April 18, 1912
John walked slowly through the crowd, with Mary's hand and Allegro's leash in one hand, and Nadia's hand in the other. Around him, people jostled and shouted, trying to catch a glimpse of the Titanic survivors. Some members of the crowd were concerned friends and relatives, or officials from the White Star Line. Others were curiosity seekers, obscenely fascinated by one of the greatest maritime disasters in history.
Dozens of reporters pushed through the crowd, shouting questions and taking pictures. One spotted John and his small entourage, and pushed past two other reporters, the magnesium flash of his camera startling his subjects. Mary screamed, and Allegro yipped, trying to sink his puppy teeth into the reporter's shoe.
"Sir!" the reporter shouted. "How did you survive? I'm given to understand that few steerage men lived. Are these your children? Did you lose anyone on the ship?"
Resolutely, John picked up the two small girls and balanced them on his hips. Ignoring the reporter, he pushed into the crowd, merging with the thousands of other people. Mary and Nadia clung to him, their eyes wide and frightened.
Stopping for a moment, John picked up the puppy and set him in Mary's arms, lest he be trampled by the milling crowd. Mary hugged the animal as her father headed for a break in the crowd, seeking a way out.
They had already been processed by the immigration officials, and had been escorted to an area where several charitable organizations were waiting to assist those survivors who had no friends or relatives in the new country, and had no other resources to rely on. John had been referred to these organizations, but had soon slipped away. There were many people in need of assistance, many far worse off than he, and had no desire to take the limited resources of the charities when he could provide for himself and his family.
The money that Miriam had placed in Mary's dress pocket during the sinking of the Titanic was stored safely inside the ripped lining of his coat, and, although he wasn't certain of the value of it, he knew that there was enough to provide for them for a while. The other items—a locket containing a water-damaged photograph of a woman he assumed was Miriam's mother, a two-tailed silver dollar, and a note written on a twenty dollar bill—were also tucked inside the lining of the coat, safe from pickpockets.
Slowly, John made his way out of the crowd. Once he was past it, he set the girls down, his arms tired from carrying them and the dog. His side ached dully, the cracked ribs he had suffered during the sinking not yet healed. Taking the hands of the two toddlers, he slowly made his way farther into the city, wondering what he was going to do now.
He had no idea where to find shelter, or food, at this late hour, and a chilly rain was falling over the city. He held Mary's hand tightly as the child coughed, fearing that the pneumonia she had just recovered from would return. Pneumonia could be fatal, as he well knew. Mary's mother, Jana, had died from it when Mary was an infant.
He kept an eye out for any establishment that might still be open. Even if he couldn't buy any food at this late hour, he still needed to find shelter for himself and the two young children. It was much too cold and wet to spend the night in the street, especially after the ordeal they had just been through.
John was familiar with cities, having grown up in a working class neighborhood in London, but he had never before been to the United States, and New York was completely unfamiliar. Miriam had described it, but most of her experience had been with the wealthier sections of the city, and she had never wandered the streets late at night, searching for shelter.
"Daddy?" Mary's voice interrupted his thoughts. "I cold."
John picked her up, setting her on his hip again. "I know you are, Mary. Is that a little better?"
Nadia stopped, looking up at him pleadingly. Sighing, John bent down and picked her up, too. Nadia hadn't said a word since John had taken her with him when he had found her on the Carpathia, except for occasionally crying out in her sleep. John knew that she didn't speak English, but Nadia had not spoken while awake in any language. He thought that her first language might be Arabic, and he knew that her mother had occasionally spoken to her using a few French words, but he spoke only English, and wouldn't have understood her even if she had attempted to speak.
All three of them were shivering, though Allegro seemed to be content enough. His eyes searching the darkened street before him, he saw a bench set back under an overhang. A hunched figure already occupied it, but John headed for it anyway. It was shelter, no matter how crude.
Sitting down on the bench, John set the two girls in his lap, lifting the puppy onto the bench beside him. The hunched figure on the bench, a woman wearing a coat several sizes too large for her, looked up at them, startled, then pulled her knees up to her chin, apparently having dismissed him as a threat.
John unbuttoned his coat and wrapped it as best he could around himself and the two children, trying to warm them. Allegro curled against his leg, his chin on John's knee.
Nadia's eyes drooped sleepily, and in minutes she was asleep, in spite of the cold and the dampness. Mary coughed fretfully, her eyes popping open every few minutes as she fought sleep. John tried to soothe her, rubbing her back and placing her head against his shoulder.
The woman on the other end of the bench shuffled, eyeing them cautiously. She reached her hands into the pockets of her wet coat, as though searching for something, then sat up, putting her feet on the sidewalk. She hunched over again, looking up and down the street as though trying to make a decision.
John watched her dispassionately. She had long, snarled hair, the color indeterminate in the darkness, and was wearing a dress that was probably once very nice, but was now somewhat shredded. Her oversized coat looked expensive, and she dug her hands deeper into the pockets as she got to her feet, her arms half-hidden in them.
Mary peeked up at her as she stood. "Hi," she told the woman, turning her head to look at her.
"Hello," the woman responded, in a cultured voice that sounded vaguely familiar, though John didn't know why. He didn't know many people in America, aside from the few he had met on the Titanic and the Carpathia, and he certainly didn't know anyone who spoke like that. The only person he knew who had such a cultured voice was Miriam, and Miriam was dead.
"Shh," he told Mary. "Don't bother the lady."
"Mommy's fend," Mary protested, pointing to her.
"No, Mary. Your Mommy didn't know her."
"What was your Mommy's name, sweetie?" the woman asked, looking at Mary.
Mary screwed up her face, trying to remember. "Mirim," she answered triumphantly after a moment.
"Uh-huh." Mary looked up at her. "Mommy died."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Mary. Is this your Daddy?"
"Uh-huh. And Nada, and Egro."
"Nadia and Allegro," John translated, at the woman's confused look. "I'm John."
Suddenly, John knew why her voice sounded familiar. Rose had been down in steerage the night before the sinking, drinking beer and making a fool of herself. "Rose DeWitt Bukater?"
"Rose Dawson." She spoke firmly. "And, unless I miss my guess, you're John Calvert, the husband of Miriam Anders Calvert." Her voice softened. "I'm sorry to hear she didn't make it."
"Thank you. What are you doing out here in the street? What happened to your fiancé?"
Rose's expression became shuttered. "Suffice it to say I am not with him, nor will I be again. As to what I am doing out here, I am looking for a hotel. There are two inexpensive ones on this street."
"Are they still accepting guests at this hour?"
"If they aren't full, they will be. If they are, I suppose I will have to look farther. You should think about doing to the same. Those children shouldn't be out in the cold like this, especially after Titanic. If you can't afford a hotel, there's a Red Cross shelter just three blocks that way." She pointed down a dark street. "They've taken some of the Titanic survivors there. They would probably give you shelter and some food."
"I can afford a hotel. Where are these hotels you mentioned?"
Rose pointed to one building with lights in some of its windows on the next block of the street, then gestured to another in the opposite direction. "That's where I'm going to try first."
"If you don't mind, I'm going to tag along." She gave him a suspicious look. "I need to find a room for the night. You're right; the girls don't need to be out in the rain. I'm not trying to follow you, but that hotel looks to be the nearest one, and I need to get them inside before they get sick."
As if to underscore his words, Mary coughed, her little face turning red from the exertion.
"Is she ill?" Rose asked, looking more closely at the child.
"She just recovered from pneumonia, and I don't want her getting it again. She nearly drowned when the ship went down."
"Oh, how terrible!" Rose's face showed her compassion. "Hurry, then. Let me carry one of them."
John stood, allowing Rose to take Mary. Holding Nadia, he took Allegro's leash and started down the street beside her.
Mary held onto Rose's coat, her eyes wide as she looked up at her. "You pretty," she told Rose, touching her tangled hair.
"Thank you, Mary. You're very pretty, too."
Mary grinned at her, then commenced coughing again. Rose walked faster, John keeping stride with her, as they headed toward the hotel.