Anastasia dived upon her governess before the lady could even exit the car.
"Mademoiselle! How is your sister? What was Yorkshire like? I am awfully jealous, but Mamma says we might stop there on our way to Scotland this winter. Wouldn't that be wonderful?"
"Ah, Anastasie, I 'ave missed you!" Mlle. Dubois embraced her charge and attempted to answer each of Anastasia's persistent questions.
"Come, they're all in the library. Well, Mamma is out and Papa is up in London for some business or other. He's been very preoccupied lately," Anastasia informed her governess as they entered the room. "Good news, you three!" She called to her cousins and James. "Mam'zelle's arrived so we can start planning our day out in Molloy," Anastasia watched Charlotte particularly as she said this. The young girl giggled slightly in excitement, but it was obvious she held no real regard for any of the Blakes. Relieved as she was, Anastasia couldn't help but worry about her cousin's attachment to James. Though her attention had shifted towards the Blakes a little more in the past week, Charlotte was obviously still very much fawning over her brother's schoolmate. Though I suppose it would be alright if Campbell returned her affections... she thought. He was, after all, in her good books now. And yet, she felt an overwhelming desire to keep them apart... She knew why, of course, she was not completely stupid. However, she would never admit the reason, to herself or anyone.
"Ah, you are planning une sortie?" Mlle. Dubois interrupted Anastasia's train of thought.
"Yes, Mademoiselle, to Molloy Park. And some of the Blakes will be joining us, do you remember their daughter - Miss Clarissa Blake? We used to play together as children," Charlotte said, showing her excitement.
"Ah oui, la petite demoiselle, she must be - what? Nineteen?"
"Eighteen actually, but she was presented last year. Did you know she received three offers of marriage? Three!"
Anastasia caught James' eye and grinned, shaking her head. Robert didn't partake in the conversation, for once content to remain quiet and stare dismally out the window, a practice Anastasia often adopted during conversations such as these.
James seemed to sense his friend's forlorn mood and suggested, at a lull in the conversation, that perhaps Anastasia or Charlotte would care to play something?
Though she generally preferred not to play in company, Anastasia recognised James' reasoning and replied she would oblige them, if just that once. She perused the sheets of music for a few minutes before finally settling on a piece.
"Charlotte, might I ask for your assistance?"
"Certainly." Charlotte made her way to the piano eagerly and smiled happily when she saw the piece her cousin had chosen.
Anastasia readied herself at the piano. As she began, with Charlotte joining soon after, Robert turned back to face the room, smiling a small, reluctant smile. Presently he joined the three-part round, leaving Mlle. Dubois and James to listen; the latter utterly transfixed by not only the sound, but also a pair of bright blue eyes belonging to the pianist which held his gaze steadily. Her eyes never left his, even as their chorus of 'Dona Nobis Pacem' eventually came to an end and the two other singers sighed happily.
"Oh, we haven't sung that in so long! Last Christmas, if I am correct. Play another one, will you?" Charlotte gushed. "Anna? Did you hear me?"
"What - oh!" Anastasia dropped her gaze, embarrassed.
"Anna, you've gone bright red! What would cause that to happen?" Charlotte cried, laughing.
Mortified, Anastasia placed her palms on her cheeks in a vain attempt to hide her blush and cool her skin. "Oh, am I? It must be the heat in this room. Yes - that, that's it. Shall I play another one? We could do - Of course, Turkish March!"
"Oh no, Anna, we can't sing to the Turkish March!" Anastasia, however, wasn't listening to Charlotte's protests. She was glancing nervously across the room to where James had struck up conversation with Robert. She thought, or rather she hoped, he hadn't noticed what Charlotte had.
"Ah! Je sais!" Mlle. Dubois cried out suddenly, putting an end to Charlotte's babble. "You can play Claire de Lune, Anna. Une chanson française would be nice."
"Very well, would someone turn the pages for me?" she asked.
"I will," James replied, before anyone else could.
"I - Alright." Anastasia placed her shaking fingers on the notes, acutely aware of James' presence by her side. She started slowly, fumbling a little in her nervousness. After the first two pages, she felt more at ease. James knew exactly when to turn, she didn't even have to nod, much to her amazement. She played the last note, but it was some time before she stood up from the instrument.
"Are you musical, Campbell?" Anastasia asked as she sorted away the music sheets, not looking up.
James seemed a little startled by the question. When she finally met his gaze, she could see there was sadness in his eyes. "My sister played quite a bit, I always turned the pages for her. But that's the extent of my musical abilities."
"I wasn't aware you had a sister." Anastasia furrowed her brow, trying to remember an occasion when James had mentioned any siblings.
"No, you wouldn't have been aware of that," James said quietly.
Anastasia felt it best to change the subject. "I think we've succeeded in cheering Robert up. That was a good idea of yours, but how did you know it would work?"
James grinned. "Oh, he's always carrying on about his incredibly musically talented family. But he's right - you are quite the most beautiful singer!"
Anastasia smiled, but turned away before he could see the blush in her cheeks.