"What's that?" Anastasia exclaimed, her pointed finger following the creature which had just jumped out of the grasses.
"What's what?" Robert, her cousin, asked, for the bird had somehow hidden himself among the grasses again, and Robert, not looking up in time, had not seen it.
"A bird, just there," Anastasia replied, advancing towards the spot where the as-of-yet-unidentified-bird had disappeared.
"Well, if you knew it was a bird, why ask what it was?" Robert drawled, sounding exasperated.
"But it wasn't just a bird, Robert, it was magnificent! All the colours and tail feathers..." Robert, well accustomed to his cousin's fascination in even the dullest of creatures, tried to dissuade her from pursuing the bird.
"Oh please, Anna, don't be ridiculous! It probably just flew off-"
"But it didn't fly, Robert, it just hopped and jumped! But it wasn't injured-I'm sure of it!" Anastasia protested, still searching for the bird.
"You're telling me you saw a bird that couldn't fly, but wasn't injured. That leaves two possibilities, Anastasia, it was either a chicken or a penguin, now if we could please- "
"Don't be so silly Robert, there are plenty of birds that cannot fly. Now, I think it may have landed somewhere over here..."
Robert sighed resignedly and began searching for this bird, knowing it would be only then that his cousin would be content to return to the house. "Stupid birds," he grumbled under his breath.
Anastasia watched him from a few feet away, silently chuckling to herself at the sight of her eighteen year old cousin peering into the long damp grass in the hope of finding the bird.
"I'm glad you're finished at Eton," she began, following him along the path. "It's is so dreadfully boring at Avondale when both you and Charlotte are away." She pretended to scan a hedgerow at the far end of the field. "When is your dear sister returning home returning home?"
"Tomorrow, her term finished later than mine. And I may be finished at Eton, Anna, but I'm going to Cambridge in the autumn. You'll have to do without me a little longer."
"Oh, why must you go away so much? I could go to finishing school in Switzerland with Charlotte, but Mamma simply wont allow me to! She prefers to keep me under her eye, I think."
Robert snorted. "I can see why."
Anastasia gave him a playful push on the shoulder before dashing out of the field, skirt hitched up, all thoughts of the bird-that-couldn't-fly forgotten.
"Oi!" he cried, following her out of the field at a run.
"Anastasie! Anastasie, is that you? What on earth 'ave you been doing?" Mademoiselle Dubois cried, seeing her young charge emerging from the field beyond the park where they were walking. Her long, dark locks had somehow escaped the ever-growing number of pins that were stuck into her hair each day. Mud spattered the hem of her skirt and she was breathing heavily, but her blue eyes gleamed and her smile stretched wide.
"Don't worry yourself, Mam'zelle, it's only a little dirt." Anastasia dismissed her governess's comments. "Oh, Mademoiselle, Robert and I found the most beautiful bird-"
"Oui, oui, je sais, but you are not to - tiens! Robert! What 'ave you been doing?! You are feel-zee!" Mademoiselle exclaimed, for Robert was in a worse state than his cousin.
"I apologise, Mademoiselle, for the state of my attire, but Anna," he glared pointedly in her direction, "pushed me into the dirt." The young governess suppressed a chuckle, and abandoned any plans to scold him over the state of his clothes. He was far too old for that now.
"Allez, vous deux, time to go 'ome," Mademoiselle Dubois continued and signalled to the maid that had accompanied them to pack away their belongings.
"Race you to the motor," Anastasia winked at Robert, before taking off without warning.
"Anastasia!" Robert stared after his cousin. That she still had the childish, carefree happy attitude she always did was a welcome change after months of strict school masters and long hours of study, if a little surprising. He had expected her to become a little more reserved over the past year; such a character as hers would not be easily accepted in the high London society to which she was to be introduced the following year.
From the corner of his eye, Robert saw the governess sigh helplessly after her pupil. With a grin, he took off after Anastasia. He was glad she hadn't changed, even if he knew she would soon.
Read author's note at the end of the next chapter for more information on this story. Thanks and enjoy!