What’s wrong with a little romance?

GHA6158 The Embrace by Soulacroix, Joseph Frederick Charles (1825-79)
© Guildhall Art Gallery, Corporation of London, UK
French, out of copyright

So what’s wrong with a little romance? According to a regency era perspective, nearly everything.


It’s Valentine’s Day and there’s romance in the air. What’s wrong with a little romance, right? Especially in the pages of a good book. A regency romance; the hero and heroine looking longingly into each other’s eye, declaring their deepest love for one another. She weeps as she lets him know how she was waiting for this moment, as everyone she knew counseled her she should marry only for deepest love.

Woah, wait, stop the presses! As the commercial said, that’s not how this works. That not how any of this works. What, no, you can’t possibly mean that. Of course, passionate, romantic love is the precursor to an offer of marriage.
Maybe today it is, but in the regency era, no so much. In fact, it was rather counseled against. First came friendship, then came marriage, then, hopefully love would follow.

No, please, say it isn’t so. Well, uhm, yeah, it is. Bear with me as we go back a couple hundred years and take a look at this.

Until around 1780, arranged marriages were de rigueur. Marriage—at least among the upper classes and moneyed individuals—was a business and often political arrangement. It worked out well enough and everyone pretty well understood the rules. (And of course it led to a great number of courtly affairs and intrigues which are great romance plot fodder—wait, I digress. Back to the point…)

Things were well enough, but then the Enlightenment happened and philosophers made a mess of things they hadn’t really been invited to muck around with. Their pesky notions of reason and individualism over tradition got people thinking that perhaps personal preference should play a role in marriage. That led to considering love and – ack! – romance as possible players in the field and that lead to something near panic for parents and anyone else who cared about social order and stability.
(I rather hate to admit it, but anyone who has had kids, and worse, watched them marry off, understands the panic all too well. So what’s a good parent to do?)

Buy a book. Definitely buy a book.

Conduct literature appeared on the scene to rescue humanity from itself. (And probably to fill a market niche, but that’s another issue altogether.) Authors readily offered advice on how to judge character, how to behave in public toward the opposite sex, how to attract the opposite sex, even the proper way to make or refuse an offer of marriage. What relief! Someone knows what to do!
Young people were advised to pursue friendship and domestic compatibility.

Corbould (1834) wrote:
Most women are inclined to romance. This tendency is not confined to the young or to the beautiful; to the intellectual, or to the refined.— Every woman capable of strong feeling is susceptible of romance; and though its degree may depend on external circumstances, or education, or station, or excitement, it generally exists, and requires only a stimulus for its development…. Romance is, indeed, the charm of female character. … (but) It is associated in the minds of many with folly alone.

Gregory (1774) recommended: ONE of the chief beauties in a female character is that modest reserve, that retiring delicacy, which avoids the public eye, and is disconcerted even at the gaze of admiration.

Young men were advised:
Those marriages generally abound most with love and constancy, that are preceded by long courtship. The passion should strike root, and gather strength before marriage be grafted on it. A long course of hopes and expectations fixes the idea in our minds, and habituates us to a fondness of the person beloved… (The Young Husband’s Book 1839.)

Out of this advice, strict rules for behavior during courtship developed. The rules safeguarded both sexes, largely by squelching opportunities for romance to develop. After all, gentlemen required protection from being trapped into matrimony and ladies needed to be guarded from becoming attached to men who were not honest in their intentions toward them.

Young men were counseled not to embark upon courtship lightly, and young women not to give affections too easily.

I cannot even understand how it is flattering to a man’s vanity, to gain the affections of a deserving and too credulous woman, whom he never intends to marry. He ought to lose more in his character for integrity, than he can gain as one successful in courtship. His manner of address, consisting of a visible attachment. While his heart is not engaged, is most detestable hypocrisy. And to say that he is not bound in honour, because he has subjected himself to no specific promise, is the highest aggravation of his guilt. Were he to act in the same manner in his common transactions with mankind, his character would be forever blasted….A woman is often placed in a very delicate situation. She may be distinguished by a kind of attention which is calculated to gain her affections, while it is impossible to know whether the addresses of her pretended lover will end in a serious declaration. (Gener, 1812)

Consequently, female conduct manuals universally cautioned women not to be forward in their dealings with men or to encourage their advances. A woman must never confess her feelings until absolutely convinced of his intentions. Some went so far as to insist a woman must never look at a man unless he made the first advance.

Other rules to help squash the possibilities of romantic passion included forbidding the use of Christian names, paying compliments, driving in carriages alone together, and any written correspondence. Naturally, all forms of touching were kept to a minimum. Sakes alive, what kind of unrestrained behavior might that lead to?

Putting a lady’s shawl about her shoulders, or assisting her to mount a horse, enter a carriage or climb stairs were acceptable. A gentleman might take a lady’s arm through his to support her while out walking. But he must never try to take her hand, even to shake it friendly-like. If he did, she must immediately withdraw it with a strong air of disapproval, whether she felt it or not. Conversations had to be extremely discreet leaving much to be interpreted from facial expressions alone. Even those were proscribed by many advice writers.

There is another Character not quite so criminal, yet not less ridiculous; which is, that of a good humour’d Woman, one who thinketh me must always be in a Laugh, or a broad Smile, because Good-Humour is an obliging Quality… . (The Whole Duty of a Woman, 1737)

Laughable though these restrictions are, there were some genuinely good reasons for them. While philosophy did alter some perspectives about marriage, some things did not change. At the core, marriage was still a business arrangement, men and women each bringing their part to the matter.

Real property, dowries and fortunes, trades, skills (including those of keeping house), social connections (of course those might be good or bad, just saying…) and the provision of heirs were all very real commodities in the transaction. One needed to make sure that arrangements offered equitable compensation as it were, for all involved and no one, including the extended families, was being shorted in the exchange.

If this weren’t enough reason for anxiety, add to it that divorce was nearly impossible to obtain. It was entirely possible that one might have only one opportunity to ‘get it right’ as it were. Granted, widowhood was common enough, and some married multiple times because of it, but it probably wasn’t a good thing to count on second chances.

No wonder parents and guardians were in actively deterring their offspring from romance. With so much on the line, can you really blame them for supporting rules designed to keep runaway passions at bay and encourage level-headed decision making?

References

Corbould, Edward Henry. The Young Lady’s Own Book a Manual of Intellectual Improvement and Moral Deportment. Philadelphia: Key & Biddle, 1834.
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.
Gregory, John. A Father’s Legacy to His Daughters By the Late Dr. Gregory, of Edinburgh. The 2nd ed. London: Printed for W. Strahan , 1774.
The Whole Duty of a Woman, Or, an Infallible Guide to the Fair Sex. Containing, Rules, Directions, and Observations, for Their Conduct and Behaviour through All Ages and Circumstances of Life, as Virgins, Wives, or Widows. With Directions, How to Obtain All Use. The 2nd ed. London: Printed for T. Read, in Dogwell-Court, White-Fryers, Fleet-Street, 1737.
The Young Husband’s Book a Manual of the Duties, Moral, Religious, and Domestic, Imposed by the Relations of Married Life. Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1839.

A Dragon for Elizabeth, part 2

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


October 1801

Part 2

Although she had wandered the woods on Longbourn estate often on her own, this particular part of the woods was unfamiliar, and technically forbidden.  Old hardwoods grew thick here, casting deep shade over the loamy ground surrounding a large, rocky hillside. Generally she preferred a place with more sunlight, but these woods were pleasant enough, even rather peaceful.

Papa had long told her these woods were the explicit territory of the Longbourn dragon himself, an old, established wyvern named for the estate. As major dragons went wyverns were considered small and relatively insignificant, among the least powerful of the major dragon species. Still, a major dragon was a very powerful and not entirely predictable creature.  She was not to go there until she had been properly introduced and received by him. Until then, he might consider her a trespasser, and it could end badly for them all.

It would be best to obey Papa, no doubt. But these were very unusual circumstances. Dragon lives were at stake. There was no time to waste waiting for him to return. She had to protect those babies!

Should Longbourn appear, no doubt he would understand and grant her passage through the woods of her father’s own estate. Surely the estate dragon would be a reasonable soul. He was after all responsible for the territory and should welcome her help. That only made sense.

Rumblkins ran deeper and deeper into the shady woods. Each springy hop propelled him a very great length—as if he had legs as long as a horse! For his odd means of locomotion, he was amazingly fast! Just how far back did these woods extend? Pray Rumblkins would not leave her! She might not be able to find her way back.

At long last he stopped near a very tall tree. She leaned hard against it, panting to catch her breath. This was the farthest she had ever walked alone, and perhaps the fastest! Foot prints and a tuft of red-brown fur lay near the tree. Stoats, several of them. One of Papa’s books said that fairy dragon eggs were a special treat to them.

She stepped back and peered into the highest limbs, her heart pinching painfully. “There is no way for me to get them down. I cannot climb that tree.”

The nest balanced precariously on a flimsy looking limb, in a ‘y’ shaped crook of the tree. It wasn’t particularly well built. It was a small miracle that the eggs had made it this long without falling out of the nest.

Perhaps the fairy dragons who had built it were not particularly sensible creatures. Papa said sometimes those eggs were not worth saving as the hatchlings were too stupid to take care of themselves. Yes, it did seem rather cruel, but such was the way of things sometimes. Perhaps she should go back to the house after all and wait for him. She chewed her knuckle. Given that she was not even to be in the woods, that might really be the best choice.

A roar of thunder shook the forest. But there were no clouds in the sky. Was that possible? A louder roar and the ground shook beneath her. She clutched her ears against the racket.

“Above!” Rumblkins cried as he ran circles around the tree.

She looked up and, by reflex alone, held out her apron as the nest tumbled out of the tree. With a small sideways jump, she caught the nest in the fabric, eggs tumbling out and nearly rolling to the ground. Her foot slipped and she landed solidly, jolting hard enough to cross her vision for a moment. Gracious! Her knees hurt, but the three leathery little eggs were safe!

Rumblkins wandered up beside her, sniffing and bumping her elbow with the top of his furry head. “I like eggs.”

 She gathered the apron around the eggs. “No, you may not have them. I have already promised you dried cod. You may not have these as well.”

“Mrrow.” He sounded only a little put out. If nothing else, the fish were definitely bigger than the eggs, so waiting would serve him well.

Elizabeth placed the eggs back in the nest and untied her apron as more thunder roared. She wrapped the entire nest in her apron, tying the bundle securely.  The ground shook so hard, she could barely get to her feet as leaves and small branches rained down upon her.

“Who is in my woods?” The voice was more of a roar than simple speech.

Rumblkins ducked under her skirts, between her ankles, trembling.

“You know him?”

“That is Longbourn, and he is cranky. We have not been introduced and I do not want to be.”

“You are trespassing in my woods!” A large scaly head appeared out of the branches with long sharp teeth.

So that was what a wyvern looked like in person. Most of the illustrations in the Blue Order bestiaries were not entirely accurate. Most had the wings too small. Longbourn’s wingspan was easily as wide as he was long nose to tail tip, certainly broad enough to enable him to fly should he choose. His head was smaller than most illustrations depicted, and more angular, not curved and elegant like a lizard’s, but blocky and square. Glittery gold eyes sat wide on his face—probably so he could see around his rather large snout which sported intimidating fangs.  He would have been somewhat frightening except for the long whiskers than hung down like a mustache from his snout. The parish vicar wore a funny mustache rather like that.

Nothing had prepared her for his smell, though.  Gracious, he stank, a mixture of musk, rotten meat and bad teeth. Perhaps some toothpowder and a bath would improve his scent.

He leaned down and roared in her face. “You are not supposed to be here. You have seen frightening shadows and will run home very frightened.”

“No, I will not. You are not nearly so frightening as that.”

Longbourn pulled back and sat on his haunches. “What did you say?”

“That you are being quite rude trying to tell me what I should think when I can hear you quite well.”

“It does not matter. You are in my territory and do not belong.”

She tucked her apron under her arm and balanced her fists on her hips. “Yes, I do. I am daughter of your Keeper, and probably will be your Keeper myself in time. Who else belongs here more than me?”

Longbourn pulled his head back and blinked. He looked very funny doing so. He stepped forward, turning his head to and fro, studying her. “Keeper’s daughter?”

“He never spoke of me?”

Longbourn snorted and stepped closer again. He leaned close and began smelling her head to toes and back again. “You smell like him.”

“There is good reason for that. I am his daughter. It is my right to be here.”

“Why have you not been introduced to me?” He tapped the tip of his tail on the ground. Papa had a similar habit of tapping his foot when he was puzzled.

“For that, you must ask him. I have been very impatient for an introduction. So let me do it myself. I am Elizabeth Bennet, soon, I hope to be junior Keeper to Longbourn Keep.” She curtsied deep enough to touch her knee to the ground and ducked her head.

Had she not been in line to be his Keeper, she would have touched her forehead to her ground, and ideally wrapped her wings over her body and face to cover herself to accept his dominance—had she had wings. She really needed to finish making that cloak…

 He scratched the dirt beside her, accepting her introduction. “You have taken something from me.”

“No I have not.” She followed his gaze to her apron. “These are wild fairy dragon eggs. They are not yours.”

“They are in my woods, they are mine.” He pushed his nose at the apron under her arm.

She stepped back to avoid dropping them. Rude, pushy fellow. “Other dragons are not yours. They live in your woods and you are their laird. That is not the same as owing them.”

“I have not given you permission to take them.” He tried to nose her again.

She pushed back and he stopped, eyes wide, even surprised. “I do not need your permission.”

“Yes you do.” He stomped, but not very hard.

“Not according to Papa and the Blue Order. They say it is our responsibility to save dragon lives whenever and wherever possible and that is what I am doing.”

“Those are not dragons, they are eggs.” He snuffed, splattering her with a bit of slimy stuff. Ugh!

“Dragon eggs.”

“Fairy dragons are worthless bits of fluff, hardly dragons at all.”

“But they are dragons nonetheless and I am going to take care of them no matter what you say. You cannot bully me.” She folded her arms over her chest and glowered.

Longbourn’s lip curled back, and he made the strangest sound. Was he laughing at her?

 “I do not like being laughed at.” She pulled back her shoulders and lifted her chin.

“Go home, junior Keeper and bring your father back with you to make a proper introduction. You just might do.” Longbourn turned around, keeping his long tail carefully tucked in so as not to knock her off her feet and wandered off back into the woods.

“You are very lucky.” Rumblkins peeked out from under her petticoat and pressed against her ankle. “He is very grouchy and smells bad. I want my fish, now.”

“Let us return to the house, and you shall have what I promised.” Her knees trembled and her hands shook as they walked back, much more slowly than they had come. Had she really just met the estate dragon and been laughed at by him? How was she supposed to feel about that? And should she tell Papa what had happened?

Find other chapters HERE 

 


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The Chelsea Bun: Regency Era Cinnabon?

I always love getting to ‘dress the set’ as it were of my books with bits and bobs from the era. Food is often one of those bits; the sights and smells and tastes of a place are so evocative, aren’t they? So I often find myself in a deep dive looking for what my characters would have been eating and what it would smell and taste like. 

In my last book, one of my characters was sitting down to breakfast and the scene just screamed for a cinnamon roll—it was exactly what needed to be on the table. BUT, the big questions was whether or not such things actually existed in the day.

Naturally, the answer was ‘sort of’. Obviously, Cinnabon wasn’t around then, be apparently, there was a Georgian era doppelganger lurking about, ready to supply a cinnamon roll fix. Seriously, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In the Chelsea area of London, there was the Chelsea Bun house, famous for its namesake, the Chelsea bun (as well as hot cross buns.) The place was so famous, it was patronized by Kings George II and George III.

The Chelsea Bun House appears to have started business early in the 1700’s, appearing in a journal entry by Jonathan Swift in 1711. Over a hundred years later Sir Richard Phillips wrote in A Morning’s Walk from London to Kew that the shop had been operated by the same Hand family for four generations.

Unfortunately, the last of the family died in 1839, and with him, the Chelsea Bun House came to an end.
The buns continue to be made though. They start with a rich yeast dough that may be flavored with lemon peel, cinnamon or other mixed spices. Currants, brown sugar and butter are spread over the dough before it is rolled and cut into individual buns. After baking it is covered with a sticky sugar glaze. Sounds nothing like a cinnamon roll at all huh?

 

Here’s a modern version of the traditional Chelsea Bun. I may just be making these for New Year’s. I’ll share pictures if I do—and you must do the same if you try them!
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• pinch of salt
• 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) yeast
• 1/4 teaspoon sugar
• 5 tablespoons butter, divided
• 1 3/4 cups milk, divided
• 1 egg, beaten
• Vegetable oil

For the Filling:
• 1 cup raisins or currants
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

For the Icing:
• 4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl; make a well in the center.

Sprinkle yeast and sugar into the well. Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 cups milk over medium heat until the butter has melted and the milk is just warm. Cool for 2 minutes. Pour the milk into the flour well.
Mix and add beaten egg. Mix until a dough forms.

Knead by hand for 5 minutes. Coat with thin layer of vegetable oil and place in a bowl covered with a towel. Leave to rise in a warm place, until roughly doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Press down dough, and turn out onto a floured work surface. Roll dough with a rolling pin into a rough 8- by 13-inch rectangle. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter. Brush dough with butter, leaving a 1-inch border along the top (long) edge. Add raisins and brown sugar on top of butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Gently roll along to long side to form a 13 inch-wide roll. Cut the tube into 8 equal pieces.

Butter an 8- by 11-inch baking dish and place rolls in dish. Let the buns rise in a warm place until doubled again, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake in center of the oven until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Combine the remaining 1/4 cup milk and the confectioner’s sugar in a saucepan and whisk until smooth. Simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Pour over buns while still warm. Serve warm.

Mistaking Her Character Giveaway

Lady Catherine will do anything to stop Darcy from marrying her – even if it means Elizabeth will lose everything she loves.

Comment on this post for a chance to win an ebook. 


Mistaking Her Character

Dr. Bennet owes his livelihood to his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, but his headstrong daughter Elizabeth thwarts the great lady at every turn. For the sake of his patient Anne de Bourgh, Elizabeth is forgiven–until she refuses to turn her back on Mr. Darcy.


Lady Catherine loomed in the parlor doorway, her features gathering into her darkest, most menacing scowl. “A word, if you please.” She turned on her heel and disappeared into her lair.

Elizabeth dropped a small curtsey and rushed into the parlor to brave the dragon in all her fury. If only she had remembered to bring her sword in her workbag.

Lady Catherine ascended her throne, a stony mask of creases, gnarls and shadow firmly in place.

Was that the scent of burning sulfur in the air?

“Your ladyship?”

“You think I am ignorant of what you are about, young woman?”

“I have not the pleasure of your meaning, madam.”

“None of your cheek here, girl. I know. Oh, I know.” She shook her finger toward Elizabeth. “You have ambitions beyond your station, beyond all propriety and decency.”

“Excuse me?” Elizabeth grabbed the back of the nearest chair to shore up her liquid knees.

“It is written upon your face—clear in that indecent display I just walked in upon.”

“Mr. Darcy?” She gasped. “You assume far too much. I only met him yesterday.”

“Entirely long enough to form designs upon his person and fortune. You spurned Mr. Collins—I am sure—in the hopes of someone of greater consequence whom you have now found in the person of my nephew.”

The upholstery tore a tiny bit beneath her fingernails. “I assure you, madam, I never considered such a thing. Mr. Collins and I … our temperaments are so different, we could never have made a good match. I am convinced he has a much happier situation with—”

“Are you suggesting happiness may be found in disobeying me?”

“By no means.”

“Then turn your attentions to Mr. Wickham. He studies at the Inn of Courts—.”

“He does not, nor is he likely to, having offended a very influential member.”

She flushed puce.

That could not be healthy.

“Where do you come by this information?”

“Mr. Darcy—”

Lady Catherine slapped the arms of her chair and heaved to her feet. “What were you doing talking to my nephew?”

“We met on the road this morning.”

“While you were driving, unchaperoned, as I have expressly forbidden.”

Her shoulders drew up and she tucked her elbows close into her sides. “Yes, your ladyship.”

One, two, three steps. Lady Catherine stood so close their skirt hems touched. She waved her bony finger under Elizabeth’s nose. “I will make this very plain to you, young woman, so that even you, in all your cleverness, cannot pretend to misunderstand me. Darcy is for Anne. From their cradles, they have been promised to one another. It was the fondest wish of his mother and me. No upstart like you is going to interfere with those plans.”

“What am I compared to Miss de Bourgh?”

“What are you—exactly! Exactly! But do not play coy with me.” She circled Elizabeth, a hungry cat stalking a bird. “We both know you have arts and allurements to distract him from his duty to his family. You have no delicacy, exposed to the basest things of life—of men.”

How did one respond to such raving? Perhaps best not.

“Have you considered why I have been trying to find you a match? Even with your connection to me, few decent men will ally themselves with a woman like you. Despite your youthful airs and arrogance, I have had—and will continue to have—your best interests in mind—unless—” She stabbed her sharp finger into Elizabeth’s chest.

Elizabeth jumped back.

“—unless you insist on preying upon Darcy. You are not his equal and would bring shame upon his name and all his family.”

“Shall I leave Rosings?”

“No, Anne requires your presence. I will not deny her any comfort, no matter how little I fathom it.”

“Then shall I ignore him? Turn my back as the servants do when he approaches?”

“You are not … not … a servant.”

“How am I to behave?”

“With every civility, but nothing more.”

“As you wish, your ladyship.”

 “I will be watching you, Miss Elizabeth. Do not think you can escape my notice if you disobey. Now leave me.”

She curtsied and strode away, fists balled so tightly her arms shook.

Two steps into the corridor, Mr. Darcy blocked her path. She stopped short and barely held back a tiny shriek. How tall he was, towering—or was that, hovering over her.

“I hardly know what to say, my aunt—”

She raised an open hand. “Pray forgive me, sir, but I am truly in no state for conversation at the moment.”

“Will you speak with me later?”

“I do not know, sir. Excuse me.” She curtsied and hurried away.

 



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A Dragon for Elizabeth, part 1

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


October 1801

 

Mama insisted Elizabeth be out in the fading flower garden this cool, clear autumn morning. Cutting flowers for the house was indeed a crucial task for an eleven-year-old young lady, deserving of Elizabeth’s full attention. Wandering outside among the fresh air and crisp breeze was lovely. But, when she was done, she would be expected inside to sit through another interminable lesson in the art of arranging flowers.

It was difficult to think of something she cared less about. Very difficult indeed. Yet, the process seemed to please Mama, so in that, it was a worthy endeavor.  But truly, in the larger scheme of things, it seemed rather silly.

Elizabeth snipped another yellow fluffy flower—what was the name of it?  Several petals shook loose and floated to the ground as she tucked it in her basket. Somehow it was far easier to remember the various dragon species and their distinctions than these silly flowers. She sniffled and rubbed her itchy nose against her sleeve. Foolish flowers!

Still though, the entire affair had one very great upside to it, so much so, she felt little need to find a way out of the task. Sometimes, if she was very lucky, a pair of fairy dragons flitted among the flowers. Occasionally, when she put out a saucer with honey and preserves, they stopped to gorge themselves on her offerings, allowing her time to study the delightful tiny creatures.

Usually they were mistaken for humming birds or other small song birds, but that only made the wee creatures all the more delightful. Brightly colored gems among the dull garden plants, their songs were so sweet that they lulled all but the most determined listener to sleep.

Already she had drawn several detailed images of their wings and feet and eyes. Once the larger male left a lovely lavender feather scale behind which she pressed in her common place book—a treasure she could hardly set a value upon. Another time, they flew chittering circles around her head, their voices so high and words so fast she could hardly understand them, but what she had understood was complimentary. They were grateful for the sweets she had offered them.

Perhaps she might see them today. That would make cutting all these silly, sneezy flowers worthwhile. It was not likely though, not this late in the season. Usually in the autumn, according the Papa’s dragon lore, they would be busy making warm nests in which to spend the winter. Unlike the larger dragons who could tolerate the frigid weather insulated against the temperatures in their underground lairs, fairy dragons heartily disliked the cold and tried to sleep through the winter season altogether in nests they shared with one another built in tree hollow.

Or so the books said; sometimes they were wrong, maybe this would be one of those days. But she would not tell Papa. He did not appreciate those sorts of observations.

She crouched down to cut a stem near the ground.

“Mrrow.” A fuzzy head bumped her elbow and nearly caused her to drop her scissors. Rumblkins wove around her ankles and purred.

“Good afternoon to you.” She extended her hand, and he rubbed himself against it, giving her tacit permission to pet his luxurious fur.

The tatzelwurm sported long striped fur on his feline front half while his back, snake-like half was covered in dark, sleek scales. Mama and her sisters were persuaded he was a large farm cat. How very surprised they would be to discover he was a small dragon.

“What brings you to the flower garden? Pray tell me we do not have a family of rats living here!” She jumped back a bit—rats were truly horrid creatures.

 “No, no rats.” He sat back on his haunches and licked his thumbed paw. Such funny feet he had. “But there is something in the woods I think you and your father would want to know.”

She gasped and dropped her scissors. “What is wrong?”

“Oh, nothing is wrong, everything is perfectly normal and natural.”

She tucked her scissors under the flowers in her basket and sighed softly. “But then, why have you come to talk to me?”

“It is something I think you want to know, not something that is wrong.” The tufted tips of his ears flicked.

There was a reason why tatzelwurms had a reputation for being a bit daft.

“Pray tell me then what normal and natural things might my father and I find interesting?”

“There is a pair of fairy dragons that you have been watching in the garden.”

Now that could be significant indeed. Pray nothing had happened to them. “A purple male and a green female.”

“Yes them. They have been preparing their winter nest with the rest of the purple one’s harem. They completed it several days ago.”

She peered over her shoulder into the woods. “Will you show me where their winter nest is?”

“I can, but I hardly think that is the thing you would be interested in.”

Tatzelwurms required a great deal of patience.

She forced her face into a smile. “Even more intriguing. Pray tell me.”

“The pair had another nest you see, with eggs.” Rumblkins licked his lips.

“Is it not late in the season for fairy dragon eggs?”

Rumblkins rose up on his haunches. “Indeed, those flitterbobs made a muck of things and waited too long to take their mating flight and laid their eggs far too late. Now the eggs are in the nest, but the brood parents have gone away to keeps snug for the cold season. The eggs are alone and near to hatching. Just this morning, I saw a weasel sniffing around the tree with the nest. Your father said he wanted to know of abandoned eggs. He promised me—”

“Dried cod, yes, I remember him telling me.  Come to the house with me, and I shall tell Papa straight away. He will bring you some cod. I am sure he will want you to show him where the eggs are. I think he will want to rescue them.”

Rumblkins licked his lips, purring, and followed her to the house in his funny spring-and-hop way. It really was one of the oddest forms of locomotion one could imagine. Many thought it addled their brains to bounce around so much. There were times it seemed entirely likely.

Elizabeth searched for Papa, but he was neither in his book room nor in his room upstairs. Mrs. Hill finally revealed that he was gone into the village on business and was not expected back until near dinnertime.

Botheration! What a time for him to be away. Those eggs were in danger and might well not survive the day left alone with a weasel in the vicinity. What was she to do? The Blue Order made it very clear, it was a Dragon Keeper’s duty to preserve dragon life wherever possible. She had to do something to try to say those eggs.

But how? She was only a girl, what could she possibly do?

She detoured through the kitchen and rooted through the pantry for a dry cod—conveniently to be found in a wooden box on a low shelf. Rumblkins sat nearby whispering to the cook, the maid and Mrs. Hill that there was nothing notable whatsoever going on. There was no reason to ask why or to even notice Elizabeth in the kitchen at all.

Elizabeth had never really seen dragon persuasion in action before. It was difficult to tell what was more interesting, watching him tell Longbourn’s staff what to think, or them pausing with a peculiar look on their faces, considering what the little dragon was saying. Then they would mutter to themselves something that sounded very much like what Rumblkins was saying and go about their business once more.

Did everyone respond to persuasion that way, or was it peculiar to Longbourn alone? Perhaps one day she would have the opportunity to see that for herself.  

With the staff amply distracted, Elizabeth took a large cod from the box and led Rumblkins outside.

Stubborn creature insisted on gobbling down the entire fish before he was willing to show her the tree with the nest. Just how long could it take a tatzelwurm to eat a single fish?

Apparently quite some time when he enjoyed it as much as Rumblkins appeared to love cod. He savored each bite, licked his paws, Elizabeth’s hands and the step where she had placed the fish. Was he trying to be frustrating?

“Will you take me to the nest now?”

“Will you give me another fish when we return?” He balanced on his serpentine tail and bumped her elbow with the top of his head.

“If the eggs come back safely with me, you will have two fish.”

He rubbed himself around her ankles and between her feet, purring. “Mrrow, come.” He leapt off in the direction of the woods. Elizabeth ran to keep up with him.

Find other chapters HERE 

 


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