Index > Ongoing Stories > The Elmsworths Spend an Evening in Bath
The Elmsworths Spend an Evening in Bath
(( This is a collaboration between myself and the players of Grizella and Earnest Elmsworth.
Content warning for mild language and implied sex between married characters. ))
Near the end of their wedding trip, Mrs. Grizella Elmsworth had coaxed her new husband Earnest into attending supper and a concert at the Sydney Gardens, careless that all he /really/ wanted to do was stay in their Crescent house - the state and staff of which displeased him - with /her/ every evening. He had been convinced after she agreed to spend the afternoon with only him, instead.
Grizella had been nervous of seeing Reginald Gordon for the first sennight or so of her wedding trip, but after going over a month with nary a sighting of him, she had relaxed entirely, not expecting to see him at all, and was entirely unanxious as she socialized before the supper in her maroon-colored gown, sparkling with her garnet parure and a large dyed ostrich feather in her turban.
At that moment a gentleman stepped out of a hired carriage, having been unwilling to walk to Sydney Gardens all the way from Gay Street. He inhaled deeply through his nose, flaring his nostrils slightly as his typically twinkling blue eyes coldly took in the scene. He rolled his shoulders under their charcoal gray jacket and matching brocade waistcoat, stretching from the cramped cab to his full height of six feet. He casually tossed his ebony walking stick from one hand to the other.
Grizella had diverted her attention from her conversation partner when the lady inquired after her husband. She had no notion, in this sea of finery, but that he would likely be where the brandy was if he was not entirely attempting to avoid conversation. It would be time to go to the table, soon. Perhaps she would see him in the throng. As she searched for his blond head she glimpsed another. One that was decidedly /not/ Mr. Elmsworth.
Mr. Reginald Gordon found the task of not rolling his eyes at the various older women who approached him to offer condolences for the recent passing of his aunt Mrs. Crosby a laborious one. He moved slowly through the crowd, near in a daze. He questioned his decision to accept the invitation, having quickly forgotten the responsibilities he had left at home.
/All/ of the color drained from Mrs. Elmsworth's face as she began to look for her husband in earnest. Alas, it was time to go in to supper, and she found herself nearly carried with the throng of people, her heart in her stomach and hoping against hope that she would /not/ be seated near Mr Gordon. /Especially/ not /next/ to him.
Gordon easily followed the current of people in to dine, though he tended to trail near the back. He ambled to his seat only to find a familiar face at his right elbow, that of Miss Campbell-Coffin, though he imagined she would be wed by now. His eyes sparkled like icicles catching the first rays of sunlight after the passing of a winter storm and he arched a somewhat sinister brow. "Well... this will be an interesting evening after all..."
Grizella's back was as straight as it had ever been - she had to stop herself from arching it like a frightened stableyard cat. Her tone was as detached as she could manage. "Mr Gordon. Good evening. I gathered you were no longer a resident of Bath. What a... surprise."
He sniffed a little, an attractive smirk playing at his mouth as he sat himself. "Why, what gave you that idea? Where else would I go?"
She ignored his sniff, and his smirk, and tried to avoid looking at him entirely. "Mr. Elmsworth and I have been in residence in Bath a month. I have not noticed you at any place we have been in attendance - assemblies, balls, supper parties, the Theatre Royal, et cetera. Are you only recently returned?"
He did not make eye contact, but struck a relaxed pose splayed out over his chair, and he spoke nonchalantly. "My aunt Mrs. Crosby passed perhaps two months ago. I have been busy arranging her estate."
She frowned a little, softening her voice, although looking on him she noted he seemed entirely unconcerned. "Oh. My condolences, Mr. Gordon."
He smiled softly, yet still a bit triumphantly, and looked on her out the corner of his eye. He lowered his voice just a touch. "How very kind of you--" He stopped himself short of saying Miss Campbell-Coffin, and neither was he eager to utter her married name.
Grizella rose a brow at his odd, broken phrase, as well as his smile. "You had a cousin, did you not? Miss Crosby? I believe Mrs. Creasey mentioned her."
"I do. She is naturally still in deep mourning and thus remains at home this evening."
She nodded. "Of course. I hope you shall convey the condolences of Mr. Elmsworth and myself."
His countenance steeled at mention of Mr. Elmsworth. "Certainly." There was just a little hardness to his tone.
Grizella hoped to converse with her other dining partner... a young man apparently quite enamored with the lady on his other side. The damn centerpieces were of an /obscene/ height. She could only hope Mr. Gordon would be distracted enough not to make the next few hours /too/ agonizing. "Of course, Mr Gordon."
Earnest, meanwhile, was content to not speak at all with his own dining partner, despite Mrs. Wesley's near desperate attempts to engage him in conversation. "And how did you find the Theatre Royal, Mr. Elmsworth?" she asked, her voice turning needy. "Well," he responded with a single syllable... as he had managed to do against all of her questions thus far.
Gordon lazily glanced at the lady on his left, a heavyset older woman who likely would have been offering him cloying platitudes about his aunt were she not so dangerously close to nodding off in her seat. She was roused slightly by the serving of the soup, a white soup befitting the occasion. One of the feathers in her hair had begun to slip from its position and its tip dangled precariously, inching closer and closer toward Gordon's cheek. He eyed this development warily with a set jaw and unamused eyes before tucking his napkin into his collar to attend to the bowl before him. He returned to the conversation with Grizella with a little reluctance. "Has...the weather been agreeable in Derbyshire?"
Grizella found she had little appetite, but placed her napkin in her lap and began to at least /pretend/ to take interest in her soup. "I do not know. Mr. Elmsworth and I were married in Durham. I have not been in Derbyshire in well over a month-and-a-half."
"Ah, of course. How silly of me. Of course you would wish to see the estate over which you shall one day preside on such a special occasion." A faintly bitter edge colored his words with the implication of Grizella's pathetic materialism. He thought he wouldn't be surprised to learn if the house had failed to impress her, she might have called the wedding off on the spot. He smirked a little to himself at this notion.
She stiffened slightly again, although it was barely perceptible, as her entire body was already taut as a bow string. She shifted her eyes to him. "Yes, indeed I would. In fact, it was I who suggested it to Mr. Elmsworth on the day he proposed." She appeared to consider something before going on. "It was a romantic notion, I suppose, to be wed at my intended's ancestral home. It was very lovely, even though Mr. and Mrs. Coffin were unable to join us. Have you ever been to Durham in the spring, Mr Gordon?"
"I have not. I find I much prefer the comforts of the southern counties."
She nodded in acknowledgement. "Regardless, it's quite beautiful in the spring."
"Well, it seems you shall have many opportunities to enjoy it." He paused briefly. "When do you return to Durham?"
"Not for the foreseeable future." She smiled a little, involuntarily. "Mr. Elmsworth has purchased a house in Tyrhampton. We are to set up our household there."
Gordon arched an insidious brow as the soup bowls were cleared to make way for the fish course. "Indeed? How very interesting..."
It was all Grizella could do to maintain her smile, now polite and a little strained. "Oh? Is it?"
His expression remained cool and he didn't look at her. "Yes, quite."
She could not help her curiosity. "May I inquire why you find such innocuous and mundane information interesting, Mr Gordon?"
He glanced at her with a little amusement. "Would you prefer your designated partner in conversation for the evening say you are /not/ interesting?" Again, he had to stop himself from saying Miss Campbell-Coffin. He lifted his brows a little and pointed lightly to her cup. "May I refill your glass?"
Her eyes narrowed very briefly, suspicious of him, but then nodded her assent. "Yes, thank you."
He hardly waited for her reply before taking the glass in hand to replenish its contents with orgeat lemonade. He lowered his voice a touch, almost conspiratorially as he put on a charming smile. "I always think it a shame no wine is served at these functions. You're rather fond of claret cup, if memory serves." He glanced to her out the corner of her eye before leaning back in his chair to finish the course.
She raised a brow, knowing to what he was referring - although he forgot it was claret, not claret cup - and curious as to /what/, exactly, he wished to accomplish by charming her. "I have no idea what you mean, sir. I have no particular fondness for the beverage."
He gave her a knowing glance, but did not press the matter farther. "I trust your family at Portledge is well."
Grizella narrowed her eyes at him again. "Very well. Your own at... I apologize, what is the name of the home from which you come? I am afraid I cannot recall."
"I doubt I ever I mentioned the name. Being the second son, of course, Broome Park is unlikely to fall under my ownership. A fact I am confident you remember well." His last sentence was a touch chilly.
(( Broome Park was a baronetcy at the time and in Kent. I am way too lazy to make up estate names. ))
She smiled pleasantly, turning her attention to her fish. "Oh, of course. That I have always remembered."
He cleared his throat with mild irritation. "Have you found Bath to your liking?"
She continued smiling pleasantly - in fact, it became more genuine at his irritation. "Oh, yes. I have been able to enjoy it much more than I have, previously. The society, of course, but I have also been taking the waters, as well as furnishing our home, and we have been sitting for a portrait."
"I am glad to hear you've not been bored. Mr. Elmsworth does not seem the sort to enjoy outings and activity." He let a beat pass. "It is fortunate you will remain in Tyrhampton, where there is more society you are familiar with. Surely Durham would be a far remove - particularly as not even your own family would make the trip for something as momentous as your nuptials."
"On the contrary, Mr. Elmsworth was quite eager for society. He wished to spend our honey month in London, but considering what I have recently heard of society there, as well as my desire to take the waters, I preferred Bath." It was only a third of a lie, and she told it as if it wasn't.
He half chuckled. "What complaint can you have of London society?" He wondered in the back of his mind if she perhaps thought of him, just for a moment, in coming to Bath.
"I have been receiving regular reports from Mrs. Coffin on the movements and doings of the Halliwells and the Boltons. Were Mr. Elmsworth and I in London we would undoubtedly be compelled to socialize with /those people./"
He looked at her with a little amusement. "I know you've no great love for Miss Halliwell, but surely the Boltons are a respectable enough family." He gave her a little devilish wink. "Or is their money too new for your /refined/ tastes?"
She colored slightly at his wink, involuntarily. The reason, embarrassment or otherwise, was not immediately clear. "You certainly have not had the benefit of my information, Mr. Gordon. Miss Halliwell has eloped to the Boltons, without the consent of her own family, and while Mr. James Bolton was the only one in residence. I am unsure if they are yet married, but the whole ordeal is certainly unpleasant, as no-one says they were engaged."
Gordon's eyes sparked with interest. "/Indeed?/ I had no idea. In fact, I'm not sure I realized there was any attachment between Miss Halliwell and Mr. Bolton. Do you suppose it was very sudden?"
"I have no notion. There was the oddness at the..." She was reluctant to mention it. "Perhaps my having revealed her various indiscretions may have made him keen, in one way or another. I suppose it is his choice, if he wishes to inflict her poor reputation and even worse comportment upon his family."
"Yes... it is rather a shame for him to be forever tied to a woman such as that. A hasty match can hardly be a happy one, and of course, once a gentleman shows interest in a lady, it is all too difficult for him to withdraw it should he change his mind. I'm sure many a young man has regretted marrying too soon."
Grizella nearly rolled her eyes, but took a sip of what was regretfully still orgeat lemonade instead. "How fortunate you have never been so ensnared, Mr Gordon."
He lifted his brows lightly. "On the contrary, Mi-- Mrs. Elmsworth. I have never given my affection easily." He let his eyes linger upon her for a moment before looking back to the table. The fish having been cleared, he could now busy himself with serving her as well as the older lady on his left.
She quirked an unkind brow, remembering vividly all he had said to her when she had /tried/ to be kind to him. "Oh, of that I have no doubt. Indeed, I am sure anyone who is at all acquainted with you knows that /affection/ is hardly your weakness." She wondered if this supper would /ever/ end.
It certainly never shall be again, he thought to himself. "I am the first to admit it a rare occurrence," he said rather flatly.
"Yes. I would venture to say it does not occur at all."
He looked at her with a stern disappointment, making no response for the time being.
Grizella glared at him in return, before turning her attention to her plate, although she questioned, "Might we soon be hearing of the next Mrs. Gordon, in that case? How have you found society since you have been returned? I cannot imagine mourning has restricted you overmuch."
"Mourning may not, but the care of my cousin certainly has. Sophia and I, along with my family in Kent, are now her only living relations, and I of course am the only one here in Bath to handle matters."
She raised a curious brow, naturally taking this in a way which he did not intend. "Oh. Well, if one cousin is now wed... I suppose it is good there is another."
He took little notice of her implication. "Sophia has written and shall be here in perhaps a month's time to help finalize Mrs. Crosby's estate. Being on your own wedding tour, I cannot imagine you would begrudge the same pleasure of Mrs. Creasey."
"Of course not. May I ask to where Mr. and Mrs. Creasey have gone?"
"He evidently has many relatives who were not able to attend their wedding, it being such a quickly arranged affair. They are visiting family in Scotland and London before coming here."
This caught her interest, of course. "Oh? Scotland? Where in Scotland, if I may ask?"
He knit his brow and spoke a little dismissively. "I haven't any idea." His face then lit in recognition. "Ohh, you have your own family in Scotland don't you. I recall /quite/ well now the circumstances of your last visit." He thought pridefully of her relations' unwillingness to marry her and tried to comfort himself that Mr. Elmsworth will be unhappy in the end with his trophy.
Grizella smiled very pleasantly, although her eyes flashed. "Yes. I believe I told you how much I enjoyed Scotland. It's very lovely, in the spring and summer. Mr. Elmsworth and I have discussed returning to visit in the future." Well, Earnest had been afraid she would leave him and return to Scotland, apparently, for reasons she did not understand.
"I have no doubt you should enjoy such a trip greatly." His words were cloaked with ice. Yes, of course she would enjoy returning to Scotland to flaunt her prize before those who would not have her before.
She raised a brow again, wondering after his meaning, but not enough to ask.
"Have you visited other locales on your tour?"
"No, only Durham and Bath. I think we shall return to Tyrehampton. It has been discussed that we should host Miss Elmsworth."
"I see. I...did not know Mr. Elmsworth had another sister. He is related to Mrs. Byrd, is he not?"
She managed to smile still, despite that the mention of Mrs. Byrd made her want to flinch. "Yes, the elder" - and lesser, she refrained from saying aloud - "of his two younger sisters."
"Miss Elmsworth must be very glad to soon have the benefit of multiple relations in town. Though...why has her sister not hosted her before?"
"Mr. and Mrs. Byrd are so very newly wed, and they have entertained Mr. Roland Elmsworth."
Gordon smirked a little. "Well certainly not more newly wed than yourself."
But much less capable and entirely untrustworthy, she thought. "No, but I suggested she should stay with us." Although she had not intended it to be /quite/ so soon. "Poor Miss Elmsworth was entirely deprived of any sort of Season due to the marriages of the Byrds, as well as Mr. Elmsworth and myself."
He wondered briefly whether Grizella had found married life dissatisfying and wanted for some distraction. "How selfless of you."
She nodded in acknowledgement. "Thank you, Mr. Gordon, that is kind of you to say - although perhaps not entirely true. It shall be nice to have her company, I think. She has promised to help me improve my playing."
He smiled a little. "I believe you are your harshest critic in terms of your playing."
Grizella smiled genuinely for the first time since she first laid eyes on him that evening. "Miss Elmsworth said that I 'play beautifully, just not very well'. Perhaps you are right."
"By your account, that might be a first," he teased, blue eyes sparkling.
With that, she recalled with whom she was speaking, and she cooled a little. "No, Mr. Gordon. I do not believe your being incorrect was ever the issue."
He smirked in her direction again. The staff cleared the plates of the first course and began the painstaking procedure of folding the first tablecloth. Gordon relaxed in his chair, content to wait.
Grizella narrowed her eyes, unable to fathom about what he seemed so smug.
As the table was prepared for the second course, Gordon let the conversation lapse. Eventually, while the dishes were being brought out, he took a small breath. "Have you as yet procured a house in Tyrhampton, or is it merely your plan?"
She smiled again. "Mr. Elmsworth purchased the house as a wedding gift. Number Two Back Water Street."
Gordon's gaze was indifferent at best upon yet another mention of Mr Elmsworth. "I'm afraid I've never strayed onto...Back Water Street? It must be terribly far from the center of town."
"Oh, hardly. Indeed, it is the street behind Mrs Hatch's. Quite a favorable location, if I may say."
"So...it is quite close to Moss Road then."
She raised a brow as the fowl was uncovered. "Yes, I suppose so. That was Mrs. Creasey's former address, was it not?"
"It was. Your memory clearly does not fail you on that point." He served her and turned away to serve the woman on his left.
She really wasn't entirely sure of his point, and focused on the plate in front of her instead of inquiring after it, also noting that the gentleman on her right had not acknowledged her even once.
The lady on his left had perked up considerably and occupied him for the next course in its entirety. In time, the dishes were all cleared and the party began to disperse.
Earnest had scowled and sneered his way through dinner, successfully getting through the meal with hardly more than five sentences. Afterwards he quickly found his wife, and offered her his arm with hardly another word.
Gordon stood and offered Earnest a cheeky smile, blue eyes twinkling. "Good evening Mr. Elmsworth. In a hurry to return to your lodgings?"
Grizella took her husband's arm with a bright smile, which promptly disappeared as soon as Mr. Gordon opened his mouth, and she reddened.
Did he know this man? Earnest wondered. He could hardly remember his acquaintances. He sneered, "Yes." He supposed Grizella would desire him to offer a bit more discussion. "We are just recently married." There. Conversation.
She squeezed Earnest's arm. "Earnest, you recall Mr. Gordon, of course."
Gordon raised a bemused brow and mimed a tip of the hat.
"Ah, yes, of course." He could hardly recall the gentleman. "And what brings you to Bath, Sir?"
Gordon's amusement faded quickly. "I reside here, Mr. Elmsworth." His tone was a little flat.
Grizella's lips quirked, slightly. It was only amusing because it was Gordon, and she knew she would have to speak to Earnest about being more circumspect with acquaintances in future.
"Ah, of course, of course." Could they leave now? He glanced at his wife. "Well I hope you enjoy it here."
An icy glint flickered through his eye and his lips curled as he fixed his attention fully on Grizella. "Though...not for much longer... I must have failed to mention earlier. I shall be returning to Tyrhampton soon at the wish of my dear cousin. What a delight it shall be living just a few doors away from such good friends. But I must not monopolize your night. Good evening to you!" He bowed and vanished into the crowd.
Grizella's lips stopped quirking.
"What a strange man," Earnest murmured to his wife as Gordon departed. Taking his wife by the arm, he led her away to his carriage, determined not to be delayed from his marital bed by an hour spent on goodbyes with peoples who company he hardly enjoyed.
She frowned at her husband. "Earnest, really."
He sighed, pausing in his rushing motions. "I understand." But if they stayed longer than an hour he would be rather irritable with her in the carriage.
Grizella plastered another smile on her face, bidding farewell to as many of the other attendants as she might, before Earnest's patience was exhausted and his discontent became unconcealable.
It lasted about twenty minutes.
Grizella pulled him away from the party to the carriage, or allowed /him/ to pull /her/ - it wasn't immediately clear.
He settled into the carriage, far more contented now that they were alone.
He received a /look/ for his trouble. "I know not what shall be thought of us, the way we left."
"That we have better things to do than find seven different ways of saying good evening?" He taunted, before pulling his wife close to him.
She leaned in to his embrace. "I doubt any shall be that charitable." She raised a brow, teasing him. "But at least they are likely to say that it is you who are so lustful you cannot allow your wife to farewell a party. They may even pity me for how you impose so."
"Indeed, however shall you bear it?" he chuckled, before proving just those whispers accurate, leaving his wife quite rumpled when they arrived at their rented house.
Grizella was visibly /surprised/, her cheeks pink, her gown crushed, and her feather crooked at an angle in her turban, which had also been knocked askew. She had no idea that Earnest was... /like that/ - and she had no idea that she'd /enjoy/ it. It was all she can do to endeavor to enter the Crescent townhouse as inconspicuously as possible, while feeling decidedly /conspicuous/.
|Posted 5 months ago|