A happening documented in early September in the year 1883, at the city marketplace, involving the petulent Miss Celia Warthington, the put-upon Mr Bartholomew Endicott, and the mischieveous Miss Jessamyn Watts.
Jessamyn let the crowd around the fish stand push against her and jostle her. The result was a small coin purse that disappeared into one of her hidden skirt pockets. She then let the crowd push her away from the market stand and then began meandering on to the next market stall. She enjoyed the market, and this one, near the Hill, attracted a lot of servants from the Hill houses, so she often did other kinds of business here as well. Today she was just looking for anything that might be interesting, although coming here also meant she was available should one of her former clients chose to try to contact her.
Bart paused at a used book stall, a second edition copy of Ivanhoe having caught his attention. It wasn't in the best condition, but the spine was sound. He was rewarded for his efforts by an impatient tug on his arm. "Oh good heavens, is this on your list of errands as well? At this rate we'll never get to The Boudoir before the lunch crowd takes all the best tables." Celia Warthington's expression was rather petulant.
Bart reluctantly put the book back. "No, it is not." His companion sniffed at him.
"It's a children's book, why would you even bother with it? They all smell of must and mould anyway." She gave the vendor a disdainful glance.
Bart hid his irritation and steered her onwards away from the bookseller. "It doesn't matter." He headed towards a produce stand owned by a man he'd purchased from previously. "I need to arrange a delivery, then we can go to that cafe you've been nattering on about." Celia's expression did not improve, but she at least allowed him to pull her along with less resistance. The crowd was rather thick, full of people from various walk's of life. People from the Hill mixing with those of lower station, and even the occasional beggar or busker could be scene trying their trade. Bart did notice, however, that occasionally a hostile look was thrown his way, and one or two vendor's turned away as he passed them. Thanks to the newspaper and that infernal pamphlet. Oh, to be able to throttle whomever had distributed that piece of gutter trash. He was jostled from the side (not Celia's) and turned to find a burly man glaring at him. "Pardon me." He murmured, preferring not to cause a scene, though he'd not been the one to stumble.
"Watch where yer goin' next time, Bluer." The man muttered under his breath.
Jessamyn's ears perked up when she heard someone referring to a Bluer and distracted her from the produce she was (pretending to be) looking at... that might be a purse worth trying for. She looked over towards the voice to identify the Bluer.... and recognized Bartholomew Endicott... She was surprised, but immediately dismissed it - of course he had to do his shopping. She wondered if she should say hello or not though? But then she realized he wasn't alone... Probably best not to say hello then, since it wasn't a woman she recognized...
It wasn't until Bart had almost reached the produce stand that he caught a glimpse of a certain pretty blonde-headed woman near his destination. He pulled up short for a moment, thoroughly confusing Celia who was still hanging on his arm. Had Jessamyn seen him? She was only now turning away, so perhaps she had. Bart weighed his options. Should he let her go? Considering the nature of their association, perhaps it was better for both if he did not acknowledge her. That was the most sensible course of action. So of course he surprised himself by striding forward purposefully instead, trying to intercept her before she disappeared back into the crowd. "Miss Watts!"
Jessamyn turned back quickly when she heard her name called, and smiled a greeting. "Mr. Endicott." She put the produce she had been picking up to examine back and turned fully to speak to him... Although because of his companion kept her gaze politely lowered. She could be more direct when she was doing someone a service... outside of those instances it was better to respect their station and give proper respect. And she didn't want to give him a difficult time with his friend for some common girl acting rudely to him.
Now that he'd gotten her attention, Bart suddenly became self conscious again. "I...how are you?" Then finally remembering his companion, he turned to make the introductions. "Forgive me, Miss Celia Warthington, this is Miss Jessamyn Watts. Miss Warthington is the eldest daughter of Jarvis Warthington, the real estate magnate. Miss Watts...." He hesitated, searching for the best way to describe how they knew each other. "Jessamyn's uncle owns a curio shoppe down by the waterfront, and she procures hard to find items for me."
Celia took in Jessamyn's commoner appearance and deigned not to hold out her hand. "Charmed, I'm sure." Bart frowned at her, the girl was acting exceedingly ill-mannered today.
Jessamyn was amused at her dismissal. Bluers. She murmured a polite reply, "I'm sure the pleasure is mine." And since the woman didn't want to associate with her, she was free to address Mr. Endicott, "Enjoying your shopping today?"
"Yes. I was just looking at a book I'm thinking of getting." Bart began, glad to have something to talk about. "An old classic. Worn around the edges, but it's amazing what treasures one can find if one looks hard enough." He smiled down at her. "What about you? That head of cauliflower you were inspecting looked fresh."
The fruit and vege man gave him a faintly amused and affronted look. "Only the best produce sold 'ere. And at a fair price, was well you know Mr. Endicott."
Bart nodded, and turned back to Jessamyn. "I come here myself. Mr. Ramsay's prices are exceedingly competitive." Celia made a bored noise with the back of her throat, and rummaged in her wrist pouch for a scented hankie.
Jessamyn grinned at his enthusiasm for the book - it was at once youthful and suitably Bluer at the same time. She was glad Mr. Ramsay piped up after Bart's question to her - it gave her a moment to come up with an appropriate way to deflect the question. And Mr. Ramsey was the perfect opportunity. She turned her smile on the salesman briefly before returning it to Mr. Endicott, "Your recommendation says much for both his quality and his value." She'd make sure not to chose marks around his stand if Mr. Endicott favored him. "Any other recommendations in this market?"
Bart suspected that Jessamyn knew her way around the various parts of town far better than he did, but he played along anyway. "Well, Netty the fishmonger swears her catches are so fresh that they don't stink half as bad as her competition down the way. And sometimes I get roasted chestnuts from that girl on the southwest corner." He pointed it out to her. "If you are looking for a new petticoat, Mrs. Beecham has a wide range of them on display over there. Though apparently it's scandalous to be selling them out in the open." Bart was clearly referencing an earlier remark by Celia, which earned him a snippety look from the highborn lady.
"Well, I just think it's improper to have ladies undergarments in full view of everyone."
Bart shrugged, "It's not as if people are in them at the time, though, Celia."
"Why doesn't she sell them in a shop? Tucked away somewhere."
Bart couldn't believe the girl's ignorance. "Perhaps because she cannot afford to rent one out."
She took a moment to look at the woman with Mr. Endicott. She was very pretty, her dress flawlessly made, although it was just linen, though linen was appropriate for a day dress and the dyes used in it were expensive she noticed, unlike her simply dyed spun cotton. She was exactly the sort of girl that Mr. Endicott would take out - more than the Mrs. Patterson. Pretty and proper - and the daughter of a real estate man. If the sight of a couple petticoats unsettled her... she was best not ever coming down to the waterfront. "I think my petticoats are good." She replied, as though it wasn't the apparent height of impropriety to be discussing them with a gentleman. "But I might have a spare coin for some chestnuts." They were one of her favourite foods, they could keep her warm, but they also traveled well while she conducted her searches and packed away easily when she needed both hands.... And once in a while her Uncle sent her out to sell things at the market too, so she knew a little about how hard it could be to stand around selling all day.
Bart actually did colour slightly at the mention of Jessamyn's own petticoats. Partly because now he was wondering if they were plain, or had lace or ribbons. What a thing to be thinking about. He cleared his throat and latched onto her other comment. "They are very good chestnuts. Sweet, hot and delicious." For some reason his cheeks felt warmer than before.
"Are you going to order the produce you wanted so we can go, Bartholomew? I am in dire need of an absinthe and a smoke." Celia prompted irritably. Her whole focus was on Bart, as though Jessamyn were an inconsequential bug. Bart stiffened slightly, and moved to perfunctorily to inspect some ears of corn.
(They were plain of course, a girl of her station couldn't afford lace or ribbons on an undergarment - even her dress lacked those sorts of embellishments). As to being ignored by the lady, Jessamyn didn't react, perhaps she didn't notice her 'ill-treatment' by his friend. She stepped to the side so that Mr. Endicott - and his lady should she deign to come closer - could browse the wares. "I like chestnuts too." She admitted, keeping the conversation 'safe' and neutral. But of course his lady friend was whining. "In the southwest corner you said? It was a pleasure to see you again..." Obviously she should move on so he could conduct his business before his lady friend threw a tantrum.
"Have you heard of The Boudoir?" Bart blurted out in an effort to keep her from leaving. "Celia wants to go there. Apparently it's the place where aspiring artists and poets go to converse and philosophise." He made a show of selecting some items and handing them over to Ramsay was well to keep his companion from snapping at him again.
"I have heard of it." Jessamyn noted. Of course she didn't have the luxury to sit around and discuss philosophy and such. It sounded like a decadent way to spend an afternoon. "I can understand why you are in a hurry to finish your work here."
"I'm not really. It actually sounds rather frivolous to me." Bart confessed, handing the corn he'd chosen to the vendor. "But I did promise I would take Celia, since she professes to want to expand her mind." There was the faintest hint of amusement in his eye, for in truth, Celia had actually used the word brain instead of mind, mangling the phrase rather comically.
Jessamyn managed not to make her amusement too obvious. "But you are well-read." She pointed out as though in defense of his choice to go. But if he thought it frivolous, it spoke much about the fact that he was escorting the young beauty he was with - Miss Warthington.
"Being well-read does not mean one is fully qualified to expound ad nauseum upon the meaning of life with any authority. Personally I think it's rather a luxury to be able to sit around, sipping coffee and liquers and complain about the state of the world rather than actually trying to live in it."
Celia gave him a shocked gasp at his tone, which wasn't altogether charitable. "Bartholomew, some of my best friends are scholars and artists."
Bart shrugged dismissively. "I am merely pointing out that intellectual postulating will only get you so far. Empirical experience is also necessary to fully understand our place in the world."
His companion pouted and then dabbed at her nose with her hankie. "Are you nearly finished? I can hardly breathe from various odours in the air."
Bart chuckled at her, his countenance far from sympathetic. "That's exactly what I'm talking about. Look, if you do not wish to wait for me, you can go on ahead and secure us a table." Bart glanced over at Jessamyn to check that she hadn't already slipped off into the crowd, thereby completely missing the dumbfounded look on Celia's face.
He was giving her too much credit perhaps - but only because she wouldn't disappear without some sort of good-bye. She was more than amused at how Mr. Endicott was discussing his own afternoon plans - and the way his lovely companion was reacting. But she wasn't going to interrupt their discussion.
"Fine. I'll do just that, then." Celia blustered, clearly expecting Bart to relent and offer to take her anyway.
"Alright. I'll be there soon." He murmured, turning over a head of cabbage and then deciding that he was not one for boiled cabbage at the best of time. "What do you think of leeks, Miss Watts? I hear they go well in soup."
Jessamyn watched his companion flounce off, but Mr. Endicott was clearly not intending to go after her, so she returned her attention to him, "They can be." She agreed, although their soups tended to be made of whatever had begun to go bad and couldn't be used any other way, so her familiarity with leeks in soups was slightly biased. Her curiosity got the better of her, "I suspect your lady will be sulking when you get to the cafe."
"Then let her sulk. She's done nothing but complain about everything from the cobblestones she has to walk on, to the sun threatening to come out from behind that cloud and ruin her complexion." Then he paused and sighed. "I apologise, I should not be speaking ill of her in her absence. This outing was my idea after all, but I confess that the prospect of an afternoon of terrible poetry readings (by which I mean the poems and delivery being equally terrible), and watching people get intoxicated on the substance of their choice fills me with more a distinct lack of enthusiasm. Why couldn't she have wanted to go for a stroll in the park instead?" He looked to Jessamyn as if expecting her to know why women were so...difficult.
She had no true comprehension of the way girls of his station tended to think. "I'm not gonna go running off to tattle to her friends." Jessamyn pointed out in response to his apology. She didn't care what he said about his companion. "Ya said yourself she was complainin' bout the cobbles and sun." She pointed out in answer to his question. "It can't be as bad as you make it out, I'm sure..." It sounded a little boring to Jessamyn, but she never had the luxury to read or spend an entire afternoon talking. Indeed, just chatting with Mr. Endicott as she was, she was losing opportunities to... but she had to give space between picking pockets so that she did not get caught....
"Well, I suppose we shall see." Bart hedged, signing the invoice that Ramsay handed him. He did not wish to further speak ill of the girl he'd chosen to spend the afternoon with, though it seemed likely he was not going to ask her out again. Something about Celia's attitude rubbed him the wrong way. "You never did tell me how you were...Myna." His smile was gently reproachful as he regarded her.
"Oh, didn't I?" Jessamyn grinned. "I'm sure I must be well enough." She answered, being just avoidant enough to make it a game.
"Well, you would know." Bart retorted, his own smile deepening in response to her grin. "Though, judging with my own eyes, I would concur that you appear well."
"See." She pointed out as though some great argument had been won.
"But that doesn't stop me from wanting to enquire." He pointed out in return, not wishing to concede just yet. "Appearances can be deceiving. For all I knew, your aunt could be ailing, and you were in the market searching for lemons with which to make her a soothing tonic."
"Do lemons help with that? I thought we kept them here in the port because of the Sailors." Jessamyn contemplated out loud.
"My nanny Tabitha used to make one with hot water, lemons, honey and a touch of ginger. Said it would cure everything from a cold to bunions." He chuckled and shrugged. "I just liked the taste."
"Honey must help with that." Jessamyn noted, not that she'd ever had the luxury of adding honey to hot water and lemons and ginger... actually the hot water she could afford, but not the ginger or lemons...
"It does indeed. I have always preferred it to jam. It keeps, you know? Never goes rancid or mouldy when kept over long periods of time." He had read that somewhere, or perhaps Tabitha had told him so. "Did you...were you still going to get some roast chestnuts?"
She grinned. "Probably." She couldn't exactly fish out the stolen purse, to see how much she'd made, so she fished out her own to count quickly the bits and half-bits she had in it. Even if the purse she'd picked was empty she could afford it well enough...
"I'll come with you, I have been wanting some since I got to the market." What Bart left unsaid was the fact that he doubted Celia would have approved of eating food prepared by unwashed commoners that you had to use your fingers for. He led the way back through the crowd towards the chestnut seller. "Actually, do you mind if I..." He stopped again at the book seller's stand, and retrieved the copy of Ivanhoe. Then extracted some coin with which to pay the vendor. He felt much more satisfied now that he'd gone ahead and bought it.
Jessamyn hadn't been planning to head directly there, but wasn't about to say as much to Mr. Endicott when he seemed so excited about the idea as well. Although obviously he wasn't in much of a rush as he stopped off at the used bookseller. Not the sort of market stand you'd find closer to the waterfront - this was clearly designed to attract Bluers. "A good book?" She asked when he picked up the bound tome.
"I enjoyed it as a child. It is a historical novel, with medieval knights in armour, the Crusades, and trial by combat...and it's also a love story." He confessed, showing her the title which was Ivanhoe; a romance. "II often wished the outcome of the book were different, though."
She tilted her head slightly in inquiry, "Oh? Does he not get the girl in the end?"
"He weds the lady he desired. But does not realise there is another who perhaps is more deserving. It is complicated though, as they are from two very different worlds." He tucked the book under his arm and measured his pace so that she need not hurry to keep up with him.
"So you think he ought to have chosen the girl he had less in common with?" She asked curiously. It was an odd statement from a Bluer.
"It would not have been wise, perhaps. And yet...yes, that is how I felt." Bart admitted. "I read it mostly for the adventure, the historical detail, the battles and so on, of course, but one cannot help but feel for the Jewess Rebecca and her situation."
Jessamyn grinned, "You really are a reformer type aren't you?" She'd done some research on him since the pamphlets came out - it had been hard not to hear talk."
"I didn't know I was a type of anything." He admitted, giving her a wry look. "You've called me a Bluer before, but to me I am just Bart Endicott."
"I wonder if you can't all those things, Mr. Endicott."
"We are all the sum of our parts." He agreed, giving her a look which meant she was included in that assessment. "No one thing should define us."
She grinned and didn't disagree. Particularly since he already knew she had many guises. "Probably not."
They reached the seller, and Bart held out payment, purchasing a bag for Jessamyn too. "Allow me." He murmured, though it was largely a moot point since he'd already handed over the coin.
"Thank you." She murmured, amused that he'd taken it upon himself to purchase for her. But she wasn't about to argue with him. She immediately dipped her hand into the small bag to extract a nut, popping it into her mouth and trying not to make too obvious how much she enjoyed the warm sweetness.
He stood next to her, companionably, popping a few into his mouth as well, and not caring if people thought it was a little uncouth for a man of his station to be enjoying such common fare. "They are good, are they not?"
She grinned and nodded her response. "I haven't had any in a while." She admitted. It wasn't the sort of expense she could justify that often. "But you made them sound so appealing today."
"Did I? Well, I suppose my powers of persuasion have improved as of late. Though, really, I was simply telling the truth. I like chestnuts, and they are good here." Bart replied with an answering smile.
"Well it is easy to persuade people when the idea is good." She pointed out, not wanting him to think he had too much influence.
"So, in fact, you just wanted some too, and went along with my idea because it was agreeable." That certainly was far more plausible than the fact that he might have swayed her opinion on his own. He didn't mind that though, and was more amused than affronted by her qualified remark.
"I want lots of things I don't always go along with." She pointed out with a nut before popping it into her mouth.
Bart turned to look more directly at her, reading something in her tone that made him want to see her expression. "As do I." He admitted. "One ought to be sure, at times, that what one *wants* is really what one should have." He turned away again, thinking that what he'd said just now was probably the most idiotic thing he'd said all day.
Jessamyn nodded, adding, "An' just 'cause you want it don't mean you can have it either."
"True. Sometimes it is better not to want." He mused, though the latter part was a little more quietly, as if to himself.
Jessamyn shook her head at that, "Nothing wrong with wanting. Just so long as you know you can't always get what you want. Then you won't be so disappointed. But it doesn't mean you can't want it."
"I'd rather not, I think." Bart's expression grew more brooding, and withdrawn. He continued to eat the chestnuts, but was no longer enjoying them quite as much as before. "I should go. Celia is waiting for me. I am being an ill-mannered cad in leaving her to her own devices."
"Yes probably." Jessamyn agreed, though her tone and expression indicated it didn't particularly bother her whether he was or not. "Enjoy your poetry."
"Enjoy the rest of your day too, Miss Watts." He nodded to her politely and began to move off again, heading in the direction of the cafe he was meant to be going to. Perhaps there was nothing wrong in wanting something he could not have, but there was nothing good in it, either.
Jessamyn watched him walk away a moment, and then she allowed herself to be swept back up into the crowd so that she could go back to work.