May 23 2017

History A’la Carte May 2017

 

Grab a cup of copy and enjoy a selection of fascinating history tidbits. 

 


 

Sit up Straight! Bad posture and the ‘Neck Swing’ in the 18th century.

Devices to make us sit or stand ‘straight’ are certainly nothing new. What have changed are attitudes towards posture. For the Georgians, posture was partly medical, certainly, but perhaps more of a social and cultural issue. Put another way, the ‘polite’ body stood straight and tall; to hunch over was unnatural and uncouth.

Who would have thoghtt these contraptions were from the 1800’s?

What about fathers? Men and childbirth: some evidence from nineteenth-century Ulster.

While it is true that the rituals of childbirth were gendered, this did not necessarily mean that men were denied a place in the birthing room. Like today, childbirth was an event that not only interested men as fathers, but also demanded their assistance and support as husbands. 

Kind of nice to think that we were not the only ones to think fathers were important!

Dangers of Walking in Vienna in the 1820s

Pity the poor pedestrian in Vienna in the early 1820s. Here’s what an English visitor had to say about the dangers of walking in Austria’s capital 

How to Express Your Feelings, 1689

Need a quick sentiment for that greeting card? One of these lines will be perfect for the intercourse of your affection. 

Excerpts from The Theatre of Compliments, Or, A Compleat New Academy: Expressions of Love and Friendship of Men towards Men, Complemental Expressions of Ladies to each other. Amorous Expressions of Gentlemen to Ladies, Gentlewomen and Maidens, &c.

More female misers

We recently told you about the miser Mary Luhorne, that we came across in the book Lives and Anecdotes of Misers. Needless to say we unearthed a few more, but unfortunately, unlike Mary, we are unable to validate most of these, apart from to confirm that details of their stories also appeared in the newspapers some years later. Once again, amongst many questions, it does beg the question ‘where were the relatives when they were alive?‘ sadly, we have no answer to that question.

MUCUS CURE-ALLS: SNAIL WATERS AND SPA TREATMENTS

Many household recipe books had recipes for snail water. These recipes generally called for shelling the snails and cleaning and boiling them in a mixture of milk and white wine or ale. This recipe from Mrs. Elizabeth Hirst’s recipe book (early 18th century with some contemporary additions) is fairly typical, though it includes and additional ingredient: slimy, gooey earthworms.

Oooh, ick. Just ick.

A Disagreement Between Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

During the reign of King Louis XVI, many Frenchmen disliked the King’s wife, Marie Antoinette. In fact, they often blamed Marie Antoinette for coercing her husband into making unpopular decisions. While Louis XVI often agreed with her and allowed Marie Antoinette’s to give gifts and rewards to her favorites, he did not allow her to coerce or sway his decisions when it came to matters of state.

Of gambolling lambs and woolly economics

Sheep have a reputation for being incredibly stupid. Not that I can boast of any in-depth relationship with a sheep, but what interaction I’ve had indicates that they couldn’t care less about us humans, they’re more into grazing and staring unstintingly at us if we get too close. Somewhat uncomfortable, that eye-balling of theirs. Had they been carnivores, I’d have suspected they’re selecting just where to bite me. Fortunately, sheep rarely bite. They can, however, butt—hard.

Leprosy and Plague in St Giles in the Fields

In a curious quirk of history, the epicentre of the Great Plague of 1665 was also the location of London’s primary medieval leprosy hospital. To the likes of Samuel Pepys, Nell Gwynn and Charles II, St Giles in the Fields was London’s largest outer parishes. Close to the capital’s burgeoning playhouses, it was a dirty, disorganised and poverty-stricken suburb of ramshackle tenements (just under 2000 households in total) and narrow streets, containing inns, brothels, butchers, watchmakers, booksellers, beltmakers, justices of the peace and nobility. Cosmopolitan and heavily populated, at its centre was the parish church of St Giles in the Fields, rebuilt in the late 1620s/early 1630s upon the site of the medieval original. For Pepys and his contemporaries, it was a place that became synonymous with plague and the deaths of tens of thousands of Londoners. Yet, turn the clock back five and a half centuries and the area was associated with a very different (although no less devastating) affliction.

 

 

What can you say after that? Until next time!

 

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May 20 2017

Chocolate cups and trembleuse saucers

What makes chocolate cups different from teacups or coffee cups?


It’s been a rough month around here. My father’s had a major health crisis that resulted in three hospitalizations in as many weeks. He had surgery, then had complications and his complications had complications, literally. 

How does one cope with such things? Chocolate. In frequent, therapeutic doses.

It can’t possibly surprise you that somehow chocolate lead me on a trip down the research rabbit hole and I had to share what I found.

During the regency era, there were three particular luxury drinks: tea, coffee and chocolate. (I talked about tea recently, you can find that HERE.)  They were in high demand, but expensive to acquire and, in the case of chocolate, difficult to make. 

Preparing drinking chocolate took at least thirty minutes and a number of specialized tools for both preparation and serving. A specialty chocolate grater would be used to shave chocolate from a solid tablet of chocolate and spices like cardamom, aniseed, cloves, and bergamot. The powdered chocolate would be added to a large pan or chocolate pot containing water, milk or possibly a mixture of water and wine or water and brandy then brought to a boil, while constantly stirring to prevent scorching. A special tool, known in England as a chocolate mill (in France a molinet, in Spain a molinilla) would be used to beat in thickening agents and create a froth.

Drinking chocolate, which was most typically enjoyed at breakfast and in the evening before bed, was thick, even syrupy, very different from tea or coffee. Its thickness, and the need to preserve the froth on top meant that special cups were required to properly enjoy sipping the chocolate through the milky froth on top. Here’s where it gets particularly interesting–to me at least.

Chocolate cups were taller and narrower than coffee or teacups. This would force the foam into a thick layer on the top and keep it from dispersing so quickly. Their unique shape also gave them a high center of gravity, which in English means it made them more likely to spill, especially if one’s hands were less than steady.

That problem gave rise to a whole new style of china. The trembleuse or tasse trembleuse originated in Paris in the 1690’s and was designed to allow those with trembling hands to drink with greater ease. It consisted of a cup, often with a lid and two handles, and a saucer with ether a deep well or a raised rim that steadied the cup and kept it from tipping.

Below are a few examples of the myriad of forms these cups might take.

All this begs the question–at least to me–were coffee and teacups also so carefully designed in the service of their specific beverage? Absolutely.  

Because tea steeps near boiling, it must be slightly cooled before drinking. A tea cup has a wide open rim that tapers down to a smaller base and a handle designed to hook a single finger, all purposed to help cool the tea and prevent burns.

 In contrast, coffee tastes best when served hot. Since it brews at around 180F, burns are not as much a concern as is keeping the beverage hot. So coffee cups have a more vertical, cylindrical shape and a bigger handle to accommodate two or three fingers which helps them conserve the beverage’s temperature.

Not only were the cups for all these beverages different, the pots that brewed them were as well. But that is a post for another day–watch for it next month!

I’ll leave you with an image of one of my favorite chocolate cups, decorated with phoenix and DRAGONS! I keep thinking this would make a lovely wedding gift for Elizabeth and Darcy-what do you think?

Chocolate cup with DRAGONS

May 18 2017

Heir of Rosings Park Ch 6

Heir of Rosing Park iconMr. Collins has some surprising news in today’s chapter.

 

Find additional chapters HERE


 Chapter 6

The clock chimed five o’clock and the table was set for dinner. And then it chimed six.

Mary and Charlotte sat in the back parlor, looking at each other, or rather trying not to look at Mr. Collins. The final rays of daylight streamed through the windows, but they had lost the warmth of afternoon, leaving a faint chill in the air. Usually, this room was Charlotte’s sanctuary, a place Mr. Collins found little appealing. But at half past five, he joined them, pacing along the window, pontificating on Lady Catherine’s opinions of failure of timeliness.

It would have been annoying enough had those been his own opinions. But they were only Lady Catherine’s, and that made him insufferable.

 At last he excused himself to his room where he could watch the lane from his windows.

“I am sorry, Charlotte.” Mary studied her hands. Her fingernails had become rather ragged. How unladylike.

“There is nothing for you to apologize for. Truly, I am not offended.”

“But it is the height of rudeness—”

“I am well aware of Lady Catherine’s opinion on the matter. I am also well aware of the situation. Truly, I understand and I do not mind.” Charlotte’s voice dropped to a whisper. “The situation at Rosings Park is so unpredictable now that it is not at all surprising that he might be caught up there.”

“I suppose so. The same things would happen with my father. He would dash from the house the moment Lady Catherine sent for him and might not return for days.”

Those were actually very pleasant days in the house. Best not dwell on that.

“And you did not think Lady Catherine’s steward might experience similar demands? Mary, I am astonished. Usually you are so sensible. I cannot image you did not consider that when you accepted him.” Charlotte raised her eyebrows.

Sometimes it was difficult to tell if she was teasing or not.

Mary shrugged. “It is the way things are. There is no point in dwelling on them or wishing them away. I shall become accustomed to it soon enough and all shall be well.”

Charlotte pushed herself out of her chair and waddled toward Mary. “He is not your father. You must remember that.” She laid her hand on Mary’s shoulder.

“I know. I am being foolish.” She dabbed her eyes with the back of her hand and forced herself to smile up at Charlotte. “I appreciate you allowing me to stay with you.”

“Not as much as I appreciate your assistance. You will be pleased to know, Mrs. Grant was very accommodating. She will be here tomorrow morning to meet with me. I would like you to be there with me to hear what she has to say.”

Technically, that was exceedingly improper. A maiden should not be privy to such conversations. But her delicacy had been lost long ago. At least Mr. Michaels was too practical to take offense at that.

“Surely you are not so uncomfortable around her …”

“It is not that.”  Charlotte paced around the room, slow and ponderous. “I cannot explain it, I just have a very uneasy feeling about …everything. I do not know how to explain it. I am sure all women have such feelings about their confinements. I just cannot shake the sense that something is going to go dreadfully wrong.”

She hurried to Charlotte’s side. “My mother often felt that way about her own confinements, especially since Papa was unwilling to pay for a midwife for her. She would have been very happy for a woman’s attentions.” She bit her lip and held her breath. Botheration, she had become far too comfortable talking to Charlotte.

“Unwilling to pay for one?”

“That was the reason he managed all her travails himself. I know there were other more polite reasons offered, but no, that was the truth of the matter. Before we came to Kent, my mother made do on quite a small income.” Probably half of what Charlotte currently enjoyed, but there was no need to offer that detail as well. “Papa spent a great deal of time and money on trying to rub shoulders with the right people and be seen in the right places that he might acquire a valuable patron. The rest of the household had to make scrape by on what was left after that.”

“I am astonished.”

“Apparently his bid was successful. He got what he wanted with Lady Catherine and now with Lord Matlock.” Her voice sounded bitter in her own ears.

“I think things are very different for your father at Matlock. The Earl is very different to his sister.” Charlotte spoke slowly, as if afraid of what she might hear next.

A good warning to guard her tongue more carefully. People, even dear friends, were uncomfortable with unpleasant truths.

“I am sure you are correct. But still, he now serves an earl and his heir. That is better than a mere dowager Lady. Kitty’s letters suggest Papa is hopeful that they will have a lifetime of commitment to that family. He is very good at being committed to a patron.”

A loud rap at the door made Mary jump.

Mary returned to her seat, hands folded in her lap. Charlotte snickered.

Mr. Collins led Mr. Michaels into the room.

“Please forgive my delay. It was difficult to break away from Colonel Fitzwilliam.” He glanced at Mary.

Something about the look in his eye suggested that there was a great deal more that he needed to tell her. At least his excuse of service to the colonel had to be acceptable to Mr. Collins.

“Shall we to the dining room?” Charlotte asked.

They followed her there.

The dining room was a quaint and cozy room, able to accommodate about twice their number. It was decorated in a manner befitting their station, all overseen by Lady Catherine’s hand. Charlotte managed to insert some of her own touches into it, but still, it had the flavor of Rosings all over it. Rather not so much Rosings, but the stripped-down impoverished version that Lady Catherine saw fitting for those beneath her. Any show of ostentation offended her. So the trinkets that Charlotte brought with her to her marriage remained tucked in a cabinet in the back parlor, where Lady Catherine was unlikely to see them.

Mr. Collins carved the joint, a larger cut of meat than they usually enjoyed. But now that Lady Catherine was less likely to countermand her orders at the butcher, Charlotte enjoyed greater freedom at her table.

“Are things well at Rosings?” Mr. Collins asked.

“They remain in the state that they have been for some time, sir.” Mr. Michaels used that special patient tone that belied great impatience with the conversation.

“So then your news from London was favorable?”

Did Mr. Collins think himself so subtle that none could tell he was hoping for more intimate news from the manor?

“It was as expected.  I have discussed it at length with Col. Fitzwilliam.” Mr. Michaels set his jaw.

“We have had some news of our own.” Charlotte caught Mary’s eye briefly.

Bless her gentle ability to shift the conversation. She was truly a social asset to her husband, even if he did not realize it.

Mr. Collins sat up a little straighter. “Yes, indeed we have. I received a most interesting letter yesterday.”

“What was your news?” Mary asked. Clearly he enjoyed the opportunity to be the center of attention.

“As you know, I have been blessed as the recipient of the entail to Longbourn estate in Hertfordshire. We have been waiting for news of the birth of the current owners’ new child. A son, of course, would be the heir to the estate.”

Mary bit her lip and held her breath.

“Was the mistress of Longbourn safely delivered of her child?”

“I am afraid not. A son was born, but did not survive the week. Sadly, his mother was succumbed to childbed fever as well.”

No wonder Charlotte was contemplating disaster.

“That is tragic.” Mr. Michaels murmured.

“The story becomes sadder, yet.” But somehow Mr. Collins voice did not match the sentiment. “My cousin, in his grief, overindulged in drink and was found drowned in a pond on the estate several days later.”

“So now the estate goes to you?” 

“So it would seem sir, so it would seem.”

“An interesting turn of events to be sure.” Mr. Michaels looked up and a little to the right. He was thinking, perhaps planning.

“I was wondering, if your duties at Rosings do not require all your time and attention, is it possible for you to assist me with some of the papers and official business required in this matter?”

So there was an ulterior motive to today’s invitation after all.

“I shall be pleased to assist, sir. May I offer my condolences and congratulations to you at the same time. How ironic that such a tragedy for part of your family can become such a blessing to another.”

He did not say ‘and for Rosings as well’, but the sentiment was clear in his expression.

“It is interesting how the hand of Providence comes to work.” That was not humility in Mr. Collins eyes.

“What then will become of the living at Rosings?” Mary asked.

“That is a quandary to be sure.  I must go to attend the estate. They cannot function, at least for the first few years without a master in attendance. After that if I can, I might hire a bailiff to manage the property and rent the house to a worthy tenant.  But, at the very least, I will be unable to fulfill my duties here during that time.”

“So you are in need of a curate?” Mr. Michaels hated indirect conversation.

“That would be the ideal solution, however, I fear that Lady Catherine would be highly opposed to my hiring someone of my own choosing. She is ever so particular, as she well should be in her position, about who will tend the parish flock here at Rosings.”

“Of course.” Mary bit her lip. That was saying it in the most polite fashion.

Under other circumstances, Lady Catherine would be thrown into a temper and insist on hiring the curate herself or hiring a bailiff for the estate and managing that to her satisfaction. As it was now, she would probably just throw a fit.

“In truth I am uncertain what to do. I fear upsetting her ladyship with the news. She is so fragile at the moment. I fear even if I tell her that I will stay at my post, she will take it very badly.”

“Unfortunately that is very likely.” Mr. Michaels rubbed his chin. “Perhaps I should broach the subject with the colonel. At the very least, he should know before Lady Catherine is informed. I am going to meet with him in the afternoon tomorrow. Might I discuss it with him then?”

“Would you like me to go with you, to talk of how Lady Catherine might be comforted during this time?” Mary whispered. Mr. Collins probably would not like the implication that Lady Catherine required management.

“Mary does seem to be the best able to soothe her,” Charlotte murmured.

“I would very much appreciate your assistance. The colonel has little patience for Lady Catherine with all the other concerns weighing upon him. I think your calm input would be of great value to him as well.” Mr. Michaels’ sharp glance silenced Mr. Collins before he could offer his opinions on the matter.

 

What do you think will come out of Mr. Collins’ news?  Tell me in the comments.


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

 

 

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May 16 2017

Wedding Dresses in Jane Austen’s World

Courtship and Marriage5

Though nearly all of Jane Austen’s works end with a wedding, she does not spend much time detailing the weddings themselves, much less the wedding dresses.


Modern brides often spend a great deal of effort and money on the wedding dress and expect to wear it only once. Honestly, it is hard to imagine another event where wearing one’s wedding dress might be appropriate. Not exactly the sort of thing you’d wear to dinner, right?

In the regency era, though, the cost of textiles was so prohibitive that only royals like Princess Charlotte and equally wealthy brides even considered dresses that might only be worn once. A bride, like Charlotte Lucas of Pride and Prejudice or Harriet Smith of Emma, wore her ‘best dress’ for her wedding. A bride with some means, like Emma or even perhaps the Bennets, might have a new ‘best dress’ made for the occasion. 

What might this ‘best dress’ look like? Unless one were quite wealthy, it would not be white. White garments required a huge amount of upkeep in an era where all wash was done by hand, so only the wealthiest wore it. Colored gowns were typical, with yellow, blue, pink and green being popular for several regency era years. Middle and lower class brides often chose black, dark brown and burgundy as practical colors that would wear well for years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fashion plates from Ackerman’s and La Belle Assemblee illustrate gowns used for weddings. Although all these gowns are white, that is more indicative of the white gown being the most stylish of the era, rather than white being the wedding color. All these gowns followed the fashionable trends of formal gowns of the day, but were largely indistinguishable from other formal gowns. The La Belle Assemblee dress above is cited as both an evening dress and a wedding dress. To set a bridal dress apart, finer materials and richer trims might be utilized if the bride could afford them: silks, satins and lace. The trims might be altered for wear after the wedding.

Not unlike today, these fashion plates presented idealized versions of wedding gowns. The actual gowns that brides wore were often far simpler that the offerings from fashionable magazines. Here are a few pictures from the Met Museum of actual wedding dresses worn in the Regency era.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So are any of these what you imagined the Miss Bennets being married in?

 


Courtship and Marriage in Jane Austen’s World, available in ebook and paperback

 

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References

A Lady of Distinction   –   Regency Etiquette, the Mirror of Graces (1811). R.L. Shep Publications (1997)

A Master-Key to the Rich Ladies Treasury or The Widower and Batchelor’s Directory by a Younger Brother, published in 1742.

Day, Malcom   –   Voices from the World of Jane Austen. David & Charles (2006)

Gener, S., and John Muckersy. M. Gener, Or, A Selection of Letters on Life and Manners. 3rd ed. Edinburgh: Printed for Peter Hill …, A. Constable & and A. MacKay ;, 1812.

Jones, Hazel   –   Jane Austen & Marriage . Continuum Books (2009)

Lane, Maggie   –   Jane Austen’s World. Carlton Books (2005)

Laudermilk, Sharon & Hamlin, Teresa L.   –   The Regency Companion. Garland Publishing (1989)

Le Faye, Deirdre   –   Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels. Harry N. Abrams (2002)

Ray, Joan Klingel   –   Jane Austen for Dummies. Wiley Publishing, Inc. (2006)

Ross, Josephine   –   Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners. Bloomsbury USA (2006)

Selwyn, David   –   Jane Austen & Leisure. The Hambledon Press (1999)

Vickery, Amanda   –   The Gentleman’s Daughter. Yale University Press (1998)

May 13 2017

Longbourn: Dragon Entail Deleted Scene

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.

Fitzwilliam sneezed.

“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.”

“Wickham?”

“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.

“When?”

“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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