After checking the time, Bryson snapped shut the antique pocket watch that had been among the clothes and other items that Mr. Rourke had sent to their bungalow that morning, and tucked it into a vest pocket of the white tropical suit he wore. Looking in the mirror, he set the wide broad brimmed Panama hat that was part of the outfit on his head. He and his daughter Phoebe were here on Fantasy Island as part of her birthday gift to him; namely being able to travel back in time and meet the woman who had fascinated him since his college days. The gift was not a cheap one, given what he had heard about Rourke and what he and his staff were capable of when it came to fulfilling the fantasies of his guests. Of course the steep price asked was no matter given that two years previously Bryson had learned he was the last surviving direct heir to an old and quite wealthy New England family. Seemingly overnight, he and his daughter had gone from just getting by in their small suburban house outside Chicago to living in the height of luxury in a huge stone manor house on a private island off the coast of Maine. The house was filled with antiques, something that Phoebe's mother would have relished. A pang of sadness came to Bryson's heart as he recalled his late wife, killed by a drunk driver nearly seven years ago. She had so loved to visit swap meets or antique shops, purchasing furniture or assorted bric-a-brac to furnish their home with, she would have been in heaven upon seeing the Castle and its contents.
"Dad?" Phoebe swept into the room in a whisper of petticoats. Like him, she was in period attire, a white linen shirtwaist with a high lace collar and puffed leg-o-mutton sleeves, a gray skirt that came to her ankles revealing polished black high laced patent leather boots, and a straw "Boater" atop her brown hair which was set in a style proper for a young lady of the early 20th century, as opposed to her usual way of wearing it, tied back in a pony tail. Bryson had to smile at how ladylike the clothes made her look. Since the death of her mother, he'd allowed her to become somewhat of a tomboy, as she wore her preferred jeans and sweatshirts while she helped him work on the vintage Cessna that had once belonged to his own father. Working together on the plane had proven therapeutic in the months and years after his wife's death, father and daughter forming a deep bond in the process as well as a mindset of you and me against the world. Like him, Phoebe loved to fly, and under his tutelage, had been a qualified pilot since the age of fourteen. Now that she was sixteen, she wanted to make that official as soon as they returned home to Maine, and even had her eye on a battered old Stearman biplane that she hoped to purchase in order to become a crop duster of all things.
"You look lovely." Bryson smiled as his daughter did a pirouette for his inspection. "Almost like a girl even." He teased.
"Dad!" she giggled as she hugged him. "This corset does take some getting used to however," she said as she ran her hands down her sides. "Hard to believe women actually wore them."
"It was the price of fashion." He grinned, "You should have seen your Grandma Marie's girdle!"
There was a knock at the door. Phoebe went to answer it and admitted Mr. Rourke and his diminutive assistant. Both were in matching white suits that were immaculate despite the heat and humidity.
"If you are both ready, the carriage is waiting to take you down to the harbor." Rourke said evenly, his voice tinged with an accent that hinted at a Latin origin.
"Mademoiselle?" Tattoo said as he produced a ladies lace trimmed parasol and presented it to Phoebe with a courtly bow. "To protect your lovely completion."
"Thank you." Phoebe smiled as she bent over to place a kiss on his cheek causing him to blush.
"These are your press credentials." Rourke said as he handed over a pair of documents to Bryson. "They identify you as a correspondent for the Chicago Daily Telegraph. Is the camera satisfactory?"
"Very." Bryson replied nodding towards the large leather case containing a model 1903 Kodak along with extra photographic plates and other equipment.
"Then we should be off. The Manchuria will be dropping anchor shortly." Porters appeared to gather up the Bryson's luggage as Rourke and Tattoo escorted them to an open topped brougham. Once they were seated, Phoebe opened her parasol and the carriage rolled off towards the waterfront.
Once there, the group found a massive welcoming celebration awaiting the arrival of the passengers from the large steamship that had just come to anchor in the harbor. There were well over a thousand people by Bryson's estimation, both white and pacific islanders, all in proper circa 1905 dress. A large floral banner spanned the landing pier, the word welcome spelled out in white native flowers, while another banner, made of canvas, bore the words Welcome to Miss Roosevelt and her party. There was a reviewing stand with dignitaries, and a brass band awaited the signal to start playing. Bryson couldn't imagine what it cost Rourke to set all this up, to costume and train all these people. Even the ship lying at anchor was a spot on duplicate of the Pacific Mail Company's Manchuria, the actual one having been scrapped sometime in the 1930's according to his research.
A tender had gone out to the ship and was now returning, the band striking up "It'll be a hot time in the old town tonight" as it approached the pier. Once it had docked, the tender began to discharge its passengers. There was William Taft, or at least a very accurate depiction of the former President and Supreme Court Justice. And on his arm, dressed in a white linen duster coat and wide brimmed floral decorated hat was the woman who had captured his soul since he had first gazed upon her image while researching a paper on her Presidential father, Miss. Alice Lee Roosevelt. Behind the pair there was another man, in his thirties, dressed in a white suit and straw hat with a thin moustache. Nicolas Longworth, Congressman from Ohio and Miss Roosevelt's love interest.
"You bastard, you didn't deserve her!" Bryson thought to himself as he recalled all he had read about Longworth's philandering ways.
"Dad, they're coming this way." Phoebe was saying beside him. "She's even more beautiful then the pictures you showed me."
"Yes, they made an excellent choice in an actress to portray her." He nodded. "He turned to convey his congratulations to Mr. Rourke, only to discover he and Tattoo had vanished. Turning back Bryson felt something hit his shoe. Looking down he saw a beaded ladies clutch bag lying at his feet. He bent down to retrieve it; a gloved female hand reached for it as well and briefly touched his. He looked up, straight into the enchanting eyes of Theodore Roosevelt's daughter. They rose up together, his eyes never straying from hers.
"Thank you," Miss Roosevelt said as he returned her purse to her. "Mr.?"
"Nathaniel Bryson." He replied as he doffed his hat. "I'm with the Chicago Daily Telegraph. This is my Daughter Phoebe." The two young women exchanged pleasantries before Miss Roosevelt returned her attention to him. "Will you both be joining us for the trip to Japan?" she asked.
"Yes, that is why my paper sent me." Bryson replied as he thought about how this must be how Christopher Reeve's character felt in that movie with Jane Seymour.
"My father has wanted to meet you for the longest time." Phoebe said brightly.
"Is that so?" Miss Roosevelt asked.
"Yes," Bryson replied as he bowed and kissed her hand, aware of Longworth's burning gaze. "And I've come such a long way in order to do so."
To be continued