The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy(2)

By: Julia Quinn

“How is one obvious about a lack of humor?”

“I have no idea,” Winston admitted. “But she is. Very pretty, though. All blond bouncy curls and such.” He made a blond bouncy motion near his ear, which led Richard to wonder how it was possible that Winston’s hand movements were so clearly not brunette.

“Lady Harriet Pleinsworth, also on violin,” Winston continued. “I don’t believe we have been introduced. She must be Lady Sarah’s younger sister. Barely out of the schoolroom, if my memory serves. Can’t be much more than sixteen.”

Triple damn. Perhaps Richard should just leave now.

“And on the cello . . .” Winston slid his finger along the heavy stock of the program until he found the correct spot. “Miss Iris Smythe-Smith.”

“What’s wrong with her?” Richard asked. Because it seemed unlikely that there wouldn’t be something.

Winston shrugged. “Nothing. That I know of.”

Which meant that she probably yodeled in her spare time. When she wasn’t practicing taxidermy.

On crocodiles.

Richard used to be a lucky fellow. Really.

“She’s very pale,” Winston said.

Richard looked over at him. “Is that a flaw?”

“Of course not. It’s just . . .” Winston paused, his brow coming together in a little furrow of concentration. “Well, to be honest, that’s pretty much all I recall of her.”

Richard nodded slowly, his eyes settling on the cello, resting against its stand. It also looked expensive, although it wasn’t as if he knew anything about the manufacture of cellos.

“Why such curiosity?” Winston asked. “I know you’re keen to marry, but surely you can do better than a Smythe-Smith.”

Two weeks ago that might have been true.

“Besides, you need someone with a dowry, do you not?”

“We all need someone with a dowry,” Richard said darkly.

“True, true.” Winston might be the son of the Earl of Rudland, but he was the second son. He wasn’t going to inherit any spectacular fortunes. Not with a healthy older brother who had two sons of his own. “The Pleinsworth chit likely has ten thousand,” he said, looking back down at the program with an assessing glance. “But as I said, she’s quite young.”

Richard grimaced. Even he had limits.

“The florals—”

“The florals?” Richard interrupted.

“Iris and Daisy,” Winston explained. “Their sisters are Rose and Marigold and I can’t remember what else. Tulip? Bluebell? Hopefully not Chrysanthemum, poor thing.”

“My sister’s name is Fleur,” Richard felt compelled to mention.

“And a lovely girl she is,” Winston said, even though he had never met her.

“You were saying . . .” Richard prompted.

“I was? Oh, yes, I was. The florals. I’m not sure of their portions, but it can’t be much. I think there are five daughters in the family.” Winston’s lips twisted to one side as he considered this. “Maybe more.”

This didn’t necessarily mean that the dowries were small, Richard thought with more hope than anything else. He knew little of that branch of the Smythe-Smith family—he knew little of any branch, truth be told, except that once a year they all banded together, plucked four musicians from their midst, and hosted a concert that most of his friends were reluctant to attend.

“Take these,” Winston suddenly said, holding out two wads of cotton. “You’ll thank me later.”

Richard stared at him as if he’d gone mad.

“For your ears,” Winston clarified. “Trust me.”

“Trust me,” Richard echoed. “Coming from your lips, words to send a chill down my spine.”

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