I rushed down to Paul Tausig, the steamship agent on 14th Street, and purchased four full tickets when I needed but three. The ages of my children were two, four, and fifteen. All this happened last spring.

 
Buster's 1909 datebook.   According to Buster's diary for 1909, the trip actually took place in early July. Full of interesting information, it shows the Mauritania crossed out as a first choice, and also confirms that the trip took place that year. Buster later recalls it in his book as occurring in 1911; when he really would have been aged 15. (The Keatons used to lie about his age to avoid the Gerry Society preventing his performing in the act.)
 

It was while purchasing the tickets [that] I heard a fellow standing next to me talking out loud. "Say, can't I exchange some pulp money for real Yankee coin?" said he. Turning around, I recognized Hal Godfrey. "What are you doing here?" said Hal. "Going to London," said I. "Oh! Mercy on you, Joe," said he; "I've just got back away," and Hal walked out with a look of pity on his face.

I said to Tausig:"Can I get my money back?" Tausig said:"Not very well now; you see the deal has been made." That night one friend would sympathize; another would say:"Go to it, old man; it's opening up a new field. You'll be a riot," but what Hal said was most prominent.

I went home and told the family London was all off. Tears streamed down little Buster's face; mother's too. Visiting friends said:"Don't disappoint Mr. Butt, manager of the greatest music hall in the world." So they persuaded me to go.

That night around the "42nd Street Corners" I met old pals, with cheering words, and took in quite a load of Ehret, neglecting to check my baggage. I did this on purpose. "The Boys", thinking they were doing an Old Pal a favor, hurried our trunks to the pier and carried me to the boat, shoving me up the gangplank.

 
Main dining room, George Washington, c. 1909.  

Left, the main dining room of the George Washington of the North German Lloyd Lines. This is one of the elegant German ships with which Titanic was being built to compete; and the Keatons sailed first class. Joe spent his birthday at the Captain's table.