AN: I am putting the finishing touches on the next chapter of Haxby and will probably update tomorrow, but I wanted to do something fun and short and distracting and this came to mind. Pretend the Christmas Special never happened and Richard and Mary got married in July as planned.
July, 1919 – RMS Mauretania: Statues
The first thing you will hear about reaching New York harbor is how glorious the Statue of Liberty stands, a beacon of opportunity to the new Americans crowding the balconies in third class; a hint of freedom to the tourists in second; the promise of adventure for those of us lucky enough to be travelling first. But no one talks about the ships.
There are vessels of every kind crowding around Manhattan, this busy hub of American commerce. From the tugboats that guide luxury liners in and out of the port daily to the lowly commuter ferries, long immune to the sea-worn charms of the French woman with the torch, the Hudson and the East Rivers are busier than the traffic around Piccadilly on the day of a Royal parade. The sight of such unabashed trade is glorious, something we Londoners are not treated to with any regularity on our dry riverbed of the Thames. This is a city of business, all the ships seem to declare, a flag that flies invisible alongside the stars and stripes banner they all bear. As they zoom to and fro, loaded with grocery items for the city, or imports from Europe destined for the heartland, or tobacco scheduled to reach a shop near you next week, the dizzying pattern will elicit anxiety. What if they crash into each other? But somehow, dear reader, they glide through summer haze rising from the water without incident, and you will know the chaos of this city is guided by some guardian angel.
We were drawn to America for many reasons, The Lady and I, but it was this myth of American industry that primarily captured my imagination. This is a country where fortune smiles upon anyone who dare seek her out; where there is no such thing as self-invention, because everyone arrives with a fresh start. For her part, my new bride is seeking out the American side of her ancestry – and from the Americans I am acquainted with in England, the promise this encounter holds for high entertainment is worth the journey alone. When the English aristocracy meets the American relatives, I intend to be in the audience with a good brandy in hand, ready for the curtain to rise. Although in America, I am told, the drink is beer. That may take some getting used to.
For one curious enough to seek her out, I believe America holds innumerable charms; our fellow passengers certainly seem to think so. The Lady has been busy gathering recommendations from shipboard companions, emerging with a notebook full what and what not to see. To her horror, the itinerary appears to be rather packed with Americana we are told we simply cannot miss. Naturally it is the suggestions of everything we should avoid that I, as your dedicated Publisher, plan to pursue first.
Before we get to that, our ship must come into port. The Lady watches with distaste as the passengers on deck break out in enthusiastic waves when we pass enormous green sandaled feet – even the premier class cannot resist the thrill of land after a week at sea. "Never have toes been so heralded," I am told with a quirked eyebrow and a dazzling gaze. "Never have they been the mascot of an entire country," I reply.
Yes I think we will like it here, this land of traffic and trade and toes. The Lady looks ready to hop on the Lusitania as the ship passes us on the way out, bound for England; I glance around for a lifesaver should she decide to defect. But our stopover is only for a few months, and we will board the Lusitania soon enough. For now New York beckons in all its confused glory – if only our ship can find a dock in this infernal congestion.