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       Titanic, p.1

           Ellen Emerson White
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  London, England



  Cover page

  Title page

  London, England 1912

  Thursday, 28th March 1912 St Abernathy’s Orphanage for Girls, Whitechapel, London, England

  Friday, 29th March 1912 St Abernathy’s Orphanage for Girls, Whitechapel

  Saturday, 30th March 1912 St Abernathy’s Orphanage for Girls, Whitechapel

  Sunday, 31st March 1912 St Abernathy’s Orphanage for Girls, Whitechapel

  Monday, 1st April 1912 St Abernathy’s Orphanage for Girls, Whitechapel


  Tuesday, 2nd April 1912 St Abernathy’s Orphanage for Girls, Whitechapel

  Wednesday, 3rd April 1912 St Abernathy’s Orphanage for Girls, Whitechapel

  Thursday, 4th April 1912 St Abernathy’s Orphanage for Girls, Whitechapel

  Sunday, 7th April 1912 St Abernathy’s Orphanage for Girls, Whitechapel

  Monday, 8th April 1912 St Abernathy’s Orphanage for Girls, Whitechapel

  Tuesday, 9th April 1912 The South Western Hotel, Southampton, England

  Wednesday, 10th April 1912 RMS Titanic


  Thursday, 11th April 1912 RMS Titanic


  Friday, 12th April 1912 RMS Titanic, Somewhere at sea

  Saturday, 13th April 1912 RMS Titanic


  Sunday, 14th April 1912 RMS Titanic

  Monday, 15th April 1912


  Still later

  Tuesday, 16th April 1912 Carpathia

  Wednesday, 17th April 1912 Carpathia

  Thursday, 18th April 1912 New York

  Friday, 19th April 1912 Somewhere between Boston and New York

  Saturday, 20th April 1912 Charlestown, Massachusetts


  Historical note


  My Story – a series


  Thursday, 28th March 1912

  St Abernathy’s Orphanage for Girls,

  Whitechapel, London, England

  I feel rather a fool writing down my thoughts, but this evening, Sister Catherine made the very firm suggestion that I start keeping a diary – and handed me a brand-new pad from the supply cupboard for that very purpose. She says that everything has changed for me now, and I will be disappointed later if I do not keep a written record. Failing that, she assured me that she would be disappointed. In all honesty, I so prefer to guard my privacy that I do not think I would accept such a directive from anyone else, but my fondness for her is such that it seems only proper to follow her advice. In any case, there is no question but that today was nothing if not eventful. One moment, my life was mundane; mere hours later, the whole world seemed new and different.

  It was mid-morning, and I was in the midst of a clumsy declamation – “ ‘Tyger! Tyger! burning bright / In the forests of the night,’ ” – when I was summoned to Sister Mary Gregoria’s office. I went with great uneasiness, as I had been somewhat unruly at breakfast, and would now almost certainly have to serve my penance in the form of . . . chores.

  “Margaret Anne!” Sister Mary Gregoria said, her voice surely as loud as Bow bells. She waved a piece of paper at me, and then pointed at the chair where she wanted me to sit.

  I have been known to post a solemn note here and there in the common rooms, proposing peculiar new policies, and scrawling a facsimile of Sister Mary Gregoria’s signature below, but this sheet did not look familiar. It would be a shame to be punished for the offence of another – and yet, truth be told, probably not altogether undeserved.

  Then Sister Catherine bustled in, murmuring an apology for her tardiness. Obviously, she and I are close, so I sensed that whatever punishment I was getting this time would not be too severe.

  When I first came here, some five years ago, I do not think I spoke at all for several months. It was a dark and unhappy time, and I rarely ate or slept through the night. I was assigned, as my regular task, to assist Sister Catherine in the library. During those early days, I felt shy around the jolly, stout woman in the sweeping black habit, but soon I grew to depend on her kindnesses. When I felt most alone, she would always be there with a smile, a book she thought I might enjoy, and a hot cup of sweet, milky tea. Now, that small, book-cluttered room is the one place in the world that feels like home to me. Sister Catherine is very wise, and has guided my studies far beyond my basic classwork, with the hope that I might even attend university one day. Other than my brother, William, I believe she is my favourite person.

  “Margaret Anne,” Sister Mary Gregoria said again, once Sister Catherine had settled herself upon a flimsy wooden chair. “I am told that it is your wish to go into service.”

  I want to do no such thing, but neither do I fancy ending up back in the back alleys of Whitechapel, or even worse, in a workhouse. So I nodded in a grave manner. William has been trying to save enough money to secure my passage to America for nigh on two years now. If I were also able to work, I could help with my fair share. William is the only family I have in the world, and I am eager to join him over there.

  “Should you like to be a companion, Margaret Anne?” Sister Mary Gregoria asked.

  Since I was not sure what that meant, I did not know how to respond.

  “This will give you so many more opportunities,” Sister Catherine said, her face bright with happiness. “It is exactly what I would have wished for you, Margaret.”

  I knew that she would only tell me the truth, so I nodded. Then I turned to look at Sister Mary Gregoria and presented her with a very large smile. “I should love to be a companion,” I said.

  And so it was that I set forth to the city that afternoon, with Sister Catherine as my chaperon.

  The hour grows late, and I am tired, so I think I will tell of our city adventure in the morning.

  Friday, 29th March 1912

  St Abernathy’s Orphanage for Girls,


  None of the Sisters felt I ought to be wandering about the streets by myself, which was why Sister Catherine was to accompany me. There was great concern about what I should wear on our jaunt to the city, since they wanted very much for me to make a good impression. As a rule, the Sisters’ only concern is that our clothing is clean. We wear very plain, simple dresses, and do our best to keep them in good condition. Some of the merchants in Petticoat Lane donate their cast-offs to the orphanage, but they are, of course, not top-quality garments. In the end, it was decided that I would wear a dark blue frock, which once belonged to one of the older girls. Sister Celeste arranged my hair neatly, and I used a soft cloth to rub a bit of shine into my button-boots.

  Perhaps it goes without saying that Sister Catherine wore her habit.

  I was eager to take the Underground, since I have scarcely ever travelled that way, but instead, we rode on a motor bus to Piccadilly Circus. Sister Catherine was strangely nervous and silent, so I spent my time staring out of the window. When I was very small, Mummy and Father would take us to the city once in a great while. I remember a picnic in Regent’s Park, and another day, when we stood and stared at Buckingham Palace with great admiration.

  Piccadilly was crowded with enticing food stalls, street performers and other lovely sights. I was very hungry, and the vendors’ cries of “ ’ot meat pies!” and “Taters! All ’ot!” made my stomach rumble. Many a man passing by raised his hat to Sister Catherine and murmured, “Afternoon, Sister,” before continuing on his way.

  Sister Catherine was very concerned that we would lose our way, and she stopped to ask a bobby for directions. I knew only that we were going to a fine hotel in Mayfair to meet a rich American lady for tea.
r />   We walked along several streets, turning right and left and right again. I wanted to tarry on Savile Row, to scrutinize the windows of its exclusive clothes shops, but Sister Catherine felt that we had no time to linger. As we walked vigorously, I enjoyed watching the fine ladies and gentlemen strolling about, with pretty parasols and mahogany walking sticks. The ladies wore the most astonishing hats! Perhaps my dress was too humble for the likes of Mayfair.

  The name of the hotel was Claridge’s, and it looked so fancy that I was shy about going inside. Sister Catherine had stopped, so perhaps she felt timid, too.

  “Margaret Anne,” she said, sounding terribly serious. “I must remind you that there are times when it is best to sit quietly, and merely listen.”

  I am afraid I am often so eager to be clever that I speak without thinking. When Sister Catherine is cross, she calls me “Saucy Girl”. This always makes me laugh, and then she is even more cross.

  “Nary a word,” I promised.

  “Remember, she is American,” Sister Catherine said. “Be kind.”

  I nodded. I have heard that Americans have simply dreadful accents, and tend to be lacking in characteristics like reserve and dignity. I decided, for the time being, to suspend my judgment.

  Two young men in elegant uniforms stood at either side of the entrance to the hotel. When they saw us, they promptly swung the great doors open and ushered us inside. I must admit, I felt like a princess.

  Never had I been in such luxurious surroundings! The floors were of marble, so shiny I do believe I could see my own reflection in them. A beautiful staircase loomed ahead of us, and the ceiling sparkled with chandeliers.

  Sister Catherine asked another uniformed man to direct us to the foyer, where we were to meet Mrs Frederick Carstairs for tea. The man bowed and motioned for us to come along.

  We were taken into a lovely room where a quartet was playing live music! Everywhere, ladies sat at small, exquisite tables, while graceful waiters served them tea. The air was filled with the sounds of chamber music, delicate china clinking, and soft conversations.

  We were led to a table, where a plump, middle-aged woman sat. She was wearing an ornate flowery hat, a boxy dress, and long gloves, all in various shades of minty green. Something about her posture put me in mind of a spring pigeon. Seeing us, she lowered her glasses and looked me over with a critical eye.

  “Mrs Carstairs, I am Sister Catherine from St Abernathy’s,” Sister Catherine said, “and may I present Miss Margaret Anne Brady.”

  Mrs Carstairs studied me, and then extended her hand. I was startled by her forwardness, but then reminded myself that she was, after all, American, and forced myself to return the gesture. She gave my hand an abrupt shake, then dropped it.

  “I am very pleased to meet you, Mrs Carstairs,” I said, as polite as can be. I noticed, then, that she was holding a small, and rather smug, brown terrier. Although I prefer cats, I am terribly fond of all animals. “What a delightful pet,” I said, and reached out to stroke her.

  “Don’t!” Mrs Carstairs said sharply, her voice loud enough to make me wince. “She doesn’t take to strangers!”

  By then, the dog was already licking my hand. Mrs Carstairs seemed surprised, but not displeased. Once we were seated, and Mrs Carstairs had told me that the dog’s name was Florence, one of the uniformed waiters appeared with a steaming teapot to fill our cups.

  I had never seen such a glorious tea! Plate upon plate of small sandwiches, crumpets, scones, cakes and petits fours. I am always hungry – Sister Catherine says I grow an inch every fortnight – and I wanted to eat my fill, then gather up the rest to bring back to Nora, who is the youngest child at St Abernathy’s, and to whom I am quite partial.

  Mrs Carstairs nibbled a bite of sandwich here, a taste of shortbread there. I tried to make each half sandwich last for three full bites, though I could easily have popped them into my mouth whole. But I knew my manners would reflect upon Sister Catherine, and so I endeavoured to be discreet.

  Cucumber, salmon, roast beef, watercress, a soft white cheese, thinly sliced ham – the sandwich varieties seemed endless. If you began to empty your plate, the cheerful waiter appeared at once to replace it. Because of this, I liked him very much, and smiled broadly at him each time.

  “How ever do you stay so slim?” Mrs Carstairs asked, by and by, her voice a bit stiff.

  I took this as a hint to restrain myself, although Sister Catherine sprang to my defence with her “inch a fortnight” explanation. This was followed by a brief discussion of how tall I am for my age, and Mrs Carstairs seemed somewhat dismayed to discover that I am only thirteen. Sister Catherine instantly assured her that I have always been mature beyond my years, although I will concede that there are times when that is probably debatable.

  “I am surprised to find your accent so refined,” Mrs Carstairs said, seeming now to remember that I was at the table. “You sound very learned.”

  Although I had been silent for quite some time, I, naturally, assumed that meant she wanted to hear a somewhat learned remark. “ ‘Oh, to be in England/ Now that April’s there,’ ” I responded.

  “Ah,” Mrs Carstairs said, although she looked uncomfortable.

  It was quiet for a moment, and then she asked if that was Keats. I thought surely she was having a bit of fun with me, until Sister Catherine said softly, “Robert Browning.” Mrs Carstairs gave that some consideration, then remarked upon the fine job the Sisters had done of educating me.

  In truth, I can rip out a right impressive string of Cockney – as only befits one born in Wapping – that would singe the ears of a sailor, but I have also never found it difficult to mimic the accents of others. Mummy always said I had a fine ear, and might well be musical, were I ever to get the opportunity to learn an instrument. The pianoforte, she hoped. I enjoy music, and would have been happy with a mouth organ. Once, Father found me a pennywhistle, upon which I blew non-stop until Mummy decided to “put it away” for a time.

  Father had a beautiful light brogue, and often when we spoke, I would lapse into my own. This gave him no end of amusement, and, I hope, pleasure. He was very proud of his roots – County Cork, in Ireland, to be sure – and told me many wonderful stories about the old country, and the wondrous sights to be found there.

  Sister Eulalia, who grew up a very proper young lady in Kensington, has always been very strict about our pronunciation. “H’s!” she says in snappish tones. “I want to hear your H’s!” Then one of my classmates will promptly say, “Sure, and h’it’s an ’eavenly diy h’out, h’it ’tis.” Whereupon, Sister Eulalia puts her head upon her desk. Often, I cannot resist speaking to her in the broadest, most mangled Cockney imaginable. She tells me that I am very, very wicked, and then slaps a ruler across my knuckles to punctuate the scolding.

  This may not bode well for my future as a piano virtuoso.

  “You have a pleasant demeanour,” Mrs Carstairs said then, “but I sense some mischief about you.”

  I wanted to laugh, but knew that would only confirm her suspicions. So I lowered my head in a shy manner, and quietly sipped some tea. I was still very hungry, but confined myself to a small piece of sponge cake.

  After a time, it was decided that I should take Florence for a short walk, while Sister Catherine and Mrs Carstairs spoke privately. The dog, I saw now, wore a jewelled collar, and a light pink silken lead. I took her out through the opulent lobby, and we wandered up to Bond Street before returning. Florence had a sprightly gait, and seemed to enjoy barking at everyone – and everything – we passed. I cannot imagine why she, for example, found the gas lamps objectionable. But, to her credit, she was a spirited animal, if foolishly small.

  When we returned to the foyer, Sister Catherine and Mrs Carstairs were still speaking in low, serious voices.

  “. . . remarkably bright child,” Sister Catherine was saying, “and very congenial.

  Given the charming tenor of the conversation, I was loathe to interrupt. However, they stopped at once when they saw me. Upon entering the hotel, Florence had jumped up into my arms, where she was now lounging happily. Mrs Carstairs looked at us, and seemed to make up her mind.

  “Margaret Anne, would you like to go to America?” she asked.

  I wanted nothing more! “I should be delighted,” I said.

  Saturday, 30th March 1912

  St Abernathy’s Orphanage for Girls,


  I simply cannot sleep tonight. Earlier, I wrote to William to tell him the wonderful news, and Sister Mary Gregoria is to post the letter in the morning. I feel very lucky, and yet also frightened. I have grown used to my life here, and am not sure I am ready for so many changes all at once.

  Mrs Carstairs and I are to sail for America, ten days hence, on a ship called the RMS Titanic. RMS means Royal Mail Steamer, Sister Catherine told me later. Before we left the hotel, Mrs Carstairs gave me all the details of our upcoming journey, and what she will expect of me. Mainly, I gather, I am to be polite and agreeable – and to fetch and carry and otherwise help out with whatever she needs at any given point in time. I assured her that I would have no problem complying with these rules, although I am afraid her loud tones will grate on me. Naturally, I did not share this concern.

  Mrs Carstairs is terribly excited about being aboard this particular ship, as it is the Titanic’s maiden voyage, and she is supposed to be the finest ocean liner in the world, as well as the largest ever built. I know nothing of ships, and see no reason to doubt her. I gather Mr and Mrs Carstairs have been sailing the Atlantic for many years, and have been on all of the great liners, including the Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic.

  Originally, they were to make this trip together, along with Mr Carstairs’s – one assumes, faithful – manservant. Hence, they had reserved two cabins on the ship. But now, Mr Carstairs has been detained here in the city on business, and so will rejoin his wife in a month or two. Their daughter, it turns out, has only just given birth to their first grandchild, a boy named Theodore, and Mrs Carstairs wants to see him as soon as possible. Mr Carstairs did not want her to travel by herself, which is why they decided to seek out a companion.

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