One of the fun and frustrating things about writing book is that sometimes you write scenes that don’t make it into the final version. Here’s one that didn’t. It originally fit it just before the Dragon Conclave scene, but after I wrote that scene, it seemed unnecessary. Still, it seems a shame to waste it! Hope you enjoy:
An Audience with Lord Matlock
Find previous chapters HERE
Darcy stood on the cellar stairs watching as Miss Elizabeth showed Georgiana how to oil Pemberley’s hide. They gave her a final brush and she shook a little like a wet dog. What a change Miss Elizabeth had wrought in his timid sister.
“You are ready now.” Elizabeth rubbed under her chin. “Rosings is waiting to escort you to tea at the Blue Order.”
“You not come?”
“I will be at the Order as well, but I must wait on Lord Matlock. So, April will go with you. If you need me, she will find me, and I will come to you. But I am certain you shall not. Barwines Chudleigh is very gracious and very beautiful. I am sure you will like her very well and she you.”
“She not cross—like Rosings?”
Georgiana giggled. “She is right.”
“Mind your manners and I am certain she will not be cross. You will make me proud, I am sure. I look forward to hearing all about your adventure when you return. Rosings waits for you in the tunnel, April will take you.” Elizabeth hugged Pemberley and encouraged her to follow April.
“I shall be at sixes and sevens until you return.” Georgiana clasped her hands tightly as she followed Elizabeth to the stairs.
“I quite understand. I have heard your uncle, Lord Matlock is quite formidable.” Creases, more than mere sleeplessness lined the corners of Elizabeth’s eyes.
The woman won dominance over a cockatrix, surely a mere man could not intimidate her.
“I am quite sure my brother will protect you. He has always done so for me.”
“You make Matlock sound like some sort of wild dragon.” Darcy chuckled, but the comparison was not far from wrong.
“If he were a dragon, I would have little to concern me.” Elizabeth laughed, though it hardly seemed a joke.
A few minutes later, he handed her into his carriage. Cait followed, an unconventional, but sufficient chaperone for the brief journey to the Blue Order.
“You need not look so worried, our little one will do very well indeed.” Cait preened her shoulder. “Even Rosings is certain she will impress the crustiest old lizard there.”
“Though you might wish to rethink referring to Barwines Chudleigh as a crusty old lizard, I am certain you are correct. After all we read at the Order Library yesterday, I have to agree with you. I cannot imagine they will find fault with her.”
“I cannot help but worry. If she does not make a good impression—her manners can be quite scandalous.”
“A point far less relevant to dragons than it is to you. It is her imprinting, not her etiquette they are concerned with.” Cait tossed her head feathers, exposing her glistening black eyes.
“And it would seem that her attachment sickness itself is testimony in our favor, of the strongest kind.” Darcy rubbed his temples. How ironic that the cause of so much turmoil should now be their strongest ally.
“I have not failed to see the irony in that.” Miss Elizabeth’s laughter seemed a little more genuine this time.
Earl Matlock’s summons was tersely worded and imperative. Perhaps he should have shared that with Miss Elizabeth. But she was already so anxious. What possible help could that be?
Fitzwilliam met them a few steps into the front hall. “Father will be glad not to be kept waiting. He is quite a state this morning. I shall take you myself. Good morning to you, Miss Bennet. It is a pleasure to see you, perhaps the only one I shall have today.” He bowed.
Cait swooped past him, tail feathers trailing across his face.
“I assume she knows the way?” Elizabeth asked.
“Indeed she does.” Fitzwilliam laughed and offered her his arm.
She placed her hand in the crook of his arm and they descended the grand stairs. Darcy paused. The sight should not bother him. Fitzwilliam was an accomplished flirt. It was merely a game to him.
But not to Darcy. Did she have feelings for him?
She had not seemed to back in Kent.
Perhaps Walker was right. He did need to act on his regard. After this was behind them, and he could focus—that would surely be a better time.
Fitzwilliam sauntered into Uncle Matlock’s office without so much as a knock. Probably showing off for her.
“Uncle may I present the brightest flower of the Blue Order, Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”
Darcy clutched his temples and shook his head, cheeks burning.
Uncle Matlock rose and bowed. “Welcome, Miss Bennet, Darcy. Pray excuse my son’s apparent lack of manners.”
Darcy closed the door behind him. “Your summons was rather … brief… to what do we owe the pleasure of this meeting? Where is Cownt Matlock?”
Uncle Matlock gestured them to a trio of chairs near his desk. “Cownt Matlock will not be joining us today.”
“I shall not bemoan the fact. He has been a crusty old lizard lately.” Fitzwilliam leaned back in his chair.
“Forgive me, Colonel, but I have observed that when a dragon turns ‘crusty’ there is often a very good reason for it, on that deserves immediate attention.”
“She is as astute as they say.” Matlock chuckled. “You have made quite the impression here, Miss Bennet. I am pleased to see that it is not all fluff and bother.”
“That description does not even apply to my fairy dragon sir.” She leveled a venomous stare at him.
That got Matlock’s attention. Darcy stifled a laugh.
“That are generally such fluffle-bits it is good to hear some have wits about them.” He turned to Darcy. “You are correct though, this is not a social call, much that I would rather it were.”
“Just as this morning’s dragon tea is not.” Elizabeth cocked her head and tapped her foot in the air.
Fitzwilliam chortled. “Just come out with it Father, it will be far less painful.”
Matlock glowered at his son. “The Court will convene with the Conclave tomorrow, as you well know. However, some additional, urgent business has just come in that must be addressed to the entire Conclave. As you are well aware, there are those amongst our ranks, both human and dragon who can only tolerate the company of one another for limited periods. We must expedite those matters that we can, to make time for these new issues.”
“And Pemberley’s case is one of those matters.” Elizabeth gripped the arms of her chair, knuckles turning white.
“Yes, Miss Bennet, it is. And upon reflection, I am certain you will appreciate the wisdom of evaluating Pemberley in a more natural, relaxed environment, one in which she will appear to best advantage.”
Elizabeth huffed a little. “It is certainly a much less frightening experience for her.”
“Now that we are agreed on that matter—”
“Now it comes, the interrogation!” Fitzwilliam leaned forward and rubbed his hands together.
“I prefer to consider it an interview, my red-coated miscreant.” Matlock snorted..
“But we gave full dispositions to Lady Astrid yesterday.” Darcy leaned back and stared at the ceiling–a little dusty, with a rather large spider scuttling along a plaster ivy vine molding.
“Additional questions have arisen.” He reached into his desk and removed a sheet of paper with many fine lines of writing.
“Of course they have. Are any of them pertinent?” Fitzwilliam reached for the paper, but Matlock jerked it away.
“If it means Pemberley will not have to endure being threatened in court, I am happy to answer any question, even ones already answered.” Elizabeth glowered at him.
Fitzwilliam raised his open hands and leaned away.
“Thank you Miss Bennet.” Uncle Matlock looked far too pleased, but it was a very rare woman who dared put Fitzwilliam in his place. “Now as I was saying…”
Most of the questions were directed to Elizabeth, which she answered in exacting detail, even taking the pen from Matlock on occasion and penning the answers herself. The few questions Darcy and Fitzwilliam answered seemed cursory by comparison, until he began asking Pemberley about Anne.
“Did the drakling ever threaten Anne in any way?”
“Not in my presence,” Darcy chewed his cheek. “Anne never complained to be about anything of the sort, and given all her other complaints, I cannot imagine she would not have latched on to such a very good reason. Usually Pemberley just cowered and tried to stay away from her. Rosings though did mention she would like to bite Anne.”
Fitzwilliam snickered. “But you are not worried about that lizard’s imprinting.”
“No I am not.” Matlock turned away from Fitzwilliam, but it was unlikely to curb Fitzwilliams behavior. “Is this consistent with your experience, Miss Bennet?”
“Indeed. She has never been aggressive. Even when we have massaged her gums and they pinched and hurt. She never even nipped whilst our hands were in her mouth.”
Matlock’s eyes widened so much his eyes bulged. “You put your hands in a teething dragon’s mouth?”
“How else does one massage a baby’s gums?”
Matlock stared at Darcy. “And you did not question the wisdom of such actions?”
“After seeing how much chewing her bone relieved her suffering, it seemed to make a great deal of sense.”
Matlock dragged his hand down his face.
WAs it possible? She was struggling not to snicker herself? “It is not a technique I would recommend to all Keepers to be sure, it requires a particular disposition to do it successfully. Pemberley found it very soothing.”
“Yes she did.” Cait squawked.
“And you witnessed this yourself?”
“Absolutely. So did Rosings. She will tell you but probably leave out the part about how she discovered how soothing bones were to chew. She has to have one several times a week now.”
Matlock snorted into his hand.
April zipped in from the large dragon tunnel.
Elizabeth jumped to her feet. “What has happened? What is wrong?”
April landed on the desk with a self-satisfied settling of her wings. “Nothing is wrong at all.”
“So Pemberley has been well received?”
“Very much so.” She preened her shoulder. “The Ranks will not come out directly and say anything, of course … “
Elizabeth crouched to look eye to eye with April. “Now is not the time for playing games. Tell me clearly and directly what I need to know.”
April huffed, her feather-scales fluffing. “If you must know, Barwines Chudleigh has offered to find Pemberley a tutor to teach her to read and write. I imagine it will be Drew, he seems to like that sort of thing, though Bylock, the Scribe’s drake seemed ready to offer as well. And Castordale, the Doctor’s pa snake wants to interview her about her experience teething.”
Elizabeth’s eyes grew very bright, and she fell back into her seat. “They would not make sure invitations unless—”
“Precisely.” April threw her head back and sang a full throated melody.
Darcy yawned, covering his mouth just as Matlock succumbed to the same.
“That is very favorable indeed.” Matlock tapped his written pages. “Of course, the final vote on the matter will still have to be taken at the Conclave.”
“In the meantime, I have been charged to bring you down to join us for tea. Pemberley has talked so much about you, Barwines Chudleigh wishes to introduce you.”
“Are we finished, sir?”
“We are, and even if we were not, I would not keep the Barwines waiting.” Matlock gestured toward the dragon tunnel.
Elizabeth curtsied and followed April out.
“Then we are done here?” Darcy asked, glancing back at the door.
“Not yet, there is another matter which I would like to have off the docket tomorrow.”
“Shall I guess?”
“I think it is rather apparent.”
“Really, Darcy? That was hardly even a challenge to guess.” Fitzwilliam laced his hands behind his head.
“You did not complete your charge, Darcy. You were to recover the egg and return Wickham to use for justice.”
“You are aware that Pemberley hatched in the middle of the process and dealing with a newly hatched dragon rather forestalled all other considerations.”
“It has been more than three months.”
“And of all people, you should be painfully aware of exactly how I have spent those three months in constant care of a dragon with attachment sickness.”
“Wickham needs to be brought to justice. We must know how far his awareness of dragons extends before he has the opportunity to jeopardize another dragon.”
“What Father is dancing about is his hope that you will simply volunteer for the duty now that Georgiana and Miss Elizabeth are available and able to take care of Pemberley in your absence.”
“It would rather simplify matters and it would go a long way to preserve family dignity if the Court did not have to formally order you to complete your assignment.” Uncle Matlock’s glower looked very much like Darcy’s mother’s and Lady Catherine’s.
“I accepted the assignment and I will complete it.” It was not as though he had not already been thinking about it himself.
“He’s trying to tell you he wants you to leave immediately.” Fitzwilliam cocked an eyebrow at him.
“Not before the conclave.” Matlock crossed his arms. “And since you seem so intent on conveying my intents and wishes, why do you not go with him. Your position in the Regulars may be of use if Wickham is still rubbing shoulders with the militia.”
Fitzwilliam grumbled. “This is not what I came home for.”
“The Blue Order needs—”
“Supersede everything. I am well aware.”
“I understand the militia has moved to Brighton for training. Viscount Clarington is Colonel of the Regiment and I have asked him to see Wickham is kept close the main body of the regiment. It should be a fairly simple matter to find him.” Darcy said.
“Let us hope you are right, as I have better ways to spend my leave.” Fitzwilliam curled his lip in an expression of disgust.
“Then you agree, you will immediately complete your charge?”
“Yes, sir, I will.”
“If you will just provide that in writing, I believe the Minister of the Court will accept the document and consider the issue closed.” Matlock slid a sheet of paper toward him. “You are fortunate to have such Miss Bennet’s assistance with Pemberley. Suh a shame that her connections are so low.”
No, the real shame was that now he would have to wait until Wickham was managed before he could act upon his regard for her.
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