“All my plans for the afternoon,” she quipped. “Ruined. Just like that.”
He chuckled, and Anne was assaulted by memory. Not of anything specific, but of herself, and how lovely it had felt to flirt, and laugh, and bask in the regard of a gentleman.
The flirting had been lovely. But not the consequences. She was still paying for those.
“The weather is fine,” she said after a moment.
“Have we already run out of things to say?”
His voice was light and teasing, and when she turned to steal a glance at his face, he was looking straight ahead, a small, secret smile touching his lips.
“The weather is very fine,” she amended.
His smile deepened. So did hers.
“Shal we go to The Serpentine?” Harriet caled out from up ahead.
“Anywhere you wish,” Daniel said indulgently.
“Rotten Row,” Anne corrected. When he looked at her with raised brows, she said, “I am still in charge of them, am I not?” He saluted her with a nod, then caled out, “Anywhere Miss Wynter wishes.”
“We’re not doing maths again?” Harriet lamented.
Lord Winstead looked at Anne with unconcealed curiosity. “Mathematics? On Rotten Row?”
“We have been studying measurement,” she informed him. “They have already measured the average length of their strides. Now they will count their steps and compute the length of the path.”
“Very nice,” he said approvingly. “And it keeps them busy and quiet as they count.”
“You have not heard them count,” Anne told him.
He turned to her with some alarm. “Don’t say they don’t know how?”
“Of course not.” She smiled; she could not help herself. He looked so ridiculous with his one surprised eye. The other was still too swolen to register much of any emotion. “Your cousins do everything with great flair,” she told him. “Even counting.”
He considered this. “So what you are saying is, in five or so years, when the Pleinsworths have taken over the Smythe-Smith quartet, I should endeavor to be far, far away?”
“I should never say such a thing,” she replied. “But I will tell you this: Frances has elected to break with tradition and has taken up the contrabassoon.” He winced.
And then they laughed, the both of them. Together.
It was a marvelous sound.
“Oh, girls!” Anne caled out, because she could not resist. “Lord Winstead is going to join you.”
“He is,” Anne confirmed, as the girls came trotting back. “He told me himself that he is most interested in your studies.”
“Liar,” he murmured.
She ignored the gibe, but when she alowed herself a smirky half smile, she made sure the upturned side of her mouth was facing him. “Here is what we shal do,” she said. “You shal measure the length of the path as we discussed, multiplying the number of your strides times the length.”
“But Cousin Daniel doesn’t know the length of his stride.”
“Precisely. That is what makes the lesson so much better. Once you have determined the length of the path, you must work backwards to determine the length of his stride.”
“In our heads?”
She might as well have said they must learn to wrestle an octopus. “It is the only way to learn how to do it,” she told them.
“I have great love for pen and ink myself,” Lord Winstead remarked.
“Don’t listen to him, girls. It is extremely useful to be able to do sums and tables in your head. Just think of the applications.” They just stared at her, all four of them. Applications, apparently, were not jumping to mind.
“Shopping,” Anne said, hoping to appeal to the girls. “Mathematics is of tremendous help when one goes shopping. You’re not going to carry pen and paper with you when you go to the miliner’s, are you?”
still, they stared. Anne had a feeling they had never so much as inquired about price at the miliner’s, or any establishment, for that matter.
“What about games?” she tried. “If you sharpen your arithmetic skils, there is no teling what you can achieve in a game of cards.”
“You have no idea,” Lord Winstead murmured.
“I don’t think our mother wants you to teach us how to gamble,” Elizabeth said.
Anne could hear the earl chortling with amusement beside her.
“How do you intend to verify our results?” Harriet wanted to know.
“That is a very good question,” Anne replied, “and one that I will answer tomorrow.” She paused for precisely one second. “When I have figured out how I am going to do it.”
All three girls tittered, which had been her intention. There was nothing like a little self-deprecating humor to regain control of the conversation.
“I shal have to return for the results,” Lord Winstead remarked.
“There is no need for that,” Anne said quickly. “We can send them over with a footman.”
“Or we could walk,” Frances suggested. She turned to Lord Winstead with hopeful eyes. “It’s not very far to Winstead House, and Miss Wynter does love to make us take walks.”
“Walking is healthful for the body and mind,” Anne said primly.
“But far more enjoyable when one has company,” Lord Winstead said.
Anne took a breath—the better to hold back a retort—and turned to the girls. “Let us begin,” she said briskly, directing them to the top of the path. “Start over there and then make your way down. I shal wait right there on that bench.”