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Miranda Neville
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Confessions from an Arranged Marriage: Extra Scene

This scene between was cut from the final version of Confessions from an Arranged Marriage because it didn’t add much to the main story line. It shows the beginning of thawing relations between Blake and Sebastian. Warning: the scene hasn’t been edited and may contain typos and other infelicities.

 

Mandeville House, during the house party

Turning tail, he slipped through the nearest door and closed it firmly behind him. Since Blake had never visited the library with any frequency, he found himself in an unfamiliar passage and stopped for a minute to get his bearings. Judging by the unadorned floor and walls, he was in an area used mostly by servants. Through an open door he spotted a room fitted out as an office, and wondered which of his numerous employees toiled in this obscure corner.

“Your Grace?”

Caught. On a normal day the librarian was the last man he’d want to see, but he’d just escaped a couple of dozen better candidates for his avoidance.

“Is there something I can do for Your Grace? Help you find a particular volume, perhaps?” Lindsey sounded eager.

Blake dragged his feet through the door and found the old man standing next to a solid deal table piled with volumes and papers.

“So this is where you work, Lindsey. You have a lot of books in here.” How did one make conversation with a librarian? “Have you run out of shelves in the library?”

“Not yet, Your Grace,” Lindsey said. “When new books arrive they come here so that I can enter them in the catalogue.”

“Right. Do we buy a lot of books?” It appeared so. Blake shuddered to think how long it would take him to read even the ones in this room.

“His late Grace had his own interests, of course. On his behalf I purchased any noteworthy book in the field of classical studies. He also gave me free reign to buy anything I think fits the collection.”

“Good. You must continue to do so, Lindsey.”

“Thank you, Your Grace. I’m afraid I don’t know your reading tastes. Is there any particular area you’d like me to collect on your behalf?”

“Not at the moment. You should speak to the Duchess. She’s a great reader.”

“Thank you. I’ve had the honor of knowing Her Grace for many years and I’m well acquainted with her interests.”

Blake looked around wildly, wishing he could think of something intelligent to say, but the subject of reading always sent him into a near panic. A print on the table caught his eye. Pictures he could deal with.

“What’s this? I’ve never seen a bird like this. What is it called?”

Lindsey moved the engraving aside and underneath was a similar sized sheet with printed text. “Some kind of parrot, I think. Here’s the description.”

Blake pretended to read it. “Is this part of a book? Why are the sheets loose?”

“It’s an illustrated book on the flora and fauna of the Amazon, published in parts. We’ll have it bound in morocco with the Vanderlin arms once it’s complete.”

“You mean it arrives a few pages at a time? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“It’s a common practice, especially with illustrated books that are expensive to produce. These plates are the work of skilled engravers and much of the color is applied by hand. No publisher could afford to issue the entire work at once. Subscribers such as Your Grace underwrite the cost. I assume you wish me to maintain all our current subscriptions.”

“Yes, of course,” Blake said. He leafed through the pile on the table, ignoring the printed pages but admiring the intricate plumage of the birds, gorgeously rendered in vibrant color. These were books he could enjoy.

Lindsey cleared his throat. “Perhaps Your Grace is not aware. Not only did your late father order two copies of this particular work, he also partly financed the expedition that explored the jungle and recorded these species. His patronage added to the sum of our knowledge of the world, then, by underwriting the book, helps to spread the word.”

“I had no idea,” Blake murmured, transfixed by the new vistas opened by Lindsey’s words. “I find this aspect of my father’s activities far more appealing than managing political factions. Frankly, I’d just as soon attempt to herd hedgehogs as make those fellows see reason.”

Although Lindsey continued to maintain an expression of respectful deference, Blake detected something more: amusement, sympathy, pleasure, or some blend of the three. “Indeed, Your Grace. I daresay the Duchess would disagree.”

“Certainly. I should leave the hedgehogs to her. Tell me about this expedition to the Amazon. How did my father become connected with it?”

“Mr. Blenkinsop could give you the details. Are you aware of your own family connection? The Duchess’s eldest brother William Montrose was a member of the expedition.”

“Was he? Of course I knew where he’d been, but not that my father had been involved. The Duchess never mentioned it.”

“She may not know. His Grace didn’t flaunt his investments in expeditions of discovery.”

Blake shook his head in wonder. “Are there others?”

“As a matter of fact, and this is one that was close to his heart, he contributed a sum to a search for classical ruins in Turkey in which Mr. Rufus Montrose plays a part.”

“And is there a book about it?”

“Not yet, but His Grace paid the salary for a draftsman. He was most anxious to see the results.”

“I’m sorry he never will,” Blake said gruffly. Yet he felt lighter of heart than at any moment since his father’s death. He’s discovered an aspect of his father’s work he could embrace with enthusiasm.

He asked Lindsey to show him more illustrated volumes. He’d always felt excluded from the knowledge contained in books, as though they were written in a secret code of which he alone lacked the key. But these gorgeous prints opened the world to him. A happy hour was interrupted by an unwelcome voice.

“Lindsey. I need to lay hands on Rousseau’s Emile and I’m sure the Duke had a copy.” Trust Sebastian Iverley to be on friendly terms with his librarian. And to be well acquainted with the contents of the library.

“Sebastian.”

“Blake.” His cousin and brother-in-law actually produced a smile and a nod. Not a very warm one but not a scowl either. And he didn’t call him Hampton, a name Blake still couldn’t get used to. “I came to consult Lindsey.”

“Go ahead.”

Lindsey looked puzzled. “I’m sure the book is in the library, Lord Iverley. Is it not in its proper section?”

“To tell you the truth I haven’t looked. I wonder if you’d do me the favor of fetching it for me. The library is full of people and I’ll never get out of there without being dragged into a discussion when what I want to do is read.”

In Lindsey’s absence an awkward silence descended. His cousin would doubtless prefer Blake to leave, but he was damned if he was going to be driven out of a room in his own house.

Sebastian picked up a volume and peered at the lettering on the spine. “I wouldn’t expect to find you here,” he said.

“I came in for the same reason as you. Escape.”

“Devilish set of people you’ve got in the house.”

Blake grimaced. “I assure you I didn’t make the guest list.”

“Minerva seems to be enjoying herself.”

“I’m glad someone is.”

His cousin’s only response was a grunt. He was inspecting the shelf of books behind the librarian’s desk. Blake returned to his perusal of a volume of engravings, of classical ruins of the kind his brother-in-law was exploring.

“Wood’s Ruins of Palmyra?” Sebastian asked when he happened to look in his direction.

Blake grunted back. He began to see the advantage of this method of communication, and of a congenial hour or two in the company of books. They didn’t exchange another word until Lindsey returned.”