And even before that, before she had started spouting nonsense and acting so emotional that the men of the world must surely think themselves justified in considering women the flightier sex, she’d still been a fool. She’d danced with him as if he’d been her salvation, she’d looked up at him with her heart in her eyes, and he’d said –

Nothing. He hadn’t said anything. Just her name. And then he’d looked at her as if she’d gone green. He’d probably thought she was going to cast up her accounts and ruin another perfectly good pair of his boots.

That had been three days earlier. Three days. Without a word.

“She should have been here at least twenty minutes ago,” Iris grumbled.

To which Honoria muttered, “He should have been here two days ago.”

Iris turned sharply. “What did you say?”

“Perhaps there was traffic?” Honoria asked, making a quick recovery.

“She lives only half a mile away.”

Honoria gave her a distracted nod. She looked down at the notes she’d made on page two of her score and realized she’d written Marcus’s name. Twice. No, three times. There was a little M.H. in curlicue script hiding next to a dotted half note. Good Lord. She was pathetic.

“Honoria! Honoria! Are you even listening to me?”

Iris again. Honoria tried not to groan. “I’m sure she’ll be here soon,” she said placatingly.

“Are you?” Iris demanded. “Because I’m not. I knew she was going to do this to me.”

“Do what?”

“Don’t you understand? She’s not coming.”

Honoria finally looked up. “Oh, don’t be silly. Sarah would never do that.”

“Really?” Iris gave her a look of utter disbelief. And panic. “Really?”

Honoria stared at her for a long moment, and then: “Oh, dear God.”

“I told you you shouldn’t have chosen Quartet no. 1. Sarah’s actually not that bad on the pianoforte, but the piece is far too difficult.”

“It’s difficult for us, as well,” Honoria said weakly. She was beginning to feel sick.

“Not as difficult as on the piano. And besides, it really doesn’t matter how difficult the violin parts are, because – ” Iris cut herself off. She swallowed, and her cheeks turned pink.

“You won’t hurt my feelings,” Honoria told her. “I know I’m dreadful. And I know Daisy is even worse. We’d do an equally bad job with any piece of music.”

“I can’t believe her,” Iris said, starting to pace frantically about the room. “I can’t believe she would do this.”

“We don’t know that she isn’t going to play,” Honoria said.

Iris spun around. “Don’t we?”

Honoria swallowed uncomfortably. Iris was right. Sarah had never been twenty – no, now it was twenty-five – minutes late for a rehearsal.

“This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t chosen such a difficult piece,” Iris accused.

Honoria stomped to her feet. “Do not try to lay the blame on me! I’m not the one who spent the last week complaining about – Oh, never mind. I’m here, and she’s not, and I don’t see how that is my fault.”

“No, no, of course,” Iris said, shaking her head. “It’s just – Oh!” She let out a loud cry of angry frustration. “I can’t believe she would do this to me.”

“To us,” Honoria reminded her quietly.

“Yes, but I’m the one who didn’t want to perform. You and Daisy didn’t care.”

“I don’t see what that has to do with it,” Honoria said.

“I don’t know,” Iris wailed. “It’s just that we were all supposed to be in this together. That’s what you said. Every single day you said it. And if I was going to swallow my pride and humiliate myself in front of every single person I know, then Sarah was going to have to do it, too.”

Just then Daisy arrived. “What’s going on?” she asked. “Why is Iris so upset?”

“Sarah isn’t here,” Honoria explained.

Daisy looked over at the clock on the mantel. “That’s rude of her. She’s almost a half an hour late.”

“She’s not coming,” Iris said flatly.

“We don’t know that for sure,” Honoria said.

“What do you mean she’s not coming?” Daisy echoed. “She can’t not come. How are we meant to perform a piano quartet without a piano?”

A long silence fell over the room, and then Iris gasped. “Daisy, you’re brilliant.”

Daisy looked pleased, but nonetheless said, “I am?”

“We can cancel the performance!”

“No,” Daisy said, shaking her head quickly. She turned to Honoria. “I don’t want to do that.”

“We’ll have no choice,” Iris went on, her eyes lighting with glee. “It’s just as you said. We can’t have a piano quartet without a piano. Oh, Sarah is brilliant.”

Honoria, however, was not convinced. She adored Sarah, but it was difficult to think of her planning something quite so unselfish, especially under these circumstances. “Do you really think she did this in an attempt to cancel the entire performance?”

“I don’t care why she did it,” Iris said frankly. “I’m just so happy I could – ” For a moment she literally could not speak. “I’m free! We’re free! We’re – ”