1617: xii

Aimée returned the glass to her wash stand and took a seat at her desk. On a fresh sheet of paper, she started writing in a basic cipher the Count had taught her. She had always thought coding letters had been a diversion to pass the time like puzzles and riddles. Now she actually had something to say that she didn’t want other eyes reading. She reported the arrival of the woman, who seemed to even put Madame’s strictness to shame and the likelihood that they would leave this house.

I will run away beforehand, she wrote.

Aimée sealed the note and stashed it away. She still had to manage to get it posted without Madame knowing. The door abruptly opened.

“You should be in bed, child,” Madame commented. Her voice was too sweet, her grin too smug. She thought she had the upper hand.

“Oh my, I must have been caught in a daydream,” Aimée said as airily as she could.

“Well, we don’t want you looking tired tomorrow, do we?” Madame made her usual check of the room and the windows. “Especially when we have guests to entertain.” She smiled large enough to show her tiny teeth.

“Yes, Madame, I shall retire, I promise.”

“Good,” Madame said bluntly. She stood at the door and took one last look around the room suspiciously before slowly closing the door. The key clicked in the lock.

i        xi        xiii

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