Mrs. Benjamin Hart, sitting at the cabin table, her face lit by the lamp, slowly shook her head.
She glanced over at her daughter, lying peacefully on a small bed the steward had thoughtfully provided. How pretty little Eva looked, her curls flowing over the plump pillow, and her eyes closed, making her a storybook angel.
But Mrs. Hart’s face showed concern, not delight. She had her Bible open, and she turned the pages, her vision blurring, but she couldn’t help trying to read, though her eyes were strained after two days of this, and still no answer to her dilemma appeared in the Word to comfort her.
Her husband, sinking back on the pillow, sighed. He began to snore gently, for he wasn’t that old a man, and they had been married comfortably for ten years now.
Hearing her husband had found peace where she could now made Mrs. Hart feel all the more alone.
What an agony, what pain it was, to know in her bones that something dreadful was going to happen to them, only she couldn’t tell what!
Everybody aboard, including her husband, acted like the voyage was nothing but a lark, making her think she was strange and a bit mad to feel so differently.
Of course, she didn’t go out of her way to let strangers know her
apprehensions. She knew they wouldn’t understand, if her husband didn’t. He thought she was only behaving like the normal, fearful species of weaker sex, and told her she would soon be ashamed of herself when they docked at New York on the Jersey side.
To that she had said nothing, feeling no need to defend herself. She couldn’t defend herself, anyway. Truth was, she had nothing to go on. Just this nagging assurance that all wasn’t right, that a ship people insisted on calling “unsinkable” was flying in the face of the Almighty!
The first time she heard it she felt something cold, like sharp steel, pierce her vitals. It took her breath away--especially when she knew she couldn’t dissuade her husband, who never listened to a woman’s petty fears and was a most reasonable, calm-tempered man. He had to be, being police commissioner at Scotland Yard, responsible for many people’s lives under his authority. What if he couldn’t think straight and cool in a crisis? He would endanger everybody. So she valued him as he was, though in the present case she would have mightily preferred to see them aboard any other ship rather than this “unsinkable” vessel.
The name itself bothered her.
“Titanic”--Didn’t that speak of man’s pride again? Man was always boasting about this and that object as being the greatest and biggest and best--without giving a shred of credit to the Almighty who had provided all the physical elements to make whatever it was, and also the strength and ingenuity that went into its manufacture.
Mrs. Hart looked down into the pages of her open Bible, but she wasn’t seeing the print, she was gazing at the recent memory of how the ship looked when she first cast eyes upon it from the White Star terminal dock. At first impression she thought there was some mistake. Ships could not be as vast as this one was. It seemed easily twice the size of the largest ship she had seen. And how inordinately luxurious! Second Class was more luxurious than First Class on other vessels. And the service was superb--all she had to do was call a steward, or a maid, and anything was brought immediately. The lady wish to send a message to New York to the hotel awaiting them? Done in a flash by modern telegraph! How about a swim with her daughter in the pool? Or a nice, brisk walk on the deck, which stretched endlessly before them, little Eva able to skip rope and jump and race with the other children, with no danger of running into something because of cramped deck space. The meals, too, were exceptionally rich and varied, and the lovely White Star china and cutlery--this, truly, was a ship without compare! And, on top of it all, touted to be “unsinkable.”
A tear of weariness and frustration formed in her eye, then rolled onto her plump cheek.
How she hated female weakness, and swept it away.
She glanced over at her husband and daughter. Benjamin and Eva were fast asleep, fortunately, and did not see her crying.
If only the voyage were over! She wanted to believe she had been afraid for absolutely nothing at all. Of course, she might feel a bit ashamed of making such a fuss, and not enjoying the passage, but she would forget about the whole thing, she knew, the moment she stepped off on solid ground.
Mrs. Hart sighed thinking how wonderful that would be, stepping from this source of uneasiness that would not go away, and setting foot onto New York City. She picked up her husband’s timepiece on the table, and saw it was 11:30.
Her eyelids drooping now, the minutes flowed steadily on, and then she felt the table shift, the motion going, going through the cabin, right under her feet, slightly jarring the two beds with their sleepers.
Mrs. Hart’s eyes shot open. She looked around, then rose quickly from her chair, her skirts almost knocking it over as she moved away. Benjamin was still sleeping soundly, and her daughter too. Should she cry out? She felt a scream welling in her throat!
She put her hand over her heart and leaned against the wall for a moment, summoning strength to calmly wake her husband and tell him it had happened as she had feared it would.
No, she decided. They’ll come and tell us presently. Poor, dear Benjamin wouldn’t believe me, though I know it already--this great, doomed ship is going down!