A happening documented in early September in the year 1883, at a local boarding house and Linden Park, involving the sensible Mr. Bartholomew Endicott and the grown up Miss Adelaide Montgomery.
Bart wasn't sure if he should take a seat or remain standing in the parlour while he waited for Adelaide to come down and meet him in the boarding house she was staying at. Would it be too presumptuous to sit without being bid to do so? They were, after all, meant to be departing for the concert. He settled for inspecting the printed landscapes which graced the walls, trying to look as though they had piqued his interest. Other women were casting him curious glances at his presence, while they moved in and out of the room.
Thankfully for his blood pressure, Adelaide appeared within the next five minutes. She came down the stairs with quiet steps, carefully lifting her skirts as she walked. She had taken time on her appearance for the occassion. Her red-gold hair was piled atop her head neatly and she wore a simple but pretty frock in pale blue. "Bartholomew?" she called softly to announce her presence.
Bart spun around at the sound of his name being called, and smiled in relief at finding Adelaide standing before him. He gave her a formal bow, which was softened by the admiring glint in his eye as he took in her appearance. "You look ravishing, Adelaide." Then he remembered the book tucked under his arm, and awkwardly produced it. "I brought you something...which I thought you might like to read to your class. It's Ivanhoe, a second edition copy."
She flushed as she accepted the book carefully and her cheeks only pinked more as she properly took in the fine condition of it. "Oh, Bart," she murmured, lapsing into the more familiar nickname. "You shouldn't have. It's lovely."
There are many things that I shouldn't have done. But this is not one of them." He countered, giving her a pleased smile at her reaction. "I hope that your charges will enjoy the story as much as we did when we were younger."
Addie shifted the book to one hand and reached out with the other to touch his fingers briefly. The gesture was affectionate and a bit shy. "Thank you. I'll treasure it and make sure not a single one of them dog ears a page."
Bart was surprised by the gesture, as it was so unexpected, but he didn't flinch back from it. It was nice, in fact, to feel Adelaide's affection again. It had been so long. "Books are meant to be read. What are a few dog ears compared to expanding one's knowledge and imagination?"
She laughed. "Little boys are not as well behaved today as you were, Bartholomew."
"Should I have bought two copies?" He teased, "one for the girls and one for the boys?"
She schooled her face to blandness. "The girls are worse," she dead-panned.
"Things haven't changed all that much then have they." Bart shot back, enjoying the comfortable banter. "I recall you were dreadful about the books I loaned you."
"Are you sure that was me?" she returned and she tilted her head to offer him a sweet smile. "I think it might have been Alex. Sometimes I would send them home via his hands."
"Ah. That would explain it." He affected a long suffering sigh. "He never did respect other people's personal property."
Addie hid her faint smile at that by turning back towards the stairs. "Would you mind if I put this away before we leave? We're not running late, are we?"
"Not at all. I thought it best to present it to you now so you would not be forced to carry it all afternoon." Then he checked himself. "Though, of course, I would have carried it for you, if need had arisen."
"As you are a gentleman." She looked over her shoulder to smile at him. "I'll be back in a moment." With that, she practically skipped up the stairs in double-time.
Bart went back to gazing at art until she returned. Then he offered his arm to her. "Since it's turned out to be such a fine day, and the park is not far from here, I thought we might walk rather than take a carriage. Is that alright?"
"It's more than alright." Neatly, she slipped her arm through his and smiled for him. "I still enjoy the sunshine rather too much for my own good." She held up a parasol, clearly retrieved on her last trip, and sighed. "But I have this."
"You know, I am immensely relieved to hear you say that." He replied as he led her out of the boarding house and onto the sidewalk. "I was out with Celia Warthington the other day, and all she did was complain about the sunshine. It was quite...offputting."
"I'm surprised it was only the sunshine." Addie immediately flushed with shame. "I'm sorry. That was ill-mannered of me. It's simply that... Celia and I have not gotten along for a number of years now. Not since... Well."
"No. Please. You need not censor you thoughts with me. That one outing was enough to convince me never to go near the woman again." He reassured her.
She looked at him out the corner of her eye. "Did it?" she asked. "I know it's wretched of me to say but... Good."
Bart could not help but chuckle and pat the hand which was on his arm. "The truth is out. But god bless her, she did try to impress me with her knowledge of Shakespeare's Bonnets. I for one think that sunshine should be enjoyed. And that freckles are most becoming on a lady."
Addie made a disbelieving noise even as her hand half-lifted to cover her own freckle-dotted cheeks before the weight of the parasol reminded her and she dropped her hand once more "You're teasing me," she accused.
"I've always thought so." He told her honestly, smiling at her embarrassment. It was rather endearing. "Tabitha used to say it was lucky."
"Why would she say that?"
"She said freckles were like tiny coins of love from god above. It meant you would find great fortune in life." Bart's expression grew pensive, regret showing on his face for having had to let his former nanny and housekeeper go.
Addie tucked her parasol beneath her arm and reached over to rest her newly-freed hand on his forearm. Slowing their pace a bit so she could look up into his face better, she smiled gently. "Bart," she murmured, "nothing is carved in stone or freckles."
"Oh, I am well aware of that, Addie." He replied, turning to look her full in the face. "But I am determined to return to what we once had. I miss it. I am sorry, but I do. I realise that it cannot return to everything that we had before, but this..." He covered her hand with her own. "I am going to be quite selfish and not settle for less."
Addie swallowed, licked her lips, and smiled. "Yes, well, you've always been a determined man. If you'll accept my help... Well, I hope we can spend time together again."
"What help do you speak of, Adelaide?" Bart was a little perplexed by her choice of words, though he was reassured by her response.
She looked ahead, mouth skewed to the side and a new blush touching her cheeks. "I'm not sure. It just feels as if there must be something I can do. The pamphlets or listening to you or talking... I did miss you."
Bart stopped in his tracks, his attention fully turned upon her. He grabbed at her hand, careless of who saw the act. "As if I would turn you away. I regret so much. But I have learned the value of afffection. Of kindness. And of compassion. I am grateful that you still count me as friend."
Eyes wide, Addie allowed him to take her hand, holding her fast. Her blush was almost scarlet now but she smiled. "Bart..." She suddenly giggled. "You really are different."
It was his turn to colour slightly and he shook his head. "I'm...am I? I suppose that life has changed me. None of us are standing still, are we?"
Addie shook her head. "Even if it seems like we should be, I suppose. We change without knowing it."
"And sometimes for the better...I hope?" His expression was far from certain of her response.
"I think so. I hope so." She squeezed his hand even though she kept her distance in an attempt to maintain a smidgen of propriety. "Don't you think so?"
"I know that you have grown even more lovely than you were back then." It was the truth, even if he felt a little silly stating the obvious. "But in other ways, I am reassured that you are still the same steadfast and determined woman that I once knew." He squeezed her hand in return and then disengaged himself. Clasping her hand any longer would surely send the gossip mongers in their social circle a twittering. "However, there is something to be said for discovering a friend anew, finding the differences and embracing them."
Addie giggled and reached up to readjust a piece of hair behind her ear. "I suppose you're right," she agreed. "There's definitely something to be said about rediscovery. Between you and Alex..." She looked ahead and smiled to herself. "I didn't realize how much I missed the way it used to be with us."
"I know exactly what you mean." He reassured her, as they began to stroll down the lane again. "Though I doubt we shall be able to get up to all the kinds of mischief that we used to. Clambering over fences to steal fruit is generally frowned up once one grows up."
"I assure you... I have not climbed a tree in at least three years." She offered him a suddenly mischievous sideways smile that lit up her heart-shaped face. "Though I did throw a crab apple only a week ago. I'm sorry."
"How positively scandalous of you." Bart exclaimed with mock horror, playing the part of the disapproving friend. "I am not sure I should associate with apple assailants. It might do my reputation as corrupt baby-eater some damage."
She laughed. "Find yourself a good defense, Bart," she advised as she set her hand back on his forearm as they walked. "I find teaching mischievous boys an excellent one. I was demonstrating why one does not throw things... The teacher can usually throw harder."
"This is why I need you." Bart pointed out, his mouth turning upwards into a genuine smile at her laughter and her advice. "My public image needs some schooling."
"You want me to teach you the art of crab apple throwing?" she asked innocently.
"One never knows when that may come in handy." Bart pronounced with a solemn air.
She sighed but the smile remained. "You always were the sensible one, Bart."
"What if I no longer wish to be?" He mused, only half jokingly. The band rotunda was within their sights, but he found himself not yet wanting to arrive at their destination.
"Well..." She paused, considering the question with a strange kind of weight. "I think," she finally answered, showing no rush either to join the crowd, "that it's possible to be sensible and be other things as well."
"I hadn't thought if it that way. Why should a person only be one thing and not another? Must everything be black and white and without colour?" The expectations of his peers, his family, and of himself had often left Bart feeling stifled and yet was there not room to be more than just the sum of those expectations? "Human beings are often contradictory in nature, after all. I'd like to think I am a complex creature, and not easily defined by a sprinkling of adjectives. Don't you?"
"If I thought about it, I'm sure I would agree." She smiled reassuringly. "Bart, you've always been more than just sensible. I think you can trust me on that, can't you?"
He looked down at Adelaide, at her smiling face...how could he disagree with her, even if sometimes he doubted it himself? He wanted to believe that he wasn't an intractable dullard, set in his ways. "I trust you to be honest with me, Adelaide. And therefore I shall, with some relief, accept your assessment as accurate."
"Excellent." Her fingers patted his forearm a bit, teasing. "He can be taught."
"Who on earth are you addressing?" Bart retorted with amusement, rather pleased with the ease at which she was touching him. It didn't feel as awkward as he'd remembered it. "The heavens?"
"The heavens know as well as I do." She turned her face enough to give him a sweetly innocent smile. "I want to thank you again for inviting me out for this concert."
"I wished to repay you for your kind support and make up for the boorish way that I behaved when we..." He hesitated, having no desire to turn the conversation maudlin. "...last parted ways. But most importantly, it was because I wanted to see you again and spend time catching up with a dear and valued friend."
At his words, she flushed a bit and dropped her eyes to study the ground in front of them. Her eyelashes made shadows on her cheeks. Her hand did not leave him,though, so it was clearly not annoyance or anything negative in reaction to his words. "I want that as well," she murmured. "I still regret the parting even if it was... Wise." She lifted her gaze then and met his own. Her smile was crooked, dimples showing. "But necessary doesn't always mean pleasant and I never stopped thinking fondly of you. I'm glad that we can talk again."
"As am I." Bart assured her, returning her smile, though perhaps was a little more wistful. He had not wanted Addie to end their engagement. Had it been wise? She obviously thought so, but for him, there was much regret that he'd not been able to please her. "One cannot change or rewrite the past. But one can learn from it and build a better future."
Whatever wistfulness prompted the words, his reward was an even more brilliant smile and a squeeze of his hands. She seemed at a loss for words and so, moving to better hold his arm, she nodded towards the bandshell. "I... I think we better take our seats, Bart," she murmured.
Had he made her uncomfortable with his words? Her reaction had actually been quite favourable. But he didn't presume to know a woman's mind. "Of course." He took charge and lead them to a pair of unoccupied seats. Since the concert would soon begin, they would have to continue their conversation afterwards.
Taking her seat with careful grace, Addie offered Bart one last smile before releasing his arm. Then she folded her hands in her lap, parasol leaned against one knee, and waited for him to sit. A moment passed and slowly she leaned a bit towards him. "If I forget to mention it afterwards," she whispered, "thank you for the lovely time." Then, composing her face into pure attentiveness, she faced the stage and resolved herself to listening.
The Portland Philharmonic string quartet were in very fine form, and the next hour passed very pleasantly. Once it was all over, Bart helped her up from her seat again. "We were very fortunate that the weather held so beautifully. Did you enjoy the pieces that they performed? I have only seen them once before, but I feel that the outdoor venue greatly enhanced the themes of Vivaldi's concerto."
She nodded, hazel eyes shining. "I've always thought such things sound best under the open sky. That was perfectly lovely, Bart. Thank you so much."
Bart held out his arm and as they strolled back the way they'd come, he tilted his head to the side. "I confess that I have a meeting I must attend later this afternoon, otherwise I would suggest we find some refreshment." His admission was tinged with regret. "Perhaps some other time I can do more than simply walk you home again after a pleasant outing."
"Oh, yes." She absently adjusted her grip on her parasol as she accepted his gallantry. "I would like that." She smiled at him sideways before affecting a slow sigh. "Now, of course, business calls and you are a man of your word," she teased solemnly. "I think, when next we arrange to meet, I should take your word that it will include lemonade."
Bart found himself chuckling softly. "I shall endeavour to procure lemonade for is both the next time we are able to spend time together then. It certainly is a perfect beverage for an outdoor setting, is it not? And reminds me of those yard sales we used to have, trying to get the poor unsuspecting neighbors to buy our 'treasures'."
She laughed. "Don't speak of our precious golden childhoods so disparagingly, Mr. Endicott. I happen to still have the carved branch Alex gave me and the round river stone from you." As if realizing how childish and unpolished her words sounded in retrospect, Addie's cheeks colored.
"You do?" There was unguarded surprise in that, which was all the more compounded by Adelaide's blush. Perhaps it would ease her embarrassment to know that he too had a keepsake from that time. "I still have that ratty square of embroidery you attempted but never completely finished. Of the dog. Or was it a cat? I confess that can't quite tell."
After a quick glance around to insure their safety, she stuck her tongue out. "It was a pony."
"Ah. I see. Yes. of course." He tried to keep a straight face as he contemplated just how badly he'd interpreted the picture. "In any case, I have it with my other valuables in my study. A reminder of a simpler time."
"When is your birthday again? Perhaps I can find you a suitable frame."
"It's December 12th." He smiled down at her. A frame would certainly help preserve the memento. Then as they were passing the gardens on the way back to Adelaide's boarding house, he spied a lemon tree growing close to the street. He stopped to lean past the waist high fence, and pick a sprig of the fragrant blossoms for her. "Will these tide you over till next time we meet? Apparently the greeks used them to flavor candies and cakes, or used them in scented water, much as we do rosehips."
"Oh." She fumbled for a moment, having to remove her hand from his arm in order to accept the gift, but she continued to smile, slightly flushed with pleasure. "Well, then. Far be it from me to dishonor the Greeks." Abruptly, she handed him her parasol. "If you please?" Then she set about tucking the delicate blossom into her shining hair. The white and blush showed bravely against the red-gold there, nestled just above her ear. "Does it meet specification?" she asked lightly, nearly posing with her head Just So.
"Aren't you going to nibble on it?" He teased, but then nodded appreciatively. "Not that you ever need any aid with your appearance, Adelaide." Which was the truth, in his opinion. She did look rather fetching though, with the tiny blooms tucked in her hair, and more carefree than he had seen her for some time.
"I'm saving it for an apperitif," she returned. "Mustn't spoil my dinner."
"Very sensible." Bart murmured agreeably, echoing her earlier words.
"I do try. I'm an adult now." She reached out to take the parasol from him, chin tucked under a bit to hide any change in expression.
Bart nodded with understanding, offering his arm again. "We can look back fondly at our yesteryears, but in the end, must march onwards with renewed determination."
"I suppose you're right." She slid her arm through his. "We all have tomorrow yet. Do you know if Alex will be staying in New Haven for any period of time or will it be you and I again, settled and responsible?"
Bart tensed slightly, not having expected a question about his brother's plans. He waited until they'd resumed their stroll before replying. "Alex has not revealed his future plans to me. On the one hand, he has moved into his old room and settled in back at the house rather well. However, his interest in resuming responsibilities with the business leave somewhat to be desired. I...I have no idea what drives him to remain here in New Haven, and thus cannot offer you any assurance that he will not leave again, should his interests lead elsewhere."
Addie dropped her head, feeling a sinking and twisting low in her stomach at Bart's tone and words. Her hand closed unconciously on his forearm - soothing, apologetic, affectionate, confused. "I... I see," she whispered. "I wasn't looking for any assurances. You're not your brother's keeper, Bart, and... Well, yes."
"No, but you are right to wonder." He offered, not wishing to unsettle her, or make her feel as though she were prying. " I have been putting off asking what his intentions are, and that was remiss of me. I should just confront him about it, and clear the air." His words sounded more confident than he actually felt.
She greeted this with silence and then she squeezed his arm against her side before turning to look up at him, face solemn. "I don't think you need to confront him, per se," she advised quietly. "There's no harm in asking, though. You have your own things to worry about."
"My words were ill-chosen." He replied, trying (and failing) to force a lightness to his tone again. "Alex has always been honest with me, and I presume he will tell me what is on his mind and in his heart should I be direct with him. But a part of me is reticent to hear those revelations. For fear that they are not what I would wish for." He shook his head, then patted at her hand on his arm, but it was just as much to comfort himself as he did so. "Not that I am under any illusions that he is here because he desires to rebuild what time and distance has dismantled." That his brother might have missed him enough to make up for having left in the first place.
She bit her lip and their walk continued in silence for a few more moments. Then, quite suddenly, she took command of his arm and drew him to the side of the path, trees shading them. She went to take both of his hands, hesitated, and made a strange air-patting motion instead before she sighed and took one of his hands in both of hers. "I'm sorry," she finally whispered. "I should never have pried. In fact, if it was that important, I should have asked him."
Bart was a little perplexed by Adelaide's actions, knowing that pausing by the cover of some trees and holding hands could be seen as courtship by members of their society. But he trusted that she merely wished to talk more privately about something which was sensitive to them both. He nodded after processing what she'd implied by her remark. "Alex did tell me that you had spent some time together catching up. Which I am immensely pleased about, by the way." He made an effort to smile wanly. "We're both of us too afraid to lose him again by pushing too hard and making him bolt for the gate, aren't we?" It was more an observation than a question.
She smiled ruefully. "I should say so." She released his hands and wrapped both of her own around the parasol she carried. The scene was broken slightly but it still could be misinterpreted; at least they were no longer touching. "I'm an utter goose," she admitted. "I still cannot accept that having you both back is not some strange dream."
"I feel the same way. If you are a goose then I am a right gander." Bart confessed wryly. "I also find that it is rather serendipitous that not only did my brother come back unexpectedly, but I am fortunate to have regained your friendship again."
"Then... Perhaps we shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth and just embrace the chance?"
"Perhaps it would be wisest." Bart agreed, then taking a deep breath to steady his composure, he gestured for her to go before him and step back onto the street proper. The boarding house was now only a couple of gates away.
She obliged but waited at the road for him. Then she waited until he offered his arm once more and slipped hers through. "Thank you," she said simply. "For all of it."
He offered her another smile, one that was far less strained than before. "It would seem that for now, you are stuck with both of us Endicott brothers, Miss Montgomery." Once again he wished that he did not have to cut their meeting short, but her door was fast approaching.
"I can't think of a fate more lovely," she returned and, by her voice, he could tell that she meant it. She looked ahead to her door and sighed softly. "I suppose this is the end of my time with you for the day, however. You have your business engagement."
"I do." He confirmed, stifling a resigned sigh of his own. "You kept thanking me for asking you out, but I am the one who should be grateful for second chances. Thank *you* Adelaide. Till we meet again..." He pondered whether to kiss or shake her hand (or cheek) and then, almost flushing, settled on bowing respectfully and tipping his hat. "...Farewell."
She smiled sweetly and dipped into a small curtsy. "Farewell, Bartholomew. We shall meet again over lemonade."
He departed, feeling rather buoyed by their discussion. As though part of that which had been bearing down on him was lifted for the moment. Such was the power of a certain Miss Adelaide Montgomery.