Chapter Five

New York hit Rose Dawson like a blast from a canon.

Her previous visits to the city had always had a particular purpose and destination, and it was as though she had been wearing blinders to everything else. Her mother had deemed the people and activities that filled the streets as being inconsequential and beneath them, and Rose supposed a bit of that arrogance had rubbed off on her.

This time it was different, much different.

Rose had awakened from a fitful night to find Molly already departed, a brief note on the bed stand her final farewell. Rose studied herself in the mirror. Dried streaks on her face told a tale of wretched dreams and she could still feel them but she had no memory of their darkness. Subdued, she gathered herself to bathe, dress and face the world.

Grabbing her hat, her bag, and a few dollars Molly had thoughtfully left her, Rose briefly debated whether to take the 'Heart' but decided instead to place it in the hotel safe. There might be questions but she couldn't think of a more secure place for it.

She rang for the porter and had him fetch the manager. While she awaited him she turned the necklace over and over in her hands.

Her mind raced back, back to her sitting room on the ship, and she could almost smell a tinge of charcoal lacing the air.

Rose placed the 'Heart' in a small box, wrapped that in a pillowcase, and tied it tight with binding from one of Molly's clothes boxes. Upon arriving, the manager eyed her and the package curiously but accepted his charge and disappeared down the corridor.

Another person who wants to know more about me, Rose thought. I never realized before how much just keeping one's peace brings out the curiosity in everyone else. It's only natural, I suppose.

Rose left by the courtyard door, not wanting to take the chance that there still might be lingering passengers from the ship in the hotel lobby. She circled the building and left the grounds via the main carriage gate.

The life of the immense city crashed over her like a tidal wave and seemed to fill her senses to bursting. The sun was high and strong yet its power was restrained by the tall buildings lining the streets. Horse drawn carriages fought for every inch of cobbled brick with a herd of bicycles and a swarm of automobiles.

A very few years earlier autos were scarce. Now they were everywhere, each one a riot of its own design. With the chugging engine, the horn, the teeth-rattling vibrations and the cloud of black exhaust billowing from behind, every machine was a full sensory assault piloted by its own lord and master waving as if oblivious to his aftermath.

Pedestrians streamed up and down the walks and spilled into the streets, moving in surges past bottlenecks of vendors and stalled vehicles. More then two million souls lived in Manhattan and on this day each seemed intent on being somewhere else.

Rose realized she was a bit afraid of the city now that she had committed herself to it. Her mother had always warned her about the dangers lurking at every turn.

Did I realize what I was getting myself into? Funny, yesterday I was ready to go on and now….I'm not so sure.

I do need to walk, to be outside, she decided.

She took a deep breath and stepped into the street.

Rose turned briefly eastward, then north on Fifth Avenue, and she was swept up into the crowd of church-goers, Sunday visitors and people just out for air.

Restaurants opened their doors for lunch, while store windows enticed passers-by with modern creations that whispered endearments to any whom might wander too near.

A cathedral of stone and stained glass loomed up on Rose's right, its towering spire a finger pointing the way to heaven. From the open doors the sounds of a hymn carried out on the spring breeze, and Rose's mind's eye went back to Titanic, to the service onboard her the previous Sunday, when they had all ironically implored God's aid for those in peril. Her mind skipped to the gymnasium, to her meeting with Jack, and her heart started to pound and her vision faded. She leaned against the old stone wall of the church courtyard, feeling faint.

The vision of Jack, his face, his voice, had returned the anguish of those moments. His words then had cut her defenses to the core; had bared those desires of her soul that she should not, could not, speak of. Rose had so much wanted to cry out to Jack, 'Yes! Yes!', but instead had allowed the forces in her life to tie and bind her. She had heard her lips say words that her heart didn't feel and left him standing there alone.

That will be the last time I will deny my own self, Rose thought. That's another promise I should have made to Jack.

Rose tried to shake her mind clear.

I haven't even made it five blocks. Maybe I should just go back to the hotel. It might be easier after a few more days.

Then Jack's words came to her again and she found strength.

Rose clenched her eyes shut to force the tears back. Slowly, her ears re-opened to the city around her.

Fifth Avenue was dazzling, with the opulent houses of society's crème de la crème stretching northward to the sight's limit, the vista unblemished by trolley or elevated train. The street was made for Sunday strolls, with its wide sidewalks framing a narrow brick roadway.

Rose noted the varied assortment of parasols that had popped up like spring flowers, and she casually wished she had one of her own.

Not that I really need one, she thought, I just like to twirl them! She remembered her mother reprimanding her time and again to cease her childish antics.

'A lady doesn’t spin her parasol, Rose. It's not proper,' her mother had said.

'No, but it's FUN, Mother!' Rose thought. That's what I should have said to her!

She walked onward.

Rose felt as though she was a tourist, agog at the wonder of the city, and she thought afterwards that she also must have looked the part. That would a long ways towards explaining how, in her first few minutes on her own in the city of her new life, she became the victim of a street crime.

She had traveled ten blocks or so, past the immense Croton Reservoir. Rose craned her neck to watch the stylish crowd promenading along its rimming walkway, sixty feet above the street. She had come upon the Vanderbilt house and was awestruck by its sheer size. It was impossible to ignore, occupying as it did a full city block. Her head was tilted far back to admire the house's many gables when she was suddenly knocked back a few steps by a collision. For an instant, she thought she had distractedly walked up on the heels of someone in front of her and was prepared to apologize, but she found herself staring at the dirty brown cap of a man who had run head-on into her while going the opposite way.

"Sorry, missus," he said hurriedly as he steadied Rose from falling, his hands briefly gripping her shoulders. Her quick glance took in dark skin, dark eyes, a mole at the corner of his mouth. Then he strode away into the crowd behind her.

It took Rose's mind several seconds to catch up with the events. At first she felt affronted by his touch, lost balance or not, and then it suddenly registered that her bag was gone. She whirled around in the direction he had fled and saw his hat bobbing its way in the sea of southbound traffic.

"Stop him! Thief!" Rose yelled, pointing, but the quizzical glances of backward-glancing pedestrians made her realize that the thief was but one man among hundreds.

She began to run after him, picking her way with trouble through the crowds, but her shoes weren't suited to the task and she quickly lost ground in the chase. The thief glanced back as he hurried on and, seeing Rose in pursuit, doubled his pace without chancing the extra attention that out-and-out running would bring. He ducked right, down a side street, and disappeared from Rose's view. As she came to the corner she was at first unable to see him as she scanned the sparser crowd. Then he darted left down another avenue and she spotted him again.

"Stop!" she gasped, but he was almost a full block away now. Her breathing was labored from her unaccustomed effort. She quickly despaired of ever catching him.

"Can I help you, miss?"

Rose had been concentrating so intently on her quarry that she had failed to notice a mounted policeman just a few feet from the corner where she stood.

"That man stole my bag!"

"Which man, miss?" he asked as he surveyed the street from his high perch.

"He turned down the next street!"

The officer made a quick decision.

"Hop on, miss," he said, and with the strength in one arm he pulled her up to sit sidesaddle in front of him. Rose's arm circled his waist in order to steady herself and they were off at a gallop.

"Down the next left," Rose instructed, having to twist her upper torso far to one side to see ahead.

The horse scrambled around the corner, losing his footing a bit under the added weight. They started down Sixth Avenue, the elevated railroad tracks overhead throwing flickering shadows onto the cobblestone pavement as they rode.

"What did he look like, miss?"

Rose searched her memory.

"I didn't really get a good look at him. Just a dark brown cap, brown coat, kind of a limp in his stride…"

Rose thought she saw the thief once but by the time they had ridden a mile or so they both realized their task was hopeless. The policeman slowed his charge to a trot and, finally, to a stop.

"Sorry, miss. I guess we lost him."

Rose didn't speak for a moment. Despite their failure she felt alive for the first time in days.

The ride had been exhilarating. She had loved the feeling of power and speed in the horse's withers beneath her.

"Yes. I thank you, though."

"Can I take you back?"

Rose noticed the officer's inquisitive glance and then realized she had taken her hat off as they rode, for fear of the wind claiming it. She straightened it in her hand and self-consciously put it back on. The officer had a kind face and she read genuine concern in his expression.

"No, thank you. I can easily walk from here."

" If you're sure, miss."

Rose slid off the horse's shoulder and landed on the brick with a loud clap of her shoes. She brushed the underside of her dress with a sweep of both hands, clearing away the horsehairs.

"I'm sure."

Rose reached up to pat the roan's neck and he arched his head back to look her over. His breath slowed to rhythmic snorts as he recovered, and his coat gleamed in splinters of blue and white, a thin sheen of lather testifying to his efforts.

He's beautiful, Rose thought. Beautiful.

"Then I'll be off, miss."

The officer tipped his cap and reined his horse around to head uptown, glancing back briefly to check on her.

Rose found an empty bench under the stairway leading to the El platform and she sat down to rest. Next to her a bustling newsstand sold worlds full of adventures to anyone with five cents in his pocket.

That was stupid of me, Rose thought. If I'm going to make it on my own I have to act like I belong here; be alert. This isn't another tea party within the cozy confines of some estate. It's real life.

Maybe mother was right about the city.

Rose laughed at herself. This is a fine start!

But at least I didn't bring the necklace with me.

She shuttered at the thought of it being stolen and then her mind leapt and bounded and circled back to…. whom her thoughts always returned to. Jack.

Rose closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

This is the first time since that night that I have gone even five minutes without thinking of him.

Briefly forgotten, the pain returned, ever so slightly diminished.

Rose glanced at the nearest street sign; they had ridden down past 20th Street. The storefronts along the avenue held a full spectrum of businesses: tobacconist, tailor, bakery, shoemaker, dress shop, grocer, meat market, several department stores and, liberally sprinkled among the rest, saloons.

All the necessities of life in the shadow of the Sixth Street El.

As if on cue, the structure over her head began to hum and the distinctive sound of a steam engine approaching from the south grew louder until, with a squeal of breaks, it slowed to a stop at the station above. A few small pieces of coal rattled off the tracks and fell to the street with dull thuds. Traffic below knowingly parted under the stopped engine, wary of wayward debris and sparks flittering down. The train moved on northward and was soon drowned out by the general street noise. The passengers wound their way down the stairs to the street level.

Rose crossed the avenue and wandered west towards the Hudson. On the cross street densely packed apartment buildings loomed up on each side of the narrow roadway, almost as though striving to meet overhead. The traffic was much lighter. Rose's attention was drawn to the scattered "Room to Let" signs up and down the block and she paused to consider the neighborhood.


At first, Rose couldn't locate where the voice had come from, but then a young girl peeked around a nearby stoop.

"Hello," Rose replied.

"Whatcha looking at?" the girl asked, searching the building fronts in the direction of Rose's gaze.

"Nothing really…this just seems like a nice street."

"I guess," the girl said, shrugging her shoulders.

"What are you doing over there?"

"Coloring. Wanna see?"


Rose walked around to the girl's makeshift studio in the lee of the brick stoop. A coloring book lay open on the ground with a box full of Crayolas strewn around it.

The girl held the open book up to her chest and proudly displayed it to Rose. It was a picture of a horse in a pasture. A blue horse under a pink sky.

"It's beautiful!" Rose said, and the girl beamed brightly.

Her hair was reddish blonde, almost the same color as Rose's. She had it neatly tied up in pigtails. Her round, freckled face was Sunday clean and her pixie nose wrinkled as she smiled.

"Wanna color one?"

"Maybe next time. What's your name?"


Rose was taken aback by the name. It was like an unexpected sharp jab to her heart. She and Jack had befriended a small girl named Cora on Titanic. A poor little soul who had not made it into a lifeboat.

"What's yours?"


Cora jumped up and curtseyed, her mother's training showing.

"Pleased to meet you, Rose."

Rose curtseyed grandly in response.

"And you, Miss Cora."

A young couple passed by and Rose nodded in greeting. She turned to Cora and gestured to the building behind the girl.

"Do you live here?"

"Ah huh."

"All by yourself?"

Cora put her fists on her hips in a scolding posture.

"I'm only eight! There's my mom and my dad and my stupid brother John and my older brother Thomas who doesn't live here anymore, 'cept sometimes."

Rose went on to ask Cora about her family, her school, and her favorite games. Cora answered each with an echoing question for Rose. She was deep into explaining to Rose the significance of the blue horse when she was interrupted by a call from an open window above them.

"Cora! Where are you, child?"

"Down here, Mama."

A face appeared at the window and peered down at them.

"Who are you talkin to, Cora?"

"My friend Rosie, Mama."

Rose smiled at her new name.

"Well, say goodbye to your friend and come up for supper."

Before Rose could introduce herself, Cora's mother disappeared back into the window and the sash was banged shut.

"I have ta go, Rosie."

Rose helped her gather her crayons and book. Cora skipped up the steps and pushed open the door.

"Bye!" Cora said.

"Goodbye, Cora. Maybe I'll see you again."

Cora beamed another smile, waved and vaulted inside. Rose could hear her yell to her mother as she banged opened the door to their flat.

She reminds me of myself, Rose thought. Same coloring style, too.

She smiled as she remembered some of her own drawings from back when she was Cora's age. Her mother had always clucked at her color choices but her father had loved them, regardless of how wild they might be.

Mother was only right once in a great while.

Rose strolled for a while up and down the streets of the neighborhood, and it felt somehow comfortable to her. She realized as she walked that some of her earlier anxiety had faded. As the sun angled towards the cliffs across the Hudson Rose began to retrace her path. She still had a good-sized trek to return to the Waldorf and she was beginning to get hungry.

The few dollars I had started out with this morning have probably already been spent by their new owner, she thought wryly.

She returned to the hotel and spent a quiet night within her thoughts, with Jack never far away. The events of the day had exhausted her and, thankfully, she slept a dreamless sleep.


 Home     Next


finalabs.jpg (16787 bytes)