Here’s the next chapter of Miss Darcy’s Parisian Pin, the sequel to Mrs Darcy’s Diamonds – if you missed the first two episodes you can find one here and two 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!
The Darcys arrived at Bath within the fortnight, and the lengthy journey with stopovers at inns along the way was soon forgotten as they sped through the cobbled streets to their destination. There were audible sighs of admiration from Elizabeth and Georgiana as they slowed to a trot along the crescent, the perfect curve of mellow stone townhouses commanding the best views over Bath.
Mrs Reynolds, who’d been despatched the week before to ready the house greeted them at the door, as if they’d been parted for months.
‘How d’you like Bath, Mrs Reynolds?’ Darcy asked as he escorted the ladies inside.
‘I like the house well enough, sir, though the rooms are not as large of course, but it’s very elegant, and I’ve tried to make sure you’ll be comfortable.’
‘I am sure you have, dear lady, as only you could,’ Mr Darcy responded fondly to the housekeeper. ‘I hope you’ve managed to find your way about town, and that the tradespeople are attending you.’
‘Oh yes, sir, though I’ve a mind to say the price of food is shockingly expensive compared to that in Lambton, but I daresay it makes a difference to be in town. At least there should be a saving on what would have been spent in London.’
‘Aye, true enough! Yes, that’s a fact I hadn’t considered, but living well and spending less always sounds like good sense to me.’
‘I’ll serve tea right away, and then we shall see you to your rooms.’ Mrs Reynolds led the way to the first floor showing them into the drawing room before bustling away down the servant’s staircase to give her orders.
It was a very handsome room furnished in a fashionable style. Three floor-length windows gave the most wonderful views across the Crescent fields and the southerly prospect of Bath. The walls were lined in shimmering damask silk matching the green chartreuse of the carpet designed in classical style, and picked out in coral motifs. Two striped sofas, and several winged chairs were placed about the room, and the party settled themselves by the marble mantelpiece where a fire was flickering to take off the early morning chill. Georgiana thought what a pretty room it was, and sat admiring the crystal chandelier and the gilded girandoles, the silk curtains ruched and festooned at the windows, instantly feeling at home. The doors dividing the room from another beyond were open and led the eye to another vista at the opposite end through long French windows. Light flooded the space, and a cornflower sky heralded another glorious day.
‘We shall have to make our entrée at the Pump Rooms,’ said Mr Darcy standing before one of the long windows looking out onto the crescent, ‘though I have a mind to put it off immediately. It would be rather pleasant to enjoy a little of Bath without all of its society clamouring for our attention. I expect you’d like to do a little shopping first, and have the services of a fashionably French modiste.’
‘Yes, it would be delightful to have some time to ourselves, and I’m sure we must acquaint ourselves with the local warehouses,’ said Elizabeth, ‘though we are not the kind of females who are content with merely shopping for fripperies.’
‘No, indeed,’ Georgiana agreed. ‘Elizabeth and I mean to go exploring – there are many delightful walks in Bath, I have heard, and to get some air in Sydney Gardens’ celebrated grounds is a treat I should enjoy by ourselves.’
‘I do not suppose we shall have that luxury for a minute,’ Darcy replied, ‘though we may yet manage a walk round the gardens. I’m relieved to think there are at least two people who will not be demanding to see us. My Aunt Catherine and Anne are in London, I understand, and therefore, we can relax knowing they are otherwise engaged.’
‘I must say I am relieved to hear it,’ agreed Lizzy, ‘I do not suppose we will know many of Bath’s residents. It will be pleasant to enjoy a small society.’
‘Colonel Fitzwilliam often comes at this time of year,’ said Darcy. ‘He prefers the Somersetshire air, he says, and he often has a party of friends with him. I shall make enquiries – he’s a rather tardy letter writer, and I’ve no knowing where he is at present.’
‘I think most gentlemen do not enjoy the art of writing letters though I will allow you as an exception to this rule,’ Elizabeth said, with a wink at her sister.
Darcy, who a moment ago had been completely attentive, was now seen pacing up and down before the windows craning his head as if trying to see something more clearly. ‘Good God,’ he declared, ‘I’m blessed if that isn’t my old friend, James Audley walking along the crescent. He’s a very pretty lady on his arm, but I don’t recall hearing of him ever being married. Well, I never, it’s a few years since our paths have crossed – I knew him at Cambridge.’
Elizabeth and Georgiana rushed to the windows to take a look, but could now only see the back of the elegant pair who strolled down the wide pavement.
‘A lot can happen in a few years. What a pity we didn’t see them,’ Elizabeth said, ‘they look very fine from here.’
‘Oh, yes, my dear, and if that is his wife, she’s a truly fortunate young woman. James Audley is a very rich young gentleman … I believe he was to inherit from his uncle who had a vast estate in Kent. He was always a good friend, I should enjoy seeing him again.’
‘Oh, and look,’ Georgiana cried as she watched the progress of the two young people, ‘they are turning into a house further along. Perhaps they are neighbours.’
‘Well, I daresay we shall meet with them sooner or later,’ said Darcy. ‘Bath is not such a big place that we’ll be able to avoid them, and I shall be very glad to bump into them at any time, I must say.’
‘I look forward to that pleasure, Fitzwilliam,’ answered his wife, ‘I’m sure any friend of yours will add to our pleasure in the resort.’
Georgiana was delighted with her bedchamber with its pretty furnishings in white and gold, her four-poster bed hung with sprigged chintz, and a dressing table draped in muslin and lace. From the window she knew she’d enjoy watching the comings and goings of everyone visiting the crescent, as she watched a very grand carriage rumble over the cobblestones to its destination. It stopped outside the house where Darcy’s friend was staying, and Georgiana couldn’t help wondering who might be stepping out from such a splendid coach. A very handsome young lady, expensively dressed, held her hand out to a liveried servant who emerged from the house, and a moment later the elegant couple she’d seen earlier joined the young woman, rushing to welcome her. Though Georgiana knew it was rude to stare, she couldn’t help herself. The gentleman was markedly good-looking, as was his wife who Georgiana decided was quite a few years younger. There was a little puzzle to the scenario, as their visitor seemed only to be fully acquainted with the young lady, and they fell upon one another like dear friends to hug and kiss one another before any other introductions took place. They all looked so delightful in their fine clothes and their manners appeared so warm that Georgiana thought she would not mind an introduction. She knew so few young people of her own age, and had never had the chance to make any real female acquaintances. Elizabeth’s coming to Pemberley had been the making of her, and after meeting Antoine and Louise, Georgiana didn’t feel so frightened about making new friends quite so much. It was a kind of adventure coming to Bath, and if she couldn’t enjoy it with the one person she would love to see, she was determined to try and make the most of a holiday in the spa town.
Mrs Bennet was in a state of some agitation, uncertain how best to proceed. Her husband was a gentleman who did not take much pleasure in travelling away from home, but she was full of schemes to accomplish another trip. She’d been sitting in the dining parlour at Longbourn after breakfast, dozing in the sunshine which streamed in through the casement and dappled the lace on her shoulders, whilst reminiscing on the Christmas events at Pemberley when the letter came. They’d had such an enjoyable time, she recollected, even if she hadn’t managed to get either of her daughters engaged to any of the local landowners. The letter was a welcome diversion, and when she saw it was in Elizabeth’s hand, Mrs Bennet was eager to read it in case it contained another invitation.
Kitty languished also with thoughts along similar lines. Living at Pemberley had been such a gracious existence and she’d enjoyed herself even if she hadn’t secured the affections of Mr Hunter or any of the young men who’d danced at the balls. Still, leaving all thoughts of young men aside for a moment, Mrs Hill had just brought in the post and there was a letter from Lydia. Now her interfering sister Mary and her disapproving father were out of the way she looked forward to reading it in comfort.
‘Kitty, I have the most exciting news,’ said Mrs Bennet putting down her letter and peering over the top of her glasses at her daughter. ‘Can you guess where your sister Lizzy finds herself?’
‘In London, Mama?’ came Kitty’s distracted answer. She could not take her eyes away from the page, Lydia’s letters were always so amusing, full of stories about all the handsome officers she loved to flirt with, and Kitty was completely gripped by the latest description of an ardent beau.
‘No, the Darcy’s are in Bath, don’t you know. How perfectly elegant – I cannot sing that town’s praises enough, my dear, having been there once in my youth. I went with sister Phillips, and our dear parents, God rest their souls. I think we might have found husbands if we’d stayed longer … Captain Hawkins was devilishly handsome, and so in love with me.’
Kitty’s attention was gained and looked up from her letter, mouth gaping open. ‘You nearly married a Captain Hawkins?’
‘Well, there was never anything officially announced, but he left me with the understanding that he would return within the fortnight. How I pleaded with dear Papa that we might make our visit longer, but sadly funds did not permit it. I came home and met your father instead.’
Kitty laughed. ‘Was he ever so handsome, Mama?’
Mrs Bennet blushed to the roots of her hair. ‘The handsomest man I ever saw, and so becoming in his regimentals. Rich too, though I only had his word on that. Anyway, I’d quite forgotten about Bath until this letter from your sister. To think they are staying on the Royal Crescent too, how very grand.’
‘I wish we could go to Bath, Mama. Life has been so very dull since we came home from Pemberley.’
‘Well, it was made quite clear we could not stay longer, and two months is a long time to be from home, I suppose. I was sure you would have secured Mr Hunter by the end of our trip. Alas and alack, it was not to be. I daresay you tried your very best, but that artful creature, Miss What’s-her-name used every allurement and charm to draw him in.’
‘What are you saying, Kitty?’
‘The young lady … Mr Hunter’s fiancée is called Miss Watts.’
‘Well, she’s an artful what-not, that’s what.’
Kitty watched Mrs Bennet cross her arms, noting her lips set in a determined line. She knew that expression well and felt a frisson of fear.
‘Bath is the place to get husbands, Kitty, mark my words, and though I know your father will battle against it, you must help me make him see sense. We will take a respectable house on Queen Square, one of the smaller residences on the Gay Street side, and if we don’t have you engaged to be married within the month, I shall eat my best bonnet!’