A happening documented upon the 17th day of August in the year 1883, at the New Haven harbour docks and the Prince's Arms tavern, involving the proper Mr. Bartholomew Endicott and the surprising Miss Jessamyn Watts.
Jessamyn was dressed in the same dress she had been last time - it was the dress that was best suited for these sorts of meetings. Maybe she should've selected a local eatery so it would be more comfortable - but no, far too many ears in such places, and it seemed unlikely that Mr Endicott would blend in to such an establishment. No, no, really it was better to meet by the waterfront. There were enough Bluers around the ships that he could fit in - and no one was going to take much note of her. She'd chosen the right place.
Bart was not exactly pleased with having to meet under the 'Sand Piper's' terms, but he did want to know the outcome of his financial gambit and was thus at a mercy of her whims to some extent. This cloak and dagger carry on was not the way he liked to conduct affairs at all, even if there was a sort of allure to doing something...improper. He pushed such thoughts aside, and focused on appearing to be out for a casual stroll along the docks, admiring the great ships which graced the harbour. There she was. In the same dress as before. Did she have only one? Well, it was a nice dress, he supposed. He nodded as he approached, and this time, despite some misgivings, he offered his arm to her. "Miss...Piper."
She grinned as he tried to make her 'name' proper. Leave it to a Bluer to call her Miss. "Hey." The grin became a proper smile and she produced a parcel from seemingly nowhere and offered it to him.
There was an awkward moment where he registered that she wasn't taking his arm and also that he'd need both hands with which to take and open the parcel. He recovered and took said package, eyeing it with interest and no small amount of trepidation. "Would you say the trip was a success?" He inquired with an air of uncertainty, not yet daring to see what she'd brought back for him.
"I got there and back without incident, so I'd say it was." Which of course wasn't what he was asking, but she never looked too closely at what she was doing when she was on a job.
"I meant did Mr. Barrett seem amenable to my overtures. You spent enough time with him after all." He pointed out, his expression reflecting his irritation at her coyness. Though really, it was more of an outward sign of his need to know and yet reluctance to know if the answer was a negative one.
Her look was of slightly confused amusement. "Hardly." Why would he think she spent alot of time with the man? "The man enjoyed putting me off."
"That was not the impression I got from your missives." He countered, deciding to continue strolling even if she wasn't on his arm. The parcel remained unopened. "It seemed he was very desirous of your company. Taking you out dining, visiting at an inappropriate hour and such."
It was wrong to laugh at him. She knew it, but his naivete was beyond what she'd expected. "He barely acknowledged me, nevermind fed me anything... but I had to stay because he wouldn't give me a response and I knew you needed something definitive."
"Oh." Her amusement at his expense caused him to flush. How was he to have known differently from her letters? He'd been concerned for her situation and that concern was now being met with scorn. He stiffened and took a colder tone. "If you had desired to make some money on the side, I would have not protested, merely wished to ensure it did not compromise the objective I had commissioned you for."
She amusement vanished instantly. "So glad to have your permission. As a matter of fact, I did take another job since I was going to Portland for you, but not that kind."
"Well, it's none of my business, I'm sure." Bart responded flatly. Then reluctantly turned his attention to the parcel he'd been carrying. "I suppose there is no point in delaying the inevitable." He broke the seals and tore at the wrapping. Inside where some documents and a cover letter. Slowly a smile spread over his face as he read the contents. The urge to do something more exuberant almost overcame him, but instead he allowed himself an audible sigh of relief. "It is as I had hoped. The terms are slightly worse than I proposed, but at least all is not lost." He murmured to himself, momentarily forgetting Miss 'Piper's' presence.
"Good, I'm glad I put up with the prick for good reason." She murmured flatly, still stinging from the implication she was a prostitute.
The use of the word prick startled him, it was such a vulgar word to come from a lady's mouth. But then again, Miss Piper was not all that she seemed. Biting back a disapproving comment, instead he nodded. "It was not in vain. I am grateful for your ...tenacity."
"Glad for that at least." She murmured as she walked along with him. Maybe he'd give her a tip? Probably not but it was something to be hopeful about. What did he think she did? She wasn't going to whine about what a pain it had been to work with Barrett - so long as Endicott was happy - he was her client after all.
The sun had now well dipped below the horizon, and the gas lights dotting the strand would soon be lit. He halted and turned to face his companion. "Without your services I would not have secured a vital contract. I wish to thank you more properly." He paused, as if to ponder how to go about that. "Would you...care to have a drink with me?" It would have to be a local place, one where one's station was not overly remarked upon. He certainly could not take her to an establishment closer to the hill. That might get the gossipmonger's tongues a-wagging.
Now that - particularly after his earlier slight and implication about how she could make extra money - was unexpected. "If it's just a drink." She agreed, not sure what he thought of her - did he think she was a...?
"Of course." Bart sputtered, not liking her implication. "I would never...I merely wished to show my appreciation in a strictly professional sense. After all, there is still the matter of payment." Now he was not sure if he should offer her his arm again, else she think he was expecting something intimate from her.
"I just... wanted to make sure since you said that you thought I was before." She murmured, regretting just slightly that she'd said anything other than agreeing - he was touchier than the folks she'd dealt with lately.
"I don't know what you mean." He replied a little stiffly, though he did know exactly what she meant. In any case, it was best to shift the conversation to less volatile subjects. "There is a tavern on the next corner. That perhaps would suit, if you have no objection." It was called the Prince's Arms as he recalled.
She nodded. "That sounds lovely." She said, shifting into the more proper address towards her partner.
He led the way, tucking his papers under his arm since she didn't need him to escort her. As they entered, he held the door open for her, and then located a moderately clean looking empty table for them to sit at. The other patrons of the tavern seemed a mixture of class, and the atmosphere was not too rowdy or unsavoury, for which he was relieved. "What beverage would you like to drink?"
"Ale is fine. Whateva the bartender's pouring." She said, smile starting to reappear.
Bart nodded, though he was not able to completely hide his discomfort at the thought of ordering an ale for a woman. He was unused to that. Usually the women he knew ordered wine, or fancy licquers. He went to get the drinks, ordering a brandy for himself. When he returned he offered her drink to her and then sat opposite. "Tell me about the docking at sea. That sounds rather interesting."
Ale was cheap - wine usually cost more and every penny counted. "I didn't get to see much 'cause I was below-decks mosta the time." She admitted. "But lots of ropes - more than any other dockin' I'd watched before. They hadta tie off everywhere."
"The weather conditions must be different that far out. More changeable." He was imagining the extra precautions needed, especially with the landing being in motion as well as the craft itself. "Much more precision and skill would be required by the pilot to undertake such a maneuver."
"Yea, sometimes." She agreed, sipping a little at her drink, "Sometimes you can see stuff coming a ways off, sometimes it just appears. But it was smooth this time. I don't think they woulda done the docking if it wasn't."
Bart nodded, then sipped at his brandy. "Is Portland much different than New Haven? I hear the railway station there is quite impressive."
"Didn't take the rail none so I can't say. I saw the port - the waterfront, and then Mr. B's offices mostly. They berth the airships in the same area as the ships - even have a couple airships that can float..."
"That sounds unusual." He mused, "I wonder how such an airship would be designed. And why the need to make it so. Were they military craft?"
"Don't think so. But Airships ain't strong enough to cross oceans yet..." She noted.
"Yet being the operative word." Bart replied, a faint smirk coming to his lips. "I wouldn't be surprised if they're looking into the logistics of launching attacks from sea. Having mobile tie downs and airships that could remain viable on the water would certainly give the Empire an edge." Then he realised that it was an odd topic to be discussing with a woman. Most of the ones he knew had no interests in aviation, or the current imperial military actions abroad.
Jessamyn wasn't aware of any 'impropriety' of the topic. "Well pirates are already startin' to use airships to attack boats near the shore."
"I am not surprised. Though they must be the sort that are highly maneuverable and fast, otherwise a well aimed cannon would make short shrift of them. Unless..." It didn't even occur to Bart that they were discussing criminal activities. He was far more interested in solving the 'problem' presented. "...they struck at night. And had some protective yet lightweight metal sheeting on the undersides. Yes, that would make such ambush tactics more viable."
"Hard ta get a straight answer from the sailors on the boats that were raided 'bout how it happened." She grinned. All her sailor friends were the sorts who exagerated everything - as were all sailors she knew, really.
She really did have quite a pleasant smile. "I can imagine. Though, since I haven't spoken to many sailors you certainly have one up on me when it comes to first hand knowledge." Did that sound right? He did not want to sound like he was calling her a prostitute again.
"Hard notta know 'em when you live in the waterfront district." She wasn't usually quick to think the worst - but he was rather the uptight sort.
"The waterfront can't be particularly safe." Bart felt rather inexplicably pleased that she'd volunteered some information about herself. "I still don't know your name. But I suppose that's something you must keep hidden due to your...occupation."
Her mouth turned up at the corners at the careful way he said 'occupation'. "My name's Jessamyn. Waterfront ain't that unsafe." At least not if you were prepared. "Not that I'd run around flashin' coin."
"Very prudent of you." He said, with something akin to a wry tone. "Speaking of which, I should give you the rest of your fee." He had kept her far too long as it was. And yet, the opportunity to hear of her travels had been too much to resist. Bart reached into his coat pocket, but then paused. "Should I pass it to you under the table?"
She almost laughed again. "Nah, I can get it on the way out." Although maybe the bluer wanted to play spy games? "Should I drink faster?" She wasn't even half way through hers yet.
"No, no. I did not mean for you to have to leave." He blurted a little too sheepishly. "I just did not want you to think I was holding out on you. An Endicott always pays what he owes, and is as good as his word. And that sounded very pompous, but it's true nonetheless."
He was a bluer - he was supposed to sound pompous. "I wasn't worried." She admitted, once again settling into her role from their first meeting of encouraging him to relax around her. That and she knew enough people that could get her fee if necessary. "If you was gonna cheat me you wouldn't've bought me a drink."
"Sound reasoning on your part." He complimented her, reaching for his own drink again. "You can be sure that I shall give you a good reference should you need one, or should any of my peers need your kind of services."
"Appreciated." She murmured. It was a compliment from him. "I can transport anything that'll fit in a trunk." She specialized in the smallest things - missives and the like, but could do larger when necessary.
"Duly noted." He pondered whether he should order another brandy. He didn't often have a second in public. But he was in the mood to celebrate. "So, you will be off on another adventure soon?"
She grinned. "Every day is an adventure." He probably wanted a more specfic answer, but she never knew for certain. "Honestly its a bit unpredictable... I mean, I didn't know I was goin' to Portland last week."
"Is that such a bad thing?" He asked sincerely. "My life is inordinately predictable and unadventurous. Going to bloody Portland would be somewhat exciting for me. In some ways I..." He trailed off, deciding that he was revealing too much to a woman who's profession was based on the exchange of information. What if one day a client wished to know what kind of man he was? What his weaknesses were.
"Just livin' here can be excitin' too. I don't go ta Portland every week. Mosta the time I'm workin' in the shoppe or out lookin' for stuff. Don't mean its not an adventure."
"You work in a shop? When you aren't on an assignment?" Bart's interest was piqued again. And by asking her questions he was redirecting the focus onto her. "To be honest I hadn't imagined you doing such. However, if as you say, the work is intermittent then having another line of employment to supplement is only common sense."
"Been working there since before I could walk," She admitted with a bit of a grin, taking a moment before adding, "Family business."
"Ah. Then you and I have something in common after all." Bart didn't smile at that, merely raised his glass to his lips and drained the rest of the brandy from it. He resolved not to have another for fear of being even more candid than he was already being.
His words caused her brow to arch so high it nearly vanished from her forhead. "After all?" Damn bluer.
It would seem that he'd offended her rather than acknowledged common ground. He never did know the right thing to say. "I was merely pointing out that having different upbringings and circumstances (I presume) does not mean that every element of our lives is disparate from the other."
She was an instant away from rolling her eyes, barely containing herself. "I bet you eat and sleep too."
Bart bristled at her sarcastic tone. "No, we have indentured slaves perform those functional bodily tasks in our stead, so that we can fully concentrate on exploiting and oppressing the unfortunates below us unimpeded."
"I'm sorry I didn't get that you used too many big words and I'm just an uneducated unfortunate."
"And yet you write such articulate letters." Bart pointed out with a sneer. "One would wonder if your common speech is in fact the affectation."
"You're a Bluer - I figured if they were read by someone else it'd be less noticable if they sounded like it came from a girl of your status." She murmured defensively.
"Why pretend that you are less educated than you are when there is no need for it? I'm not talking about the times when your protession requires you to put on an act." He berated her, iritated by her churlish attitude and labelling of him as a bluer. "That you have the benefit of schooling and an intelligence to strive for more than the life you were born into is not something to belittle. And yet you seem to relish wallowing in the apparent lowness of your station in order to shame me for having had a more privileged upbringing. Blame me if you wish for whatever is holding you back, but I am not the architect of your fate. You are."
"I was being sarcastic!" Oh his preaching rubbed her wrong. "I'm hardly wallowing, although your sort would undoubtedly think so. Not everyone wants to live on the blasted Hill you know. But don't pretend you Hillborn don't hold some responsibility for the position of the rest of the 'unfortunates' as you call them. Even if someone gets a ton of money there's no way you'll accept them as equals into your little Hilltop society. Everyone knows it doesn't work that way - you're born on the Hill or you're not. No amount of striving for a better life is gonna change that fact."
"Did I say that living on the Hill was something you should aspire to? Don't be putting words into my mouth." Bart shot back, his temper fraying. "Having spent my whole life stuck on that hill and being subjected to the expectations and strictures of my fellow bluers as you so fondly call us is not something I would wish upon anyone unless they were a shallow, vain person who was drawn to the apparent trappings of wealth and privilege whilst being blind to the responsibilities that come with it."
"Says the man lecturing about 'holding myself back' and not 'striving to be better the station' I was born into."
"You are not listening to me. I was talking about individual potential. Not being on the bloody Hill!" His voice rose in volume, causing people nearby to cast glances at their table. Bart coloured and then stood up. "I'll spare you any more unwelcome lectures. Good evening, Miss Jessamyn." It would be best to leave now before he made even more of a spectacle of himself. What had possessed him to lose his composure so? It was the height of embarrassment. Removing himself was the most prudent course of action.
She hadn't finished her drink, but obviously it wasn't going to happen. She bounced up prepared to follow him out the door. She pull out the manners she had been taught, "Thank you for the drink." She murmured.
It was difficult to regain his composure as he left, but Bart ground out a gruff "It was my pleasure." It wasn't until he'd stepped outside on the street that he remembered that he owed Jessamyn her courier fee. Turning back, he found that she'd followed him out, most likely to remind him of such. "Here." He held out the wallet towards her. "May it help you with your aspirations."
"Gonna buy myself a fancy dress." She murmured with a smile that didn't really reach her eyes. As before the wallet disappeared quickly.
"Having more than one would certainly assist you in your work." He replied tersely, eager now to end the meeting. The woman was insufferable.
Insufferable prick! "I'll keep that in mind." She hadn't felt that self concious about it until he pointed it out. Dammit of course a Bluer would notice stuff like that. It was a nice dress though - wasn't it? Maybe her aunt would let her buy the next dress that a Bluer or (Bourgeois/NouveauRiche/Parvenus) brought in to the shop and get it tailored to fit her.
As if she would heed any of his advice. But it was none of his business anyhow, and why was he troubling himself over an ungrateful girl who clearly did not wish to see beyond the surface of things. "See that you do. Goodnight." He tipped his hat in a way that was more mocking than a true sign of respect, and headed back towards the side of town that would be more welcoming to his 'kind'.
She scowled at his departing back a moment before turning on her heel and - with just a bit of a flounce, strode off in the other direction towards home, her thoughts occupied with dresses and flounces and meaningless frivalities she didn't normally focus on. And the certain knowledge that she was just going to give the money to her uncle so they could pay the rent or put it aside to pay their taxes.