a once great ship has gone to sleep.
No stewards, no crew, no Countess of Rothe--
their lives fill the dustbin that conquered the Goth.
till you die.
the wheat and tares together lie.
their gold and jewels in Time's hand slip away.
No ship horn blast, no thundering steam,
a ghost lies in pieces--a gray, silent dream.
in which the village matriarch was laid--
the Rubaiyat of Khayyim toasts Grey's pure and milk-white maid.
So sleep on, gray Dreamer, until the dread Trump,
when the angels cast brands on the earth's blasted stump.
How the old, dank odors of Continental hotels, however luxurious, afflicted her and gave her a stuffy nose! She was used to it, having spent several years with various families of means, not to mention having resided in the old Hotel Burgundia near Montmartre, the artistic quarter, as long as she could remember.
She only regretted she had not put out some of her earnings on a nicer nightgown.
She might have looked quite lovely in Madam’s boudoir mirror! With her youth and clear complexion, her figure was good too--too bad she was working and not a paying passenger! But, then, that was impossible. It would cost her a hundred thousand francs or more to book passage in such a stateroom as the Ryersons’!
Victorine looked around from where she sat between the beds of Miss Susan and Miss Emily. The girls were sleeping, having been put down a hour before, and Madam and Monsieur were by this time probably in bed in the other room. Master Jack? He was given a bed in his parent’s room, and there was no telling what he was up to? How nice that the Ryersons separated the boy from the other children. Handling the girls and Master Jack with all his pranks too was impossible!
Sighing with gratitude over the arrangement, Victorine turned back to her novel. She carried it in her knitting basket, which she always had close while reading so that the first sound of a footfall gave her time to slip it back out of sight. Naughty reading was not something she knew her employers would approve, so it was best to be careful about such things.
Mademoiselle Susan’s reading was dull enough! Imagine, having to read her tales that were more fit to be stories for monks and priests. One, which was picked up at a bookstore for children by Madam, was a tale about two sisters who refused to forgive each other, and it went on and on until the two turned into ugly, old frogs. A nasty, American story with a dull, tiresome moral!
Ugh! Mrs. Ryerson had insisted she begin reading a portion to her youngest daughter every night, whether on land or sea. Then, if she cried too much, another book might be substituted for one time only--a book of nursery rhymes and silly pictures of the sort that children loved. Victorine didn’t mind reading it to the girl, though the Catfish, Rat, Vulture, Eagle, and Vampire strutting about its pages in gilded slippers and acting like people wasn’t anything an adult woman, with knowledge of the world, could enjoy. Such talk as they made, these imaginary creatures, it was hard to believe an adult had written such things:
as he asked Miss Rat her wish.
“I want a diamond as big as a kettle,”
she sighed as she stroked his cheek of metal.
Just then Sir Fish stepped forth to dance,
with fins and scales he really could prance!
Miss Rat was then so filled with delight,
She and Fish danced off in the night...”
Mademoiselle Emily thought herself too grown-up at eleven to hear such stories her mother picked out, so she had closed her eyes and wouldn’t listen as Victorine read to little Susan.
The tale about the two mean sisters, just as Victorine thought it might, made Susan upset.
She had turned to Victorine with her eyes looking so dark and crushed, like certain, velvety roses you step on, and seemed about to burst out crying, saying, “I would’t hurt my sister that way, would I? Leastwise, I wouldn’t hurt Lucile. Lucile’s my best friend and she's got my very own middle name! She shows me her books and says we’ll be friends forever, even when we get to New York! I wouldn’t want to hurt HER, would I?”
“No, of course not!” the maid assured her, giving her a kiss. “You are such a dear, you wouldn’t hurt anybody in this whole, wide world! That’s what a darling you are!” Since she wanted to get to her own book, she let the substitute lie in the trunk that carried Susan’s things. Fortunately, the little girl had been so upset by the story, that she forgot she had another book along on the voyage. “I know you love Emily, and she loves you, and the same goes with your little friend, Mademoiselle Carter. Now you can go to sleep, the nasty, old story is over. I won’t read it to you again! I promise. Sweet dreams, Mademoiselle!”
The little girl was still disturbed, and she rose up on her pillow several times, but the maid hushed her, blew her kisses, and finally she quietened down and closed her eyes.
“A big, white piece of ice is coming straight at us, Victorine! It has a red heart that shines inside it, and it is wicked, very wicked, and hates all us and wants to kill us! I know because I saw it smashing us to pieces, and we were all crying and running and there weren’t enough boats for all the people, and—-a big doll like a real man, with his hands and feet flapping down, flew out of the front of the ship and was eaten by the big piece of ice!
Then the words continued to tumble forth from childish lips. "And you--you--I saw you in a big dark pool, your face on the edge as it turned round, round, round!”
“No, no, darling!” Victorine said, pressing the child gently back on her pillow. “It’s just a dream, little one. Just a silly dream! Now you go back to sleep. Let’s pretend you are on a big pillow, soft as a cloud, and you are sailing up over the fairy castle you saw in the storybook, you know, the one where the beautiful princess lay asleep awaiting the prince--”
Coaxing the girl with this and other scenes, Victorine got her to calm down and submit to the pleasant, doll and candy-filled realm of sweet Morpheus once again.
This accomplished, Victorine turned back to her reading. It was late, 11:35, she saw from the stateroom clock. About to go down the hall to a maid’s room she shared with Henriette, the Ryerson’s Belgian governess, Victorine finished the page dealing with the latest amour of her favorite authoress telling her life story as a novel. The setting was most romantic--Mount St. Michael’s, and her lover was the Duke d’ Orleans’ youngest, most handsome son, Jean-Philippe, seventeen years old.
What magnificent stallions from his father’s thoroughbred Arabians he rode across the inundated causeway through the waves separating the Mount from the mainland, to make an assigned tryst in their hideaway beneath the towering edifice of the monks! Only one time he was late and was almost swept away to sea by the incoming tide of surging currents, and nearly was drowned.
Yet his love for the exquisite chambermaid, Anna-Marie, was so great that he refused to be drowned and though his horse was swept from under him he swam so vigorously that he was able to reach the rocks of the Mount and call for help.
Fisherman in quaint Cornish clothes, hearing him, threw down the ends of their long nets, and he was saved for Anna-Marie!
How sweet their embrace minutes later, he soaked and exhausted, she weeping with relief, she dragged him to safety (for she climbed down the rocks at her own peril, heedless of her own life) and pulled him up, half-dead and dripping wet and not a stitch on, to her cherry-red, burning lips!
Twenty year old, worldly-wise Victorine was just about to turn the page, giving herself one more page to read before vowing to go to bed, when her chair gave a lurch.
She continued reading a few more lines, but paused. “That’s odd,” she thought, drawing from her considerable experience at sea. "Ships don’t make that motion ordinarily. They’re much too big to bounce about at sea unless there’s a violent storm--and there's no storm. Could we have hit something? But what could it have been? A log perhaps?”