“If you’re lucky.”

He whipped his head around to face her. “What does that m—”

“Harriet!” she caled out. “We realy must choose a play.”

“Very wel,” Harriet said, sitting up exceptionaly tall in her seat. “I think we should perform . . .” Chapter Ten

“The Strange, Sad Tragedy of Lord Finstead???????”

Daniel’s reaction could best be summed up in two words: Oh and no.

“The ending is realy quite hopeful,” Harriet told him.

His expression, which he was fairly certain hovered somewhere between stunned and aghast, added dubious to its repertoire. “You have the word tragedy in the title.”

Harriet frowned. “I might have to change that.”

“I don’t think it’s going to work very well as The Strange, Sad Comedy, ” Frances said.

“No, no,” Harriet mused, “I’d have to rework it completely.”

“But Fin stead,” Daniel persisted. “Realy?”

Harriet looked up at him. “Do you think it sounds too fishy?”

Whatever mirth Miss Wynter had been holding onto burst out in a spray of eggs and bacon. “Oh!” she exclaimed, and realy, it was difficult to summon any sympathy for her plight. “I’m sorry, oh, that was rude. But—” She might have meant to say more. Daniel couldn’t tel; her laughter got hold of her again, cutting off all inteligible speech.

“It’s a good thing you’re wearing yelow,” Elizabeth said to Frances.

Frances glanced down at her bodice, shrugged, then lightly brushed herself off with her serviette.

“Too bad the fabric doesn’t have little sprigs of red flowers,” Elizabeth added. “The bacon, you know.” She turned to Daniel as if waiting for some sort of confirmation, but he wanted no part of any conversation that included partialy digested airborne bacon, so he turned to Miss Wynter and said:

“Help me. Please?”

She gave him an abashed nod (but not nearly so abashed as she ought) and turned to Harriet. “I think that Lord Winstead refers to the rhyming qualities of the title.”

Harriet blinked a few times. “It doesn’t rhyme.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Elizabeth burst out. “Fin stead Win stead?”

Harriet’s gasp very nearly sucked the air from the room. “I never noticed!” she exclaimed.

“Obviously,” her sister drawled.

“I must have been thinking about you when I wrote the play,” Harriet said to Daniel. From her expression, he gathered he was meant to feel flattered, so he tried to smile.

“You have been much in their thoughts,” Miss Wynter told him.

“We shal have to change the name,” Harriet said with an exhausted sigh. “It’s going to be a horrible lot of work. I shal have to recopy the entire play. Lord Finstead is in almost every scene, you know.” She turned to Daniel. “He is the protagonist.”

“I’d surmised,” he said dryly.

“You will have to play his role.”

He turned to Miss Wynter. “There’s no getting out of it, is there?”

She looked utterly amused, the traitorous wench. “I’m afraid not.”

“Is there a unicorn?” Frances asked. “I make an excelent unicorn.”

“I think I’d rather be the unicorn,” Daniel said glumly.

“Nonsense!” Miss Wynter chimed in. “You must play our hero.”

To which Frances naturaly replied, “Unicorns can be heroes.”

“Enough with the unicorns!” Elizabeth burst out.

Frances stuck out her tongue.

“Harriet,” Miss Wynter said. “As Lord Winstead has not yet read your play, perhaps you can tell him about his character.” Harriet turned to him with breathless delight. “Oh, you will love being Lord Finstead. He used to be very handsome.” Daniel cleared his throat. “Used to be?”

“There was a fire,” Harriet explained, her brief sentence ending with the kind of sad sigh Daniel assumed was normaly reserved for victims of actual fires.

“Wait a moment,” he said, turning to Miss Wynter with growing alarm. “The fire doesn’t occur on stage, does it?”

“Oh, no,” Harriet answered for her. “Lord Finstead is already gravely disfigured when the play opens.” And then, in a burst of prudence that was both reassuring and surprising, she added, “It would be far too dangerous to have a fire on stage.”

“Wel, that’s—”

“Besides,” Harriet cut in, “it would be hardly necessary to help you with your character. You’re already . . .” She motioned to her own face with her hand, waving it in a bit of a circle.

He had no idea what she was doing.

“Your bruises,” Frances said in a very loud whisper.

“Ah, yes,” Daniel said. “Yes, of course. Sadly, I do know a bit about facial disfigurement at present.”

“At least you won’t need any makeup,” Elizabeth said.

Daniel was thanking God for small favors, but then Harriet said, “Wel, except for the wart.” Daniel’s gratitude was swiftly retracted. “Harriet,” he said, looking her in the eye as he would an adult, “I realy must tell you, I have never been a thespian.” Harriet waved this off like a gnat. “That is what is so wonderful about my plays. Anyone can enjoy himself.”

“I don’t know,” Frances said. “I did not like being that frog. My legs hurt the next day.”

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