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Sunday 28th '12
My darling Mary Ann,
Over a week I have been trying to write to you, but had to tear each one up, ink impossible, so scribbling in bed with pencil. Never in my life, can I say how happy it made me to get your darling letter, wishing me a happy birthday, just after our arrival here, and after our terrible experience, it seemed like a voice from home, which I thought I should never hear again. Oh darling, you cannot know, what I have passed through, not bodily, as I am strong, but mind & nerves, it is is a wonder we are not all grey-headed - it is impossible for me to describe the horrors of it all, it was about 1/4 to 12, when the crash came. I was just getting into bed. Madame & Sir Cosmo had been in bed sometime, they were up on A deck the top, and I on E, the bottom deck for saloon passengers, it was a marvelous boat, like a floating huge Hotel, in fact I have not seen an Hotel so grand. The collision shook me, as well as everything else in my room. I immediately slipped on my dressing gown, & opened my door, saw several people come out of their rooms in night attire, two Gentlemen came up, & spoke to me, & told me not to be frightened, but go back to bed, we had run into an iceberg, but we were quite safe, however the engines were making a terrific noise. I still stood there quite 20 minutes, or more, saw all the officers come down, to inspect the damage, & then starting screwing down the iron doors outside my bedroom, presently a man came rushing up, saying all the Hold & lugguge & Mail had gone, so I thought I shall fly on a few things, & go & tell Madame. When I left my room the water was on my deck, coming along the corridor. We were 20 feet above the water level, so we had already sunk 20 feet, but of course I did not realise this till afterwards. Everybody I passed assured me, I was safe, but to my terrible surprise, I found all the people running up & down the stairs.
When I reached Madame's room, she was already out of bed, & put two dressing gowns on for warmth, Sir Cosmo was dressing. The next minute a man came along & said "Captains orders," all to put life preservers on, and the next instant they were putting one on Madame, & I, Oh Marion that was a sickening moment, I felt myself go like Marble, but Madame & I prayed together, for God to look after us, & keep us safe, if it was his will. Sir Cosmo then took us up on top deck. Crowds were up there, & they were already lowering the lifeboats filled with women & children, I looked over the side of the boat, & tried to penetrate the blackness, & noticed that the water was not such a long distance uway from us, as we had always remarked what a height it was, I said to Sir Cosmo, I believe we are sinking, he said, Nonsense come away. We then walked more to the bow of the boat, near the bridge several lifeboats had been lowered, they were preparing the last two, on that side of the ship, the Starboard side. They cried out, "Any more women," saw us, & came to try & drag Madame & I away from Sir Cosmo, but Madame clung to Sir Cosmo, & begged him not to let them take her, or separate her, she said, I will go down with you, and I clung to Madame, I would not leave them, it would have been too awful to have been alone.
After all the lifeboats had gone, everybody seemed to rush to the other side of the boat, & leave ours vacant, but we still stood there, as Sir Cosmo said, we must wait for orders, presently an officer started to swing off a little boat called the 'Emergency' boat, quite an ordinary little rowing boat & started to man it, he saw us & ordered us in, they were then firing the rockets beside us, we had to be nearly thrown up into this boat, two other American gentlemen jumped in, & seven stokers, they started to lower us. We had not gone a few yards when our little boat got caught up by a wire rope on my side, and in a few minutes we should all have been hurled into the sea, had it not been for that brave officer still up on deck. He shouted Cut it with a knife, but nobody had one, & we were all in black darkness, hanging in midair, he shouted Mind your heads, & threw a piece of heavy iron which shook our boat, & so set it free, we then went rapidly down to the water.
The dear officer gave orders to row away from the sinking boat at least 200 yards, he afterwards, poor dear brave fellow, shot himself. We saw the whole thing, and watched that tremendous thing quickly sink, there was then terrible, terrible explosions, and all darkness, then followed the awful cries & screams of the 1600 dear souls, fighting for their lives. Oh never shall I forget, that awful night, floating about the ocean in this little boat, freezing cold, & listening to this terrible suffering, we all prayed all night long that help may come to us all, & how I thought of all my darlings, & all those dear to me. I knew you were all safe and none of you knew what we were going through. It is marvelous how brave one can be, when facing the greatest danger, God gives us strength to bear these things. We floated about all that long night, were terribly cold, & the men rowing, got so cold they began to drop oars & lay at bottom of boat. I sat on one man's feet, to try & make them a little warm & tried to rub another one's hands, but I was so cold myself, I had not much power to rub.
Oh at daybreak, when we saw the lights of that ship, about 4 miles away, we rowed like mad, & passed icebergs like mountains, at last about 6.30 the dear Carpathia picked us up, our little boat was like a speck against that giant. Then came my weakest moment, they lowered a rope swing, which was awkward to sit on, with my life preserver round me. Then they hauled me up, by the side of the boat. Can you imagine, swinging in the air over the sea, I just shut my eyes & clung tight saying "Am I safe," at last I felt a strong arm pulling me onto the boat. I was so chattering could say nothing, they gave Madame & I lots of hot brandy, I cannot go on, it was all too terrible the scenes, & sadness we lived in for the next four days & nights on the darling Carpathia. Oh but they were so kind to us, everybody lent us everything, & their beds, but of course, all had to sleep on tables, floors, or anywhere.
Since being safe on land, I am afraid I am a coward, my nerves had gone, but I do not show it, as I am constantly battling with it, as poor Madame gets worse, every day since we have been here, but she was so brave, & calm all through it, I have never imagined anybody so wonderful, but now unfortunately the reaction, so you see, we have not seen anything of New York, hardly been out of the bedrooms & Sitting room of the Hotel. Miss Margaret is a darling, has lent me underclothes & a skirt and blouse, fancy dear, I haven't a stitch left, or a penny in the world, everything went down, Miss Celia's trunk, Florence's Costume she lent me, & Lady Tivertons musquash coat, they insisted on me taking, besides everything of mine. It worries me, but I cannot trouble about a thing, I seem numbed to all wordly things. They count so little, when you have been through all we have. Madame hasn't a stitch but her dressing gown, & Moleskin coat we threw round her, at the last minute, & lost all her jewelry she landed in N.Y. in her dressing gown, & we haven't troubled about clothes. I have only seen Max twice for a few minutes, with Miss Margaret, he sends me sweet letters, & wants to help me in every way. We hope to come home, as quickly as possible. Sir Cosmo is trying to fix up all the business quickly, so as soon as it is decided, I will let you know. I only wish we could get home, without crossing that stretch of water, naturally we shall feel nervous, & feel we shall not sleep a wink the whole time. I know I shall not undress. Sir Cosmo & Madame have been so kind to me. I cannot say how much, fancy, it is nearly 3 o/c, & I know I cannot go to sleep but must put my light out. Will you dearest send me a list of addresses, of the girls, so I can send them cards as promised, but I will not say I shall write letters, & dear, I am never away from Madame & have nothing to to write. I have only the wreck on my mind. I wonder how they were at home, & if they heard at once that I was saved, so they did not suffer much anxiety about me. I received a cable from them, but no letter so far, but I have had such nice letters from lots of people. Miss Celia sent me a lovely letter, also Miss Lowles, Mrs Tweedie, Mrs Haig, & girls from the Paris once. Wasn't it sweet of them. Now darling, bye bye, give my fond love to dear little Mabel, Connie, & Hilda & Winnie, also love to my friend Ada, & Miss Amy, Mrs Wright, & dear, all the girls I love.
I will hurry home to you dear one. Kindest thoughts to all your Family dear, & lots of fondest love for dear self.
1. Spelling and punctuation have been preserved, where possible.
2. On March 14th, 1956, Francatelli wrote to Lord under her married name Hareing, saying "Having received several copies of 'Readers Digest' Jan 56 in which you write a story of the 'Titanic' I am shocked beyond belief the remarks you write about me, and whom I was with, and so so far from the Truth, certainly our thoughts were not on luxury goods. We were praying to our God almighty for His Blessings. Everyone living through that terrible night, the greatest tragedy at sea, it is cruel to say the least, that one who has not been there, should write and cast a shadow on a survivor's behaviour. Have written many letters to my friends in England and America who know the truth of our terrible experiences. If Officer Murdoch can speak he will tell you he put us in the Captain's Emergency Boat, the last to leave the Boat deck and we were the last to get in."
Unfortunately, this is another instance where Walter Lord could have obtained a first hand account from a survivor but failed to do so. Ever cordial, he wrote back to Mrs."Harding" [sic], saying "All I can say is that the data in my story - including the lifeboat's capacity, the time it was lowered, the number of people it carried and the things that went on - was drawn from the official American and British inquiries. I realize I can't change your mind on any of this. Your loyalty to the Duff Gordons is a fine quality and I would never want to tamper with it. But I did want to explain to you that I used the best sources I could find."
In 2015, the auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son put up a lot showing that the controversy over the Duff Gordon's "unfeeling" remarks had indeed rumbled on into April 1956.
To go up a level, click here