Chapter Four

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Saturday morning, Anne walked through the woods in a daze. She had spent the night before reading the only book of fairy lore she'd found in Lady Danford's library. She had hoped there would be something in the poems to counter the fairy wish.

Birds twittered around her and acorns fell from the trees as she reached the kitchen door of the Lodge. She was sick of being hit by acorns every time she walked through the woods.

"Good afternoon, Miss Townsend," Mrs. Fellows said as Anne came into the kitchen.

"Good afternoon. Where is her ladyship?" Anne hung up her coat and bonnet. She removed her gloves and tucked them into the pocket of her coat.

"She's in her sitting room, miss. Shall I bring you tea in the parlor?"

"Yes, please." Anne made her way to the first floor and Lady Danford's parlor on the west side of the house. The late autumn sun lit the room brightly. Anne curtsied when she entered the parlor. "Lady Danford."

"Anne, dear. I had no idea you would be here today, but I'm glad you have come." Lady Danford smiled. She lifted the book in her lap. "Nathaniel has brought me a new novel from Town."

"What did he bring?" Anne looked at the cover. "Persuasion, by the author of Pride and Prejudice."

"It looks quite interesting. Will you read it to me?" Lady Danford asked.

Anne laughed. "Lady Danford, we should order you some spectacles from London. Then you'd be able to read it yourself."

"You read so well, and what else can I do with a companion?"

"My lady, if you don't wish for my company . . ."

"Nonsense, Anne. I look forward to your time here. You keep an old lady from being lonely."

Anne squeezed Lady Danford's hand and sat across from her. Even if she were not paid to attend to Lady Danford, Anne would still visit. It was nice to have a conversation without the other party whining or complaining.

Lady Danford shot her a side glance. "Did my grandsons call at the cottage?"

And yet, the lady had a knack for finding the one thing Anne didn't want to discuss. "Yes, ma'am, they did."

"What did you think of Nathaniel?"

Despite the casual way the question was asked, Anne knew that Lady Danford was fishing for information. "He seems very gentlemanly."

"He mentioned little of the visit, though I've asked him repeatedly. What did you do together?"

Anne played with the edges of the book's leather cover. "We walked together for a bit, but then I had to leave."

"He said you didn't stay long. I was wondering if you disliked him."

There was a loaded question. How did Anne feel about Nathaniel? He made her angry. He confused her. If she mentioned this to Lady Danford, the matchmaking would begin. "I don't know him well enough yet to decide if I like or dislike him." She opened the book to the first page. "Shall I start? I know how you loved Miss Austen's last book."

"If you aren't going to answer the question, then just read," Lady Danford grumbled.

Anne winced. She opened the book and began to read. Lady Danford settled in her chair and closed her eyes.

The story pulled Anne in quickly and she forgot her surroundings, as she always did when she was reading a good book. She paused at the end of chapter one and looked up.

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