“Don’t forget Miss Wynter,” Sarah muttered.

The one who had walked past backed up and peered in. It was Frances, but she did not recognize him.

Daniel felt a pang in his chest. He had not expected this. And if he had, he wouldn’t have thought it would make him feel quite so wistful.

But Harriet was older. She had been twelve when he’d left for the Continent, and when she poked her head into the drawing room, she shrieked his name and came running in.

“Daniel!” she said again. “You’re back! Oh, you’re back you’re back you’re back.”

“I’m back,” he confirmed.

“Oh, it is so lovely to see you. Frances, it’s Cousin Daniel. You remember him.”

Frances, who looked to be about ten now, let out a dawning, “Oooooh. You look quite different.”

“No, he doesn’t,” remarked Elizabeth, who had come into the room behind them.

“I’m trying to be polite,” Frances said out of the corner of her mouth.

Daniel laughed. “Wel, you look different, that’s for certain.” He bent down and gave her a friendly chuck on the chin. “You’re nearly grown.”

“Oh, wel, I wouldn’t say that,” Frances said modestly.

“She’ll say everything else, though,” Elizabeth said.

Frances whipped her head around like a shot. “Stop that!”

“What happened to your face?” Harriet asked.

“It was a misunderstanding,” Daniel said smoothly, wondering how long it might take for his bruises to heal. He did not think he was particularly vain, but the questions were growing tiresome.

“A misunderstanding?” Elizabeth echoed. “With an anvil?”

“Oh, stop,” Harriet admonished her. “I think he looks very dashing.”

“As if he dashed into an anvil.”

“Pay her no attention,” Harriet said to him. “She lacks imagination.”

“Where is Miss Wynter?” Sarah asked loudly.

Daniel gave her a smile. Good old Sarah.

“I don’t know,” Harriet said, glancing first over one shoulder and then the other. “She was right behind us coming down the stairs.”

“One of you should fetch her,” Sarah said. “She’ll want to know why you’ve been delayed.”

“Go on, Frances,” Elizabeth said.

“Why do I have to go?”

“Because you do.”

Frances stomped off, grumbling mightily.

“I want to hear all about Italy,” Harriet said, her eyes sparkling with youthful excitement. “Was it terribly romantic? Did you see that tower everyone says is going to fall over?”

He smiled. “No, I didn’t, but I’m told it’s more stable than it looks.”

He smiled. “No, I didn’t, but I’m told it’s more stable than it looks.”

“And France? Were you in Paris?” Harriet let out a dreamy sigh. “I should love to see Paris.”

“I should love to shop in Paris,” Elizabeth said.

“Oh, yes.” Harriet looked as if she might swoon at the prospect. “The dresses.”

“I wasn’t in Paris,” he told them. No need to add that he couldn’t have gone to Paris. Lord Ramsgate had too many friends there.

“Maybe we won’t have to go for our walk now,” Harriet said hopefuly. “I’d much rather stay here with Cousin Daniel.”

“Ah, but I would rather enjoy the sunshine,” he said. “Perhaps I will accompany you to the park.” Sarah snorted.

He looked over. “Something in your throat, Sarah?”

Her eyes were pure sarcasm. “I’m sure it’s related to whatever it was that befel me yesterday.”

“Miss Wynter says she’ll wait for us in the mews,” Frances announced, trotting back into the room.

“The mews?” Elizabeth echoed. “We’re not riding.”

Frances shrugged. “She said the mews.”

Harriet let out a delighted gasp. “Maybe she has formed a tendre for one of the stableboys.”

“Oh for heaven’s sake,” Elizabeth scoffed. “One of the stableboys? Realy.”

“Wel, you must admit, it would be very exciting if she had.”

“For whom? Not for her. I don’t think any of them even know how to read.”

“Love is blind,” Harriet quipped.

“But not iliterate,” Elizabeth retorted.

Daniel choked out a laugh despite himself. “Shal we be off?” he asked, giving the girls a polite bow. He held out his arm to Frances, who took it with an arch look directed at her sisters.

“Have a jolly time!” Sarah caled out. Insincerely.

“What’s wrong with her?” Elizabeth asked Harriet as they headed out to the mews.

“I think she’s still upset about having missed the concert,” Harriet replied. She looked over at Daniel. “Did you hear that Sarah missed the musicale?”

“I did,” he confirmed. “Vertigo, was it?”

“I thought it was a head cold,” Frances said.

“Stomach ailment,” Harriet said with certainty. “But it was no matter. Miss Wynter”—she turned toward Daniel—“that’s our governess,” she added, her head bobbing back to her sisters, “was briliant.”

“She took Sarah’s part,” Frances said.

“I don’t think she wanted to,” Elizabeth added. “Mother had to be quite forceful.” Copyright 2016 - 2024