When the dust settles
Chunk! Chunk! Chunk! One by one the great supporting struts fell to the shipyard floor in giant clouds of sawdust and metal filings. The massive hull of the ship groaned against the restraining hawsers, anxious for the kiss of the sea against her flanks. Connor and Just stood upon the viewing platform, raised up above the bones of their dreams and held their collective breaths as Bucky called orders below.
“On my mark, cut the lines and heave ho.”
The shipbuilders shouldered the ropes and pulled them taut.
Long knives flashed and men immediately took up the slack walking step by careful step towards the shore. The ship moved steadily along the rollers, as graceful as a Duchess entering a grand salon. When the bow reached the water, the nose dipped and a few of the men were pulled off their feet.
“Steady, men! Drop away, she’s water bound!”
The men dropped their ropes and stepped back into the settling dust to watch the ship relax into her watery cradle. With a sigh, and a last cracking retort towards the limiting constraints of land, the Palace rolled easily over the final rollers and slipped into the sea.
A great cheer rose from the throats of the men below and Connor let out his breath in relief. It was a good omen, the launch was smooth; sailing would be good. The Palace was floating regally on the Clyde, her unfinished top decks doing nothing to diminish her pride.
“Well Just old boy, I do believe we have a ship,” he said with a grin.
“Now comes the fun part,” said Just. “How long until the top decks are sealed and I can begin the interiors?”
One of the surprises of the project had been Just Fletcher’s talent for beauty. He had a knack for texture, colors, and pattern. He had traveled the world as Connor worked with Bucky and the engineers to build the hull and create the engines that would power her. Just had visited the Middle East, the Orient, the Great Northern climes, and islands in the South Seas for fabrics, metalwork, burnished woods and carved ivory. He was anxious to see how his finds would work together to furnish the public rooms of the ship.
Once the public rooms were finished, he could begin on the private berths. Three of the great wool houses in the Borders had been employed to produce cashmere duvets in all the colors of the rainbow. The embroiderer’s guild of Edinburgh had been commissioned to produce silken coverlets embroidered with scenes from world mythology. Each stateroom would be decorated in concert with the mythology depicted on the silk. The result, Just hoped, was to create refuges that felt like complete worlds in miniature. In his head, it was perfect. Now came the test of realizing his vision.
Connor noticed his friend’s trepidation. “No worries, Just. The Palace will be the most beautiful ship afloat, inside and out. I have faith.”