The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

Book: The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kate Alcott
of time with that odious seaman. Since your mother isn’t here, I just want to warn you—you can do better.”
    Tess’s cheeks began to burn. She opened her mouth to answer, but Lucile cut her off.
    “Second, we might as well get to this. We need to talk about your future. I don’t need a maid in New York; I have two.”
    Her voice had hardened, businesslike, and Tess, shocked, braced herself. Now came the dreaded repercussions of her disobedience.
    “But, I thought—”
    “Yes, I know, I mentioned something about working in my shop. And I know you’re good with buttonholes.” Lucile sighed again, paced the room for a few moments.
    “I can do much more than that,” Tess said with a rush. “I’m good, I can be a true help to you, I—”
    “Oh, Tess, you should see your face. Don’t worry, I’m just teasing. I’ll find a place for you. You’re quick and intelligent. I will try you out in the shop—we’ll start from there. Why are you looking at me that way?”
    “I’m bewildered. It’s as if, sometimes, a game is being played.”
    “Game?
Game?
Oh, for heaven’s sake.” Lucile’s light laughter bounced through the air. “Now sit down for a moment—I want to give you an idea of what we’re going to face when we dock tonight. We are all celebrities now, you know.”
    Tess wasn’t quite sure what that would mean. Only gradually had she realized that the fate of the “unsinkable”
Titanic
had drawn worldwide attention, that newspapers were clamoring for details, that inquiries were being planned, that the U.S. Congress would be involved. Radio messages had been flying back and forth between the
Carpathia
and the shore. Somehow it had seemed to her to be the private tragedy of the survivors, which she saw now was absurd.
    “It’s going to be a circus,” Lucile warned her. Tess should try to avoid the reporters; they were jackals and would crawl all over anybody unfamiliar with their deceits. She and Sir Cosmo would do the talking. There would be drivers from her New York office with cars at the dock to whisk them off to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, so she was to stay close and not wander off. On second thought, they might stop at her salon; Madame was quite sure all the models would be there. “And wait until you see this hotel, dear,” she said cheerfully. “You will
die
.”
    Tess winced at that. “I’ll make sure everything is ready,” she said, preparing to leave the room.
    Lucile must have caught the shadow that flitted across her face.
    “By the way, I’ve forgotten the name of the family you were working for in Cherbourg,” she said. “Who were they, dear?”
    “We haven’t talked about them.” They both knew she had never named them.
    “Perhaps not.” Madame surveyed her thoughtfully. “But then …”
    Why this cat-and-mouse game? She could say nothing. No, she would take a chance. “Thank you for your kindness last night,” she said. “You comforted me, and I am grateful for that.”
    Once again, that sudden shift of expression on Lucile’s face. “It isn’t what I do,” she said after a pause. “But you brought it out of me.”
    A short silence. And then it ended.
    “Oh well, I know about made-up worlds. Do be sure you understand about the one we are entering—and that’s the last time I’ll ever remind you.” Madame smiled, her eyes dancing. “So prepare yourself. We’re about to go through Alice’s looking glass.”

    PENNSYLVANIA STATION
NEW YORK CITY
APRIL 18
7:00 A.M.
    Pinky Wade sat hunched in her seat, staring out a grimy window as her train pulled slowly into the tunnel below the new Penn Station,that vast edifice of soaring arches and splendid skylights held up by magnificent pink granite columns. She jumped slightly as the conductor strode into the railcar and bawled out, “New York City, end of the line!” Quickly she gathered her belongings, which consisted of a small satchel with an extra shirtwaist and toiletries. Pinky Wade was proud

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