A happening documented upon the 25th day of August in the year 1883, at the Shoppe of Mr. and Mrs. Tuttle, involving the esteemed Mr. Batholomew Endicott, the resourceful Miss Jessamyn Watts, and the affable Mr. John Tuttle.
Bart wasn't entirely sure it was the best idea, but here he was about to enter the shop that Jessamyn had said was where she worked for her relatives. It looked like a modest place, with a sturdy sign that gave no illusions as to the kind of establishment it was. He opened the door and took a tentative step inside. There was a bell above the door announcing his arrival, but he moved to the side, inspecting an unusual urn, not wanting to draw attention to himself. His dress and deportment probably screamed that he was from the Hill, but as far as he was concerned he was just another casual customer, seeing what the shop had to offer.
John looked up from where he was fixing a broken sextant when the bell chimed and smiled greeting to his customer. "Welcome, sir!" He cheerfully greeted the gentleman, immediately taking in his outward appearance. Hillborn, but no immediate sense from the man that he was better than the place. "Can I help you with anything?"
"I am certain that you could, if I knew what I was looking for." Bart told the portly ginger-haired man who had greet him. Presumably this was Jessamyn's uncle. "I...saw the sign and...well, one never knows what one might find if one does not venture past the threshold."
"Indeed!" John agreed. Of course he most always agreed with customers - up until the moment that bargaining began. "We have a great variety of things, if you do not see something, ask!" He settled back in his seat slightly as though turning his attention back to his repairwork, though continued to watch the gentleman for the subtlest sign he wished greater assistance.
Bart turned his attention from the urn and flicked though various garments that were hanging on display. He noted that they were well laundered and mended meticulously. He tried on a trilby hat and inspected his appearance in the mirror. Then fearing that Jessamyn would catch him thus, he hastily put it back and moved to the smaller items which were closer to the front counter. An intricately carved tobacco box caught his eye, and he experimentally lifted the lid. "Is this from the Orient? The figures are hard to discern." As he leaned closer though, he realised that the figures in question were entwined in an amorous way that caused him to flush slightly.
John looked at what the man was inspecting. "You have a good eye." He'd bought it off a sailor, so the orient was as good a guess as any. "The carvings are quite unique."
"Indeed. And remarkably subtle considering the subject matter." He observed, trying to sound more worldly and unaffected by it than he was. "Do you have any pipe sets?"
"Do I?" John Tuttle smiled at his customer and indicated a (cluttered) display case - an assortment of pipes on the second shelf below a number of watches (and assorted cufflinks)
The array on display was more impressive than he'd anticipated and he took his time inspecting them. A mahogany one with ivory inlaid upon the handle drew his attention, being of rather fine quality. So far there had been no sign of Jessamyn. Perhaps she was out? "I presume each of these has been thoroughly cleaned?" It was less a question and more a seeking of confirmation. "What wax did you use to polish them, the shine is most pleasing."
Whatever wax they'd had on hand. "Loman's." John replied, "And everything is cleaned completely, you may be assured."
"I thought as such, but it is never wise to just assume." Bart murmured, pondering whether he could justify the expense. It was a fine piece of workmanship. Then as he debated over it, his gaze was drawn to a pair of dining chairs which were rather elaborately carved and had clearly been recently re-upholstered. The chairs that Jessamyn had presumably mentioned at their last meeting. "What wood are these made of?"
"Cherry, but it can be hard to tell since the finish makes them look more mahogany." John replied once he had discerned what piece the man was asking about. "The upholstery is brand new - no rips stains or scratches! Sturdy American build - From Abraham and Abraham manufacturers. They were until recently in a fine house in Woodbridge."
"I have heard of them. They are a reputable company." Bart moved to inspect the chairs from a different angle. "This fabric is unusual." He ran a hand over the back of one, liking the feel of it.
It had been a remnant they'd bought on discount but there was no need to tell this gentleman that. "Beautiful but sturdy too - no point iffen you can't be sitting on it."
The door behind the counter opened and Jessamyn came out into the shoppe. "Uncle? I think I found a piece that will work to repair the..." Jessamyn's rambling stopped when she realized there was a customer - and when she realized who the customer was, "Oh, Mr. Endicott!"
"You know this gentleman, Jessie?" John asked his niece curiously.
Bart had not been expecting Jessamyn to just blurt out his name. He had been trying to be discreet and not give away any association which might harken to her more clandestine work. However, now he was left with no recourse but to acknowledge her and make his earlier comment about seeing the shop in passing a lie. He flushed and nodded to her. "Miss..." He still did not know her proper last name, and so he was forced to address her by her given one. "...Jessamyn."
"I told you I was finding parts for a gentleman." She murmured. She should've known that he would make an appearance here after he asked where she had worked.
Bart nodded, playing along with her explanation. "I did not mean to startle you and am not here regarding that matter. I was just passing by, and remembered you'd mentioned the shop and decided to pay a visit." It did not sound entirely convincing as he was unused to dissembling, but he hoped that her uncle would accept his story.
"Oh, of course." Jessamyn smiled, though she suspected he was checking up on her despite his words to the contrary. What could possibly bring the businessman down to the Waterfront district but to check on her. She couldn't help but look around the showroom - cluttered display cases and cluttered shelves of clothing - with a few random pieces of furniture mixed in. Not what a high-end shop looked like, but at least everything was very clean.
"He was just asking about the fabric on the chairs... Do you remember where Rebecca got it?"
Jessamyn made a face of concentration. "I think we got it from Mrs. Watkin's."
Bart waved his hand dismissively. "It is not important. I shall take them both." He reached into his pocket to extract his calling card and hand it to the gentleman. "Here are my details, sir. I presume you will be able to arrange delivery to the address there. I shall arrange for a bank transfer once you send me the bill. Or you could write one up now, if you would prefer."
"Not gonna haggle the price?" John asked surprised - it wasn't often he deal with high society folks or ones for whom every penny didn't count.
"If you are anything like your niece, you shall charge what you believe is fair." Bart replied with a shrug. He wasn't certain why he'd come down to the shop, but he did not want to leave empty handed. After all, it would not be proper for him to call on an engaged woman just to see how she was.
John looked over at his niece, whom he knew could fish something out of the trash, and then charge Imperials for them. But that wasn't a thing to admit in front of a gentleman. "I'm glad you think so highly of my niece. Those must be some hard to find parts you are looking for."
"I can write it up if you want, Uncle John... I finished cleaning the parts and I think I found what you need to finish that repair..."
Bart exchanged glances with Jessamyn before turning back to her uncle. "Very difficult. Forgive me, I should have introduced myself properly. I am Bartholomew Endicott." He held out his hand to the man.
Bartholomew. Jessamyn tried the name in her head briefly.
Jessamyn's uncle took his hand and shook it firmly despite his portly stature, "John Tuttle." He didn't need to introduce Jessamyn because obviously she was working for him already. "You know Jessie, so we can write up the bill when we deliver. When you be wantin' the pieces?"
"A pleasure, Mr. Tuttle." The man seemed a decent sort. "By the end of the week, if possible." Bart stole a glance in Jessamyn's direction again. It would seem that Mr. Tuttle had no intention of leaving them unchaperoned. "I was also looking at the pipes, Miss Tuttle. What do you think of this one?" He pointed to the one he'd been eyeing earlier.
"Watts." Jessamyn corrected gently and then without missing a beat so that the misspeak would hopefully be overlooked, "It's real ivory inlays. Good condition. The brass mouthpiece is new."
At least now he had her full name. Jessamyn Watts. It suited her. "May I?" He wanted to hold it in his hand, feel the weight of it. "It is a rather finely textured piece, without being too ostentatious."
Jessamyn nodded, pulling a skeleton key from one of her pockets to open the case. "And the inlay gives it nice detail. Craftsmanship is obvious, the joins between the ivory and the wood are seamless." She noted, passing it over to him.
Mr Tuttle might as well have gone from the room for all the attention that Bart now paid him. He took the pipe, and turned it over, then settled it in his palm and held it up as though to take a draw on it. "So, is it me?"
Jessamyn considered with a smile. "Attention to detail, classic design... I think it suits well."
"Add it to my bill then." His mouth twitched upwards as if he'd been half-expecting her to say it made him look stuffy or pompous instead.
Another smile, "Celebrating a new deal are we?"
"Something like that." It was indeed a rather private joke between them. "Even a man like me has his guilty pleasures."
"And here you seemed like such an example of an upstanding gentleman without even a vice."
"I did not realise such men existed. And if they do, they must be rather dull company." Bart quipped back. He certainly didn't view himself as some paragon of virtue. Far from it.
"Is smoking such a terrible vice though?"
"Not as far as vices go. I think it has more to do with spending money on frivolities. I don't need a new pipe. But I do want one. Hence I am being a touch irresponsible." He tried to explain after thinking on it for a moment.
"I would be a terrible salesperson if I agreed and in some way talk you out of your decision."
It seemed such a strange conversation to be having, and yet Bart couldn't deny that he was in fact rather enjoying himself. "And I do not wish to be seen as a boring dullard. So, the purchase remains, and thus we are both left satisfied."
John all but snorted at the youths. But if it meant more sales, he wasn't going to interrupt Jessie flirting with the man.
Jessamyn smiled at him. "Could you be a boring dullard? I haven't thought so thus far in our aquantance."
"Well, I..." Bart was a little taken aback by the compliment. And the older man's reaction had not gone unnoticed. Was he behaving improperly? He had to admit he was feeling somewhat flattered by Jessamyn's attention, even if it was simply a by-product of the fact that he'd bought several things from the shop. "That is kind of you to say." In fact it had been the nicest thing anyone had said to him in a good long time. "Perhaps it is your presence that enables me to be less so."
"As I haven't seen you out of my presense I couldn't confirm, but I doubt I am the special gear that makes the machine work."
Bart nodded and looked down at his shoes, feeling a little more self-conscious about what he'd said. "Before today, I had thought that the machine worked perfectly well the way it was. But perhaps it is missing that special gear..." He coloured slightly, glancing over at Mr. Tuttle and then cleared his throat. "Which is, of course, why I have you on the job acquiring those parts for me, Miss Watts."
Jessamyn smiled at him, "Of course." She didn't know the exact nature of what he'd had her do, but it was clear that it was somehow related to business ventures. Securing those would no doubt be important to strengthen his offer to a lady of his station.
There was a long pause where Bart simply stood there, gazing at Jessamyn. Finally, he realised that he ought to say something. "Well, it was...I should...I have other things I should be attending to. I presume everything is in order. I...I'll be in touch." He made a point of including Mr. Tuttle in his comments as he made his way to the exit again. Then he remembered he'd removed his hat earlier to try on the Trilby and had to retrieve it from where it was resting on a rack. "Good day to you both."
"And you." Jessamyn smiled at him, though somehow a little disappointed he was going.
"We'll have the delivery in order in the next couple days." John reassured him.
As Bart left the shop he was in a particularly good mood, and he suspected that it had little to do with the newly acquired pipe or furniture. That Jessamyn was betrothed to another was still in the forefront of his mind, but they had simply exchanged some pleasant conversation. That was all. There was nothing to worry about in terms of propriety, he told himself as he walked back down the lane again.