Turner kept his expression appropriately grave. "I'm not sorry that she did, either, if Fiona said unkind things to you."
"I know I'm not pretty," Miranda burst out. "But it's dreadfully impolite to say so, not to mention downright mean."
Turner looked at her for a long moment, not exactly certain how to comfort the little girl. She wasn't beautiful, that was true, and if he tried to tell her that she was, she wouldn't believe him. But she wasn't ugly. She was just…rather awkward.
He was saved, however, from having to say anything by Miranda's next comment.
"It's this brown hair, I think."
He raised his brows.
"It's not at all fashionable," Miranda explained. "And neither are brown eyes. And I'm too skinny by half, and my face is too long, and I'm far too pale."
"Well, that's all true," Turner said.
Miranda turned to face him, her eyes looming large and sad in her face.
"You certainly do have brown hair and eyes. There is no use arguing that point." He tilted his head and pretended to give her a complete inspection. "You are rather thin, and your face is indeed a trifle long. And you certainly are pale."
Her lips trembled, and Turner could tease her no more. "But as it happens," he said with a smile, "I myself prefer women with brown hair and eyes."
"I do. I always have. And I like them thin and pale, as well."
Miranda eyed him suspiciously. "What about long faces?"
"Well, I must admit, I never gave the matter much thought, but I certainly don't mind a long face."
"Fiona Bennet said I have big lips," she said almost defiantly.
Turner bit back a smile.
She heaved a great sigh. "I never even noticed I had big lips before."
"They're not so big."
She shot him a wary glance. "You're just saying that to make me feel better."
"I do want you to feel better, but that's not why I said it. And next time Fiona Bennet says you have big lips, tell her she's wrong. You have full lips."
"What's the difference?" She looked over at him patiently, her dark eyes serious.
Turner took a breath. "Well," he stalled. "Big lips are unattractive. Full lips are not."
"Oh." That seemed to satisfy her. "Fiona has thin lips."
"Full lips are much, much better than thin lips," Turner said emphatically. He quite liked this funny little girl and wanted her to feel better.
Turner offered up a silent apology to the gods of etiquette and propriety before he answered, "Full lips are better for kissing."
"Oh." Miranda blushed, and then she smiled. "Good."
Turner felt absurdly pleased with himself. "Do you know what I think, Miss Miranda Cheever?"
"I think you just need to grow into yourself." The minute he said it, he was sorry. She would surely ask him what he meant, and he had no idea how to answer her.
But the precocious little child simply tilted her head to one side as she pondered his statement. "I expect you're right," she finally said. "Just look at my legs."
A discreet cough masked the chuckle that welled up in Turner's throat. "What do you mean?"
"Well, they're far too long. Mama always says that they start at my shoulders ."
"They appear to begin quite properly at your waist to me."
Miranda giggled. "I was speaking metaphorically."
Turner blinked. This ten-year-old had quite a vocabulary, indeed.
"What I meant," she went on, "is that my legs are all the wrong size compared to the rest of me. I think that's why I can't seem to learn how to dance. I'm forever trodding on Olivia's toes."
"On Olivia's toes?"
"We practice together," Miranda explained briskly. "I think that if the rest of me catches up with my legs, I won't be so clumsy. So I think you're right. I do have to grow into myself."
"Splendid," Turner said, happily aware that he had somehow managed to say exactly the right thing. "Well, we seem to have arrived."
Miranda looked up at the gray stone house that was her home. It was located right on one of the many streams that connected the lakes of the district, and one had to cross over a little cobbled bridge just to reach the front door. "Thank you very much for taking me home, Turner. I promise I'll never call you Nigel."
"Will you also promise to pinch Olivia if she calls me Nigel?"
Miranda let out a little giggle and clapped her hand to her mouth. She nodded.
Turner dismounted and then turned to the little girl and helped her down. "Do you know what I think you should do, Miranda?" he said suddenly.
"I think you ought to keep a journal."
She blinked in surprise. "Why? Who would want to read it?"
"No one, silly. You keep it for yourself. And maybe someday after you die, your grandchildren will read it so they will know what you were like when you were young."
She tilted her head. "What if I don't have grandchildren?"
Turner impulsively reached out and tousled her hair. "You ask a lot of questions, puss."
"But what if I don't have grandchildren?"
Lord, she was persistent. "Perhaps you'll be famous." He sighed. "And the children who study about you in school will want to know about you."
Miranda shot him a doubtful look.
"Oh, very well, do you want to know why I really think you should keep a journal?"
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