Murdering the keys.

Anne could only deduce that she’d decided that fury was preferable to abject misery. Heaven only knew if the piano would survive the encounter.

Even worse was Harriet, who’d been conscripted that year to replace Honoria, who, as the new Lady Chatteris, no longer had to perform.

Marriage or death. Those were the only avenues of escape, Sarah had grimly told Anne the day before when Anne had stopped by to see how the rehearsals were going.

Whose death, Anne wasn’t sure. When Anne had arrived, Sarah had somehow got hold of Harriet’s violin bow and was brandishing it like a sword. Daisy was shrieking, Iris was moaning, and Harriet had been gasping with delight as she wrote it all down for future use in a play.

“Why is Harriet talking to herself?” Daniel asked, his whispered voice bringing Anne back to the here and now.

“She doesn’t know how to read music.”

“What?”

Several people looked their way, including Daisy, whose glare could only be described as homicidal.

“What?” Daniel repeated, far more quietly.

“She can’t read music,” Anne whispered back, keeping her eyes politely on the unfolding concert. “She told me she’s never been able to learn. She got Honoria to

“She can’t read music,” Anne whispered back, keeping her eyes politely on the unfolding concert. “She told me she’s never been able to learn. She got Honoria to write the notes out and then she memorized them.” She looked over at Harriet, who was mouthing the notes so clearly that even the guests in the back row would surely realize she’d just played—or rather, attempted to play—B-flat.

“Why couldn’t she just read the letters Honoria wrote out for her?”

“I don’t know,” Anne admitted. She smiled encouragingly at Harriet, who grinned back.

Ah, Harriet. One realy had to love her. And Anne did, even more so now that she was a member of the family. She loved being a Smythe-Smith. She loved the noise, and the constant stream of cousins in her drawing room, and how lovely they’d all been to her sister Charlotte when she’d come for a visit earlier that spring.

But most of al, she loved being a Smythe-Smith who did not have to perform at the musicale. Because unlike the rest of the audience, whose groans and grumbles Anne could clearly hear around her, she knew the truth:

It was far, far worse up on the stage than it was in the seats.

Although . . .

“I cannot bring myself to lose all affection for the concert,” she whispered to Daniel.

“Realy?” He winced when Harriet did something unspeakable with her violin. “Because I cannot bring myself to lose all affection for my hearing.”

“But without the musicale, we should never have met,” she reminded him.

“Oh, I think I would have found you.”

“But not on a night like this.”

“No.” He smiled and took her hand. It was incredibly gauche, and not at all what married couples were supposed to do in public, but Anne did not care. She twined her fingers through his and smiled. And it no longer mattered that Sarah was pounding the piano keys or that Harriet had started to recite her notes so loudly that the first row of the audience could hear her speak.

She had Daniel, and she was holding his hand.

That was realy all that mattered.

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