Queen of the River Part 2

Charlotte walked up the gangway to the deck of the Champion, to find herself greeted by the captain himself. She smiled at him and he gave her a look of recognition. He doffed his hat and gave her a low bow. Charlotte was not certain if this was because he recognized her, or if it was because she had treated herself to one of his nicer cabins.
“Mrs. Flemming?” he asked, as he straightened. “You have kept your promise I see.”
“I am a lady of my word, sir,” said Charlotte.
“You will find your luggage in your room, ma’am. Supper is served at six, and I insist that you join me at the captain’s table.”
“I will graciously accept, sir,” said Charlotte. She did not particularly know the captain, but at least he was a familiar face compared to the other passengers, and traveling alone was a very lonely business. The captain motioned over a member of the crew, and ordered the man to show Charlotte to her room, before turning to greet the next passenger as they came aboard.
The crew member led Charlotte across the deck and up a set of steps to a promenade, under a decorative awning. From here he led her towards the stern of the boat, past rows of neat looking doors. He finally opened the door to a cabin and bowed her inside with the assurance that if she wanted anything, she was to feel free to call for him and he would do his best to make her comfortable.
Charlotte looked around the room, and found that it would do nicely. If this was one of the nicest rooms on the boat, she was hardly one of the luxury palaces that sometimes floated down the river, full of the well to do. The room was pleasant, but it was hardly luxurious. Then again Charlotte had her doubts about whether or not she would be allowed in the company of the well to do at this point, and if sailing on a slightly lower class of boat would help her avoid social awkwardness than it was a sacrifice she was happy to make. She was also beginning to have her doubts about whether or not she could even still consider herself a member of the social elite after all that had happened, though it was only the beginnings of doubt.
Charlotte brought a few things out of her trunk to make the room seem more lived in, after all it was going to be a long trip, and then decided to step out on deck again to see the city one more time before she departed it. Leaning on the railing of the promenade, Charlotte watched with interest as the men on the deck scuttled back and forth, and more passengers came on board. In the midst of all of it the captain, Charlotte realized she still did not know his name, darted about, clearly enjoying the moment immensely.
Since it was the first run of the ship, Charlotte had expected some confusion and men perhaps looking a little lost, but it was clear that just because it was the first trip of the boat did not make it the first trip down river for any of these men. Every single one of them walked around the ship with the confidence of men who knew their business and had done this a hundred times before. It was very comforting for Charlotte who had read of all of the things that could go wrong on one of these vessels.
Finally a shout went up, the gangplank fell away, and with a loud blast of its horn the ship pulled out into the river. Charlotte had not realized how tense she had been in Louisville until she felt herself relax now that she was away from it. As far as she knew, no one that she was acquainted with would be heading to New Orleans, and even if they did, she imagined it would not be on the same boat as she was on. They were far more likely to pick one of the floating resorts that slowly traveled up and down the Ohio river. That was not to say that the Champion was a fast boat. Her two big side paddle wheels made slow rhythmic splashing noises that Charlotte suspected she would have no difficulty sleeping to at night.
Now all of the passengers were flocking to the railing of the ship, both on the deck and the promenade, and Charlotte found herself in the company of a young family with their two children. The little girl had the natural lack of shyness that some young children are blessed with, and happily told Charlotte that they were moving to Memphis. Her mother, baby in arms, looked on with embarrassment, but Charlotte had never minded children and simply told the little girl that it all sounded very exciting.
“Have you been on a riverboat before?” asked the little girl. “I never have.”
“I have been once or twice,” said Charlotte, smiling. “They are good fun, you will have a very pleasant trip.”
“Have you ever been to Memphis?” asked the little girl.
“No, I never have,” said Charlotte.
“You should visit it, father says it is a very nice city,” said the little girl.
“I will consider it, but for now I am going to New Orleans,” said Charlotte. The little girl nodded solemnly, and then got distracted by watching the paddle wheels churning the water.
“Sorry, ma’am, she is very excited about the trip,” said the girl’s father.
“There is nothing to apologize for, sir,” said Charlotte, smiling. “She ought to be excited.”
Now that the city was fading away, Charlotte wandered away to see what else it was that she could see on the ship, and what was offered by way of amenities. There was the dinning room of course, but there also was a small lounge she was pleased to discover, with a small library of books to read. Charlotte settled down with one and allowed herself to get lost for a time in the pleasantry of a lack of responsibilities.
The captain, who Charlotte learned from a member of the crew was Captain Fredrick Nash, was good as his word about Charlotte sitting at his table. She was pleased to discover that the family that she had met earlier that day were also guests at the same table. Charlotte did not have much to discuss with the strangers that she had just met, but she and the little girl kept one another entertained.
“I see you have made yourself a friend, Mrs. Flemming,” said Captain Nash finally.
“I should think that we are friends, sir,” said Charlotte, smiling.
“It is time for you to be in bed though, Elizabeth,” said the girl’s mother, and with a small amount of protests that she could not possibly sleep when there was still so much to see, Elizabeth allowed her mother to lead her away.
“It is unusual for a woman to be traveling alone, especially so far,” said Elizabeth’s father. “I consider you very brave.”
“Not so brave as left with very little choice, sir,” said Charlotte, a little nervous about where the conversation was going to go. “I find myself entirely alone in the world, and as I am so friendless, I thought it best that I find my place in the world. Perhaps New Orleans will prove to be an acceptable home, or I shall move on. I have no set place I wish to go.”
“I should call the river my home,” said the captain, and Charlotte wondered if she was imagining it that he was intentionally steering the conversation away from her. “On the rare occasions that I am not on the river I call St. Louis my home.”
“What brought you to Louisville, Captain Nash?” asked Charlotte, genuinely curious.
“I like the work of the shipyards in Louisville, ma’am. They do good work, as demonstrated by the Champion. I am eager to test her on the river and see just how fast she is.”
“How fast do you think she will go, captain?” asked Charlotte.
“I have read in some of the fliers from down river of ships going up to twenty-five miles an hour. If they are able to, I cannot imagine why my Champion should not.” Charlotte again noted the fierce pride that Captain Nash had in his vessel an she smiled. He was not a subtle man, or a man who did anything but wear his heart on his sleeve. After having spent her entire life around closemouthed businessmen, it was refreshing.
“She is a lovely boat, captain,” said Charlotte, taking a final sip from her glass of punch. She could feel herself growing sleepy however, and excused herself shortly afterwords. In any case, it was clear that while Captain Nash was comfortable in her company, Elizabeth’s family was not certain what to make of a woman staying at the table with the men after his wife had excused herself.
Charlotte mainly kept to herself, and she went so far as to smuggle the book that she had started in the parlor into her own room so that she could read it there. Though she did not think that anyone on the ship would care who she was, even if they recognized her from the papers, she did not feel at home with people for now. She was not very certain what her place in society was anymore. She did emerge from her room once again for dinner however. At dinner she could at least expect Elizabeth, and Captain Nash, both of whom seemed fond of her and willing to look past anything that she had done.
Charlotte had been eager enough for dinner, and she found that she was the first at the table. She was just seating herself when the explosion rocked the boat. From somewhere she thought she could hear screaming, though whether it was of the frightened, or if it was the injured she could not tell. Charlotte jumped from her seat and made her way as fast as her thick skirts would allow, out onto the deck of the boat again. The deck was a mass of confusion, full of passengers who were all bewildered and uncertain of what to do as well. Matters were not helped when members of the crew began to unhitch two mackinaw’s that they shouted were to be used as lifeboats. The press towards the boats was so intense that Charlotte decided to hang back, seeing no use of heading towards a life saving boat if she was to be trampled in the process. In any case, though they were launching the lifeboats, and the riverboat was no longer going forward, she also did not seem likely to sink anytime soon. She was mainly just wallowing in the river, if such a term could be used for something that until a short time ago had seemed almost graceful. Charlotte saw Captain Nash come from below decks, from where the cargo was being held, and she went over to him. If anyone was to know whether or not they were sinking it seemed likely that it would be Captain Nash.
“Captain Nash, what has happened?” Charlotte asked, though when he turned to look at her, she almost wished that she had not.
“Her boiler exploded, you will see smoke soon, ma’am,” said Captain Nash. “I suggest that you leave the vessel.”
“Then I would suggest that you do the same, captain,” said Charlotte, who felt that the man looked decidedly suicidal at that particular moment. She was not entirely certain that she had ever seen a man so full of despair, and that included when they had come to arrest her husband.
“I must try to fight the fire,” said Captain Nash, motioning to the men who were already pulling out pumps and hoses apparently to do just that.
“If you are remaining on the ship, then there is time for me to as well, and to help in any way that I can,” said Charlotte. She found that she felt strangely obliged to do what she could, if nothing else out of merit of having seen the captain watching the shipyard not so long ago. That moment of pride was not something she wished to have dashed away so quickly. Before he could object, Charlotte turned a scanned the mob to see where she could do the most good. Almost immediately she saw it.
It was clear that the Mackinaws would not be able to hold all of the passengers and crew that were stranding on the deck, and boats from the shore were already coming to her aid, but no one seemed willing to wait until the other boats came abreast.Everyone was completely determined to be on the mackinaws. Charlotte doubted many of them even knew what was happening, they just knew that something had happened and that if the crew was launching the lifeboats they wanted to be on them. In the mob Charlotte saw Elizabeth in the arms of her father, with her mother and baby sibling beside them. Charlotte watched as Elizabeth’s father tried to hand his daughter over the crowed, clearly not caring what happened to himself so long as his child was safe in a boat, in the commotion however everyone seemed to ignore even such a humane plea. Charlotte decided that was where she could do the most good. Storming to a crew member at one of the mackinaws, she faced down the man. With a mission in mind Charlotte had not feared the crowd, and had forced her way thought it using her elbows when she had to. For the most part the mob was direction less while Charlotte had a purpose.
“In what order are you bringing people onto the boat,” she demanded of the started man. Though the few passengers who had managed to get on the boat were a motley crew, including ship’s steward she was amused to see, the crew member still decided to act as though there was indeed a plan in place.
“Women and children first, ma’am,” he said, deferentially, and he offered her a place in the boat, almost timidly. Charlotte ignored him and turned to shout to the crowd.
“Women with children, everyone allow women with children to come forward and take their place in the boat,” Charlotte shouted. Several women came forward, all with panicked children in their arms. Charlotte was pleased to see that Elizabeth and her family were among them. Though her father stayed behind, Elizabeth was handed down to her mother, where the baby already lay in the boat next to her.
“Now women please, step forward,” Charlotte shouted. Women began to step forward and take their places. By the time the first mackinaw pulled itself away under the power of oars, a ship from the shore had come up to take its place. Charlotte could not blame Captain Nash for wanting to take charge of trying to save his ship but the evacuation also needed someone in charge, and she found herself wishing that he had at least put someone in charge of over seeing the people leaving the ship. In his absence, and in the absence of anyone delegated by him, Charlotte did the best she could.
“You are the last lady on the ship,” the sailor that she had first approached told her finally. Again the man seemed to expect that she would not get into one of the many small boats that were pulling up to the boat from shore. Charlotte nodded, and turned back to the throng.
“Men who have families, come forward,” she shouted. She was pleased to see that Elizabeth’s father was one of the first to enter the escape vessel that she had designated for their use. The family was likely loosing much with the riverboat, and they would need a breadwinner. More men followed, though some honorably held back, Charlotte supposed that they were men who did not have families and were not willing to lie.
Charlotte had been so preoccupied with her attempts to get as many people off of the ship in an orderly fashion that she had not noticed the plume of smoke that was now beginning to rise from the deck below. She could hear shouts and the sounds of pumps however, which made her suppose that the men below were continuing to battle the blaze. One of the men who remained approached her.
“We should see you to a boat, ma’am,” he said. Charlotte frowned at him.
“I seem in no immediate danger, sir, there will be time enough for me to flee if the blaze takes hold, but for now I mean to see if there is anything that I might do to help in the saving of her.”
“We can hardly leave a lady behind,” said the man, who Charlotte suspected wished that he could do just that. Charlotte was having none of it however.
“If you will not leave, than I suggest that you help in the fighting of the blaze,” she snapped. “I imagine there are vessels around here that might be used for a bucket chain at least.”
Charlotte herself did not take a place in the bucket chain, she was willing to admit that she was not strong enough for such labor, but she did take it upon herself to run up and down the line of men with drinks of water for them while they did such hot and exhausting work. Finally word came up the chain that the fire was out, and that the Champion did not seem in any immediate danger of sinking. Charlotte breathed a sigh of relief. She had not been entirely certain that the ship would be saved. It was unusual for a steamship boiler to explode and not destroy the entire ship after all. They had been lucky. At least so Charlotte thought as she started to walk towards the engine room to see what had happened for herself and perhaps to see Captain Nash. Instead she heard a moan from a half destroyed hall. She turned a found herself faced with a man laying on the ground, most of his leg gone.
Charlotte had not considered the effect that the explosion would have on any man who had been near it, until now at least. Quickly Charlotte ran forward and held the man’s head in her lap, trying to make him as comfortable as possible, while she shouted as loudly as she could for anyone who was available to come and help. Charlotte had never seen anyone seriously wounded, and she found her mind a cloud of shock. Certain wounds happened, but it was a man’s job to take care of them and nurse them, and as a young lady of privilege the men of her social set rarely did anything that would do worse than perhaps break a bone in a horse riding accident. Charlotte was not entirely certain what to do, the man clearly needed help, but all she could think of to do was stroke his hair to comfort him. Panicking, she shouted for help again. It was Captain Nash who found her. He took one look at the situation and shouted specific names. More men came. They tried to move the man, but he made such pitiful groaning sounds that Charlotte insisted that he could stay where he was, for what comfort she could give. She watched as they bound up what remained of the stub of his leg and covered him with blankets. Finally they found a stretcher and the captain ordered them to carry him up to one of the boats that was still circling out of curiosity and to bring him to a doctor.
“I had thought all of the firemen were dead, I had not thought to look for them, I am sorry you had to see that Mrs. Flemming,” said Captain Nash, once them were alone.
“How many dead are there?” asked Charlotte. It was not something that she had considered.
“We found the bodies of the engineer and four of the crew, not in such shape as you would like to see them, ma’am,” said Captain Nash. He motioned to the charred and smoky hall around them. “We were lucky. Only one of the six boilers exploded or we would have all been dead.”
“The only passengers who remain are the ones who helped with the bucket brigade,” said Charlotte.
“What of you, ma’am,” asked the man. Charlotte looked down to demurely smooth her skirt, an old habit from when she was nervous but she realized it was so covered in dirt and now blood that there was little point. The skirt did not need to be smoothed, it needed to be burned.
“I stayed to help, sir. I suggest that in the future you train your men on keeping passengers calm.”
“I am afraid there is not likely to be a next time, Mrs. Flemming,” said the captain, his face falling even more than it was already. “I am so far in debt with this ship, I doubt very much that they will loan me the money to fix it. I will have to sell it for what I can get for the hull. This has been a very short lived adventure.” Charlotte could feel the wheels in her head turning, though she was not entirely certain if it was her or the shock of what she had been through the last few months that was doing the thinking. Her mind was certainly telling her that she ought to consider the possibilities though, and so Charlotte asked a question she never would have a month ago.
“How much do you think it would take to fix her, Captain Nash?” she asked. He looked around himself, and considered for a second.
“Probably 10,000 dollars, including the new boiler,” he said. Charlotte nodded. She could afford that, she would not have a lot left over, but she could afford it. Not knowing what Charlotte was thinking, Captain Nash continued. “I went into so much debt over her, but she would have paid me back with just one season. I had such wonderful plans for her.” That decided things for Charlotte. A single season to see her money back, that was the sort of investment she had been looking for.
“I can loan you the money, Captain Nash,” she said. “Or I would happy to become a partner if you would prefer.”
“Now is not the time to discuss such things, ma’am,” said the captain, after a moment of startled silence. “Let’s head to shore and we can discuss it then.”
Charlotte allowed Captain Nash to give her a hand up, and she leaned heavily on him as they walked up on deck. She had not realized how tired she was until she had been given the chance to sit down. Now it seemed as though she could barely walk. She felt bad for leaning on the captain though, she imagined that he was just as tired as she was, if not more.

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Queen of the River Part 1

This is a Nanowrimo book, so none of it is edited, and all of it is very subject to change, with that in mind, please enjoy….

Charlotte stepped out of the darkness of the courthouse and into the town square. At the advice of her lawyer Charlotte was wearing a veil to obscure her face, but of course people still stared. She had hoped that since divorce was common in Indiana now people would not make a fuss about it, but not everyone who got a divorce had been in the papers as often as she had. The public had been able to follow her story from her opulent wedding, the star of the social page, to this sordid divorce.
“I will escort you to the train station, Mrs. Flemming,” said her lawyer.
“Thank you, sir,” said Charlotte, but she did not have much else to say as they walked through the small town. Now that her divorce was finalized Charlotte had very little reason to remain in Indiana. She had already sent her few household items from the hotel to the train station by expressman in order to speed her departure.
Charlotte’s lawyer seemed to have decided he needed to make up for public opinion by being a perfect gentleman. Not only did he insist on buying her train ticket to Louisville for her, but he even stayed on the platform until he could help her up into the first class carriage and bid her a safe trip. The conductor seemed a little startled when he entered her compartment and realized that she was traveling alone, but Charlotte pretended not to notice. Her life had been so full of comment the last few months that upsetting a conductor was the least of her worries. In any case, this was not to be a particularly long train ride, and therefore it could be expected to be relatively safe. Charlotte did not chose to raise her veil, and instead began to doze, leaned against the wall of the compartment.
Had the conductor not come and woke Charlotte up at her stop a few hours later she most likely would have slept past her station. She had not rested so well since she had moved to Indiana, but now that everything was over she was beginning to believe things would actually be better. The idea was a warming one that allowed her relax and finally rest.
Charlotte did not take her luggage with her from the station, choosing instead to leave it with the station clerk. She was not entirely certain where she was going yet, and she did not want to drag an expressman behind her while she decided. She had an errand to run before she found a hotel in any case. Though it was late evening she hired a hack and made her way through the city to the well to do part of town. Finally, on reaching a nice brownstone house, she stepped down and paid the driver to wait. Charlotte did not think that she was going to be long in the building. When a servant answered the door Charlotte was relieved that it was someone who knew her, things would have been more difficult if the staff had changed, and she had been prepared to be turned away until a more reasonable hour. Charlotte had once called this house her home though, and the servant simply let her in and told her that Mr. Wallace was in the library. Charlotte was not surprised that he was still up at such a late hour. Her former guardian was a man who valued hard work above all else, and he kept himself to long hours. The library was his favorite place to get last minute business done before he finally retired. By merit of her former residence in the house the servant did not announce her, and Charlotte was allowed to simply walk down the hall and enter the library of her own accord.
Mr. Wallace was sitting at his desk when Charlotte walked in and he only glanced up from his papers at first, though he stood when he realized who she was. He started to reach his arms out for a hug but Charlotte drew back. She had no intention of this meeting being a friendly one. In any case Mr. Wallace had never been a particularly warm man, though he liked going through the motions of being a loving guardian to his former business partner’s daughter.
“I divorced Mr. Flemming today, sir,” Charlotte. “I thought that you ought to know before the papers were the ones to tell you.” Mr. Wallace rocked back as though she had struck him and sucked air between his teeth.
“On what grounds?” Mr. Wallace demanded. Charlotte thought that the question was a rather bold one considering recent events but since she had come to have it out with her former guardian she thought this as good a place to start as any.
“On the grounds that I will not be married to a felon, sir,” said Charlotte. “I will not allow my name to be dragged through the mud any further for being connected with his, nor do I believe that he will change his ways when he is free from prison.”
“You have been too hasty, Charlotte,” said Mr. Wallace, frowning at her. “You ought to have asked my advice. As his wife you have a duty to stand by him now in his time of difficulty, and to believe him when he protests his innocence.”
“I believed him when the arrested him, and I made a mockery of myself by staying by his side during the trial. I heard the evidence against him however, same as the jury, and I found myself persuaded as well as them of his guilt. He destroyed people’s lives with his schemes and his manipulations and I will not continue to believe him innocent in the face of the many people he ruined. I might have forgiven him if he had only targeted those who could afford the loss of money, but he did not. People will suffer greatly because of his actions and I can hardly blame those who say that I must have known what he was doing. The fact that I did not notice his frauds can only be blamed on my own stupidity and how easy I was to believe that he was a fine businessman. That I lived a comfortable life from his wrongdoing is something I now must live with. Perhaps people will forgive me when they learn that in his final days of pillaging he squandered most of money as well.”
“I am certain he only did it out of necessity,” protested Mr. Wallace, though a little weakly in the face of Charlotte’s anger. Charlotte had always obediently agreed to what he had asked of her, including when he had asked her to marry his young business friend, assuring her that her marriage to Mr. Flemming would be one that would secure them both a wealthy connection. Charlotte had never expected to marry for love and had agreed entirely on the advice of her guardian. Now that her world had been destroyed as a result however, Charlotte had finally decided that a less obedient course was needed, and it was time to let Mr. Wallace know it.
“He spent a portion of it to buy a race horse, sir,” said Charlotte, “a horse that has since be auctioned off to settle a portion of the debt he owes those he wronged with his fraudulent mine stocks. He robbed me, and I am lucky to be left with the little portion of my inheritance I have remaining. The judge was generous to not tie my fortune entirely to his in the settlement of his debts, allowing for some of the portion I brought into the marriage.”
“I am certain that Mr. Flemming will make things right once he is released from prison,” said Mr. Wallace, but Charlotte shook her head.
“I do not believe that the man has any redeeming qualities, and I mean to be done with him entirely, though if for his own sake he would ever like to repay me my inheritance I would accept it. I do not intend to live by his advice, or yours, any longer. Neither of you have steered me any place but ruin.”
“I assure you that he seemed to be a man of very good character,” protested Mr. Wallace.
“He seemed like a very wealthy man, you mean,” said Charlotte, her voice icy. “I have given you the courtesy that I felt you deserved for having seen to my education, but I have had a long day and am fatigued.”
“Under the circumstances, I feel it would be best if you looked for your own lodgings,” said Mr. Wallace.
“I had no intention of staying in your home,” Charlotte assured him. “You have wronged me too badly for me to look to your charity now. Heaven knows who you might chose to marry me to next, a highwayman perhaps.”
Charlotte stormed out of the library, out of the house, and into the waiting carriage. Once she was in the carriage however, she realized that she was not certain where it was that she was going, out of desperation she asked the hack driver if he knew any nice hotels. Happily, being in his line of business, he did. The hotel clerk raised his eyebrow a little about a woman traveling alone and arriving so late with no luggage, but Charlotte was able to produce enough money to relax his concerns. Assuring the man that she would like to stay by the week and was to receive her luggage next day helped even further, and she was shown to her room.
The restfulness that had come to Charlotte when she was on the train was now gone again. She had worked herself to distraction with her rage and now she lay in the bed and stared at the ceiling, considering her prospects. She could not entirely decide what they were though. She may have divorced her husband, but there would always be people who assumed that she had been complicate in her crimes, and considering the number of people effected she would not feel entirely safe for some time.
Charlotte spent the next day putting her finances in a proper order and taking stock of what she had. She had never had to do that previously, in the past she had always had a husband or guardian who looked after such things provided that she looked after the household expenses. Now for the first time she found herself in possession of all of the facts, and she was not very happy with what she found. She had known that her husband had sold off a good portion of her lands and holdings in order to fund his stupid little schemes, but she had not previously realized to what extent. Now she found that her breath was caught away by the extent that he had taken from her. It was increasingly clear to her that he had most likely married her in order to have a piggy bank of an estate to draw from regularly. By the end of the day Charlotte had come to the conclusion, looking over her ledger, that she would have sufficient money to live on provided that she lived in pure simplicity for the rest of her life. It was hardly an appealing thought, and Charlotte hoped that she could think of some way that she would be able to make investments that would pay sufficient dividends that she could live more closely to her accustomed manner. The problem with this idea being that she did not entirely trust stocks any longer. She was certain that there were many honest stock brokers but since she had not been able to tell that her husband was dishonest she was very uncertain of how she was as a judge of character. Her mind swimming with her own doubts she set her papers down and retired for the night, having spent so much time pouring over papers that day that she was no longer certain that she could be trusted with any decisions at all, including what she would have for dinner.
The next day Charlotte decided she would make social calls instead of looking over what she already knew. She had old friends who she hoped would be able to give her better counsel than she would be able to give herself. Charlotte had servants at the first few houses that she stopped at inform her that the ladies of the house were not accepting visitors, though Charlotte did note that they only discovered this after they had gone to check with said ladies. Charlotte supposed that she should not be surprised. This discouraged her enough that she almost did not visit the next home. Elizabeth Tuttle was her oldest and dearest friend, and rejection from her would hurt the worst. Still, Charlotte needed an ear to turn to, and Elizabeth was the most likely person to talk to her.
As Charlotte had hoped, rather than be turned away at the door, after going to check with her mistress the maid ushered Charlotte into a parlor, where Elizabeth soon entered. Charlotte thought that she would be met with the warm embrace of old times, but she was to be disappointed. Elizabeth might be willing to see her but she was not willing to show her any warmth.
“How can I help you, Mrs. Flemming,” asked Elizabeth, and the Mrs. Flemming might well have been a slap on the face.
“I was in hope for advice and an ear to listen to my troubles,” admitted Charlotte, deflating a little.
“The advice I can give you is to leave town, you will not find yourself welcome at any home here,” said Elizabeth.
“I can see that now,” admitted Charlotte. “I know of no other town however, and I have no idea where I would go.”
“I don’t know as anywhere you go, you will find yourself welcome. Your husband stole a good deal of money from people across the nation. I am certain that where ever you go, you will find your name brushed by infamy. Did you really think that divorcing him could clear your name of what your family did?” Charlotte suddenly remembered that Elizabeth’s husband had been among the investors who had given her husband money, and she suddenly knew that coming to see Elizabeth had been a very bad idea. It was a wonder that the woman was being as civil as she was.
“Word has traveled quickly about my divorce I see,” said Charlotte.
“It will do you no good,” repeated Elizabeth.
“It will help me sleep at night,” replied Charlotte. “I swear to you Elizabeth, I knew nothing of what my husband was doing. If I had, you of all people I would have seen to it were spared. I consider you a sister to me. I would never knowingly allow harm to come to you.”
“You came to me for advice,” said Elizabeth. “My advice is to leave, and never set foot in this town again. The only way that you will escape the rumors that will follow you is if you move faster than them. With that I must bid you a good day. Speaking to you any longer will do neither of us any good.”
Charlotte could not help but agree and saw herself to the street again. Her head was on fire. Was there really no place where she could feel safe and welcome again? That possibility was beginning to crystallize in her mind. She considered that she might take the money that she did still have, and make her way to some remote part of the west where no one would have ever heard of her. Her money would go far there and she might even find that she did not mind the isolation so much, though she doubted it. Charlotte had always been a social woman, and she could not imagine finding any sort of comfort it a small town with few social events to enjoy. Still, it might not hurt to go down to the docks and inquire after the price of a steamship ticket. Louisville was not an appealing place to remain in any case since there was forever the chance that she might bump into her former guardian.
Charlotte had always known,in an abstract way, that many of the riverboats that plied the Ohio river had been built on docks in Louisville, but she had never taken an active interest in them. Now, as she wandered the docks, looking at the posters of the various steamship companies, and attempting to decide which one would suit her best, she found that she was spending far more time looking to where the great ships were coming together on skids. Men swarmed across them, and everything looked disorganized, though clearly they were all following a plan of some sort because further along the deck was a ship that was almost complete. Charlotte had to admit that they were beautiful. Great care was being put into making it so that this was so. These were the passenger ships, they were meant to attract people to them. Indeed every one of them seemed to have been highly decorated so as to make a passenger think that they were floating palaces.
Charlotte was still staring at them with awe when she discovered that she was no longer alone. A man had come to join her on the sidewalk, also to stare at them. Charlotte flushed a little with embarrassment,she had not intended for her interest in the ships to make her loose track of herself. She was just about to turn and walk away when the man spoke.
“See that ship there, ma’am,” he said, pointing at the ship that she had noticed as being almost entirely built.
“Yes, sir,” Charlotte admitted, because she would have had to be blind to not have. She was not certain what he wanted, but at least he did not seem to be a threat.
“That is the Champion, ma’am,” said the man, looking pleased with himself. “My ship.” Charlotte took another look at the man and contemplated for a moment. She was conflicted. On the one hand, enough exposure to her husband meant that she distrusted any man who boasted about what he owned without invitation. It seemed very much like the start of a con. On the other hand the man was dressed more simply than a man doing such a fraud generally would and Charlotte was willing to suppose that he might actually be telling the truth, after a fashion.
“Are you to be her captain, sir,” asked Charlotte.
“Her captain and her owner, ma’am,” said the man, his voice so full of pride that Charlotte was beginning to believe he really did just want to tell someone about his good fortune. Such a ship would have been a lifetime of work for the man, and most likely a lifetime of frugality, even if he was lucky, and in debt. It most likely meant a lot to him.
“When does she sail, sir?” Charlotte asked.
“In two weeks, ma’am. They are already installing the finishing touches and the furnishings,” said the man.
“The Champion, am I right?” asked Charlotte, coming to a decision. The man nodded. “I will see to it that I have a ticket for her. She will do as well as any ship.”
“She will do better than any other ship,” said the captain, still puffed up, “but ma’am, you do not know where it is that we are intending to go.”
The voyage is for my leisure and it does not matter where it is that I go so long as it is away from this town,” said Charlotte.
Charlotte collapsed into thought once she had reached her hotel room and contemplated what she had done. It always seemed as though she considered what the impact of what she had done would have once she had already done it. Of course she might still choose not to board the ship, after all she had not yet bought the ticket, and the captain would most likely never see her again if she did not, but there was the principle of the thing. In any case the man had been so proud, so certain of what he was doing in his life. Those were characters that Charlotte wished she shared with him but at least she could keep such a simple promise. It was not as though it really mattered which city she ended up in. She could restart her life anywhere that was far enough away that no one had ever heard the name Flemming.
Charlotte remained true to her decision and the next morning asked the hotel clerk to obtain her a ticket for as far as the new ship, the Champion, would take her. It was only that evening, when she had the ticket in her hand, that she learned where it was that she was going to be going. New Orleans would do as well as any other place she supposed. She was in fact looking forward to the long voyage. It would give her a chance to recover, and collect her thoughts from where they had fled since her now former husband had been arrested.


Inktober 2017 Day 15 “Mysterious”

So no more crosshatching. No more crosshatching ever…

An explanation of Inktober, and a list of prompts may be found here: http://mrjakeparker.com/inktober


Inktober 2017 Day 14 “Fierce”

Her armor is loosely based off of steel body armor from WWII, because I was shown a picture of this in the middle of drawing, and was perplexed by it’s existence.

A explantation of Inktober, and a list of prompts may be found here:http://mrjakeparker.com/inktober


Inktober 2017 Day 13 “Teeming”

It was either going to be teeming butterflies or spiders. Butterflies won.

An explanation of Inktober, and a list of prompts may be found here:http://mrjakeparker.com/inktober


Inktober 2017 Day 12 “Shattered”

This was drawn in a bit of a rush, so it’s maybe not as well done as I would like…

An explanation of Inktober, and a list of prompts may be found here: http://mrjakeparker.com/inktober


Inktober 2017 Day 11 “Run”

Post-illness attempt at catching up.

An explanation of Inktober, and a list of prompts may be found here:http://mrjakeparker.com/inktober