HELEN CHURCHILL CANDEE was a first class passenger aboard the Titanic, and a table companion of young Hugh Woolner, the millionaire son of a famed British sculptor. She was crossing the Atlantic to be at the side of her son, Harold, who had been injured in one of history�s first plane crashes. She was fifty-three years old in April 1912, and so attractive that at least a half dozen men in first class, including Colonel Archibald Gracie, seemed inclined to �protect� her. By all accounts, she was not the sort of woman who needed, or desired, protecting. She had divorced an abusive husband in an era when a divorced woman was �marked� by society and the church. Though she had been left to raise two small children on her own with essentially no financial assistance, she managed to carve out a good living for herself as a journalist � indeed, she managed so well that one of her books had become an international best seller, enabling her to afford a first class cabin on the world�s most expensive ship. The book was titled, "How Women May Earn a Living."� Its central theme was, �how to get along very well in life without a man.�
�Two years after the Titanic, Helen joined the Red Cross in Italy, during the start of World War I. A decade after that, she was living in Beijing, where she became involved in the Chinese Civil War on the side of the Nationalists against the Communists, sending periodic dispatches from the front lines to the New York Times. She was nearly seventy years old at this time. After being decorated by the king of Siam for "Angkor the Magnificent" (her 1924 book about the lost city of Angkor), she eventually returned to her summer home in Maine, where she died in 1949 at the age of ninety. On the night the Titanic made its acquaintance with the iceberg, she was escorted to Lifeboat Number 6 by Hugh Woolner. Quartermaster Hitchens (who was at the wheel during the collision), Lookout Frederick Fleet (who had a grandstand view of the collision from the crow�s nest), and Major Peuchen (a first class passenger who�s wallet would be found, with all of his papers intact, in the Titanic's debris field) were assigned to crew No. 6. Peuchen, apparently mindful of his military reputation, is reported to have asked Second Officer Charles Lightoller to scrawl a �monitor�s note� before he boarded Boat 6, verifying that he had asked the Major to enter the boat and that he had not departed in a cowardly fashion. Helen Candee and fellow Boat 6 survivor Molly Brown later had much to say about the cowardice of Hitchens and Peuchen, who refused to row back to the site of the sinking, and stood still while 1500 people froze to death nearby.
�Amongst the details to be found in the Helen Candee accounts, mentioned almost in passing, is what she heard just before the Titanic�s musicians were silenced. Historians have doubted, ever since the release of "A Night to Remember," that Mr. Hartley would actually have risked creating a panic by playing "Nearer My God to Thee." The consensus opinion is that the story is little more than heroic myth. Maybe not, according to Candee. Marconi Operator Harold Bride (whose handwritten report to the Marconi Company appears in Part II) happened to be climbing to the roof of the Officers� Quarters and was within ear-shot of the band just before the ship began its final plunge. He recalled hearing a popular waltz called "Autumn," just as he reached the roof. As near as he could recall, that was the last piece played. Already wet at least to his ankles (from a small wave that had surged into the Marconi Shack, forcing his evacuation through an access panel in the ceiling), Bride strode toward the first smokestack, where Lightoller and other members of the crew were struggling to free the roof-mounted collapsible boat known as �B.� With all the action that soon engulfed Bride, perhaps within thirty to forty-five seconds of reaching the roof, if the band did indeed begin playing another piece, remembering and naming tunes would not have been first and foremost on Bride�s mind. Within fifteen to twenty seconds of the water reaching Boat B and Harold Bride, the band was forced to scatter and it would seem that their last piece was likely cut short.
About the time Harold Bride ascended the roof, Helen Candee also heard the song Autumn. Unlike Bride, she happened to be watching and listening from the relatively calm and safe vantage point of Boat 6, from which she recalled hearing the waltz followed by the beginning of Nearer My God to Thee.
This first portion of Helen Candee�s story is excerpted from a May 1912 account she penned for Colliers Magazine under the title �Sealed Orders."
EXCERPTS FROM �SEALED ORDERS�: . . . It was getting cold, biting cold, the cold that makes you glad to be alive, with air and water clear and clean as young blue eyes. The acres of decks were cleared of loungers, even of those whose chairs were placed well behind the plate glass weather screen. . . . And servants brought tea and toast and a general feeling of well-being brought content. . . and in this soft silence the titan was flying like an arrow on the trackless sea whither the sealed orders were sending her. . . But she was not the first to arrive at the tryst.� Down from the silent north that other sinister craft had slipped into her destined place.� No wireless equipment, no port or starboard lights, no lines of cabins showing bright, no compass, no captain. But the power that is greater than man has no need of man's methods. . . It was nearly midnight when she shuddered with horror in the embrace of the northern ice.� Twice, from bow to stern, she shook with mighty endeavor to crush beneath her the assailant.
And it seemed she had succeeded.� A great calm fell at once upon the ship. . . On the deck below we found the same desertion as everywhere, the deck where all the chairs were spread, where folk displayed themselves and criticized others. . . scarce a passenger, but the port side filled with a growing crowd of wiry men. . . Up the sweep of the regal staircase was advancing a solid procession of the ship's passengers, wordless, orderly - and old the dress told of the [coming] tragedy.� On every man and every woman's body was tied the sinister emblem of death at sea, and each one walked with his life-clutching pack to await the coming horrors.� It was [as quoted often by Edith Russell] a fancy-dress ball in Dante's Hell . . .[On the Boat Deck], the black cloud of firemen still waited in order the command to jump in [and pilot the lifeboats].� The order came on the clear, cold air: "Down below, men.� Every one of you, down below1"� And without a sound they wittingly turned from life and went to death, no protest, no murmur, no resistance, a band of unknown heros.
Now for the tragedy; all the horrors of separation had begun. "See, Captain, my arm is broken [said Mrs. Henry B. Harris].� My husband must go with me or I am helpless."
"No men allowed in the boats, madam." And the couple turned away. . .� The little craft lowered, and twenty-five women descended nearly a hundred feet, filled with hope. . . that all would be reunited. . . on that other vessel whose far white light showed over the port quarter.
Over the crowds, quiet, inactive, anguished, there flowed a flood of music, such music as never before was heard - a gay [cheery] march, a two-step, light operatic airs, all freighted with a burden of love, that love which lays down its life for a friend. . . The lights were beginning to burn low, water - soft, noiseless water - was creeping up the slanting deck so fast that in another minute they [Hugh Woolner and his friend, Bjornstrom] would have been imprisoned under the deck's roof.� They leaped to the railing and mounted it.� At that moment the last boat was floating just before them, three yards away, with vacant room in the bow.� Surely they had the right!� And over them trembled the last strains of the orchestra's message: "Autumn," first and then, "Nearer, My god, to Thee. . ."
The distant light that some had followed from the first (the �mystery ship�) scudded away into the aurora as fast as the first breath of breeze rippled over the glassy waters�Dawn showed the vast, vast reaches of the sea empty of big craft, but, floating near, a swaying tangle of deck chairs and cushions, and a pale white babe rocked in the cradle of that fashioning.
Shortly after �Sealed Orders� was published, Helen Candee wrote a far more detailed account of her Titanic adventure, as a memoir for her family. It was made available by her granddaughter, Mary C. Barker, after Woods Hole/Ifremer�s discovery of the Titanic in 1985.
Acquired by Walter Lord in 1986 - given by the Candee family shortly before � The Night Lives On� was published.
Down to the Sea in Ships
Sunday, April 15, 1912.
At Cherbourg the big ship awaited us. There was much excitement among the passengers who gazed at the new vessel, that was to carry us. As I had not been with any travelers during the agonizing three days of waiting, I had not known anything about the ship�s points. It seems that it was a tour de force of the White Star line. The Cunard so far had the better fleet of ships and more of them, so that the head men of the White Star had built the biggest ship afloat. The Titanic had a larger tonnage than any other, and would outclass the rival Cunarders. All passengers were as proud of this fact as though a personal distinction were conferred upon them. Lord Chesterfield in one of his celebrated letters suggested to his son that he analyze the matter on which a man brags. What is it, about which he is conceited? Really nothing, as in this case. The self-important passengers had done nothing but buy tickets which act was open to anyone with a goodly purse.
I looked about my cabin and there stole over me the comfort given by a huge cabin elegantly fitted. And I too, fell into the folly of braggadocio. I went into dinner with chin up and a regal air of self-satisfaction. I had been given a cabin on the deck with the lounge [A deck]. Convenient and luxurious it was. How Harry would have chuckled over my good luck. I returned there after dinner. A boy in smart uniform came in knocking and staggering under a burden of magazines of the month.
�Mr. Kent [of suite B37], Ma�am. He said you might like them.�
Mr. Kent? Who was he? Then I remembered that an old friend in Paris said he had a friend of that name who was sailing on my ship. How kind an introduction. He must be worth knowing.
Mr. Kent�s pile of magazines looked at me as though friendly. I picked up the �Atlantic Monthly�, tucked it under my arm and fled with it to the big lounge. I had scarcely fluttered its leaves when I felt a tall, slim man standing before me with a restrained humorous smile on a thin face.
�Beg pardon, � he bowed, � but I too have the April �Atlantic�. Is that sufficient introduction, considering that Jimmy told me to look you up? My name is Kent.� He bowed again.
I put out my hand. �Mr. Kent, I am very glad you found me. How did you know that my name is Candee?� �Something told me it must be. I have luck, in that I am told things by an inward something.� �Your Guardian Angel?�
�Perhaps. I rarely speak of it. Shyness perhaps. But I find it does not like to be noticed. If I take its counsel too often, it begins to traduce me by being utterly unreliable. Perhaps you can tell me why it likes to fool me.�
�I am not good at riddles. But you did carry a sign. The magazine was as a baited hook and line.�
�But anyone might carry the �Atlantic�, a hundred or two on this big ship.�
�If so, I have not seen them. I miss it with a sense of real loss if a number eludes me. I have the habit, you see.�
��I have it too. And like what it brings me,� said I.
�I hope you will,� he laughed with meaning,� and that you will let me serve you in any way that I may.� Then he bowed himself away, little impersonal and perfunctory. Perhaps I should have asked him to be seated. Kent was not the only acquaintance I was to meet. There was Archibald Gracie whom I had known pleasantly as his wife�s husband. She was lovely to look upon and was willing to use her singing voice for the pleasure of anyone who asked. But the next comer was Hugh Woolner who came aboard at Southampton. His way was not to pick me out by a more or less serviceable instinct, but to send to my cabin a letter of introduction from old Kent friends, the Radcliffs. He was asking me to meet him for a cocktail just before lunch, in the room devoted to delicate conviviality.
I have always, in settling myself on a ship, made assistants of the stewards. I replied to Hugh Woolner�s note and the next morning asked the likely steward who took my missive, to note the gentleman so he would be able to point him out to me. I was in my steamer chair on the deck� [with Kent] when the steward came to me and tucked up my feet which needed no tucking. But he also covered up my hands, saying as he did so, �That�s the gent�m.�
Striding easily along was an unusually tall man of about forty, whose dress and manner announced the Englishman. British tailors do better than ours. They produce an effect of ease. A man may be wearing a suit of tweed just from the craftsmen who made it, or he may be sporting a dinner jacket just born, but he wears these costumes with the ease of wearing things left over from last year. Kent was perching on the footrest of my chair, and as Woolner lounged by he said, �That man has what I call arrogant politeness. It is peculiar to the British. It distinguishes them from all other races. He is noticeably a gentleman. He aims at that, even as a boy at Eton. But go further and you will find that he considers it incumbent on a gentleman to work for the good of the State, otherwise he is not complete. A gentleman knows how to rule.�
�But how do you know these things? You must be a clever observer.� I said.
�The Englishman of the upper class is a superior type, he interests me. He got his arrogant politeness through character, and through training in school and in sports. And now it is time for morning broth, so I will leave you to your stimulating but harmless reflection.� He slipped easily away with humor on his face.
Archibald Gracie�s generous shadow fell on the empty chair beside me. �May I sit here?� he asked brightly.
�You may indeed. It is my extra. I always take two chairs, one for myself, the other for callers, or for self protection.�
�Good idea,� he commented, looking over a sun sparkled sea. He squinted his dazzled eyes against the light. He was not animated nor bursting with small talk. �Hey! Smith!� He called, suddenly. A gentle slow-paced man with a quiet atmosphere started like a frightened hare, and halted. �Come over. I want to make a pleasure for you both.� He then spoke the two names, and I found myself with another potential new friend.
�Mr. [Cinch] Smith leads a double life.� continues Gracie, �No, not that, perhaps I should say that he has a dual personality. That is not right either, smacks of psychiatry. What I mean is, he has a house in Paris and one on Long Island and divides his year between them. However it is, he�s a grand fellow.� Mr. Smith recovered, and spoke for a game of bridge.
�You play, of course?� he asked, looking into my face.
�Not just this minute,� I said, receiving a cup of hot broth and a biscuit.
�Oh no, how stupid of me,� He apologized.
I hated myself for a clumsy joker. This was a man of the world of beau monde, and I have rebuffed him with a heavy touch.
Gracie at this juncture heaved himself up saying, � I need a walk.� and left me with Smith.
�Now you will take this chair and tell me about this ship.� I said. �There seems to be something unusual about it. So many important looking people on board. Such a big ship!�
�The biggest one afloat!� Smith spoke as though he had a part in its importance and was a little self gratulatory. It suited a man as quietly, as modestly, important as he.
�They say that five times around the deck makes a mile,� I suggested. �Let us watch the walkers as they go by.�
�Have you noticed those two man just passing? Evidently South American -- and greatly attached. Father and son and always beautifully together.�
�I believe their race is like that. Why are we always so keen to recognize the Jew?� I mused. �I knew Bernard Baruch as a lad and I am proud of the acquaintance. Naturally. Our whole country is proud of him.�
�I wish reporters would stop calling him the elderly statesman as though age were the best he has attained,� said Smith. �His father was doctor to my mother, and his mother came often to see us, both of them people of charm and cultivation.�
�They say each one of us has his favorite Jew,� said Smith with point. � Now I must go. May I invite myself to use your extra chair another time? But just by way of identifying people - - that couple is John Jacob Astor and his young wife.� He left me, joining the pair as they drifted on.
One o�clock found me at the door of the cocktail room. Hugh Woolner had selected a table near the entrance. As I stepped in I caught a gleam from his quick eyes, and smiled as I recognized him. He rose and indicated a chair. I took it without ceremony before saying, � Do you know who I am?�
�Most certainly.� was his emphatic reply. �I might be anyone, merely a person ready to taste a glassful from your cocktail shaker.�
�Oh no. You are Bill Radcliff�s friend, Mrs. Candee. I got one of the stewards to identify you for me.�
A smile of mischief softened his straight mouth. �But how did you know me?� �By the same method.� Then we both laughed frankly. �Cautious souls, both of us, not to be caught in an awkward case,� he relished the thought. He put violence into the ceremony of agitating the shaker, and slowed down into a tidy touch when pouring out the liquid. �I like to do this myself. It is a rite and should not be relegated to a servant when only two persons are to be refreshed.�
�I like your idea. Some men like also to stand at a table of bottles and add a loving touch to the mixture.�
�I like that too, but only in my own house. It would make me conspicuous, like that dressy butterfly there over at the bar.� He almost snorted. �Do you want to tell me why you, an Englishman, are going to America? It would interest me.�
�I should like to say that I am going to see the figures of your great sculptor, Augustus St. Gaudens. My father was a sculptor, one of the Pre-Raphaelites. Whatever opinion you may have of that group of self named people, my father was numbered with them and several of his works are in Westminster Abbey.� All the humor that had been twinkling and flashing over his face was replaced by a sobriety that hinted of filial pride.
I was truly interested. �And have you inherited his talent?� I asked boldly.
�Lord no. But I hope to sell to some rich American a picture left by my father. It is by Paolo Veronese. I have a large colored photograph as bait besides the bright name of the artist. You see the price is fancy, one hundred thousand dollars.� As he talked his face hardened, even his figure stiffened. I could fancy him as a good business man. All who sell important objects of art must be that, I told myself as I drained my glass. Woolner promptly began again the process of agitating the shaker, while I protested that I was hungry and would go into the dining room. And so began an acquaintance that seemed more interesting than the usual meetings.
He let me go without any hint at further exchange. Instead he said with restrain, �Mrs. Radcliff has told me that you are traveling alone. May I bring to you a Swedish friend who is on his Kings List of Aides?� �This chap�s name is Bjornstrom,� he added. I had to smile at the mess he made in pronouncing the odd lettering.
�Does he speak English?�
�If he did not I could not know him. You know we English will not speak any tongue but our own. A good idea, it leaves us in possession of all situations and spreads our language, makes of it a lingua franca for a world mussed up by the Tower of Babel.� �By all means bring the young Swede to me. He will be a novelty. The only Swedes I know are my daughter�s servants. Nice girls all of them, but -- they are not likely to know him.� Woolner gave me a sharp look. He doubted my shades of meaning. [The biblical �knowing�.]
At my table in the dining room were six persons. � Good morning,� I greeted them with an inclusive bow. Four of them looked shy and scarcely acknowledged my effort at traveler�s courtesy. Poor things, I didn�t mean to hurt them. One only arose and made me a standing bow. It was my turn to be shy and I did not like it. The man was evidently of the world, his tall figure wore English tweeds, yet I could swear be was born and bred on the Continent. He had a certain sleekness that lessened the value of his good looks. He managed to slip his card to me after part of our fellows had left the table. The card held a German name and gave him the title of Baron. He spoke to me in perfect English with none of the accents that so often offend the ear. But he was not likeable, thereafter I avoided him. He would better not try to place himself in my extra deck-chair.
[Pellegrino�s note: Traveling under the name Baron von Drachstedt of Cologne, he was really Alfred Nourney of New Jersey.]
One morning I left my cabin early. That gave me a chance to go to the bow alone. Woolner had developed a habit of going with me. This time I tricked him, and thus could have the big ship to myself. She impressed on me her personality, as I stood at the bow alone and absorbed her spirit. She was a monarch of the seas as her bow cut into the waves, throwing tons of water to right and to left as though in lighthearted playful intent. Her indifference to mankind was significant in its utter self absorption.
It was only at the bow that I could appreciate her pride in her size. How grand she was, how superb, how titanic. I was sure she liked her name. It suited her. �Titanic,� the biggest ship afloat. Yet as I analyzed her, I shivered with a sense of fear, being myself overpowered, and turned back into the regions where she kept comforts for land-lubbers.
Sunday came, bright and calm. �A god-given day,� said Woolner.
After meals the ship�s excellent orchestra played acceptably the type of music that fits the people who are musical and those who �know what they like�. A nostalgic tune by Dvorak was the favorite. But I ran to my room so conveniently near for the daily rest that I call my life-saver. Afterwards I walked along the deck to my place on it. The two chairs were empty, but standing in the offing were a pleasant group of men who seemed to be waiting for something.
�There you are!� boomed briefly the slow voice of Col. Gracie. �This is my Swedish friend who is pleased to know you." interrupted Woolner, serious but pleasant. Kent also came forward with a gay [meaning, pleasant] greeting. Why could he never shake off that look of subtle weariness, that nostalgia. Which kind of man was he, the humorous one or the sad?
�This looks like a mob,� I charged laughing.
�We are here to amuse you. All of us have the same thought, which is that you should never be alone.� �How nice of you.� I said with perfect banality. What could I say without a shower of tears which would be a cruel blow to these nice men, who I thought, had no idea of my heartache about my boy. [Injured, to some still unknown degree by the crash of an experimental plane.]
�Suppose we all take a turn around the deck before sitting down to see the sea.� It was the suggestion of Woolner, and he led the way with me.
�Hey! Colley!� shouted Kent to a roly-poly young man who responded. �Come join this band of brothers. Colley is a cousin of Old King Cole, a jolly old soul.� Colley looked happy as a grig, although his words were few.
When we all reached my chairs it was Kent who slipped into the extra chair with a gentle but sure intent. Thus the others vanished for a reflection of some sort, leaving me with him alone.
�It is a pity that one cannot see the waves,� I said, �This whole deck is covered in with a thick plate glass screen. Spray covers it with a film of salt, and there we are, shut in. I am defrauded.� Kent assented, with a growl of discontent. He was a queer [meaning, strange] man. Was it apathy or discontent that made him so unlike the others?
Soon all six men went with me into the lounge to refuge from the active cold. Kent placed himself beside me on a sofa. The dressing bell sounded and people were stampeding, like the politely hungry. Woolner and Bjornstrom called out as they went with the crowd.
�Come on Kent, dressing time!�
�Allright, I�ll be there presently,� said Kent, but he held his place. After a moment he turned to me with an almost trembling seriousness and said, �No matter how you disguise it, crossing the Atlantic is a serious business, and I choose not to dress for dinner. You may think me queer. Perhaps I am, but that is my way, to take the journey as a possible risk.� He was deeply moved by his train of thought, and I followed him regretful at his forebodings. If Harry [Candee] had gone, what was life worth? I wished Kent had not been so melancholy.
�If you will excuse me, I will go and freshen my toilet,� I said uneasily, �A sea voyage is seldom becoming to a woman. A touch of applied color makes her look less depressing,� So I left this sensitive man who could be self-absorbed.
When I returned to the deck after my catnap, Woolner joined me.
�Have you noticed those two men laughing as they walk the deck?� Asked Woolner, indicating them. �They are our captain, and the head of the line. Admiral of the White Star Fleet and the head of the line, Bruce Ismay.�
�Kent would say they should not look so happy on a voyage across the North Atlantic.� I commented. �With weather like this?� he scorned, �Those two men -- look at them, they are standing at the rail looking at the ship scoot through the water. Now they seem to congratulate each other. And well they may. Did you see the run the ship made yesterday? This ship is not only the biggest afloat but she is developing a speed that will show her to be the fastest.�
�It could not be fast enough for me,� I said, trying not to speak like one in agony. Woolner quickly threw on me that sharp look that made his eyes too piercing at times. I did not want him to know of my pain. If he divined it his sympathy would sound hard. He would say �Chin up,� like any Englishman. What did I want? To cry on his shoulder? Goodness no! If I ever let go the force of my sorrow I should cry like a shower and after that I should scream. Evidently, I must keep the rein tight to keep Woolner�s respect and my own. (Oh Harry, what condition holds you now?)
�Have you all noticed how bitterly cold it is getting?� Kent it was who spoke with a shiver.
�Yes, not from the wind. There is no wind except what we make by our own swift speed. It is rare to see the sea so calm. Like a mill-pond, is I believe the right expression.� I said gaily. We all scattered indoors to seek warmth, and again met Captain Smith and Mr. Ismay. And they both showed the same gratulatory smiles cutting through happy looks. It came time for my bridge game and I left the group, cozily indoors.
The warmth of the cabin was so agreeable to their chilliness that they stayed there until dinner, and no one changed except Mr. [Cinch] Smith because he was ever meticulous about his dress. It seemed to him a courtesy to others.
�What we all need is a brisk walk. Circulation, you know,� proposed Woolner. They all trooped out, while I drew back for my bridge game. My fellow players were brilliant and the game was soon over.
I was joined by Colley, the gay little Irishman who rarely spoke but by some magic spread warmth and jollity, without chatter. With him came the impeccable [Cinch] Smith of the two lives. I rose and drifted into a walk, to keep my fellows together.
�I should have taken six chairs,� I suggested, as the big loose-hung figure of Gracie joined us. �Then we could all have been together and seated.�
�It is better to walk,� said Smith, attaching himself to my side. �I have wanted a word with you. I am asking Jack Astor and his jolly young wife -- you may have seen her --, to come to my cabin this afternoon for tea (we call it tea) and I want you to come. You will, won�t you? There�ll not be more than a handful, for my sitting room is absurdly small.�
�Oh, please don�t tell me about a treat I cannot take. I have made a bridge engagement for this afternoon -- this is Sunday, isn�t it?�
�Yes, it is Sunday,� Mr. Smith said with quiet courtesy. �But may I not come tomorrow afternoon, instead? Ask the Astors if they could just as well come then.� I was pleasing, because I was full of desire and curiosity to see Mrs. Astor. I had known Ava Willing as a girl, and Andrew Hamersely had told me just why young Astor would never marry. He had even married twice! It was therefore arranged that the small party should meet the next day.
�You are very kind. Then we shall meet tomorrow.� I said. The words seemed to hang in the air like a printed placard, and impressed me strongly.
�Of course we shall all meet tomorrow,� jollied Colley who had heard me. We all stayed inside. After dinner we watched people slithering to their cabins to get warm in bed.
�What would you all think of going to the cozy Ritz Restaurant [a la carte] to have a hot drink before turning in?�
The idea was more than agreeable and we all crowded eagerly in the chase. There was a little fuss among the stewards to provide a table large enough for seven, but we were at last seated after some firm jockeying to sit by the only lady. Woolner and Bjornstrom were to the right and to left, and Kent and Smith both looked at me with a flattering disappointment. I had been surprised to see so many empty tables in the restaurant. Within five minutes all people had gone save one tableful.
�There is our Captain,� I said. �That signifies his peace of mind,� said Gracie. Mr. and Mrs. Widner are with him; and I think the other man is the President�s Aide, Archie Butt, a great favorite.� It was Kent who told us this. He seemed always to know who people were. A hot toddy made us happy and jolly to an unusual degree, and Colley called merrily, �set �em again? Yes? That is just the right answer to my remark. Here, Steward." In the near distance I saw a little commotion on the Captain�s table, everyone standing. Gracious but firm, Mrs. Widener was saying goodnight.
That act left me the only woman in the room. The new round of glasses came in with a look of renewed hilarity, and I suddenly felt self-conscious.
�I am sorry, but I think I�ll have to go. So I will bid you all goodnight, which means -- A good night. �Oh, don�t go!�
�Don�t leave us.�
�It is not late, you know.�
�You�ll be cold again.�
It was a real chorus. �My watch says nearly eleven and I am the only one lone woman here,� I laughed and left them. A hot bath would put me in a state of ease and warmth, so I called my steward to notify the bath steward. In a trice I was in a thick flannel robe over my nightie. All ready. Why did not the steward announce my bath? I stood impatient and wondered idly the reason of the post that stood up to the ceiling of my cabin.
At that moment a shock. A shock of shocks! It made a picture in my mind of our ship striking on the top of a mountain under the sea. No other than Mt Ararat which seemed to rise again after centuries had gone. It had not been heard of since Noah, but here it was again. With the blow I was knocked off my balance, and would have fallen had I not caught in time the tall post which I clasped in both arms.
I was still clasping it when I realized that the shock was over. The ship under me was still as desert floor. I could walk without the post.
What was it like outside my door? Was I the only one who had had this bewildering experience? I stepped to the door of my cabin which gave no sign of having been affected. I opened it. I had expected to see the top rock of a mountain piercing through the ship.
Silence, such silence as may reign a mile above the earth. A loneliness, such loneliness as is beyond telling of it. From every light bulb in the corridors burned an unimaginable light that was beyond anything in the ship before.
[Pellegrino: In 2001, hovering in a submersible outside the Titanic while the robots Jake and Elwood glided from room to room, from window to window, looking life living entities pacing the corridors, Helen's line, "in the corridors burned an unimaginable light that was beyond anything seen in the ship� before," took on new and haunting shades of meaning.]
But not a human being was to be seen. Where were they?� An illuminated loneliness was all that could be felt or seen. I ran along the corridor calling and re-calling. �Steward, where are you?� More anguished at every cry unanswered. The straight passage turned into a companionway, and I raised my voice.
At last came my steward, leaping from below.
�What has happened?�
�Nothing has happened, ma�am,� he said with strict self-control.
�Then why are the engines not running? I don�t hear them.�
�I tell you nothing has happened. You better go to your room and go to bed,� he indicated my attire. �You are afraid, or if not, it will frighten others to see you,� he added.
�Steward, I am an old traveler and am not afraid, but I know something has happened. I will go to my room to make things easier for you,� I said, hiding my emotion. So I went, and closed myself in. But not for long, only while I talked to myself. �You would not sleep if you got into bed. You have had a shock and will not be able to sleep. Dress yourself even though it be eleven o�clock past, and take a brisk turn on deck.� So I dressed as for a walk, all save slippered feet, and started for my lonesome sprint, noting again as I went through the ship's strong illumination, the lack of people and the silence. My steward had seemed like an intelligent man, but his insistence that I go to sleep, weakened my faith in his abilities. He must have many passengers with silly minds, and treated me like one. Yet his face was radiant with strong excitement as he leaped up the companionway. What had he seen below? I thought foolishly of the top rock of Mount Ararat piercing through the bottom of the ship as the vessel landed on it.
I went out, and presently met Woolner. He was strong and matter-of-fact, yet I know he was as aware as I that the shock was unexplained. No one was about. The ship seemed without passengers or officers. An awful feeling of being deserted oppressed both of us.
�I came to see how you were,� said Woolner rather lamely. �Let us go up to the hurricane deck [Boat Deck] and have a look.� His voice was not trembly; insistent rather. He tucked his arm cozily in mine as we took the stair upward. That seemed odd in a man so self-contained. But I liked the evidence of protection. Even his woolly great-coat gave an atmosphere of friendly help against fate. One more flight of steps and we emerged out in the open. It was a marvelous sight all emphasized by a more than twilight and a heaven full of such stars as only an arctic cold can produce. They actually lighted the atmosphere. The sea with its glassy surface threw back star by star the dazzling array, and made of the universe a complete unity without the break of a sky-line. It was like the inside of an entire globe.
We both gasped at such beauty and for a moment forgot the menace still unexplained but deeply real, wildly impressive.
A rail barred our way across the entire deck but far from the bow. We leaned on it, and looked down toward the bow. We could from there see that the big ship was leaning toward the starboard.
�But look, that is all wrong,� I said. �She is listing badly.� Woolner was silent, and turned away that I might not see his face.
That is what it was, that shock,� he ejaculated grimly. The noise up there became too intense to endure. Three of the four funnels were supplying the noise. They were blowing off all steam.
�See, one of the funnels is silent,� I shouted above the noise. Woolner drew me within a small shelter. That upper deck seemed empty of all persons expect we two. The sense of lonely desertion increased. We stood silent, drowned in the misery of fate.
I spoke calmly though my words indicated a tragedy. � I am willing to go. All I want is to be assured that my boy will keep his life.� I said with all emotion suppressed. �It is the same with me. All I want is to feel assured that my boy will live and be a man.� We were standing close together in that narrow haven. We seemed the only persons on the ship -- and in the world of men. Woolner laid an arm over my shoulder. The gesture gave me an unwarranted sense of security. I stiffened for I was mortally afraid of shedding tears. This cool, alert Englishman would not like that, and neither should I. �Come,� he said abruptly. �If we are going to stay out you must go in and get dressed more suitably.� Down stairs people were creeping about in bathgowns, hesitant, timid and curious. Into the luxurious elegance of the lounge as we crossed it came the familiar figure of the young South American. His look was gay, tinged with mischief. Instead of his usual greeting of distant salute, he dashed up to me with an inappropriate lightness as he trust before me a pair of hands cupped over a quantity of cracked ice. I shrank back in surprise. Eating ice was a repellent thought in such cold.
�Take some, take some. It is what we struck!� he laughed with the impulsiveness of a boy, dancing. �I picked it up from the lower deck.� I took a piece. �As a souvenir,� he laughed, and sped on to give his elegant and ancient father the same evanescent treat. We reached the wide companionway. It was full of people coming up who all turned their faces up to us, curious about our direction. We seemed to them to be eccentrically moving the wrong way. The steps were wide and Kent was at the far end, but he signaled with his sensitive features which seemed full of dire meaning. How like the gentle Kent not to burden anyone with his feelings. The silent crowd mounting the steps wore the sinister life-preservers. Woolner tapped one and asked, �Captain�s orders?�
�Captain�s orders,� assented the man. Along my alley came the dauntless Bjornstrom.
�Turn back again and stay with us. We go in only to pick up a pair of boots and a lace handkerchief or two for tears,� rallied Woolner.
My steward was already there [in my cabin on B deck starboard] waiting to serve.
�Are you all right, steward?� I asked him. �Oh, I�m all right, ma�am. If you will sit down I will lace your boots for you.� I sat down and he briskly went to work. While he was still threading tags into eyelet holes, Kent appeared meekly, and watched. My eye was caught by my small toilet case, a pretty affair of purple leather from Bond St. In it I had kept all treasures except jewelry. The few pieces I had in traveling were disposed around my inner clothing. A fine miniature of my mother was in the little bag.
I caught it up, the small case, as if to keep it with me.
A voice of remonstrance very like horror came from Kent. �You can�t take baggage with you!�
Baggage? That tiny case? �We women have no pockets. So please carry this for me.� I picked up the small cover with my mother�s beautiful miniature within and held it out to the gentleman of many fears. Kent made no reply, but stung me by holding back his forearms.
I quickly tore out the lovely miniature in its gold setting until it approached the size of a pendant or a watch, and extended it to him. He took it with evident unwillingness. I said no more, but I wondered.
�Here is a silver flask of brandy,� I said tentatively. �It holds a pint.�
Woolner exclaimed, �Yes, that might come in handy. Take it, Kent.� And Kent obeyed. �Goodnight, steward. Take care of yourself.� I even embarrassed him by putting out my hand for a shake. No English servant could receive such a familiarity without shame. I adjusted my fur coat, the one which Florence Bissell had made me buy, and picked up also a long wide scarf and flat muff of sealskin. Over the coat the steward tied my life-preserver.
Then we all started up for the upper decks.
Bjornstrom seemed deep in thought, and soon said, �I must leave you here, but will catch up to you again later. I want to see if old Mr. and Mrs. Straus are all right.� We two, Woolner and I, climbed the last stair and emerged into another world. Downstairs people were plentiful now but all were listless, without purpose. Except for their dress they might have been waiting for the tugs to shove the ship into the dock in the last hours of the journey. No officers were about, no one had given any explanations which would have elucidated. Woolner and I fell under the spell of the marvelous stars. But the dominant note was a deep and solemn sense of peril. It pressed on the soul. It made our puny actions seem unworthy. Something so big hung over us that it dominated all else. We moved, our minds functioned, but all was useless in the fact of that solemn threat. It was Death, but we could not acknowledge anything so stupendous, so final.
Talking was a little assurance of the normal. So I chatted about the stars, foolishly. �If you will pick for me three of four of the brightest,� I said, �I will put them in my hair.� Woolner�s response was only a sort of grunt, by which I knew I had offended his taste. The sound of the wireless stuttered steadily [Electric sparks in the wires overhead.] It was a new strange sound like the noise of sheeting being torn to sheet lengths. Nothing to alarm.
The Captain was up there and was directing the sending of mammoth rockets into space. Each chute was accomplished with a deafening noise which scattered alarm. The fiery shaft went far, far into the heavens.
�The rockets must be for the Olympic [Californian], a sister ship of the line. It must be her lights that I see over the port quarter.� I said. �That�s cheerful news,� was Woolner�s dry comment. A sound of wood on wood made us look to the life boats which were being uncovered, and hung out on the davits.
Captain Smith�s big voice called out an order:- �Lower all life-boats to the promenade deck, the deck below. Passengers will take the boats there!� My impulse was to remind him of the plate glass which would prevent passengers. But a Captain is to be obeyed, not informed. Woolner and I stopped at the ladder-like stair [leading down from the port side of the bridge to the Promenade deck] but could not step upon it because of the stream of men mounting. They were the stokers, they who fed the great furnaces. They were small men and spare, as though all their lives they had been over-worked and under-fed. As they came, one by one, on the narrow white stair, they looked like cut-out black paper silhouettes, and every man touched his cap to the Captain.
Each face reflected the sight he had seen, the sight of coming death. Each one knew what the passengers did not know, and these men had each been given a chance to fend for himself when the moment came.
Of a sudden, the junior officer who had lead them gave a short, hard �Halt!� The order was reversed. �Turn and go back, down to where you came from.� Without a word or hesitation, the slender column of blackened men, turned about, and descended. But their faces were anguished by the order, though their bravery was supreme. I looked with profound admiration at the descending column of men who could thus courageously relinquish life. The stair was being cleared Woolner and I descend to the promenade deck. It was no surprise to see life-boats hanging unreachable on the outside of the unbreakable plate-glass. We sought the Captain. [going back the way we came.]
[Woolner]: �Beg your pardon, Sir, but the plate glass is too heavy to break and boats cannot be reached.�
�My God! I forgot it!� said Captain Smith in anguished humility. Then in the same breath -- an order. �Raise the life-boats! The passengers will take life-boats from this deck.� From that moment on the scene changed. People poured up into the high level, Bjornstrom among them. The milling crowd awaited orders.
The Captain, speaking to my two men, indicating me said, �Take this lady and put her in that boat.� [#6, on the portside.] Each man took an arm. We were half way to the lonely boat when the Captain�s voice again called, �Hey, you two, come away from that boat! No men are allowed near the life-boats.� At the implication, the two men dropped me as I had been a leper. I was left to walk alone to the boat which hung beside the deck, touching it for a very little space. Mighty oars lay length-wise, forming almost a deck. I stepped on this perilous platform which rolled and unbalanced me. I took a falling jump to the bottom. To arise was almost impossible as I had hurt my leg. While I struggled the Captain came near and seeing me down called,� Get up, get up and help these women to get in.� �I can�t, Captain, I have hurt my ankle.� He went away in disgust. I managed to arise and balance on a thwart.
The boat filled slowly. Time after time a married couple came, and went away again because the wife was not willing to leave her husband. And indeed to stay on the ship seemed the better fate. The �Titanic� was the entire world, a place of security. The life-boat was a capricious trifle susceptible to any fate. However, I had had no choice. I had been ordered. My comfort was the bright lights on the water which showed �The Olympic� [Californian], I said comfortably to myself. The life-boat would soon reach her and I would be safe. �But it is just my luck to be among those transferred,� I said miserably. The light showed me but two men in our boat. One of them stood in the stern to hold a steering oar, the other was a real seaman. But only two men to twenty-four women!
Lowering the boat was a casual matter. At one time only one end was lowered, the other remaining steady. We might all have fallen out. �Hold up forward,� I shouted, and we were lowered in even keel. When we reached the water I could see two lines of portholes under water, brightly lighted. That lighting of the ship to prevent the horrors of darkness during the death of the Titanic, represented the self-sacrifice of the electrical engineers. Voluntary self-sacrifice shone all over the ship -- among crew and passengers. And yet -- in a shady spot a passenger was bribing with five pound notes a sufficient number of sailors to man a life-boat for himself and his wife. [Pellegrino: The widely repeated rumor about Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and his wife, appears to have emerged at the instigation of J. Bruce Ismay.]
Very slowly the [other] life boats filled. Perched on a thwart, I looked on a scene of quiet calm. No on in sight ran wildly about, no one shouted in the agony of fear. The glass [smooth] sea was no more composed that the quiet mass of human beings. Even now, an hour after the terrible shock, passengers were not told what had happened or that the ship was quietly sinking, with finality.
Not until I saw the two lines of lighted portholes under the water had I the slightest idea of the truth. The Captain�s voice again shouted emphatically. �All boats row away from the ship. All boats keep together.�
He repeated twice this warning. That meant that oars were to be placed and to be used. The able man of the sea began the task, setting two oars for himself and two for women to manipulate. So heavy were the oars that even the one was almost more than I could manage. I stood on my [uninjured] leg and balanced on the other, and we left the ship; but to get far away seemed out of our scant power. A lantern on our bow was immediately placed. Other boat lights soon began to show not far from us, but to know how far away was impossible.
The cold ate into the scant clothing of the women. The extra furs that I had brought could not relieve many persons. They went to a beautiful young woman inappropriately dressed in a silken opera wrap who explained that she had only a nightgown underneath. She spoke only French in the luscious manner of the Parisian. I felt like scolding her. There had been plenty of time to dress fully and in street clothing.
Time did not count, out there on the star-filled sea. The man who steered [Quartermaster Hitchens], made himself warm with a steamer blanket which he took from one of the women, and then spoke dire words to the miserable crowd. He assured us that we were twelve hundred miles from shore. Then he remarked forcibly, that we had no water, no food and we did not even know in which direction we were going.
�We are going straight North,� I called to him with anger. �How do you know?� he taunted. �There is the North Star directly above our bow,� This answer silenced him. Strange a sailor should be so ignorant. The calm of the sea was lost in the pressure of a wind which ruffled up the waves. Keeping the boat across the waves to avoid the trough of the sea became a necessity.
Still we were near the ship, not according to the Captain�s directions. An effulgence glowed like a halo over the ship and around it. Another range of lighted windows slipped under the water. A stout and silent lady among us asked briefly. �Will the ship sink, go to the bottom?� The steersman assured her that it was rapidly doing so.
�My son! My son!� she moaned. Soon after that she sank into a heavy silence, her mind quite gone. The steersman in an increase of fear lashed our boat to another for the comfort of companionship. The waves slopped high between the boats and fell upon us, so that the lashing had to be abandoned. [Pellegrino: By all accounts, the sea itself was dead calm, and the turbulence felt at boat 6 arose from the Titanic�s final death throes.]
When I lifted up my head from that incident, the great Titanic was gone, engulfed -- sunk into the sea.
No one spoke. Speech was insufficient for such a catastrophe. Then did hope drop from me. The whole world was gone. The beautiful effulgence was gone with the ship and I was alone and in the dark.
But God brooded over the waters as he had done in Creation. Our feeble effort was futile, yet I continued to labor through the night, without hope. I sank into a heavy, almost unconscious dumbness.
It seemed as though the scene that was then revealed to me came suddenly, a scene of unworldly beauty. From darkness I floated into the light of dawn. Overhead sailed a half-moon of pink silver in a blue sky. What a sight! Still gazing at this wondrous moon I saw a fleet of icebergs floating about me, not gray or green such as the icebergs I had before known, but all of them a burning glowing rosy pink, giving them the value of a heavenly apparition. In a world of such beauty one could be sure that Death was not standing by.
I turned my eyes to the opposite sky. There stood the gray phantom of a steamship. It seemed at first merely a part of the whole unbelievable scene, and no more real.
It was the Carpathia which with boilers nearly bursting had been steaming to find us since the Titanic struck one of those icebergs. Captain Rostrum was our deliverer. The men of the wireless had got the word through, and Captain Rostrom had made the rescue.
Thus the three craft which had sailed with �sealed orders�, kept their unknown tryst, in these bitter waters. The Titanic, the Carpathia and the other not made by man, the iceberg. Minds long bruised with strain and anguish do not rise instantly into complete joy. The deliverance was there, but I received the fact with unnatural calm. In addition to a sort of apathy we all had the roughened sea to occupy us. Waves and wind were now our formidable enemies.
When we at last neared the Carpathia the other life boats were forming a flock around it. All were passing the hull to get the shelter of smooth water as aid in making a landing.
But our craven helmsman by a sudden twist of the oar sent our boat straight toward the ship. A high wave tossed us crashing against the side. There was cursing from the brave men who were giving us help to get on board by means of a �Bosun�s chair.� Was I to lose my life, after all? When the chair was offered to me I eagerly conquered its eccentricities, my legs thrust through its triangle of rope, my skirts flowing behind, and in this state I was drawn up, and pulled into the square hole in the ship�s side. I was actually safe at last. Someone forced on me a glass of brandy, and I was let alone in a crowd of nurses and stewards, all eager to help with every comfort. It was as though we rescued ones were beings high and holy.
I was not able to think of myself as anything but an ordinary mortal with a painful leg and a longing to lie down without knowing where to go on this strange ship.
While not appreciating the magnitude of the catastrophe in which I had �assisted� as the French express it, I still thought that Edith may have heard of it. I sought to send her a wireless, telling of my entire safety. Others had the same idea. We learned later when on shore that Mr. Bruce Ismay had suppressed all these messages �For reasons best known to himself.� It is likely he was trying to keep control of the press in his own hands. I limped into the dining room as I was told that all the rescued were to assemble there for a roll call.
Archibald Gracie welcomed me from the bench which bordered the room. It did not surprise me to see him, draped in a blanket only. He was entirely unconscious of the lack of his clothing which had gone to the drying room. He had been thrown into the sea by an explosion, and had been saved by catching a raft.
Woolner and Bjornstrom came in, arm in arm, trailed by the German Baron.
Strongly insolent, Woolner said distinctly, �Well, Baron, How did you happen to get in the boat with the women?� �I�d like to see anyone stop me," said the vain and explicit baron, drawing out a pistol, with an ugly look. [Alfred Nourney had made this boast repeatedly- starting, apparently, with Olive Earnshaw in boat #7.]
Then I realized that every man rescued had to prove why and how he was there.
Woolner and Bjornstrom helped to fill and launch the life-boats. They were the last to urge the fine old couple, Mr. and Mrs. Straus.
�I stay with the men,� Mr. Straus said, proud of the sacrifice. �I stay with my husband,� Said she thrusting her arm through his. When the last boat had gone down onto the sea, the two men said, �Now let us see what there is for us.� There was nothing for them, nor for their fellow. The sacrifice of nearly seventeen hundred lives was about to begin. But a boat floated near with space unoccupied.
�Looks like a chance for us,� they said in unison, and they leaped to safety.
Thus three [survived] of the six men who had squired me in the journey that I might be kept from thinking of the probable fate of my wounded boy, Harry. The other three?
Kent slipped away after the slight encounter in my cabin. Smith we never saw. Colley had gone to his cabin several decks below -- and had stayed there [in E-58, against the starboard side of the third smokestacks boiler casing]. Yet so stunned were we that we made no moan about their sacrifice.
For artistic literary reasons my tale should stop. The terrible tragedy was complete. The rescued were landing in New York. The tale was ended. The dead were taken to Halifax.
But there followed for me a stupendous arrival at the dock. The whole nation seemed to take part in it. The streets near the Cunard dock were cleared. As I looked at the enormous empty space the dumb agony in my mind began to clear.
I had lain on a lower berth in a tiny cabin with my broken leg all the days in the Carpathia. I had seen only Woolner who came to bring me a tooth-brush, donated by the ships barber. To a poor lady who had not even a single penny to pay for it. My cabin mate, a woman of width wore her long dead husband�s pajamas as an economy. She wailed night and day for a string of pearls confided to the care of the purser. As he too made the ultimate sacrifice she could not revile him for robbing her. A fact that increased her rage. [This rage over lost pearls had begun on boat 6 and seemed never to end: �The woman�s mind was quite gone.]
�Because of my painful leg, I stayed in the cabin until the dock crowd should have lessened. When at last I hobbled to the deck someone picked me up like a baby, and I saw Edith waving and laughing hysterically. Courtland Smith set me down beside her, and I was whisked away to stay with the Mathews family on 57th Street.
�Harry?� I gasped.
�Doing well - pretty well- in a private hospital.� All at once the dumbness left me and I could see what the arrival meant to my fellows. A committee wanted to give me hotel rooms, money, anything I lacked. But my family would take care of me and I refused.
A laughing defeated lady called, �At least let me put some cologne on your handkerchief?�
�Thank you so much, but I have no handkerchief.� Which spoke eloquently of my bereft condition. The miniature of my Mother and the silver flask came to me by way of Halifax. The living landed in New York. The sad dead were taken to Halifax. Kent-! [The miniature was still in his pocket, when his body was found.]
�Wherever I went those first few weeks I was called wonderful, a heroine, a tender victim, one to whom something was due. I was showered with flowers, and every luxurious detail of the wardrobe.
A favorite trick was to ask me to luncheon, always at the most elegant of the city�s restaurants, not a party, just myself alone, and word went around the room that I was a survivor of the great Titanic disaster. As a crowning compliment these elegant feasts always ended with a glass of Napoleon brandy!
I could not help an inner laugh. I was the same person I had always been, and even poorer. Why all this adulation? I had been thrown into a miserable position and I had been carried through it. Should any credit be given to me? Decidedly not. So I stayed humble while being adored. And that was as it should be, surely.
A little light was shed by another thought, that if I was saved while seventeen hundred met death, then it was my duty to give to the world as much of the eternal verities as it is possible for one person to accomplish.
God had given me back my life and I must keep it tuned for His service.
By now, most readers are familiar with the classic scene of Jack and Rose on the point bow in James Cameron�s "Titanic." One might easily jump to the conclusion that the scene was borrowed from the real-life account of Helen Candee and Hugh Woolner standing in that same place, with Helen feeling as if she could fly. It is, in fact, yet another odd (if not downright creepy) Titanic coincidence. James Cameron had never heard of the Candee memoir until after he had already written and filmed the scene. Indeed, Cameron had believed that in reality, two people on the point bow would have been seen immediately from the bridge and called away before they brought themselves to harm. He was certain that when the film was finally released, the nit-pickers would be tearing this scene apart, and he was therefore quite happy to learn that something very much like it had actually occurred. As for what Helen Candee and Hugh Woolner were doing out there in the first place, art seems not to have been very far off the mark, insofar as imitating life goes. Though they would seem at first glance to have been a mismatched pair [Woolner was thirteen years Candee�s junior], historian Walter Lord was long convinced that a romance was budding between them right up to the moment of impact. However, it was not the iceberg that intervened. Unlike the fictional Jack Dawson, Hugh Woolner survived. Though he was by all accounts quite taken by Helen Candee, she was a bit too independent for any �modern� Edwardian man, and after the Titanic she appears to have become even more of a world traveler, and more addicted to adventure than ever before. On the morning of the Titanic�s last sunrise, the morning Helen snuck out onto the point bow ahead of Hugh, she related that she felt as if she and the ship were, together, more powerful than nature itself. She said she had blasphemed, and from that moment, she believed, the ship had seemed haunted, a hall of ghosts, not yet aware that they were all dead.
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