Chapter 2. Starting Over Again.
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.—Corrie ten Boom.
Starting Over Again.
The train station of the city of Leeds was crowded with passengers, porters, and luggage. People jostled about here and there, ragged street urchins ran around getting into trouble, and the steam from the engines made the atmosphere foggy and damp.
"All aboard!" The conductor of the train bound for Liverpool called. "All aboard!"
"That is my cue," Dannie said to Margret and Richard. "Thank you for coming with me to the station."
"Dannie, dearest, it is not too late to reconsider," Margret said in a tear filled voice. "Just think about what you are doing."
"I have thought about it, Meg, and I've made up my mind. I shall write you once I reach America."
"Oh, how stubborn you are, Dannie," Margret sighed. "I suppose it is a good thing, you will need it once you get out there." She kissed her dear friend. "Take care and stay safe."
"I will," Dannie promised and kissed her back. "Goodbye, Richard."
"Goodbye, Dannie," Richard kissed Dannie's hand. "Godspeed on your long journey. I hope you will make it to your father's cousin alive and in one piece."
"Thank you, Richard," Dannie laughed. She picked up her little traveling bag and hurried aboard the train.
"Oh, Richard," Margret worried to her husband, "how will she ever survive?"
"I don't know, Meg," Richard softly replied. "I don't know."
The trip to Liverpool took three hours thanks to the many stops along the way. When the train pulled into the station Dannie right away went to the docks to find out when the first ship for America was due to set sail. She hoped there would be one the same day, but to her disappointment she was told that the ship was sailing tomorrow at noon. This meant Dannie had to spend some of her precious money on a hotel for the night. The next morning she carefully repacked her things and when noontime came around hurried to the docks.
The large steamship stood at the harbor. There were many different people boarding it. The richly dressed first class passengers walked proudly aboard, the well to do second class passengers followed them, and finally the third class passengers, a mixed crowd from all walks of life hurried aboard.
With a cringe Dannie boarded with the third class. Even though she had sold just about everything she had, she still didn't have very much money and was trying to be as sparing as possible. It of course had hurt her pride, but she had gone with third class because she knew she would still need plenty of money once she got to America.
As her feet left the safety of the shore and crossed the plank onto the rocking ship, Dannie's heart began beating like a drum. This was it, she was departing from her native England, leaving behind everything she had ever known. All sorts of thoughts began running through her head. Here she was, only twenty one years of age, all alone on this ship, with no traveling companion, chaperon or servant. Had it been prudent for her to so impulsively jump into the journey? It probably wasn't prudent; it was probably as foolish as Margret has said. But what was she to do when foolish was the only way left for her to go?
The ship began pulling out of harbor and with one last look at England's disappearing shore, Dannie turned her gaze to the vast ocean that stretched out in front of her. Yes, it was frightening, but that would not stop her. She had left England and Paul behind her; her past lay there, vanishing with the shore. The last month had been a terrible storm that had broken out without any warning, but Dannie hoped she had left the dark clouds in England and bright skies would greet her when the ship docked. One part of her life was over and she was going to start all over again. She would piece her broken heart together, she would rebuild all Paul had destroyed, and would find someone new to love. Not yet, not now, she wasn't ready now, but one day, Dannie vowed, one day she would forget Paul and the emptiness he had created would be filled by someone else. With God's help she would get through this valley of the shadow of death and come out of it stronger than she had been.
"S'cuse us Miss, but oi believe we are a roomin' witcha."
A thick, Irish accent made Dannie look up from her Bible. A large lady with fiery red hair and a face full of freckles had come down to her cabin, followed by a boy of about sixteen years and a girl of about twelve.
"Aye, thees are our bunks. Stella, yer 'ill take dat top bunk, Joseph yer 'ill take dat top bunk an' oi git de bottom wan."
"But Ma, oi wanted a bottom bunk," the girl whined.
"Can you see the likes ov me climbin' up there?" The lady scolded.
"But why can't the lady take..."
"Stella, stop your whimperin' or I'll gie you waaat for. The Missy wus 'ere first an' she bought a ticket for that bunk. If you keep cnawvshawlin' I'll send you ter sleep up on the deck."
Dannie tried to keep a polite face as she buried her nose back into the Psalms. She guessed they must have docked in Ireland and these were her new neighbors.
"It's Mary O'Finnley by the way."
Dannie looked up again and saw that the lady was offering her large, weather beaten hand. She forced a smile and shook the hand offered her. "Danielle Preston,"
"These are Stella and Joseph, me offspring, the only ones that lived that is. The poor others, bless their souls, they al' died, as did their da. Whaen he was gone oi said to meself, oi did: this is it Mary, you 'ave naw breadwinner and you are stony broke an' the laddies are starvin', it's time you pick yerself up an' git ter America wha things are sure to be easier fer yer. So 'ere we are, an' I'm glad we are. Waaat aboyt you, Miss, are you immigratin' too?"
"Yes, I mean no, I mean, I don't know," Dannie faltered.
"Don't nu?" Mary O'Finnley raised her eyebrows. "Joseph, Stella," she suddenly barked at her kids, "don't go sittin' raun doin' nathin'! Git settled down, we've got a long trip ahead of us, we do." Taking a seat on her own bunk, Mary turned towards Dannie expectantly. "Waaat takes you ter America? From what I can see you are 'eadin' there all on yer own."
"Much like you, it is necessity that takes me to America, but I'm not sure if I can say that I'm immigrating. If I am to be completely honest, I don't even know what I am doing."
"Not a very good sign," Mary spoke in a knowing voice, "but that's nothin' new fer youn' ones. Oi didn't know waaat I wus doin' when I married Donald, an' oi regretted it only a month into our marriage. That paddy drank an' cussed loike a house on fire. Why oi wus ashamed to even brin' him to church. But we learn wi' life. Take my advice, dearie, be careful that life don't teach yer the 'ard way, cause there may be naw turnin' back."
Dannie nodded, hoping if she kept silent the lady would stop her endless chatter.
"Do you 'ave any clue what you'll do once you git to America?" Mary was obviously not going to shut up soon.
"Not really," Dannie sheepishly confessed. "I've come to the end of one road in my life, and have just embarked on another, but I cannot tell for certain where it will take me."
"Ah, that is a tough spot indeed. But if you ask me, an' I've been through so much in life, sometimes not knowin' is gran'. Then again, sometimes it's not. Take me late 'usband, Donald for example..."
Dannie realized that for the rest of the journey there would be no peace and quiet in the cabin and she would just have to come to terms with this sad fact. "So this is what traveling third class means," Dannie glumly concluded. She excused herself at the first possible moment and went above deck.
Dannie had never basked in riches, but her parents had certainly never been poor, and to suddenly find herself thrown in with a very sorry lot took some getting used to. She studied a group of young ladies, all dresssed in the way of the latest fashion, who were taking a walk and gossiping with each other. As Dannie watched them, she reflected on her deceased father, and remembered how if there was a choice between dining with a well to do member of the parish, or visit the bricklayer's wife, he would chose the bricklayer. Reverend Preston had done his best to teach his daughter that all people where equal and there was no need dislike someone just because they had less money or worse manners. It was almost as though Dannie could hear her father chiding her for running away from Mrs. O'Finnley, who needed someone to listen to her heartaches. With a sigh, Dannie pulled herself out of her self pity. "No point in feeling sorry for yourself, Danielle Preston," she spoke out loud to herself. "Third class passengers are people too, and it is not like they are any worse than those peacocks." Dannie cast a disgusted look at the preening ladies and went back to her cabin. She would hear Mrs. O'Finnley out, if only because the woman had no one else to tell her troubles too.
The cry made Dannie rush to the deck two steps at a time. Leaning over to the railing, she stared at the shore as it appeared on the horizon. Was this it? Were they really almost at their destination? The week had passed by quite well, the weather had been favorable, and the sailing had been smooth. Mary O'Finnley had been rather tiresome, but Dannie found that a couple of long walks on the deck could clear away the headache the lady's talking brought. The poor woman had such a difficult life, it was hard to blame her for being so overbearing.
Dannie caught her breath as New York appeared in the distance, soon they would pull into the dock and she would step onto dry land. As they came closer and closer Dannie felt her heart beat faster and faster. When the ship reached the port, the hard part of her journey would begin.
Going back below, Dannie went to her cabin and packed her bag. It wasn't very large; she had made a point of traveling light. Since she was all alone, she didn't want to have to haul heavy luggage around.
"Can you believe it?" Mary excitedly said, as she ran about, collecting her things. "To think we are finally 'ere! Stella, don't tatter aboyt loike that. Luk at your brah'der; 'e's already got al' his things together." Mary hurriedly tried to help her daughter collect her things. Stella didn't seem too inspired about anything and just walked around the cabin like a caged animal. Not wanting to get in the way, Dannie picked up her bag and left the cabin. Making her way up deck, she stood watching as the ship pulled into harbor. Soon the ropes were tossed and the bridge was put out. All that was left was to cross it.
"Well, this is it." Mary had found her in the crowd of passengers waiting to get off. "Now you must go your way and oi must go mine. Oi 'ope you 'ill find whatever so'tiz you are lookin' for."
"Goodbye, Mary," Dannie gave her a warm smile. "God be with you and your family."
"Come along, children," Mary hollered, "let's push our way through this crowd."
Dannie smiled and then sighed. The time had come for her to leave the ship, and start her search. Would she be able to do it?
"Oh, dearest Lord," she softly whispered, "please, oh please, if I ever needed help, I need it now. I've got very little money and hardy a clue as to where I am supposed to go. If it's possible, send someone who will be able to show me the way. I don't want to get lost out there all by myself. Please, you know where Christopher Martin's ranch is located, help me get there alive and in one piece." Having said this little prayer, Dannie gathered her wits about her and with firm strides walked off the ship and onto American soil.