The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy(10)

By: Julia Quinn

“Pride and Prejudice,” Iris replied. She didn’t look up, but she did mark her spot with her finger. Just in case.

“Haven’t you read that before?”

“It’s a good book.”

“How can a book be good enough to read twice?”

Iris shrugged, which a less obtuse person would have interpreted as a signal that she did not wish to continue the conversation.

But not Daisy. “I’ve read it, too, you know,” she said.

“Have you?”

“Quite honestly, I didn’t think it was very good.”

At that, Iris finally raised her eyes. “I beg your pardon.”

“It’s very unrealistic,” Daisy opined. “Am I really expected to believe that Miss Elizabeth would refuse Mr. Darcy’s proposal of marriage?”

“Who is Miss Elizabeth?” Mrs. Smythe-Smith asked, her attention finally wrenched from her embroidery. She looked from daughter to daughter. “And for that matter, who is Mr. Darcy?”

“It was patently clear that she would never get a better offer than Mr. Darcy,” Daisy continued.

“That’s what Mr. Collins said when he proposed to her,” Iris shot back. “And then Mr. Darcy asked her.”

“Who is Mr. Collins?”

“They are fictional characters, Mama,” Iris said.

“Very foolish ones, if you ask me,” Daisy said haughtily. “Mr. Darcy is very rich. And Miss Elizabeth has no dowry to speak of. That he condescended to propose to her—”

“He loved her!”

“Of course he did,” Daisy said peevishly. “There can be no other reason he would ask her to marry him. And then for her to refuse!”

“She had her reasons.”

Daisy rolled her eyes. “She’s just lucky he asked her again. That’s all I have to say on the matter.”

“I think I ought to read this book,” Mrs. Smythe-Smith said.

“Here,” Iris said, feeling suddenly dejected. She held the book out toward her mother. “You can read my copy.”

“But you’re in the middle.”

“I’ve read it before.”

Mrs. Smythe-Smith took the book, flipped to the first page and read the first sentence, which Iris knew by heart.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

“Well, that’s certainly true,” Mrs. Smythe-Smith said to herself.

Iris sighed, wondering how she might occupy herself now. She supposed she could fetch another book, but she was too comfortable slouched on the sofa to consider getting up. She sighed.

“What?” Daisy demanded.


“You sighed.”

Iris fought the urge to groan. “Not every sigh has to do with you.”

Daisy sniffed and turned away.

Iris closed her eyes. Maybe she could take a nap. She hadn’t slept very well the night before. She never did, the night after the musicale. She always told herself she would, now that she had another whole year before she had to start dreading it again.

But sleep was not her friend, not when she couldn’t stop her brain from replaying every last moment, every botched note. The looks of derision, of pity, of shock and surprise . . . She supposed she could almost forgive her cousin Sarah for feigning illness the year before to avoid playing. She understood. Heaven help her, no one understood better than she.

And then Sir Richard Kenworthy had demanded an audience. What had that been about? Iris was not so foolish to think that he was interested in her. She was no diamond of the first water. She fully expected to marry one day, but when it happened, it wasn’t going to be because some gentleman took one look at her and fell under her spell.

She had no spells. According to Daisy, she didn’t even have eyelashes.

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