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No fire lay in the grate, for the summer night was warm. Only a pair of candles were lit. Dona St. Columb sat at a little table below the library window at Navron in her dressing gown. She had an excellent view of the grounds: the moonlight washed over the lawn, where a hare nibbled at the grass. Dona's attention however, lay on the pen, ink pot, and paper that lay before her.

Dear Harry,

I have a great many things to say that will shock you. Recently I did indeed ride out with a cutlass between my teeth to catch the pirate who has been eluding your friend Godolphin with such ease. I had intended to truss him up like a goose meant for a feast and send him to you on the next mail coach. Plans changed, however, when his men were the ones to catch me and brought me onto his ship, La Mouette. Thankfully, I was not trussed up like a goose; the indignity was bad enough without that.

Godolphin's imagination has run away with him, I fear—an easy enough thing for a dim-witted man such as himself. You will doubtless be surprised to learn that the ship is a tidy vessel; attractive, even. No harems of ruined women were to be found such as Godolphin claimed, although if this disappoints, I give you full leave to imagine as you wish. You must decide for yourself whether or not to include me in their imaginary number. The crew are pleasant though I often cannot understand what they say. Alas, my French tutor when I was a girl was more concerned with the most tedious rules of grammar rather than the phrases of conversation. The captain is more of a gentleman than the any of the lords here, for all that he fled from the chains of nobility in France. He has a great talent for sketching birds, which I never tire of watching.

I am compelled to say that under no circumstances must you come to Navron House. I should hear your approach from a mile off, lock the doors and draw the curtains, dig a moat and fill it with water from the sea, create battlements and set archers atop them. It has been peaceful here; the children are happy in this glorious summer and I am left to my own company unless I wish otherwise. (With the exception of visits to Godolphin and the other lords, but one must take the sour with the sweets.) Such conditions have lulled me into a blunt honesty that I cannot escape from, nor do I wish to.

I believe that I am attracted to a pirate, a Frenchman no less. Traitor to my country and to matrimony, you must decide which you feel to be the worse betrayal. I can fish now, and build a fire, and swim in cool waters without caring of the chill. There are even times when I look forward to it. I can sing Breton songs that one of the crew plays upon his lute although I still do not understand many of the words, and I wear old dresses that it will not matter if they are torn in the woods. If you should pass by me on one of these expeditions, you would merely mistake me for a disgracefully happy tramp.

More recently, I have made the acquaintance of the Frenchman's cabin boy. A fine boy he is, always ready to be free on the water and capable of anything. He and the captain have entered a wager upon an upcoming voyage, of which my ruby earrings are one of the stakes. There being personal property of mine involved, I must accompany them to see the end result.

Stay in London, Harry. You are of the city and could not live well without the taverns, the parties, the fine wines, and the glitter of Court. Leave Navron to me. The air is fresh here and there are no bars—or if there are any, they are of my own making. There has been such a change that you would not know me. We shall each be best at peace by leaving the other at a distance. I must end this letter now, for it is time to doff my fancy gown, tuck my curls beneath a kerchief, see that the children are still safely abed, and board La Mouette as the newest addition to the crew.

Your cabin boy,


Dona cast her eye down the lines of rounded script and chuckled ruefully. As if such a letter could ever be sent to Harry! Although it was briefly amusing to think on the stupefied look that would appear on his face. And if Rockingham were to see it…the results of that did not bear thinking about. Dona lifted the sheet of paper to the candle and burned it, turning continuously to avoid singeing her fingertips. At last only flakes of ash remained to smudge her fingernails and the surface of the table. She stood and went to her bedroom, listening at the open window for the sounds of a night-jar.