Authors: Amanda P Grange
Tags: #Man-Woman Relationships, #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #General, #Titanic (Steamship), #Love Stories
‘We will do nothing of the kind. There is nothing to discuss. Now unless you want me to call a steward I suggest you let me pass.’
He gave a slight shrug, and she expected him to move out of her way, but instead, a challenging smile crossed his face.
‘Hail one,’ he said.
She bit her lip. He had called her bluff, for there was not a steward in sight.
‘Mr Latimer —’
‘All I’m asking is that you hear me out,’ he interrupted her, with a note of steel beneath the charm.
She sighed. ‘Is there any other way for me to be rid of you?’ she asked, her patience and her good manners exhausted.
She saw a surprised expression cross his face and then his mouth set in a straight line, as though he was not accustomed to people wanting to be rid of him - and as though he did not like the novel experience.
His smile quickly returned, but his voice had a further hardness to it when he said, ‘No.’
‘Very well. Now, what is it you want to say?’
‘Miss Cavendish.’ Now that he had won his point he hesitated, as though he wasn’t sure how to continue. Then, thrusting his hands deep in his trouser pockets, he pursed his lips and went on. ‘I have a sick mother . . . ’
A sick mother
? She was astonished. It was the last thing she had expected him to say.
‘I took her to London so that I could consult the best doctors for her,’ he continued, ‘but I have not been able to secure the accommodation I wanted for her on her return journey. You, on the other hand, occupy one of the best staterooms on the ship. You have a sitting-room as well as two bedrooms and a private deck - totally unnecessary for a healthy young woman travelling alone —’
‘How do you know I am travelling alone?’ she interrupted him.
He waved one hand dismissively. ‘I make it my business to know these things. Now, all I am asking is that you swap rooms with my mother for one night. I will recompense you handsomely and —’
‘That will be quite unnecessary. I’m very sorry to hear that your mother is sick’ - if you really have a sick mother, she added to herself, as she would not put it past him to invent a sick mother if it suited him - ‘but my stateroom is not for sale. I mean to make use of it tonight. Tomorrow, however, once I disembark at Queenstown, it will be empty and your mother will be welcome to it.’
‘I don’t think you realize how wealthy I am . . . ’ he began, snapping his fingers in the direction of his man.
‘Mr Latimer,’ she said with irritation, ‘I don’t care. There are some things that cannot be bought.’
‘Everything can be bought, for the right price,’ he said, taking a cheque book from Hutton.
Emilia, seeing a steward approaching, called to him. ‘Would you show me the way to the Café Parisien, please? I seem to be lost.’
‘Certainly, miss. If you would care to follow me,’ said the steward obligingly.
Emilia turned to Mr Latimer and said freezingly, ‘I will bid you good day.’
And with that, she walked away, leaving Mr Latimer looking after her with a shrewd expression on his face.
‘I’m sorry, sir,’ said Hutton. ‘I told you she was stubborn. If she had any sense she’d accept your offer. It’s a very generous offer, if I might say so, sir.’
Carl’s eyes followed her along the corridor.
‘I’m glad she didn’t.’ His eyes kindled as he watched her recede from view. ‘Life’s been far too simple recently. All this easy living is making me soft. I’m in need of a challenge.’ He grinned wolfishly. ‘It looks like I’ve just found one.’
‘Thank you,’ said Emilia to the steward as she reached the Parisien Café. ‘You have been most helpful.’
‘Thank you, miss,’ he said pleasantly.
She went into the café. It was light, airy and spacious, and had large arched windows looking out over the sea. Trellis surrounded the windows, with ivy growing through it, and white wicker furniture was set on the chequerboard floor.
She was just about to take a seat when, to her astonishment, she saw a familiar figure over by the window, sitting in a wicker chair. It was the last person she had expected to see on the ship: Freddy Longthorn.
‘Freddy!’ she exclaimed in surprise.
‘Good Lord! Emilia!’ said Freddy Longthorn, looking up from the newspaper he had been reading. ‘Don’t tell me you’re on board? What a surprise!’
He grinned at her engagingly. Then, remembering his manners, he stood up, revealing his long gangly body dressed in flannels. He looked for all the world as though he were going to embark on a game of tennis.
‘Are you going to play, or have you been playing?’ asked Emilia humorously, as she joined him at his table.
‘What? Oh, the flannels. I’ve been having a go in the gym, don’t you know? There’s a splendid fellow there, absolutely splendid, by the name of McCawley, he runs the whole show. He set me up on the horse —’
‘Horse?’ asked Emilia, startled.
‘The electric horse,’ explained Freddy. ‘It’s a wonderful invention. Then he set me up on the camel - electric again. It’s just like riding the real thing.’
‘Have you ever ridden a camel?’ asked Emilia with a twinkle in her eye.
‘I can’t say I have, now you come to mention it, but it’s bound to be the same,’ he said, laughing.
‘But what are you doing on board
?’ she asked.
‘Ah, well, it’s a long story.’
‘In that case I had better sit down.’
He held out a chair for her and pushed it in again when she had settled herself.
‘Would you like something to drink? Tea? Coffee?’ he asked her.
‘Yes, please. A coffee, I think.’
He ordered her a drink and then sat down opposite her.
She was delighted to have met him so unexpectedly. Seeing him took her back to the happy days of her childhood, when her parents had been alive. Freddy had lived in the largest house in the
, whilst her family had occupied a neat house nearby. She and Freddy had been the same age, and when they had been babies their nursemaids had taken them to the park together to feed the ducks. As they had grown older they had spent much of their time playing together, to say nothing of trying to avoid Freddy’s forceful nurse, Hildegarde. Those times, alas, had ended on her parents’ death, when she had moved away from the neighbourhood, but they still brought back happy memories.
‘The thing is . . . ’ said Freddy.
‘Yes?’ said Emilia encouragingly.
He looked suddenly sheepish.
‘The thing is . . . ’
‘You’re in some kind of trouble,’ she said. ‘What is it this time? Have you been sent to
by your father in order to learn a trade, or have you been banished on account of a worse-than-usual prank?’
‘Good Lord, no, whatever makes you think that?’ he asked. ‘No, no, it’s nothing like that.’ His tone changed. ‘It’s worse.’
‘Then you had better tell me all about it,’ said Emilia.
The waiter brought over two cups of coffee. Once he had left, Freddy said, ‘You’re taking it very lightly, but you won’t when you know what the trouble is. The thing is, Emilia, I’m engaged.’
‘Engaged?’ Emilia was surprised. ‘To be married?’
‘That’s the usual sort of engagement,’ he said testily.
‘In that case, congratulations.’
‘Yes, well, no . . . the thing is,’ he confided, ‘that’s why I’m going to
‘Then you’re not going to
’s the place for me.’
‘Is your fiancée French?’ asked Emilia, having difficulty in following Freddy’s conversation.
‘No she isn’t. Quite the opposite, as a matter of fact. She’s as English as they come. Her name is Ellison. Penelope Ellison.’
‘Then why are you going to
?’ asked Emilia, mystified.
‘Can’t stand the French,’ said Freddy. ‘Penelope, that is. She calls them a nation of snail eaters. She won’t set foot in the place.’
‘Ah.’ Emilia’s mouth quirked. ‘I see. The engagement, I take it, is not to your liking?’
‘No it isn’t,’ he said.
‘Then why did you propose?’ asked Emilia reasonably.
‘I didn’t,’ he said mournfully. ‘She proposed to me. Or rather, she said, "Freddy, I’ve decided to marry you." Then she dragged me into the ballroom and said "Everyone, Freddy and I are engaged." ’
‘Oh, dear,’ said Emilia, unable to suppress a smile.
‘It’s all very well for you. You’re not engaged to a harridan with a dozen brothers and a father who’s a crack shot.’
‘They all hate
?’ queried Emilia.
‘Every last one of ’em,’ said Freddy.
‘Now I see why you’re going there! Well, if they all hate it, you should be safe.’
La belle France
,’ said Freddy with a sigh, relaxing back into his wicker chair. ‘Moulin Rouge . . . croissants . . .
. . . Brie . . . In a few hours time I’ll be safe from Penelope and her whole benighted family.’
‘How long are you going for?’ asked Emilia.
‘For as long as it takes.’
‘As long as it takes for what?’ she asked, startled.
‘For her to find some other poor chap to get engaged to. I don’t fancy the curate’s chances. He’s a weak looking fellow, with no backbone,’ he said, pursing his lips.
‘Would Penelope want to marry a curate?’ she asked curiously.
‘I don’t see why not. Her uncle’s a clergyman. It runs in the family. Anyway, he’s available and I’m not.’
He gave a sigh of satisfaction.
‘This is the life, Emilia. It’s a pity I’m not on board longer. But how about you? What are you doing going to
‘I’m not going to
. I’m going to
,’ said Emilia. ‘I’m going to live with my godmother.’
‘Really? Good for you. But what about your Aunt Clem?’
Emilia’s smile faded. ‘She died.’
‘Oh, I say, Emilia, I’m sorry,’ said Freddy.
‘Yes, so am I,’ said Emilia.
‘But you’ll enjoy living with your godmother,’ said Freddy bracingly.
‘Yes, you’re right. I’m looking forward to it.’