|Ship of Dreams
Author: Veringue PM
S1 AU. The ship of dreams, they called it, the Titanic, the greatest liner. Unsinkable. The Crawley family sails first-class across the ocean, and Lady Mary, engaged, is one of them. Matthew seeks to make his fortune in the new world. And then they meet.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Matthew C. & Mary C. - Chapters: 6 - Words: 22,570 - Reviews: 45 - Favs: 23 - Follows: 63 - Updated: 09-15-12 - Published: 04-16-12 - id: 8030802
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Hello again! I am so, so sorry for the long wait leading up to this chapter! My mind has been elsewhere recently and I'm travelling now so the revision took a lot longer than usual! Yet here it is and I do hope it lives up to your expectations!
Thank you for your patience, my dears, and enjoy!
11 April, 1912
The light had just begun to filter through the windows and fine white curtains of Lady Mary Crawley's bedroom when she found herself already drifting out of sleep and slowly floating back into reality. She had the large double bed entirely to herself and rolled over leisurely before raising a hand to her pale forehead. With a smile, she realized that she did not feel quite as bad this morning as she thought she would, considering the events of the previous night. And as she lay between the sheets, staring up at the decorated ceiling, a feeling of inexplicable optimism washed over her.
Mary felt weightless as she swung her legs out of bed, pressed the balls of her feet against the floor, and then stood up and stretched. The long nightgown danced around her ankles as she walked about the room, occasionally pausing to dig her toes into the soft carpet, before she made her way to the porthole. The ocean was emerald blue, smooth, untroubled, parting easily to let the Titanic glide through.
She did not bother to get dressed yet and, hugging her silken robe to her body, she made her way out of her bedroom (which adjoined that of Patrick's) and onto their private square of deck. There, a table for two was already being set up by Anna. Anna was moving even more noiselessly than Mary was, her priority being that she did not wake her mistress and master, and ever so gently she was making the finishing touches to their breakfast table, making sure that everything was just as they liked to have it.
Mary had never felt quite so rosy and well tempered as when she paused in the doorway that morning, the cool breeze flitting through the narrow space between her skin and the fabric of her gown, and watched Anna about her work. In the back of her mind lingered something of the previous evening, some memory, some dream-like images of a blond man with bright blue eyes, and some notion that it wasn't entirely right. But, for the life of her, she could no longer remember what it was that wasn't entirely right.
"Oh, my lady!" Anna exclaimed when she turned to find Mary standing by the door. She dropped a curtsy. "I hope I did not wake you."
Mary smiled warmly and the memories of the past evening slipped away again. "No, not to worry. I just woke up. Some tea would be nice." She walked over to the table and watched Anna shuffle the cups and the saucers. After having seen Mr Carson fuss over all their meals for as long as she could remember, it was strange to have Anna attend to her in this manner.
Mary had barely sat down and begun to sip her tea when Patrick emerged. She had not expected him to be up this early. Indeed she had not expected herself to be up this early, but she had at least hoped to have some time to herself before the day truly commenced. Once again, it was not to be.
"Darling, couldn't you sleep?" He poked his head around the corner, acknowledged Anna with a nod, made his way over to the table and bowed over his fiancée to place a light kiss on her lips. Mary tasted of Earl Grey and something sweeter – Harlequin biscuits. Patrick hummed his assent. "That tastes delicious. I'm glad to see you haven't started breakfast without me."
Mary turned her eyes back over the railing and fixed them on the horizon – just a thin strip of blue. "You know I wouldn't dare," she said lightly, forcing a small smile.
Patrick lowered himself into his chair before he took the time to observe what was for breakfast. The table was filled with fresh cakes and coloured fruits and juicy charcuterie and all sorts of different types of scones. The sweet scent of bread, sugar, and bacon rose up to meet him and he took up his cutlery.
Anna by now had dashed off to attend to her other, younger mistresses and had been replaced by one of the maids of the ship itself. The girl stood silently, unobserved, invisible in a corner. Patrick served himself and eventually raised a hand to summon the young waitress. "Plain omelettes," he said, his eyes on the menu, "with a side of sautéed potatoes – no toppings of any kind."
The waitress nodded. "For one person, sir?"
With a modest "Of course, sir" and a quick bob the girl was off again without Patrick's having taken any real notice of her.
"Won't you have something to eat, darling?" Patrick enquired of Mary as he picked up a scone.
Mary fiddled with the ribbon of her braid, her cup of tea in one hand, the thin silk rubbing against the palm of the other. "No, I'm not very hungry."
"You haven't had much of an appetite lately. You will let me know if anything is the matter, won't you?" he spoke slowly, choosing his words carefully. He had known Mary since they were young and could most certainly tell when his presence wasn't exactly welcome.
"Of course," she said. And those were the last words spoken over breakfast.
It took Mary only another minute or two to realize what hadn't been entirely right about her interaction with Matthew the evening before. Despite the fact that that dreadful lawyer was disagreeable in many ways, that in one evening he had provoked multiple heated discussions, and that he had enraged her, she found that she'd actually enjoyed herself. She had had a far more interesting evening with him than she had had at Downton in years. Somehow, Matthew Crawley had managed to break the silence.
That same Matthew Crawley found himself lying on his stomach on a chaise longue outside the second-class dining room around noon. The ship had stopped moving and was currently moored at Queenstown in South-Ireland, and Matthew had the chance to blame his restlessness on the fact that they weren't really going anywhere. His notebook was in front of him, his pencil pressed between his lips and he was staring out over the ocean with a faraway look in his eyes. He had undone his shirt collar and had slipped into a world of his own. Every now and then his fingertips twitched or his eyes suddenly darted to another spot in the clear blue sky. There was clearly something on his mind and Isobel knew better than to disturb him at times like those, so she had gone off to explore the ship.
Matthew was drowning in a sea of conflicting thoughts, of things he should have said, or shouldn't have said, or should have done, or shouldn't have done – and for the most part it annoyed him that he should be thinking about it at all! And so when he, for the first time, turned his eyes back to the deck, he thought he was hallucinating.
She was completely in white, holding a matching parasol in her gloved hands, a curved hat nestled in the contrasting black of her hair. He couldn't tell the difference between the colour of her skin and the colour of her summer dress. But he could tell exactly who she was by the sweet scent of her perfume. The realization brought a rosiness to his cheeks.
Matthew's mouth opened just a centimetre, yet besides that he didn't have time to move or say a word before she was already by his side.
"I did think I recognized you," Mary said stiffly. The warmer tone from their last encounter had vanished.
Matthew stammered a bit, swallowed, tried to come up with something to say but decided that perhaps he should change of position before even attempting to have a conversation with her. After all, he was still on his stomach, which certainly was not very sophisticated, and his neck was beginning to ache from looking up at her. Clumsily, he righted himself, his legs tingling, and tried to get up, but stumbled and sat down again.
Mary almost laughed but covered it up with a little cough. "Did I take you by surprise?" How very boyish he looked right now – so unlike any of the other men she knew!
"No, not at all," he spluttered. "Please..." He gestured at the other chaise before realizing that this probably wasn't the sort of seat she was used to. However, Lady Mary Crawley perched herself on the edge of it so elegantly that one wouldn't have thought she'd ever sat on anything else. With a smooth gesture, she folded up her parasol and placed it beside her.
"My parents were hoping you and your mother had enjoyed yourselves last night," Mary said formally. "In fact, mama wanted to come and see you in person but I believe she's been held up by Sybil on the staircase and is currently being lectured on some technical wonder or other."
Matthew waited for Mary's smile, double-checked that she had indeed meant it as a joke, and then permitted himself to laugh. "Lady Sybil is your youngest sister, isn't she?"
Mary nodded. "She's quite like you, you know."
"In what way?"
"Stubborn." Mary had her eyes intently fixed on his face.
He cleared his throat and changed the subject a lot less smoothly than Patrick Crawley had the night before. "You are too kind to come and find us. My mother will be back soon, I'm sure; she's just touring the ship. I cannot thank you enough for the dinner and–"
Lady Mary, with her brown eyes still boring into him, interrupted him in such a practiced way that he hardly even realized he'd been interrupted. "You did enjoy yourself, I hope?" Matthew did not fail to notice that as she asked this she clasped and unclasped her slim hands over and over again.
"Yes, very much," he replied without hesitation. "Over cigars your father seemed rather interested in Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his travels to the South Pole," he went on quickly.
Mary laughed. "Perhaps because they share the same name?"
Matthew smiled as well. "Perhaps! I hadn't thought of that!"
They fell silent and Matthew was left with the itching feeling that when she had asked that question so urgently of him, she hadn't been referring to his activities in the smoking room. He found himself unable not to reply properly, "I do want to apologise for the trouble I caused you yesterday–"
She raised her hand. "Please, don't speak of it. It was a pleasure doing business with you, Mr Crawley."
"No, please, I do truly want to apologise. Allow me to apologise..."
"You can make all the apologies you like–" Mary got up decisively "–I won't accept them."
Matthew got up as well, taking advantage of the movement to straighten out his waistcoat. It was getting almost unbearably hot outside but he still found himself wishing that he hadn't undone his top shirt button. "Why ever not?" he asked of her.
"Because there's nothing to apologise for, so I can hardly accept, can I?"
Matthew fell silent. He duly noted that she made no attempt to apologise in return, so he decided to make an end to his own apologies. He thought that she might leave now, Lady Grantham and Lady Sybil were still nowhere in sight after all, but she made no move to go. They ended up standing in awkward silence for a moment more before he enquired, "If you don't mind my asking, why are you going to America?"
"We have family there," she responded haughtily, "mama's side of the family. We'll be staying with them."
"Of course," Matthew said, recalling Lady Grantham's American accent.
"And you?" she asked.
"I...I have a client, in law, who has a friend in America, who has another friend, and well, that original client recommended me and then this friend of a friend of a friend wanted to meet me. They booked me a ticket, and so here I am," Matthew explained matter-of-factly. He started off unsure as to what she would make of his working-class speech, but ended up thinking that it wouldn't matter anyway, especially after what had happened the evening before.
Mary looked at him in that fashion of hers that was indecipherable, an expression that simultaneously annoyed him and intrigued him. "So, it was a matter of good fortune?"
"Yes, I suppose one could say I lucked out."
Suddenly, Mary's eyes darted down to the booklet that he'd left lying on his chaise. "And what does a man of law read?"
"Uh..." Matthew licked his lips and hastily stooped to pick up his notebook, nervously passing it from one hand to the other, not knowing how to reply. "It's not..." He trailed off again.
But while Matthew intently studied the pattern of the deck Mary's keen eyes had spotted writing on the pages of his booklet and a shade of something that might be interpreted as excitement passed over her face. "Why, you're a writer!" She gripped her parasol tighter.
"No, I don't, I'm not– I write a few things...but I wouldn't call myself a writer." He looked away.
"Oh, it's a diary," she said.
Mary narrowed her eyes and, before she could stop herself, said, "Might I be able to read something of it?" She found herself oddly taken by this man who did so many things – especially after all this time of mingling with people who only spoke of all the wonders they would achieve but never in their life lifted a finger.
Matthew froze; his blue eyes translucent. "I– What do you mean, Lady Mary?"
Mary's fingers stroked the smooth handle of her parasol. "Could you perhaps write something for me..." (that sounded inappropriate, she could not possibly end it there!) "...to read?" she ended up adding again.
Matthew still did not know what on earth she meant. "You would like me to write you something...?" he said hesitatingly.
"Oh yes! That would be wonderful!" Mary chimed in as though he were the one to have proposed it in the first place. Matthew thought this to be a new all-time low. Write something for Lady Mary Crawley?! How could he ever write anything, anything at all, knowing that it would be read by her?!
She was looking at him expectantly, with that intense gaze of hers, and he shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "Yes but...it's not that easy to write...something new."
Mary's heart fell. Her response was immediate, "What was that phrase again? If poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all...?"
For the first time since Lady Mary had brought up writing, Matthew raised his eyes to meet hers. "You know your Keats," he said, impressed.
Mary, however, found herself enormously insulted by the fact that he should think she might not know her Keats! "Anyone who doesn't know their Keats is a fool."
Matthew didn't get the chance to react as Lady Grantham came up beside them. With her were Sybil and, to Matthew's surprise, his mother, too! The Countess appeared especially flustered and Matthew mutely tried to demand of Isobel what she'd said or done to make the other seem so uncomfortable. He was ignored. "Ah, darling, there you are!" Cora said haughtily. "And Matthew, how nice to see you again! We keep bumping into each other, don't we – such coincidences!"
"Indeed, what a coincidence!" He put on his best smile and involuntarily gave Mary a look of confusion. Hadn't she said at the beginning of their conversation that Lady Grantham had been coming to seek him out herself? So, why was she now surprised to find him here? Unfortunately, he was ignored by Mary as well.
Young Sybil, obviously excited to see Matthew again, was about to say something when Cora cut her off by turning to her eldest daughter. "I'm afraid we must be going, my dear. So sorry to budge in!" She glanced between Matthew and Mary.
"Not to worry," Matthew said. In that instant he heard a gleeful voice from behind him and had to suppress a sigh. Within moments, Lavinia Swire, who he'd only met that same morning, was in their midst. "Oh, I am sorry!" she said immediately upon seeing who his company was and shyly began to recoil.
But Matthew jumped in and quickly began to introduce everyone before Miss Swire had the chance to retreat. Just his luck to have everyone bump into each other and just his luck that he found himself forced, in the presence of the aristocratic Crawleys, to show that he did have some knowledge of etiquette! In fact, he thought that the only good fortune of his that could truly be called good fortune was indeed that he found himself traveling upon the RMS Titanic at all.
The minute Lady Mary laid eyes upon Lavinia, she realized with a pang that Matthew Crawley might be married, and then consequently it dawned upon her equally sharply that she had somehow inadvertently noticed that he did not wear a wedding ring, so that couldn't be the case. But why on earth had she noticed that?!
Reginald Swire, a quiet man, came up behind his daughter and Matthew briefly explained that Lavinia's father was a lawyer as well and that that was what had brought them together. At this, a polite laugh rippled through the company before Cora once again pressed that they really must be going!
The three ladies excused themselves and left the Swires and Crawleys to discuss whatever it was that middle-class people discussed.
With her two daughters, Cora hurried down the deck to get back to the more familiar areas of the ship. "Such radical people!" she exclaimed under her breath. "His mother, at least." She blinked a few times, as if to rid herself of the thought of Isobel Crawley. "How was Matthew?"
Mary shrugged, hiding her expression in the shadow of her parasol. "He's...very full of himself."
"Well, it was to be expected," Cora said with a huff.
"I thought Cousin Matthew was rather nice actually!" Sybil protested bitterly.
"Please Sybil," her mother groaned.
Meanwhile, some twenty metres back, Matthew listened with half an ear to what Lavinia was saying while he watched the three ladies in ivory disappear around a corner. Mary had left him with the nagging feeling that any conversation that ended on the word 'fool' could hardly be called progress and that, somehow, it was now up to him to set things straight.
That evening, Lady Mary returned from a long dinner drained of all energy. As alive as she had felt the same morning, that was how exhausted she felt now. Her step, usually light and elegant, seemed to weigh her down, her shoes unwilling to let go of the floor as she made her way back to her room. Briskly, she said good night to Patrick and with a sigh of relief retreated into the privacy that was Anna's silent company. Soon, she was released from the confinement of her corset and already felt considerably better.
She made sure that Patrick was well in his own room before she opened the door out onto their private deck. The warm breeze instantly reached its soothing fingers inside the chamber and blew up the curtains and the sheets and her nightgown. Sitting down by the mirror, Mary watched as the cloth struggled with itself, dancing into knot after knot.
Anna's keen hands moved about her hair imperceptibly, pulling out the pins and letting the dark hair escape to cling to her face, as though fearful of the wind. By now, the breeze had picked up and Anna offered to close the door.
Turning to the mirror, Mary caught her reflection. Her face was exposed, clean, scrubbed of the powder, her hair pulled away so she could clearly see her eyes. This seems to me a lot more like a case of the Narcissus. Was he right? Mary shook her head. She could not think about that, would not allow herself to think about that. She looked down at her dressing table, her fingers trying to find something to do, to busy herself. Although she had been exhausted only moments ago she couldn't go to sleep just yet. Why was there nothing for her to do?
Then her eye caught a piece of paper, a small envelope no bigger than a powder box, an envelope that certainly had not been there earlier that day. Mary picked it up and sought her maid's gaze in the mirror. "Anna, what is this?"
"I found it under your door, my lady, when I came in this evening." Mary felt the room close around her. For a moment longer, she kept watching Anna's face, trying to find some betrayal of knowledge in her expression. Did Anna suspect anything? If she did, she did not show it.
Mary waited – an eternity it seemed – until Anna finally left the room. Only then did she carefully slip a trembling finger under the flap of the envelope. It popped open effortlessly, the paper giving way to her eagerness. Mary's heart fluttered in her chest, then slowly travelled to her throat, making it hard to breathe as she unfolded the paper.
Choking on an unknown fear (was it fear?), she stumbled up and wrenched open the door that Anna had just closed. The wind, much cooler now, hugged her body and, slowly, she grew calmer. The sound of the ocean reached her ears and then it was almost like she could hear him speak, like she could hear him speak the words to her, the words that she had now begun to read.
Thank you so much for sticking with me throughout! I would love to know what you thought, feedback is always wonderful! Thank you again!
Oh, and next time: a very inappropriate invitation...