One of the Last to Leave the Ship, Looks Back at That Night of Horror
"If they would only go quietly! Why must they scream? It is only a matter of seconds now, for the suction is bound to envelop us." Just ten feet away from the sinking Titanic and these poor women are moaning and wailing like the lost souls that they are. "We must go," I try to say, "so let's go quietly." If they had only allowed me to stay aboard one minute longer I could have gone with him...
Twenty years ago, and fresh in the minds of the entire world was the news that the Titanic was to make her maiden voyage. A floating hotel, a palace among palaces, the greatest steamer ever launched was to sail from Southampton April 10, 1912.
"She rises sixty-five feet above the water line, with a displacement of sixty thousand tons and forty-six thousand horse power. She consists of fifteen sections with sixteen compartments; each section, being provided with its own water-tight compartment, can be automatically closed by a lever, which in case of danger would insure the vessel remaining afloat..."
Such were the accounts broadcast throughout the world by the White Star Line, intriguing the two thousand or more expectant passengers who were able to book on her. Among them were my husband and myself.
Southampton hotels were crowded with parties who had journeyed from London to wish bon voyage to those fortunate enough to be able to book passage.
Aboard the ship the following day there was a spirit of camaraderie unlike any I had experienced on several previous trips. The passenger list, carrying the names of Who's Who in the literary, financial, and social worlds, was not consulted, to judge from the air of good-fellowship that prevailed among the cabin passengers. They met on deck as one big party.
When the "All ashore" has been obeyed and the signal for departure sounded, something happened. There was a terrific commotion, but in the water only. Nobody showed the slightest excitement, however, except a glow of pride in the tremendous power of "our" ship. A neighbor ship, the New York, I believe, was fast moving toward us. I learned from a stranger standing next to me that the cables of the New York must have been broken by the force of the suction created by our giant engines.
He turned toward me and said, "This is a bad omen. Do you love life?"
"I love it," I replied.
"Then get off this ship at Cherbourg, if we get that far. That's what I'm going to do."
I laughed it off and quoted the glowing accounts I had read on the unsinkability of our steamer. I never saw him again. He may have landed at Cherbourg.
The danger was over in less time than I am telling it, and we went proudly on our way.
We were out on a lark and revelry was the keynote. The weather was superb, the comfort and luxury aboard all that had been promised. With a speed of twenty-four knots an hour there was not the slightest vibration, and we skimmed along as on a "silver lake."
The days passed too quickly. I felt as if I would like to go on until the end of time. Dinner parties, bridge parties, dancing, auction pools, midnights repasts were indulged in to the nth degree. The weather continued mild until the following Saturday, when the temperature dropped do markedly that the initiated knew that we were in the iceberg regions. It was so cold that only a few dared venture on the uninclosed decks, most passengers taking refuge in the lounging rooms.
After luncheon my husband asked me if I would sit in, if necessary, in a poker game. He explained that in a previous "session" one of the players had been under suspicion, and rather than bar him from the game, this time it would be simpler to let him see that the table was filled. It turned out that I was called on to be the eighth "man." When the suspected person was pointed out to me I thought he was a minister of the gospel, he looked so virtuous.
We played our game of poker on an inclosed deck just outside the main stairway. Heeding the bugle call for dressing, I was making my way to the stateroom when in descending the stairs I slipped, I believe on a greasy spot left by a tea cake. I took a header down six or seven steps.
My reason for mentioning this incident is that because of it I am here today.
Before I could get to my feet, several men came to my aid, and when they lifted me I knew that I was alright except for my right arm. I couldn't bear to have it touched. I insisted on walking to my stateroom and when I got there I felt an arm around me. It was his, my husband's. I hadn't seen him. I was dazed. He had heard what he thought was my voice in a dull moan and found me in a heap at the foot of the stairs. He sent for the ship's doctor, who immediately pronounced my arm broken, and started to set it in a cast, straight out. I felt it was too serious a situation for a one-man opinion, so I asked him with apologies if he would object to calling in a passenger who, I had heard, was famous as a head of a joint-disease hospital in New York City. The little doctor graciously agreed. The passenger surgeon responded immediately to the call and my arm was set, not straight out but at a complete bend, the palm of my hand resting on my shoulder.
Publication Date: April 23, 1932