Miss Georgiana and the Dragon arrives just in time for the holidays! In both ebook and paperback. Audiobook is in the works!
Here’s a preview!
Spring cleaning continued for five full, long days, but at the end of it, Bennetson Hall sparkled from the front hall to the girls’ common room and everywhere in between, including the dragon tower. Georgiana’s bed, with ropes tightened, mattresses cleaned and fluffed, and made up with fresh linens, might be the most comfortable she had ever slept upon—though it might be the sheer exhaustion that could account for that sensation. Either way, it was still very pleasant. Georgiana leaned back into the mattresses—a lovely wool flock one on top. No more sleeping directly on chaff! —and laced her hands behind her head. Staring up at the dust-free ceiling, the afternoon shadows cast by the not-yet-flowering honeysuckle vines danced upon the faded pink walls of her chamber. How pleasant it was to be permitted a rest.
Grueling as the exercise might have been, there was something satisfying in the process, in seeing their accomplishments in so tangible a way. And she had a better understanding of what was required for when she was mistress of her own establishment. Though she might have been able to figure out most of it on her own, it was useful to have seen it first-hand.
Now, if asked, she could honestly answer that her time at Mrs. Fieldings’ had been useful to her.
It seemed, though, that not everything had gone well. The dragons did not arrive after the expected sevenday, bringing considerable consternation to all the staff and many students. Apparently, the governess and companion-dragon students were usually quite amiable and personable. Still, the post managed to arrive on time, bringing a larger-than-average number of letters and parcels ahead of the new term, if the gossip was to be believed.
That delivery also resulted in great consternation among the students, as Mrs. Fieldings herself went through all of it and decided whether or not it was appropriate to share with the designated recipient. And if it was not, it would be kept back until an appropriate time.
What a violation! Surely that was against some law, was it not?
Merciful heavens! Georgiana sat up, heart pounding against her ribs, and pulled her knees to her chest, rumpling the plain linen coverlet beneath her. Did Mrs. Fieldings also spy upon outgoing post? Did she read the letters Georgiana had sent to Aunt Matlock and Aunt Catherine? Mrs. Fieldings could not have appreciated Georgiana likening her establishment to a medieval dungeon—which was an exaggeration for effect, of course. She had needed to make a point to her aunts.
Mrs. Fieldings gave no indication that she had read those words. Perhaps that meant … no, no, who was she fooling? Of course the headmistress had read them, and they would come back to haunt Georgiana at the worst possible time. She had probably just increased her stay at Bennetson Hall by weeks, if not months!
Was that why Mrs. Fieldings has reminded her that “true ladies are mindful of what they say at all times, especially in their correspondence, which her descendants might not be so considerate as to burn after her passing, preserving hasty words for generations”? It seemed an odd thing to say just in passing.
Georgiana flushed all the way to her shoulders. Now she would always wonder if Mrs. Fieldings was remembering those remarks whenever she looked Georgiana’s way. How perfectly dreadful. Never again would she be so thoughtless in her writing. No one else would have such a thing to use against her. Never.
Blast and botheration—no doubt Elizabeth would consider that another worthy contribution to Georgiana’s education.
She drew a deep breath, then another. Dwelling upon what had happened would do her no good. No, such attention would probably ensure she would commit some other thoughtless act in her distress. What else could she focus on?
In the three days it took for Mrs. Fieldings to sort through the post, Miss Bamber, the theater teacher, Mr. Elkins the visiting music master, and Mica, the dancing drake, arranged for the girls to have an evening to display their accomplishments to one another as they might be asked to at an evening party once they were out in society. Mr. Elkins insisted that she play for her fellow students, strongly implying that if he found her playing satisfactory, he would declare her sufficiently accomplished to Mrs. Fieldings.
Pleasing though that result might be, Mr. Elkins’ suggestion also meant that Mrs. Fieldings had shared at least some of Georgiana’s story with the staff. No telling how much, though. Surely enough to color the way they looked at her. What must they think of her?
She wrapped her arms tightly around her knees and rocked slightly. There was absolutely nothing she could do about it now. But she would make sure not to give anyone anything to talk about, ever again. This was enough humiliation for a lifetime!
She pressed cool hands to her hot face and drew in several deep breaths. This evening she would be playing for Mr. Elkins and the other students, and it would not do to allow herself the luxury of being upset.
Distraction. She needed distraction. Yes! A call upon Miss Sempil would be just the thing.
She made her way down the hall and knocked upon Miss Sempil’s plain, painted door.
“Go away, I have no wish for company.” Miss Sempil’s choked and strained voice barely made it through the closed door.
“It is Miss Darcy. Pray let me in.”
After several long moments the door creaked open, just a sliver, and Georgiana slipped inside.
The chamber arrangement and plain furnishings resembled Georgiana’s except the walls were faded green, not pink. The curtains were drawn, swathing the room in shadows and slivers of light that snuck in around the edges of the window dressings. Rumpled bed linens suggested Miss Sempil had thrown herself, headlong, onto the bed, clutching the pillows underneath her. A crumpled letter lay beside the pillows.
“Has there been bad news from home?” Georgiana closed the door behind her. “Is your family well?”
Miss Sempil collapsed, head in hands on the end of the bed, sobbing. “I am wretched, Miss Darcy, simply wretched.”
“What could have happened to render you in such a state? Was it something in the letter you received?”
“What else could it be?” Miss Sempil stretched back and brought the worn-looking missive to her chest. “It is the worst news possible!”
“Your father? Something has happened your father?” Only the death of a husband would alter a woman’s life more than the death of her father.
“No, no! He is fine and determined I should stay here yet another term.” She gulped back another sob. “I was to leave here soon, to be able to begin my life finally, but now … now … now it is all ruined.”
“Ruined? What do you mean?” Georgiana sat beside her. “You have been here for three years now, you said. How can you possibly be ruined?”
“Read this!” She pushed another piece of wrinkled paper into Georgiana’s hand.
Smoothing the scrap of newspaper against her skirts, Georgiana read:
Miss Leticia Burk, daughter to Mr. and Mrs. Reginald Burk of Little Dowling, lately married to Mr. Edwin Howe of Overley Park…
“A marriage announcement? I do not understand how this would mean you are ruined.”
Miss Sempil looked up, blue eyes flashing over red, chubby cheeks. “What do you not understand? Mr. Howe is the only Dragon Keeper in the acquaintance of my family!” Sobs drowned out the rest of her words.
“Should I understand that some sort of alliance of your two families was in the planning?”
“Yes, yes! The last time I was at home, we were much in company. I know my father approached him with the idea, and I understood it to have been favorably received. Although my dowry is not nearly so generous as yours, it was thought sufficient to ignore my father’s involvement in the spice trade. It was all so very hopeful! Mr. Howe was my hope for a future. What am I to do now? I am ruined!”
“There is a very great difference between having a man you like choose another and actually being ruined in the eyes of society.” If anyone was aware of that, it was Georgiana. “You must know that. Was there any sort of engagement between you two?”
“Any public expectation that there was, or should be?”
“Then you are hardly ruined for another.”
“That is easy for you to say, you who have connections and others to assist you with introductions to those in the Order. But I am only the daughter of a merchant! Who will introduce me to suitable men within the Order? You seem to think the world is full of Blue Order members everywhere you turn, but I assure you it is not. When one is not connected to Order officers and peers, the rarity of eligible partners is a very real challenge.”
Gracious, that thought had never occurred to her. Was it really true? Everyone in Georgiana’s world seemed to hear dragons; every place was full of them. But it was also well known that dragon-hearing was a very rare trait. It had just never seemed so until now. “You could marry a man who does not hear; there are plenty of them. There is nothing to stop that from happening. You do not have a dragon Friend. It is not as though you would lose connection to your family the way I would.”
“And risk having a half-Blue family of my own? Risk that my children might suffer as I have? Surely not! When two dragon-hearers marry, their children will hear dragons. I must have that assurance.”
According to Elizabeth, it was not always so simple, but now was definitely not the time to bring that up. “The Sage’s uncle is in trade and I have made his acquaintance. Perhaps I might be able to ask him to make introductions for you? They have been impressed by Mrs. Fieldings’ education of Miss Bennet. That might make them disposed to help you. Or even Miss Bennet herself. She might be able to assist. All hope is not lost. Do not give up.”
Miss Sempil pulled a handkerchief from her sleeve, “I suppose you are right.”
They both jumped at a sharp rap on the door. Miss Withington peeked in. “Oh dear, it looks like the letter was bad news, just as I feared. Chin up; I am sure Mrs. Fieldings will have some helpful suggestions for you. She always does. If you want, I can help you talk to her when you are ready. I know she can be intimidating but she really is quite sympathetic. But in the meantime, today’s exhibition is still set to begin in a quarter of an hour. You might want to get ready. You too, Miss Darcy.” She shut the door behind her.
“How horribly unfair! My heart is broken and yet we are expected to carry on as though nothing has happened!” Miss Sempil pulled a handkerchief from her sleeve and dragged it over her tear-streaked face.
Now there was something else Georgiana must avoid thinking about tonight. A possibility she had never considered. What prospects did she have in the marriage mart if Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth no longer welcomed her in the family? Would any upstanding Blue Order man of worth marry her if a knight and officer of the Order disapproved of her?