“It will be your only chance ter ever ‘ear Caruso. Ya must come, please change yer mind, Josephine. Besides, relatives cop in free,” Mary said, trying to wrench a mop from her sister’s hands.
“‘enry would want you to, Jo, please,” Mary pleaded.
“‘enry don't want anyfink. 'e's dead,” Josephine cried and mopped the floor even more vigorously.
Didn’t Mary understand? Henry was never coming back. He was to have joined his sisters in America. But he sank into the frigid water when the Titanic went down just a few weeks ago. How could Josephine get dressed up and listen to music, even it was the great Caruso?
The girls both worked in a small restaurant on Broadway and huddled together at night in one room above the eatery. They both took Henry’s death very hard, but Josephine was inconsolable.
The night for the benefit concert arrived. So many fine ladies and gentlemen, in the richest clothes that Mary had ever seen, entered the Metropolitan Opera House with much pomp and circumstance. Mary winced as the empty chair reserved for Josephine was filled by someone else.
Enrico Caruso was ninth on the program; first after the intermission. Mary held her breath as the music started. Maybe Josephine will come after all.
Josephine was all alone at work. How could people enjoy themselves when so many loved ones were in the bottom of the ocean? She shivered thinking of Henry, drowned and frozen. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to block out the horrific descriptions of recovered bodies she’d heard about. She returned to her duties, tears streaming down her face.
The restaurant door opened and a very fine gentleman in fur coat and top hat stood looking around at the empty restaurant. He raised his dark, bushy eyebrows at Josephine.
“Dove sono tutti?” he asked.
“Wot did yer say?” Josephine asked, staring wide-eyed at the large man, Caruso himself.
“Pardoname, signora, where is everyone?” he answered, taking off his hat and bowing to her.
“They’ve all gone to the concert. There’s no one to cook for yer, I’m sorry,” she said.
“But I only want a hot tea. You can pour that up for me, eh?” He came closer to Josephine.
“I’m just a maid, I’m not allowed...” she began.
“Ah, non importa, I can do it myself.” He walked over to the bar and poured himself a cup of tea.
“Non ti preoccupare, don’t worry, signora, I will pay,” he said and put several bills on the counter.
“Surely the concert 'as started by now. Aren’t yer singgin'?” she asked.
“Per tiempo, in good time. You’ve been crying, what is the trouble?” he asked.
“I lost me bruvver in the the sinkin’ o’ the ship. And yet the world keeps spinnin' as fough nuffink 'as 'appened. The last fin' I want is ter listen ter happy music,” she said.
“Ah, signora, capisco, I’m so sorry. Come, sit next to me,” Caruso said, pulling up two chairs together. Josephine wiped her tears with the back of her hand and set the mop aside.
“Now, per favore, close your eyes,” he said softly, then began to sing.
The tenor’s rendition of The Lost Chord settled uneasily on Josephine’s heart. But then he sang:
It quieted pain and sorrow,
Like love over-coming strife,
It seem'd the harmonious echo
From our dischordant life,
It link'd all perplexed meanings,
Into one perfect peace...
Although tears still flowed from the little lady’s eyes, he sang another song.
There let the way appear, steps into heaven;
all that thou sendest me, in mercy given;
angels to beckon me
nearer, my God to thee...
Josephine wondered, no, she knew that Henry had heard that music before he sank into the water. A tiny melody of peace entered her spirit.
“Thank yer, sir.”
“And thanks be to God. Now, you must come with me.”
“But I’m in me apron, I look a mess.”
“Bellissima, signora,” he said and offered her his arm.
The young girl from Southampton was escorted to her seat by Enrico Caruso, to the astonishment of the gathered crowd, and the great joy of her sister Mary.
Two weeks after the Titanic sank off Newfoundland in April, 1912, Caruso sang ‘The Lost Chord’ at a benefit concert at the MET to raise money for the victims' families. On April 15, 2012, the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic is planned to be commemorated around the world.
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