Iris crossed her arms and hunched over herself in her seat. To Honoria, it looked as if she were trying to fold herself into nothingness. “Something without the cello,” she muttered.

“If I have to do it, you have to do it,” Sarah said with a smirk.

Iris glared at her with all the fury of a misunderstood artist. “You don’t understand.”

“Oh, believe me, I do,” Sarah said with great feeling. “I played last year, if you recall. I’ve had an entire year to understand.”

“Why is everyone complaining?” Daisy asked impatiently. “This is exciting! We get to perform. Do you know how long I have been waiting for this day?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” Sarah said flatly.

“About as long as I have been dreading it,” Iris muttered.

“It is really quite remarkable,” Sarah said, “that the two of you are sisters.”

“I marvel at it every day,” Iris said flatly.

“It should be a piano quartet,” Honoria said quickly, before Daisy figured out she was being insulted. “Unfortunately, there aren’t many from which to choose.”

No one offered an opinion.

Honoria fought off a groan. It was clear she was going to have to take the reins, lest they fall into musical anarchy. Although she supposed that anarchy might actually be an improvement over the usual Smythe-Smith state of affairs.

It was a sad statement, that.

“Mozart’s Piano Quartet no. 1 or Mozart’s Piano Quartet no. 2,” she announced, holding up the two different scores. “Does anyone have an opinion?”

“Whichever one we didn’t do last year,” Sarah sighed. She let her head rest against the piano. Then she actually let her head drop to the keys.

“That sounded good,” Daisy said with surprise.

“It sounded like a fish vomiting,” Sarah said into the piano.

“A charming image,” Honoria remarked.

“I don’t think fish do vomit,” Daisy remarked, “and if they did, I don’t think it would sound like – ”

“Can’t we be the first set of cousins to mutiny?” Sarah cut in, lifting her head. “Can’t we simply just say no?”

“No!” Daisy howled.

“No,” Honoria agreed.

“Yes?” Iris said weakly.

“I can’t believe you want to do this again,” Sarah said to Honoria.

“It’s tradition.”

“It’s a wretched tradition, and it will take me six months to recover.”

“I shall never recover,” Iris lamented.

Daisy looked as if she might stomp her foot. She probably would have done if Honoria had not quelled her with a sharp glare.

Honoria thought of Marcus, then forced herself not to think of Marcus. “It’s tradition,” she said again, “and we are fortunate to belong to a family that prizes tradition.”

“What are you talking about?” Sarah asked, shaking her head.

“Some people have no one,” Honoria said passionately.

Sarah stared at her a moment longer, then said it again. “I’m sorry, but what are you talking about?”

Honoria looked at all of them, aware that her voice was rising with feeling but completely unable to modulate it. “I may not like performing in musicales, but I love rehearsing with the three of you.”

Her three cousins stared at her, momentarily nonplussed.

“Don’t you realize how lucky we are?” Honoria said. And then, when no one leapt to agree, she added, “To have each other?”

“Couldn’t we have each other over a game of cards?” Iris suggested.

“We are Smythe-Smiths,” Honoria ground out, “and this is what we do.” And then, before Sarah could offer a word of protest, she said, “You, too, regardless of your last name. Your mother was a Smythe-Smith, and that is what counts.”

Sarah sighed – loud, long, and weary.

“We are going to pick up our instruments and play Mozart,” Honoria announced. “And we are going to do it with smiles on our faces.”

“I have no idea what any of you are talking about,” Daisy said.

“I will play,” Sarah said, “but I make no promises about a smile.” She looked at the piano and blinked. “And I am not picking up my instrument.”

Iris actually giggled. Then her eyes lit up. “I could help you.”

“Pick it up?”

Iris’s grin grew positively devilish. “The window is not far . . .”

“I knew I loved you,” Sarah said with a wide smile.

While Sarah and Iris were making plans to destroy Lady Winstead’s brand new pianoforte, Honoria turned back to the music, trying to decide which score to choose. “We did Quartet no. 2 last year,” she said, even though only Daisy was listening, “but I’m hesitant to choose Quartet no. 1.”

“Why?” Daisy asked.

“It’s rather famous for being difficult.”

“Why is that?”

“I don’t know,” Honoria admitted. “I’ve just heard that it is, and often enough to make me wary.”

“Is there a Quartet no. 3?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“Then I think we should do no. 1,” Daisy said boldly. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

“Yes, but it is a wise man who understands his limits.”

“Who said that?” Daisy asked.

“I did,” Honoria answered impatiently. She held up the score to Quartet no. 1. “I don’t think we could possibly learn this, even if we had three times as long to practice.”