One week later, Alice and Jacob were at Tierney’s, and gossip was abundant.
The server walked over to their table, smiled and handed Alice a note when she brought their hot chocolate and Bonbons. The note was from Georgia.
Thank you so very much for
opening my eyes and giving
me the courage to follow my
I will write when we get settled.
Your eternally grateful and
Georgia had defied her fathers’ wishes, left town and married William. Alice was thrilled, and hoped to someday see her friend again. Before the smile left her face, Jacob said, “darling, I have to tell you something”
Alice’s heart sank. She knew what he was going to say. She swallowed hard and hid her disappointment as she asked, “are you going away again?”
Jacob said, “I am, but my darling, if all goes well, when I come back, we are going on a whirlwind trip. We’re going to go places we’ve never been. We’re going to see sites we’ve never seen. We’re going to meet people we’ve never met. We’re going to stay in the finest hotels, and we’re going to dine in the finest restaurants.”
“While I was in San Francisco, I was approached by some gentlemen who admired my work. They asked if I’d be interested in putting the finishing touches on a project for a woman they described as a ‘grand lady’.” He smiled and said, “I imagine she’s some wealthy, bored heiress who is in the process of restoring some fancy new hotel, or maybe an elaborate art gallery, which will bear her name. The work would be quite the feather in my cap.”
Alice said, “it sounds intriguing, but where are you going, and how long would you be gone?”
Jacob took her hand and said, “you must understand, my darling. I would be traveling to Europe and I would be gone for at least two or possibly three months. Most of the work is done but, as I said, I would be assisting in the completion.”
Alice said, “of course you must go, but I shall miss you terribly. I feel as if I am not whole unless you are with me.” She hesitated as if she didn’t really want an answer when she asked, “when will you be leaving?” Almost agonizingly, Jacob said, “in three days, but remember my dearest darling, our farewells are always so bittersweet, but, oh, how glorious our reunion when I return.”
Alice spent the next three days, trying to think only of Jacob’s promise of untold adventures, but she was desolate. Before, her loneliness had been tempered by Georgia, but now Georgia was gone.
The day of Jacobs’ departure arrived. He boarded the train, which would take him to the port of call. As before, Alice said a prayer as she stood and waved until her beloved was out of sight.
After he left, she again tried to busy herself and not dwell on things like missing him, and her Papa, and Grace and Georgia. Occasionally, she would go to Tierney’s for hot chocolate and a Bonbon, and even shake things in town up a bit by arriving in trousers, but for some reason she felt empty as she sat there alone.
After almost three weeks, Alice received a letter in the mail. She felt like a little girl on Christmas morning, opening a special present as she read:
My dearest darling,
I arrived safely, although I
will admit that more than
once, I was stricken with
motion sickness. I am stricken
with even more sickness from
I have met the grand lady I will be
working for, and I must confess
that I am quite taken with
her. I am perhaps even a bit in
love with her, but don’t fret my
dearest darling. It shall be a fleeting
affair. There’s not much time
for writing, but I will write as
often as I can.
Your loyal and faithful husband,
She held the letter to her chest and whispered, “thank you.” Once again, her prayer had been answered. He had arrived safely.
Another month went by and Alice hadn’t received a letter. She was worried, but knew that mail traveled slowly, and also knew that Jacob was working hard.
She found herself remembering, in his last letter, he said that he was a little bit in love with this, as he described, “grand lady.” She could understand the attraction of a wealthy, high-born, poised older woman, but he hadn’t said that she was an older woman.
What if she was a younger woman? A younger woman who might confess that she was a little in love with him? A younger woman with aspirations to leave a bit of herself behind, just as Jacob wanted?
Alice quickly dismissed what she told herself were silly notions and patiently counted the days until she received another letter, and anticipated even more, the return of her beloved.
Still, she wondered why he hadn’t told her much about what he was doing. It wasn’t so much that she thought he was keeping something from her; he just wasn’t being very forthcoming.
Thirty-eight days after the last letter, Alice was delighted when she received one. As she opened the envelope, her hands shook slightly with nervousness. With untethered joy, she began to read.
My dearest darling,
By the time you receive this,
I will already be on my way back
to you. Please forgive my indolence
in writing, but things were being hurried,
and I am so very tired.
I have been successful, although there
have been some disagreements with the
I will be traveling with the grand lady, but
I want you to know that I have remained,
and will forever remain true to you,
my dearest darling.
Upon my return, I have a marvelous
Beside herself with joy, she clutched the letter close to her chest. The work he had done for the grand lady would surely leave a lasting mark, but what he didn’t yet know was that his greatest achievement was yet to arrive. As she gently rubbed her stomach, she smiled as she whispered, “and I have a marvelous surprise for you as well, my love.”
Glancing once more at the precious letter, she noticed a post script. It read:
P. S. I have enclosed a picture of
the grand lady I have been working
for, and will be traveling with.
I think when you see her, you will
understand my infatuation.
Until we meet again, my dearest
darling, I remain,
Your loyal and faithful husband,
She put the letter down, and began to open the small envelope. “Ah,” she said to herself. “This must be a picture of the lady who enamored him with her great beauty.”
She opened the envelope and took out the picture. Across the top, in bold letters was written:
THE RMS TITANIC