Adelaide Westin has just lost her father and must travel from her home in London to New York, the home of her mother's sister, her only surviving relative. But her journey aboard The Golden Rose might not be as easy as she thought it would be.
Standing on the quayside, looking up at the massive wooden ship that would transport me to the new world made me gasp. I had never seen anything so majestic looking and impressive as The Golden Rose, the ship that would be my home for the duration of my voyage. Her sails billowed in the wind, looking like giant clouds that had strayed to close to the ground, and the men climbing up and down the rigging appeared as agile as monkeys, moving from rope to rope with ease. Of course that’s only how I imagined monkeys to move, I had never actually seen one. My father had kept me under a close watch as I grew up, not allowing me to take part in any activity that could be seen as unladylike or common. This meant trips out were limited to the opera and the ballet in the evenings, and to the dressmaker’s and the bookstore during the day. This didn’t include any visits I would want to pay to acquaintances, but that was already expected of me.
‘Miss?’ A rough voice caught my attention and I turned around to see who had spoken. ‘Pardon me Miss Adelaide, but the cap’n says we’re ready to set sail.’ I recognised the man as one of the sailors who had loaded my trunks aboard an hour or so earlier. He was in his mid-forties I would have guessed, streaks of grey showing in his hair and on his beard, but you could still see the sandy-blonde colour it had once been. His eyes were dark brown but there was something kind in them. His skin looked weather-beaten from a life at sea and there were wrinkles all over his face.
‘Thank you…?’ I looked at the man, waiting for him to give me his name.
‘Thank you Abel. You may tell the captain I shall be on board shortly.’ The man doffed his hat to me before walking off towards the gangplank leading up to the ship.
I took one last look at my beloved London, the city I had lived in since my birth and prepared to board the ship. There was no one there to wave me off. My society friends hadn’t thought it proper to travel down to the docks to wave me off, and I had no family left in England, only my mother’s sister, who lived in America and was the woman I was going to live with. My Aunt Lillian had moved over to New York with her husband before I was born, so I had never met her, but my mother had loved her dearly before her death a ten years ago. I had been seven then and still hadn’t quite understood where she had gone, it wasn’t until later that I realised she wasn’t coming back. My father hadn’t dealt with her death well, refusing to speak about her, and not wanting me to ask anyone else about her.
But now both of them were gone and I had to travel thousands of miles to live with my closest relative, my only remaining relative.
I climbed carefully up the gangplank, watching my footing so I wouldn’t slip and fall into the muddy water below. When I finally stood on the deck of the ship and looked around at all the men running around in plain trousers and white shirts, I felt like I stood out in my wide brimmed black hat and my black mourning dress that came up to cover my neck. I was already starting to feel overheated in the mild early summer sunshine, what would it be like when we set sail?
‘Ah Miss Westin. Glad to see you aboard.’ Captain Donelly was an old friend of my family and his father had helped my grandfather in several of his business deals. What they were exactly, I was never sure of, but I had a horrible feeling it was something I didn’t want to know.
‘Hello Captain Donelly,’ I said, smiling as he bowed to kiss my gloved hand. ‘It’s so good to see you. How are preparations for the voyage going?’
‘Very smoothly Miss, we should be setting off in a matter of minutes. I would advise that you go below decks for our departure, it can get quite hectic up on deck when we set sail.’
‘But if I wanted to stay on deck, is there somewhere I can stand so I won’t bother you?’ I could see the captain was looking slightly reluctant to let me stay up on deck, so decided to push a little harder. ‘It is the last time I will see London, possibly for many years and it is my home. I’d like to say goodbye properly.’
‘I suppose you may stand on the quarterdeck with me. You won’t be in the way there.’
‘Thank you so much Captain Donelly, this means so much to me.’ I curtsied to the Captain, before heading off down the ship to get a good glimpse of what was going on.
Every man had his station it seemed, whether it was securing the sails high above the deck, or clearing space for people to move when the ship finally set sail. I got a mixture of looks from the sailors, some annoyed at my presence, hindering them in the process of doing their jobs, others politely nodded their heads at me as a sign of respect, and some gave me looks that made me feel very uncomfortable indeed.
‘Miss Westin,’ I heard my name called and the Captain came staggering after me. ‘Miss Adelaide, we’re about to leave port, if you want to stay on deck then I suggest you follow me.’ I followed the captain towards the back of the ship and up some wooden steps to the raised deck at the back, which I assumed was the quarterdeck. I stood at the side of the ship, holding onto the handrail and looking down at the people below.
‘Are we ready to sail Master Rigby?’ The Captain asked standing behind a portly looking man who was at the wheel.
‘Yes Cap’n,’ was the response.
‘Then prepare to set sail.’ Captain Donelly proceeded to bark out orders to the rest of the crew and soon we were on our way out of the harbour and off down the Thames. I watched as my beloved city went past, looking at the plumes of smoke rising into the blue-grey sky until they were no more.
‘I’ll miss you London,’ I whispered to myself as I stared back down the river towards my home, a place I may never see again. ‘Don’t forget me.’