Here’s the next chapter of Miss Darcy’s Parisian Pin, the sequel to Mrs Darcy’s Diamonds – if you missed the first three episodes click for one, two and three here. It’s a complete tale in itself so you don’t need to have read Mrs Darcy’s Diamonds if you missed it. I hope you enjoy it!
Elizabeth and Georgiana spent their first few days in Bath getting to know their surroundings, and spent some time shopping and having dressmakers come to visit them. They all avoided the public rooms and spaces at first, spending their days and evenings with walks into the countryside and along the river or playing cards and delighting in their own company. But, they knew their felicitous solitude could not last forever and when Mr Darcy received a letter from Colonel Fitzwilliam telling him of his arrival in Bath, they knew more effort to go out into society would have to be made. It was decided they should meet to take the waters at the Pump Rooms, where also they would accomplish signing the arrivals book, and make themselves known to the general populace.
As she entered the rooms Georgiana was surprised and delighted to find a sense of returning excitement and pleasure about an event she’d felt quite uncertain about. It was impossible not to feel a certain delight in such beautiful surroundings. Every eye turned upon the party of three who, with their natural air of distinction and exceptional good looks, aroused the natural curiosity of the fashionable Bath gathering. Georgiana scanned the room in hopes of seeing a familiar face, knowing she was under scrutiny and although she was certainly getting used to people staring at her more than ever before, she could not say she enjoyed their attention. She saw a sea of faces observing her, ladies resplendent in summer fashions, white dresses, brightly coloured shawls, with profusely decorated bonnets, and the gentlemen richly dressed.
But there was Colonel Fitzwilliam at last, making his way through the throng. ‘Darcy, what a pleasure to see you again,’ said the colonel, ‘though I can’t quite believe it’s really you having expressed an earnest desire to spend the season in London.’
‘I couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing your roguish face for so long,’ said Darcy, clapping his cousin on the back. ‘Besides, I like to have a change of scene now and again. It’s good to see you.’
‘Mrs Darcy, Miss Georgiana,’ saluted the colonel, turning to them with a bow, ‘Bath is truly blessed by your arrival. I hope you know from this moment forthwith you will not know a moment’s peace. But the blessing of it will be that after a few weeks when you’ve tired of Bath and its society you will be able to retire to that wonderful Derbyshire air.’
‘Oh dear, you make it sound very challenging, Colonel Fitzwilliam,’ said Elizabeth, allowing him to take her hand and bestow a kiss.
‘Dear lady, Bath is as demanding as an old dowager. Do not be fooled by her congenial smiles and convivial company, there is not a body here who won’t be glad to leave her and her petulant ways when the time comes.’
Elizabeth laughed. ‘And there I was thinking her as elegant and winning as a pretty maid. I have never had the pleasure of being here before, and I must say what I have seen so far has been quite wonderful. The walks and views, as well as the design of the town is so pleasing to the eye.’
‘I am glad you are such a novice to the place, madam, and I do not mean to sound such an old and disapproving spoiler of fun. No doubt, you who only see the best in all things will find a different side of life in the spa town.’
‘I fear you flatter me with a character that I do not recognise in myself, colonel. I think you are remembering my sister Jane, and as much as I’ve strived to be of a similar disposition, it has ever eluded me. I daresay Bath and I will get along together amicably, and I hope to make acquaintance with many sides of this fascinating city.’
‘And now for your initiation,’ said the colonel with a gleam of amusement in his eye. ‘Allow me to fetch your water, and if that doesn’t give you food for thought, I do not know what will.’
The colonel dashed away to the pumper’s fountain, and the Darcys followed behind. There was quite a queue forming, though a fairly untidy one. The impression Georgiana had was of birds gathering around the nut table, all chirruping and trilling at once in anticipation. They were just starting to make progress when she saw their neighbour just a little way in front with the two ladies of the house. She was about to point him out to her brother when Mr Audley turned and caught Darcy’s eye. There was a momentary look of query before recognition made his features come to life.
‘Darcy, can that really be you, my old friend?’ His grey eyes twinkled with merriment, and genuine pleasure. Georgiana found herself smiling, her brother and his friend looked so pleased to see one another. Mr Audley was as tall and as broad as her brother, though as fair as Fitzwilliam was dark.
‘James Audley – it is indeed, sir. How wonderful to see you again after all these years. I trust you are well?’
‘Very well, never better, though we are here to improve my sister’s health after she became ill during a recent trip to London. Please allow me to present my sister Miss Margaretta Audley and our friend Mademoiselle Emmeline Dufort who is staying with us at present.’
So the young lady was not his wife after all, thought Georgiana. Margaretta was rather frail-looking and pale, but a very pretty young woman, about the same age. Auburn-haired, she possessed green eyes fringed with thick lashes, and both the white dress and the coral necklace at her throat made such a contrast to her skin and eyes she appeared other-worldly. Her friend was dark-haired and petite, and though handsomely dressed did not appear to be as fashionable as her friends.
‘I am glad to make your acquaintance, Miss Audley,’ said Darcy, ‘though I am sorry to hear you’ve been unwell. I hope your recovery continues so you may enjoy good health once more.’
Darcy introduced Elizabeth and Georgiana next and soon Darcy and Audley were swapping old tales. It was clear they’d enjoyed a genuine friendship in the past, and though Georgiana had never met him before she felt he must be a good person if her brother liked him so much.
‘Oh dear, Mrs Darcy, Miss Georgiana,’ said Mr Audley, ‘you must forgive me for indulging in such reminiscences that can only be tedious to your ears, but some of the happiest years of my life were spent in the company of this fine gentleman. I have often wondered if we should ever meet again, and to find him here and in such fine company is a rare treat indeed.’
Georgiana felt his eyes upon her face, his mouth curving into a generous smile, and she readily returned it. His manners were so gentle, and she felt quite at ease. He turned to Elizabeth, and Georgiana heard her telling him how pleasing it was to meet her husband’s friends. She observed his sister who stood next to her friend looking rather nervous, and for once, Georgiana took the lead.
‘I am sorry to hear you’ve been unwell, Miss Audley,’ said Georgiana, venturing to make conversation. For once she felt equal to the task, her new acquaintance looked even more timid than she.
Margaretta’s face was brightened by a smile, and her cheeks flushed pink. ‘It is the London air, I fear, Miss Darcy. I do not think it agrees with me.’
‘I fully comprehend you, Miss Audley,’ Georgiana answered. ‘I do not think it has ever fully agreed with me, and having spent some considerable time living in the capital, I find it is fresh country air far away from London that suits me best every time.’
‘We are of like minds, Miss Darcy, and though I have never been to Bath before I am happy to see it combines the best of both worlds. I have been taking the waters daily, though I have to say that is one of the trials of my stay here.’
‘You are not enjoying the water, Miss Audley?’
Miss Audley and Mademoiselle Dufort exchanged smiles.
‘Miss Darcy, I can only comprehend that this is your first visit to the Pump Rooms, and that you have yet to sample what we are told is good for us,’ said Mademoiselle Dufort. ‘I am certain such punishment was invented by a gentleman eager to have a laugh at our expense. I imagine he is an old Bath apothecary with a grudge against the visitors who flock here, and I daresay he sits on a rout chair in the corner laughing up his sleeve at all the people here pretending how much they are enjoying every ghastly sip.’
Georgiana laughed. ‘And I am yet to taste it, but am so glad to be forewarned. I wondered what my cousin meant about being initiated … I shall now be well prepared!’
‘We are attending the Assembly Rooms this evening, Miss Darcy,’ continued Miss Audley, ‘I do hope we shall see you there.’
Suddenly Georgiana thought she should not mind going to a ball if these young ladies were to be present. ‘I know of no plans to attend, but I will ask my brother. I am sure he and Mrs Darcy would love to attend a ball in Bath.’
‘My brother James is keen to get me out into society, Miss Darcy, and though I do not feel quite ready to resume dancing it would be a pleasure to see you and my friend here enjoying themselves.’
‘Perhaps when we discover there are some fine inducements to dance, we shall change your mind,’ interrupted Mademoiselle Dufort. ‘There are some handsome fellows in Bath, are there not? Please forgive my boldness, Miss Darcy, but I have not the reserve of English ladies when it comes to expressing a preference. English gentleman are quite as diverting as French ones, I find, and I am looking forward to taking a turn in the upper rooms.’
Mr Darcy turned to them all at that moment as Colonel Fitzwilliam returned with a tray of cups.
‘Ah, Colonel, I hope you’ll be joining us for a ball this evening. I know how much you enjoy a dance, and I’m sure you remember James Audley who is inviting us to attend with him.’
The colonel was just as surprised and delighted to see their old friend and as he presented the water with a flourish to those brave enough to try it, they continued talking of the old days with many happy memories. Georgiana watched the animated company, and was delighted to hear they would all be meeting again. Even when it was proved that the spa water was quite as unpleasant as it had been described, she managed to drink it with relish. She was having such a lovely time, and with entertaining, new acquaintances she decided Bath might be fun after all!