Sometimes the days that you look forward to the least are the ones that creep up from behind like a thief. Today was such a day. Michaelmas. The day Daniel, Lord Gold left for Liverpool.
My stomach was a bundle of nerves as Daniel still awaited my answer. For that matter, so did Father. I was the key to their business deal.
The clopping of Father’s grey mare’s hoofs reverberated through the cobbled streets as he drove us in his carriage down to the piers. The morning air was cool and crisp but as the harbor came into view the salty sea air was tinged with that disagreeable smell of sewage that Boston harbor had become famous for.
“I am glad to be sailing on a brand new ship this time,” Daniel said. “The Laconia’s maiden voyage was barely eight months ago and she’s fitted with ‘anti roll’ tanks, the first North Atlantic liner to have them. That should make the journey a bit more agreeable.” His gaze swept across the harbor and out into the open sea beyond.
“It’s a wonder you we’re able to get passage at all,” Father added. “After that nasty coal workers strike in England earlier this year.”
So much small talk when the big conversation tarried.
The R.M.S Laconia sat at the dock looking impressive with her brightly painted red and black steam twin stacks. Thousands of waiting passengers were gathering on the loading pier with their bags and luggage cases while Cunard Lines officials began examining tickets and making pre-boarding announcements. The entire scene seemed slightly chaotic but lines were being formed and soon, some semblance of order began taking shape even as officials shouted to be heard above the crowd.
Father brought the carriage to a halt and climbed out to help unload Daniel’s luggage while Daniel hired a porter to transport it to the ship. Father shook Daniel’s hand. “I’ll say goodbye now. ”
The inference, of course, was that I would walk Daniel to the loading gate. I was meant to give an answer and even up to that moment, I’d remained undecided! Oh, mercy!
We walked slowly, shoulder to shoulder, and though we were swallowed by the the crowd, Daniel was the only person of whom I was aware. I felt like we were completely alone, my vision blurry to everything but his face. He took my hands in his and ducked to hold my gaze.
“My darling Ginger. I’m afraid you can no longer withhold your answer. I profess to have fallen in love with you, but you know that already. And because I love you, I will accept graciously though sadly, should your answer be no. However, should you find that you love me in return, I would be the happiest of men.”
My knees melted and I almost swooned! Me, Ginger Hartigan! Daniel’s eyes were pooled with kindness and honesty. I knew in the core of my being that I could trust this man.
I could love this man.
If love was demonstrated by a rise in my pulse rate and heat in my cheeks? If love was the inability to completely banish the object of my affection from my thoughts and imaginations? if love was this sense of longing and physical ache in my heart that I was soon going to be without him?
I did love this man!
“Yes.” It came out in a dry whisper.
Daniel’s eyes brightened with hope. “Yes?”
“Yes! I love you.” I believed it now more than ever. I was in love. It was the most sensible and undeniably tantilzing sensation in the world. “I will marry you!”
What happened next is too delicate to record, but I will say that more than one upright citizen huffed with disapproval.
When we came up for air, I burst out in laughter. “I can’t believe I’m agreeing to an arranged marriage!”
“Truth be told, me neither,” Daniel said, looking more handsome than ever. “I love you Ginger, and I can’t wait to make you my wife.”
I suddenly felt the same urgency. “Perhaps you should stay. Do you really have to go back to England?”
“I’m afraid I do. There are both business and family matters at Bray Manor that I have to attend to that I can’t put off any longer. I also I need to spend Christmas with my family. There is just the three of us after all, and Christmas time has a way of making a large, mostly empty house like Bray Manor seem rather lonely.”
“Then, when will you return to Boston?”
“In the spring, once the winter storms have passed.”
My heart sunk to my feet. Six months without seeing Daniel felt like the worst kind of punishment.
“It’ll be all right, Ginger,” Daniel said, gently. “The time will go by, and it will give you plenty of opportunity to plan a beautiful summer wedding.”
The ship’s horn blasted and I was filled with regret that I had wasted so much time deliberating a union with Daniel when I should’ve spent every free moment at his side. My blasted pride!
“Oh, Daniel. This will be the longest winter of my life.”
“Mine too. But we will write each other.”
The final warning blast forced Daniel to pull away and run to the gate. I felt elated with joy at having found the love of my life, and sick with grief at having to say goodbye so soon after the precious discovery.