Apr 25 2017

Upheaval and the Push For Reform in the 1830s

Please welcome Caroline Warfield as she shares with us about the transition between the Regency and Victorian eras.


Sometimes a lover of history backs into unexpected bits of fascinating facts. That is what happened when I decided to use the children of one series as the heroes of the next. Their ages forced me to set my second series in the 1830s, an era I knew little about. Falling as it does between the Georgian Period (although technically still part of it) and the Victorian, I had to dig for information from day one. I discovered I had quite unintentionally unleashed my characters into a time of great social change. My research into the era as a whole wasn’t systematic, but everywhere I turned in my story preparation I stumbled over social and economic upheaval.

Riots in the Streets

When I wondered what the hero of The Renegade Wife might encounter in Bristol in 1832, I found that he arrived soon after terrible riots had shaken the city. Gritty, prosperous, and unapologetically working class, the people of Bristol took the failure of the Reform Act in 1831 personally and took their displeasure to the streets. The politics of voting reform were as complex and convoluted as any in history, but the conflict boiled down to the efforts of the upper classes to hold on to their privileges and the struggle of the outsiders for a piece of the pie. For Bristol, it was simple. Only 6000 people out of a population of 104,000 had the right to vote, fewer than 6% of Bristol’s citizens. The army put down the riots violently, but the government had reason to fear outright revolution there and elsewhere in Britain. The lower classes wanted in. When a second Reform Act extended voting privileges to small business owners in June 1832, but did nothing for laborers, Bristol quieted somewhat. Yet unrest there and in Britain’s industrial centers continued to seethe beneath the surface for years.

Political Reforms

The Reform Act made no mention of women, but it would be a mistake to think the women of that era accepted their lot without question. When I envisioned the heroine of The Renegade Wife, I quickly affirmed that in 1832 women still had no legal rights. Indeed, a married woman didn’t even exist in law, because a married couple was considered one person, and that person was the husband. Even if she ran from abuse (as my character did) the law would return her and her children to the husband who abused them. However, this concept was under considerable pressure to change. One notorious case of an abused wife denied her children (that of Caroline Norton) caused a considerable public outcry son after the years of my story. The resulting Custody of Infants Act of 1839 finally permitted a mother to petition the courts for custody of her children up to the age of seven, and for access in respect to older children. Women found guilty of adultery, however, forfeited that right.

Everywhere I turned I found mention of one progressive reform bill or another. The Factory Act in 1831 limited the hours someone under eighteen could work to twelve hours. In 1833 The Factory Act made it illegal to employ children under nine and initiated a system of factory inspectors. The Chimney Sweeps Act of 1834 set ten as the minimum age for apprentices, a slight improvement over the previous age of eight. As enlightened as that sounds today, poor families often suffered from the loss of income and didn’t necessarily like the changes. A royal commission to study the impact of the existing Poor Law, which put the burden for care for the poor on local parishes and the workhouse system, recommended sweeping reform. That law as amended to put some power (and inspection) in the hands of the central government. These efforts didn’t exactly correct all problems, but they are emblematic of changing public attitude. There is one familiar reflection of those attitudes: Charles Dickens began writing in the 1830s and published Oliver Twist in 1838. Public support pushed the movement for reform forward throughout the 1840s and 1850s.

Industrialization

Underlying social issues and reform, industrialization continued to expand. It also drove changes in transportation which in turn accelerated demands for change. In the second book of the series, The Reluctant Wife, I had to clarify how my characters might travel from Calcutta to England. When I looked for answers, I wandered into the age of steam. While steamships had been navigating rivers for over twenty years, and some attempts had been made at transoceanic travel, the first true steamship to cross the Atlantic was the Royal William out of Quebec in 1833. In 1835, the India Mail initiated steam service from Bombay to Suez. Called “the overland route,” this service involved caravan through the desert to Cairo, a float up the Nile and a second steamship from Alexandria to England. It cut months off the length of sailing routes around the Africa. The economic gain provided enormous incentive for later development of the Suez Canal. I couldn’t resist sending my characters that way. As one of the children exclaimed “It has camels!”

Time as we know is money, and the speed of travel accelerated in the 1830s across the board. The Great Western railroad linking Bristol to London began operation in 1838. It was built to compete with the Liverpool and Manchester Railroad, which opened in 1830, and driven by completion for trans-Atlantic trade.

Racial Tensions

People had become more mobile. Mobility always brings exchange of culture and ideas: free trade, abolition, and demands for greater local control in the colonies all fed into the inevitable push/pull of ideas. It is the era that saw, on the one hand, the final abolition of slavery in the British Empire 1834. On the other, the English Education Act of 1835 withdrew support from all Muslim or Hindu traditional education or publishing in favor of education entirely in English and English-language publications.

Anti Slavery Society Convention

Perhaps precisely because of greater mobility and more rapid dissemination of news, a backlash occurred in many places. Intermarriage and cohabitation, once relatively common if not precisely encouraged, declined sharply in 1830s India. The hero of The Reluctant Wife faces difficulties raising half-caste children in that atmosphere. The flood of migrants from Ireland, Scotland and England into Upper Canada during the same period competed with native and earlier French Canadian settlers as well as preexisting tension between two successive waves of Loyalists from the former colonies in the United States. At the top of the heap the old Loyalists attempted to retain control and privileged position. Tensions exploded in The Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, which sought democrat reforms and an end to oligarchical control.

I had indeed stumbled into a time of upheaval. Taken as a whole, social reform took momentum in the 1830s that would carry it forward in the face of some stiff opposition from the privileged class in the Victorian Era.

 

A few helpful sources for more information:

The Abolition Project, http://abolition.e2bn.org/index.php

American Society of Civil Engineers, “Isambard Kingdom Brunel,” on http://www.asce.org/templates/person-bio-detail.aspx?id=9913

Bloy, Marjie, “The Reform Act Crisis,” The Victorian Web, http://www.victorianweb.org/history/reform.html

“Custody of Infants,” Commons and Lords Hansard, the Official Report of debates in Parliament, HL Deb 18 July 1839 vol 49 cc485-94, http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1839/jul/18/custody-of-infants#s3v0049p0_18390718_hol_62 

“Custody Rights and Domestic Violence,” Living Heritage, UK Parliament,  http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/private-lives/relationships/overview/custodyrights/

Dalrymple, William, “White Mischief,” The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2002/dec/09/britishidentity.india

Foster, Maximilian, “The Story of the Steamship,” 1901, on Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives: Social and Cultural History – The Future of Our Past, http://www.gjenvick.com/SteamshipArticles/TransatlanticShipsAndVoyages/StoryOfTheSteamship/1901/01-IntroductionAndEvolution.html#axzz4H2QdxsQb

http://abolition.e2bn.org/index.php

Sichko, Christopher, “The Influence of the Suez Canal on Steam Navigation,” University of Colorado, Boulder, Honors Theses, 2011, http://scholar.colorado.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1873&context=honr_theses

“Rebellion in Upper Canada,” The Canadian Ecyclopedia, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/rebellion-in-upper-canada/

“Reforming Society in the 19th Century,” Living Heritage, UK Parliament, http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/livinglearning/19thcentury/

“Revolting riots in Queen Square,” BBC: Made in Bristol, Apr. 27, 2004, http://www.bbc.co.uk/bristol/content/madeinbristol/2004/04/riot/riot.shtml  

“The Bristol Reform Act Riots: 29 – 31 October 1831,” (Taken from Alexander Charles Ewald, The and Times of William Ewart Gladstone. 5 vols. William Mackenzie, London) viewed on A Web of English History: Peel Web, http://www.historyhome.co.uk/peel/refact/bristol.htm 

“The Great Migration of Canada,” Exodus: Migration To, From, and Within the British Isles, ” http://www.exodus2013.co.uk/the-great-migration-of-canada/

“The Reform Act of 1832,” Living Heritage, UK Parliament, http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/evolutionofparliament/houseofcommons/reformacts/overview/reformact1832/  

About the Author

Traveler, poet, librarian, technology manager—award winning author Caroline Warfield has been many things (even a nun), but above all she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows while she lets her characters lead her to adventures while she nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart. She is also a regular contributor to History Imagined, a blog at the intersection of history and fiction, and (on a much lighter note) The Teatime Tattler, a blog in the shape of a fictional nineteenth century gossip rag

Her current series, Children of Empire, focuses on three cousins, driven apart by lies and deceit, who must find their way back from the distant reaches of the empire.

Click here to find out more about her books. : http://www.carolinewarfield.com/bookshelf/

About The Reluctant Wife

When Bengal Army Captain Fred Wheatly, a disgraced soldier with more courage and honor than sense, is forced to resign, and his mistress dies leaving him with two half-caste daughters to raise, he reluctantly turns to Clare Armbruster for help. But the interfering, beautiful widow demands more of him than he’s ready to give. He’s failed so often in the past. Clare’s made mistakes as well. Can two hearts rise above past failures to forge a future together?

When all else fails, love succeeds…


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Apr 23 2017

Longbourn: Dragon Entail Book Launch

At last, it’s done! Book 2 of Jane Austen’s Dragons is here! Longbourn: Dragon Entail is live on Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Scribd, and soon on Barnes and Noble! And I can’t wait to give away a copy! Leave a comment below for a chance to win an ebook copy.

How about one more installment to whet your appetite for the whole thing? Find other chapters HERE.


In the morning room, Mr. Collins sat between Mama and Mary, prattling on about some point no one could be interested in. Still Mary nodded, smiling as though she cared, and poured him a fresh cup of tea.

How could she be so easy, waiting on him?

Elizabeth sat beside Jane, a knot settling into her stomach. Was that what her life was to become: placating Mr. Collins with tea and genteel conversation at meals and appeasing Longbourn with oils for his itchy hide and mutton for his empty belly?

Mama laughed at Mr. Collins’ remark. In truth that was very close to what Mama did daily, satisfying Papa’s demands for comfort and solitude. Granted, she did not manage Longbourn, but she did see to all the minor dragons’ needs, under the guise of tending the family pets.

Heavens! Perhaps Papa was right: their demands were normal and reasonable, but she really was being selfish and headstrong.

That thought was enough to ruin whatever appetite she might have had left.

A quarter of an hour later, Papa’s study door slammed and heavy footfalls tromped up the stairs, the final punctuation of his conversation with Uncle Gardiner, no doubt.

At least it was a good excuse to leave the morning room.

She hurried upstairs behind him and tapped at the Gardiners’ door.

“Come in, Lizzy.” Aunt closed the door behind her.

“I trust you are aware of what has just transpired.” Uncle tapped his large boot in an angry staccato beat. “Your father has always been a staunch traditionalist when it comes to dragon matters. He was taught by his grandfather, another Historian, who opposed every single change that came to the Order. I am not surprised by his demand.”

“Pray let me help you prepare. Perhaps I might take the children for a walk, tell them one more story before you leave?”

“Only if you are well away from Collins.” Uncle glanced up at Aunt who laid her hand on his shoulder.

Elizabeth covered her eyes with her hand. “I am so sorry.”

Uncle took her by the shoulders. “Look at me, Lizzy. You are not responsible for either man’s behavior—or for any of the dragons’ for that matter. No matter what they might do, nothing will ever change our affection for you. Pray tell me you understand that.”

She swallowed hard and nodded.

“Very good then.” He kissed her forehead.

“If you will take the children for us, we will prepare to take our leave.” Aunt slipped her arm around Elizabeth’s shoulder. “Perhaps you might take them to Hill’s office to visit Rumblkins. Mr. Collins is very unlikely to find you there.”

After a quick consultation with Hill, Elizabeth did just that. The children gathered around Rumblkins’ basket and nibbled on buttered hot rolls, while Hill looked on in grandmotherly contentment from her rocking chair. The children adored the purry tatzelwurm, and Hill approved of anyone who esteemed her Friend.

Elizabeth settled on a stool beside the basket and stroked Rumblkins’ silky ears. “Of course cats cannot speak.” She glanced at the children, eyebrows raised.

“No, of course they cannot.” Anna giggled, sending a wave of titters through her brothers.

“But if they could, just pretending of course, what do you think this one might say?” Elizabeth tapped Rumblkins’ nose. Now was not the time for him to be a cheeky little fellow.

He lifted his head, turned toward the children and mrowed. “I would say that I am very content here.”

“He likes Longbourn very much, I think.” Samuel glanced shyly at Elizabeth.

She nodded at him, smiling.

“I think he likes his basket,” Anna added.

“I do, and I like dried fish even more.” Rumblkins licked his thumbed paw and ran it over his face.

Joshua rose and walked around the little group, hands clasped behind his back. He looked so serious and so like his father when he did that. He was destined to become a solicitor. “Rumblkins has grown fat since we have come. I think he would say he likes dried cod a great deal, and Mrs. Hill is very liberal with it.”

Hill laughed heartily. “Well, he has earned it. I have never seen a creature so adept at catching rats. I have hardly had a loaf of bread nibbled since he came to stay.”

Daniel leaned forward and scratched Rumblkins’ chin. “He is very proud of himself, I think.”

“I am indeed.” He rubbed his cheek against Daniel’s hand. “I may not be a large dragon who can fly and spew poison, but I can do some things very well, indeed. I am proud to earn my place in the Keep.”

Elizabeth pressed her lips tight. It might be a matter of debate within the Order whether minor dragons had to earn a place in a Keep. She had her own opinions on the matter.

The children continued their game of speaking for the dragon. Rumblkins played his part as well, even as the children’s “translations” became increasingly outlandish. Who knew a tatzelwurm could make sounds so much like a laugh?

Fun though it was, the little game had a purpose. What better way to help train the children to cover any slips they might make if they discussed their Dragon Friends when non-Hearers were present? Papa and Collins might not approve, but it was a final instruction she could give them before they departed.

Aunt came to gather the children, letting them know that they would be returning to London immediately.

Anna grabbed her mother’s hand. “Will Phoenix come with us?”

“Yes, of course, my dear. He is part of the family. He will ride in the carriage with us.”

Anna dashed to Elizabeth. “Will you come too?”

“I am afraid not. I am needed here. Maybe someday, though.”

Samuel and Joshua grabbed Aunt’s hands. “Can she come to visit, please?”

Elizabeth crouched down in front of them and took their hands. “I fear it may be quite some time before I am no longer needed about Longbourn.”

She swallowed back a painful lump in her throat. First Darcy had torn her from Pemberley, and now Papa was taking the children away. Who would be next? April? She dragged the back of her hand over her eyes.

“But when you are able, you are always welcome in Cheapside.” Aunt slid her arms over the boys’ shoulders. “Now it is time for us to go. Come along. Lizzy will help you into the carriage.”

Taking Anna and Daniel by the hands, Elizabeth trudged outside. Mama and her sisters were already there waiting to say goodbye. Papa was not.

Given Uncle’s expression, it was probably just as well.

Elizabeth handed the children into the carriage. Phoenix waved at her from the nesting basket of his dainty little cage. The cage door was unlocked—as it should be.

Mary came alongside her as they waved goodbye, until the coach disappeared around a bend in the road. Rustle flew circles over the carriage, cawing farewells that trailed away on the wind.

Heather flitted to Elizabeth’s shoulder. “Why is Phoenix going? Why are the children going? I do not want them to leave. Everyone is so upset! I do not understand.”

Elizabeth leaned her cheek against Heather’s fluffy pink feather-scales. “Neither do I.”

“Shall we take a walk? Jane will be having tea at Netherfield today, so Mama and Lydia will be much engaged in her toilette. We shall not be missed.”

Elizabeth shrugged and looked over her shoulder.

“Oh, Lizzy.” Mary patted her arm. “Mr. Collins went to call upon the vicar. He will not be available to join us.”

“In that case, a walk sounds like a pleasant idea.”

They turned toward the wilderness alongside the house. How forlorn it looked this time of year, all bare, and brown and crunchy.

“I suppose Rustle told you what happened and why the Gardiners have left so suddenly?” Elizabeth could still make him out on the horizon, a black speck, circling low.

“That is the advantage of having several dragons in the house now. I am much better informed than I have ever been.” Mary chuckled and shrugged.

“There are fewer secrets kept with dragons than with servants. More than one aristocratic household has learned that the hard way.” Elizabeth tapped Heather’s beak with a fingertip. “So take heed, little one, and do not be a carrier of tales. It is not a welcome trait.”

Heather sneezed, and all her feather scales pouffed, turning her into a little pink dandelion.

Mary glanced at Heather. “What a silly little thing you are. Do you remember what you wanted to tell Elizabeth?”

Heather sniffed and sneezed again. “You had best tell her.”

Mary huffed a little. “I am not sure what you have heard, but Mr. Collins was quite remorseful over what happened with Rumblkins.”

Elizabeth turned aside and rolled her eyes. “I was under the impression he had little concern for dumb creatures.”

“I am sure he said such a thing to Hill. But, that is hardly surprising when she came after him with a rolling pin.”

Heather squeaked a little laugh.

“It was rather like a scene from a pantomime, all told. I think Lydia enjoyed it a great deal, Mama not so much though.”

“I can well imagine. I am sure that scene won Mrs. Hill no favors with Mr. Collins.”

“No indeed, but I think I was able to calm him.” Mary kicked a pile of leaves that crunched and skittered against her skirts.

“How did you manage such a thing?”

“I merely suggested to him that Mrs. Hill found Rumblkins excessively useful to her. She feared losing that aid in ridding the house of vermin. Her response was understandable especially considering Mr. Collins shares her dread of rats.”

“I am surprised he has such a sensible opinion of them.”

Mary frowned just like Mama. “That is not gracious, Elizabeth. He is not a stupid man.”

“Perhaps he is not, but he does not make it easy to tell.” She folded her arms across her chest.

“You are awfully prejudiced. If you were not always so hard on him—”

“Forgive me, but I do not think I am hard on him at all. Consider what he did and has threatened to do to the minor dragons! You think that tolerable? What is more, he forbade me from telling dragon stories to the children! The audacity!”

“I concede, he is apt to overstep himself, and he does indulge in a high level of what I can only call the ridiculous. But in all fairness, your stubbornness is of no help, either.”

“My stubbornness! You know I am right. Should I just concede to him because he declares a thing so?” Elizabeth threw her hands in the air.

“If you would be a little more flexible, you might find him easier to manage. Instead of arguing, you could have explained the higher principles contained in your stories, ones he might appreciate. He would have supported you then.”

“He has no right—” Elizabeth dragged her foot into the dirt. When had she picked up Longbourn’s habit?

“As heir to the estate, some would argue he does have the right. Certainly Papa does not see him as overstepping.”

Elizabeth clutched her temples. When had Mary taken their side?

“What would it take away from you to help him to see things in a different and more favorable way, instead of always arguing?”

“It is an insult to be questioned by one who does not know what he is talking about.”

“How is he supposed to know what he is talking about when dragons are a grand secret to which he has not been privy?” Mary cocked her head and raised an eyebrow. “Forgive me for being so bold, but is it possible that at least part of the problem is that you are very proud yourself?”

Elizabeth’s head snapped up, briefly unbalancing Heather from her perch. “Proud? Me? Perhaps you have confused me with Mr. Darcy. If there has been anyone in the neighborhood who has suffered from pride, it is he.”

“He was prone to pride as well, but he is far from the only one. Consider, you are Papa’s favorite and are accustomed to being treated as such.”

“That sounds unfavorably like jealousy.” Who would have thought that Mary’s vice?

“You are also the favorite of every dragon at Longbourn, at Gracechurch Street, and a few you have met on your journeys with Papa as I understand it. Do you deny it?”

“What has that to do with anything?” Elizabeth adjusted the buttons on her spencer.

“The dragons treat you with great deference. Papa makes no bones about treating you as his favorite. Of course it is difficult for you when someone does not show you favor the way you want it. It hurts one’s pride—”

“So the reason I do not like Mr. Collins is that I am not his favorite?”

Mary threw her hand in the air and waved it near Elizabeth’s face. “Not at all—can you not see, you are his favorite. He has singled you out, you know. He likes you very much indeed. But you have set yourself so against him that you will not see that.”

“How can you say that when he is so ill-disposed to all things draconic?”

“He is not nearly so ill-disposed, as you call it, if one is not so dead-set on having things exactly her way. If you would just compromise a little, you would find that he is quite malleable and amenable to nearly everything that is important to you.” She poked Elizabeth’s shoulder hard enough to set her back a step.

“You would keep Heather in a cage because he insisted?”

Heather squawked and flapped her little wings.

“He made that suggestion to me. We merely demonstrated to him how very well-trained she was, and that she was able and willing to follow all my commands. That was exactly what he wanted to know. She did a few tricks, sang whilst perched on his finger, and retreated to an inconspicuous spot on the shelf when asked. All his objections were answered, and he is feeling quite indifferent to her presence now.” Mary held out her hand for Heather.

“She performed for him like a learned pig?”

Heather lit on Mary’s finger, snorted and shook her head.

“Hardly. She saw the advantage in convincing Mr. Collins of her agreeable nature and was happy to do so.”

“Indeed I was.” Heather blinked her huge eyes. “He is little bother to me now. I do not understand why April is so troubled by him. He even scratched under my chin.”

Elizabeth’s eye’s bulged. Collins, scratching a dragon? “April would never tolerate him touching her. She has not your easy-going temperament.”

“While that is true, perhaps if you explained to her the need for it, she might be willing to be a little more … settled?”

Elizabeth scoured her face with her palms.

Mary sighed and pressed her hand to her mouth. “I just want to offer you some possible means by which your ends might be accomplished without you being reduced to a shell of yourself.”

“I shall give what you have said a great deal of thought.”

“And you will try to do it?”

“I will try.”

Mary squeezed her hand. She and Heather returned to the house.

Elizabeth ran her hands along her upper arms and exhaled heavily. It was good that April had not been around to hear Mary’s comments. She would have readily taken offense and was not one to easily forgive.

She kicked a twig, but its thorns tangled in the hem of her petticoat instead of skittering out of her way.

“Dragon’s blood!”

Good thing no one was around to hear that oath—Papa would be horrified to hear her cursing like a common—well, an uncommon—sailor.

She tossed the offending branch aside and continued on.

Papa had not been pleased to learn that Longbourn had taught her all manner of coarse language. But even then, he had not been able to bring himself to curb the wyvern.

Longbourn had always been such a good friend to her … until now. Until she argued with him, and refused to accommodate his wishes. If only he would try to be more understanding.

Great heavens! That is exactly what Mary was asking of her.

She grabbed the nearest tree trunk and clung to it. No, certainly not. Mary could not be implying that her own behavior was anything like Longbourn’s.

She staggered to an unobtrusive bench tucked between the trees and pulled her knees up under her chin.

Her behavior was nothing like the wyvern’s. She had not threatened to eat anyone.

She was Papa’s favorite, though. But it was because of her dragon affinity. He was the Historian of the Blue Order, so of course he would favor any child who loved dragons as much as he. That was only to be expected.

He did treat her differently than her sisters, indulging her interests, her whims. He had taken her traveling on Blue Order business, to London, Bath, Manchester, Brighton, and more. None of her sisters or Mama had ever traveled with him. Even when he could have easily arranged for their entertainment in Brighton, he chose to bring only her. How must that have looked to her sisters?

She pressed her forehead to her knees.

Mama favored Jane and Lydia, doting on them. They could do no wrong in her eyes. Jane was so sweet and good, that it made no difference in her disposition. But Lydia? Even Charlotte Lucas had begun remarking upon Lydia’s wild behavior.

Had she, in her own way, become as indecorous as Lydia? As proud and insensitive as Mr. Darcy? She dragged her sleeve across blurry eyes. Pray, no, it could not be so. Could it?

Was it really so wrong that she had always wanted to marry for love? There was every indication that Jane would have the opportunity. Why should she not?

Because a Dragon Keeper had greater responsibilities.

And she needed to act like it.

Mary was right. It was time for her to rise above being a spoiled little girl. If Mary and Heather could manage Mr. Collins, surely she and April could do the same.


Get the series in ebook and paperback (coming soon)!

Apr 20 2017

Heir of Rosings Park Ch 2

Heir of Rosing Park iconWill Mary Bennet find her happy ending under the reign of the Queen of Rosings Park?

 

Find additional chapters HERE


 Chapter 2

His letters had been so regular since he left for London, two each week on Wednesday and Saturday, bright points in her week to anticipate and cherish. But a full week had passed since his last missive. Little spots of worry began to form in her mind, whispering the most awful, outlandish, troublesome things.

It was true, very true, Mr. Michaels was no Mr. Darcy, with his forceful and passionate nature. Nor did it seem he was the Mr. Amberson Lizzy wrote of, with a flair for quiet drama and determination. No, men like that belonged with women like her sisters. Beautiful, vivacious, intense.

Michaels was a quiet, steady man, protective and predictable. His temper was even, not bent toward passions, good or bad. One knew exactly what to expect from him. His life was well ordered and precise.

Though Lydia and Kitty deemed him very dull, he suited Mary well. She had been called dull sufficient times to be quite comfortable with the description. When Kitty accused Mr. Michaels of being as tiresome as Mary, it seemed quite prophetic. The very next day he paid them a call and stayed a full half hour in Mary’s company.

Nothing about him or his letters were romantic. It might have been nice once in a while. Very nice. But all the conduct books advised: steadiness, by its nature, would outlive romance. It was the wisest choice.

Her room was small, tucked awkwardly under a gable which rendered it full of odd angles and hard-to-use spaces. Collins deemed it the most modest room in the house. The one room most fitting for one whose family was not in Lady Catherine’s good graces. Charlotte of course had objected, but Mary insisted it was fine. And it was; it put her as far away from Mr. Collins’ snoring as possible.

She settled into the little chair that just fit in the window nook, and opened his letter.

Dear Mary,

I must apologize for the last two letters I should have written. No doubt you noticed their absence. I fear you may be worried. Indeed I began them, but so many unexpected matters arose that they were never completed. I decided to begin afresh rather than try to make sense out of what I wrote earlier.

My business here has been more complex than I anticipated. I fear the state of Rosings Park is far more difficult than any of us truly imagined. I will be bringing Colonel Fitzwilliam far more bad news than any heir deserves.

My first letter to you was interrupted by a score of tradesmen at my door, demanding payment for their wares. Payment which is not in Rosings’ coffers at present. I found sufficient funds to distribute just enough payment to keep them at bay for another quarter. They are demanding debtor’s prison for someone. It was not a pretty sight.

 

So much debt? If they were threatening prison, it was at least twenty thousand pounds! How could such a sum ever be repaid?

 

The second letter suffered disruption when I had to a call from several physicians who claimed they had consulted with Lady Catherine concerning Miss de Bourgh’s condition, but never received an appropriate honorarium for their efforts. You will hardly be surprised to learn that they lost their veneer of gentlemanly behavior when I demanded some proof of their claims.

I managed to sort them out, but I fear my creativity and my patience are being stretched far beyond what I am equipped to manage. Retrenching is going to be essential to weather this current storm.

I hope Colonel Fitzwilliam will be of a mind to take the necessary actions. As a single man who has not been recently accustomed to living in a grand estate, he might be made to see the necessity of it. I hope so.

 

Maybe he would take leave of Rosings altogether, lease the house out, and allow Mary and Michaels to live out their lives without the kind of constant interference that Lady Catherine offered. That was too much good fortune to hope for.

 

As I pick up my pen to write to you a third time, I am certain I shall not be thwarted as I have the best possible news. I have lingered a few days extra in London in the hopes of receiving the post that has just come.

A letter from your father arrived today. He has finally signed the settlement and all is in preparation for our marriage. The papers are finished, and he cannot change his mind now. So you know, the settlement is somewhat less than what we expected, but not enough to interfere with our plans. I know it has been foolish of me to worry so, but I have. Now I can put my mind at ease.

I must tell you something else. You will no doubt find this a somewhat dark sentiment, but I trust you to hear me out and understand.  I have seen my own solicitor and just completed a new draft of my will. Whilst I do not have much, there is some little in the four percents and a bit in an account at a bank here in London. I have left instructions if there were anything to happen to me, it should go to you, not to my brother.

Please do not attempt to dissuade me. Your father being as he is, I do not wish to see you have to return to his home under any circumstances. In this way should anything happen to me, this way I can be assured that you will not have to. I do not have enough to assure that you might live as comfortably as you have been accustomed to be sure. But it is enough that you might retain independence and make your own choices. I sleep easier at night knowingt the sum is there for you, all the while hoping and praying it will not be necessary.

 

Mary pressed the letter to her chest, hot trails trickling down her face. He might not have the drama or passion of Darcy or Amberson, but he was indeed the best of men.

The sentiment did ring like a plot in a gothic novel to be sure, but it was entirely reflective of the kind of steady, protective temperament that she most treasured in him. Just a week or so and he would be back.

Then the rest of her life might finally begin.

 

 

Several days later, Mary helped Charlotte to the parlor and instructed the housekeeper to begin preparations for tea. Mrs. Barrows and Mrs. Newton, and Mrs. Shaw would be here soon.

Or rather now.

Mary greeted them at the door herself. Yes, Mr. Collins had asked her to stop doing that, it was unseemly and suggested they could not afford a proper housekeeper.  But, he was always fussing at her for one thing or another. There was little point in trying to please him now. As soon as she got one thing right, he found two other points to critique.

His temper had grown restive since Lady Catherine’s invalidity. He did not seem to know how to manage with Colonel Fitzwilliam who did not appreciate Mr. Collins’ fawning and had no patience for his opinions.

What Colonel Fitzwilliam seemed to want was sound advice and even argument. Neither of which Mr. Collins was well equipped to deliver, but Michaels was. And that only served to irritate Collins more.

Mary led the matrons to the parlor where Charlotte waited, comfortably settled with her feet up. The housekeeper followed in with the tea service.

“How lovely to see you, Mrs. Collins.” Mrs. Barrows curtsied.

She was a tall woman, and impossibly thin. She had a reputation for eating as heartily as her husband, but one would never know by looking at her.

“What a lovely day for tea.” Mrs. Newton sat beside Mrs. Barrows on the faded settee across from Charlotte.

The two ladies were nearly inseparable. Some mistook them for sisters, which was odd as they looked nothing alike. Mrs. Newton was round and ruddy, with cheery cheeks and twinkling eyes.

“And good day to you, Miss Bennet.” Mrs. Shaw perched properly on the chair nearest Charlotte.

Her glasses perched on the end of her nose, leaving all who encountered her with the sense of being looked down upon. It was unfortunate as she was a gentle, kind soul who never cared to judge others, but one had to take the time to talk with her to find that out.

Charlotte tried to serve the tea, but had to turn the service over to Mary as she could not lean over her belly enough to reach the tea pot.

“Thank you for joining us this afternoon.” Charlotte resettled herself on the couch, panting hard.

“Indeed, we are grateful.” Mary handed Mrs. Shaw a teacup. “I shall go straight to my purpose though, lest we chatter about and never address the crux of the matter.”

Charlotte’s eyes bulged a bit. She never had been comfortable with any measure of directness, and Mary could be little else.

“Mrs. Collins is dearly in need of a midwife. I could think of none better in Hunsford to make recommendations than you.”

Between the three women, they boasted thirteen living children and none had suffered serious complications.

Mrs. Newton and Mrs. Barrows tittered over their teacups. Their cheeks tinged pink, but it was a false modesty at best, such topics were not difficult for them to bear. Mary had overheard them discussing far more colorful details of their births than who was their midwife.

“If I may be so bold,” Mrs. Shaw, “I would strongly recommend Mrs. Mariah Grant. She has attended me the last four times. Such a difference from the woman who attended my first. I would never ask for anyone else.”

“I agree, most assuredly I do,” Mrs. Barrows set her teacup down and pressed her hand to her chest. “She was brilliant when my little Jonathan was born. I do not know what I would have done without her.”

“You know, very few of her ladies come down with childbed fever, far fewer than Mrs. Kerring you know. I think that says so much for her.” Mrs. Newton glanced at Mrs. Barrows and nodded.

“Indeed I only came down with it once,” Mrs. Shaw wrung her hands. “And it was with the birth of my Alice, my first born. I cannot say what it is that Mrs. Grant does differently, but she has a way about her.”

“Yes she does, a way of setting a woman at ease that many do not have.” Mrs. Newton sipped her tea.

Mrs. Barrows waved a pointing finger. “And she is always quick to attend. She does not dilly dally like some I have heard of. No she makes her way directly and insists on staying through the first several days beyond, just to insure nothing takes her by surprise. With my youngest she came the day before he was born, saying she just had a feeling it was time, and sure enough, twelve hours later, she was right.”

“And she is calm as a summer’s morning. Never seen a woman so steady in a crisis, even when something goes wrong, she goes about her business. Never flustered or unsettled.” Mrs. Newton dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief.

Poor woman lost her last child.

“That is very good to hear.” Charlotte chewed her knuckle. “I think I should like to contact her.”

“You have had no contact with a midwife yet? Mrs. Collins, forgive me for being so forward, but that is not wise. You must send for her immediately. You cannot risk your health like that.” Mrs. Newton’s voice rose to shrill notes.

Charlotte blushed and looked aside. “Thank you for your concern. I shall attend to it immediately.”

“And you know you might rely on us as well. Anything that you need, we shall be here.” Mrs. Barrows glanced at her friends who all nodded. “You must tell us what you have done to prepare for your lying in.”

Mary edged back as they conferred. They were nothing if not knowledgeable and efficient. In a quarter of an hour, they had arranged to visit again to prepare the nursery and Charlotte’s room. In the meantime, they would sew the remaining items the baby would need.

“Oh Miss Bennet,” Mrs. Shaw leaned close and the rest continued their conversation. “I have some news that you should find most pleasing.”

“I am intrigued, madam, would you do me the kindness of sharing with me what it is?” Oh how she hated being teased into asking for more information. Lydia and Kitty played that game with her often, usually to remind her that she had been left out of whatever had been interesting.

“I saw a particular horse on the way here this morning. One very familiar to me and I would expect very familiar to you.” Mrs. Shaw’s brows rose.

Mary forced a thin smile. “Indeed. Perhaps you would enlighten me, what horse are you referring to?”

“The one with the odd patch on its side. One belonging to Mr. Michaels.”

Mary’s face grew hot and cold at the same time. Was that even possible? She was at the parlor window before she ever realized she had stood.

How foolish!  What chance that he should appear in the distance now, at the very moment she went in search for him?

“It is delightful to see such devotion, Miss Bennet.” Mrs. Shaw chuckled.

“Yes indeed, pray, have you any plans for your wedding?” Mrs. Barrows turned over her shoulder to gaze at her.

Mary’s face flushed as she made her way back to her seat. She glanced at Charlotte, but rescue was unlikely. For all her understanding and kindness, Charlotte had no idea how much Mary disliked being asked such personal questions in a group that cared little for her other than fodder for their gossip.

“When will the banns be read?” Mrs. Newton asked.

“We had thought to begin them the week that he returns.”

“I am surprised you did not have them read before he left. It did leave us all wondering that perhaps he might—” Mrs. Newton’s eyes narrowed just a bit.

Charlotte dropped her spoon on her saucer. Everyone jumped.

“Forgive my clumsiness. The baby is so active! Oh, that reminds me. I knew there was something I had intended to ask you. The last time we dined with you, Mr. Collins so enjoyed the crust on your eel pie. I must learn how you prepare it.”

Mrs. Newton turned to her with a broad smile. “I am so glad to hear you liked it. The receipt you see, came from my mother. But it was Mr. Newton’s mother who taught me how to instruct the cook properly in the making of it. There is a little trick you see…”

How dear of Charlotte—best not waste this way of escape. Mary curtsied, though no one noticed, and slipped from the parlor.

Charlotte would do well enough on her own now. With any luck, she had heard enough that she would need no further pushing to call upon Mrs. Grant.  That was a very good thing. No stranger to lyings-in, Mary had no expertise to offer, though it would be like Charlotte to call upon her for help anyway.

Why did people so quickly assume she knew what she was doing and expect that she would do it? It was a very bothersome thing.

Mary left the house and wandered along the back garden to a footpath that led to Rosings Park. She could not be seen from the parsonage parlor windows here, and more than simply being alone, she required privacy.

Why was it so easy for the matrons to believe that Mr. Michaels would abandon her if he left Kent for any time at all? Their engagement had been announced for some time. Why did reading the banns make it any more or less real?

No doubt they did not think her sufficient enticement to keep his attention once he was exposed to the wider society of London. Surely there, prettier, richer girls would vie for his attention, and she would necessarily be the loser.

Why was it the woman always suffered more being jilted than the man? He might walk away with little damage, but her reputation would bear the stain forever.

It was a very unpleasant thing to know that people thought one likely to be jilted.

But Michaels was not that kind of man. None knew how hard he worked whilst in London. He was not there attending balls and parties. He spent late nights slogging through the disaster of Rosings’ records and negotiating with irate merchants and a few peers from whom Lady Catherine had borrowed money. Had he been looking for another, he would have had no time to find her.

Mary swallowed hard clenching her fists.

No, she must remember that he had chosen her from among all her sisters. He could have courted any of them. Not that Lydia would have paid him any mind or that Lady Catherine would have permitted Jane a suitor she did not select.

Still, Michaels selected her, purposefully, intentionally because it was her disposition that suited him.

It was silly to give in to her foolish insecurities and fears. But when Papa continually reminded her that she was far less attractive and witty and warm and generally appealing than her sisters, it was a very natural thing to do.

 

 

So are Mary’s insecurities silly or sensible? Tell me in the comments.


Don’t miss the first two books in the series:

 

 

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Apr 18 2017

Taxed, smuggled and adulterated: Tea in Britain

“Polly put the kettle on, we’ll all have tea.”~Charles Dickens (1812-1870) Barnaby Rudge  


Since its popular introduction by Catherine of Braganza, in 1662, tea in Britain was an expensive commodity

It was so expensive it was usually kept under lock and key, protected from pilfering by the servants. Both the cupboards and the tea caddies were locked and the key kept by the mistress of the household.

Two primary types of tea were available, green and black. Black teas included bohea, souchong, congo (or congou) and pekoe, bohea being the cheapest, pekoe the most expensive. Of the green teas, singlo was the cheapest. Other varieties included hyson, caper, and bloom. Different types of tea leaves would be combined to produce tasty blends for consumers.

Both forms of tea began with the same leaves, but they were processed differently. Green tea leaves were roasted as soon as they are gathered to prevent fermentation. Black tea leaves were allowed to ferment for some time. The brown/black color and flavor developed during fermentation. Roasting stopped the process.

The tea trade recognized nine different grades of quality in both green and brown/black teas. The cheapest might be found for 5-6 shillings per pound. The best grades could cost as much as 20 shillings or more a pound. In 1800 a year’s supply of tea and sugar could cost a family of six nearly as much as their yearly rent. (Of course the anti-slavery movement discouraged the use of sugar…)

Tea Clipper F.E. Althausse; Tea in Britain

Tea Clipper F.E. Althausse

Why was tea so expensive?

Two major factors contributed to the cost of tea: cost of import and taxes.

In the Regency era, tea had not yet been cultivated in India, so all supplies had to be shipped in from China. The journey from China to Britain could take more than a year to complete. In China, foreign traders were confined to trading in Canton. Trade was strictly regulated by Chinese officials with only the Hong guild licensed to deal with foreign traders. These merchants were taxed heavily by their own officials and in turn passed their expenses off to the traders, thus increasing the cost of exported goods.

Once the tea entered Britain, the local government would add their own taxes which further increased the cost. In 1784, dry leaf tea was taxed at a shilling a pound. By 1801, tax rates increased to 2 shillings, 6 pence a pound.

Smuggling

Richard Twinning, of Twinning Tea company, estimated at least half of the tea drunk in England was smuggled. Even in 1820, tea was one of the two most smuggled commodities, the other being liquor.

Gunsgreen House (smuggling house); Tea in Britain

Gunsgreen House (smuggling house)

Smuggled tea often came from Holland where it might be purchased for as little as 7 pence per pound. This tea was then transported to England by ship and sold at 2 shillings a pound, a third of what legally procured teas sold for.

The smugglers, who often were local fishermen, snuck the tea from offshore ships to smaller vessels which brought it to land in oilskin bags. On land, the tea was repacked in sacks to minimize the taste from the oilskin and taken by horse to various hiding places. (Even so, smuggled tea was known for  the ‘off’ taste imparted by the oilskin.) Parish churches often were used to stash the ill-gotten goods. 

To make the smuggled tea even more lucrative, many smugglers adulterated the tea with other substances, until the Food and Drug Act of 1875 brought in stiff penalties for the practice.

Adulterated tea

Prepacked tea was not produced until 1826 making it very susceptible to contamination. Moreover, tea was never sold in outdoor public markets, but in smaller shops, like chandler’s shops, further increasing its vulnerability. Loose tea, sometimes called gunpowder was more difficult to successfully adulterate and was thus more expensive than dried and ground versions.  Tea in Britain, adulterated

Green teas were generally thought easier to adulterate, so public preference shifted to black tea. Not to be outdone by wary consumers, unscrupulous merchants stretched black tea supplies with both used tea leaves, colorants and other contaminants.

Used teas leaves were in ready supply. In wealthy households, it passed through the household hierarchy. First the family brewed and drank of it. Then the used leaves would the given to the servants to brew and drink. Finally, they would end in the hands of a high ranking servant, cook or housekeeper, who, as part of her contract would be entitled to the used leaves. She would then dry and sell them to a char woman or directly to poorer families for as much as a shilling a pound.

Char women might resell the used leaves to a slop shop who would then process them for reuse. The leaves were stiffened with a solution of gum, colored with green vitriol (iron sulfate) or black lead and combined with fresh tea leaves. Willow, licorice, log wood and sloe leaves  might also be added to further extend the mixture. No doubt it tasted little like real tea, but it did contain actual tea leaves.

Fake tea called ‘smouch’ or sometimes ‘British tea’, which did not,  was also widely available. Counterfeit green tea could be produced from thorn or ash leaves, steeped in green vitriol or verdigris (copper acetate) and dried. These dyes were toxic and could produce a variety of symptoms including constipation.

Imitation black tea often contained the same hawthorn, ash and sloe leaves. It might also be a mixture of bran and animal dung or ‘chamber lye’ (the contents of a chamber pot). Dried and ground these were said to strongly resemble fashionable bohea tea in appearance if not in flavor. (I shudder to think what this must have tasted like…)

Some estimates suggested up to three million pounds (weight) of these mixtures were produced a year. So while most of the nation drank ‘tea’, the contents of many tea cups might not have been as pleasant as the drinker might have wished.

Ironically, even these adulterated teas would have provided the working class with the safest way of taking in water (boiled to make the tea) because of the water supply was often more contaminated than the tea.

 

Resources

 http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelpregion/asia/china/guidesources/chinatrade/index.html

http://www.britainexpress.com/History/tea-in-britain.htm

Fullerton, Susannah and Hill, Reginald.  Jane Austen & Crime. Jones Books. (2006)

Horn, Pamela. Flunkeys and Scullions, Life Below Stairs in Georgian England . Sutton Publishing (2004)

Murray, Venetia. An Elegant Madness Penguin Books (1998)

Olsen, Kirstin. Cooking with Jane Austen Greenwood Press (2005)

Wilson, Kim. Tea with Jane Austen Jones Books (2004)

 

 

 

 

Apr 15 2017

Longbourn: Dragon Entail Chapter 10

Ok, so I’m not being very patient. I can’t wait to share these with you. So, I’ll be posting a new chapter every two weeks on Saturday until the book is published. (Don’t forget, comments really do inspire me to write faster…just saying…)

Find previous chapters HERE


Elizabeth counted the stairs as she went, making sure their number had not changed since the last time she had traversed them. Given how arsey-varsey everything else had become, it seemed reasonable to check.

The study door stood open. How odd, that used to leave her feeling warm and welcome, not with a knot in her stomach like now. Papa waved her in.

“Shut the door behind you.” He stood in front of the fireplace, hands clasped behind his back.

His shoulders were hunched and his posture uneven. The cold must have settled into his joints. His hips probably hurt, his hands and feet too, given the two nearly empty cups of willow bark tea on the small table near his chair. Would that they might soothe his temper, too.

She minced inside and stood beside his favorite chair. “Yes, Papa?”

He huffed, still staring at the fire. “It has been a most interesting evening. I have not yet been to bed.”

She gulped. “Shall I call the apothecary for you?”

“Perhaps later today that might be in order, but that is not the reason for my sleeplessness. I had a visitor last night.”

Heavens no! She covered her mouth with her hands. Her knees melted. Somehow she made it into the chair next to his. “Longbourn?

“He demanded an audience with me in the cellar late last night. It was most fortuitous that Hill was kept occupied by her injured Friend.”

Something about the way he said the word … “You do not believe Rumblkins was genuinely hurt? I saw the bruises myself—”

“Tatzelwurms are not known for being entirely reliable. Or even slightly so. That he was bruised, I am sure. That it was as serious as he suggests, I highly doubt.”

She clenched her jaws. It would not do to argue with him right now.

“The tale Rumblkins told made quite an impression upon Longbourn, though. Quite an impression.” He turned and glared at her, eyes so much like Longbourn’s she flinched back.

Had the wyvern taught him to breathe poison as well? Given his expression, she just might find out.

“I know not what he told you. But you must understand, I did not take Rumblkins or any of the others to see Longbourn. He came upon us in the woods whilst I was telling all of them to allow me to handle matters with Longbourn.” She clutched fistfuls of her skirt so tightly it might tear.

“So that is what you were telling them.”

What had Longbourn told him?

“Are you accusing me of lying to you?”

He lifted a hand for silence and slowly paced. “I have no desire to discuss that matter with you. It does not at all influence the outcome of the encounter. You do realize what you orchestrated amounted to a Keep Conclave, without the senior Keeper, do you not?”

“I orchestrated nothing! It was a chance meeting in the woods, not a Conclave of any flavor. I would never participate in such a meeting without you. Do you not know me better than that?” She rose, gripping the back of the chair for support.

“That was hardly Longbourn’s opinion. Ironically, he rather approved of it all, considering he saw it as a move into your role as Keeper and Mistress of the estate.” He snorted and rolled his eyes.

“You know he is telling you that to incite a reaction from you.”

“It is not your place to question his motives.”

“You think you know his motives? Forgive me, sir, but you do not. He is selfish, manipulative, and controlling, entirely insensitive to the feelings and rights of others. ”

He stomped and grimaced, reaching for his knee. “That is quite enough from you! Whatever you call that little gathering, you have managed to provoke quite a reaction from Longbourn.”

She pinched the bridge of her nose and exhaled a slow measured breath. “I spoke with him at length and was certain I had calmed him down.”

“Hardly. He paced the cellar half the night, demanding that I bring Collins down to meet him immediately.”

She screwed her eyes shut.

Shuffling footfalls. Harsh, raspy breaths. His presence loomed near. “You did not demand it of him? That was his claim, you know. Longbourn said you were inconsolable at Collins’ attitudes toward dragons, that you would not have him whilst he remained unaware of them.”

She dragged her hand down her face. “You are aware, I hope, that Mr. Collins approached me quite directly yesterday to forbid my talk of dragons and to insist that April and Rumblkins be banished from the house.  And yet, at no time did I say nor did I imply Mr. Collins should be forcibly initiated. In fact, I stated the very opposite. I begged the little ones not to bother Longbourn with their most understandable dread of Mr. Collins—which is a matter that we yet must discuss. I told them I would manage it. But they chose to take their grievance to the Laird of their Keep, as is their right according to the Accords. And, I might add, it is Longbourn’s responsibility to hear them out and act accordingly. Unfortunately his choice of appropriate action was entirely inappropriate and quite possibly disastrous!”

“Do you have any idea what would happen if dragons were revealed to Collins in a single moment?”

“Yes, Papa, I do. Is that not just what I said?” Was he even listening to her? “I insisted to Longbourn that it not be done.  If the shock did not kill the man, then there is every reason to expect he would go far and wide with his discovery—which would be far worse than him simply dropping over dead of apoplexy. If he is to inherit Longbourn estate, there is no alternative; he must be initiated, but slowly and with great care.”

“Longbourn conveyed a very different conversation between you two.”

“You believe I am lying?”

“Do you accuse him of lying to me?”

She spun on her heel and stormed toward the windows. “Yes, sir, I do. He is far too accustomed to getting his own way and is willing to do whatever is necessary to make it happen. But I am sure you do not believe me. You have not seen that side of him until now because he has always got his way just by asking for it.”

“It is his right as territorial dragon.”

She raised her foot to stomp—no that would not help matters—and set it down gently. “No, it is not. We are not slaves to them because of their strength any more than our Dragon Friends are slaves to us.”

“A Keeper’s task is to serve a dragon’s needs.”

“His needs, not his wants and whims. They are not the same thing.” She leaned against the window frame and pressed her forehead to the glass. “Do you know what Mr. Collins said to me today?”

“It does not matter.”

“Yes, it matters very much, to all the Keep. He told me April belongs locked in her cage, like an animal in a circus. He wants to see her banished from company and denied her freedom. She is terrified of what he might try to do to her, and honestly I do not blame her. Then he all but forbade me from telling stories to the Gardiner children. He accused me of polluting their young minds with nonsense!”

Silence. Could it be—he was actually—

“Perhaps he has a point on both counts.”

She stiffened, blood draining from her face. “You must be joking!”

“April does have far too much freedom, more than any other fairy dragon I have seen. It would be far safer for her to stay out of sight.”

How satisfying it would be to turn a draconic glare on him. But it would probably work against her. Best just stare out the window. “She will not tolerate such terms.”

“Then she is free to make other choices.”

“You would turn her out?”

“I never said such a thing, only that she would be safer out of sight of those who do not understand.”

“And what of Mr. Collins’ attack on Rumblkins?”

“That was an unfortunate accident.”

“That is not what I was told.” She turned, slowly, deliberately, fists clenched. “Collins intentionally—”

 “You provoked Collins to anger. He was merely taking it out on what he considered a dumb animal.” He shrugged, his expression so mild it had to be an affectation.

“You excuse that kind of behavior? What other kind of stupid creature do you think he will take his anger out on next? Perhaps the children—he considers them stupid, I am sure—what might he do if he finds them playing at dragons again?”

“You have filled their heads with too many stories. Perhaps it is time to temper them.”

“Those stories are the best way to teach them of the legacy they have inherited. It is how you taught me after all.”

He rubbed his palms together before his chest. “All in good time. You cannot teach them everything at once. In any case, their parents should take over the task. It is time for them to return home, to London. I shall make mention of that immediately.”

“You are sending them away? You cannot be serious.” She staggered back against the window frame.

He would put out his own family over this matter? Heavens above, he would not hesitate in making any of the minor dragons homeless as well. What kind of man had he become?

“I cannot say their influence has wrought any good on this visit, not at all.”

“You cannot do this!  Uncle Gardiner is one of your closest friends in the Order.”

“I have more significant concerns right now. He needs to manage his family, and I need to manage mine.”

“You mean you need to manage me.”

He raked his hair. “We cannot have Longbourn becoming so agitated. It is dangerous to everyone. Who knows what kind of rash behavior he might commit? I calmed him down and assured him that Collins would be dealt with, but I cannot be certain the next time will be so easy. It is your responsibility to keep both of them, Collins and Longbourn, content and away from one another until such time as we can devise a gentle means of introduction.”

One. Two. Three.  She gritted her teeth and walked toward a chair. Four. Five. Six. Seven.  One hand on the arm of the wingback, she sat down with all the grace and elegance Mama had taught her. Eight. Nine. Ten. Much better. “I have given that some thought. If the Order could assist us in finding a willing parrot-like cockatrix—”

“That will not work. Another dragon is only going to complicate things and further agitate Longbourn. You know he barely tolerates Rustle and Walker. Pemberley almost drove him to distraction.”

Pemberley. Her eyes burned and she blinked furiously. Her dear, sweet baby. Of course such a creature would have driven Longbourn mad. And according to Papa, it was entirely Pemberley’s fault.

“You are up to the task. I know you are. Yes, it is unpleasant, but that is the nature of life. And we will find a way to make it tolerable for you. I promise you that.” He patted her shoulder.

“And have you given any thought as to how that may be accomplished?”

“I will find a way, Lizzy. Trust me. Go now and have some breakfast. I am sure the Gardiners will be in need of your help with packing.”

She curtsied and ran from the room. If he thought his promises were meaningful, he was sorely mistaken.

 


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