May 2, 1912
In spite of her vow to strike out on her own and start a new life, Ruth was still living at the Waldorf-Astoria two weeks after the Carpathia docked. Cal had called on her once, still not believing that she would really reject his offer of help, but she had refused to see him, asking Molly to speak with him and send him away.
There were times when Ruth thought she should have taken Cal up on his offer, but her grief for her daughter wouldn't allow it. It was Ruth's actions that had sent Rose to her death, and now Ruth could think of no other way to honor her daughter's life than to give up her society life and do whatever it took to make a life of her own.
The problem was, Ruth had no idea how to set out on her own. Her entire life, she had been sheltered, cared for, first by her parents, then by her husband. She had never had to do anything for herself, and furthermore, had never wanted to. Even when she had fallen in love with one of the servants, it had never occurred to her that marrying him would mean that she would have to take care of herself. She had few useful skills—she couldn't cook, couldn't clean, couldn't even fix her own hair. Everything had been done for her.
Ruth didn't even know how to seek employment. How did one go about doing so? Should she walk into different establishments and ask for work? And what could she do? She knew how to serve tea, to select the finest clothing made from the best fabrics, to plan a dinner party for a dozen or more guests—but she suspected that none of those things would be called for in the working world. And the few useful things she could do—embroidery, reading, speaking French and German as well as English—would there be any use for them? Was she even good enough at any of them to make a living?
She had never been taught to survive, to make a living. Throughout her childhood, Ruth had been taught that the one necessary goal in life for a woman was to find a suitable husband, and everything she did and was taught to do was done with this in mind. A woman needed a man to take care of her—or so Ruth had always been taught.
She had tried to teach Rose the same thing, but it had never quite sunk in for her daughter. Rose had always wanted to do things, to live life on her own terms. Ruth winced inside, remembering how Rose had begged to be sent to university, to continue her education after finishing school. By that time, however, her daughter had been engaged to Caledon Hockley, and Ruth had seen no reason for Rose to go to a university. The purpose of university, she thought, was to find a suitable husband. Since Rose was engaged, there had been no reason to consider further education for her.
Ruth wished now with all her heart that she had allowed Rose more freedom, that she had granted some of her daughter's wishes for a more adventurous life. Some things had been out of the question, of course—even if Rose miraculously returned to life, Ruth would still not allow her to embark upon an African safari by herself—but would it really have harmed anything to have allowed her daughter to take part in amateur stage productions, to go to a university and study art as she had longed to do?
There was no use in wishing for what could never be—Ruth had known that for a long time now—but she could honor her daughter by living her own life to the fullest—if only she could figure out how.
She was beginning to learn a few things, slowly but surely. She had asked the maid who cleaned her room and assisted her in dressing to show her how to make a bed, how to dust, and even how to fix her own hair, though she found the last skill difficult to master and frustrating. She now resorted to twisting her hair up and fastening it with hairpins, determined to take care of herself now, at least in this.
The maid had looked at her oddly when Ruth had requested to be shown these things, but had done as she asked, regarding Ruth as merely another eccentric society woman. Ruth still felt clumsy and inept next to the experienced, efficient maid, but she was determined. She would learn to take care of herself, learn to make a life for herself.
Ruth was brought from her reverie by a knock on the door. Rising from her chair, she went to answer it—another thing she had learned to do for herself, with no personal maid to do it for her. Molly Brown stood on the other side.
"How ya doin', Ruth?" Molly asked, stepping inside without waiting for an invitation. Ruth still found many of Molly's actions startling, but was beginning to grow accustomed to them.
"I…I am doing as well as can be expected, Molly," Ruth replied. Since the sinking, Molly had become something of an advocate for the upper class ladies who had been widowed in the sinking, making sure that they were treated well, that their families came to get them before too much time had passed. Two weeks after arriving in New York, Ruth was the only one still under Molly's protective wing.
"I brought ya somethin'," Molly told her, handing her what appeared to be a garment bag and a hatbox. "I know ya said ya didn't want anything, but we're leavin' tomorrow and you really need some travelin' clothes. I bought ya some simple stuff—from the way you've been talkin', that seems to be what you want."
"Leaving?" Ruth stared at Molly, feeling a hint of panic rising inside. "Where are we going?"
"I have to get back to Denver. I got a telegram from my son—his boy, Lawrence, is recovering from his illness, but he's eager to see me and confirm to himself that I really am alive and well."
Now what will I do? Ruth had been relying on Molly to help her through this time, but now she was leaving.
"Of course, you're comin' with me," Molly added. "Hence the travelin' clothes."
"I…" Ruth wasn't sure what to say. She realized that she had been depending on Molly far more than she should, given her vow to make her own life in her daughter's memory. "I don't know."
"Did ya want to go back to Philadelphia instead? I can help ya get there."
"No…no, I don't want to go there." That was the one thing Ruth was sure of. Philadelphia held too many memories. Beyond that, she feared that she would be tempted to take the Hockleys up on their offer of assistance, and if she was to honor her daughter's memory, she could not, would not, do that.
"Then where do ya want to go? If you've got no other plans, Denver's as good a place as any."
Ruth set the packages that Molly had brought on the table. She supposed that Denver was as good a place as any, but…it was so far away, so far from anything she was familiar with—far from the ocean that had taken her daughter's life. And if she went with Molly to Denver, how could she be sure she wouldn't fall back into her old society life? It was a different society, to be sure—newer, rawer, more nouveau riche—but Ruth knew herself well. She enjoyed her luxuries and her position in society—those things were the reason she had pushed Rose into her unhappy engagement in the first place.
At the same time, though, Ruth also realized that she had no money, few skills, and no idea how to make her way in the world. How could she survive on her own?
"I…I'll have to think about it, Molly," Ruth told her.
Molly studied Ruth for a moment. The grieving woman had told her about her plans to set out on her own, but she wondered if Ruth had any idea just what that entailed, how hard it could be. Molly knew, of course—she had grown up in Hannibal, Missouri, and had worked at various jobs from the time she was a teenager—but Ruth had always had everything handed to her on a silver platter. She didn't know what it meant to work, to struggle—but Molly had no intention of pushing Ruth into anything she didn't want. She knew that Ruth wanted to make a clean start, and Molly had every intention of helping her, whether Ruth chose to accompany her to Denver or stayed in New York.
"I'm not leavin' until noon tomorrow," Molly told her. "Just let me know before then what you decide."
"I will, Molly." Ruth returned to her chair, sinking down and resting her chin in her hands. She had a lot to think about.