Hearts That Surviveby Yvonne Lehman
Will those who survived the Titanic’s sinking and their descendants be able to find a love more powerful than their pain?See more details below
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Will those who survived the Titanic’s sinking and their descendants be able to find a love more powerful than their pain?
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Hearts that Survive
A Novel of the Titanic
By Yvonne Lehman
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2012 Yvonne Lehman
All rights reserved.
Friday evening, April 12, 1912
Clothed in her shame, Lydia Beaumont stood on the deck of the Titanic, waiting for John. Each evening since they departed two days ago from Southampton, she and John strolled here after dining. Other first-class passengers found their own special spots, like congregants in a church sanctuary.
Oh, the church analogy brought thoughts of condemnation she'd rather not entertain. The grandeur of the greatest ship ever built had pushed aside her personal feelings, any doubts or guilt that had so beset her in previous weeks. She'd tried to forget her fears by planning the trip, convincing her father to allow her to go, and helping her maid pack the trunks.
She thought back to the day before sailing while she was staying at the South Western Hotel. She'd made the acquaintance of several passengers, her favorite being Caroline Chadwick, in her mid-twenties. She and her husband, Sir William, had arrived from London and were awaiting the ship's maiden voyage to America.
Staring out the hotel suite window at the magnificent structure, four city blocks long and ten stories high, had accelerated her heartbeat. However, walking up the gangplank to board the ship and seeing the grand staircase took her breath away. Even Craven Dowd, the president of her father's company and accustomed to the best, commented on the luxury as they were led to their suite rooms.
John Ancell glanced her way, his deep blue eyes shining with excitement beneath raised eyebrows and lips turning into a mischievous grin. Had Craven not been entering the room between hers and John's, her beloved would likely say aloud what he only mouthed, "This is no toy ship."
Lydia saw Caroline and Sir William entering their stateroom. Caroline halted at her doorway and called, "Are you going on deck to wave goodbye?"
"Ah, we must do that," Craven answered for them as if the matter were settled.
"Yes," Lydia echoed, "I'll be along shortly."
"Just peek in when you're ready," Caroline said. "The door will be open."
Stepping from the private promenade deck to explore the sitting room, and then the bedrooms, Lydia was amazed. Her father, Cyril Beaumont, had endowed their home with the finest furnishings, but her personal knowledge and university studies in art and design made her realize she'd stepped into a world of unmatched luxury.
She entered John's and Craven's rooms. The furnishings represented various countries. "Reminds me of the Ritz in Paris," she said of Craven's bedroom. He gestured to the furnishings around the room. "Chippendale. Adams. French Empire."
She returned to her bedroom, where Marcella was hanging gowns in the wardrobe. Craven walked through the adjoining door that she must remember to keep locked. "The White Star Line has actually outdone their advertising." He glanced around. "Not only were they correct in saying it's one hundred feet longer than the Mauretania and bigger than the Olympic, but the other ships are like ... toys."
His pause was so brief one who didn't know him well wouldn't suspect it was deliberate. But she knew, then reprimanded herself for being overly sensitive. Craven's adding, "toys," could mean the word slipped out before he thought about what he was saying. However, Craven always thought before speaking.
But there was a certain amount of truth to it. Further exploration could wait. After peeking in for John, then Caroline, the two women walked ahead of Craven, John, and Sir William.
"I've been to Windsor." Caroline grinned, indicating she wasn't bragging. "But, from what little I've seen already, I feel like the Queen of England without the responsibility."
Even the men chuckled. Lydia knew John couldn't make comparisons, because he hadn't traveled extensively. But Craven and William talked of the ship's design and of its opulence with no expense spared. She felt rather like a princess as she ascended the grand staircase beneath the glass dome that allowed the noonday sun to anoint them with a golden glow. She glanced back at the staircase as they moved along the deck and to the railing.
Passengers waved and people on the dock did the same. They must be feeling sheer envy.
She jumped when a sound like a pistol shot rang out.
Happy goodbyes changed to gasps and questioning.
"Nothing to fear," a man called out. "The lines tying the New York are giving way." That sounded rather fearsome to her.
Another said the suction from the Titanic's gigantic propellers were pulling the other ship away from its berth.
The ship headed for the side of the Titanic. However, deckhands stopped the New York's drift and the Titanic steamed out of the harbor.
A man said playfully, "You don't christen a ship like the Titanic with a bottle of champagne, but with another ship." Several passengers laughed.
A woman warned, "It's an omen."
Lydia didn't live by omens. But the word made her think of signs. Robins were a sign of spring. Snow was a sign of winter. There were ... personal signs. She swallowed hard and shook away the thought.
That woman was wrong about the New York's breaking away being a sign. It hadn't rammed into the Titanic.
Maybe she was wrong about her ... signs.
For two and a half days, she'd allowed herself the privilege of denial and had enjoyed John, her new friends, and the grandeur all around her. She'd explored the ship's grand shops, the restaurants, the women's library, and the Parisian sidewalk café.
Now as she stood looking out to sea, visualizing their destination of New York, she had to face reality.
Her long fur coat covered her silk dress. Her kid-gloved hands held onto the steel railing. The bitter-cold air burned her face, and her warm breath created gray wisps, reminiscent of Craven's cigar smoke, when he wasn't making entertaining smoke circles.
Only a moment ago she'd said to John, "Finish your dessert. I don't want any tonight. I need a breath of fresh air." That uneasiness in her stomach had nothing to do with seasickness.
John and Craven slid back their chairs and stood when she pushed away from the table. She felt Craven's gaze but met John's eyes that questioned. Usually after dining, Craven joined other men in the smoking lounge. She and John would walk onto the deck, They would stand shoulder to shoulder. With his arm around her waist, he'd speak of the aesthetic beauty of the ocean and sky. She'd dream of her future life with him.
She shivered now, looking out to where the sun had sunk into the horizon, analogous of her having sunk into the depth of yielding to temptation. A mistake seemed much worse when one was ... caught. Only four weeks had passed. But she knew.
She would be an outcast if others knew. The night they'd expressed their love physically, she'd never felt so fulfilled. But with passion sated, guilt entered. She felt violated. Not by John, but by her own weakness. A decent woman should say no, keep the relationship pure until marriage.
Oh, she knew they both were at fault. But had she, more deliberately than she wanted to admit, lured him into the physical relationship because she was afraid of losing him? He wanted her father's blessing before marrying her. She doubted he would ever have it.
It was a wondrous thing to be loved, but a fearsome thing to be tainted.
For now, only she and John knew about their tainted love.
She had thought she and John could face anything together.
Her father said she was all he had after they were both devastated by her mother's death from a deadly lung disease and a stillbirth. However, Lydia had had the best of tutors and nannies. She had been accompanied to the appropriate outings by Lady Grace Frazier, a middle-aged widow. Her father and Lady Grace became close companions, although he vowed he had neither time nor inclination to marry. His heart attack last year so frightened and weakened him, he'd made it clear that although Lydia would inherit the business, he was grooming Craven to run it.
She'd surprised him by expressing a desire to learn more about the business and win the respect of the company's American executives. She suggested that John accompany them on the trip, since he could explain his designs better than Craven. Beaumont Company wanted his designs, and John wanted to be sure that he wanted to divulged those secrets to the company. The matter would be discussed and any agreements drawn up in a legal contract.
"You may have a business head on you after all," her father said at her suggestion about John. He'd meant that as praise, so she smiled and thanked him.
Although he and others often complimented her on having inherited her mother's beauty, Lydia thought her looks paled in comparison with her mother's loveliness and grace. She'd inherited her father's ambition and strong-mindedness rather than her mother's submissive attitudes, but he never acknowledged this. He did, however, occasionally admonish her to behave in a more ladylike fashion.
Her father and Craven cultivated identical goals. One was ensuring that Beaumont Railroad Company continued to be number one in the world. Two was that Lydia become Mrs. Craven Dowd. And in that order.
At one time she'd felt that marriage to Craven was her destiny. Her friends proclaimed it her good fortune. To be honest, however, rather than sitting in the plush coach of a noisy, smelly, smoke-puffing Beaumont train, she preferred flipping a switch, watching a little Ancell toy train huff and puff, its wheels turn, and its engine chug-chug along, as she laughed delightedly with John.
Hearing footsteps, Lydia took a deep breath. The cold air in her throat made her feel as though she'd swallowed too large a bite of the French ice cream served at dinner.
Before feeling his touch on her exposed wrist, she knew this wasn't John, but Craven. Like many women, she liked the aroma of his after-dinner cigars, offset by a slight fragrance of cologne. But she preferred John's light, fresh, faintly musky scent.
Turning her head, she glanced at him. "Where's John?"
Craven's deep breath didn't seem to affect his throat. Likely, it was heated, as his face had been when she told him she couldn't see him anymore. "He's sitting at the table." His eyebrows lifted. "Writing."
"That's what poets do." She glanced beyond his shoulder, hoping John would appear.
"Lydia, there's something I want to make clear."
Facing the ocean that reflected the star-spangled night, she was reminded of the spark in Craven's eyes earlier, when he'd kissed the back of her hand and said she looked lovely. John had smiled, as if he agreed.
She'd requested they not sit with other passengers this night, but at a smaller, more intimate table. She'd planned to tell John after Craven left. But then she'd experienced that queasiness. She felt it now.
"I want you to know," Craven said. "I understand why you wanted to take this trip."
He mustn't. John would be ruined and in the process they both would face a worse fate than if she'd stayed in London.CHAPTER 2
Lydia faced Craven. "Well, I'm sure you do." She hoped he thought her voice shook from the cold and not from his intimidating manner, particularly since he'd voiced his adamant disapproval of her seeing John, and had kept saying, "What if your father knew?" as if he might tell him.
"Aren't you the one who's been shouting the praises of this—" she looked out at the vast gray sea rather than into his eyes of the same color, that had a way of piercing her soul, "greatest ship ever built?"
He lifted his hand and shook his head as if she should hush. She would not. "I told you and Father I need to make this trip. After all, he is ill."
"I know." His words halted her. "You claimed it's a business matter." His tone was condescending. "But I know you wanted to be with John." He looked around, but unfortunately John wasn't approaching. "I understand that. You're young. He's different."
"Different?" Her voice squeaked. For a long time she'd been in awe of Craven. Somewhere along the line, she'd grown up. Now he was trying to make her feel young. But, compared to his thirty-five years, twenty-one was young.
She shifted her gaze to the silver hair at his temples, below the darker brown. He had a handsome face. Mischievous eyes that women said were flirtatious, in a complimentary way. He certainly fit the picture of a distinguished gentleman.
"What I mean is, he's a nice boy."
"And likeable. But he's a dreamer."
Before Lydia could retort that they were on an acclaimed ship of dreams, he added, "And he's a toy-maker."
Lydia refused to conceal her indignation. "That toy-making is what brought him to your attention, Craven. You brought it to my father and the board and gave John a place in the company so he could learn about it. Have you forgotten that?"
"Of course not. We all recognize his ingenious designs and hope we can incorporate them into real trains."
She knew Craven did not hold in high regard those who didn't come from old money, name, and prestige. She'd held some of that attitude before meeting John.
She sighed. "You're telling me what I already know."
"I guess what I'm trying to say, Lydia, is that you have every right to find out what and who you want in your life. In case this is just a phase, I want you to know I still care for you. I wish that, by the end of this voyage, you would know who is the better man."
She gasped and glared at him, open-mouthed. He held up both hands and grinned, as if she were having a childish temper tantrum. He remained calm. "I know I'm not a better man than John in many ways. But keep in mind I'm, what, ten, twelve years older than he is? Who knows what kind of man he might be in ten years? What I'm saying is, I think long term, and I'm the better man for you."
Lydia turned from him and looked down at her gloved hands grasping the railing, needing to hold onto something. "Thank you," she said softly. She'd enjoyed being escorted by Craven the last two years. They'd been noted in the society pages, the heiress and the president of the Beaumont Railroad Company. He'd been married and divorced and had had many women friends before her. But she could not condemn or judge, considering ...
And she knew he cared for her. But he'd never said "love" the way John had.
"You will think about what I said?"
Alienating a powerful man like Craven wouldn't be wise. She was the heiress, but he ran the business. She smiled at him. "I was just doing that."
He gave a quick nod, lifted his regal chin, straightened his shoulders, turned, and strolled off in his confident way. Her father thought Craven the better man too. But the two of them judged a person more by his financial holdings than by his heart.
She'd never known a dreamer before, nor a man who made her dream about just being near him. John had done well to come from so-called nothing to designing a popular line of toy trains. But she didn't care if he hadn't a penny to his name.
Looking around, she nodded and spoke to those who strolled by. But where was John? Had he lost some of his eagerness to be with her?
As much as she dreaded it, she must tell John about the lie, and the truth.
Would he still love her?
Instantly everything changed. She heard his steps, sensed his presence, breathed in his essence. Felt his warmth when his fingertips touched her cold cheek.
Before she could find the words, he spoke in that delightfully excited, energetic way of his. Probably the way a child would react upon playing with the train John had designed. John was delighted with her.
She'd loved it when she and John, along with her friends Elsie and Edward, had dressed like commoners and acted young and free. But being on this ship was life too. Although she had fallen in love with John when he wasn't dressed in a formal suit and white tie, her heart beat faster at the picture of male perfection. He was tall, dark-haired, lean, and quite elegant. She, in her silk and fur, felt they went right well together.
"I'm sorry I took so long," he said. "I got caught up in writing a poem to you. May I read the beginning to see if you like it?"
She nodded but dared not look into his deep blue eyes that made her feel as if the rest of the world had receded and only the two of them mattered.
Excerpted from Hearts that Survive by Yvonne Lehman. Copyright © 2012 Yvonne Lehman. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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