A Dragon for Elizabeth, part 4

How did Elizabeth befriend fairy dragon April? Certainly not the way she expected.

Starting next week ‘A Dragon for Elizabeth‘ is moving to Tuesdays ’cause I’ve got a special surprise in story on Thursdays…guest what it might be?


October 1801

Part 4

The eggs spent the night in her room. With no proper nesting box, it was as good a place as any, according to Papa. That it gave her a little more time to spend with them was probably best not mentioned.

He assured her that the eggs did not need to be kept any warmer than her room, else she might have tucked them into her bed with her. He probably knew that. Still, she wrapped the nest in her apron and moved her writing desk a little closer to the fireplace. No sense in taking any chances. Her little guests should be as comfortable as she could make them.

She fell asleep staring at the wrapped nest and slept more soundly that she had in a very long time. Could the little egg bound dragons have been singing her to sleep, thanking her for a warm safe place to weather the evening’s storm? Papa would declare her fanciful and silly, but it was definitely possible. At the very least, it would not hurt to record it in her commonplace book. It was the sort of thing one wished to remember.

After breakfast, Papa called her to his office and asked she bring her ‘bundle’ with her. What would Mama think to know they had dragon eggs in the house? Probably best not to find out, though even if she told Mama directly, Mama would probably laugh at her, pat her on the head and scold Papa for encouraging too much imagination in her. That was what Mama always said when the subject of dragons came up. Not that it did very often, but perhaps a little more often than it might in a non-dragon keeping household.

What would it be like to be in a place where one could freely discuss dragons and all things related to them? She had never been in such a place, but surely they must exist, mustn’t they?

A low fire glowed in the fireplace of Papa’s study warming the room just a mite. Sometimes he did that because his joints hurt, but today, it seemed it was more for the eggs given that he had cleared a wider than usual path through the chaos as well as space for a wooden box near the hearth filled with hay.

For being such a very particular man, Papa’s study was a picture of refined disorder. Piles dominated every possible surface. His imposing oak desk held stacks of correspondence, journals he was reading and ones he was writing in. Somewhere the ledgers for the household must be hiding, but they were probably near the bottom of a pile given the way Mama complained about his tending to the estate duties. The chess table near the window held several mahogany dragons carved  in precise detail. He once said they were exact models of an amphithere and a lindwurm. They were among his most treasured possessions.

An heirloom dragon perch that resembled a dining room chair without a seat stood in the midst of a pair of comfortable chairs. Uncle Gardiner’s friend, his cockatrice Rustle would perch there when he visited. How odd that Mama’s brother could hear dragons but she could not.  Last time he had visited he had asked Papa’s advice about becoming betrothed to a woman who could not hear dragons—Papa had forgotten she was in the room writing letters for him when that conversation took place. How strenuously he had warned her not to say anything of the discussion to anyone, especially Mama.

The floor, as usual was strewn with towers of books nearly as high as her waist. He often mutters that he really needed to get them all back on the shelves, but it did not take a grown man to see that there was no possible way all his books would fit on the study shelves. He would need at least another room of shelves to accomplish that. She wove her way around them, into the room.

He locked the door behind them, not that anyone was really likely to disturb them. No one liked to bother Papa when he was ensconced in his book room, for good reason.

“Take the eggs to the nesting box, there.” He pointed toward the hearth with his chin and shambled behind her.

The rough wooden box had been fashioned of weathered, gray boards that had clearly seen some past use outside. The box came half-way up her shins and had been sanded more or less smooth. The sides were a bit uneven—most likely something one of the grooms had cobbled together, not the work of a carpenter. But that was not something little dragons would notice or care about. Clean, sweet smelling hay filled the interior about two third of the way to the top. Propped up against the hearth was what must be a lid for the box and a small coil of rope to tie it on with.

Was it wrong to be just a little sad to know that they little dragons were going away and she would not get to see them after they hatched? Probably, but those thoughts needed to be kept to herself. Especially since they were going to a place with Friends who would keep them safe from the abundant dangers to fairy dragons.

“Put the whole nest in the center of the hay. Dig out a little well for it first and lay them gently inside.” Papa gestured with his hands.

She unwrapped her apron and nestled her burden into the box. If she closed her eyes she could just barely hear soft, sweet cheeping. She yawned.

“That is how you know for certain these are fairy dragon eggs my dear. Tatzelwurm eggs look very similar, but their eggs are laid in burrows, not in trees, and the eggs, well they sort of purr–that is the best description of the sound—whilst these will set you to sleeping early as quickly as full grown fairy dragons.”

That was something she would need to write down in her commonplace book.

Papa hunkered down beside her and removed the largest egg from the nest. He held it up in the sunlight, turned it around in his hands, and tapped on the shell. “They are not far from hatching. A se’nnight, maybe ten days at the most. You can tell by the sound they make and the condition of the shell. Come, look.”

She pressed in close, her shoulder touching his. He smelt like herbal liniment and that reddish tea he drank—was it willow bark.

“You see how it feels like tough shoe leather, but just a bit malleable? As it gets closer to hatching, it becomes more like a supple boot rather than the hard sole. And you can feel the chick inside tapping back against your finger. When you can feel the sharp tip of the beak, then it is a day or so day away.”

“You are not quite there, are you yet?” She whispered to the egg in her hands.

“Did you know, several tomes of Dragon Lore say that it is good to speak to eggs before they hatch, that is assists the chicks in imprinting, since they already know the sound of human voices?” He smiled that rare approving smile that made her feel all warm and furry inside.

“Might that be my job then while we wait for them to hatch?”

He smiled as though he had intended for her to ask just that. “I have another job for you. Perhaps you might talk to them when you are finished with what else I need from you.”

She clasped her hands tightly and tried not to fidget—he always warned her not to do that. “What may I do?”

“I know of several Blue Order families within a day’s journey from Longbourn who might be in want of a dragon friend for the ladies of the household.”

“No boys?”

“Few consider fairy dragons a manly companion, so usually they are relegated to the ladies.”

Elizabeth chewed her lip to contain her questions before Papa became cross.

“I will dictate the first letter to you. After that you can copy it over several times substituting in the proper names and details to each. I must get those out in today’s post. There is no time to waste in finding proper homes for these eggs.” He reached behind him to push off a chair to help him rise. His knees were probably bothering him again.

“What will happen if we cannot?” She held her breath.

Papa sighed. “We will take them out to the barn and let them hatch there, with us in attendance of course. It does not hurt to have them properly imprinted upon humans, but there is no need to have them living in the house with us. Your mother could hardly accept them.”

She nodded, still holding her breath. At least the little dragons would hatch safely. They might even choose to live in the barn and help keep down some of the flies that lived there. She might even visit them occasionally that way.

Still though, it would have been much nicer if they could have lived in the house.

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He opened his mouth and stupid fell out

 What do you do when someone opens their mouth and stupid falls out?


So, yeah, we recently had a doozy of a week. You know the kind where you seem to get hit by stuff on all sorts of fronts—some that seemed to appear out of nowhere just to keep things ‘interesting’ in the ancient Chinese sort of way. I just love ‘interesting times’ don’t you?

After finishing off the week with half a day spent in urgent care hoping that my father had not managed to break his hip we thought  “OK, good, we made it. This week has thrown all it had at us. Next week has to be simpler.”

Definitely spoke too soon. But then again, you probably already figured that out, right?

It wasn’t another disaster, thankfully, but a well-meaning acquaintance who came up and asked how it was going.

I suppose what came next was in a very real way was all my fault. It had been the sort of week that that I told him “Honestly, it was perfectly awful, thanks.”

 Then it happened. He opened his mouth and stupid fell out and landed with an ear shattering crash that everyone else in the room should have been able to hear.

He said, “Well, you know that bad stuff just makes us stronger so its ok.”

Wrong, wrong and so very, very wrong. Worse that being wrong, he managed to jump—not just jump, but stomp on with Texas pointy-toed boots and spurs—my very last nerve.

Some days I can must self-control in these situations, but with my last nerve impaled on those spurs, no it wasn’t happening.  I replied. “Yeah, I know. And I also know that no one in the history of mankind has ever been helped, encouraged or felt understood after hearing that.”

Yeah, I really said that.

He looked at me that special way people do when I’ve said something they didn’t expect and wish I hadn’t said. The fact I can recognize that look so readily probably says something about me. Sigh.

He stammered something conversation ending and wandered off. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so honest. But I’m really not sorry. Not one little bit.

Not only was his remark insensitive and condescending, it’s not true either. Bad things can lead to a process that could result in us getting stronger, I’ll grant that. They can also beat us down and inflict some pretty serious damage, and sometimes the damage can last a lifetime. Acting like ‘Oh, it was good for you, see how much stronger it made you.’ minimizes the real impact of that damage.

Truth is, when people are hurting, they don’t want to be told how it is going to make them better, stronger or what have you. In those moments they just don’t care ‘cause for crying out loud, it really hurts. All he had to say was a simple “I’m so sorry it’s been rough.”  and he’d have been totally off the hook.

I didn’t need or really want advice. There was nothing he could have done to make a difference in any of the situations I was dealing with. Just a simple word of concern would have been enough and far better than shoving aside my feelings with empty words.

To be fair, I’m sure he didn’t know what to say and didn’t want to listen to some sob story that might overwhelm him. I get it, and that part is ok. But really, people, we can do better. We should do better, because, well, we’re all in this together and we’re all going to have those awful sorts of weeks where we just want to hear someone else say, ‘I’m so sorry it’s rough right now.’

What else do you want to hear during those kinds of weeks? Tell me in the comments.

 

Reason #64 Why writing takes so long

#64 Crazy Stalkers

 

 

 Ever have the feeling that you’re being watched? I certainly do.

Twelve shiny eyes seem to follow me around the house, wherever I go. Even if I close a door behind me, pink jellybean toes reach for me as high pitched voices cry out in anguish at my absence.

In short, I have a band of personal stalkers.

Some days, I grant you, the attention is nice. The writing life can be lonely at times and weeks can go by when I don’t really interact with actual warm blooded types without making a concerted effort to do so. My personal stakers remind me that there is life beyond the keyboard and I really ought to take part in it. That part I really appreciate.

But–and you knew that part was coming–it isn’t all furry-purries and cuddles. No my stalkers can be incredibly demanding.

To start with, they all have an uncanny sense of time. Although they cannot actually tell time–but then again I’m not positive about that as I’ve never actually seen them stare at a clock and walk away looking puzzled–they always know  breakfast and dinner time. We might be in the middle of a hurricane, without power and worried about evacuating, but ‘fooding time’ is sacred.

They start gathering about an hour ahead, stationing a sentinel at the door to make sure they can’t possibly miss an important move toward the fooding station. Half an hour before, all of them gather, circling stalkers who will not be deterred. Dinner time (in particular) is far too important to miss. I think they don’t even blink during that half hour.

I wonder if our fingers twitch in anticipation of opening cans. Whatever the sign, the astute students of body language that is our band of stalkers bolt into action when dinner is imminent, following as surely as a great cat after a gazelle, not to be denied.

With all that effort, one would think our band of stalkers must be emaciated and near starviing. One would be wrong, most definitely wrong.  I don’t think anyone of them has missed a meal since coming into our company and at least one of them looks like he’s scrounged up a few extra somehow.  No one is going hungry around here for sure.

But try to tell the stalkers that and they will inform you, that may be the case, but you really don’t understand. Dinner is definitely worth stalking for!

A Dragon for Elizabeth, part 3

How did Elizabeth befriend fairy dragon April? Certainly not the way she expected.


October 1801

Part 3

Rumblkins enjoyed his prize with relish. Truly, it was not a pleasant thing to watch a dragon eat —especially a dragon devouring his very favorite food. But a promise was a promise, and he deserved his reward.

According to Mama, Papa was not expected until close to dinner time, and Jane was in the nursery with her sisters, so she hurried up to her room with her treasures wrapped in her apron, none the wiser. She locked the door behind her and cleared her writing desk, moving the books from Papa’s library and her writing supplies to the nearby shelves. Carefully, so very carefully, she placed her apron on the desk and unwrapped the nest.

It resembled a birds nest, woven from twigs and vines, filled with thistle down and feathers gleaned from local chickens and ducks. Within were three eggs—fairy dragons usually laid eggs in threes—about half the size of a chicken’s egg, mottled and streaked, leathery rather than brittle.

With one finger, she stroked the eggs—they were just a mite soft and she could feel small movements within. Little cheeps came from inside as she touched them.

She leaned down very close and whispered, “Are you there little ones? Do you know I am here?”

The largest of the eggs wobbled just a little bit, as if in answer. Was that possible? Were the babies already able to hear and understand? That is not what she had been told about fairy dragons.

She retrieved her common place book from the shelf and found the notes she had made from Papa’s Dragon Bestiary. No, she remembered correctly. Other sorts of eggs responded to the human voice, especially very near hatching, but there was no record of fairy dragons doing so. Definitely something to make note of. Once she finished recording those details, she sketched the nest and the eggs themselves, including her hairbrush in the drawing to offer some scale. Far more interesting that the still life Mama suggested she try to sketch recently.

No, she was not the best at sketching yet, but even Mama would suggest this was good practice for her if, a mite unusual.  It certainly was not an opportunity to waste—when would she get another opportunity to see dragon eggs?

Hatchings did not happen every day and to be entirely honest with herself, she was very low on the scale of who might be expected to have the opportunity to befriend a dragon, no matter how much she might wish for it. A little girl of a country gentleman’s house just did not rate that sort of favor, even for a mere fairy dragon. So she needed to make the most of this opportunity.

A knock at the door made her jump. Had it already gotten so late? When had the sun gotten so low in the sky?

“Lizzy? Let me in.” Papa’s voice sounded just a touch irritated.

She hurried to unlock the door.

“What have you been about that you have been looking for me and yet left the door locked?” He stepped in, closing the door behind him.

She edged in front of the writing desk. “It all has been so very urgent this morning.  Yet you were not home, I tried to find you, very diligently, really I did. But at last I had to do the best I could on my own.”

His brows knotted as he looked at her. His gaze drifted to the desk behind her. “What is that?”

She looked over her shoulder. “That is the urgent business I was talking about.”

“That is not urgent business; it is a fairy dragon nest. What is it doing here?” He rolled his eyes the way he did when he was exasperated with Mama.

 “Rumblkins found me this morning and told me that the brood parents have abandoned it to sleep through the cold season and there was a stoat endangering the eggs.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him toward her writing desk.

He dragged his hand over his face.

“Rumblkins took me to them and the nest fell out of the tree—in a gust of wind—” So that bit was not true, but he looked so very annoyed right now, trying to tell him that Longbourn had been involved seemed like a very bad idea. “And I caught it in my apron as it fell.”

“Of course it did.” His lips pulled tight in something not quite a grimace but definitely not a smile. “It just fell into your lap with no assistance from the tatzelwurm?”

“He did nothing to the nest, Papa. Absolutely nothing.” At least that part was entirely true. “And he was right, there were stoat tracks all around the tree. Had I waited, the eggs would no doubt have been eaten.”

He sank into the little white chair beside the desk, forehead in his hand.

She clutched her skirts, crushing them in her hands, the way Mama always told her not to. “We rescued the eggs, Papa. That is a good thing, is it not? That is what the Blue Order says we are to do—protect and preserve dragon life whenever we are able. And I did that today, did I not?”

“Oh, Elizabeth.” He sighed and rubbed his tired blue eyes. “Yes, I suppose that is the case.”

“You do not seem pleased, Papa.” She swallowed hard and bit her lips.

“Perhaps not. It is complicated my dear.”

“I do not understand.”

He ran his fingers over the edge of the nest. “Fairy dragons are, well they are barely dragons in many ways. They are on the verge of being nuisances to man and dragon alike.”

“They are small and cute and sometimes not very smart—that makes them nuisances?” The same thing could be said of Lydia and Kitty, but no one called them nuisances, at least not in Elizabeth’s hearing.

“There is a reason they are considered well—useless little flutterbobs and flitterbits. They have no territory, no wisdom to impart, they are not particular useful and not even very good company.”

“Does that mean they are not important? They are dragons after all.” She gripped her hands tightly together.

“Yes they are dragons, but, how can I explain? They reproduce at a much faster rate than other dragons so there are many, many nests.”

“They are also eaten by other creatures at a much higher rate. How many other dragons are preyed upon by stoats, cats, birds of prey not to mention nearly every other dragon type?”

“That is what it means to be the least of the dragons. If their numbers were not kept in check, we would be overrun with them.”

“They do not breed that fast.” She huffed a little but caught herself before Papa could react.

“You do not know that. Trust me, it would be a problem.”

“So I was wrong to save the nest?” She sniffled a little, her eyes burning.

“Had I been here, I would have counseled you that we ought to allow nature to take its course and permit things to happen as they ordinarily would.”

How could she have possibly been expected to neglect these wee little things who were already cheeping and recognizing her presence? “What will you do with them now?” She held her breath and forced herself to stand very still.

Papa carefully examined the eggs, holding them up to his ears, eyes closed. He stroked them firmly, holding his thumb over them, twitching slightly as each egg responded. With a distinct harrumph he returned them to the nest. “They are very close to hatching. It does not bode well that the brood parents would mate too late in the season for the eggs to hatch in summer, though. They are likely to be especially stupid creatures.”

She nodded, staring at the blurry floorboards.

“But it will not do to waste the opportunity, I suppose. There are always those among the order who are desirous of companions for wives and daughters that hear. I will make inquires and if there are potential Friends near, then I will make arrangements.” He pushed himself up from the chair, grunting.

And if not? The question danced on the tip of her tongue, but perhaps it was best not to ask. Contenting herself with this much good news she had was probably for the best right now.

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Valentine’s Day History A’la Carte 2018 edition

 

How much do you know about Valentine’s Day history? Test your knowledge against these articles!


Victorian Valentine’s Day Cards 

A selection of Victorian Valentine’s Day cards went on show last year at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The cards, often handmade, featured lace, pressed grass and Valentine’s jokes. One card, titled “The Bark of Love”, featured a fairy in a gilded carriage drawn by two swans. Another, rather saucy card, featured what is possibly a pair of Victorian undergarments, with the message, “I think of you with inexpressible delight”.

 

Valentine’s Day in the Georgian Era 

There were many different customs and traditions surrounding Valentine’s Day, one of which baffled the unsentimental writer of this letter to the newspaper.


St Valentine’s Day customs 

On the night before Valentine’s Day, take five bay leaves, pin four of them to the corners of your pillow, and the fifth to the middle. If you dream of your sweetheart, you will be married before the year is over. To stimulate dreams, hard boil an egg, take out the yolk, and fill the egg with salt.  When you go to bed, eat the egg, shell included.  Do not speak or drink afterwards.

 

How to find your Valentine – Georgian style

Well, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and it’s a leap year, so what are you waiting for, it’s the perfect time to find your soul mate. The Georgians were no different – they believed that they had to pull out all the stops to find the person of their dreams, so forget internet dating and give some of these a go!

 

Valentine’s Day in early 19th century America

The custom of celebrating St. Valentine’s Day came to America with English and German settlers. Though mass-produced valentine cards did not appear in the United States until the mid-19th century, handmade valentines were exchanged as early as the Revolutionary War.

 

VALENTINE’S DAY IN THE 19TH CENTURY: LOST CONNECTIONS & LONELY HEARTS

To celebrate the holiday 19th century style, I’ve collected a few Valentine’s Day news items from Regency England, Victorian England, and even 1890s Texas.

 

 Valentine’s Day: A Brief History

Valentine’s precise identity is mysterious–he might have been a Bishop of Terni, he might have been a priest. Legends about him are various.

 

 Margery and John Paston: Fifteenth-Century Valentines

As we celebrate the day dedicated to love letters, it seems appropriate to share a Valentine’s Day story from one of the most famous letter-writing families of the Middle Ages: the Pastons. Letters written by all sorts of different members of the Paston family managed to survive the Middle Ages against all odds, and they are a treasure trove of information for historians and romantics alike.

 

 

A Ceremony Never Omitted Among the Vulgar

John Brand in his Observations on Popular Antiquities (1813) quotes examples of names being drawn for Valentines and also of various ways of divining who your lover will be – for example taking five bay leaves, pining one to each corner of your pillow and one to the middle the night before the 14th and you would then dream of your beloved. The  sending of written Valentines or cards appears to have developed as the postal service improved at the end of the 18th century and the unimaginative male could turn to The Young Man’s Valentine Writer (1792) and copy out one of the sickly-sweet verses it contained.

 

Broken Valentine Promise

On Valentine’s Day 1904, Ernest Down made a proposal of marriage to Bessie French at Plymouth Friary railway station. In June 1905 Bessie took Ernest to court to recover damages for breach of promise.

 

VICTORIAN VALENTINE’S DAY VERSES FOR REJECTING UNWANTED SUITORS

Published in 1875, The Lover’s Poetic Companion and Valentine Writer is a book intended for Victorian ladies and gentlemen “who wish to address those they love in suitable terms.”  It contains a variety of Valentine verses, ranging from the sweet to the satirical.  The book promises that these “Love Lyrics” are harmless and that even the more comical lines do not descend into vulgarity.  But what these verses lack in vulgarity, they more than make up for in unkindness and—in some instances—outright cruelty.

Great Tom the Christ Church Belle: Valentine’s Day 1816

Great Tom is the name of the bell which hangs in Tom Tower at Christ Church, one of the colleges at Oxford University. The following print was produced for Valentine’s Day in 1816, playing on the names, with two Oxford men fleeing underneath Great Tom away from a Christ Church Belle.

 

Love Me Do: Medieval Love Spells

 Valentine’s Day is all about love — mutual love and shared love. But what if love is unrequited or one-sided? The problem, as always, is not a new one. It was well known in ancient and medieval times alike, but different people had their own ways of dealing with it.

 

 

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