforth might have advice about the dinner, and she sure wasn’t going to get it from Sam. Or even from Tom, who couldn’t understand how intimidated she felt.

“The Andrews family. In Comber.”

After a minute of staring at Casey, Mrs. Herceforth blinked once, and took a breath. “Well. You have made an impact. But let’s see,” she tilted her head, “it’s not the youngest son. I don’t believe he’s yet twenty. And James lives in Dublin. The only other unmarried boy is…” her eyebrows rose, and she looked at Casey with something approaching profound respect. “Thomas? My dear, is the young man Thomas Andrews?”

Casey’s blush was all the answer Mrs. Herceforth needed and she once again clapped her hands gaily, this time adding an infectious laugh. “Marvelous! Dear Miss Wilson, you are going to turn this town on its ear! I believe several women have had their eyes on him for their own daughters!”

Casey’s voice was small. “Mrs. Herceforth? He hasn’t asked me to marry him or anything. He just wants me and Sam to meet his family.”

This was pooh-poohed. “Dear, you have to meet the family before he can propose. It wouldn’t be proper otherwise, and the Andrews are proper to a fault.” The head tilted again as the blue eyes regarded her, and Mrs. Herceforth nodded once. “I approve. I’ve known that boy since he was a boy and you, my dear, are perfect for him. I bet he adores you.”

Casey smiled shyly. “I hope so. I certainly adore him.” The confession filled her with momentary fear, which faded at the genuine smile on Mrs. Herceforth’s face.

“I’m so pleased, Miss Wilson. And I’m delighted I could help with the dress. It’s perfect for this. Thank you for asking me.” The head tilted again, modestly this time. “I’m always afraid I’m something of a pest, so you’ve really made my day by wanting my advice.”

“You are too kind to do all this for me. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.” Impulsively, Casey hugged her and Mrs. Herceforth joyfully hugged her back.

“That dress is on an installment plan,” she stated playfully. “You’ll have to come back and tell me how the dinner went.”

Casey laughed. “I’ll do that.”

“Marvelous. Now, I really need to let you get back to work, and I wanted to look in on that new strain of azaleas. They seem to be quite vigorous.”

They discussed the plant while Casey received the dress from Daisy, and the driver helped both of them into the carriage for the trip back to the gardens.

***

“They’re going to ask about church,” Tom told Casey.

They were finishing in the kitchen after dinner the next night. Sam had gone into the parlor to get the fire going. Tom had been answering her questions about the family dinner, and he had offered this statement without preamble, since he could not think of a graceful way to bring it up. Casey turned to stare at him.

“Ask what about church?”

She truly didn’t seem to know. “My parents had asked me what church you and Sam attend and I didn’t know what to tell them. I did say that I thought you didn’t attend anywhere, but they were sure I was mistaken.” She looked irritated and he continued helplessly, “It’s important to them, Casey. I know, at the yard, you said you were an atheist, but it would never occur to my parents that I would court a girl who…” he paused, not sure how to say it, “…who doesn’t believe in God,” he finished lamely.

“You didn’t tell them I was an atheist, I take it?”

He shook his head.

She slowly folded her dish rag and lay it on the counter before looking at him. “Is it important to you, Tom?”

He looked at her. Bright green eyes, short, but luxurious hair, lips that smiled readily, although they were currently turned down in a frown, which caused a dimple to appear in her chin. Her small waist seemed made for his arm, and he thought all day about touching her lovely breasts…

He closed his eyes, as if to block her out, then opened them and gave her a rueful smile. “I’m so enamored of you, Casey, that the only thing I can think of, is being with you. Whatever opinions or philosophies I had before have faded away. I can’t give them credence anymore.”

She raised a finger, her expression stern. “That’s not good enough, Thomas Andrews. You’ll remember them eventually, and then you’ll be very disturbed about my beliefs.” Her hands went to her hips and he saw the chin tremble. “You need to figure out if it’s important to you or not.”

“Is it important to you?” he asked her. “I don’t mean the extreme beliefs of Mike Sloan, but just normal church life, normal Christianity? What do you really believe about that?”

She lifted a hand to her forehead and moaned in frustration. “I don’t want to make you angry, Tom.”

He half laughed. “Why would I be angry?”

“If I say I think it’s a colossal waste of time, wouldn’t that make you angry?”

“No. But tell me why, Casey. I want to understand.”

“The Irish have been killing each other for centuries, and have nearly destroyed their country because of it, and you don’t understand?”

“But that’s the extreme, sweetheart. That’s not what I’m asking you. That’s not what I… what I want you to participate in.”

She stared at him, chewing on her bottom lip, hands on her hips. She didn’t answer for a minute and he held his breath, afraid to say anything else.

He thought his heart would break as she slowly shook her head. “You want me to go to church. Sit in a Sunday School class with other women and read scripture and pray and listen to some man tell me what the Bible says I’m supposed to think and do. Am I supposed to do that every Sunday, and maybe read scripture and pray every morning before breakfast, too?”

Her words made his stomach hurt. “You make it sound so infantile and stupid,” he said softly. “And it’s not. I’ve done this my whole life, Casey, and it’s not.”

A tear rolled slowly down her cheek, her mouth in a bitter, tight line. It was obvious she wasn’t going to say anything else, and he couldn’t stand to see her so upset. He put his arms around her, pulling her close. She stiffened a moment, then buried her face in his shoulder and cried, holding him tight.

“I love you, Tom,” her voice was muffled in his shoulder. “I don’t want this to be a problem between us.”

“I don’t either, dear.” He stroked the soft curls, kissing the top of her head. “Nothing’s going to come between us. I love you too much.” He tucked a finger under her chin to look into her eyes. “There has to be a way to compromise. It’s not all preaching and scriptures, you know. There’s an entire social side to it, and that’s just as important. It’s almost like a community contract. Everyone participates one way or another, whatever their beliefs.”

Her brows lowered in confusion and she sighed. “So maybe I attend the bake sales and Christmas parties and not the sermons?”

He smiled. “That would be a start.”

“What do I tell your parents?”

He kissed her gently on the lips before speaking. “You tell them as much of the truth as you’re comfortable with. You can tell them your family was not religious and didn’t attend any church when you were a child. That Sam doesn’t belong to a church and you haven’t attended anywhere since coming to Ireland. Leave it at that.”

“Will they be satisfied with that?” She lifted a finger to trace his lips, still in his arms. He held her tighter in response, aware that he probably was not thinking very clearly.

“I suspect they won’t. But you’ve effectively put the blame on your parents and Sam, and they will expect me,” he emphasized the word, “to encourage your religious education.”

“What if I don’t want a ‘religious education?’“

He shrugged slightly. “All I can do is encourage you. My family tends to lead by example, sweetheart. No one will argue with you about it.”

But they might not permit a marriage, either.

The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 17

The author in Belfast Botanic Gardens
The author in Belfast Botanic Gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

February–March 1907

Sam noted with some amusement that Casey had not yet answered his good morning, or his twice-repeated question of how her evening had gone. He had accompanied them to the dance, of course. Tom would never have taken her without a chaperone. But he’d pretty much left them on their own at the dance, which had been hosted by the Lord of something-or-other, at a grand estate on the edge of town. He’d been nervous about social interaction with this crowd, in this time. He supposed he did all right. Everyone was polite, anyway, but his concern left him with little time to actually “chaperone.” Tom and Casey had been quiet on the way home and Tom had simply shaken Sam’s hand, and kissed Casey’s, before driving off. Casey had gone straight to bed, although he’d managed to notice her dreamy expression as she said good-night.

Hence, his question this morning. True, the greeting and first question had been sort of tossed at her as he passed her, sitting at the table, on his way into the kitchen for what passed for coffee in Edwardian Ireland. He’d repeated the question as he placed his breakfast on the table and retrieved the newspaper for reading. Now he sat with the paper folded, dipped a spoon into his porridge, and took a minute to observe his distracted ward.

Casey was perched cross-legged on her chair, wearing a warm sweater and her “boy pants,” feet shod only in thick socks. Her hair was rumpled from sleeping, the curls hanging in loose rivulets around her face. That face was thoughtful, the eyes tired and dreamy as she stared at her untouched cereal. Sam waved a hand in front of her.

“Earth to Casey!” He brought the hand back and reached for his coffee. “Isn’t there a song about dancing all night?”

Casey rolled her eyes and pulled up a spoonful of porridge, but she was blushing. “Very funny,” she muttered.

“And begging for more?” Sam continued to tease. Casey just smiled dreamily into her bowl, slowly stirring. “Oh, dear,” Sam said.

She gave a half shrug, continuing to stir. “It’s no use, Sam. Every moment I’m with him, I love him more. I feel like I’m dreaming, because he acts as if he…” she dipped her head lower as if to hide, “…well, as if he likes me, too.”

Sam cleared his throat. “Ah, good… good. I’m glad it’s going well. He’s a good man.” He stirred his coffee for a moment, his look of concern belying the words.

Casey took a sip from her cup. “And?” she prompted.

Sam glanced at her and sat back in his chair. “Well Casey, help me out here. This may seem an odd question, but what would your parents think of this relationship?”

Her eyebrows disappeared under the loose hair. “My parents?” she asked. “What do you mean?”

He spread his arms wide. “I’m serious. They’re not here, you know, and I often feel I should act as a surrogate. You’re only twenty-one years old, Casey, and Tom is thirty-four. I have to question if you understand what you’re dealing with here. And whether your parents would be concerned.”

“I have no doubt they would love Tom, if they could meet him.”

Sam waved this away. “Of course they would. Everybody loves Tom. And they couldn’t ask for a more decent and respectable young man to love their daughter. But would they want you getting this involved with someone his age?”

She shook her head. “I think my parents would be more concerned about his character than about his age. If he’s so decent and respectable, why do you have to worry?”

He rubbed his forehead, frustrated. “What do you want from life, Casey? What would your parents want for you? I know you had plans before, and that since coming here, you’ve been more concerned with survival, as have I. But we need to start figuring out where we’re going. You especially need to, Casey. You’re going to live out your entire life in the early twentieth century. How does that change the plans you had for yourself?”

She answered slowly, as if thinking about it. “Before, I just had general plans. No specific goals, but I just sort of expected to… well, the usual. I would get my degree, do grad school, some kind of research. Maybe biotechnology. I expected to eventually get married and have a child or two. To travel a lot. Just a normal kind of life. It may be more difficult, now, but can’t I do the same kind of thing, here?”

“With Tom?” Sam asked.

Casey blushed again. “That would be my preference, yes.”

“Are we assuming he lives past 1912?”

Her eyes widened. “I’m assuming that with all my heart, Sam. But you bring up a good point.”

He arched an eyebrow. “Which is?”

“That I would be a fool to take my time with this. Before, I would never have considered getting involved–no, getting married–before finishing my degree and having a decent job. Even in this time, there was no real reason to do otherwise. Except that I’ve fallen in love with Thomas Andrews. If we only have a few years together, then I want to have as much of them as possible, together.”

Sam nodded. “I understand. That’s sort of my point, because I don’t think Tom will want to wait several years before marrying you, anyway. But do you understand what marriage to Tom Andrews would require of you? You haven’t met his family yet.”

She held up her hands. “Don’t start with the family again.”

He leaned forward. “I mean, it might behoove you to observe what role women play in his family. Do any of them have careers, or interests or hobbies outside of their marriages? Or, are they strictly helpmates? Wives and mothers?” He rubbed the table, thinking as he talked. “Tom holds a powerful position in his company and in this town. I don’t know if it’s happened yet, but people will want him to hold public office, to aid in solving labor problems, home rule issues, all kinds of things. His family is very involved in politics. His older brother eventually becomes Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. It may be that the woman who marries Tom will have to be a strong presence behind the man. Support, dear. Social, political, familial support, not a woman with a career of her own. Not in this age.”

He met her gaze with a frank smile. “Are you ready or able to be a wife and mother? To run a household with servants, maintain a social standing in the community, and support your husband? Because I suspect that’s what your life will be, dear.”

She stared at him and swallowed hard. “I could learn, couldn’t I? I think… No. I don’t think that Tom would expect me not to pursue my own interests. He doesn’t seem to be that kind of person.” It was her turn to draw on the table with her fingers. “We’d have to talk about it. I’d have to make sure he understands that I don’t know how to do that stuff. But I’ll learn. We’ll compromise. Maybe I won’t have an actual job, but I’ll do other things. I have to try, Sam.”

She stood up abruptly and picked up her dishes. “This is silly, anyway. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. We’ve only been to one dance. You make me start worrying about what our marriage will be like, I might get too confident. I may wake up and find out he’s been distracted by a, what’s the phrase? ‘A well-turned ankle.’” She spoke lightly, but ducked into the kitchen.

Sam raised his cup for a sip. “Nothing wrong with your ankles, my dear,” he murmured to himself.

***

Ardara House was quiet when Tom arrived that morning. The ivy-covered stone manse of his childhood appeared to glower under the day’s dark clouds. The rooms inside were cold and empty, except for a fire in the parlor, laid in preparation for the family’s return from church. They were all at church, even the servants, although he found Martha, the scullery maid, watching over supper preparations in the kitchen. He greeted her, stole a carrot from the cutting board, and headed into the parlor.

He was reading in there when his family arrived home, and the bustle of preparing an early supper and settling in for the afternoon began to sweep through the house. His father shook his hand, with a mock-stern visage. “Thought you’d be here in time for church, son. Late night?”

“Aye,” Tom replied. “Danced my feet off and had to recuperate.”

“Wonderful!” his father said.

Tom turned to give his mother a kiss.

Her look was thoughtful as she searched his face for clues to what he was feeling. “So we can assume you had a good time? How do you find the young lady, Tommy?”

“I find the young lady enchanting, Mother. Also beautiful, intelligent, compassionate, and a joy to be with. Full of surprises, too, although you knew that.”

Her eyebrows rose higher and she exchanged a glance with her husband, before answering. “Perhaps I should call on her this week. I would like to meet her.”

Tom tilted his head as he thought about it. “She works, Mother. I’m pretty sure she won’t have a calling day. Can I bring her and her guardian for dinner in a couple of weeks?

“Certainly.” She didn’t look happy, though and Tom slipped an arm around her shoulders in a hug.

“All right, Ma. What’s bothering you?”

“It should be obvious, Tommy.” She looked at him in exasperation. “You asked me to hold off arranging a marriage because you wanted a chance to find love on your own. I agreed to that, because I want you to be happy. But what possessed you to look beyond all the suitable young ladies of our acquaintances?”

“But Casey is suitable, Mother. You’ll understand when you meet her. And be fair. I didn’t purposely look for someone different. She was just there.”

“Not exactly, Tommy, and this is what disturbs me most of all.” Mrs. Andrews had the air of someone speaking words that had long been bottled up. “She lied to you, from the first moment she met you. She deceived you for five months, and that takes a lot of deliberate deception, yet you want us to believe she is a person of great character. I understand that she apologized, and I would never encourage you to withhold forgiveness from anyone. But it does seem that you’ve given your trust far too easily.”

“Tom,” his father interjected before he could think of an answer, “love is a powerful emotion. Your mother and I are simply concerned that you might not be seeing the situation as clearly as you should. That’s not unusual in the early stages of infatuation, you know. But it is a good reason why you should give heed to the doubts of others.”

The joy he’d felt since last night’s dance seemed to still as he listened to them. He didn’t respond right away; he just put his hands in his pockets and gazed unhappily at them a few moments, thinking. When he spoke, he was quiet, but unable to completely cover his bitterness. “I understand what you’re saying. I can’t disagree with you, when I know these things to be true.” His eyes stung, and he blinked several times. “Please understand, I’ve talked to Casey at length about her deception, and to her guardian as well. I have not just swept it under the rug and tried to pretend it never happened, but I am satisfied with the sincerity of her apology. I also understand her reasons for the deception, although I don’t condone it.” He looked from one to the other in desperation, and held out his hands. “Please give her a chance. I have never wanted anything in my life as badly as I want this. Just give her a chance.”

His mother took his hands in hers and squeezed them. “We will, Tommy. That was always our intention. But you needed to be aware of our misgivings.” She changed the subject, obviously hoping to bring the conversation to a happier topic.

“What church does she attend, Tommy?”

Worse and worse, Tom thought. He leaned against the desk and chose his words carefully, “I don’t think she or her guardian attend church.”

His mother was struck silent, turning to stare at him in confusion. He waited. “I don’t understand,” she said at last. She seemed determined to try again. “They must attend somewhere. Surely you mean that they just have not been able to attend services often. Due to their difficult circumstances, perhaps.”

He gave her a slow half-nod, not sure how to explain this. “That’s possible, I suppose.” He covered an involuntary wince by scratching his head. He couldn’t lie to his parents about this, and he had to watch what he said.

They seemed bewildered at his reaction, exchanging a concerned glance. His father spoke up. “Tommy, they’re not…” he glanced at his wife again before continuing, “they’re not… Catholic, are they?”

Tom laughed at that, a little relieved that this was their first concern. “Of course not.”

They’re own relief was obvious, and they seemed content to drop the subject. “I’m sure there’s a reasonable answer, Tommy.” His mother smoothed her skirt and moved toward the door. “While I would have preferred you met her at church, of course, I understand the circumstances are a bit strange.” She gave him a stern look. “Nevertheless, I do insist you discuss this with her. It would never do to pursue a relationship before being certain of your religious compatibility. Since she’s American, there’s just no telling what religion she is.”

He nodded, looking so miserable that Mrs. Andrews had to hug him for a good long minute. “Bring them over for dinner, dear. We will all hope for the best.”

He was quiet the rest of the day, until his brother, Willie, pestered him into an impromptu game of football out in the rain and cold. Soaked, muddy, kicking and running, Tom let exhaustion and physical effort replace his despair. Odd how that always helped.

***

Tom began spending several evenings a week with Casey and Sam. He didn’t consciously plan it that way, but he discovered, night after night as he headed for his flat, that he just didn’t want to go home. He had grown up in a happy and boisterous household, and the quiet of his bachelor life had always grated on him. With love, laughter, and companionship waiting for him somewhere else, his feet just naturally turned in that direction. So he went, and they were always happy to see him, and he was reasonably sure, as they shared a meal and chores, that he added something to their lives, too.

He learned to understand the casual way they had with each other, and many times he could see flashes of what their century must have been like. It seemed mostly good, and even amazing, with space shuttles and men on the moon, cures for many diseases, and airplanes that flew around the world in just hours. He was pretty sure they’d never get him on one of those! Once though, they told him about wars, terrorism, and weapons so frightening, he had disturbing dreams for several nights. He was upset to learn that Ireland had split, and that Ulster still had not learned to live with itself, but was surprised that Sam thought Ireland should go ahead and vote for Home Rule.

“Northern Ireland is a war zone during the twentieth century,” Sam mentioned one night as they cleaned up after dinner. “The two factions cause total bloody mayhem for decades. Let me tell you, Tom, this is a real opportunity to try the other way. Voting against Home Rule didn’t work in our timeline; I can’t see that voting for it this time, could possibly be any worse.”

“Maybe,” Tom said, but he thought about it. “I think the Catholics should be equal under the government, but I can’t accept that separating from Britain is the answer. I truly think it would ruin us, economically.”

Sam lifted a shoulder. “It doesn’t have to be one or the other. If you can manage to bring about equality without Home Rule, I’m all right with that. I’m just telling you, it didn’t work in our history.”

Tom acknowledged that with a twitch of his brows. “Unfortunately, there are people on both sides who refuse to allow any compromise. Maybe we should try to strengthen any society that has a goal of improvement. I have observed, at the shipyard, that Catholics and Protestants work together just fine, when they are committed to a common task. But the Catholics need to be allowed in, and even at the yard we have trouble with that, from time to time.”

Sam nodded. “But it’s a start. You need to allow more Catholics in, too. Right now, they’re a tiny percentage of the workforce, so are at the mercy of the Protestant workers.”

Tom spread his hands. “I can honestly say we’ve never refused to hire someone because he was Catholic. But it’s true that, in general, the Catholic population doesn’t have the skills that we need.” He shook his head. “Then we get into the education problem. Truly, Sam, I think this issue is too big for even time travelers to solve.”

Sam held up an admonishing finger. “We can’t solve it all at once. But let’s approach it methodically and take what improvements we get, all right?”

Tom nodded. “It’s a start.”

Later, over tea in the parlor, Sam showed them the latest letter from Albert Einstein. As someone whose business benefited directly from the applications of recent discoveries made by physicists, Tom was quite interested in new theories, and Sam had mentioned that his research in time travel was based on the work of this Einstein. He was curious.

“You’ve mentioned him before, when you said your research was based on his theories. But I’ve never heard of him.”

Sam thought about it a moment. “It’s only 1907,” he pointed out. “His first batch of papers were only very recently published and I suppose they are not widely available yet.”

“The name sounds Jewish?” Tom asked it as a question, and Sam nodded.

“He is a Jew, although not a practicing one. He’s German, living in Switzerland at this time. He eventually becomes a Swiss citizen.”

“Ah, but that would explain why his work is not well known here,” Tom told him, a little sadly. “British scientists don’t collaborate much with German ones.”

“Long live King Isaac Newton?” Casey asked.

“Oh, Newton is still king,” Sam told her. “For a while longer, anyway. In another decade, it will be a British scientist who confirms Einstein’s theory about gravity. Then the crown changes heads.”

“You’ve been writing to him?” Tom asked, gazing at the several sheets of paper in Sam’s hand. “About the time travel?”

Sam nodded, a sheepish expression on his face. “I first wrote him just a few days after we got here. Honestly, I didn’t have an exact plan; I don’t know what I wanted him to do. Can’t say that I know, now. But he’s a great thinker, Tom. I guess it boils down to that. If anyone can figure out what I’ve done and what we can do about it, it will be he.”

Tom glanced at Casey, uncomfortable with the thought that came to him. “Will he be able to help you get back?” He felt lightheaded. Would Casey leave if she had the opportunity to go home? What right did he have to ask her to stay?

Sam was shaking his head as if trying to figure it out. “I don’t think so. All the data point to a separate timeline. The only connection it has to our original timeline is January 24, 1906.”

“What if you built another machine and went back to that time? Could you get back that way?”

Casey laughed and they looked at her, not sure what was funny. She held her hands up as if drawing something in the air. “Like there’s a nexus there. Maybe a time travel station: ‘Transfer here for the twenty-first century!’“

Tom felt bewildered, but Sam laughed. “If this becomes commonplace, I can guarantee some entrepreneur will build one!” But he shook his head again. “I don’t know if that would work. Who’s to say it would be our twenty-first century? But it’s the kind of thing Einstein is good at thinking about.”

Sam turned through the pages, all traces of laughter gone from his face. “The problem is,” he said, “Herr Einstein is pretty sure I’m a crackpot. He’s interested enough to consider what I tell him and keep the correspondence open. But he’s not going to say he believes that Casey and I have traveled back through time.”

“Have you told him about Titanic?” Tom asked.

Sam looked up. “Not yet. But I will soon.”

“Sam did tell him about the San Francisco earthquake,” Casey said. “In his first letter, before the earthquake happened. I suspect that’s why Einstein hasn’t just written Sam off as a complete nutcase. But he doesn’t know what to do with him.”

Tom smiled at her. “I know exactly how he feels.”

Under cover of Sam’s laugh, he reached over and took Casey’s hand, helping her to her feet. “I need to be getting home.” He shook Sam’s hand and Casey walked with him to the door. Lately, she had been trying to conduct herself in a manner more acceptable to proper society, so he was surprised when she stopped and slipped her arms around his neck. Her kiss was deep, her body scandalously close against him. Thought vanished in a swirl of emotion as he lost himself in her lips. When she pulled away he rested his forehead against hers, forcing his hands to remain lightly on her waist.

“I’m kind of glad no one’s figured out how to build another time machine,” she whispered. “I don’t want to have to make that decision, now.”

“I could never ask you to stay,” he said. “But I couldn’t bear it if you left. I love you, Casey.”

The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 16

The author at the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in Comber, Northern Ireland. 2014

Chapter 16

February 1907

One would think that being told the date and manner of one’s death would be frightening and depressing, especially if the date were just a few years away. Yet Tom felt light and hopeful.

First, of course, was his sincere belief that whatever happened in his life was in the capable hands of God. And God had seen fit to give him a warning of what might be ahead. He believed he could try to prevent it. Indeed Tommy, he told himself as he shaved the next morning, you’re obligated to prevent it. You’re not the only one who dies.

He stared thoughtfully into the mirror, hearing Sam Altair’s voice again. “You need to keep that ship afloat for at least five hours. It’s four hours before the first rescue ship arrives.”

As a managing director of the firm, he was responsible for the integrity of any ship the firm built. Despite the horror of the accident Casey and Sam described, Tom felt confident that he could design the ship to withstand it. He always said that once you understood how a ship could sink, you could design it to float.

The second reason for his hope was Casey. The thought of her made him feel light and giddy, and whatever else he was thinking about, thoughts of Casey intruded. He was drawn to her peculiar mixture of strength and vulnerability. At some point he had decided to believe her story, and he hurt for her. She had lost everything in a single moment–her family, her friends, her plans, her very world–yet she had persevered, tenacious enough to build a new life. But how lonely she must be! He was quite serious when he said he wanted her to meet his friends, and he was already thinking of a night of music and dancing on Saturday. It had occurred to him, however, that one or two friends might be competition for Casey’s affections. Maybe he should just introduce her to his married friends for now.

He had a moment of deep enjoyment when he told Ham about his adventure. He skimmed over his reasons for deciding to see Casey and said nothing of her story, but with a great deal of satisfaction, he described seeing her for the first time and what she looked like. He could see that Ham was kicking himself for not thinking to go first. Ham was also amused that Tom planned on courting her.

“That’s going to get the whole place going again, you know,” he told Tom, who shrugged it off.

“I suspect the payoff will be worth it,” he said, and then he put his hand over his heart. “I must see her again, Ham. I am simply overwhelmed.”

“Well, then, I wish you good luck, sir,” Ham replied, moving to his own desk to begin the scheduling. “You must keep me apprised of your progress!”

Tom laughed. “I’ll do that. I just hope it’s all good news.”

***

The Belfast City Council had made it a priority to modernize Belfast, and huge strides had been made in recent years to provide electricity and telephone service throughout the city. Tom, always looking for better ways to build ships, was usually one of the first to try a new invention of any kind, and a telephone was no exception. As well, his parents were not afraid to keep up with the times, and had recently installed a telephone at Ardara House, the family home in Comber. He and his mother had developed a pleasant habit of speaking to each other nearly every night. They had always been close, and Tom often confided in her. But he was somewhat reticent to tell her about Casey. He couldn’t tell her everything, and he suspected she would not be as amused as Ham had been.

She wasn’t.

“I hope you consider what you are getting into, Tommy.” Mrs. Andrews expected her children to put family honor ahead of other considerations, and her voice through the phone sounded sterner than usual. “The girl is an American. You know nothing about her family. She has been the instigator of a great deception, however amusing it was. You must make sure that she is a suitable match for you. Don’t let your emotions cloud your thinking.”

She was right, based on the information she had. I wish I could tell them everything. I could show them the “cell phone” and the “calculator.” It would be better if they knew the truth. Yet his thoughts gnawed at the fear his parents would never believe the story. And he had no right to break the trust Sam and Casey had placed in him.

“I understand your concern, Mother,” he said at last. “I realize I need to know her better, but I did spend several months working with her. Even accounting for her deception, I believe she is honest and trustworthy. I know that she is kind and cares for others. I suspect she was well brought up, whoever her parents were.”

“I hope so, dear.” Her tone was warmer. “You have always been a good judge of character and I do trust you to make the right decision. I look forward to meeting the young lady and her guardian.”

“I promise to bring them around for dinner, soon,” he told her, and she left it at that.

***

Sam had his own misgivings. He’d seen Casey angry, sad, hungry, any number of things. He had never seen her in love. But there was no doubt the girl had gone completely over, and he was worried. Edwardian society had its own rules for things, and for her protection, he felt she had to know those rules.

He broached the subject at dinner the night after Tom had been over. “We’ve never really developed a story about your family, Casey,” he told her. “It’s possible that some people will want to know more information about your upbringing, to determine how you might fit into this society. What will we tell them?”

Casey looked resigned, as if she had known this was coming. “We tell them the truth, Sam. My father was an engineer, my mother was a doctor. We lived in Berkeley, I was an only child. Isn’t that a decent upbringing?”

“It is, Casey, it is. But some people might want details. Names, addresses. References, even. Death certificates. Something.”

Casey sighed. “But Sam, we’ve covered that. We have a story we tell people when they ask for information. Don’t change it now. And anyway, who wants to know, all of a sudden?”

He leaned back in his chair. “No one yet. But you have to understand this, Casey and you won’t like it. You’re falling in love with a man from a powerful family. They’re good people, don’t get me wrong. But they aren’t going to let their son marry a waif from the streets of Belfast. I’m just concerned that this may not turn out well.”

She stared at the table for a minute, and then whispered, “But I’m not a waif from the streets of Belfast.” She looked up at him, her eyes angry. “We were poor for a while and it was a struggle to get by. But we got through it. Do people hold that kind of thing against you, around here?”

“Maybe.” He rubbed his eyes wearily. “They might. I don’t know. But it’s not just that. It’s a class issue. This society is completely stratified, Casey. People very seldom marry outside of their class.”

“But Sam, Americans don’t have a stratified society. Europeans marry Americans, so there has to be a way around it…” she trailed off as Sam laughed at her.

“Don’t be naïve, Casey. Americans may try to say they don’t have a class society, but they do, they really do. Your parents were educated and very well off, but they were not gentry. Money has nothing to do with it. You’re born into it. I suppose you can only try, but you needed to be aware of this. The Andrews family simply may not approve of Tom being involved with an American girl, especially considering the circumstances.”

She stared sullenly at the table, not answering. Sam took a deep breath and plunged in with his fait accompli.

“Have you considered that in the original timeline, Tom marries someone else?”

Slowly, she raised her head to look at him. “What?”

“There’s another woman in Belfast who’s supposed to become his wife, Casey. I can tell you her name, age, who her family is, how many children they have…”

“No!” She stood, slapping the silverware off the table and against the wall with a great clatter. She glared at Sam. “You’re preaching determinism, again! I don’t care who he married before. He died before! I’m going to stop that; I’ll stop the other, too.” Defiance brought her chin up. “He didn’t know me before, but he knows me now. He’s interested in me, not someone else! And I will do everything I can to keep it that way!”

She left the room and he heard her bedroom door slam, as he dropped his head onto his arms.

“That went well,” he told the silverware.

***

Tom was coming to dinner on Thursday and as the time approached, Casey’s emotions refused to settle on anything. Having him over the other night, knowing he was seeing her as a woman for the first time, had filled her with an erotic ache. He had actually held her, something completely against the rules. She couldn’t wait to see him again. To be with him now, to eat and talk and laugh with him, was almost more than she could bear. But Sam’s warnings moved like a murmur underneath her joy. It could all come to nothing, for the simple reason that she was an American and not from a wealthy family.

But when Tom arrived, bearing chocolates, Casey didn’t even try to keep her emotions in check. When she opened the door, he smiled and offered the candy, at the same time, glancing down at her dress. Her body throbbed in response to his gaze, but she managed to raise an eyebrow quizzically when his eyes again reached her face. His smiled widened into a teasing grin. “Just checking.”

She laughed. “I probably deserved that. Point to you.”

He laughed with her. “I promise I won’t wear the joke to death. Just until you’ve paid me back for all the teasing the men put me through.”

“That will take a while, I imagine.”

He patted her shoulder, and his next words sent a thrill charging through her. “I hope to spend several years at it.”

After dinner, she and Sam showed Tom their time travel journals, and described how they were attempting to keep track of any changes they made in the past. Tom had brought a notebook in which he had recorded their observations about the Titanic. They all agreed to continue with the journals and compare their notes regularly as time went by. They spent a couple of hours writing it all down, including sketches that Sam tried to duplicate from memory. Tom was astonished at the things Sam knew, from being able to sketch a rough draft of a ship that had not yet been designed, to information about a coal fire that burned for two weeks and probably contributed to the quick sinking, by weakening a bulkhead.

As Sam and Casey talked about the building of the ship and the disaster itself, Tom made notes, quickly categorizing their memories by placing a symbol next to each item. He would later add a section to the notebook for each symbol. This is where he would work on the detail. They had an intense debate about whether Tom should take the book to work or leave it with Casey and Sam. Although he acknowledged the danger of having it at work, Tom was adamant that he needed to have it with him. He would keep it locked in a drawer, and not even Ham would have a key.

***

Saturday afternoon, when Tom finished work for the day, he invited Casey for a walk in the Botanic Gardens. The day was cold, but clear, and the treetops moved in a high breeze. It was too early for flowers, but the park’s greenery was flourishing, and there were several groups of people taking the fresh air. Tom met Casey and Sam at the entrance to the park, Casey smiling with excitement at the prospect of a walk. She looked wonderful, in a simple brown skirt and jacket. She wore a green scarf around her throat, and a flowered hat. Her eyes seemed to pick up the color from the scarf, looking even deeper green than usual. She held his arm as they walked, and he felt as if there was no other time or place in the world except for this one.

They left Sam reading on a bench near the entrance, and as they strolled away, Tom explained that he had a certain motive for the walk. “You had all those months, working at the yard, getting to know me, while you knew that you were a woman, not a boy. I need a chance to catch up.” He stopped and looked at her quite seriously. “What parts of Casey the boy, are true for the woman, as well? What was an act?” He smiled, but it was a troubled smile. “Who is Casey Wilson?”

She returned his smile, with tears in her eyes. “Well now, that’s a very fair question. I don’t know that the answer is a short one.”

He patted her hand and resumed walking. “We have all afternoon. Start anywhere.”

She laughed a little, and then paused as if to gather her thoughts. “I want to be completely honest with you,” she said, and he frowned. He expected her to be honest, why would she say that? She squeezed his arm. “What I mean by that, is that I might need to tell you more than you expect to hear about the time I’m from, to give you reasons for what I did or said. You see, once I started getting to know you, I knew that I would never lie to you about anything else, ever. No matter what the cost to me.”

She fell silent, unable to continue for a moment. Tom rubbed her fingers. “Casey, I have forgiven you for that deception. I understand your reasons, even more now than before. Please don’t let it stay between us.”

With a deep breath, she nodded, and then gestured widely. “Well, it may surprise you to hear that, for the most part, Casey the boy–the way I acted and talked and worked while at the yard–is pretty much me. In a way, the woman who wears these… costumes,” she indicated her hat and clothes, “is more of an act than the boy.”

He shook his head. “I don’t understand.”

She moved to the rail and stood looking at the river. Tom realized she was not like the girls he knew–she stood differently, moved differently. The differences were subtle though, and could be put down to upbringing. She was naturally graceful, but had not been trained to gentility. After a moment, she turned to lean her back against the rail and regard him seriously. “Tom, I was born in 1985. The world changes a lot between now and then. I think it changes more in the next hundred years than at any time in human history. One of the biggest changes is the blurring of differences between men and women.”

Her words shocked him. He knew it showed because she smiled at his expression, clarifying, “Okay, I mean the social differences between men and women. Kids in my generation grew up as complete equals. We went to the same schools, had the same opportunities, the same responsibilities, competed for the same jobs. Women vote, they hold public office, they run companies, they do anything they are capable of doing. They don’t have to ask permission, they don’t have to be ‘protected’ or supported by a man.”

He shook his head, dumbfounded. She touched his arm. “What I’m trying to say is that working in a shipyard was completely normal for me. Oh, not the work itself, I had to learn that, but to have a job, to be around a lot of working men, I was comfortable with that. In fact, the part that was weird was not having more women around. That, and not having women’s lavatories, of course.”

He heard the joke in her tone, but just shook his head, unable to speak. He put his hands in his pockets and turned to look at the river. The suffragettes talked about a society like that. He was not one of those who thought women were incapable of voting or making decisions–far from it. But he couldn’t imagine the life Casey talked about.

She stood beside him and tried again. “Tom, think of the camaraderie, the casualness, you feel when working in a roomful of men. For my generation, that’s the way it is for boys and girls working together. It’s been that way for all our lives. We hardly even think about it. So when I say that Casey the boy is normal for me, that’s what I mean. Except for being careful that no one found out I was a girl, I just acted like myself.”

He stared at the railing, knowing he still didn’t understand. “So now?” he asked. “Dressing and acting like a woman? How is this an act, for you?” He looked at her accusingly. “That day in my office, you said you missed being a girl. It nearly broke my heart to hear you say that, to think we’d taken something special away from you. Where is the truth, Casey?”

She blinked away tears. “The truth is all of it, Tom. I missed being able to just go to work and have everybody know I was a girl and have it be okay. I’d have done all the same things and acted the same way and probably dressed the same. But I’d have been a girl.” She spread her hands, as if begging. “I would have just been me.”

He stared at her for a minute, trying to understand it, then rubbed his temples. “It’s all so foreign to me, but I guess I can understand how it would be for you, growing up that way. But what about now?” He held up his hands to indicate her clothing, not able to hide his misery. “Now, you can be a girl. But you say this is an act, and I don’t understand why. I want to know you, Casey. I want that more than anything else in the world. But where is the real Casey Wilson?”

She did start crying then. “Somewhere in 2006, I think.” Remorseful, he reached for her, but she turned away. He waited as she tried to stop crying and after a minute, she spoke again, her voice not quite clear. “I just find it a struggle to always be proper and… ladylike… for lack of a better word.” She turned to face him, brushing away a tear with gloved fingers. “I’m used to being more casual with people, even with men, and I’m… I don’t know… wilder, I guess, than what’s proper for a woman in this time. When I was running around Belfast as a boy, I didn’t have to worry about any of that. But now I feel like I’m constantly stifled.” She retrieved a handkerchief from her pocket and blew her nose. “It’s not so bad that I’m unhappy or anything, and it can’t be helped, after all. I just have to get used to it.”

He chewed his lower lip, trying to think of a way to cheer her up. “If you could act as you wanted, what would you do?”

She looked surprised, and then turned in a slow circle, taking in the entire city. “Oh I don’t know. Maybe,” she gestured down the path at some kids playing football, “join in an impromptu game of football. Or meet my friends for a few beers at a pub.” She smiled a little at his alarmed expression. “Go dancing. Play a game of catch on the campus lawn.” She laughed suddenly. “Take off my shoes and sit on the floor!”

He laughed at that, though he was shocked about the beer. She looked at him curiously. “You have a sister, don’t you?”

He nodded. “Yes, Nina. She’s twenty-five.”

“What does she do for fun?”

He frowned, thinking about it. “Well, she just got married last year. I believe she enjoyed planning that. She lives in England, now. But she likes to read, which,” he bowed briefly to her, “I know you like to do also.” She nodded and he continued, “She’s quite accomplished at needlepoint and spinning, and I think she also enjoys those. And she writes that she meets with friends for tea and gossip fairly often.” His lips quirked as he looked at Casey and the politely interested expression she wore. “She is also an accomplished horsewoman, and plays golf and tennis.”

“Ah! Golf and tennis. And riding? Well, that all sounds enjoyable,” Casey said. “I just had no idea what women did for fun in this time.”

He looked cross, a corner of his mouth curling up to show he was teasing. “You truly must socialize more.”

“Well there’s no doubt about that,” she replied. “And perhaps work on shedding some of my preconceived notions. Can women play cricket?”

“Oh, goodness!” He groaned. “Of course they don’t play cricket, that’s much too rough!”

She stopped walking and looked at him, pouting. “My best friend was on the women’s varsity cricket team at Queen’s.”

He stared at her, speechless. He played cricket, and it was not a game for women.

Casey waved a hand at him. “Tom? You can breathe, now.”

He blinked. “Women’s varsity cricket? Real cricket?” She nodded. “Do you play?” he asked her.

“Not on a team. I like to jump around and have fun, but it turns out I’m not real competitive. I always want everyone to just get along.”

That made him laugh. “I can just imagine.”

“What about football?” Casey asked suddenly.

“You mean, women playing football?” Tom shook his head. “Young girls play when they are still in school. Not after, I’m afraid.”

“Why not?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s not like there’s a law or anything against it. I guess it’s just not considered ladylike.”

“Ladylike? Oh my god, the dreaded word!”

He laughed, but felt contrite. “I’m sorry, Casey. School girls can and do play these games among themselves, but any sport a lady plays is done in a sedate manner. Ladylike, if you will.”

“But why? And what about tennis? You said your sister played tennis. That’s not sedate.”

“It is when ladies play it. I’ve seen them.”

“Oh brother.” She put her head in her hands. “I guess I can’t lose all my preconceived notions, after all.”

“You know, girls are quite active as children,” he told her. “They play along with the boys all the time. My sister had four brothers and we were merciless with her. And she never had any trouble keeping up. But about thirteen or fourteen years of age, she stopped. Mother may have encouraged her, but I think that’s when she first noticed boys other than her brothers.”

“Ah,” Casey said, “the biggest game of all.”

He tilted his head in acknowledgement. “Exactly.”

“But Tom, you’re, what, thirty-four?” He nodded. “And you still play cricket and go hunting or fishing for fun. I’ve heard you talk about that.”

“Certainly. Not as much as I’d like of course, because of work, but certainly.”

“So in this society, men can continue to play like boys well into their thirties, and the girls, at quite young ages, take up needlepoint.” Her raised eyebrows indicated he could take it as a question.

He rubbed his mouth to hide a smile, aware of the trap he’d walked into. “Now,” he pointed out, “I may not be the right person to ask, but I always assumed girls did that because they wanted to. Some kind of domesticity desire kicking in or something.” He gestured helplessly. “I don’t really know. Boys are sent off to school and the girls stay at home, or attend a local school with other girls. We really don’t see them much, at least not socially, until they come out, but I have several female cousins and, of course, I knew sisters of my friends. And at that age, the girls mostly sat in groups and giggled. They wouldn’t have played football with us if we’d begged them.”

Casey just shook her head in consternation.

“So girls in your generation don’t do that?” he asked.

“Oh for heaven’s sake, of course they do!” she said. “But we don’t have to give up the games and running around. We can keep playing as long as we’re able, same as the guys. And why not? It’s healthy to keep active.”

“So does no one learn needlepoint, anymore? It does make things attractive and many clans in Ireland are fiercely proud of their patterns.”

She hesitated. “They do if they’re interested in it as a hobby, but for the most part, no one does that kind of thing anymore. Needlepoint is done by machine and outsourced to wherever labor is cheapest. Anything homemade, especially by a clan in Ireland, is going to take top dollar.”

“So we lose art to progress, is that what you’re saying? But it frees everyone up to play football.”

She nodded. “Sort of. Although it’s more like people are freed up to do whatever interests them.”

She paused as they rounded a corner, and her eyes wandered off the path and to the small oak tree on the side. Tom watched as she moved, as if dazed, to stand next to it, one hand tentatively touching the young branches, the top of the tree just reaching her waist. He followed behind her. Her voice was so soft, he had to lean in, not daring to breathe. “I used to come here all the time at first.” He watched her hand caress the bark, her mind a million miles away. Or a hundred years. “I would look around and try to remember what the park and city looked like before. Then I started working for you and I didn’t have time to come anymore.” She brought the hand to her face, wiping away a tear and shaking her head slowly. “I can’t picture it, now. I’m forgetting.”

He touched her back, gently, so that she hardly felt it. “It does no one good to cling to what we can’t have, Casey. There’s nothing wrong with moving on.”

She blinked and looked up him, serious as she searched his face. He was relieved when she smiled a little. “I know. I may need to be reminded occasionally.”

He gripped her shoulders. “I’m sorry that it’s been hard for you, here. I try to imagine what it would be like for me, to suddenly find myself in 1807 and have to figure out how to survive and fit in.” He shook his head. “I think you’ve done splendidly. I hope I can be a help to you from now on.” He touched her cheek. “You can always take off your shoes and sit on the floor when I’m around.” He smiled as she laughed at that. “And I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than take you dancing. I know of a ball we can go to tonight. Would you like to?”

He hoped she would always look at him the way she was now, eyes shining and lips trembling slightly. Was it love he saw on her face? He held his breath as she nodded, and he gave in to one more improper act: a light, quick kiss on her lips. Then he let her go and turned away, taking her arm in his again as they resumed their walk. He could tell she needed the break as much as he did.

 

The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 15

Thomas Andrews, Managing Director, Harland & Wolff Shipyards
Thomas Andrews, Managing Director, Harland & Wolff Shipyards

Chapter 15

February 1907

“Manager’s meeting scheduled for 9:00 a.m.,” Ham informed Tom first thing on a bright day in early February. “Lord Pirrie wants to see you at 8:45 sharp. I’ve already moved the schedule around to free up the time.”

Tom nodded, but glanced quizzically at the calendar. “I thought he wasn’t due in from London until Wednesday. Any idea what’s up?”

Ham’s raised eyebrows answered, Now why the heck would I know? as he handed Tom the morning’s reports, and went back to his letters. Tom sighed. These meetings could go on and on, and he had so much to do…

Still, 8:44 found him climbing the stairs in the “corridor of power” to his uncle’s panel-lined office. Lord Pirrie was positively jovial as he waved Tom into the leather visitor’s chair, finished signing a few papers for Saxon to mail, and then turned to look his nephew up and down appraisingly. Tom returned the look, one corner of his mouth turned up in a quizzical smile. No doubt about it, the old man was up to something.

“Well, Tom,” Pirrie began, “you’re wrapping up the work on Adriatic. She’s the last of the Big Four, and I have to tell you, I’m very pleased. Very pleased, indeed! We’re still on line for the maiden voyage on the eighth of May, yes?”

Tom nodded. “All set. We’re on the last bit of work for it. Painting is starting next week, cabinets and furnishings are due in after that. She’s in good shape.”

Pirrie leaned back in his padded chair, still with that appraising look, only now he looked like he’d swallowed the proverbial canary. What was he up to?

“Tom, we’re due for some changes around here. I’m setting up a board of Managing Directors to run the day-to-day operations. I’ll explain more about it in the meeting, but I want you to take one of those positions, in addition to your duties as Chief Designer.”

“You’ll be Managing Director, someday.” Tom swallowed against the voice in his head, trying desperately not to think about that now. How could Casey know about a position that had never existed before? Had she mentioned something to Aunt Marge during that tea, who then gave the idea to Uncle Will? Who was sitting across from him and waiting for a response. Tom hurried to answer.

“Wonderful! You know I’m honored and delighted to take it. There is so much we can do.”

“Ah, and we’ll do it all, Tommy. We had a rough year in 1906, but the economy’s improving, and I think we have a good chance of getting the place on solid footing. This will be a busy year, but I will also continue to need your help in many delicate matters as time goes by. Be prepared for me to call on you from time to time, as I have in the past, but keep in mind these tasks may need discretion. Can you do that?”

“Certainly, sir.” Tom had no problem with this. Lord Pirrie’s requests had sometimes required a bit of traveling, but this gave him the opportunity to develop contacts around the world, and he enjoyed the trips. He looked forward to this work.

***

Lord Pirrie had called in everyone he wanted to assign as a managing director. As Tom followed his uncle into the chairman’s conference room, he took the time to look them over. Nine men sat around the polished wood table, a few with cigars already lit. Most of them were old timers, like his cousin and boss, Alexander Carlisle. Mr. Kempster was there, of course, an outsider, but placed in a board position by Lord Pirrie to consolidate certain business deals. That still stung. Tom had felt he had a chance for that position, but his uncle had been extremely displeased over Tom’s stand on the Home Rule issue, feeling he didn’t quite have Tom’s full support for his run at parliament. The promotion had been the price. Still, Kempster had proven to be an astute accountant and businessman, and if the firm had not flourished greatly under his tenure, neither had it suffered.

Tom felt good about most of the other men and was especially pleased that his good friend, George Cummings, had been selected. He acknowledged George’s raised eyebrow with a small smile as he took his seat. They’d been friends since boyhood, and apprentices together as young men, and he liked to think they had what the company needed to carry on in the future.

It’s a good group. They’re all devoted to the firm. Even Kempster has a stake in our success. Cousin Alex is the only one who ever gives Uncle Will a hard time and I have to admit, he always knows what he’s talking about.

Tom had heard enough gossip to know the workers thought his uncle surrounded himself with men beholden to him, and that only Alexander Carlisle, who had come up in the firm from the beginning, alongside Lord Pirrie, had the freedom and gumption to choose his own way.

The light from the chandelier glittered off the brass handle of the cigar box making its way around the table, as Lord Pirrie laid out his new plan. They spent a few hours organizing the new structure and familiarizing themselves with new duties and reporting deadlines. Lord Pirrie, as usual, wanted to keep a tight rein on each department, and demanded frequent and detailed reports.

They had their usual work to do, as well, and Tom had little time to spare for the nagging worry that had tickled his mind in his uncle’s office that morning. So it was that he finished a long and exciting day, and as he settled his office preparatory to leaving for home, Casey’s voice suddenly came back to him. It was faint, just a whisper in his ear, but he pulled up short and stared at the papers in his hand. Managing Director… a ship called Titanic… he walked to the wall shelves and pulled out the drawing exercises his team had prepared after Casey left. He stood there holding the rolls for a while, then put them back without opening them. He didn’t need to see them. He remembered every detail; indeed, he’d drawn a lot of them himself.

He knew his uncle. This reorganization was preparatory to something else. Something big, that Lord Pirrie would announce when he was ready.

Tom knew what he had to do.

He had to know.

Moving to his desk, he called Sam Altair to arrange a meeting. He was only a little surprised when the physicist invited him over for dinner that evening. Tom assured Sam that he had no problem with Casey being present. In fact, since the warning had originally come from her, he insisted on it. He looked forward to meeting her as she really was.

He found himself wondering what she looked like. He could still picture Casey the boy, small and thin, agile, close-cropped red hair under a cap, inquisitive green eyes, with small hands quickly bringing order to any system they encountered. Had she given up the boys’ clothes and let her hair grow? It had been less than two months; surely it would not be very long, yet. Would she be wearing a dress? Would he recognize her?

He realized again that he had to know.

Perhaps about more than just Titanic.

The house was in a middle-class part of town, surrounded by a small, fenced yard. The grounds were tidy, with rows of hedges and winter vegetables growing along the side. The house was freshly painted and two chairs graced the porch next to a small table. He raised the knocker, letting it fall once.

Dr. Altair seemed pleased to see him, inviting him in with a delighted smile, and hanging his coat and hat on a rack. A delicious smell of bread accompanied the door opening, and Tom wondered if Casey were in the kitchen.

“Thank you for coming, Mr. Andrews.” Sam was expansive. “I hope we are able to clear up many of your questions. Please, have a seat. I’ll get Casey.”

Tom remained standing as Dr. Altair left the room, unwilling yet to sit. He looked over the room. It was neat, and sparsely furnished: the divan, a couple of chairs, a small desk and telephone, a window seat with cushions and pillows that matched the lace curtains. One wall was covered with shelves and books. He smiled, remembering Casey once talking about how she liked to read.

Suddenly she was there, standing in the doorway. And wearing a dress. Tom stared. I should have come sooner, he realized. Casey had been a “pretty boy,” as was often stated around the yard, but Casey the woman­—for it was a young woman who stood before him and not the girl he had been envisioning—was more than pretty.

Her red hair had grown much longer than he would have thought, falling in curls to the middle of her ears. It was too short to wear up in the style preferred by young women, so she wore it loose, and it framed her face. Her cheeks were rosy from cooking, her green eyes wide and a bit wary. A hint of rouge touched her lips. The dress was blue, and its folds made him long to touch her. How could he ever have mistaken her for a boy? She stood with feminine grace, her dress curved over narrow hips, and a small bosom that was more substantial than he would have thought possible. How had he missed that all those months?

She was altogether enchanting, and as he stared at her, she moved a hand in front of her, as if self-conscious. Then she seemed to recover, and moved toward him, holding out her hand to shake his. “Mr. Andrews! It is so good to see you!”

She spoke with complete sincerity and he smiled as he took the hand, which was softer than he could have imagined.

“Casey,” he murmured, looking into her eyes, and then deliberately bending to kiss the back of the hand. She flushed to her roots, but made no move to reclaim her hand. “You’re wearing a dress.”

She tilted her head in acknowledgment. He continued, “It’s a very lovely dress.”

She laughed then and took back her hand, looking pleased and embarrassed. “Thank you,” she said. “I hope you are well?”

“I am. But something…” his lips quirked as he remembered his errand, “there have been changes at work and I wanted to talk to you, about what you said before you left.”

She nodded. “I’m glad you’ve asked. I know this is all very strange, but we really do want to help you.”

He nodded as he answered, his voice shaking a bit, “Thank you. I know this is sudden, but I didn’t want to put it off.”

She smiled, moving aside as Sam came in with a tea service. “Just let me get things on the table. I’ll only be a minute. Please sit down.”

She left the room as Sam poured tea. “We have an occasional cook, but we sent her on home,” he explained, handing Tom a cup as Tom sank into a chair. “No interruptions that way. Anyway, Casey is an excellent cook.”

Tom found his eyes returning to the doorway after the missing girl. “I am astonished at the difference.”

Sam laughed. “I guess it is amazing when you’re not used it. Should she put on the costume and hat to show you how it’s done?”

“No!” Tom shook his head vehemently and said again, more quietly, “No, not at all. I want to talk to her as she really is.”

Sam looked more serious. “She’s from the American West, Mr. Andrews. I believe in some ways, she was allowed to conduct herself in a more casual fashion than European society approves. The adjustment has been difficult for her.”

“I see,” Tom murmured. He actually did, having met many American girls on his voyages for Pirrie.

Casey returned with a tray of crackers and cheese that she placed on the small table near Tom. She accepted a cup from Sam, sitting in a chair across from Tom, who found he was taking every opportunity to examine her closely, especially the way the dress fit her.

“How is Ham?” she asked quietly. “Have you found someone to help him?”

Tom laughed a little. “He’s fine and we have, although Ham is not very pleased with the caliber of your replacement. The young man does not catch on quite as quickly as you did.”

“I’m sure he’ll improve.” She sipped her tea. “You said something had happened at the yard?”

Tom nodded, then told them about the restructure and his suspicions about his uncle’s plans. “You previously mentioned the Managing Director position when no such position existed,” he told Casey. “I believe you owe me an explanation. What is this all about?” He placed his cup on the tray. “I’d like to ignore all of this and just forget about it. I’m hoping that more explanation from you will help me do that.”

“Hmmm,” was all Sam said. Casey glanced at her guardian as she stood. “Forgetting may not be possible, but it is, of course, up to you,” she said to Tom. “Dinner is ready. Why don’t we go to the table and Sam and I will tell you whatever you need to know.”

The dining room was small, but a lace tablecloth covered the table and there was room for four to sit, even with the old sideboard against the far wall. For a few minutes, talk of warnings was superseded by dishing out food, pouring drinks, and buttering bread. Tom admired the food out loud and then silently admired the embarrassed smile this brought to Casey’s face. He really should have come sooner, for no other reason than to see how she was doing. But he returned to the purpose of his visit. “Casey, while you were at the firm, we talked about building safer ships. You were quite interested in the subject, but why that particular scenario? Why a specific ship, which, by the way, does not exist?”

She blushed, but looked at him squarely. “It doesn’t exist yet, Mr. Andrews.”

He felt a twinge of impatience. “Are we speaking metaphorically? As in, shipping rules are an accident waiting to happen? Or are you going to tell me you know the future, that you can read the stars or wind currents and tell me my fortune?” His sarcasm bordered on rudeness, but he didn’t care. If they turned out to be a couple of charlatans, he just might tell Mike Sloan to do whatever he wanted. “Who are you? What makes you think that you can help me?”

Casey placed both hands on the table, as if for support, her lips tight with determination. “All right. I’m going to tell you the bottom line, then we can go back and fill in the details. I don’t know how else to tell you. So, bottom line: Sam and I come from the future. We traveled backward through time from the year 2006, quite by accident. Nevertheless, we are here, and there are things in your future that happened in our past. The Titanic is one of those things. And so is that iceberg.”

Tom stared at her, disappointment warring with fury in his gut. He had so much wanted her explanation to make sense, to be something he could believe and understand, something honest and plausible. But this: they’re looking for a gullible fool to rob and they think they’ve found him. Flushing with humiliation, he stood, wanting only to leave, to forget, but Casey was up and standing in front of him before he could take a step or say a word. She stood an inch from him, her hands on his arms, and looked right up into his eyes, her face serious and intense.

“Mr. Andrews. You asked. I would have tried to work up to it, but you know, there really is no way to easily say something like that. You don’t believe me. Of course you don’t believe me, that’s only sensible. But it is the truth, and I’m begging you, give us a chance to prove it. Even if you never believe us, at least listen to what we know about the Titanic. It will never hurt you to make any ship safer.”

He stared down at her, thinking hard. This woman was not someone he knew. Perhaps there was something of Casey the boy in her, he didn’t think all of that had been an act. But this woman was more adult, more confident than the person he remembered. Beautiful, desirable, infuriating–all of that in a package standing determinedly in front of him, blocking his exit.

And making a not unreasonable request. He nodded once and sat back down, still angry but willing to listen.

“You didn’t ask me to come here,” he said, thinking out loud. “You gave me one warning and left me alone. I suppose I should at least listen to you. But I don’t understand. Assuming you’re telling the truth: why me? If you’re really from the future, which is ridiculous, there must be a million important things you can change. Why bother me?”

Sam answered with a shrug. “Casey met you, and I knew who you were. She liked you and wanted to warn you. She often lets her feelings overcome her logic.”

“Sam.” Casey’s voice carried just a hint of a child begging a parent not to embarrass her in front of someone she liked. Sam smiled slightly at Tom and tilted his head toward Casey, tacitly informing him that there were serious feelings there. Tom might have been pleased about that, earlier.

Sam held out a hand. “You don’t believe us, Mr. Andrews, and as Casey said, that’s all right. Forgive me, but in this case, time really is on our side. Sometime this year, this summer I think, Pirrie and Ismay will hatch a plan to build a new line of ships, the largest, most luxurious ships in the world. There will be three of them, Olympic, Titanic and Britannic. In our time, the Titanic is known as the most famous ship since Noah’s Ark. You’re free to go your way and forget about us, Mr. Andrews. But I expect we’ll see you again after Pirrie’s announcement.”

Tom reached for his spoon and began eating, determined to treat this as a normal conversation. “You’re telling me we build a ship called Titanic that hits an iceberg and suffers damage. Does she sink?”

Sam was eating, but Casey was staring at her bowl. She nodded.

“When? When does this happen?”

Casey answered, “April 14, 1912.”

Tom stopped eating and stared at her. “My God. We’d be starting on it in the next year or so and even then, she’d just be out of the slip. It happens in her first year?”

Casey glanced at Sam. He shook his head. “That’s her maiden voyage, Mr. Andrews.”

He couldn’t speak. For a moment, he couldn’t even breathe. Losing a ship on its maiden voyage! What an awful disaster. He shook his head. These people were crazy. Remember that, Tom. They’re crazy! Or this was some kind of act or trick to accomplish some act of espionage.

He rubbed his forehead, weary and confused. “What am I supposed to do? What is it that goes so wrong, but that I can fix to keep this from happening?” He gestured to Casey. “When you told me about the iceberg, I thought about it. I even talked to Mr. Carlisle and to the design team. We all agreed the best thing is a double hull and watertight compartments. But we also have to live with economic realities. A double hull’s expensive and it takes up space that could be used for accommodations. I don’t know if we’ll ever get that. Watertight compartments, yes. Those are standard.”

Sam stood and pulled paper and pencil from a sideboard drawer. He quickly sketched, unaware of the effect his drawing was having on Tom, who stared astonished, as an elegant ocean liner took shape on the page. Sam roughed in compartments and turned an intense gaze on Tom, tapping the paper with his pencil. “Let me tell you first, that I grew up in Belfast, and I learned all about this in school. I know what I’m talking about. The compartments on Titanic only went up to E deck. To be effective in this accident, they need to go all the way to the main deck and need watertight tops. During the accident, the first six compartments are punctured and fill with water. As the bow sinks, the water spills over into the next compartment, on and on down the ship. So you need to fight for higher bulkheads. You need to fight for that double hull. You need to keep that ship afloat for at least five hours, Mr. Andrews. It’s four hours before the first rescue ship arrives.”

Tom stared at Sam. “How many…” his voice rasped. He cleared his throat and started over. “How many die?”

Sam sat down. “Over fifteen hundred. Including your guarantee group. And you, Mr. Andrews.”

Tom blinked. On some level, he’d known that, of course. He would be on that ship on its maiden voyage. And the guarantee group…. He thought of the men he worked with, his pals. And fifteen hundred others, all of whom counted on him to build them a safe ship.

“Casey,” Sam said, “why don’t you show him our things?”

She left the table without looking at either of them. Sam went back to eating while Tom sat, staring at Sam’s drawing. In a moment, Casey was back with a small bag in her hands. She took several objects from the bag and placed them on the table. Tom was suddenly more afraid than he had ever been in his life.

Casey sat, and smiled a little at his expression. “Go ahead. Look them over.”

He shook his head. “What are they?”

Sam laughed a little. Casey shrugged and pointed at two of the objects, both small, hard, and rectangular, one black, one pink. “These are telephones, basically. They each have a camera, a calendar, message center, and internet connection. Of course, most of that stuff needs a service network to function, and anyway, the batteries have been dead for more than a year.”

She picked up a small silver stick and a strange cord split into a ‘Y’ with something round attached to each end. She waved the stick at him and showed him buttons on one side. “This is a music player. It contains over three hundred songs that can be played back, sort of like a gramophone. But believe me, the sound quality is much better. You listen to them by plugging this into the player,” she demonstrated, “and putting the ear buds in your ears. Of course,” and she set everything down with a sad expression, “the batteries for this are also dead.” There was real regret in her voice and Sam spoke up.

“I’ve been working on a way to recharge the batteries, but I just don’t have the materials I need.” He sounded apologetic.

Nothing they said made sense. Uncertain, Tom picked up the pink rectangle and examined it. It fit in the palm of his hand. There was a small blank square on the front and the words “Verizon” and “Samsung” were embossed on the cover. There was a hinge at the top, so it was obvious it opened up. He lifted the cover and stared at the inside of it, a bigger blank square on top and buttons everywhere, buttons with tiny little arrows or pictures, or numbers or letters. The word “Samsung” was embossed again along the top.

His heart was pounding, and once again he found it difficult to breathe. His mind was whirling so much, he felt as if he had stepped outside his body. This… thing… could not be made up. He was an engineer. He knew a technological machine when he saw one. This… was real, whatever it was.

Casey smiled sadly. “The battery worked for about two weeks after we got here. There was no service, of course, but when I opened it, it would still light up and play sounds, and I could still look at pictures and read all the old messages from my friends.” Tears coursed down her cheeks. “My schedule said I had a test coming up and a doctor’s appointment in a week. I used to drive Sam crazy, because I would just open it up and look at it all the time. It was home. It had my life in it.”

A completely crazy story, but Tom could not say she wasn’t telling the truth. He did not have it in him to turn away from someone in pain. He closed the thing and put it back into Casey’s hands, watching as she held it like the precious thing it was. Sam cleared his throat and pushed the last object toward Tom. A black rectangle, again with a small blank space and covered with buttons. But these buttons made some sense. Numbers: 0–9. A plus sign. A minus sign, an asterisk (multiplication?), a slash (division?). An equal sign. Buttons that proclaimed cos, tan, %, sqrt (square root?), 1/x, many others. Texas Instruments. Scientific Calculator. He looked at Sam, who smiled slightly.

“Made the slide rule obsolete,” he said. “And unlike the other things, this runs on solar power. It still works.”

Tom could feel himself begin to sweat. It worked? Sam reached over and pressed a button labeled with the word ‘On’. There was no sound or movement, but a ‘0’ appeared in the blank space. “Do something simple,” Sam suggested. “Make it add two and two, just like you’re writing it on paper.”

Tom’s hand shook, but he slowly pressed the ‘2’ button. The zero went away and was replaced by a 2. His hand shook a little harder. He pressed the plus sign and nothing happened, making him glance at Sam quizzically. He heard Casey breathe out a giggle. Sam indicated the calculator. “Keep going.”

He pressed the ‘2’ button again, and again, nothing happened. But he dogged ahead and pressed the equal sign. A ‘4’ appeared in the screen, silent, irrevocable. Tom felt the world spinning around him, as everything in his existence spun inward to that number ‘4’. He was sure he’d fallen out of his chair, but a grip on his hand anchored him, and he looked up at Casey, the world straight again, her hand covering his, her eyes concerned, but calm. “Breathe,” she instructed softly, and he did, letting his breath out in a gasp.

Sam was relentless. “Try another one. You choose the equation.”

“No.” Tom took another breath, waited for his heart to stop racing. His lips twitched slightly. “Maybe another time.” He turned his hand, gripping Casey’s hand firmly in his. Hers was small and soft, but he could feel the strength in it. That strength helped him calm down, but when he looked at her again, he decided he wanted to continue holding it for a lot of other reasons, too.

“Is it true?” he asked her. “Everything you told me?”

She nodded.

“The future? 2006?”

She nodded again.

“How?”

Sam explained, as best he could, about his time travel experiment, and the accident that brought him and Casey to this time. His story made little sense, and Tom kept interrupting, needing explanations about nearly everything. They seemed unaware of what would confuse him, and it was this, as much as anything, that further convinced him they were telling the truth. He was shocked when he realized Casey had been walking alone in the garden in the middle of the night, and this brought the explanation to a halt for a moment.

“You were alone? Your friend didn’t walk you home? This is normal for girls in the future?”

She looked abashed. “It’s not unusual,” she started to say, but hesitated at Sam’s expression. “Well, it probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do. But I’d done it several times before and never had a problem.”

“But Casey.” Tom couldn’t hide his horror. “Anyone could have been in the garden. What happened was bad enough, but what if Sam had been a criminal? Violent or drunk? Is it so different in the future that there are no people like that out at night?”

She shook her head, shame in her eyes, but she lifted her chin defiantly. “The thing is, women have worked hard to ensure we’re safe on the streets at night. We don’t think it’s right that we have to restrict our movements so that violent men can wander the streets. We’re taught to be careful and I’ve had self-defense training, so I wasn’t completely helpless.” She glared for a moment before relenting a bit at the worry on his face. “Yes, it would have been safer to stay at the dorm when we had finished studying. My friend had offered to let me stay, but I just wanted to go home. There shouldn’t have been a problem.”

“I can testify to the self-defense training,” Sam offered. “She darn near took me out before I could explain what happened to us. And more than one ruffian around here has been put in his place, believe me.”

Tom blinked at this. Was she still going out alone? Then he remembered her months masquerading as a boy. She’d been on the streets of Belfast for a long time. A small smile twitched his lips. “That is somewhat comforting to know.” He touched her hand in apology. “You must think I’m treating you like a child, but I’m not, truly. It’s just that in this time, there are certain rules that women follow. That’s what I’m used to.”

She tilted a shoulder in a small shrug. “I’m afraid I hate to be told what to do. I always have to know the reason, and even then, if I don’t agree with it, I don’t always do it.” Her eyes flicked to Sam for a moment. “This time I paid a steep price. I try to be more cautious, now.”

“An odd definition of ‘cautious,’“ Tom murmured, but he patted her hand and turned back to Sam as they both laughed. “Please continue. You saw Casey next to the tree and then what happened?”

The technical explanation went on for a while. “Look,” Sam told him finally, “you really need to have a degree in quantum physics to understand this. Not even Casey gets it and she has a lot more scientific knowledge than you do.”

Tom and Casey moved to the parlor while Sam made tea, Tom still struggling to accept the idea of a future world interacting with his. “Tell me about your life,” he asked Casey as they entered the parlor.

“My life?” She looked uncertain.

“In the future. Before you came here. What did you do? Who were your friends? How did you spend your time? What was the world like?”

“I was a student at Queens,” she started explaining. “I went to classes, I studied, I took karate lessons. I shared an apartment with three other people who were also students. My friend, Colleen, was my roommate. We’d been roomies since freshman year; that’s how we met.” Casey smiled sadly. “She was so great. We laughed all the time. When I first moved to Belfast, I was so afraid I wouldn’t make friends, but she was right there. She was… “ She stopped and turned her head away, blinking back tears. “I keep wondering about her. What happened when I didn’t come home that night? Do they have any idea where I am, what happened to me? She… she would have had to call my parents and tell them…”

Casey stopped talking altogether and Tom moved to her side, taking her hand, horrified at the scenario she described. “Stop. Casey, stop. I’m sorry.” He rubbed her shoulder; somehow it felt natural to touch her. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

She shook her head in frustration. “I’ve just never really talked about it, Mr. Andrews. We haven’t told anyone except Dr. Riley, and he didn’t want to know anything.” She looked at him, her expression haunted. “I try to forget that I’ll never get back. I try to just live in this new life, but sometimes, it hits me. I really will never see any of them again. They’ll never know what happened to me. That’s…” she took a deep breath. “That’s the hardest part.”

He slipped his arm around her and pulled her to him, driven by a need to comfort her. He should not give in to it, he knew. With no chaperone, he shouldn’t even be alone with her, but he wanted to hold her. He also wanted to know more, but that could wait for another time. “When you’re ready to talk about it, you can always talk to me, Casey. But I don’t want to upset you. I want to know all about it, but only when you feel up to it.”

She nodded into his shoulder and stepped back, giving him a tentative smile. “You may find you regret that once I get started, but thank you.”

Sam came in with the tea and Tom moved away from Casey, to sit in a safe chair. The conversation moved to more general topics. The question came up about “changing the past,” but this was beyond Tom’s patience. “You may think you are changing your past, but I don’t see it that way. This is the future. That’s all it is for me, for the other people who die, for this city. What happens in 1912 is wide open.”

Sam wasn’t sure. “Then did it happen at all? Has there been a 2006 yet, where the Titanic sinking is history? If it happened once, how do we know we can stop it? What if, in spite of all we do, the ship still sinks? What if we avoid one iceberg, just to hit another?”

Tom felt a headache coming on, as he tried to think it through. Casey threw up her hands. “I refuse to accept determinism, Sam. The universe does not “have it in” for the Titanic or for Mr. Andrews or anybody else. There’s no point getting up in the morning if that’s true.”

Tom agreed, but with a caveat. “I do believe in determinism, Casey, but not in the way you and Sam mean.” He watched her carefully, wondering how important her atheism was to her. “I believe that God has our lives planned and we can’t change his plan. He may have it written that I die on Titanic, but I don’t know that for certain. I must live as if I’ve been given a full measure of years. If I’m to die, then nothing I do will make a difference. But I still must try to make that difference.”

She looked unhappy but said only, “As long as you try. That’s all I’m asking.”

Casey walked him to the door while Sam took cups to the kitchen. He paused, needing to say one more thing. “Casey, you’ve had to make an incredible adjustment. I can’t even comprehend what it must have been like for you.” He took her hand in both of his. “You need friends, Casey. You can’t spend your life working, or sitting in this house. There’s a whole world out there. I know it’s not your world, but you need to let it become yours. May I help you do that?”

She blinked back tears. Her voice was small. “That’s very kind of you, Mr. Andrews.”

He squeezed her hand gently then put both hands on her shoulders, looking teasingly into her face. “Now, that won’t do at all,” he told her. “I’m still calling you Casey. You must call me Tom. Please?”

She took a deep breath, nodding. He nodded back, pleased, then kissed her hand and left.

The Time Travel Journals: Chapter 14

The Palm House, Belfast Botanic Gardens
The Palm House, Belfast Botanic Gardens

Chapter 14

December 1906

The people of Belfast were justifiably proud of the Palm House. Casey loved it even in the twenty-first century, but as she stood outside it in 1906, she realized it was really remarkable. Curvilinear and cast iron glass, it stood proudly in the gardens, owner of a world-wide reputation. It was already old, having been built in the 1830’s, with a wing for cool temperature plants and another for tropical plants. That was the area she would be working in, as her new boss, Rupus Mangold, had explained. She had worked here for a year as a student in 2005 and for a moment, as she walked to the door on her first day in 1906, she felt as if time had again folded on itself. Perhaps she couldn’t really get back home, but this would bring her closer.

Mr. Mangold had immediately realized that Casey knew what she was doing, and he fell into a regular routine with her assignments. He would tell her what he wanted done and then disappear for days at a time, leaving her to it. She never figured out what he did with his time but didn’t really care, either. She worked three days a week, planning, sketching, and researching, without benefit of a computer or the internet, where to find and order plants. She also placed orders, watched the budget, and did her share of digging and planting.

She tried to avoid conversations with the students working there. They were all boys her own age and none of them was happy about working with a girl. They were polite enough if they had to speak to her, but it was like trying to join the fifth grade clubhouse with the “no girls allowed” sign on the door. The only reason they didn’t dip her braid in the inkwell was because her hair wasn’t long enough to have a braid. Boys–like little children, she sniffed to herself, knowing full well she was comparing them to Tom Andrews.

She missed him. Since leaving the shipyard, she found herself always listening for his laugh or watching for his large form to come through a crowd. She hoped he would call when work started on the Titanic. If he didn’t, she decided she would contact him, as soon as she heard the ship was being built. She had no doubt she would know about it. The whole town knew what ships were being built at the yard.

***

Moving the pot with the Bird of Paradise next to the ferns, Casey knelt down to widen the space she had picked for it.

“Miss Wilson?” A respectful male voice belonging to the afternoon’s student assistant broke into her thoughts and caused her eyebrows to raise. Why was he being so nice? She continued her digging without looking up. “Yes, Teddy?”

“You have a visitor.”

She blinked in surprise and turned, then hastily stood, wiping her hands on the towel hanging from her apron. A woman stood next to Teddy, straight and corset-tight in a purple dress and flowered hat. Her hair under the hat was salt and pepper, her skin was pale and wrinkled, but she had blue eyes that seemed to actually twinkle, and a delighted smile moved her lips as she observed Casey.

Casey reached a hand out, then winced at the dirt still on it and drew it back. She changed the greeting into a curtsey instead, distracted by Teddy, who was rubbing his cheek, then pointing at her. “Hello! May I help you?” She rubbed her cheek with her towel, hoping she wasn’t just depositing more dirt.

The smile widened and the woman returned the curtsey with a tilt of her head. “You may, dear. I’m Mrs. Herceforth. Lady Pirrie told me about you and suggested you’d be an excellent addition to our Horticultural Society Chapter. She offered to introduce us, but as she won’t return from London for three weeks, I took it upon myself to call.”

The lady turned and charmingly dismissed Teddy, who bowed with gallant ease, and strolled back to his duties. Mrs. Herceforth beamed after him and turned back to Casey. “Such a handsome fellow, he is.” She leaned conspiratorially toward Casey. “If you play your cards right, dear, this job could do quite well for you.”

Casey managed to look doubtful rather than disgusted, but her lips twitched a bit. “If I play my cards right, Mrs. Herceforth, I shall escape unscathed.”

The lady had a pealing laugh and she patted Casey’s arm. “Well said, dear! Now, may I bother you for a short tour? I give quite generously to the Gardens and I’m curious to see what my money is doing.” She glanced toward the spot where Casey had been working. “If you’ve the time to spare for it, of course. I thought it would be a good chance to get acquainted.”

“I’d love to show you around, ma’am. Just let me…” Casey held up a finger and turned to move the potted Bird to a safer locale. She placed her spade in the pot and turned back. “I’d hate for someone to trip over it,” she explained and Mrs. Herceforth nodded approvingly. Casey spread an arm to indicate the room around them.

“Are you familiar with the work to build up the tropical section? You can see we’ve several varieties of ferns in place…” Mrs. Herceforth proved to be a knowledgeable and entertaining audience, and Casey found herself laughing a lot and losing herself in her enthusiasm for the project. She kept seeing the Palm House as it would be in the twenty-first century and often included that description as something to work toward in the future. Mrs. Herceforth seemed quite taken with her ideas, which made Casey a little uncomfortable. After all, they weren’t really her ideas.

As they neared the end of the tour, Mrs. Herceforth began talking about both the Belfast Horticultural Society and the Agriculture Society. “I belong to both of them, dear, and I think you would enjoy attending a meeting of each.” The look she gave Casey was appraising. “Their missions are different, but harmonious. The horticultural society is beginning a project to plant gardens throughout the city. The Ag Society works to help farmers form cooperatives so they are working together to supply good products to the markets, for a decent wage. I’m sure you’re aware of the mass exodus of the Irish, mostly to America.”

Casey nodded. The problem had been covered in her classes at Queen’s. They reached a meeting room and Mrs. Herceforth took the opportunity to rest her feet. Casey joined her at the table, while the older woman continued.

“We want to keep them here, you know. But they need to feed their families. Now dear,” she touched Casey’s hand, a smile playing at her lips, “Lady Pirrie told me about your situation, so I know you understand what life is like for the poor. I loved your “solution,” by the way. Serves those men right, as far as I’m concerned.” They both laughed, Casey blushing a little in embarrassment.

“The Belfast Ag Society is working to assist the area farmers to grow and sell their food right here. We want more market days and more grocers buying from the farmers, instead of food shipped from the Continent. Goodness, some of the food they stock comes from America! It’s putting our farmers right out of business and off of their lands. We want to encourage the populace to grow their own vegetable gardens or establish community gardens. This is where the two societies can work together, don’t you agree?”

“Absolutely,” Casey replied, excited about being here for this endeavor. The Agriculture Society had made a real difference, but like everything else in Ireland, it had fallen victim to the continuing violence between religious factions. She wondered if she could steer them away from that.

They agreed to meet at the next meeting of the Horticultural Society. Casey went back to work with a lighter step and the feeling she had just made a friend.

***

That evening, Casey looked up from writing in her time travel journal. Sam was also writing, sitting at the small desk in the parlor, summing up his work day and the progress he was making toward advancing scientific discovery. She smiled to herself, amused as always, at their disparate goals. Her own goals were modest: build a life for herself and have a few friends–Casey needed friends–and perhaps aid the Irish in their hopes for economic prosperity, by helping them build up and nourish their land.

Sam’s goals were grand: to establish in Ireland a think tank and experimental industry, not dissimilar to the future consortium he used to work for. He hoped to advance scientific discovery by at least fifty years, in as many areas as he could. Medicine could have antibiotics and ultrasounds decades sooner, materials science could have alloys and polymers, quantum physics could practically meet itself coming, if he could place a nudge in the right place and the right time. He had to do it all without actually stating what he wanted to do, or inventing things himself, but he always said that’s what good scientists did. They took a half-beaten idea and tinkered with it until it grew up.

Casey had asked him to somehow avoid dependence on fossil fuels, and the disposable society it encouraged, which was quickly destroying their future world. She’d be happier, too, if he could figure out a way to avoid the creation of super weapons. He had laughed.

“We have to split the atom, Casey. It’s essential to everything.”

“I know,” she admitted bleakly. “I know you also can’t control what governments do. But we need to try and keep nationalism or partisanship out of it this time.”

He didn’t bother to tell her it was probably impossible. They were only two people and it was a big world. It was a smaller version of this problem that bothered her now and caused her to interrupt his writing.

“Sam?” She waited until he reached the end of his sentence and looked up. “When I try to figure out what I want to accomplish by joining these societies, I always come back to one central problem. The Protestants and the Catholics. Their disagreements destroy everything good that the country tries to do. How can I do anything about that?”

“Try not to get killed,” he said, turning sideways in his chair to face her. She laughed.

“I’m serious,” he told her. “You start meddling with some of this and you can end up dead faster than you thought about it. Go easy, okay?”

“Well sure,” she agreed, doodling on the open page of her journal. “But they have to understand that they all live in this country. You can only go so far with advancing one group at the expense of the other. Eventually, the other group must advance, as well.”

Sam shrugged. “What are you thinking about?”

She leaned back into the sofa, legs crossed under her, her skirt billowing out in a circle. “They want gardens, to beautify the city and provide fresh produce. But I doubt that any Catholics belong to this society. Yet, they need to have gardens in the Catholic sections, too.”

“I doubt Catholics would be welcome even if they wanted to join,” Sam pointed out and she nodded.

That’s what I want to accomplish.”

He smiled. “I thought I had a tough job.”

***

The horticulture society met at the First Presbyterian Church, in the social hall. With some regret that they didn’t see the wisdom of meeting at a pub, like sensible chapters in the future did, Casey went to her first meeting, nervous about a social occasion where, as the ward of a highly-placed manager and scientist at the telephone company, she would be seen as an equal to the others, or nearly so. How many of them would know of her employment at the shipyard, depended she supposed, on the discretion or amusement of Lady Pirrie and Mrs. Herceforth.

They all knew about it. The men didn’t bring it up, but the women all asked her about it, admiring and amused at her foray into the world of men. A couple of the oldest women, still dressing in strict Victorian black, were not quite as pleased, but seemed willing to overlook it, “provided,” Casey heard one say to another, “my grandson doesn’t try to court her.”

That comment was made early in the evening and it amused Casey, allowing her to enter the meeting in high spirits. She sat with Mrs. Herceforth, and played the part of a newcomer, not offering suggestions unless they asked her. She explained about her job at the Palm House, and a little of her background as a horticulturist “in California.” They were pleased, and voted her into the group that night, hoping she might be able to bring in more young people.

“Except for Lady Talbot’s grandson,” she murmured to Mrs. Herceforth as they left, listening to the pealing laughter and feeling generally content with the evening. Casey was startled when the older woman suddenly put a hand on her arm and moved closer to her. At her questioning look, Mrs. Herceforth gestured with her chin to the bottom of the steps.

“Protestors, dear. They are seldom violent, but it’s always wise to remain alert.”

Indeed, there were several groups of men, and a few women, on the cobblestones, effectively blocking them in. It would be impossible to leave without a confrontation. Mrs. Herceforth did not stop, but continued regally down the steps, keeping Casey nearby. The protestors were quiet, content with just passing out pamphlets and urging the society members to concentrate their efforts on loyal Protestants. Casey had just begun to breathe easier when an ominous, familiar figure blocked her path.

She realized later that Sloan might not have recognized her if she hadn’t stopped and looked right at him. She was, after all, wearing “girl” clothes: skirt and jacket, a fashionable wide-brimmed hat with a red scarf tied around it, and her long black overcoat. The shortness of her hair was hidden by the hat. There was nothing about her that looked like the boy who had worked at Harland & Wolff.

It was her face, and the fear she knew it showed, that made him take a closer look, as he paused in the act of handing her a pamphlet.

“Well, I’ll be,” he practically chortled, “it’s Casey Wilson!” His head tilted to the side, an amused and mocking look twisting his mustached features. “Looking proper and all.”

Angry, she snatched at the pamphlet he still held in his hand. “Mr. Sloan,” she said flatly, “do you also disapprove of gardens?”

He managed to look innocent. “Ach no, Miss Wilson, ‘course not.” He gave a little bow. “We just want to make sure the society knows our wishes regarding where the gardens should be placed.”

“In no Catholic backyards, I take it?”

“Aye, that would be one place,” he said, without acknowledging her sarcasm. He tipped his hat to Mrs. Herceforth. “Madam. Hope ye are well this evenin’.”

“Marvelous, Mr. Sloan, simply marvelous. How is your brother’s London tour coming along?” Mrs. Herceforth seemed genuinely interested, and Casey stared at her. She had to be asking about the brother in parliament. The one Sam had said was a sectarian bigot.

“He’s a warm welcome wherever he goes, Mrs. Good of ye to ask.”

“So nice to hear it. Do send him my best. Now I must be getting this young lady home. Good night, Mr. Sloan.”

“Night, Mrs. Herceforth, Miss Wilson.” He stepped aside and no one else bothered them as they approached Mrs. Herceforth’s carriage.

“Hop in, dear. I’m delighted to see you home, unless you have other arrangements?”

“Thank you,” Casey murmured, confused at the exchange, but stepping into the carriage. “It’s not far,” she told her as Mrs. Herceforth sat across from her. “I was going to walk.”

“Walk? Alone?” Mrs. Herceforth shook her head and tapped Casey on the knee with her parasol. “Lady Pirrie said you were a bit wild, but honestly, dear. Even in America, I don’t believe they allow their young ladies to wander the streets at night without escort.”

“No ma’am. I guess I just got used to wandering around as a boy. I keep forgetting. I’ll make sure my guardian picks me up from now on.”

“I take it you know our Mr. Sloan from the shipyard?”

Casey’s lips tightened in annoyance. “Yes ma’am. I’m afraid so.”

Mrs. Herceforth’s laugh filled the carriage. “Such a delicate way to put it! He does mean well, you know.”

Casey just raised her eyebrows, and Mrs. Herceforth sighed, folding her hands in her lap. “I suppose I should say that his heart is in the right place, although he is difficult to get along with, sometimes.”

“Do you think we should not include Catholic areas in the planned gardens?” Casey asked her.

The older woman looked troubled. “I think it would be best if they had their own chapter and did the work themselves. It’s so difficult for us to work with them.”

“But surely, they need to associate in some way with the main group? Would they need assistance to get started?”

“I imagine they would. But I think it’s best if Sir Plunkett handles that.” Her fingers tapped along her arms as she answered Casey. “It’s far too dangerous for the general membership to get involved. Ah. Here we are.”

Casey disembarked and turn to curtsey. “Thank you for the ride, ma’am. I look forward to seeing you at our next meeting.”

“I too, child. Ta!” She waved, as the driver clicked to the horses, and the carriage moved smoothly down the street.

 

The Time Travel Journals: Chapter 13

The author visits Thomas Andrews' office at Harland & Wolff
The author visits Thomas Andrews’ office at Harland & Wolff

Chapter 13

November 1906

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

at Tea

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?”

“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.”

 

The Time Travel Journals: Chapter 12

Plaque for Thompson Graving Dock at Harland & Wolff Shipyard
Plaque for Thompson Graving Dock at Harland & Wolff Shipyard

Chapter 12

November 1906

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.”

“Fucking idiot.”

“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.”

“When?”

“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.