The Gatwick family are up early this first morning in their rented house on the Esplanade in Weymouth, even the Earl who has been parted from Gaston his chef and his breakfasts for three days, so is eager to get back to his devilled kidneys.
Lady Wittering relies on Porrett, the Earl’s secretary to have researched what the procedure is this first day. ‘But I want to go in the sea,’ complains Emily, making Porrett feel slightly faint – then seriously overheated – for a moment.
‘It would be advisable for the family to inscribe your names in the Master of Ceremonies’ book at the Assembly Rooms,’ Porrett explains when he has recovered from the mental image of Emily in the sea, breasting the waves… Oh goodness, now he needs a cold dip. ‘He will then call and inform the ladies of all the events planned for the next few weeks, ensure he knows your preferences, offer to perform any introductions you might wish and recommend suitable shops. I would suggest that after the Rooms that the ladies might like to inspect the libraries and see which they wish to subscribe to and call at the bath houses to decide which will have their patronage and view the various facilities available.’ Weymouth had gone through a number of Assembly Rooms and the new ones were at the Royal Hotel, only a few steps away from their lodgings. [The first Assembly Rooms were at the Ship Inn, below and the ones that the Gatwicks would patronise are below that to the right. ]
‘Facilities?’ Emily turns her large brown eyes on Porrett. ‘I thought it was just bathing machines for hire?’
‘Oh no, Miss Gatwick. Shower baths, hot and cold seawater baths, steam rooms…’ Porrett’s brain begins to steam up giving him a vivid picture of Emily in the Warm Bath. He can’t cope with the thought of the Hot Bath… [Image from Political Sketches of Scarborough]
‘Will you be accompanying us, Wittering? Ditherstone?’ The Countess studies her husband and son, both of whom have the air of men who would much rather take themselves off into town to locate the best library for the sporting papers, make enquiries about the prospects for some shooting, billiards and cards and generally avoid having to be grovelled to by the Master of Ceremonies.
‘I think not, my dear. I must go to the bank for one thing,’ Witttering emerges from his newspaper, obviously delighted to have found such an unexceptional excuse.
‘So must I,’ his son adds hastily. ‘Why not take Porrett to squire you about?’
‘I would be honoured, my lady. And, as it is such a pleasant day, perhaps you would care for a stroll along the main shopping streets?’ asks Porrett, in a seventh heaven. ‘I believe that Master Arthur has forgotten his hammer for extracting rock samples, so that could be purchased.’
‘Very well. Almira, Emily, Arthur, we will meet in the drawing room in one hour.’
Porrett makes a mental note to bring a footman along as well. he can hardly offer his arm to the countess (or, blissful thought) Miss Emily, if he is encumbered with a pile of shopping.
[Porrett will doubtless be taking his party along one of Weymouth’s bustling shopping streets – still full of Georgian buildings today]