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Spurious Seas

The Selkies in Lifeboat #4

By Guenneth SpeldrongPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 13 min read

Bertha Watt could hardly believe her luck. She was currently enjoying a delicious pastry and sipping tea on the Queen of the Ocean- the aptly named Titanic! In 2nd class, none the less! She was traveling with her mother to move to the far west coast of America, where her father currently was. He, of course, had gone ahead to set up a home for his "ladies", as he called them. Father simply sung the praises of their new home, a beautiful town called Portland.

Bertha was giddy with excitement to see this gorgeous place that rivaled her hometown of Aberdeen.

To make this happy excursion even better, Bertha was currently sitting next to the man she was hoping to marry: Handsome Mr. William Mellors. They would be spending every day of this voyage together! That would give her plenty of time to show William that she was, in fact, a grown up now.

In all her 13 years, Bertha had never been so excited for the future. Everything was coming together.

She, William, and Marjorie Collyer (her close friend, despite her being 5 years younger), were chatting and giggling while their parents sipped had what looked like a very boring conversation by comparison. Even the occasional stern look from one of the older ladies could not contain their excitement for too long. Eventually, Berthas mother suggested they go explore the ship.

The three of them were only to happy to comply with this clear dismissal! They set off immediately, determined to see every inch of the ship.

Upon leaving the dining area, however, they were stopped shot by a near collision with a large party of very elegantly dressed youths. While Bertha and Marjorie immediately stepped back, William, ever the gentleman, apologized to the group and introduced himself and his group. The most glamourous of the bunch stepped forward and introduced herself as Madeline Astor.

Madeline Astor

The shock of recognition struck like a lightning bolt. ASTOR!? Why, she was the new wife of a very wealthy and influential American businessman! The news of this young woman's romance had even reached to Berthas small corner of Scotland! It was a real life love story.

With Mrs. Astor stood other very influential young ladies of American high society: Carters, Thayers, and the lovely Ryersons. They simply glittered in the light of the chandeliers. It was a sight too lovely to behold!

William's charm being what it was, the gathering of high society youth quickly invited us to join them as they, too, explored the ship. What luck! Bertha had yet to set foot in her new country, and here she was, rubbing elbows with veritable American royalty!

Bertha's William was replaced by another William, of the Carter variety, and his sister Lucile. Mary Lines and Jack Odell fell behind with them as well, and they shared excited platitudes and observations. it was surprising how much she had in common with these famous children!

There was no place forbidden to them with Madeline Astor leading the way. They saw everything in both first and second class, including the captains state-room. The whole party ended up in the first class restaurant, having been invited to dine with royalty!

Full of delicacies, Bertha made promises to her new friends to meet up the following day to explore more of this massive ship. Despite her worry that she would be too excited to sleep, the rhythm of the whip, and the full belly, caused Bertha to fall asleep before she could even change into her proper nightgown.

After a quick breakfast with her mother and companions, Bertha grabbed Marjorie's hand and they waited for their new friends in the shared sitting room between first and second class. The group slowly coalesced, and the conversations became more personal as they waited.

Lucile told Bertha, Marjorie, and William of the "scandalous" romance between Helen Newsome and Karl Behr, two people who they would meet today. Helens mother had taken the whole family on a vacation in order to discourage the relationship, but Karl had followed them and had actually booked passage on the same ship so they could return to America together. when that story proved to be entertaining, Mary shared her own story of a kiss she witnessed between the bachelor Vivian Payne and the very married Orian Hays-Davidson!

Bertha near swooned at the thought of such liaison unfolding before her very eyes! Marjorie, still too young to understand, was more concerned about getting in trouble than to see how absolutely glorious such scandal was to see.

The party that gathered was certainly larger than before. Bertha asked Lucile to point out the couples to watch, which she did with gusto. Bertha ended up walking between Marjorie and a very quiet (and strikingly beautiful) young man who answered to Jose and spoke with a lovely accent. He came from Argentina, but he did not speak very much other than that, to Bertha's sorrow.

The group found their way down to the first class area, and they all seemed very much out of place. Virginia Clark and Susan Ryerson especially were quite determined to make acquaintances down here, and to add to their jolly party. The younger party members gathered up kids easy enough, bringing in a large group of children all by the name of Sage, as well as several others. Lucile spotted a woman who looked just like her mother, and Virginia Clark found her twin as well! Each of the older ladies ended up picking a woman they wanted to be their "pet", and the whole large, noisy group of them ended up in 1st class for "makeovers", as Mrs. Astor put it.

While all the younger children were excited by the prospect, the older ladies seemed unsure, and quite concerned with being caught and punished. The wealthy portion of our group were not one to take no for an answer, however, so they made the best of it.

In the spirit of making over, I gave my prized possession, a fur lined coat, to little Elizabeth Sage as we ventured out into the chilly air. The next few hours were a whirlwind of lace and silk and feathers. When all was said and done, every one of them looked like they belonged on the uppers tiers of the Titanic!

We met up with the gentlemen, the third class boys fidgeting in their stiffly starched collars. The whole loud gathering were warmly welcomed by the famous Margaret Brown- which was a blessing as the rest of the crowd was frowning at them. Despite the unkind glances, they were all accepted so long as they looked the part, and they enjoyed a nice lengthy meal containing way more food that most of them see in a month of Sunday's.

Bertha had yet to spend any time with her would-be-beau William, and William Carter was a poor replacement. He was turning out to be a notorious tease, his favorite pastime being pulling the braids of all of the girls. A smaller sub-group was forming, with the members being John Ryerson, Mary Lines, Lucile Carter, Laura Boulos, Elizabeth Sage, Jack Odell, William sage (by far a kinder William than that Carter boy), Jose Esteves, and of course Bertha and Marjorie.

Bertha was sad whenever she spotted her William laughing with his glamorous group of women who were, according to Bertha, much prettier than she. However, she perked herself up by telling herself she had many years to convince William to marry her.

The older group had apparently decided on a "lark". They intended to spend the next day teaching their "pets" manners, and then switching paces with them! It seemed a little too risky for Bertha and her group, so they stuck to wandering and talking. Whenever they saw the rest of them they would join in, and trade stories. It seemed the romances between Vivian and Orian, and Helen and Karl, were getting more serious. Two ladies who introduced themselves as the "Fortune" sisters gave everyone palm readings during tea, and an Alfred Nourney attached himself to the posh grouping and decided to move himself to first class, stating that 2nd class was "unacceptable. Bertha did not care for this man, and it seemed no one else did more than tolerate him.

Jack Odell found a best friend in an Ilyas Niqula from 3rd class, and the two became inseparable. Bertha saw them sitting very close on a regular basis, and even holding hands at one point. She thought this was odd behavior for two young men, but she thought it was sweet at the same time, and left them alone.

On the 4th day of the voyage, the training was complete and The first class ladies switched with the 3rd. Each group had helpers to make it all the more believable, and Bertha ended up in first class with Marjorie and Jose.

It went splendidly, which was a surprise to Bertha's group. It seems no one looks too closely if you behave in the proper way! They all ended up in the Aster cabin, as it was the largest, and Mr. Astor was out playing cards. They celebrated their successes, and all went to their separate rooms- the 3rd class with gifts of clothing and accessories.

Jose insisted on walking Marjorie and Bertha back to her rooms. Marjorie was first, and they all said goodnight. Then it was just the two of them.

Bertha was struck by the sudden quiet with just the two of them, and just as struck that it was a comfortable silence. She stole glances over at him, and was reminded of just how handsome he was. They kept walking, past her rooms, and onto the cold 1st class deck. She shivered, and was shocked when he reached out to hold her. They didn't have to speak, they felt their connection, standing there on the cold deserted deck.

This was not the romance Bertha had expected, but it was certainly better. Perhaps because it was real, not the fantastical imaginings of youth. After what seemed like ages, he moved to walk her back to her rooms, kissed her hand, and left as silently as he came.

Bertha fell asleep, and did not think of any William.

She was woken by a tremor. Her mother told her to say her prayers, as the ship was in trouble. She donned her fur lined coat, and went to the deck. There were gun shots, people were crying and running. Some were hysterical. She saw that awful Mr. Nourney hoarding blankets. Jack and Ilyas had found each other, meeting halfway in second class. They embraced, promising they would never let go of each other. My mother ushered them onto her boat. The first class area seemed quieter somehow, and Bertha wondered why they were not panicking like everyone else. She something unthinkable: Lucile's mother being pushed overboard by a man that must be her husband! Lucile had told her that her father was a scary man, and so she looked for her friend to try to tell her...but was pulled back by

She boarded Lifeboat #9, and her mother helped row them all away from the ship. It was dark, and cold, and terrifying. The screams in the dark were out of the deepest pit of hell. She saw a mostly empty boat of first class ladies rowing away, just like she was. They were pulling men out of the sea, as best they could in silks. Bertha thought she recognized some of the ladies from 3rd class on that boat, covered in the furs of 1st class, but was not able to see very well.

Then Bertha spotted Jose, shivering on a plank of wood, and she shouted to the rowers to turn. They rescued the shivering boy, and she held him in the hopes to warm him. No one seemed to care about the impropriety.

Several cold and miserable hours later they were on the deck of the Carpathia, looking for familiar faces. Bertha's entire party survived, which was a relief. Jose was not so lucky. In fact, there were not very many other men around. Karl and Vivian both survived, and clung to their loves. No one would separate them now. Cruel Mr. Carter made it, and was glaring down at a woman who was certainly NOT his wife- She was Emma Corey, from 3rd class. Bertha noticed a great many third class people here, dressed in finery.

Most of her first class friends were gone, it seems, choosing to stay on the boat with their husbands. She had wondered how the first class ladies had been able to pull 2o0 pound men out of the sea, and was angry when, later, she would read about how these women were weak, and how the strong men should have been the ones saved.

The newspapers backed up the Selkies stories, but they also said all women were saved, which everyone knows is a falsehood.

Her mother noticed this as well, and told her the story of Selkies, like when Bertha was a child. It all seemed agreed upon that these poor women were now wealthy widows. Vivian Payne changed his name to Robert Hickson and married Orian Hays. Helen was able to marry Karl; after the horrible ordeal, her mother found that life was too short to deny their happiness. Jack and Ilyas lived together until they died. And Bertha? She got to marry her Jose, though he was officially pronounced dead at the time. Her newly wealthy friends all pitched in and gave them enough money to set Jose up with a new name, Leslie Marshall, and was able to attend dental school and set up a nice home for Bertha, where they had 4 lovely children (none of them named William), and the three boys all becoming dentists, like their father.

It may seem like they got the short end of the stick with this deal, as most of the rest of them ended up with sudden and obscene wealth, but Jose/Leslie fared much better than their poor friends, who all had a great deal of trouble navigating their new lives. The new Mrs. Astor actually gave up her fortune and married a man for love, only to divorce him. Her son (who went by the name Astor, but was certainly not his by blood), never let her fall too far into poverty, thank goodness. The new Mrs. Carter had a nasty, very public divorce. They all wondered why Mr. Carter never said anything, but it was generally assumed that Mr. Carter did not want his murderous secret revealed. Bertha secretly believed that he wanted to continue to abuse someone, and poor Emma Corey (Mrs. Carter's real name), was as good as any. Of all of them, the Sage's, who took the name Ryerson, had the calmest life. Since the entire family was replaced, there was no real need to pretend at home. There were some divorces, some unfortunate deaths...but they mostly lived a happy life with their newfound wealth. They would visit Bertha and her brood sometimes, and bring gifts and news.

Mostly, Mr. and Mrs. Marshall never forgot this terrible day, and the happiness it brought them. When Mr. Marshall died, Bertha wrote down her story. She never got to see it published, as she was worried about her friends and the effect it would have on them. later, her daughter sold, and it ended up in the hands of James Cameron, who changed it to make it "more believable", and to protect the families involved. Thankfully, there were no survivors left to watch this, only their descendants, so the reviews were quite favorable!

***Everyone mentioned in this story was a real person on board the Titanic.***

Robertha Watt

Only William Sage's body was found, but all were listed as deceased.

Emily Ryerson and her children

Emily Maria Ryerson after she survived the sinking.
Madeline Astor after surviving the Titanic

Carter's in the paper following the wreck

Lucille Cater, who actually helped row lifeboat #4. In fact, many of the first class ladies really did pull men out of the water, saving 10 lives.

Jack Odell and his family he was said not to survive.


About the Creator

Guenneth Speldrong

Hello there. I write things. Sometimes good things. Mostly, I write to find myself. If I can entertain you in the process, then that's just the derivative icing on the proverbial cake!

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

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    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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