“Go,” her mother said, nodding in Iris’s direction. “You don’t want to stay here with the matrons.”
She really didn’t, so with a grateful smile to her mother, Sarah made her way over to Iris, who was standing near the doorway, quite obviously looking for someone.
“Have you seen Lady Edith?” Iris asked without preamble.
“Lady Edith Gilchrist,” Iris clarified, referring to a young lady neither of them knew very well.
“Wasn’t she recently engaged to the Duke of Kinross?”
Iris waved this off as if the recent loss of an eligible duke was of no consequence. “Is Daisy down?” she asked.
Sarah blinked at the sudden change of subject. “Not that I have seen.”
Sarah’s eyes widened at Iris’s rather fast use of the Lord’s name, but she would never criticize. Not about Daisy.
Daisy was best in very small doses. There was simply no getting around that.
“If I make it through these weddings without murdering her, it will be a small miracle,” Iris said darkly. “Or a large . . . something.”
“I told Aunt Virginia not to put the two of you in a bedchamber together,” Sarah said.
Iris dismissed this with a flick of her head as she continued to glance about the drawing room. “There was nothing to be done about that. Sisters will be put together. They need to conserve rooms. I’m used to it.”
“Then what is wrong?”
Iris swung around to face her, her pale eyes large and furious in her similarly pale face. Sarah had once heard a gentleman call Iris colorless—she had light blue eyes, pale strawberry blond hair, and skin that was practically translucent. Her brows were pale, her lashes were pale, everything about her was pale—until one got to know her.
Iris was as fierce as they came. “She wants to play,” she seethed.
For a moment Sarah did not comprehend. And then—terrifyingly—she did. “No!” she gasped.
“She brought her violin up from London,” Iris confirmed.
“And Honoria has already moved her violin to Fensmore. And of course every great house has a pianoforte.” Iris clenched her jaw; she was quite obviously repeating Daisy’s words.
“But your cello!” Sarah protested.
“You’d think, wouldn’t you?” Iris fumed. “But no, she’s thought of everything. Lady Edith Gilchrist is here, and she brought her cello. Daisy wants me to borrow it.”
Instinctively, Sarah whipped her head around, looking for Lady Edith.
“She’s not here yet,” Iris said, all business, “but I need to find her the moment she gets in.”
“Why would Lady Edith bring a cello?”
“Well, she plays,” Iris said, as if Sarah had not considered that.
Sarah resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Well, almost. “But why would she bring it here?”
“Apparently, she’s quite good.”
“What has that got to do with anything?”
Iris shrugged. “I expect she likes to practice every day. Many great musicians do.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Sarah said.
Iris gave her a commiserating look, then said, “I need to find her before Daisy does. Under no circumstances may she permit Daisy to borrow her cello on my behalf.”
“If she’s that good, she probably wouldn’t want to lend it out. At least not to one of us.” Sarah grimaced. Lady Edith was relatively new to London, but surely she knew of the Smythe-Smith musicale.
“I’m apologizing in advance for abandoning you,” Iris said, keeping her eyes on the open doorway. “I shall probably bolt midsentence the moment I see her.”
“I may have to bolt first,” Sarah told her. “I have been assigned duties of my own for the evening.”
Her tone must have belied her distaste, because Iris turned to her with renewed interest.
“I’m to be nanny to Hugh Prentice,” Sarah said, sounding rather burdened as the words clipped out of her mouth. But it was a good kind of burdened. If she was going to have a dreadful evening, at least she could boast about it in advance.
“Nanny to— Oh, my.”
“Don’t laugh,” Sarah warned.
“I wasn’t going to,” Iris clearly lied.
“Honoria insisted. She thinks he won’t feel welcome if one of us doesn’t see to his happiness and inclusion.”
“And she asked you to nanny him?” Iris gave her a dubious stare, always an unsettling expression. There was something about Iris’s eyes, that watery pale blue and the lashes so fine they were almost invisible. She could be rather unnerving.
“Well, no,” Sarah admitted, “not in so many words.” Not in any words, to be truthful, and in fact, Honoria had specifically denied those words, but it did make for a better story to call herself a nanny.
At functions such as these, one had to have something good about which to complain. It was rather like those boys at Cambridge she’d met last spring. They only seemed happy when they’d been able to moan about how much work they had to do.
“What does she want you to do?” Iris asked.
“Oh, this and that. I’m to sit with him tomorrow at the wedding breakfast. Rupert’s taken ill,” she added as an aside.
“Well, that’s good, at least,” Iris murmured.
Sarah acknowledged this with a brief nod as she continued. “And she specifically asked me to entertain Lord Hugh before supper.”