Chapter 19: Whispers

Brynne finally made it to the a la carte restaurant a little after 9:30. She knew that Andrews wouldn’t still be there, but she went anyway – she still needed to eat. When she arrived, she took a seat at a table for two in a corner, and a waiter promptly approached. Brynne already knew what she wanted, which she quickly conveyed to the waiter.

The waiter scurried away to the galley, and Brynne began to scope out the crowd. She hoped that she was wrong about the true nature of her mission, that her two mystery adversaries were indeed onboard, that this mission had nothing to do with the links going down. But all while she scanned the room, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was carrying out her search in vain. The female imposter and her likely accomplice probably weren’t anywhere near this ship anymore.

As he’d done the previous night, Andrews once again found his way into Brynne’s thoughts. “Good morning,” his voice cheerily called out to her from behind.

Brynne shifted in her chair to look over her shoulder. Andrews gently caressed her shoulder as he walked past on his way to the empty seat across from her.

“Well, good morning to you,” Brynne greeted, arched eyebrows raised. She watched Andrews place his small notebook on the table as he sat. “I thought you already had breakfast?”

“I had a little something, but I decided to wait for you before I had a full meal,” Andrews explained.

“What if I hadn’t made it or had decided to go to the saloon instead?” Brynne asked. “How did you know I’d be here at this time?”

“Well, it’s a matter of deduction,” Andrews began. “You hate sleeping late – you feel like you’ve wasted half the day when you sleep past seven, so I knew you’d be up sooner rather than later. Also, you mentioned on more than one occasion how excited you were about the restaurant, and I knew you haven’t had the opportunity to dine here before now, so it was a safe bet that the saloon would be your second choice, not your first. As to the time, I checked in every now and then while I was working.”

“I’m glad you were right,” Brynne said, impressed by his powers of deductive reasoning. “I wasn’t looking forward to dining by myself.”

Andrews grinned at her as the waiter returned with meals for two instead of one. As the waiter placed the meals on the table, Brynne, confused, looked at Andrews again. “You already ordered, too?” she asked.

Andrews’s smile evolved into a chuckle. Brynne smiled, unfolding her napkin and spreading it across her lap. “How has your morning been?” she asked.

“A few problems here and there,” Andrews replied. “Mostly a lot of little things that need to be addressed. Nothing too taxing.”

Brynne picked up her fork. She was about to ask him about the fire in coal bunker 10, but she held back. That fire might not have happened in this timeline. It was best to let him mention it, if there was anything to mention.

“I meant to join you this morning, but I overslept,” Brynne said.

“I was going to wake you, but you were sleeping so soundly,” Andrews said. “And it is a honeymoon, after all.”

“It’s a maiden voyage. A honeymoon can wait.”

“It can. But it won’t. Not this time,” Andrews said, determination coloring his tone. “It’s no secret that I devote a lot of time to my work, but I don’t want you to get the notion that I will set it as a priority above you.”

“Thomas, I know that,” Brynne said. Hearing his first name come from her own mouth felt and sounded so strange to her, but calling him ‘Mr. Andrews’ didn’t seem appropriate, especially after the night they’d shared last night. Her eyes met his briefly and a blush came to her cheeks at the memory of what had transpired the previous night. “What’s on the schedule for today?”

Andrews’s brows knitted slightly. “I hadn’t anticipated many problems,” he said, “but I never expected so few.”

“That isn’t a bad thing,” Brynne said. “Don’t sound so disappointed. It’s a testament to the firm’s work.”

Andrews sighed. “The hot press in the first-class galley hasn’t been working properly, the pebble-dashing on the private promenade decks is too dark, and there are too many screws in the coat hooks in the staterooms. Other than that, she’s nearly as perfect as human brains can make her.”

“Pebble-dashing and coat hook screws? That’s what’s occupying your time? That really is the bottom of the barrel as far as problems are concerned, isn’t it?”

“I suppose, but there’s always room for improvement. Always.” Andrews gazed out the window beside their table. “It’s funny how much a person changes during their lifetime. People call me a perfectionist now, but when I was a boy, I was a mediocre student, at best.” He turned his attention back to his meal. “Except for when it came to ships.”

“I don’t think I would believe it if you told me there was a time when you weren’t interested in boats,” Brynne said, smiling.

“They used to call me ‘Admiral’ because I was always building models …” Andrews said, his voice trailing as he reminisced. “… Have you seen Ismay this morning?”

“No. Why?”

“I ran into him earlier. He wants you to socialize more with the first-class ladies. He wants people to know all about your involvement with Titanic. He says it’ll be good for White Star. And Harland and Wolff.”

“Well, I can’t say I’m surprised at the fact that he wants to profit from the novelty of my presence,” Brynne said, dabbing the corners of her mouth with her napkin. “What does he want me to do? Make a greater effort to chit-chat more?”

“Yes, and he wants you to begin today by having lunch with a group of women from first-class. Then he wants you to start giving daily tours, targeted at the female passengers, to better acquaint them some areas of the ship that will be of interest to them.”

“I’ll assume that doesn’t include the engine room,” Brynne said, her voice saturated in sarcasm.

Ruth DeWitt Bukater and Lucille Duff Gordon sat across from each other in the First-Class Lounge taking tea when Brynne walked in accompanied by a small group of ladies, having just concluded her very first ladies tour. Madeleine Astor, Molly Brown and Madame Aubert comprise the intimate tour group.

When the group of outcasts walked in, Ruth zeroed in on them like a vulture does its prey. “Don’t look now, but Brynne Andrews just walked into the room with that Brown woman, Mrs. Astor, and Madame Aubert,” she said discreetly from behind her raised tea cup.

Lucille didn’t need to look over her shoulder at the group to comment. “How scandalous,” she said. “But they are all well-suited for each other. I can’t imagine the embarrassment if any of them approached our table.”

“To be fair, one really can’t place too much blame upon the shoulders of young Mrs. Astor,” Ruth said, in a rare moment of compassion. “Mr. Astor is the real culprit. Divorcing his wife and running off with that child. What position was she in to refuse him, given his influence and his generous assets?”

“How very true,” Lucille concurred. “I’m afraid the same can’t be said of Madame Aubert. Both she and Mr. Guggenheim ought to be ashamed of themselves, parading around without the least bit of modesty. And Mrs. Guggenheim at home with the children … oh, it’s just dreadful.”

“I suppose you might say the same about Mrs. Andrews,” Ruth said. “Really, carrying on in such a way. She has no business meddling in men’s work and in the affairs of her husband. Mr. Andrews, the poor dear – he seems to have lost all manner of control over his wife.”

“Dear, from what I hear, he never had any control,” Lucille chimed.

The Countess of Rothes approached the table at this point. “Good afternoon, ladies,” she greeted. A waiter promptly seated her at the table, as Lucille and Ruth greeted the Countess.

“You’re just in time,” Ruth said. “Lucille was just about to share a very interesting story about Mrs. Andrews.”

Lucille looked at the Countess and nodded, continuing. “It seems that it wasn’t Mr. Andrews’s idea to marry – it was Mr. Ismay’s. I heard from a highly reputable source that Mr. Ismay conjured up this whole scheme of having a woman ship designer. He thought it would be a priceless way to generate publicity for the Titanic. So, he brought her over from America, touting her as a highly-qualified architect. I’m sure ‘highly-qualified’ means a pretty face and a flattering figure. Well, of course, Mr. Andrews was against the scheme from the beginning, and he had every right to be. He built this ship; why should he willingly give credit where none is due? And it must have been an even larger affront when he learned that he had to marry this girl if he wanted to keep his job and his social standing.”

“How disgraceful,” the Countess said.

“And now Mr. Ismay has her flouncing about all over the ship, spouting off about ships,” Lucille said. “She never has anything of substance to say, and I guarantee that if someone asked her a real question, she’d end up looking quite silly without Mr. Andrews beside her to cover for her.”

“I wish I had known this sooner,” the Countess said. “I most certainly would not have made plans to tour the ship with her.”

“What tour is that?” Ruth asked.

“She’s giving tours of the ship,” the Countess replied. “Apparently, her tours cater specifically to Titanic’s female passengers. Mr. Ismay informed me of it all at breakfast and suggested that it would be something I would enjoy. I asked him to schedule me for tomorrow’s tour. But now, I feel it necessary to cancel.”

“Maybe that won’t be necessary,” Ruth said, an idea forming behind her twinkling green eyes. “I’d like to join you on that tour tomorrow, Countess. I should like to see this spectacle for myself. Perhaps, Lucille, we could put your little theory about Mrs. Andrews to the test.”

By Friday afternoon, Brynne had gotten used to the fact that her working experience aboard the Titanic was going to differ significantly from her expectations and previous experience. She’d also gotten used to her unofficial title as ‘The Women’s Tour Guide’, even if she detested it.

Brynne was the first to arrive at the Palm Court cafe for lunch. She and Andrews would be dining there for lunch with Ismay and a few passengers. She didn’t know who the passengers were. Andrews had made the arrangements earlier in the day, and a waiter had showed her to their table. He seated her and presented her with a menu.

Ismay arrived next. The very sight of him annoyed her, but she resisted the urge roll her eyes as he approached.

“Good afternoon, Brynne,” Ismay greeted as he took the seat directly to Brynne’s right,76 at the end of the table. A waiter was by his side before he was even fully seated.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Ismay,” Brynne said as sweetly as she could manage.

“I don’t know what it will take for you to call me ‘Bruce’,” he said lightheartedly. “I think I’ve tried just about everything in the book.”

“I do apologize,” Brynne said. “It must be the setting and all the excitement surrounding the voyage. I’ll try to remember in the future.”

“Don’t fret, my dear lady, it’s no great offense,” Ismay said, smiling.

“I trust your morning has been well?” Brynne inquired.

“It has been quite pleasant, thank you,” Ismay replied.

Brynne could actually not care less how pleasant Ismay’s morning had been. Ultimately, he was the man responsible for what had happened– for what would happen to the Titanic and those aboard. It would have been a personal pleasure for her if he’d said that his morning had been rotten.

Before Brynne had an opportunity to stick her foot in her mouth by intentionally insulting Ismay, Andrews entered the restaurant through the sliding doors at the aft end of the room. Brynne grinned from ear-to-ear at the sight of him, partly because she didn’t want to spend any more time alone with Ismay than she had to, but mostly because she liked spending time with him. The eager smile fell from her face when she saw who entered behind him. Ruth DeWitt Bukater, her daughter Rose, and Rose’s fiance Caledon Hockley. There had been a chance that they weren’t the passengers she, Andrews, and Ismay were to dine with, but that chance evaporated when Andrews turned and spoke with them as they all walked. They got closer to the table and it became clear to Brynne that Andrews was leading them to the table.

Brynne closed her eyes briefly and looked down at her napkin. If she looked up or at them, her face would surely betray her feelings. Why did it have to be them? Rose was the only one of the three with any sense. Ruth and Cal were just impossible. There was a slim chance that they weren’t the same. A slim chance.

“Bruce,” Hockley said, boisterously greeting Ismay with a firm handshake.

“Cal,” Ismay said. “I see you’ve already become acquainted with Mr. Andrews. I’d like to introduce you to his wife, Brynne.”

Brynne extended her hand, which Cal grasped with a gentle, subtle shake. “A pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Andrews,” he said.

“Mrs. Andrews is one of our designers from Harland and Wolff,” Ismay chimed, never missing an opportunity for valuable publicity.

“Is that so?” Hockley asked, releasing Brynne’s hand. “A female ‘designer’, eh, Bruce? I suppose it wouldn’t do to have a man picking out drapes, carpets, and the like, would it?” He seated Rose, and a waiter seated Ruth. As Cal took his own seat, directly across from Brynne, he added, “And you had to find someone to decorate the ladies’ Reading and Writing Room suitably.”

And with Cal’s last statement, that slim possibility of character change that Brynne had briefly entertained disintegrated.

“Mrs. Andrews designed the interiors of several of our first-class amenities, including the Cafe Parisien and several staterooms,” Ismay said.

“Well, I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting the Reading and Writing Room, however I’m sure that it looks just as lovely as the rest of the ship,” Hockley said.

The compliment that Hockley had seemed to throw Brynne’s way was anything but. It was a veiled insult, mocking her abilities as a designer, and Brynne couldn’t do or say a damned thing about it without committing an impropriety, which would ultimately reflect negatively on Andrews. She held her tongue and reacted only by picking up her glass and taking a sip of water.

Hockley continued. “The ship is an astounding accomplishment for both White Star and Harland and Wolff.”

“She is the largest moving object ever made by the hand of man in all history,” Ismay said with pride. “And our master shipbuilder, Mr. Andrews, here, designed her from the keel plates up.”

Andrews shifted slightly in his seat, uncomfortable with the attention Ismay was throwing his way. “Well, I may have knocked her together, but it certainly wasn’t my doing alone,” he said. “Take this room, for instance. It’s one of several designed by the talented architect on my right.” He turned to Brynne, who managed a bashful grin. “Mr. Ismay and I both count ourselves as extremely fortunate that she agreed to work with us,” he said.

“Were you an architect before you met Mr. Andrews?” Ruth asked, her question dripping with unflattering implications. This was her opportunity to place the plan that she and Lady Duff Gordon had hatched the previous day into action.

“Yes,” Brynne answered solidly. “I worked for a firm in the States.”

“You worked?” Rose asked. “As an actual architect?” Unlike her mother’s question, Rose’s was motivated only by fascination.

“Mrs. Andrews left an attractive position at a prominent firm in Washington, D.C., to work with us,” Ismay said. “It’s a miracle we were able to lure her in. We’re very proud of Mrs. Andrews, so much so that we want to share her with our passengers. Mrs. Andrews is giving tours of the ship which are specifically tailored to the needs of Titanic’s ladies.”

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of something magnificent,” Brynne said. “And I’m sure that my presence was much more to my benefit than to anyone else’s. I only helped where I could. The credit truly does belong with Mr. Ismay, for it was his idea.”

Andrews nodded in agreement. “He envisioned a steamer so grand in scale, and so luxurious in its appointments, that its supremacy would never be challenged. And here she is.” Andrews slapped the table. “Willed into solid reality.”

“I’d like to have the opportunity to participate in one of those tours, Mrs. Andrews,” Ruth said.

Brynne looked at Ruth and smiled graciously. She had a feeling there was more to Ruth’s request than was evident, but she couldn’t discern what it was. “I’d be delighted if you joined me,” she said. “I’m giving one this afternoon. Would that be suitable?”

Ruth nodded and smiled. “I think that would be perfect,” she said.

The waiter returned to the table and began to take orders. Rose, who sat across from Andrews, lit a cigarette.

“You know I don’t like that, Rose,” Ruth said quietly. Rose looked at her mother and responded by expelling a thin cloud of smoke from between her lips.

“She knows,” Cal said, annoyed. He snatched the cigarette away from Rose and stubbed it out. He then turned to the waiter behind them. “We’ll both have the lamb, rare, with little mint sauce.” The waiter moved away. “You like lamb, don’t you, sweet pea?” He asked Rose as more of an afterthought than anything else.

Brynne couldn’t help but witness the interaction between Cal, Ruth, and Rose, though she pretended that she wasn’t paying attention. She appeared to be preoccupied for the moment with something on her plate – the pattern, imperfections in the workmanship, anything. She was grateful when the waiter returned with the appetizers.

“I never have been clear about who thought of the name Titanic,” Brynne began in an attempt to alleviate the awkwardness of the moment. She looked at Andrews and then at Ismay. “Was it you, Bruce?”

“Yes,” Ismay answered promptly. “I wanted to convey sheer size. And size means stability, luxury, and above all, strength.”

“Do you know of Dr. Freud, Mr. Ismay?” Rose queried. “His ideas about the male preoccupation with size might be of particular interest to you.”

Brynne brought her napkin to her mouth, attempting, but failing, to shield her threatening laughter from the rest of the table. Beside her, she could hear Andrews nearly choke on a forkful of food, as he suppressed his own laughter. Thank heavens Ismay, stunned into silence, had been looking away from them at Rose.

“What’s gotten into you?” Ruth whispered to Rose. Rose didn’t answer. Instead, she quickly excused herself from the table and left the restaurant.

Ruth, thoroughly embarrassed, turned to the others at the table. “I do apologize,” she said.

Brynne looked at her salad as she cut through a large lettuce leaf. “She’s a highly spirited girl, Mr. Hockley,” she said. “It will take a very special man to handle her.”

“I may have to start minding what she reads from now on, won’t I, Mrs. Andrews?” Cal replied. His demeanor was smug, but his annoyance with Brynne and Rose was entrenched in his tone and handsome features.

“Freud – who is he?” Ismay asked. “Is he a passenger?”


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