Sam had his team working on technologies he secretly intended for the shipyard: higher capacity batteries, more efficient pumps, and stronger rivets, among them. That these technologies would have applications beyond shipbuilding was obvious. Now he was ready to get them started on another huge endeavor.
“Let’s assume something.” He glanced up at the group of scientists and research assistants reposed around the laboratory. They were all watching him, used to these meetings by this time. He would call them to attention, throw out a few ideas and ask them to come back with something. A way to invent it. A way to use it. Prerequisites. Whatever they could think of. They often laughed and shook their heads, but a job in Sam’s laboratory was the most coveted spot a local science student could get upon graduation. Graduate students clamored for part-time work. Word had gotten around that he even wanted women to apply, that he would hire them and pay them the same as the men, and let them do the same work.
Sam encouraged results, but the truth was, if they managed, just a few times a year, to invent something and sell it to a manufacturer, they made enough to support their work for the rest of the year. They came up with results a lot more often than that. Sam’s ideas were often bizarre, sometimes terrifying, but if a researcher followed through, the universe seemed to open up. Now they waited to see what he would throw at them, next.
“Let’s assume our world is heading for extreme technological change. That we’re going to discover ways to travel quickly, communicate faster and more clearly, learn about news from halfway around the world almost the minute it happens. Assume Jules Verne is right and we’ll explore space, travel to the moon.” There was a stir around the room and Sam grinned. It seemed that no matter the era, a scientist always got excited about space exploration. Why was that?
He continued, “What is the one thing we need in great supply, to accomplish all of this?”
He waited. A few of them looked at others, but most seemed lost in thought, staring at the floor or wall. Finally, Ellen Brendan spoke up. “Energy,” she said, and raised an eyebrow at him.
He wanted to cheer. Not only a right answer, but from one of the women on the team. He clapped his hands together and rubbed them.
“Indeed! Energy is exactly right! Where are we going to get it?”
“Rock oil.” Those words were the current name for petroleum, and they were spoken by several of them at once, the others all nodding in agreement. Sam put his hands in his pockets and leaned against the table behind him. Everyone got quiet. When he did this, they knew they had the wrong idea.
But they were frustrated. “Why not rock oil?” Alan Mackey gestured to the globe in the corner. “It’s everywhere, in nearly infinite supply. Companies are making impressive gains in extraction and refinement. It’s the way of the future, no doubt about it.”
Sam stood straight and paced for a minute. He had to go carefully, here. But if he were very, very lucky, he’d be able to completely turn the tide of several future crises. Of course, humans could always find other ways to screw things up, but that wasn’t his problem. He stopped and looked up at his team.
“All right. Let’s make another assumption.” He saw their amusement, but hey, he was the boss. “Let’s assume there isn’t enough rock oil. Let’s assume that there are problems we don’t know about, yet. Let’s just assume we can’t use oil. What else is there?”
With the air that they were humoring him, they began shouting out ideas.
They all laughed and Ellen spread her hands. “Well that’s how silly the other suggestions are. None of them can provide enough energy, all the time.”
Sam spoke over the agreeing murmurs. “You may be right. But let’s start there. With any energy supply, we need a way to put the supply into a usable form, store it and distribute it. Agreed?”
“Let’s do that with all three of our more practical suggestions. Sorry Ellen—no elephants.” He paused to let the laughter recede. “Think of ways to capture, develop, store and distribute energy from these sources. Wind and water have strong potential for local energy use, but sunlight just might be usable everywhere except for the southern and northern extremes. Let me give you a hint about sunlight.”
He watched them for a moment. Were they ready for this? “You’re going to think in terms of mechanics: what machines and processes do we need to use sunlight? That’s okay. I want to see your ideas on that. But also consider how the planet, and all living things on it, use sunlight. How is it captured, stored, altered? Can we replicate that?”
He left them to it.
“So, Altair, still twisting the minds of our youth?”
Sam sighed and turned toward the voice approaching him as he was on his way to see the Dean of the Science Department at Queen’s. He’d noticed Riley in the office he just passed and had hoped he’d sneak by. No luck today.
“Dr. Riley. You’ll be happy to know that despite your efforts, I’m able to set them right in a relatively short time, once they come to work for me.”
Riley’s face darkened as he glowered at Sam. “You’re not getting all of them, Altair. I’ve managed to send some to safe employment on the continent.”
“Excellent!” Sam leaned forward solicitously. “Is there anything I can do for you, sir? I’m on my way to a meeting.”
“I intend to discuss your paper at the regents meeting later this month, Altair,” Riley told him.
Sam’s eyebrows nearly obtained orbit. “My paper? I have no paper out, Dr. Riley.”
Riley stood straight. “It makes no difference if one of your team wrote it, sir. You and I know the truth behind the work you are doing.” He reared back a little and examined Sam as if he were a specimen. “Capturing the sun? Is your plan to destroy the earth, Altair? Is that why you were sent here?”
Sam’s laugh was spontaneous and amazed. He found he couldn’t stop to even respond, so he just held up a hand, turned it into a wave, and stepped back to his path. He chuckled all the way to the dean’s office.
Later, Sam settled into his chair in the library at Dunallon, for a satisfying read of Einstein’s latest letter. Their correspondence had become a source of deep enjoyment for him, and he thought, for Einstein as well. Without ever acknowledging, in so many words, that Sam and Casey had traveled through time, Einstein had simply started writing as if it were all true and a simple fact of life. This allowed them to discuss all the ramifications, all the theories, all the dangers inherent in living in another time.
Although his theories were still new, and he had not completely worked out his General Theory, Einstein leaned toward the idea that Sam’s experiment had created an alternate universe. In that case, he admitted, he couldn’t see the point of trying not to change things. From his point of view, the future hadn’t happened yet, so he was open to any suggestions.
Sam loved Einstein’s sense of humor and joviality. Their letters touched on all subjects, including their own lives, frustrations, and joys. Sam wrote often about Casey and Tom, eventually telling him about Titanic and what they were doing. This was in response to Einstein once again inviting Sam to visit, so they could meet and perhaps work together.
“I will come out one day,” he had written, “but not until this situation is resolved. I’m actively helping Tom with the ship and with what I know happened that night. And I can’t leave Casey to face this alone. She is already afraid, but if we fail…I will never be able to leave her. She will need me, and I will stay with her until I die.”
Author’s Note: Chapter 28 is very small, so today you get two-for-one. Also, I’ll be giving you three posts a week from now on. It’s a long book!
Entry in Time Journal No. 2 of Casey Wilson Andrews, 1 June, 1908
It’s odd, how in all this time, it never occurred to me to write to you, but this time, this entry is for you, and for Dad. I have missed you so much and there have been so many times when I’ve said, “I wish my mother were here.” But I always accepted that you weren’t here and tried to carry on. Yet this is a way I can at least let you know what has happened. I really do wish you were here, Mom. You would be so happy and I think, you would be proud, too. Because, Mom, I have a baby.
He was born yesterday morning at 9:22 a.m., and he is simply amazing. I find I can’t take my eyes off of him. Even as I write, I keep glancing down at him, sleeping beside me as I sit in the bed. He is so soft and perfect, with a light brown fuzz of hair, and blue eyes. He’ll have his father’s strong face, I think, and if he has half of his father’s goodness, I’ll be satisfied. He’s a “bonny baby” as they say around here. His birth redness and wrinkles have faded already and he nurses as if he invented the concept.
His name is James Alan Wilson Andrews, in honor of Dad. This is a departure from Irish tradition, but when Tom suggested we name our first son and daughter after my parents, instead of his, I took the idea as the gift that it was. It helped to fill, just a bit, the emptiness where your voices used to be.
You’ll be happy to know, Mom, that some of your constant talk about pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding sank into my hard, teenaged head. You must have thought I wasn’t ever paying attention, but I was. Your wisdom has been with me constantly these last months, as I’ve dealt with primitive medicine and old-fashioned, misogynist viewpoints. I ate well, I walked and exercised, and I stayed active right up to the end. I tried to follow your ideas for labor and delivery, but in this time, they are so uptight about it. They keep wanting the mother to be “modest,” of all things! Stay in bed, stay covered up, don’t walk around, don’t squat… I had to keep arguing about all that so I could do what I felt I needed to do. I never had a chance to relax, like you always said to do. My doctor is very formal and kind of cold–where are all the kind country doctors I always heard about? But he did treat me with some respect and talked to me about what was happening. So my labor was hard and painful, but without any complications. It didn’t last horribly long; only about fifteen hours for the whole thing. It was a lot of hard work, but I was prepared for that. I heard your voice as I labored. You were with me in spirit, Mom, both as mother and doctor, and I will always be grateful.
It occurs to me that, even if you get this journal, you may not be the same James and Theresa Wilson whose 20 year old daughter went missing one night in Belfast. We are fairly sure that we’re in an alternate universe. If that is the case, I suppose this letter is more for me than for you. I just have to tell you both that I am well, and I am happy. That I miss you so much, and always, I will wish we could be together. I love you.
Casey Ashley Wilson Andrews
Tom watched in disbelief as his uncle and Bruce Ismay prepared to end the meeting without addressing his agenda item to discuss a double hull and higher bulkheads. This pretty much told him what his chances of success were, but he couldn’t let them just ignore it. As the end of July neared, they were approaching the final design conference before White Star gave the go ahead to start building the ships. There would be months of design work even after that happened, but right now, he needed Bruce’s informal approval. He rapped on the table and held up a hand.
“Gentlemen. There is one more item to discuss.”
Lord Pirrie looked at him in exasperation while Ismay turned to him with raised brows. “Well, Tom, I think we’ve more or less taken care of that item.”
Tom swallowed his anger and tried to speak with a reasonable tone. “Sweeping it under the rug, is not the same as taking care of it.” He leaned toward Ismay earnestly. “Bruce, you are going to have the largest, most luxurious vessels on the ocean. You want the cream of society to use your ships on all their runs between Europe and America. These are people who have choices, Bruce. You need to be able to tell them that not only will they travel in complete luxury, they will also travel in nearly complete safety. The only way to make these ships truly safe is to build the double hull and extend those bulkheads. The design you’ve approved does not do that.”
Ismay shook his head. “Thomas, we’ve been putting out ships all along without these features. You’ve been content with the safety of those ships, and indeed, there have been no major problems at all. With the double bottom and the fifteen bulkheads you’ve proposed, these liners will already be among the safest ships on the sea. Why, as large as they are, and with these features, they’re practically unsinkable. I fully intend to make sure the world knows that, don’t you worry about it.”
Tom gaped at Ismay. “Unsinkable! How can you say that? No one in this firm has ever said such a thing! Any ship can be sunk, and we are obligated to do all that our technology can do to keep them afloat and provide regress in an emergency. Any less is murder!”
Ismay smirked. “Your Irish passions are getting the better of you, Thomas. You and Carlisle have made a lot of demands, including up to sixty-four lifeboats. Now I will remind you, just as I reminded him, these are my ships. And according to our contract, I have final say on the design. I’ll not waste money on extraneous features, and I’ll not have so many of those little boats cluttering up my decks and putting fear into my passengers.”
Ismay turned to go. “Bottom line, Thomas, bottom line. The profit margins are nearly nonexistent as it is. We do what we know will work for these ships. No more, no less. Good day, Gentlemen.”
Ismay walked out and Tom rounded on his uncle. “How can you let him get away with that? He’s going to tell the world these ships are unsinkable? There’s no greater nonsense in the world!”
Lord Pirrie held up his hands. “Of course he’s not going to say that, Tom. You heard him. He said ‘practically unsinkable’ and lord knows that’s true. I can’t imagine a disaster that will sink these vessels. I know you’ve run up a scenario, but honestly, Tommy, it’s just too unlikely. I appreciate your willingness to stick your neck out on this, but keep in mind that Carlisle is heading this project. Although,” he said as he headed out the door, “like you, he does want more lifeboats. We’ll keep working on that, eh?”
He left Tom alone with his thoughts.
Later that night, Tom walked the baby to sleep, keeping near the fire in the nursery. The wind threw rain at the house, rattling the windows. He could hear the trees brushing the roof. The peacefulness of the nursery surrounded him, but made no effort to enter. He watched his son sleeping in his arms, the little lips sucking quietly in his dreams.
He loved his work. This was as near a definition of the man he was, as anything in his life had ever been. For eighteen years, he had given himself, heart and soul, to the art of building ships. More than that, his dedication was to the firm that had nurtured him and given him a path through life that, in the joy and creativity it had engendered, surpassed any dreams of his hopeful boyhood. The idea of walking away was a necessity his mind understood, but his heart fought it.
The door opened and Casey entered, a small smile flitting across her face when she saw them. She settled in the rocking chair and opened her book. Tom knew she was just wanting to be nearby. He had not talked to her yet, but Casey usually knew if he was upset. He had not been able to eat dinner, but had just squeezed her hand at her concern. They would talk later, he had promised.
When he thought Jamie was well and truly asleep, he placed him in his crib, covering him as Casey came over to give the baby a goodnight touch. She then slipped her hand into Tom’s and followed him out, leaving the nursery to the storm and Penny’s watchful eye.
He tilted his head toward the parlor and they went, arms around the other’s waist, to sit on the divan in front of the fire. Tom cupped her face in his hands and gazed at her a moment, comforted at seeing the love she had for him.
She caressed his neck. “What’s happened, love?”
He looked away from her, seeing himself arguing with his uncle and Ismay, and tried to ease the tightness in his chest. “Uncle Will and I met with Ismay this afternoon. I knew it wouldn’t go well, but I was… I am… incredulous at how bad it was. Ismay is not giving me anything I asked for. It’s all out, as far as he’s concerned.” He heard Casey’s soft gasp beside him and turned back to her, squeezing her shoulders. “I have only one option left me, Casey. I knew as I left that meeting, and I have been thinking and thinking about it, but I see no other way.” His face twisted with pain. “I cannot build these ships. Tomorrow I’m going to give Uncle Will my letter of resignation.”
Just saying the words caused his heart to contract, and he closed his eyes. As he did, he saw, very clearly, Sam’s drawing of the Titanic, split in two, the stern in the air. Although Sam had not included them in the drawing, he saw the people frantically holding onto his ship, onto the one solid thing in that cold, watery existence.
He finally got a good breath and he opened his eyes. Whatever the cost to him, this one action he took now would forever change the fate of fifteen hundred people. Not just them either, but all of the others on the ship and their families. His family too, and the entire town of Belfast. Oh, they’d get the ships built and people would sail on them. But they wouldn’t be finished on time. Titanic would never sail in April 1912.
Casey was holding his hand as tightly as she could, and he slowly raised her hand to his lips, seeing his pain mirrored in her face. She followed her hand with her lips and kissed him softly. “I will hope that you find another way, but I know you would do anything else before this, if you could. I’m so sorry, Tom.”
He smiled sadly at her. “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever even thought of doing, but Casey, if by doing this I save those lives…. There will be a life to live later. I know that.”
He pulled her to him and kissed her deeply. Then he stood up. “I need to work on the letter. I won’t come to bed until it’s done.”
In the end, he never got to bed at all. He worked for a while in the library, but as the house settled down, he felt somehow haunted. Casey had gone to bed, so he picked up his papers and pen and moved to the bedroom to be near her. He sat at the small desk in the corner, with the lamp shaded so not to awaken her. Once, after getting up to feed the baby, she touched Tom’s head softly as she went back to bed.
He wrote, scratched out, wrote more, thought often. Twice, he had to throw away paper when a tear smeared the ink. In those moments, every happy year he had spent at Harland & Wolff came to him, from the first bewildering and hectic years as an apprentice in each department, to the rushing days of management. His mind called up drafts, faces, ships of all sizes, rivets with their chalks of approval, crews, laborers, cranes and gantries.
In all that time, there had been many disagreements, artistic differences, and contrary opinions, many times indeed. Their work was not mindless; it required all their thought and love to perform to perfection. Disagreements were part of the process. Eighteen years of toil, excitement, joy, amazement, experimentation, laughter.
He saw no other way. Finally, as the clock struck 4:30, he finished a copy of the letter, which he placed in his safe. Then he dressed and woke Casey, needing her touch to get him through the next hours.
Last night’s rain had turned into a clear, gleaming dawn. Tom reached his uncle’s office before Lord Pirrie was there, and he decided just to wait. He stared at the floor, but saw nothing except snatches of his letter. He held his hat and unneeded umbrella, for all the world the picture of a man just dropping in and then leaving. It was odd enough that Saxon, the secretary, gave him a hard, concerned look before turning away to the files.
Lord Pirrie arrived within a few minutes, moving quickly and already giving orders to Saxon. He stopped dead at the sight of Tom, who raised his head to regard his uncle tiredly. Eyebrows raised nearly to his hairline, Lord Pirrie greeted him. “Thomas! Good morning!” He gave him an intent look and gestured into his office. “You look like hell, lad. Are you ill?”
Tom followed Lord Pirrie in and stood before the desk. He had not thought of a way to start this conversation, and now he simply removed the letter from his pocket and handed it to his uncle. “I’ve spent the night in thought, Uncle Will. This decision has not been easy, but I am turning in my resignation.”
Lord Pirrie stared at Tom in complete befuddlement, not reaching for the letter. His mouth moved a couple of times before any sound came out. “Well I won’t accept it!” He stated at last, his voice loud in the silent office. “This is about Bruce, isn’t it? Look, Tommy, I know he was out of line yesterday, but he does have final say…”
Tom silenced him by throwing the letter on the desk. “I will not build those ships using his criteria, sir. As a managing director of this firm, when I build a ship and declare it finished, it must meet my criteria, because the world expects no less. These ships are fragile, and you know it. Bruce Ismay does not want a shipbuilder, he wants a puppet. I will not be that puppet.” He straightened angrily. “The question came to this: ‘Would I put my wife and son on one of those ships’? The answer is no, I would not. And that, sir, is my bottom line.”
He seemed to deflate as he pointed at the letter. “My resignation is effective immediately. I would like time to clean out my office and then I’ll be gone.”
He turned to go and nearly reached the door before his uncle spoke. “Thomas.” A choked voice, a voice that made Tom blink and turn around. His uncle was staring at the letter that he had still not picked up. After a moment, Lord Pirrie raised his eyes to his nephew. “Tom, don’t clear out your office, yet. Give me one day. Please. Just go home and give me one day to see what I can do. That’s all I ask.”
Tom sighed. “Uncle, I’m not bluffing about this. I won’t be placated or coddled.”
Lord Pirrie nodded. “I know. Just one day, Tommie.”
Tom blinked back tears of anguish and exhaustion, then nodded, once. “All right. Call me tonight.”
He left and walked blindly to the drafting room. He had promised not to clean his office, but one book locked in his safe belonged to him and he could not leave it under these circumstances. Waving Ham back into his seat for the moment, Tom went in to his office and closed the door. Taking the small key from his pocket, he unlocked the safe and took out his time travel journal, placing it in the raincoat’s inside pocket. He stopped to talk briefly to Ham.
“There’s a situation, Ham. I promise I’ll talk to you about it later, but for now, just cancel today’s appointments. I’ll be at home, but no calls, no messages. Nothing at all.” He patted Ham’s shoulder and left Queen’s Island.
Tom was in the parlor after dinner, when the bell rang. He continued to stare into the fire as Mrs. Pennyworth went to the door. A wave of fear, mixed with relief, moved through his body when he heard his uncle’s voice greeting Casey and teasing the baby. He stood, dread nailing him into place.
“Where is that nephew of mine, dear?” he heard Pirrie say. “Will he speak to me?”
“I’m here, Uncle,” Tom paused in the parlor doorway. His uncle was holding the baby, laughing down at him. Was that a good sign? “Come on in.”
He waited as Pirrie handed Casey his coat, hat, and the baby. He returned Lord Pirrie’s appraising stare before gesturing him to a seat. Tom knew he looked terrible–his head had been pounding all day.
Pirrie opened his briefcase and pulled out an envelope. Tom followed his movements warily. Leaving the envelope on his lap, Lord Pirrie steepled his fingers as he gazed at Tom. “You had us running today, lad. I’ve spent most of today talking to Bruce, with a few telegrams to Morgan in New York.” He paused as Mrs. Pennyworth brought in tea and cakes, leaving them on the table.
“I’ll leave out the details for now, but,” he handed Tom the envelope, “you’ve got the higher bulkheads and sixty-four lifeboats, if Alex can come up with a davit design that works. Bruce won’t give on the double hull and I’m taking the chance that you’ll compromise. This is an addendum to the contract for the Olympic Line. All it needs is the Managing Director’s signature.”
For a moment, Tom didn’t move, his eyes on the envelope. We got it. Almost everything we asked for. Slowly, he reached out and took it, removing the papers inside. Lord Pirrie continued, “There’s the original and a copy for you. Take your time and look it over. If you decide to sign, bring it in with you in the morning.”
Tom nodded, laying the papers flat on his lap, then looking up at his uncle. He felt lighter, somehow. “Thank you, Uncle Will.” A twitch moved his cheek and he took a deep breath. “It could be better, but I promise, this will make White Star and Harland & Wolff better companies. These ships will be unbeatable.”
Lord Pirrie smiled at that. “I have no doubt, Tommy.” He cocked an eyebrow. “Tom, did you actually think they could let you walk away? Do you have any idea how that would have looked to the rest of the world?”
Tom laughed a little. “Casey mentioned something about that, today. Believe me, I hadn’t even thought of it. I just knew I couldn’t build those ships.”
“You’re considered one the best shipbuilders in the world, lad, maybe the best. If you had left us for these reasons, both companies would be out of business in a year. People wouldn’t sail on our ships. I’m just counting my blessings that you didn’t ask for a huge raise, too!”
Tom did laugh at that, shaking his head. Lord Pirrie reached over to pat his knee. “Some of us do know what it would have done to you to leave the firm, son. I have no doubt that you would have left, if it came to that. But Tommy, it would have killed you.”
Tom thought of a metaphorical death versus a cold, real one at the bottom of the Atlantic. He smiled sadly at his uncle. “Perhaps. I have certainly never hurt so much as in the last twenty-four hours.”
Lord Pirrie stood to go, reaching out to shake Tom’s hand. “You keep giving vent to those Irish passions, lad. They work well on you, but I want to get one thing straight.” He looked Tom sternly in the eye, still gripping his hand. “You have concerns in the future, you bring them to me and I’ll give them a hearing. But I am the head of this company, Thomas, and you still have a lot to learn. You can disagree, but you better back it up, and when I give the final word, it’s final. I need to know I can depend on you, Tom, like I always have. Can you work under those terms?”
Tom’s mouth tightened, but he nodded slowly. “Aye, Sir. I can.”
He walked to the door with his uncle. “I want you to know how grateful I am that you believe in me as you do. I really am devoted to the firm, Uncle Will. There’s nothing else I would want to do in my life.”
As he closed the door after his uncle, he heard Casey on the stairs, and turned to her. She stood on the bottom step and opened her arms as he walked into them.
Final approval for the Olympic-class ships came on 31 July 1908, just in time for the new financial year. Lord Pirrie waved White Star’s letter of approval as he stood on the landing near his office, and the men on the floor erupted into cheers. The first two ships were numbers 400 and 401, and work would begin on them straight away. The directors and shareholders, along with their spouses, celebrated with a dinner at Ormiston House, where Lord Pirrie opened several bottles of champagne, noting that Harland & Wolff did not christen their ships at launching in the usual way, but by gum, they’d celebrate the contract correctly!
The work proceeded in all haste. Tom and the other directors put in many hours wrapping up the designs and preparing orders for construction. In September, they gave the orders to the yard and engine works to proceed with preparations, and made up their reports for material purchases. It seemed to Tom that the entire year would run on adrenaline. The meetings were endless, the workforce was expanding rapidly, and finally, on 16 December 1908, they laid the keel for the first ship. The keel for Titanic would be laid in March; her construction would trail Olympic’s by three months. As he watched them lay Olympic’s keel, supervising from the plans rolled out in front of him, Tom felt as if he had just stepped up and shaken hands with destiny. There was no turning back.
“I’d like to see some colorful perennials along this border,” said a soft, whispery voice. Casey, engrossed in the garden design Mrs. Herceforth had presented to the Horticultural Society, looked up to see who had spoken. Lady Talbot was a tiny woman with a candy-sweet disposition. Casey could take her only in small doses, but she knew the woman meant well.
Lady Talbot was moving her finger along the border in question, which Mrs. Herceforth had so far left blank. Casey agreed that color would be nice, but her brows crinkled in puzzlement when the finger stopped moving before reaching the end of the design area. She put her own finger on the spot.
“Don’t you want to continue it?”
Lady Talbot shook her head sadly. “I’m afraid, dear, that this part of the design will have to be discarded.” Seeing that Casey did not understand, although Mrs. Herceforth was nodding in agreement, Lady Talbot offered an explanation. “It’s been declared a Catholic area, dear. Quite recently, you see. We can’t plant there.”
Casey rolled her eyes, unable to hide her annoyance. “Why not? Why is it we have no gardens planned for those areas?”
“Now Mrs. Andrews, you know the reason.” The speaker was Mike Sloan, who to Casey’s extreme displeasure, had joined the society, solely for his own political purposes. Or, she thought with bitter rancor, to torture me. He wasn’t interested in joining before.
“Remind me, Mr. Sloan.” She found it so hard to be polite to him.
He was always willing to repeat his beliefs. “We keep to our own areas. If they want gardens, they can make their own.”
She tightened her lips in an effort to not yell at him. She counted to three, then spoke. “That’s all you do, you know. Prevent us from building gardens. Why did you even join the society? You don’t care about gardens.”
“Aye, that’s true,” he admitted without shame. “Before, I had no problem just reminding the society, once in a while, to do the right thing for the loyal Protestants of Belfast. But since you joined,” he gave her a little bow, as if to a worthy adversary, “I felt it was necessary to step up my efforts. I know how subtle ye can be.”
A few of the others shifted uncomfortably and Mrs. Herceforth broke in. “For now, I suggest we plan the gardens we know we can finish. That will be a difficult enough job.” She patted Casey’s hand. “The rest will come in its own time.”
The others all agreed and quickly brought the discussion back to the plan. Casey watched and didn’t offer any other suggestions.
The Horticultural Society had a large wall map of the Belfast area hanging in the office. Casey stood gazing at the map in early February. Push pins marked areas of planned and actual gardens. A red line demarcated the Catholic areas, which were bereft of pins. She could see places where natural landscaping progressions were cut off because they would have gone into those zones. This is ridiculous, she told herself, and I’m going to do something about it.
So a few days later, she and Penny made their way to a bookseller who had maps. She purchased her own map of Belfast and brought it back to Dunallon, setting it up in a corner of the library. When she had time to spare, she worked on her plans, extrapolating from the plans put forth by the Society. Tom and Sam knew she was doing it. Both agreed that in the case of nature and landscaping, it was best to look at Belfast as a whole, rather than a series of disjointed neighborhoods. Tom cautioned her often to keep in mind that she could not just ignore the politics and she promised him she wouldn’t.
For a while, she had other things to worry about, especially her desperate wish that her mother could be with her at this time. Her mother, the former hippie, liberal and practical about all things related to sex. Her mother, the obstetrician, who had talked all the time about how to handle a pregnancy and prepare for childbirth. Casey could hear her lecture, as she railed about patients who thought the only thing they had to do to have a baby was screw somebody. “It’s a marathon. If you were going to run a marathon in nine months, you would start preparing. You would eat right, you would exercise, you would train, and you would find out all you needed to know about your body and what happens to it when running. You wouldn’t just ignore it until you were dropped off at the starting line.”
Theresa Wilson specialized in helping women deliver babies without drugs, in comfortable environments. She volunteered with shelters for the homeless and domestic violence victims. She took cases pro bono and passed out birth control and condoms like they were candy. Casey’s upbringing could not have been further from the uptight and oppressive Edwardian society in which she found herself. It was a society on edge—still believing that pregnancy should not be mentioned in mixed company, but willing to let male medical doctors take control of deliveries. Casey had no doubt that the current practices of those doctors would horrify her mother.
“It turns out,” she told Tom as they walked through the neighborhood one evening, “that prenatal care is still a pipe dream at this time.”
They walked whenever they could, if Tom did not have to work late. Despite the immodesty of her condition, Tom basked with pride when people passed them, seeing him with his beautiful wife who was carrying his child.
Now, however, he screwed up his face in an effort to put sense to her words. “Pipe dream?”
“You know.” She gestured, drawing something in the air. “As in smoking opium or something. The hallucinations you get from that are pipe dreams.”
He laughed. “What a vivid description! But how is prenatal care a pipe dream?”
“It doesn’t really exist. At least, not in any real form, yet.”
“Oh. How so?”
“I saw a doctor today.” Casey stopped walking and looked at Tom, only her face visible under the layers of winter protection. “I liked him well enough and I’ll probably stick with him.”
Tom felt a wave of relief; he’d been worried she’d try to do without anyone at all. “That’s wonderful, sweetheart! What did he say?”
She shrugged. “The usual. The baby is fine…” she paused and rubbed her stomach, her voice softening slightly. Tom’s heart beat a little faster just watching her.
“…and,” she continued with a sigh, “I shouldn’t worry my little head about anything. He’ll give me ether and make sure I don’t suffer at all.” Her laugh was bitter, and Tom rubbed her arms.
“But you don’t want ether. Did you tell him that?” He was confused and worried. Her moods really did change quickly these days and he didn’t think she was as logical about things as she used to be.
“Of course I told him.” She resumed walking and Tom followed.
“And he listened. He actually talked to me about it for a few minutes, instead of just patting me on the head and sending me away. He’s willing to let me try it my way as long as he can have his equipment nearby. I’m afraid I lied to him a little.”
“Lied to him? About what?”
“When I’ve talked to other doctors, I’d tell them my mother was a doctor, to help them see that I might know what I’m talking about. That she told me about this stuff.”
Tom nodded. He knew this much.
“It never seemed to do any good,” she said, her voice shaking a little. “They suggested she wasn’t properly trained or wasn’t able to be objective about birth, since she was a woman. So this time, I told him my father was the doctor. Immediate respect!”
Tom pulled her into a hug. “I am amazed sometimes, at how obtuse men can be. There’s no wonder so many women are protesting in the streets.”
“Tom, I’ll need you to help.” Her voice was muffled in his coat and he lifted her chin with a finger.
“Help how, dear? What do you mean?”
“I told him I don’t want drugs and I certainly don’t want him using forceps unless I agree to it. He has to really convince me it’s necessary and not just convenient for him. And he was willing to go along with it, but I could see he was unhappy about it.”
“What can I do?”
“Stick up for me, if he wants to force the issue. Especially when I’m in labor. I want to concentrate on having the baby, not arguing with my doctor.”
He felt sick with dread at her words. “I will always stick up for you, Casey. But if you’re suffering, or the baby is in danger, how will I know what’s the right thing to do? That’s why we have a doctor.”
“Just make him explain it.” Her eyes filled with tears. “I’ve told you how dangerous the drugs can be and about the damage forceps can cause. Even your own mother knows of babies permanently disfigured by them.”
She stood straighter, determined. “I’m going to do everything I can to do this right, Tom. But in the end, none of us knows how it will go, and I know that things can go wrong. That’s why I’m using a doctor. But help me have a chance, first.”
He nodded. Then he just held her.
Sam worried about her, too, and mentioned his concern to Mrs. Pennyworth. The two of them had gradually established a habit of sharing a spot of brandy or tea in her basement apartment after the other servants were dismissed for the night. She was a sensible woman and had no objections to an occasional nip, although she had been uncertain about the propriety of imbibing with her mistress’ guardian. But Casey seemed quietly pleased about the growing relationship. Sam suspected she was also amused. She wasn’t above teasing him occasionally.
“’Tis not unusual for a young girl to be frightened at this time,” Mrs. Pennyworth said with a thoughtful air. “I imagine she really misses her mother, too.”
Sam nodded. “I know she does. I’m sure this is an experience she had always planned on sharing with her.” He stood to crank the gramophone, wincing at the sound of the music. I really need to work on that, he thought as he sat back down. “What about you, Gladys? Do you have any advice for her?”
She had expressive eyebrows and they registered severe disapproval at his question, but she answered. “I don’t, really.”
“No children?” Sam asked, somewhat carelessly.
Her lips tightened. “One. Stillborn, you see. I thought it best to not mention it to the mistress.”
Sam touched her hair gently, flushing with regret. “That’s probably wise. I’m sorry, Gladys. It must have been a difficult time.”
Her expression softened. “Ach, you’re a sweet man, Sam Altair. It’s kind of you to care.” She shook her head a little. “It was twenty-five years ago and I’ve learned to move on. It’s for the best perhaps, since Mr. Pennyworth never did get a feel for work.” Her eyes crinkled in amusement and Sam moved a little closer to kiss her.
A March rain pounded the house as Sam finished a sketch in his journal one cold night. He gazed critically at it for a moment before putting the pencil down. The electric lights Tom had installed flickered occasionally, but managed to stay lit. He glanced over at Tom, who sat by the library fire reading through his copy of Maeterlinck’s “The Life of the Bee.” He didn’t realize he’d sighed until Tom looked up, finger marking his place in the book.
“Problem?” Tom seemed to bask like a proud Irish chieftain: his home was warm and secure, filled with industrious servants and artful treasures, his wife was pregnant and well-cared for, his land was ready for planting.
The household was settling down for the evening. Casey, whose back ached constantly in her last months of pregnancy, had decided a bath might help. Tom and Sam had retreated to the library, with drinks of choice and the chance to work on reading or writing.
Sam hated to disturb his peace, and with another glance at the drawing, he shook his head and closed the time travel journal. “Not anything you need to worry about at this point. Just working on a question you’d asked about recently; there’s time to deal with it later.”
Tom’s brows twitched downward in bemusement and he stood, leaving his book on the seat. “Ah now, you’ve got me curious,” he said as he reached for the journal, leaning against the desk. “Let’s have a look.”
Sam just watched, hands folded, as Tom flipped to the last entry. The sketch made an impact–Tom was still, his face thoughtful and tight as he stared at the page. After a moment, his fingers traced the outline of his ship, broken in two, with the bow all but gone beneath a still sea, represented by a wavy line, the stern’s broken end exposed and beginning to fill with water.
Sam cleared his throat. “You had asked me about the structural integrity. About how the ship held up during the sinking.” Tom nodded, not looking up, and Sam continued. “I don’t remember why it broke in two, I just know it did. I guess because of all the water pulling it down by the head.” He shrugged. “This is what I remember of the pictures I’d seen. Which, by the way, were all artist’s renditions. There were no actual photographs of the sinking, you know.”
Tom put the book down, his lips pursed as he continued to stare at it. “I wanted to know if the ship held up well enough to last for several hours. It won’t do any good to keep her afloat if she starts falling apart because of pressure.” He shook his head, dismayed. “This won’t do, at all.”
“Tom.” Sam held out a hand. “I remember that people had decided the ship was as perfect as possible. There were arguments back and forth over various issues, but in the end, all the investigations proved she was as strong as your technology could make her. You couldn’t have done any better.”
The smile that touched Tom’s face was bitter as he regarded his friend. “Well, now I can do better. What twenty-first century technology will improve her?”
Sam shrugged again. “You figure out why she broke in two. I’ll give you any ideas I have.”
Tom stopped into Alexander Carlisle’s office the next day and tried to explain his concerns. Carlisle didn’t seem to understand.
“I don’t know what you’re after, Tom.” His boss interrupted his questions with a frustrated wave of his hand. “The steel is the best quality we can make, the frame you’ve designed is solid and true. It certainly meets all the requirements. What else do you want?”
Tom rubbed his face, the pencil he held clicking roughly against his wedding ring. He stared at the plan rolled out on Carlisle’s desk and muttered, “I don’t know what I did before. How can I know what to change now?”
“I’m sorry?” Carlisle hadn’t heard him at all, which was just as well. There was no explaining a remark like that.
Tom shook his head and tried again. “I want to understand what happens to the frame and the plates if the ship is sinking. What are the stresses? What are the vectors? What’s the weakest point?”
Carlisle sat back and blinked several times, lips pursed tight as he stared at Tom. When he finally spoke, it was with the air of a man humoring an unreasoning person. “I guess it would depend on the manner of sinking. On the location and extent of the damage. The rate of water flow.” He gestured helplessly. “It depends on a dozen or more variables, Tom. You can’t build the frame to withstand all of them. It would be impossible.”
“By the head.” Tom stood and picked up the small model ship on Carlisle’s credenza, tilting the bow downward. “Damage on the starboard side, forepeak through five compartments.” He stopped as Carlisle shook his head, holding up his hands.
“Is this your iceberg scenario from a several months ago? Honestly, Tommy, I thought we settled that.”
“We put it away,” Tom reminded him. “We haven’t settled it.”
“And we’re not going to.” Carlisle rose and gently took the model from his cousin’s hands and put it back on its stand. “White Star doesn’t expect us to justify every expense but we’ve never tried to pass on extensive research costs to them, either. You uncle won’t do it this time, that’s for sure. These ships already will cost a fortune.”
He put an arm around Tom’s shoulders, leading him to the door. “The ships will be fine, Tommy. Relax.” He smiled as a thought occurred to him. “You’re nervous about your upcoming fatherhood, lad. That’s all. Thinking about all the things that can go wrong in the world.” He held a finger before Tom’s face. “’Tis normal, lad. Shows you’re a conscientious fellow.” He patted Tom’s shoulder. “Go on with ye and let me get some work done. And give your wife a kiss from me.”
They spent the week never more than a few feet from each other. He took her hunting and fishing, they fell asleep one night while counting the stars, swam in an inland pond, and made love all over the cottage and a few interesting places outside. Casey had brought her “boy pants,” but somehow, this time there was no mistaking her gender. It was warm enough during the day that a couple of times, she wore just the pants and her camisole, as if she were in the twenty-first century. Tom swore he loved the look.
When they returned home, they settled into Dunallon and got to know their house staff. Gladys Pennyworth was their housekeeper, a managerial position which required her to carry out Casey’s plans and desires for the household. She would handle everything from the servants’ working conditions to the meals the family would eat, acting as an intermediary between employers and servants.
She was a friendly, buxom widow, about fifty years old, and Casey had sensed from the start that they would get along well. Mrs. Pennyworth was often bewildered by the odd ways of her new mistress, but seemed to decide Casey’s oddness was offset by her fairness. Casey insisted all the servants take every Sunday off and half a day during the week. She wanted to give them a full day off during the week, but Mrs. Pennyworth warned her that would be too much of a departure from accepted practices.
“They won’t know how to handle themselves with that much free time, Mistress,” she said over tea in the library, as the two of them had their first discussion about the household. “Ye have to remember, most of ’em are verra young. They need to learn discipline and be kept out of trouble.”
Casey couldn’t quite hide her distaste at being a stern taskmaster. Mrs. Pennyworth relented a little. “Ye might consider an extra day now and then as a treat for them; perhaps for birthdays or such. And ye’ve already said to give each of them a week’s holiday every year. ‘Tis plenty off-time, Mistress, truly.”
Casey did want to pay their servants well and in this, Tom agreed with her. As an apprentice, he had been appalled at the conditions in which the shipyard workers lived. He often had vehement discussions with his uncle about their pay, pointing out that most of them were highly skilled and the work was hard. They deserved a wage good enough to support their families. He’d had only a little luck in convincing his uncle, but he was determined to pay his own workers a respectable wage.
“But good conditions bring increased responsibility,” he told Casey, almost lecturing, somewhat to her amusement. “Sloppy work will bring dismissal.” She agreed to be firm about it.
The plans for the new ships were a top priority, and Tom fell full tilt into the designs. He spent several evenings a week discussing those plans with Sam and Casey, trying to get an idea of what new features might be needed. Sam offered to have his researchers run experiments.
“We might look into more efficient pumps, for one thing,” he told Tom during one of their discussions. “You need something to slow the water filling the compartments.”
Casey sat on the desk, watching them. “Are ships in the future made of the same kind of metal, Sam?” she asked. “Aren’t there lighter metals that won’t sink as fast?”
“The alloy’s a bit stronger,” he said slowly. “I don’t know very much about it, though. I think our ships were made of heavy, dense steel just like now.” He shrugged. “For the most part.”
Sam was at Dunallon so often that by October he decided he may as well move in. “The food and company,” he said, “are both better than what I get at my own place.” His gaze was on Mrs. Pennyworth as he said this, and Casey noted that her housekeeper seemed pleased when Sam moved in, preparing his favorite dishes for dinner and wearing a new brown ribbon in her hair.
Casey asked Tom if she could have a greenhouse. “If we get it done before winter, I can start growing vegetables and herbs for us in there. We’ll always have a steady supply.”
“Certainly.” He seemed pleased. “It won’t be fancy, but I can draw up something. I’ll call the builder and see if he can do it.”
She and Tom did the design for it together, joking that while Tom wanted dream ships, Casey wanted a dream greenhouse. With Tom and their maintenance man, William, helping, the builder was able to have it finished by early November. Casey stocked it with tables and rows of soil and potted plants. She continued to help out at the Palm House, and with the horticultural and agriculture societies. She was busier than ever, and slowly began to feel comfortable with her role in this strange time.
Sam’s secretary tossed a journal on the desk in front of him, interrupting his review of an experiment. He glanced at it, then up at MacDonald.
“You’ll want to see the letter on page six, sir,” MacDonald informed him, turning to leave again. “And the chairman of the Albright group is expecting your call.”
Sam groaned. Colin Riley had begun a prolific campaign of letter writing to several newspapers and science journals, berating industry for hiring “charlatans” and “yes-men” to invent or test new products. So far, he stopped just short of libel, managing not to actually mention the telephone company, or Sam, by name.
But it was clear enough who he was after, hence, the phone call to the Albright chairman. Sam would have to call him and explain away Riley’s latest diatribe.
He thought Riley’s campaign was childish and useless, but it did serve to upset Lord Dunmore, who was concerned that if the king heard degrading rumors, he might rescind Dunmore’s appointment. Or that investors, such as the Albright chairman, would back out of funding them. So Dunmore had been keeping Sam on a tighter leash, administratively. He wanted documentation to prove he’d kept control, if it were ever needed.
Sam had always kept thorough records, and he met with Dunmore to go step-by-step over the procedures he had set up. Dunmore was impressed, muttering several times that “Riley won’t be able to get through this.” He didn’t know, of course, that Sam was thorough because he wanted a record left for future scientists. He didn’t notice that Sam was handpicking his team using criteria beyond what was needed in communications, nor that Sam was grooming them to carry on a vision. The scientists themselves didn’t know this, yet.
They had already taken several steps toward Sam’s goal. The hot water heater that Dunmore had sold for an obscene amount of money had been a practical application of the team’s research into recycling steam escaping from factories. He’d simply encouraged them to think of a way to capture and re-use the steam for energy. Not even Sam had been thinking of hot water heaters for homes. One of his young recruits had done that. Sam reminded Dunmore often that by allowing his team freedom to explore, he was enriching himself, and providing a better standard of living for everyone.
Casey felt a little thrill when she began to suspect she was pregnant. It happened almost immediately. By the middle of October she was certain enough to tell Tom.
They sat on the divan in their bedroom. He just looked at her, the corners of his mouth turned up a bit, and he didn’t move at all. He held her hand, watching her in silence, until she bit her lip in concern. He shook his head, his smile abashed. “I’ve never felt this before,” he said, squeezing her hand, then placing his hand over his heart. His voice was husky. “I love you so much, Casey. You…” he paused, and motioned downward to encompass her whole body. “Everything in my life, in my heart, is in you. You have no idea the power you have over me.”
She had no words for that, so she just slipped her arms around him and rested against him.
Even after four months of marriage, Casey still felt awkward around her mother-in-law, although she was quite fond of her. They had begun weekly knitting lessons at Ardara House, and on a cold December morning, Casey sat in front of the fire, holding her hands up for Mrs. Andrews to roll the yarn around. Outside, rain was falling, but the sitting room was warm, with winter decorations on the mantle and hot cocoa laid out on a silver tray next to the divan. Casey thought it all very Courier & Ives, and although she had no patience with knitting, she did enjoy these cozy mornings. But today, she couldn’t relax. “Mother, may I ask you a personal question?”
“Of course, dear. With the caveat that I may not want to answer it.” Mrs. Andrews smiled gently to show she was teasing, and continued to put the yarn in its place.
“Will you tell me about your childbirth experiences?” Casey asked the question in one big rush, afraid to bring the subject up but too concerned to ignore it. Tom had told her that traditionally, no one must be told about a pregnancy for at least three months and then, only those closest to the couple. They had just recently let his parents know, although Casey had told Sam right away, since the rules didn’t apply to him. But now that her mother-in-law knew, Casey was desperate for answers about childbirth in this era.
“I don’t know how most women handle it. Do they use a doctor or a midwife? Do they have the baby at home or a hospital?” She paused to take a breath and then waited as Mrs. Andrews put the yarn down and stared with tight lips at Casey, her expression shocked and unhappy. Casey cringed inwardly. Was this a taboo subject?
After a moment, Mrs. Andrews’ expression softened and she shook her head. “You poor child. You really have missed out on so much by not having sisters, or your mother around. Normally, it would be she who would tell you about this. But Casey, you don’t need to worry about it yet. You have several months before your child comes.”
Casey bit her lip, staring at the yarn on her hands, then shook her head. “But I will worry about it. I need to be prepared. The more I know, the easier I’ll feel.”
An eyebrow went up and contributed to the doubtful look on Mrs. Andrews’ face. “Not all knowledge is helpful. However, I do understand what you mean.” She picked up the yarn again. “Now I had all my children at home, of course, but my youngest is twenty-one years old. Since that time, I believe more doctors have begun to handle deliveries.” She looked uncomfortable, but continued. “I don’t know that I approve of that, but one mustn’t block progress, I suppose. Still, I would never recommend that an upper-class woman use a hospital. Jessie and Nina had their babies at home, although they were attended by a doctor, as that is considered much safer than a midwife.”
She tilted her head and considered her youngest daughter-in-law. “As to my own experiences, I will only tell you, Casey, that childbirth is absolutely the hardest thing you will ever do. It is painful, as the good book tells us, and also humiliating. You just need to remember that this is the lot of women, and most get through it just fine. At the end, you have a precious little baby in your arms. That is worth all of it.”
Casey swallowed, eyes still on the yarn. Then, taking a deep breath, she looked up at Mrs. Andrews and gave her a small smile. “Thank you. I really am looking forward to that part!”
Helping himself to some of the raw greens that Casey insisted on serving at nearly every dinner, Tom paused to glare at Sam in surprise. “But you’re Casey’s guardian,” he protested, unable to understand Sam’s demurring the idea of living at Dunallon. “You shouldn’t have to be alone.”
“My guardianship of Casey is a cover story for society, Tom. As Riley has pointed out, there is no real relationship,” Sam reminded him.
They were having dinner at Dunallon, after Casey and Penny had spent the day supervising the installation of wallpaper. Tom had innocently asked Sam which design he’d wanted for his bedroom, only to discover Sam had not considered living with them.
Even Casey was surprised. “Except that you’ve taken complete responsibility for me since the moment we got here. The relationship is real, whether it’s legal or not.”
“That’s true,” Sam agreed. “Although you have also taken care of me. But that doesn’t mean I should impose on your new life.”
“Impose? Is that how elders are treated in your time?” Tom asked.
Casey smothered a snicker.
Sam just sighed. “In our time, I’m not considered an elder, Tom. A little past my prime, but…”
Tom backtracked. “That’s not what I meant. You’re in excellent health, Sam. Nevertheless,” he looked to Casey, who was too busy trying not to giggle to be much help. “Oh, for heaven’s sake. I always walk into these things and never see them coming.”
Casey gave up trying not to laugh. Sam laughed, too, as Tom glared at both of them, pointing sternly at Sam. “There is a room for you at Dunallon, sir. It is your home as much as it’s ours. When you tire of a solitary existence, do give us a call.”
Sam agreed to do that.
The day before the wedding was spent at Ardara, finalizing preparations. Most of the family stayed over, to get an early start in the morning, with the wedding scheduled for eleven. After lunch, the new couple would be sent on their way amid the usual Andrews tumult.
Tom’s brothers and sister were appalled that Tom and Casey were spending their honeymoon camping (camping!) at a private, rented cottage outside of Rostrevor, rather than a week or two in the best hotels on the Continent. Nevertheless, they went all out to help Tom stock the cottage with supplies for fishing and hunting. They arranged for ice to be dropped off every morning at the dock. Nina and Jessie talked to the cottage owner, who would make sure there was plenty of food for the week, and fresh linens and towels. This was all they could do to help a young maiden begin her married life in such rough conditions.
After dinner, as preparations wound down and children began to be put to bed, Casey and Tom escaped into the garden, sitting on the grass where, in the morning, they would exchange their vows. In the quiet night, with crickets for background, Casey made a promise to Tom.
“I can’t say this in the ceremony, but this is as much a vow as anything else I’ll say tomorrow,” she told him, her face serious and lovely in the dim light from the house. “I will always stay with you, Tom. Even if Sam or anyone else figures out how to get us back to the twenty-first century, I would not go. My life is with you.”
He touched her face, overwhelmed and unable to respond, except to kiss her. When he could speak, he promised to always honor her for that vow, and in all his ways, to give her his life in return.
The wedding day dawned bright and warm, and the sun quickly burned away the layer of dew that covered the flowers, grass, and chairs in the garden. Sam, like all men through the centuries, railed silently against formal clothing traditions in the summer heat. At least, he thought with some amusement, in this day and age, the women weren’t running around in spaghetti straps and short skirts, cool enough to dance with abandon, while the men sweltered in tuxedos.
No, in this day and age, they would all be hot.
Irish weddings, by law, had to held before noon, and never on Sunday. Sam could figure out the Sunday part, but not even Tom could adequately explain the law about timing. It’s just the way it was. So after an early breakfast, everyone scattered to dress, and the servants, resplendent in clean, white uniforms, finished setting up tables and arranging flowers. By ten-thirty, the first guests had begun to arrive.
The guest list for Tom’s wedding included politicians of all stripes, the entire management of the local shipping industry, a few sea captains, and many wealthy merchants from the area. Not to mention, members of the aristocracy and landed gentry from as far away as Dublin. As the bride’s guardian, Sam was required to meet and greet all of them, and after shaking the hand of the Lord Mayor of Belfast and bowing solemnly to the Lady Mayoress, Sam reflected that this was not what Dr. Riley had in mind on that morning over a year-and-a-half ago, when he advised Sam and Casey to “melt into the woodwork.”
No matter. He and Casey would always be considered odd. There might be those who were curious about gaps in their history or dissatisfied with answers, but there was little chance that anyone would suspect they were time travelers from the twenty-first century!
At eleven, they all took their places, and Sam went to fetch Casey, pausing for a moment to take delight in her appearance. He couldn’t have been prouder if he were actually her father: her dress was Pure Romance, with hand-worked lace over the full, silk skirt and blouse, and a bow in the back nearly hidden beneath the lace veil. Penny had succeeded in getting Casey’s hair up in the popular Gibson style, although he had heard anxious whispers that it might not be long enough to hold well. The red spots high on her cheeks revealed her excitement but he didn’t miss the tears she blinked away as she took his hands in hers. He leaned down to whisper in her ear. “I will write a long entry to your father in my journal tonight, telling him everything about this day, and how honored I am to stand in for him.”
She squeezed his hands and kissed his cheek in gratitude, then with a deep breath, she saucily took his arm and let him “bring” her to her waiting groom. Whatever the opinions about this marriage, there was no denying Casey was a sight to behold, and the spectators were suitably impressed. Sam caught Mrs. Herceforth’s broad wink as they passed her, standing jauntily on the bride’s side of the aisle, and wearing the special corsage Casey had made for her. The Yenta of Belfast.
He was grateful to her, too, and as he handed Casey off to a joyful Tom, he knew also, that whatever the opinions about this marriage, these two people loved each other completely. He didn’t try to analyze the relief that he felt, as he stepped back to his seat, that the innocent victim of his botched experiment was going to be all right.
After lunch, Tom’s siblings presided over speeches, toasts, and the formal dances. After shaking many, many hands, they left their guests to the musicians and the dancing, and escorted the bride and groom to the dock across from the house. There, amid much fanfare, they set about helping Tom load the last of their luggage on the family’s most reliable boat. Tom carefully stowed the boxes for the trip, and began to set the sails.
Casey, who had changed into her boating outfit of black skirt, white blouse and straw hat, stood at the top of the pier to say a last few words to Tom’s parents and Sam. At the boat, Willie handed Tom the last box and stepped onto the dock, while the others tossed the ropes onto the boat. John and James gave it a hearty push and they all began waving enthusiastic farewells and good wishes to their brother. Tom fell over at the boat’s sudden movement, then sat down and roared with laughter. Casey’s startled scream ripped through the air when she saw the boat floating away, and she raced frantically along the dock.
“Come back here! What are you doing? Thomas, bring that boat back right now!” Tom stood, laughing helplessly as he tried to toss the ropes back to shore. Casey’s cries and panic, mingled with the laughter and shouts of her in-laws, attracted the attention of the guests in the yard, who wandered down to lend advice.
“Bye, lad! Have a good time!” James waved, then cupped his hand behind his ear in an effort to hear Tom’s shout. “What?” He pointed at Casey yelling behind him. “Oh you want her?” He turned to his brothers. “Seems he wants Casey with him, but I don’t know what to do about that, now.”
They shook their heads in solemn bewilderment. Casey gave James a shove and rounded on John. “Bring him back! You swim out there right now and bring that boat back!”
“Ah lass, I can’t swim out there,” John started to protest, then whooped in delight as Casey, a determined look on her face, began removing her shoes with the obvious intent of swimming out there herself. This was more than they could have hoped for. Tom began a stern rebuttal to this idea, while once again attempting to throw a rope to shore. Casey’s action brought protests from her sisters-in-law while the wedding guests seemed evenly divided between encouraging her to push John in, or to jump in herself. Her new brothers-in-law actually let her get both shoes off before Willie had a firm arm around her waist, and John and James stood at the edge of the dock to shout encouragement to Tom.
“Come on, lad. Buck up! Pull yourself together and toss us the rope!”
Only the seriousness of Casey jumping into the river, gave Tom the incentive to stop laughing long enough to manage a credible throw. At last, two ropes were safely in the hands of his brothers, who pulled the boat slowly back. Casey barely waited. When the boat was a couple of feet away, she stepped quickly over and into Tom’s arms. He examined her face to see if she was mad. Relieved at the grin she gave him, he pulled her close, and in front of God and everybody, kissed her long and hard. The stuffy Edwardians on the dock responded to this with catcalls and cheers, as the brothers tossed the ropes (and Casey’s shoes) back onto the boat, and waved them off down the lough.
The two-hour trip to Rostrevor kept them busy adjusting sails and steering the boat. Casey was the only crew member and her inexperience meant that Tom had to keep a close watch on everything she did. Still, she was determined to be helpful. After about half an hour, he seemed satisfied with the wind and the progress they were making, and he moved to sit behind her, surprising her by sitting with his legs on either side of her, his hands resting gently on her waist.
He nuzzled her neck, and the boat jerked as her hand slipped from the till. He laughed and helped her right it, but when they were settled again, his hand was on her breast. She couldn’t look away from him. Heart pounding, she moved to kiss him, a kiss that started softly and built in passion, just before the boat jerked again. It was harder to right this time and Tom moved forward to make adjustments. This time, he stayed forward, making light conversation as he pointed out the sights. She’d been down this way in the twenty-first century and described it for him, causing him to shake his head in wonder.
“Cars and paved roads everywhere, traffic lights, large buildings,” he marveled. “Airplanes! It’s hard to imagine, sweetheart.”
She looked around her at the gentle hills, the green, green grass, and the stone walls everywhere, as the lough meandered on its way to the sea. “Yes, but it’s true.” She examined him in a slow way that made him blush. A small smile moved her lips, but she said only, “It’s still considered a quiet country, though. It’s built up, but it still has its charm.”
A blast of wind hit them, and Casey gasped as a wave splashed into the boat. Tom gave her a quick instruction, his voice harsh with surprise. Casey concentrated on her task, fighting a sudden flash of worry that had nothing to do with sailing. Will he change now that we’re married? Will he be dictatorial? Strict and demanding about sex? Will he rush through it and not think about whether I’m enjoying it? Does he think it’s only for procreation? I’ve heard such odd things about how men used to be.
Now that the time was so close, the worry wouldn’t go away, sitting instead like a lump in her stomach. He’s not like what I’ve always heard old-time men were like. He’s funny and kind, not stiff and proper. She tried to remind herself of their past kisses and his frequent hugs. He really was affectionate. But she also remembered all the times when he had been stiff and proper, and would insist that she needed to be that way, too.
“Are you all right, love?” He was pulling a rope tight a final time, but he looked at her with concern. “Did you get hurt?”
She shook her head and he went back to his knot. Before he went forward again, he touched her cheek and brushed a finger over her lips. “The most precious crew I’ve ever had,” he murmured, and her fear seemed to melt, allowing her to smile. It would be all right.
Steering got more difficult as they approached the pier near the cottage, and he gave her several instructions as he adjusted the sails. He lassoed the pole and pulled the boat in the last few feet, then set about securing everything. Casey moved a couple of the boxes to the pier before stepping over herself.
With a deep breath, she lifted a box and smiled wickedly at Tom. “Would you like some help with your boxes, mister? I can carry ’em for you, if you’d like…” Her words trailed away as he laughed with delight and swung himself over to stand beside her, eyes on her face. He just looked at her for a moment, his eyes moving slowly down her neck to her breasts, then her stomach and hips. She felt that look in parts of her body she’d never felt anything before, and she acknowledged to herself that she was simply nervous. For all her talk of sexual freedom and casualness, for all her mother’s lectures on birth control and STDs, and making her own choices about sex, Casey had always been shy about making out. She wanted to spend every minute making love to Tom, but she really didn’t know what to expect.
He took up the other box and slipped an arm around her shoulders, guiding her back toward the cottage that could be seen peeking out from the trees at the bottom of a hill. The area had lots of trees and a few tall hills, one of the reasons Tom said he liked it. They would have privacy, and Casey could relax, without needing to act like an early twentieth-century lady. It had been their biggest reason for wanting to go camping.
For all his insistence on waiting for marriage, Tom seemed to think there was no reason to wait any longer. They had just entered the cottage and paused to look around. Casey knew he’d been up here the day before with his brothers, and Jessie and Nina. The cottage was clean and made up, so she’d have nothing to get ready this first day. Tom put the boxes by the door and she started to return to the boat for the others, but instead, he grabbed her hand and pulled her to him, holding her close and smiling into her eyes.
His voice was low. “Mrs. Andrews.”
She could feel his heart beating and noticed the pulse of it in his neck. She stood on tip-toe to kiss the pulse, breathing in the heat rising from his skin. She would have kissed it again, but his lips found hers in rough urgency, his kiss hot, his tongue playing gently in her mouth. Desire rose up, leaving her helpless and out of control.
Everything she’d ever heard about the awkwardness of getting undressed proved true, with the added impediment of Edwardian undergarments. She still didn’t wear a corset, but she had on everything else and there were all those dratted buttons…
In the end, they contented themselves with removing only what was necessary. He lay her on the bed, kissing her hard, his hands searching for bare skin wherever he could find it. She tried to touch him everywhere at once, excited with the idea that she could touch him–her hands moved inside his shirt, rubbing his back, his shoulders, his chest, his hips… He didn’t wait, entering her almost immediately, pausing a brief moment at her gasp. She kissed him, not wanting him to think she was hurt–she wasn’t–just surprised at the way he felt inside her. The months of waiting took their toll, as he finished quickly, but she didn’t care. His breath in her ear, his moan of pleasure as he poured deeply into her, gave her more joy than she had thought to experience in her entire life.
He’d better not think sex was only for procreation. She’d never let him get away with it.
A whirlwind blew through the design department, as they started on the first drafts of the Olympic-class ships. Every man was drawing something, working meticulously from Lord Pirrie’s initial draft. Tom was deep in a discussion with four of his team members when Ham tapped his shoulder.
“Fellow to see you, sir.” Ham indicated Tom’s office with his head. “He doesn’t have an appointment, but he said it was important. Riley’s, his name.”
“Riley?” Tom thought for a moment, as the men waited. “Give him some tea and tell him I’ll be about five minutes.”
Ham nodded and disappeared. Tom went back to his discussion but remained distracted. Riley coming to him was an interesting development. Maybe he’s also thinking he can negotiate through me.
Entering his office a few minutes later, Tom looked the man over. Ham had placed Dr. Riley in the comfortable chair that was part of Tom’s informal meeting space in a corner of the room: a sofa, two chairs and low table between them. A cup of tea lay steaming on the table, as Riley looked through a copy of Shipbuilder Magazine that Tom kept in the office. Dressed in simple business clothes, a neatly trimmed mustache, and a briefcase at his feet, Riley looked harmless enough.
Tom stayed on his guard. “Dr. Riley, how nice to see you again,” he said as Riley stood to shake his hand.
“Good of you to see me without an appointment, Mr. Andrews. I’m willing to set up a time to come by if this is inconvenient.”
Tom waved it off. “It’s all much the same. Work seldom slows down around here.” He sat in the other chair and steepled his fingers. “I was planning on going to see you, anyway. Since you’re here, why don’t you start? What can I do for you?”
Riley regarded him with diffident seriousness. “Mr. Andrews, I want to assure you that I am not a person who usually meddles. You and I are strangers; I have no right to interfere in your life. But I could not sleep nights, if I thought you were in danger, and I had the means to warn you of it, but did not.”
“We must make sure you sleep, sir.” Tom hoped he didn’t sound sarcastic. “What must you warn me about?”
“Your fiancée, sir.”
Tom held up a hand. “No, sir. We will not play this game. You have nothing to say to me regarding Miss Wilson.”
Riley straightened his back, sitting stiffly. “You misunderstand me, Mr. Andrews. I have nothing but admiration and respect for the young lady. If anything, my meddling is as much for her sake as for yours.”
That confused him and Tom once again steepled his fingers. “All right. You’ll have to explain.”
“I learned enough the other night to know that Miss Wilson has been through a difficult time. I am, perhaps, responsible for that to a certain degree. I deeply regret it if my actions caused her hurt.”
Tom knew his face showed his astonishment, but Riley continued without pausing. “She may have told you that they came to me for assistance when they first…arrived…in Belfast. I’m afraid I was not as helpful as I should have been. I realize that, now.” Riley’s face contorted in sorrow. “I wasn’t thinking clearly. It did not occur to me that she might have been in danger, or was at the mercy of Altair. But I should have thought of that.”
“What?” Tom gave a short bark of laughter. “What on earth do you mean?”
“Lord Dunmore introduced him as her guardian, sir, but I assure you, he is no such thing.”
“Please sir, let me finish.” Riley held out a hand, all appearances that of a man torn with guilt. “I sent them away and then I left town. She had no protection, no one to turn to. If he’s not deliberately malicious, then Sam Altair is insane. I don’t know how he’s used her…”
Tom stood, fist clenched in fury. “Shut up, Dr. Riley. I’m warning you, shut up, now.”
Riley gaped at him, then snapped his mouth closed, eyes on Tom’s face. Tom pointed a shaking finger at him. “You know nothing of what has happened to them. You know nothing about them. They tried to tell you, they asked for your help. Oh, you’re right about that. You let them down in the worst way. You’re right, you sent Miss Wilson out with no help, no protection except what Sam Altair was able to give her. At least, he tried. He never deserted her. He certainly never used her, in any way.” Tom put his hand down, eyes narrowed. “What are you trying to accomplish, Dr. Riley? What is it you want?”
Riley swallowed, clearly unsettled, his voice thready and uncertain. “Merely to help Miss Wilson, I assure you. And yourself.” He held up both hands. “Please Mr. Andrews. You are correct. I don’t know what has been happening to them, other than what I heard at dinner. I’ve had only the one conversation with them a year-and-a-half ago, and the time since then to ruminate on it. If you knew what was said that day, you would understand why my only conclusion can be that he is insane. Or a charlatan of the worst kind.”
“You have decided that, Dr. Riley. You have no proof of anything. Indeed, you have no reason at all to even think it, except that it makes you more at ease. You are a coward, sir.”
“I beg your pardon…”
“Yes. A coward. You were too afraid to try to understand, so you just sent them away.”
“Of course, I was afraid. If you knew what was said…”
“I know what was said. Do you think they’ve tried to deceive me? That they’ve lied to me?”
Riley stood, his expression alarmed. “Mr. Andrews! If they told you the same story… I don’t know if they did, but if they did… I would not expect you to have the scientific knowledge to understand how ludicrous it is. There is no shame in being fooled by them; their story was very convincing. I believed them myself for a while.”
Tom felt tired, as if all his strength were draining away. He turned and moved behind his desk, sitting in his chair, needing some distance between them. Riley moved over to the chair in front of the desk, but didn’t sit. He leaned toward Tom.
“If you love that girl, Mr. Andrews, get her away from him. He’s not her guardian. I can promise you there are no legal documents in place regarding that.”
Tom hesitated. Whatever Riley’s motives, he was right in this assessment. Sam was not Casey’s legal guardian. Tom felt the untruth was harmless, and he had willingly complied with propagating it, even to his own family. But society’s disapproval would be ferocious, if the truth were known, and it would not matter that Sam truly cared for Casey as a daughter. Appearances were everything.
He felt the beginnings of fear.
“Sit down, Dr. Riley.” His fear made him angry and he used that anger in his voice. Riley blinked once, standing as if he would resist, but then he sat, once again the picture of reasonableness. Tom regarded him a moment, trying to calm himself. But when he spoke, his anger was still evident.
“I will not have Miss Wilson’s reputation offended in any way. Surely, you understand that your comments are bordering on threats. I will ask you again: what are you trying to accomplish? What exactly are your plans regarding Miss Wilson and Dr. Altair?”
Riley shook his head. “I mean no threats, sir. I am willing to believe that Miss Wilson is an innocent victim, left with no choices partly because of my own inaction. This is why I’ve come to you, sir. I have no intention of revealing the true nature of their relationship. You obviously are already aware of it and you plan on marrying her, anyway. I assume that means you are satisfied the relationship is proper.”
Tom rubbed his hands, to prevent curling them into fists. “He cares for her as much as my own father cares for my sister. You have completely misjudged him, sir. The story of a guardianship allowed him to take care of her, and offered her the protection of a father, something she sorely needed while they were struggling to survive. He has no indecent motive at all.” He leaned forward, hand outstretched. “I will have your word that you will not damage her reputation. She’s done nothing to you. I have done nothing to you. Allow us our happiness, sir.”
Riley had a look in his eye that showed he knew he’d won this round. Tom felt as helpless as a fish in a net.
Riley was gracious in victory. “I give you my word, Mr. Andrews. I will do or say nothing that sullies the young lady’s reputation. But you must know, I do not intend to let Altair get away with his game.”
Tom stood. “That is between the two of you, although I assure you that Dr. Altair has my full support. But Casey Wilson is under my protection, and that of my family.”
Riley stood as well. “Formidable protection, indeed. Good day, Mr. Andrews.”
Tom was silent and did not move until Riley had left.
Dunallon was complete enough that Tom had moved in amid carpenter’s tools, ladders, and the odd piece of wood or tile. Casey and Penny had set up the kitchen so they could all eat dinner there on those evenings when they gathered to work on the house or grounds. Tom had brought over the furniture from his flat and they ate at the small dining table while Penny finished her meal in the kitchen and washed the dishes. Talking softly to keep her from overhearing, he told Casey and Sam about Riley’s visit.
“Insidious,” Sam shook his head. “How amusing that I’m supposed to be the monster in this situation.”
Casey was furious. “What does he expect to do? How is he going to attack you, Sam?”
“Don’t know,” Sam chewed thoughtfully, gazing at the chandelier. “If he’s after a scientific attack, the usual mode is through journals, papers, or conferences. The thing is, I’m not submitting to any of those things. This is one reason I’ve tried to stay in the background and build a team to work out my “suggestions.” It would be like tilting at windmills.”
“And if he can use me as leverage?” She looked disturbed at the thought.
Sam gestured to Tom. “He’s promised Tom he won’t do that.”
“You believe that?” She reached to touch Tom’s hand. “What exactly did he say?”
Tom thought back over the conversation. “That he would do or say nothing to sully your reputation.” A brow twitched at Casey. “You assume he’s left himself an out? Some way to still use you?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know, but yes, I suspect it. He’s let you know he has a weapon against you. Against both of you, really. He doesn’t have to do something blatant. It only takes the suspicion of improper conduct for this society to turn against you.”
Sam folded his napkin. “As far as I’m concerned, he has now made the first move. The ball is in my court. I’m going to have a talk with him.”
“Maybe all three of us should go,” Tom suggested. “Maybe he came to see me because he wanted to gauge my role in all of this. A fact-finding mission, as it were. Fine, he’s done that. But I think we need to present a united front. Our goal should be to resolve this situation, not take it to war.”
Casey grinned. “Shall we invite him to dinner?” Her tone was wickedly gleeful.
Both men laughed and Sam rubbed his hands together. “May be a bit much. Still, what would he do? Refuse to come?”
“It would be unpardonably rude,” Tom pointed out.
Sam looked at Casey. “Perhaps you should extend the invitation. Saturday night?”
“Have some equations for him to work out on the calculator,” Tom said.
Riley sent his regrets.
Sam put the note, with its vague excuse, in the safe with the time travel journals and planned on leaving work early to pay him a visit. The gloves were off, as far as he was concerned.
Lord Dunmore requested a meeting right after lunch. Sam arrived on time, taking the proffered upholstered chair in the window-lined, paneled office. Lord Dunmore never stinted on elegance and he seldom wasted time, either, getting right to the point.
“Had the oddest meeting this morning, Sam. Thought you should know about it,” he said around the unlit cigar in his mouth, replacing the box on his desk after Sam politely waved away his offer.
“Oh?” Sam could guess.
“That fellow, Riley, from the university, came by. Mind you, I don’t put much stock in what he said, but it’s probably best to not just ignore it. What is it between you two?”
“I’m curious about that myself, sir. Casey and I had invited him over for dinner this weekend, but he declined. I thought I’d go by his office this afternoon and see what he says.”
“You don’t know of any reason he’d be so vituperative? He seems to think you’re a crackpot!”
Sam held a hand out. “I’ve met him once, when Casey and I first came to Belfast. I was familiar with some of his work and frankly, I had hoped he’d be able to help us out with a job. You know things were hard for a while.”
Dunmore nodded; he knew some of it since he’d hired Sam practically off the street. Sam continued.
“He must have taken away an impression I wasn’t aware of. Truly, I admire his work, sir. I would like to get to the bottom of this directly. He’s also gone to see Tom Andrews. Evidently, he is talking to everyone except me. Seems unsporting.”
“Indeed, indeed.” Dunmore looked disturbed. “I had the feeling he was fishing for information as well as warning me about you.” He held up a hand at Sam’s surprised look. “Well, that’s what he was doing, Sam. Telling me your credentials were bogus and that I should carefully vet any science you do. He was shocked when I told him you admitted you had no degree. Couldn’t understand why I hired you. Of course, he hasn’t seen the latest profit and loss statements, either.” Dunmore laughed, rolling his cigar between his fingers, as he leaned back in his chair. “Have a chat with him, Sam. The thing is, we need investors for what you want to do. Riley’s accusations could scare some of them away. Keep me posted, eh?”
Sam agreed, and left for the university.
The office was unchanged; indeed Sam was almost certain that some of the same piles of paper remained in their places on the floor. Riley was at his desk, writing furiously, cigar burning between two fingers, a cup of tea gone cold beside his elbow. In the light from the window, Sam thought his hair looked thinner than a year ago, but maybe not. So many things were strange that day, how could he notice someone’s hair?
He remained in the doorway, leaning against the frame and crossing his arms. “Got a minute, Dr. Riley?”
Riley jerked, knocking the cup, which sloshed a bit, but didn’t spill. He glared up at Sam. “What do you want?”
Eyebrows shooting into his hairline, Sam shrugged. “An honest exchange of hostilities, I guess. I’m a little uncertain what our argument is about.”
Riley jabbed his pen into its holder, lips tight as he regarded Sam. Finally he spoke, pointedly not asking Sam to sit. “I see two possibilities, sir. One is that you are simply insane. The other is to believe you, and face the fact that you are using your special knowledge for nefarious purposes. Either way, you are a serious danger to society.”
Sam sighed, moved the books from the visitor’s chair and sat. Riley watched, but said nothing. “You see no third possibility at all? Maybe I’m a congenial bloke who only wants to help people.”
“Your work for Lord Dunmore enriches you. You are building an empire, sir.”
Sam laughed. “An empire? I have no answer to that charge, I’m afraid. I’m sure my team will find it amusing.” His gaze sharpened as he grew serious. “You object to my earning a living, sir? Surely you wouldn’t be happier if Casey and I were still living on the streets of Belfast?”
Riley’s mouth twitched. “You could have seen the girl safely in a shelter, if you were really concerned about her. I have serious doubts as to your motives, but Mr. Andrews seems certain you have cared for her to the best of your ability.”
“I have, I assure you,” Sam said. “At times, I despaired that my ability was so poor, but we seem to have recovered.” He leaned forward, a hand resting lightly on Riley’s desk. “Dr. Riley, please. We have so much to offer one another. I swear, that every word I told you at our first meeting was the absolute truth. You were my only hope, and I am in your debt for the help you were able to give us. I understand your disturbance, and your doubt. But can you not see your way to a collaboration, or at least, a truce?”
Riley was silent, elbows propped on his desk, his hands folded, tapping his mouth with his fingers. He answered slowly. “I promised Mr. Andrews that I would not hurt the young lady, or impugn his involvement with her. I intend to keep that promise. But your work, sir.” He shook his head, agitated. “If your story is true, I can only assume you are on a deliberate course to control the future, using knowledge that only you have access to. This makes you unaccountably powerful and dangerous. No man should have such power, sir. I don’t know how I can stop you. But I know I must try.”
Sam sat calmly in the chair, a foot propped on the other knee, hands folded in his lap, eyes on Riley’s face. He thought of the dictators of the twentieth century, the suffering and destruction awaiting the world’s population in the years to come. He knew he was not like those dictators. But he understood Riley’s concerns, better than Riley could ever imagine.
“You have no idea how right you are,” he said with quiet conviction. “I can promise you that I have no desire for total power, or even excessive riches, but you have no way of knowing if I’m sincere or not. So let me be as honest as I can: I do have an agenda.” Riley’s hands jerked at this admission, but Sam continued. “I want to understand what happened when Casey and I came back in time. I want the research on time travel to continue. To do that, I have to build up the technology, bring it up to, and past, the point of the twenty-first century. I have to do it as quickly as possible. I’m already sixty-one, Dr. Riley. If I am to see any advances in my lifetime, it’s got to happen right away.”
Riley shook his head, disturbed. “That’s not possible, Dr. Altair.”
“I know.” Sam’s words were a bleak admission he seldom let himself acknowledge. “But I’ll do what I can. I’ll have the team in place and they’ll be able to continue. In the meantime, the advances I’m suggesting serve the double purpose of advancing technology, and improving the quality of life. Is any of that really evil?”
“We aren’t ready for it, Dr. Altair.” Riley’s cigar had long since gone out and he threw it on his desk. “The danger is that you push us too far, too fast. How do we adjust to technology that will seem like magic to most people? That only a few elite scientists or engineers are able to understand? You will be building a super race of humans who could wield god-like power over the rest of us. How will you prevent that?”
“A foundation for education,” Sam replied.
“All investors are required to donate a portion to establish a foundation for education. In addition, a portion of every sale of every invention goes into this foundation. The idea is to fund public education enough to advance society along with the technology. It’s too late for most adults to catch up, that’s true. But the children will be taught as they grow with the changes.”
Riley stared at him, open-mouthed. Sam hesitated, but went on. “And not just Protestants, not just boys. Everyone–boys, girls, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, whatever. Not just Irish, either, although of course, we’re starting here. You see, if everyone is educated and understands at least a little bit, there’s no room for a super race. They can all have a part.”
Riley closed his eyes, then stood and turned toward the window, gazing unseeing at the light. After a moment, he spoke. “What does Dunmore think you are doing?”
“He thinks that I just want to work as a physicist. That I’m qualified but don’t have the actual degree. That I have a lot of good ideas and I’m willing to work with a team of scientists to make those ideas a reality. He has realized he can truly profit from my approach. That Ireland and the UK can profit from it.”
Riley turned, leaning against the window sill. “You’re trying to build Utopia.”
Sam shook his head. “That would be nice, but I’m too pragmatic. I’ll settle for a world that’s willing to work toward it.”
“Have you always been so altruistic? Is this the way of people in your world?”
“Hardly! Altruism varies within any population. My world is no better or worse than this one.” Sam pursed his lips as a thought occurred to him. “Do you object to altruism, Dr. Riley? To different types of people working together and getting along?”
“I?” Riley looked surprised. “Of course I don’t object to it. I just don’t think it will happen.” He straightened, tugging his vest straight. “I don’t trust you, Dr. Altair. If you are not insane, then you are naïve, perhaps because you believe we are simpletons. I suspect that the application of your incredible knowledge will destroy us all.” His face was hard. “I don’t know how, but I intend to stop you, sir. At the least, to slow you down.”
“Lord Dunmore,” Sam said to Tom and Casey at dinner one night, “was delighted to hear about your engagement. He says he has worked with your father on various projects, Tom, so he knows who you are.”
“Oh, indeed.” Tom gave it some thought. “I don’t believe we’ve met, but I remember my father talking about him over the years. He’s been in London for some time, hasn’t he?”
Sam nodded. “My understanding is that he was living there until a couple of years ago. I guess the king asked him to take charge of the telephone company here, to get it on solid ground. Anyway,” Sam continued, “he’s invited us all for dinner this Saturday, if that will be convenient. He’s hosting a few visiting dignitaries, but wanted to fete your engagement, as well.”
“Buttering you up, is he?” Casey asked, making Tom choke a bit in surprise.
Sam laughed, his eyes dancing in amusement. “He is, actually. He sold my water heater design for an obscene amount of money. I’m his new best friend.”
Tom laughed along with them, then pointed his fork at Casey. “You are a cynical person, young lady. Do you always suspect ulterior motives when someone makes a friendly gesture?”
She nodded. “I do, yes. At least, I do when the somebody is a hard-nosed businessman and a lord whatever, as well. Such people normally wouldn’t have an interest in my engagement.”
“You’re hopeless, you know that?”
“I just try to keep everybody honest.”
“Just stay on her good side, Tom.” Sam told him. “I’ve found she can be helpful, at times.”
Given Sam’s new position, Casey supposed it was inevitable that they would run into Colin Riley at some point. On Saturday, they arrived at Lord Dunmore’s soiree, admiring the formal gardens and farmland that surrounded the mansion. Inside, Casey felt as if she were in a museum, and moved with care to avoid the bejeweled statuary and the gleaming white walls with gold-trimmed wainscoting. Lady Dunmore also favored large potted plants, and more than once Casey found herself being tickled by a wayward leaf if she stepped too close.
She was standing near Sam when she saw him straighten, staring ahead with tight lips. She turned to see Dr. Riley standing stiff and angry in front of him. The two of them looked like fighting cocks seizing up the competition.
For a moment, she was just as shocked as they were, her mouth hanging open as she stared at their erstwhile benefactor. Sensing an imminent explosion, she forced herself to step between them.
“Dr. Riley! What a surprise to see you, sir. Have you returned to Belfast, then?”
“Ah, have you already met?” Lady Dunmore had just approached, laying an elegant hand on Dr. Riley’s arm and smiling beatifically at Casey. “It’s so nice when a few of the guests are already acquainted.”
Tom had moved beside Casey, having heard her comment. He reached to shake Dr. Riley’s hand. “Dr. Riley, I’m Tom Andrews, Casey’s fiancé. Sam and Casey have told me all about you. It’s delightful to meet you, at last.”
Sam mentioned later that Dr. Riley did seem to have trouble adjusting to unexpected situations. As when they first met him, he made no response, continuing to shake Tom’s hand while he simply stared. A bemused Lady Dunmore hesitantly asked if anyone wanted a drink.
Dr. Riley recovered a bit. “Thank you, my Lady, a drink would be delightful.” His gaze went back to Tom. “Andrews? Of the Comber Andrews?”
“Aye,” Tom said.
Riley bowed, including Casey in the movement. “My congratulations to you both. If you will excuse me…”
He offered no real excuse, just strolled away, ignoring Sam, who stared after him, dumbfounded. They all did.
Casey broke the silence. “I think the gauntlet has been thrown.”
Tom looked down at her. “What do we do with it?”
They both looked at Sam, who returned their gazes with a twitch of his brow. “Damned if I know,” he said.
For the rest of the evening, Sam presented a well-mannered front, gracious to his hosts and friendly with the other guests. He tried unobtrusively to avoid Riley, suspecting that others would attempt to get them together, once it was known they were both physicists. Indeed, a few people mentioned it and offered to introduce them, overtures that Sam declined, mentioning that he had already had the pleasure, and then deflecting the offer, one way or another.
It was not a large crowd, thirty guests altogether. Sam’s dinner partner was Lord Dunmore’s niece, a winsome woman of thirty or so, visiting from London with her young daughter. Riley was further down the table, entertaining the widowed Mrs. Herceforth. Sam could not decide if that was a good thing or not, but knew he would have to deal with whatever occurred. Mrs. Herceforth did love to talk, and since Casey was one of her “projects,” Sam was sure Riley would receive all the details regarding Casey’s recent engagement. As well, Tom was seated across from Riley and so was included often in Mrs. Herceforth’s teasing descriptions of their courtship. Sam could see that Tom was keeping it light, and for the most part, it seemed that Riley was, too. Casey had the fortune to be seated at the other end of the table, with Lord Dunmore.
Before dessert, their host rose and offered toasts to his guests of honor: a visiting earl come to inspect the progress of the telephone company, and the more personal toast to Tom and Casey, announcing his delight in their engagement, as well as his confidence regarding Tom’s growing ability to tell male from female. Even Sam had to laugh at that. Poor Tom would never live it down.
Riley didn’t laugh at all.
“He didn’t make a disparaging comment all night,” Tom told Sam and Casey on the drive home. “I’ll admit he didn’t say much at all, just nodded a lot and smiled when necessary. But I have no idea what he was thinking.”
“I’m of two minds,” Sam said, sounding thoughtful. “Perhaps I should call on him. Ask for a meeting and let him know what we’re doing. See if he’ll let bygones be bygones.”
“Or?” Casey asked.
“Do nothing. He did say, the last time we saw him, that he didn’t want to see us again. If he does say or do anything, we just act like we don’t know what he’s talking about. After all, what is he going to do? Tell Lord Dunmore I’m from the future and I’m using my knowledge to create new technologies?” Sam gave a small, bitter laugh. “Who would believe him if he said such a thing?”
Tom reached for Casey’s hand, rubbing her gloved fingers. He looked disturbed. “I think I’d like to talk to him.” He glanced at Casey, trying to gauge her reaction. “He knows my family’s reputation, and is aware of who I am. Maybe I can reassure him about the two of you. Negotiate a truce, or something.”
Casey squeezed his hand and Sam agreed that might be their best option.
Tom’s plan to see Riley early in the week was delayed by an announcement he should have remembered was coming.
Pirrie had just returned from London, and had called a meeting of the managing directors. This wasn’t unusual, and Tom had a lot on his mind. His uncle was cheerful and excited as they all gathered in the elegant conference room, and he brought them to order quickly, the chandelier catching the gleam in his eyes, a huge smile on his face and a roll of design paper on the table beside him. But as he talked, Tom felt a chill start in his heart and spread to the farthest parts of his body.
“We have a new project,” Pirrie started out. “I had dinner with Bruce Ismay recently, and we discussed plans for a new line of ships.” He pinned his rough sketch on the board along one wall for them to see and spread his arms to indicate the whole. “This is the “Olympic Line,” gentlemen. There will be three ships. They’ll be the largest, most luxurious vessels in the world. They’ll ply the Atlantic between Europe and America, each one carrying more than three thousand passengers and cargo. Each will have room for all passenger classes and,” he pointed suddenly at Tom, who wasn’t the only one to jump a little bit, making them all laugh a little, “first-class accommodations will be as elegant as the grandest hotels. You know how to do that, Tommy.” He continued over their laughter, building the excitement, “Second class will be nearly as nice as first class on other vessels and third class will the nicest anywhere in the world.”
He became serious for a moment. “Now you know that Cunard developed the new turbine engines with assistance from the government. They did this by agreeing to build their ships combat-capable, so the military could take them over on a moment’s notice.” His face purpled and he thumped the table in front of him. “White Star is not going to do that, gentlemen! These are passenger ships and mail vessels, and they will be classy through and through, as befits the White Star Line and the noble people who will be paying passengers! So we’ll stick with the engines we know, but no expense will be spared to make these ships the best in luxury and service.”
He paused to drink some water from the crystal glass in front of him. Tom held his breath, not daring to look away. Pirrie continued, “The first two ships will be the Olympic and the Titanic. We’ll build them…” his voice faded from Tom’s awareness as Tom stared at the notes in front of him, dizzy. He felt as if he were sinking into an encroaching darkness that somehow smelled of cold seawater. Someone else said something and there was laughter, and his uncle continued on, but all Tom heard was the now-beloved voice of Casey repeating, “a ship called Titanic… a ship called Titanic…”
God Almighty. It was really happening.
When he told Casey and Sam that night, sitting in their small parlor after dismissing Penny, they got as quiet as he had done, as the reality of the situation stared them down. Had they just been playing a game all this time? Had it, for them, just been “history,” something to read about in school or watch in a theater?
Now, faced with the project before him, with having to draw designs and build models and make recommendations, Tom was desperate to know what his first step would be. He held his time travel journal in his lap, with its notes and sketches of the last few months, and begged Sam to tell him what to do. Casey was silent, her face pale, her stocking feet curled up under her as she sat next to him on the divan, looking only at him. As if he would disappear if she looked away.
Sam looked helpless. “Tom, I don’t know how to build ships. I can’t tell you step-by-step, day-by-day, what your actions will be. Or what they should be.” He held out a hand. “Let’s take it a day at a time, okay? You do what you always do. We’ll talk about it. We’ll talk every day and figure out how that day’s actions fit into the big picture. If you come to a place where I have an idea that might help, I’ll tell you. We’ve got five years, Tom.”
Tom shook his head. “We have less than that, actually. We can’t make these decisions at the last minute. We have a few years, at most. We’ll have to make a difference long before that.”
Sam nodded. “All right. We will. We’ll go over it constantly.” He rubbed his face, staring at the low table between them. “It’s too big to do all at once, Tom. We’ve always known that. What are the first pieces you design?”
Tom glanced at the notes he’d written in his journal, not really seeing them. “Uncle Will always does a fairly detailed preliminary sketch that gives us the ship’s dimensions, tonnage, engine type, things like that. I’m meeting with him and Cousin Alex tomorrow. We’ll decide on our first steps, then.”
Sam slapped his hands together. “Excellent! Then tomorrow you’ll have a better idea of what happens.” He leaned toward Tom, lightly touching the journal Tom held. “Don’t get bogged down, lad. We’ll work on it together, every day. Take your time, think things through, keep your head above water.”
Casey gasped and both men looked at her, startled. Her eyes were wide as she stared at Sam in disbelief. He realized what he’d said and stood, running his hand through his hair.
“Jesus, I’m sorry. That was stupid. I’m going to see if dinner’s ready.”
Tom put his journal down and pulled Casey into his arms. She hadn’t spoken at all, and he could think of nothing to add.
He spent the next day in meetings with Lord Pirrie and Alexander Carlisle. Despite a sleepless night, he supposed he functioned all right; at least, no one seemed to notice anything strange about his behavior. As they talked, he began to see the project through their eyes, and slowly, he came back to himself, understanding that the work was going to be a joy, the kind of project that few men ever had the opportunity to work on. The day was spent discussing firsts, because everything they thought of to do needed something else done first, some technology invented, some space cleared or machinery built, some bidding process begun. The scale was more than humans had ever attempted, at least, Tom remarked wryly, since they’d built the pyramids. It even occurred to them that piers around the world would not be large enough to accommodate these ships, so negotiations would have to be opened with harbormasters in New York and elsewhere.
The sheer challenge of the project began to excite him: really, he was lucky to be in this place, at this time! He built ships, beautiful ships, marveling as they took shape under his direction, from putting the first thoughts on paper to the tiniest details improved upon during a maiden voyage. These new ships would require all his knowledge, all his experience and care, to become real. He would work with Sam and Casey, using their knowledge to make the ships as safe as they could be. And deep within, where the love for his work sometimes threatened to overwhelm him, Tom knew these ships would be his legacy. He would make it a good legacy, not the painful one described in another history. Perhaps others had left better things to the world, but these were not such a bad thing to leave behind for future generations to build upon.
Sea trials for the Adriatic were on Wednesday the first of May. Then she would head straight to Liverpool where she would pick up crew and passengers, as well as finish the last minute fitting out. “There are a million things,” Tom rather resignedly explained to Sam and Casey, “still to do up until the minute we sail.” The actual maiden voyage was said to begin when the ship left Liverpool heading for New York, with paying passengers.
The first ten thousand of those million things to do needed to be done before Wednesday morning, and it was almost nine on Tuesday night before Tom closed his office to head for home. Unfortunately, he found Mike Sloan just entering the outer office, so he paused, dismissing Ham with a wave of his hand. Ham hesitated, but said good night and left them alone. He’d be back well before dawn, just as Tom would be.
Tom leaned against Ham’s desk and folded his arms, eyeing his visitor with careful nonchalance. “What can I do for you, Mike?”
Sloan had put in as long a day as Tom had, and no doubt had just clocked out. Like Tom, he probably was not in a mood to waste time. “Sorry to bother ye now, sir, but it’s the first I’ve had a chance to speak with ye. Bit uncomfortable subject this is, but ye should know, sir, that my men have been talking amongst themselves.” At Tom’s raised eyebrow, he clarified, “’bout your upcoming nuptials.”
“Oh? And their consensus?”
“Well sir, they’ve been wondering…” Sloan stopped, thought a moment, then backtracked. “See, most of the men have not seen Casey since she was fired…and well, sir, they’re all hoping for the chance…” He stopped again and pulled himself straighter, blurting, “They’d like to see for themselves that she’s really a woman, sir. In the long run, it’d be best for ye if ye could bring ‘er by the yard one day.”
What on earth? Tom burst into laughter, tried to speak, then decided it would be better to sit down and get the laughing under control. It took him a minute and by the time he was able to breathe again and wipe the tears from his face, Sloan had taken the other chair, his expression stern.
Fighting not to laugh again, Tom nodded. “I can arrange that, Mike. I think she’d enjoy it.”
Sloan nodded back. “That will help a bit, Mr. Andrews. I’ve told the men that I’m sure she’s a decent woman, else ye wouldn’t marry her. Ye understand they’re a bit uncertain.”
Tom tilted his head as he gazed at him. “Surely they don’t think she’s really a boy. That would be worse than ridiculous. What is this about?”
Sloan spread his hands. “Ye remember when he–no, she–worked here, she freely admitted she was an atheist. Ye’ve always been a good Christian man, sir, and the men respect ye. But they’re disturbed that ye’re marryin’ a godless woman.” He held up a hand to forestall the retort Tom was on verge of giving. “I’ve told them sir, that it’s a personal decision. None of us has a say in what ye do, and I see no reason why this would affect anything at the yard. They understand that, but still it bothers ’em.” His head dipped in a sardonic acknowledgement. “Even the Catholics don’t like it. Men are wonderin’ what they tell their wives and children, if they ask.”
“Their wi…” Tom stood, shaking with fury. “I’ll tell you what you can tell them. You tell them that the last I looked, people in this country are free to worship as they see fit. You tell them there aren’t any inquisitors going around making sure people are in church on Sunday, and saying their prayers before every meal. You tell them that Miss Wilson is as morally upright as the most pious old mother in any church. And you tell them,” Tom stood chin-to-chin with Sloan, who had stood as well, “that every wife and child could use her as their example for life, and Ireland would be a better country for it.”
Sloan seldom gave way in confrontations and he returned Tom’s angry glare with a steady look. “Aye, sir. I will tell them that, and their respect for ye will carry a long way. But ye remember sir, that the devil often uses feminine charm to hinder men who love the Lord. I can warn ye of that, but in the end, it’s between ye and God.” He gave one brief nod. “Good voyage, sir.”
Tom watched him leave, taking a deep breath to calm himself. Sloan was always trouble. Veiled threats. He suspected this wasn’t the end of it. But he’d do his best to make sure Casey never found out about this.
He talked to Ham about it on the way to Southampton. They stood on the boat deck, watching the nearly full moon light a path through the Irish Sea and cast deep shadows on the ship around them. Ham listened to Tom’s irritated description of Sloan’s demands, his face outlined by the glow of his cigarette, glasses glinting against the light as he nodded his head.
“It’s a good idea to have her come by, I think,” he said. “He’s right that there’s been a lot of talk. The men were amused at the trick to begin with. But they don’t quite know what to make of your engagement.”
“I won’t have her mistreated, Ham.” Tom was still furious. “She’ll be treated like a lady or they’ll not see her at all.”
“Ah, they’ll treat her like a lady, sir. I expect they’ll feel some awkwardness, but they’ll have on their Sunday manners.” Ham tossed the cigarette, the glow arcing to the water below. “Mayhap, you could have her come in with Lady Pirrie one day. You can bring them by the worker’s lunchroom for a few minutes to chat with whoever is there. No one will dare be forward with Her Ladyship present.”
Tom smiled sardonically at the thought. “That’s brilliant, Ham.” He chewed on his lip, thinking. “Are the men as disturbed about her atheism as Sloan has let on?”
Ham turned to look at his boss, his face blurred in the darkness. “It didn’t bother ‘em when she was working with them, sir, ‘cept for when Sloan reminded them. You know how it is: when they’re working on a ship, that’s all that matters. But,” he hesitated, then shrugged. “They look up to ye, sir. Some of them attend church with ye. They don’t understand what it means, that you’ll have a godless wife.”
“They’re making it into something it’s not.” Tom’s jaw clenched. “I’m as firm in my beliefs as I ever have been, Ham. My beliefs about the treatment of people and social justice and how we live our lives mesh quite well with Casey’s. Intellectually, she may not believe in God, but there is nothing “godless” about her.”
Ham laughed. “That may be a bit deep for most of ‘em, sir,” he pointed out, and Tom laughed a little, too. “May I ask, sir, what your uncle and aunt think of her?”
Tom folded his arms and leaned sideways against the rail. “They like her just fine. Aunt Marge thinks she’s wonderful and daring and,” his voice took on the cadence of a quote, “exactly what I need to keep me from getting lazy and complacent in my old age.”
“Well, sir.” Ham laughed again at Tom’s words. “No one doubts that Lord and Lady Pirrie are godly folk. Same with your family. If they approve of her, I think we can convince the men that means they’re content with the state of her soul. Bring her by the yard when you return from your voyage. I expect it will be just fine.”
Casey slowly adjusted to having a maid around. Her dismay with having servants increased as she read the books Mrs. Andrews had given her, but her time with Penny helped her see that the practical application of the rules could be flexible. It helped that Penny proved to be a talkative sort.
“…and my little brother is such a scamp, Mistress, that my biggest relief was obtaining employment at Ardara House,” Penny was breathless as she completed a long and detailed description of her family as she organized Casey’s clothes. Casey watched in amazement as various articles of clothing, some of which Casey could not even name, practically folded or hung themselves in neat sections in her armoire. A small pile on the bed contained those items that had fallen victim to Casey’s twenty-first century idea of female behavior, and thus, needed repairs. Penny assured her befuddled mistress that she loved to sew and would gladly spend some time each day reducing the pile.
“Unless I continue to replenish it,” Casey offered, and Penny laughed in delight.
Sam had purchased a small safe that they put in the parlor and covered with a tablecloth so that it could double as a serving table. Into this safe, they placed their future gadgets and clothing, along with the time travel journals. They hoped this solution would protect both them and Penny, who would have access to the entire house.
“It is,” Sam admitted, “a temporary solution. We’ll keep adding journals, after all, and once you’re at Dunallon, there will be Tom’s journals, too.”
Casey thought about it. “I’ll ask Tom if he can build a locked cabinet for the library. We can make it large enough to hold a few years’ worth of journals.” She shrugged. “We’ll have to keep adding cabinets, I guess. Although, once we’re past the Titanic, maybe we won’t have so many changes to document.”
Sam snorted at that, but didn’t offer any other comment.
So it became just a matter of getting used to having someone else around. For Casey, this was easier than she had feared: Penny stepped into the place left empty of friends, and the two of them spent a great deal of time giggling about one thing or another. It was Sam who suffered with the new arrangement, grousing that having two young girls to watch after was not what he expected to be doing in his sixties. But there was often a twinkle in his eye when he retired to the parlor to read.
Casey did take her supervisory duties seriously, telling Sam she was “terrified of screwing up” once Dunallon was in her charge. She confessed this to Penny, using somewhat different language, and they both took on the task of reading all the servants’ manuals and discussing how practical application might work. Penny’s experience as a maid was brief, but she was familiar with her society, and Casey was grateful for her help.
Two weeks after Tom’s return, Lady Pirrie picked up Casey and the two of them rode in her carriage out to Queen’s Island. Casey matched Lady Pirrie in dignity, wearing a lavender, high-necked blouse, with chiffon lace in the yolk and the long sleeves, and a matching skirt sporting two panels of the same lace. Penny had pinned her hair on her head and covered it with a wide hat graced with a lavender chiffon bow. Casey carried a white parasol and wore a cameo necklace and earrings that Tom had given her as a birthday present. It was doubtful the men would even recognize the boy they had worked with for five months.
Tom met them at the door to the administration building, hiding his nervousness with a gallant air. The sight of his playful love looking so regal nearly took his breath away. He kissed her cheek and turned to offer the same to his aunt, whose eyes sparkled with mischief.
“Doesn’t she look marvelous, Tommy? The very picture of ladylike decorum.”
“Yes indeed,” he murmured, his admiring glance making Casey blush. “How long do you think she can keep it up?”
Lady Pirrie eyed Casey thoughtfully. “About an hour, I should think. I’ll need to have her in the carriage before it turns back into a pumpkin.”
They both nodded seriously and Casey haughtily lifted her skirt, reaching to take Tom’s arm. “Goodness. We’d better get started then, don’t you think?”
She was expected, but that didn’t stop the double-takes and stares as they made their way toward the lunchroom. Casey felt her heart choking her as she walked with Tom through the familiar hall and tried to smile at the faces she knew. They had timed the visit toward the end of the lunch break, so that the men would have had a chance to eat, and were starting to relax. The room was full when they walked in, Sloan and his evangelicals grouped near the door.
The noise stopped, then started again as several hundred men rose to their feet at the sight of the two ladies. Casey received a good many gapes. Lady Pirrie waved them down and called out a greeting.
“Thank you for giving us your time. We’ve been looking forward to formally introducing my nephew’s fiancée to you all.” She turned to Casey beside her and pulled her from Tom’s arm. “I know she looks different and fabulous, but I assure you: she’s the same sweet Casey we all worked with for so long.”
In all her preparation for this meeting, Casey had never figured out what to say. Now she faced their astonished stares with a blank mind. As she stepped forward, her gaze fell on Ham, sitting next to Sloan and grinning that incredible grin that seemed to split his face. The very same grin that had greeted her on her first day, over a year ago. The memory brought her own happy smile out, and she spread an arm, leaning lightly on her closed parasol with the other. The pose allowed them all a good look, and her eyes wandered over the crowd.
“I thought you were all marvelous to work with, and I’ve always missed being here. I’m truly sorry for my deceit, and I hope we can still be friends.” She turned a bit, indicating Tom with her head, and glanced flirtatiously back at her audience. “You mustn’t blame me for not being able to tell this man I couldn’t work for him when he offered me a job.”
They laughed, and Tom kissed her hand. Then she sat at the table in front, and most of the men she had known gathered around. They spent several minutes catching up with the work of the yard and how their families were doing. They seemed glad to see her, but the awkwardness never quite went away and after a few minutes, she realized that it wasn’t just because they were faced with Casey the girl. She was Miss Wilson, the boss’s fiancée, and any familiarity they had enjoyed before would never completely return.
She stood as the bell rang to signal the end of the lunch break and turned to find herself facing Mike Sloan. When he took her hand, an involuntary shudder went down her back as she remembered that terrifying confrontation the day she was fired. Grateful for the presence of Tom and Lady Pirrie, she tilted her head as he presented a brief bow. His manner was polite, but his look was piercing.
“Thank ye for coming, Miss Wilson,” he told her formally. “It puts the men’s minds at ease.”
She nodded. “Thank you for giving Tom the idea. I enjoyed seeing everyone again.” She met his eyes and decided to call his bluff. “We all live in this town, Mr. Sloan, and we all want to live in peace and raise our children to be happy people. Shall we work toward that goal together?”
Trapped, he let the corner of his mouth twitch once before answering, not without a small threat: “I am at your disposal, Miss. The good, Protestant people of Belfast want nothing more.”
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.
“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.
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.