A happening documented upon the 29th of August in the year 1883, at the Endicott residence, , involving the flustered Mr Bartholomew Endicott, and the talented Mr. Alexander Endicott.
Bart closed the front door a little more forcefully than usual, then paused in the hallway while he contemplated the stack of letters clutched in his hand. He suspected he knew what they pertained to, and what tone they would adopt. Hanging up his hat and coat, he walked into the parlour searching for a letter opener. Then sounds from the kitchen drew his attention and he headed in that direction to see what was going on. Mrs Trentham wasn't due till the next day...
Years ago, Alex had helped a ships cook when he wasn't doing other odd jobs. And though he hadn't liked it much at the time, in the years following it had proved to be a remarkably useful thing to have done.
Alex had no intention of subsisting on cold food for more then half the week waiting for Mrs. Trentham to cook for the household. Granted her cooking put his to absolute shame, but his own was better then eating bread and cheese for three meals a day.
Bart was surprised by the sight of Alex cooking when he entered. He gave his brother a bemused look. "What are you.." Well, he knew what he was doing, but still it was a strange thing to behold. "Mrs Trentham comes tomorrow." He pointed out, moving to find a butter knife with which to read his mail.
"And tomorrow, I won't have to cook dinner." his brother answered, dryly. "Do you want some?"
"What is it?" Bart asked dubiously, eyeing Alex's efforts. He wasn't going to bother if it was something unpalatable.
"Mutton stew." Alex shrugged, "More filling then bread and cheese." Bart's tone wasn't encouraging, and he didn't intend to push the stew more then just this once.
"Alright then." Bart agreed, though he wasn't game enough to ask exactly what else was in the stew. Instead he turned to his stack of papers. Then he frowned when the first one he opened had both a cutting from the New Haven Gazette and a copy of the ridiculous and libelous pamphlet inside. He abruptly stood up and tossed the correspondence (and it's additions) in the range. "Damnation." He muttered, taking a seat again and opening the next letter. Which was also attacking his honour, and telling him in rather vivid detail where to shove his opinions on the trade unions.
Alex glanced sideways at him, with brows lifted slightly. "Not a particularly pleasant day of mail?" He was fairly certain Bart wasn't the sort to toss bills into the fire.
Bart leveled his brother with a scowl. "Have you not read yesterday morning's paper? Or that obscene pamphlet which is being distributed about me today? Of course it's not a pleasant day. I'm being inundated with notes from people who have misjudged my motives, and are being blinded by propaganda of the most inflammatory kind."
"I did read the paper, but I admit to having missed the pamphlet..." he tilted his head at Bart, "You're actually getting hate mail?"
"Well, they are not professions of love and support, that I can tell you!" He retorted with a sneer, screwing up another before opening a third. "Listen to this: 'I hope you rot in hell for being a turncoat industrialist. You bluers should all get the black lung and then see how you like it. Hahaha.' Signed anon, of course." He crumpled the letter and then fished into his pocket and produced the offending publication. "There, you can read it yourself. I wish I could throttle whomever printed it."
Alex, with the look of vague surprise still lingering in his expression, possibly at the idea that someone would write out 'hahaha' in a letter, took the pamphlet and glanced over it. If anything his brows lifted just a little bit further (although he privately admitted the cartoon - had it been about someone else - was rather good).
"That's a rather excessive leap of logic they've made, based on a few sentences in a periodical." He considered the page in front of him again, "It doesn't sound like a miner...I wonder if they've hired themselves a lawyer or some such."
"My character has been maligned because of that blasted article, where they deliberately misquoted me and made me appear to be unfeeling to the plight of the workers in the unions." Bart ranted, disposing of yet another unflattering missive. " I am of a mind to pen a letter myself. To the editor of that rag, lambasting him on how he's deliberately skewed the piece for the purposes of selling a few more copies. I may not be able to reach the culprit behind that ridiculous call to action, but I can hold the Gazette accountable."
"Have you considered..." And it was said very carefully, "That perhaps the reporter taking the quote simply felt that was what you meant?"
"No. Because he deliberately left out the parts that made it clear that was not what I meant at all. Unless he was deaf, or dimwitted. Or both! I cannot believe you would even think I would come close to meaning what is implied in that article. Did you see the headline for heaven's sake?' Admittedly, Bart was in a fairly strident frame of mnd, but to think that his brother would even entertain the possibility that Bart could not articulate himself well enough to prevent the reporter from making the opposite assumption...it offended him.
"I did not say that you meant it." Alex protested, moving to stir the stew as an excuse to do something with his hands, "And you're right of course, the article was probably already written and the reporter was merely looking for a quote to fill it out. But its not simply what you say, its also the tone in which you say it."
"My tone was perfectly cordial, I assure you." He stood up and put his hands on his hips. "What are you implying? That I adopt a tone that could be construed as dismissive of others?"
Alex glanced over his shoulder, and seeing his brothers expression, turned to face him, "I am suggesting that a sharp businesslike manner or an appearance of tiredness or frustration could be construed as less then sympathetic."
"He accosted me in the street. It wasn't as if I had time to be relaxed and chipper about it. And besides, I only spoke the truth. These new tariffs and levies are going to place a burden on companies like ours which will be difficult to shoulder without making some sacrifices. Changes will have to be made." He ran a weary hand through his hair, as though he feared his appearance was becoming as disheveled as his composure.
"Maybe you should release a statement then. Or write the newspaper but I don't think ranting at the Gazette will help."
Bart deflated slightly, mostly because Alex was talking sense. "I just feel like I ought to do *something*. Not take it lying down."
Alex looked immediately relieved that it appeared Bart wasn't going to attempt to thrash him for pointing it out. "No, you're quite right, you shouldn't take it lying down. But its not the Gazette that's the issue. Honestly more then half the men who work in the mines probably didn't even read the article. But someone did and told them about it, and they're you're employees. Better to deal with them."
He didn't know business, not a thing about it, he'd already told Bart that more then once. But Alex felt that he did know people, at least well enough to make suggestions.
Bart looked pensive for a moment, weighed Alex's words, then he nodded, slumping back into the wooden chair he'd been occupying previously. "I should speak to them first. You are correct. It's important to reassure them at least that I am not the ogre people are making me out to be. Then, if I still feel it's warranted, I'll address the newspaper's culpability in all this. The trade talks are still a few weeks away, I have time to do some damage control." He didn't sound entirely hopeful, but he was tired, and stressed and hungry.
The stew was starting to smell like it might in fact taste good, and Alex stood over it, considering something before turning back to his brother. "Would you like me to try and find out who put out the pamphlet?"
Bart shook his head. "I have a few suspicions. But in the end it would do no good knowing. It is not as if I can prosecute them. Or shut them down. Though, I suppose having the opportunity to tell them they were wrong might be somewhat satisfying," he conceded.
"Its about convincing." Alex said shaking his head, "Whoever wrote this is clearly prepared to believe the worst. You can't just tell someone they're wrong, but if you could explain to them how you were misinterpreted...well I don't know someone who can write out a thing like this and get is distributed this widely isn't someone I'd want annoyed with me."
"Someone who is quick to jump to conclusions and make personal attacks is not someone I would expect to reason with." Bart pointed out dryly. He got up to find some plates to set on the kitchen table. "Do you want to eat here, or out in the dining room." It was clear from his tone that he didn't care particularly if they just stayed where they were.
"Why not in the dining room," Alex suggested, thinking it might help Bart cheer up, "You can pretend I didn't cook the food."
Pretending would not change the fact that you did cook the food." Bart pointed out stubbornly. But he did start to gather up the plates and utensils to take to the dining room table.
Alex bravely resisted the urge to point out that Bart was welcome to find his own dinner, and instead filled bowls with stew and followed Bart to the dining room.
Bart carefully set the table, even fetching linen napkins and a bottle of wine before sitting down to the meal. In truth, they had not had many together since Alex had come back, both of them being busy with their own affairs.
The number of 'family' dinners were few and far between enough, that upon entering the dining room, Alex paused to take in the changes to the room since he'd last bothered to enter it. There were new chairs...and they didn't not match the room at all - and Alex didn't have particularly discerning tastes on the matter so it must have been a fairly impressive difference. "New chairs?"
His brother followed his gaze and then nodded curtly. "I felt the room needed sprucing up," he dissembled, in as casual a manner as possible. Trust Alex to notice even though he rarely came into the room.
"Ah...." Because he couldn't think of anything nice to say, he paused, "Didn't we already have a full set?" He tried to sound innocent, and set a bowl of stew in front of Bart, like a gesture of good will.
Bart paused with his spoon hovering over his stew. "We did, but...you don't like them?" The easiest why to avoid questioning was to go on the offensive.
Alex shrugged, because though they didn't match the room, he was mostly surprised because he would have expected Bart to care significantly more then he would. "They seem....somewhat extraneous."
"They are sturdy and well made by Abraham and Abraham." Bart protested, annoyed by the continued commentary. "I also purchased a new pipe. Should that have gotten your approval as well?"
"They're your funds." Alex answered, still dubious.
Bart glanced over at his brother and then took a hesitant taste of the stew. It proved to be surprisingly well seasoned and flavourful. "You are entitled to half of everything, remember, so if you don't like the chairs, I shall send them back." Then he set his spoon down again and sighed, reaching for his napkin. "If you must know, I did not buy them for their aesthetic, but to help out a friend."
Alex smiled, broadly, at his brother's answer. If Bart had thought it was embarrassing, apparently Alex thought it was the best reason in the world to buy mismatched chairs. "Good. I was really honestly worried you thought they matched the room."
"I am well aware they do not match. If you have a better use for them, be my guest. However, that was not my concern at the time. She- my friend is in a less fortunate financial situation. It seemed the best way to aid her without making it seem like charity." Bart shifted in his seat and spent far too long rearranging his napkin back in his lap.
"She....?" The smile on Alex's face tilted a bit, as he watched Bart fuss with his napkin, "Is she quite lovely, this friend in a less fortunate financial situation?"
"It's not like that." Bart protested a little too abruptly and with a faint flush to his cheeks. "There is nothing untoward going on."
"No of course not." Alex agreed still smiling, "But you are purchasing her chairs."
"And that is all there is to it." He asserted, reaching to pour himself some wine. It was time to change the subject, albeit clumsily. "This stew is rather good. I am surprised that you can cook so well, what other skills did you pick up on your travels?"
"I can also shovel coal." His brother joked, and took a moment to eat some of his own dinner, which was actually, not all that bad. Cooking was easier when you could go to the market and get most of whatever you wanted. "I don't know...mechanics work...sailing. I've not thought about it as a list."
"Mechanic's work?" Bart was actually intrigued by that admission, and pleased that he'd managed to divert his brothers interest in who his lady friend was. He leaned forward and began to eat in earnest. Perhaps it was time to hear more of what Alex had done when he'd been abroad. "How did that come about?" he asked with genuine interest, resolving to keep the focus on his brother for the rest of the evening...