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The great day had arrived, and Magda was agog at the sheer mass of people, horses, and carts massing on the quayside. Even automobiles, unheard of where she came from in the Ukraine, a form of transport that didn’t need a horse or ox to pull it. It was something she had only heard tell of and never seen up close, a miracle of the modern world she now found herself immersed in. It was overwhelming.
Many people were forming orderly queues, awaiting their turn to embark. They were in the same situation as Magda, wide eyed and awed by the sight of the mighty ship. At the other end of the scale, and literally at the other end of the great ship, were the rich, the famous and some from Britain’s landed gentry, who were boarding with their families. Their staff and other servants embarked with the riffraff further down the quayside.
When Magda boarded, she followed a steward down the corridors to her cabin, all the time admiring the elegance of the surroundings. Placing Magda’s luggage in the room, the steward stood back, close to the open door, and coughed, once, very discretely. “Will there be anything else, Miss?”
Magda turned and looked the steward in the eyes. “No. You may go.”
The steward looked surprised but said nothing and closed the heavy door behind him as he left.
Magda had no intention of tipping anyone, not because her funds were low, which they were, but because she saw no reason to help anyone along the way if they were doing a job they were paid for. It would be several hours before the great ship was due to set sail, so Magda took the chance to go up onto the promenade deck for a stroll. On the way up she was passed by multiple stewards carrying large cases and more trunks of clothing than Magda had ever seen. The stewards all smiled at her, not quite out of politeness, more out of lust, being young men with mostly hot Irish blood flowing through their veins.
Extracted from The Brittle Sea
Copyright © Tom Kane 2020