Francis Browne entered the First Class Dining Saloon on 'D' deck. A stringed quintet softly played "The Blue Danube Waltz" while passengers dined on the sumptuous fares of the privileged. He strolled happily to his table, greeting fellow diners along the way. Many of these who now smiled "welcomes" had gladly posed for photographs on the Promenade deck and had requested a tintype copy at his convenience. He still marveled that his uncle had given him a first class ticket. His Jesuit training and priestly pursuits would never provide such extravagance; dining with lawyers, bankers, and railroad magnates thrust him into a world that was truly not his own.
"Welcome, Mr. Browne," a server greeted, pulling out a chair for Francis to be seated. Francis smiled a welcome to those who sat at his assigned table.
"Mr. Browne, I saw you toting your camera into the gymnasium. Still taking pictures, eh?" questioned Mr. Cantwell.
"Yes, sir," he responded, placing a napkin on his lap, inhaling the aromatic wonder of the soup placed in front of him.
"You must have quite an interest in photography, Mr. Browne," Mrs. Jennings remarked, surveying the food placed before her. “I notice you taking pictures all around the ship.”
"Yes, Ma'am that's correct. Next to God, photography is my passion. My uncle bought me a camera several years ago and I've been documenting my experiences ever since.” Francis sipped water from his crystal glass before continuing. "My uncle surprised me with a ticket to board this beautiful vessel. I could hardly wait to photograph a ship whose destiny will go down in the annals of history. This floating wonder must be classified as one of the world's man-made wonders!"
Mr. Jennings motioned for a server to top off his glass. "Father Browne..."
"Maybe a Father of the Order someday, but not yet," Francis corrected with a smile. "Please, call me Francis."
"Francis," Mr. Jennings continued, "Where did you board this exuberant party?
"I boarded at Southampton and will disembark at Cork. My studies at Milltown Institute in Dublin beckon."
"I see," Mr. Jennings responded, glancing at his wife. "Mrs. Jennings and I wonder if you would be willing to put your studies on hold for a time. Maybe a few weeks?
"For what reason?" Francis inquired.
" We want to extend an invitation for you to come to America. Mrs. Jennings and I are celebrating our 25th anniversary and our wish is to hire you to be our photographer for the remainder of our trip. We will pay for your passage and also a stipend for your trouble. Would you have any interest in this offer?" Mr. Jennings asked.
Francis responded silently. A trace of a smile slowly formed on his face.
"Francis, consider the following: You will be able to take pictures of this maiden voyage start to finish. As we enter New York Harbor you can photograph Lady Liberty. That, sir, will be a moment you will never forget."
"I am interested," Francis nodded. "However, I answer to my Jesuit Superior. I must send a telegram to Dublin to request his approval. If denied, I disembark in the morning." Francis pushed from the table and stood to depart. "If you will excuse me, I will send a cable at once. I will let you know the Superior's decision as soon as I have word."
Mr. Jennings rose and shook Francis' hand. "My wife and I hope to be blessed with your company.”
The next morning, swarms of people milled around the dock at Cork. Young and old desired to see the largest passenger steamship in the world. The Jennings' stood along the rail of the great ship and Francis waved his goodbyes from the pier. Though disappointed, Francis obediently respected the command of his Superior. The urgency of the reply still puzzled Francis. "GET OFF THAT SHIP- PROVINCIAL", seemed almost a desperate plea. With camera in position, a loud popping flash signaled another memory captured. As he packed up his camera, the ship's three-bell whistle warned of departure. Last minute passengers hugged and kissed their loved ones and dashed up the ramp to the 3rd class gangway entrance. "Maybe some day I'll see Lady Liberty," thought Francis. He turned to hail a taxi. The RMS Titanic proudly steamed from port, never to be photographed again.
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