“That means out of doors,” Frances said to Miss Wynter.

“I know,” she murmured.

“I know you know,” Frances replied. “I just wanted to make sure you knew that I knew.” Elizabeth arrived then, and while Frances was ascertaining whether she knew the translation for en plein air, Daniel turned to Miss Wynter and said, “I trust I will not intrude this afternoon if I accompany you for lessons.”

He knew very well that she could not possibly say anything other than “Of course not.” (Which was precisely what she did say.) But it seemed as good a sentence as any to begin a conversation. He waited until she was through eating her eggs, then added, “I would be happy to assist in any way.” She touched her serviette delicately to her mouth, then said, “I am sure the girls would find it far more gratifying if you took part in the lessons.”

“And you?” He smiled warmly.

“I would find it gratifying as wel.” Said with a hint of mischief.

“Then that is what I shal do,” he replied grandly. Then he frowned. “You do not plan any dissection this afternoon, I trust?”

“We perform only vivisection in my classroom,” she said, with a remarkably straight face.

He laughed, loudly enough that Elizabeth, Frances, and Harriet, who had also come down, turned in his direction. It was remarkable, because the three of them realy did not resemble each other overmuch, but in that moment, with their faces molded into the exact same expressions of curiosity, they looked identical.

“Lord Winstead was inquiring about our lesson plan for the day,” Miss Wynter explained.

There was a silence. Then they must have decided that a further pursuance lacked excitement, and they turned as one back to their food.

“What are we studying this afternoon?” Daniel asked.

“This afternoon?” Miss Wynter echoed. “I expect full attendance at half ten.”

“This morning, then,” he amended, duly chastened.

“Geography first— not the Isle of Man,” she said loudly, when three young heads swiveled angrily in her direction. “Then some arithmetic, and finaly we shal focus on literature.”

“My favorite!” Harriet said enthusiasticaly, taking the seat next to Frances.

“I know,” Miss Wynter replied, giving her an indulgent smile. “It is why we are saving it for last. It’s the only way I can guarantee holding your attention through the entire day.”

Harriet smiled sheepishly, then brightened quite suddenly. “May we read from one of my works?”

“You know that we are studying Shakespeare’s histories,” Miss Wynter said apologeticaly, “and—” She stopped short. Quite short.

“And what?” Frances asked.

Miss Wynter regarded Harriet. Then she regarded Daniel. And then, as he began to feel rather like a lamb to slaughter, she turned back to Harriet and asked,

“Did you bring your plays with you?”

“Of course. I never go anywhere without them.”

“You never know when you might have the opportunity to have one staged?” Elizabeth said, somewhat meanly.

“Wel, there is that,” Harriet replied, ignoring her sister’s dig or (and Daniel thought this was more likely) simply not noticing it. “But the big fear,” she continued, “is fire.”

He knew he shouldn’t inquire, but he just could not stop himself. “Fire?”

“At home,” she confirmed. “What if Pleinsworth House burned to the ground while we are here in Berkshire? My life’s work, lost.” Elizabeth snorted. “If Pleinsworth House burns to the ground, I assure you that we will have far bigger worries than the loss of your scribblings.”

“I fear hail myself,” Frances announced. “And locusts.”

“Have you ever read one of your cousin’s plays?” Miss Wynter asked innocently.

Daniel shook his head.

“They’re rather like this conversation, actualy,” she said, and then, while he was absorbing that, she turned to her charges and announced, “Good news, everyone! Today, instead of Julius Caesar, we will study one of Harriet’s plays.”

“Study?” Elizabeth asked, all horror.

“Read from,” Miss Wynter corrected. She turned to Harriet. “You may choose which one.”

“Oh, my heavens, that will be difficult.” Harriet set down her fork and placed a hand over her heart as she thought, her fingers spread like a lopsided starfish.

“Not the one with the frog,” Frances said forcefuly. “Because you know I will have to be the frog.”

“You’re a very good frog,” Miss Wynter said supportively.

“You’re a very good frog,” Miss Wynter said supportively.

Daniel kept quiet, watching the exchange with interest. And dread.

“Nevertheless,” Frances said with a sniff.

“Don’t worry, Frances,” Harriet said, giving her hand a pat, “we won’t perform The Marsh of the Frogs. I wrote that years ago. My recent work is much more nuanced.”

“How far along are you on the one about Henry VIII?” Miss Wynter asked.

“A yen to have your head lopped off?” Daniel murmured. “She did want to cast you as Anne Boleyn, didn’t she?”

“It’s not ready,” Harriet said. “I have to revise the first act.”

“I told her it needs a unicorn,” said Frances.

Daniel kept his eyes on the girls but leaned toward Miss Wynter. “Am I going to have to be a unicorn?”

Source: www_Novel12_Com