A happening documented upon the 22nd day of August in the year 1883, at the Endicott Warehouse on Downes Lane, involving the sterling Mr. Bartholomew Endicott and the inimitable Miss Jessamyn Watts.
Jessamyn eyed the door and tucked a nonexistant errant curl away. She was dressed very plainly, which no doubt added to nerves since she was meeting with the uptight bluer from her last errand. Well there was no point in delaying it - she looked like what she was after all. A rap on the door and a smile for the man who answered it. "I was told to speak to Mr. McLaren." Her speech wasn't too common - but neither was it the proper airs she sometimes put on. The man frowned, what did some girl want with the foreman? "He's busy." Jessamyn blinked, utterly unmoved. "He is expecting me."
Mr. McLaren was summoned to sort things out and managed to smooth it over, though he did eye the new arrival with some curiosity, despite trying to hide his interest. His employer did often meet with people on business matters. But this one...well, she was a good looking woman, to put it bluntly. "He's out back. If you'd like to follow me, Miss." He gestured for her to head inside and down the main floor. "Watch yer step."
Jessamyn had thought she looked rather plain, but she wasn't a man. "Thank you." She smiled at him, walking lightly and doing her best to look around at everything without seeming like she was gawking. It was a hard balance to achieve - curiosity but still being polite, particularly since warehouses were filled with so many different random things.
"Having the office at the front like a shop would have saved us both the trip. But, Mr. Endicott thinks it's better not having it right on the street." McLaren volunteered as he navigated past rows of carts and other mechanical contraptions which had to do with grading and sorting. When he reached their destination, he knocked politely twice. Bart had been perusing some maps when the knock came. He glanced at his pocketwatch, and then stood and adjusted his waistcoat, having taken off his jacket to be more comfortable. Should he don it again? That would cause further delay. "Come in." He called out, feeling a little out of sorts at not anticipating Miss Piper's arrival and becoming too engrossed in his work. McLaren held the door open for her. "Miss Piper is here to see you. Did you still want Mrs. Trentham to bring you something to eat? She wanted to remind you it was past lunch." Bart nodded hastily, and waved his hand. "Yes, yes. I realise that. A pot of tea would suffice." Bart moved forward to greet Jessamyn. "For two." He amended after a pause.
Jessamyn smiled at him. It was on the tip of her tongue to comment that tea wasn't lunch, but merely said, "Thank you." And giving Mr. McLaren another smile, "and thank you, Mr. McLaren." She remained standing once the foreman departed, waiting for Mr. Endicott to indicate what he expected of her.
Bart nodded in McLaren's direction to send him from the room. He had held out his hand to shake Jessamyn's as one did when meeting someone for the first time. Or pretended to at least. The dress she had on was much plainer and less appealing to look at, but that didn't change the fact that Jessamyn herself was extremely pleasant to behold. Bart attempted to offer her a smile. Then realized he was still holding her hand. He released it and gestured for her to take a seat and make herself comfortable. "Thank you for meeting me here.at such short notice."
"It's no trouble." She smiled at him, but couldn't help but feel uncertain - his mind was clearly occupied with other things. She'd obviously interrupted him. "You needn't hold lunch on my account." She murmured. "Or entertain me if you have other business to attend to."
"I wasn't actually postponing it." Bart admitted, striding back to his desk, though stopping short of sitting behind it. "I simply lost track of the time poring over these maps. I have several prospecting interests further inland." He began to roll the parchments up in order to stow them away. Then he turned his attention back to her fully. "You are my business this afternoon. I hope I was not presumptuous in ordering tea for the both of us. If I am keeping you from another errand..."
Jessamyn shook her head quickly. "No, your business is my appointment. My only other plans were to..." do some scavenging, but she didn't want to admit such, "but it is nothing that is pressing."
"Excellent." He felt some measure of relief in knowing that she would indeed have the time to have afternoon tea with him. He moved to where his coat was draped on a hanger and pulled out a small bundle of letters. "Here are the missives I wrote to you about. I shall be relieved to hand them over to you. I have no doubt that the contents would burn a hole in my coat pocket should I keep them any longer. If not my conscience."
"And the instructions for delivery?" Jessamyn flipped through the letters in a cursory fashion to make sure everything was in order. "Did she give you a fee, or am I to request a tip upon delivery?"
"Here are your instructions. I am not privy to the recipient's name, nor do I care to be." Bart held out a note which was was sealed but not in an envelope, and a small pouch containing money. "If that is insufficient, I shall compensate you for whatever you deem reasonable. If you gain a tip upon delivery as well, that is your business." He moved nearer to the seat Jessamyn was occupying and sat in one adjacent, deciding that it would be impolite to keep her on the other end of the desk. Once seated, he shifted a little uncomfortably, trying to find the right words with which to continue on. "I acted abominably at our last meeting. I do not usually behave in such an ill-mannered fashion." He was still somewhat confused about his own reaction, in fact. " I know that you accepted my...expression of regret in our correspondence with each other, but you deserved to hear it from me in person as well."
"It is not required, indeed I would think you would have kept a portion as a broker fee. I normally pay ten or fifteen percent depending on the job." And when he sat, and continued, the his tension made more sense - that is what had the man uncomfortable - his previous lecture, and now the fact that he was acting as intermediary between her and his friend. She shook her head just slightly. "And so I accept it again." It was quite a remarkable thing - a stuffy Bluer like Mr. Endicott apologizing to her not once but twice over the same incident. "I'm quite certain I may have goaded you somewhat. You may put it from your mind."
Bart gave an audible sigh of relief, and relaxed a little. He even managed a faint smile. "Ah, but I did not have to take offense so easily, and should look to my own circumstances before passing judgment on others. That my situation is a stressful one at present is no excuse for boorish behavior. Thank you, though, for being gracious in your acceptance. We shall, as you say, put it from our minds, and perhaps find a new accord?" Where-ever was that tea? Bart found himself unsure what to do with his hands, and was once again aware that he was in his vest. A more informal state of dress than he had intended for their meeting. "How is your shop faring?"
"It's not technically mine." Jessamyn admitted, emphacizing the last word lest he think she owned and ran the business in the manner he did. "It's my Aunt and Uncle's... I just work for them. But it is faring well enough. There's been a lot of interest in the trinkets I brought back from Portland. And Aunt Rebecca is refinishing a pair of chairs that might pay the rent this month if they sell."
"I am pleased to hear that the trip proved a success for you as well." Bart wondered what kind of trinkets she might have procured on her travels. "I should think that there would be a market for exotic items from far off places, and the like."
"Nothing that exotic." She didn't want to elaborate for an upstanding businessman the nature of her finds - tarnished clockwork gagets that she'd gotten for parts - but that included a nice watch that her Uncle thought he could get working again, a counting machine that almost worked and a couple things they hadn't figured out yet.
"What kind of items do you sell?" He inquired, his curiosity getting the better of him. "I had envisioned a curio shop. Where one could find unusual or hard to procure items."
Jessamyn shook her head slightly, "No... I mean sometimes we have unuusal things, if someone sells us something or we get it in trade... But its a secondhand shoppe, so the stock varies. Mostly clothes, furniture, watches and other sorts of gagets." She expected the noise of disappointment or perhaps disgust from the wellborn gentleman before her in response, but wasn't going to lie - it was a good business and she wasn't ashamed of her family and what they did.
Bart nodded, not completely surprised by the admission. " What's the saying? One man's refuse is another man's treasure? The amount of waste that goes on, of perfectly good items, is symptomatic of our fickle 'modern' society. Clothes which were perfectly servicable one spring are cast aside as being unfashionable when in truth they are still as servicable as they once were. New fads come and go. Nothing endures." There was a tone of disapproval there, but it was not directed at his companion. He patted his vest pocket, where a fob chain was visible "I still use my father's pocketwatch even though it has a noticeable dent in the casing and overwinds on occasion. I don't have the heart to part with it, even though it's not as accurate as those currently on the market."
Jessamyn nodded as he mentioned how people threw out servicable things - she'd been garbage picking since she could walk for that very reason. "The dent could prolly be fixed." She noted. Of course usually if cases were too damaged, she just swapped out the parts with another broken watch. "And while your sort might change clothes with the seasons, most o' the rest of us wear 'em till they fall apart... But we can get money even if we just resell 'em as rags." It was more than what he needed know undoubtedly, but he had asked.
"I like the imperfection. It makes it...singular." He replied, giving her his first truly genuine smile of the afternoon. "My father got the dent while trying to offer assistance during a mining accident some decades ago. It reminds me of him." It was clear from his comment, and the wistful expression on his face that his father had passed many years ago.
Jessamyn nodded. "So your family owns mines an' stuff?" It was her turn to try to redirect the questions to the man before her. Less of an enigma than some she'd met lately - but not quite the typical Bluer either.
"Yes. Though most of our coal production is from the mine at Beacon's Quarry, 30 miles north east of New Haven. "The business has expanded over the years to become an import/export enterprise. But our main commodity is coal, and products derived from it." It sounded so dull when he spoke of it. "It is a resource that remains in high demand. I fear though, that supply shall not always be able to meet demand. Mines do, after all, eventually run out."
Jessamyn didn't mind really. "Yea but demand won't." She noted. "And that ain't all you got." She speculated - most families were diversified somehow.
"I sometimes wish that we could have changed focus sooner, but as you say, it is preferable to be in demand. The tariffs for shipping, though, have been on the rise." Then he shook his head at her. "I must be completely boring you with such talk. It's not exactly high adventure." How was one such as he supposed to entertain a clever resourceful woman like Jessamyn? "The tea should be here soon." He added, flushing slightly.
"Not at all." She countered quickly. "All the merchants been complainin' 'bout 'em." And here he was with the high adventure again. "Ain't like what I was talkin' 'bout before was high adventure either."
"Maybe not. But...hearing about *anything* other than what I am tediously familiar with on a daily basis is a welcome diversion." Bart replied with the side of his mouth turning up in a half-smile.
"Ahh, I see." She grinned, "So you meant the talk was boring to you."
"You've caught me out." He confessed, his smile widening in response to her grin. "Discussing the state of the market, trade numbes and such does bore me, even though it's what I must keep up with. I'd much prefer talking about air-pirate raids and what you brought back from Portland, to be honest."
"Oh, it was just a regular ship that brought me back. I only took the airship out of the habor. It saves time if they don't gotta navigate into the port itself."
"The view must be quite something." Bart mused, "At least on a day when the weather is not being churlish." There was a knock on the door and Mrs Trentham entered, carrying a tray that had not only tea but some date scones on it. "Not eating lunch. What next?" She shook her head crossly at him and gave Jessamyn a glance that was rather hawklike. "I swear he's skinny enough as it is. Needs to give a good woman more to hold onto. My Barney has a good decent appetite. Which of course means he keeps me well satisfied." Bart's expression was close to mortified. "Uh, that will be all Mrs. Trentham. Thank you for the scones." "Be sure he eats one of them too." She told Jessamyn and then let herself out again.
"Yes Ma'am." Jessamyn wasn't about to argue with the woman, although she was fairly certain it wasn't the proper way to speak to a Bluer. When the door closed, she smiled gently at Mr. Endicott. "Please make sure to eat one... I don't want to face her if there is as much as a crumb left over... I'm not sure what she'd do to me."
"Only if you have one too. Else she might still think I didn't and I'll never hear the end of it for days." He countered good humouredly, moving to pour her a cup of tea. "How do you like yours?"
She liked it however she could get it. Sugar when they had enough to spare, milk if they had any... or plain for the times they had neither. "A little sugar please." She murmured. She was a little surprised to have him make such an offer to her - and that he'd serve her at all, really.
Bart wasn't thinking about the strangeness of serving Jessamyn a cup of tea. He'd become so used to doing it for himself, and she was, after all, his guest. He took care to only put a little sugar in her china cup before handing it to her. He poured milk in his own, but did not add sugar. "Orange pekoe, one of my indulgences." Realising that there was no table other than his desk, he also set about cutting up and buttering the scones.
She made certain to taste the tea. "It's very good." Not that she was well educated in the nuances of the different types of teas, but it did have a very pleasant flavor. Butter even? Well it was scones intended for the owner. She already knew that it was going to be good even before she got to try one. "Are you well versed in different types of teas then?"
"My mother was rather obsessed with having the best kinds of tea in the house. For her, serving tea was a ritual that needed to be observed with the utmost decorum and knowledge. Rather like those people who have to know every grape and vintage when it comes to wine. So, I suppose that I am well-versed on the subject." He offered her a plate with a hot scone on it. The butter was spread on it very thickly. "I find tea to be a rather bracing beverage. I also like coffee, but it is harder to prepare well. At least the attempts I have made at home were somewhat...unsatisfactory."
Her look was tinged with curious, "Attempts? You prepare tea and coffee yourself?" And then since it was an inappropriate question, promptly bit into the scone to silence herself.
"Yes. Well, Tabitha used to do it for me. But I had to let her go this last spring." His brow knit together briefly, regret plain on his face, but then he forced himself to adopt a lighter tone. "I would spare you having to drink one of my brews. I myself can only drink it with an obscene amount of sugar added to cut through the bitterness. My tea, on the other hand, is fairly drinkable. Or so I am told. Perhaps they wished to spare my feelings."
"I didn't doubt your abilities." She smiled to assure him, though filed away the other detail - he'd regretfully let go his cook - it explained quite a bit actually. "I'm sure you could tell if they were merely being polite or were honest."
"I was speaking mostly of my brother, who is not always the easiest to read. We haven't been in each other's company for some time. We..." He trailed off and took a sip of tea instead. Then he placed a scone on a plate for himself and moved to his seat rather than perching on the desk "It's complicated." There was something in his tone which indicated that he did not care to speak further on that subject. "Is it just you, with your aunt and uncle?"
"Most of the time. Papa comes to port about once or twice a year. And Tommy's been at sea for a couple years now. And I have cousins of course, but they all have their own families now so I don't see them that often." Jessamyn admitted.
Bart had been biting into his scone when she'd mentioned her family, and for some reason a part of it went the wrong way. He coughed, tried to recover and set his tea and plate down without spilling anything. "I take it Tommy is your...intended?" He wheezed as he attempted to get his breath back. It could have been her brother, but somehow the tone of her voice had indicated otherwise.
"Oh!" She started slightly as he began coughing and wheezing - and yet he managed to put down his tea and plate without spilling anything. "Are you quite okay?" Was that a skill all Blueblooded boys could do? Perform impossible actions without spilling their drinks?
"Excuse me." Bart brought his hand to his mouth, cleared his throat and attempted to calm himself. Eventually he was able to breathe more freely. "I'm fine, I did not mean t alarm you. You were saying?" There was no way for him to appear anything but off kilter at this point. But perhaps it was for the best.
Jessamyn paused a moment to remember what she was saying. "Oh... Tommy... Yea, he is." Jessamyn nodded, a different sort of smile now talking about him. "He's on a ship that's going to the Orient. I get letters sometimes but its slow and not very reliable."
Jessamyn was spoken for. How could he have not foreseen that? She was of marriagable age, comely, intelligent and ambitious. Of course she would have a serious beau by now. "It must be hard on you both, with your betrothed being away at sea for such long periods." He stayed by the desk, resolving not to sit down next to her again.
Jessamyn's smile slipped a little, "I rather imagine I'm used to it. Papa is gone all the time too. You know that's going to happen if you're close with a sailor." And in an more obvious redirection than she'd had to use in a while, "What of yourself? Have you family you are close with?"
He looked away. "My father, mother and sister have all passed. It is only my brother and I. I would not call us close."
"I'm sorry... It was impolite to ask." Clearly she should've redirected to her work for him instead of his family. Small talk then. "The scones are very good." And so much butter - it was so rich and creamy.
"I asked first." He reminded her ruefully, then forced a polite smile upon his face. Small talk was safer . "Yes, they are. Mrs Trentham's husband and son work for me, and she offers her cleaning and cooking services twice a week. Since I no longer have any live-in staff, it works out very well."
"She's very skilled." Jessamyn was not a particularly skilled cook herself. Though her Aunt insisted she learn so she could make a home for herself, with Tommy at sea for years there was no pressing urge to practice. "It seems like a good arrangment."
"It suits my current circumstances. I'll be sure to tell her you liked them." He made no attempt to finish off his own scone, however, and had not touched his cup since the mishap. "Do let me know if you have any problems with your assignment."
Her smile (for perhaps the first time) took a slightly forced apperance. "I will." She set aside her cup - itself obviously unfinished - for the second time she'd had a drink with him. She stood. "Thank you for the tea - and the project."
"Think nothing of it. You've proven yourself as reliable and discreet as the reputation which preceded you." His tone was once more formal and professional in tone. "Perhaps some time I shall look in on your shop. What is it called?"
"The sign out front just says Bought/Sold." She admitted. "Its on Waltham Street near the intersection with Deacon." Obviously he was intending to keep closer track of her since she was delivering letters for his friend.
"I shall remember it." Bart replied and came forward to shake Jessamyn's hand again. This time he made sure it was appropriately brief in contact. "I'll get my foreman to walk you out." Now, more than ever, it was important to observe the proper manners regarding her status as another man's future wife.
Jessamyn nodded, her agreement to the plan - she might be able to find her way out but this way Mr. Endicott knew for certain she was out safely. "Thank you. And pass my compliments on to Mrs. Trentham." And of course Jessamyn, ever observant noticeed the smear of butter. "At least I need not worry she will accost me because you did not eat," she tried to point the spot out politely without well *pointing* directly.
Bart regarded her quizzically. "Pardon?" He didn't quite understand her vague gesture.
"You have a spot of butter..." Jessamyn murmured, wondering suddenly why she felt embarrissed pointing out something that was perhaps a little intimate to the proper gentleman before her.
"I...Oh." Bart couldn't help but feel even more out of sorts than before. He hastily fumbled for a clean handkerchief. Which, he now realized, was likely lurking in his coat pocket.
As soon as he fumbled for a handkerchief, Jessamyn realized perhaps he might not have on hand. Instantly she materialized one from her skirt and she held it to him. But they were standing close because he'd been dismissing her, but perhaps, "May I?" She asked hand nearly at the spot already.
It was on the tip of Bart's tongue to refuse and take a step back. But then that would be the height of rudeness since her hand was already poised to dab at the offending spot. He nodded, not trusting himself to speak. She was standing awfully close. The hem of her skirt was brushing against the tips of his shoes.
Since he'd motioned agreement she gently dabed at it, getting at least the worst of it clear. "Gonna wanna point it out to your laundress..." Jessamyn murmured. "You don't wannna get it wet until there's laundry paste on that spot." Years of cleaning secondhand clothing had taught her how to remove any number of types of stains - or how to cover the ones that couldn't be removed.
She was prattling on about cleaning and he was having trouble breathing. Perhaps there was still a crumb stuck in the back of his throat. He swallowed hard and nodded dumbly for a second time. Then once she'd taken care of the worst of it, he backed up a step and touched his finger tips to the now less visible smear on his vest. "Good advice. Thank you." He finally managed.
"It should come right out." She assured him, "But don't try dabbing at it with water." She'd already told him that but it seemed a safe topic - something she knew about, a way she could help him.
"I won't." What else was he supposed to say? The urge to retreat behind his desk was overwhelming.
She nodded again. "I'll chirograph when the delivery is done." She murmured. "Thank you again for the job."
"It was my pleasure." Bart replied automatically. Hopefully he appeared more calm outwardly than he felt. He strode to the door and called for McLaren. "Good day to you, Miss Myna."
Jessamyn frowned curiously at the name he'd called her. Myna? Well it was his right to be familiar, although most just called her Jess. "And you Mr. Endicott."
Bart hadn't been thinking straight, and now was being put in his place for being presumptuous. As was to be expected. He sketched a polite bow and headed back behind his desk. Thankfully McLaren chose that moment to arrive and usher her out. Bart let out a pent up breath and moved to open a window. The room had become quite stifling.