What a Lady Demands

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Authors: Ashlyn Macnamara
sort of wariness that arose from having one’s trust violated was a familiar companion. Once Jeremy decided she was safe, he’d come to her. Until then, she must maintain her distance.
    “Perhaps if you write to her, she’ll reply. Wouldn’t you like that?”
    Another shrug. “Maybe.” But a small gleam in his eye betrayed the eagerness he tried to hide behind a façade of indifference. “I don’t know how to write, though.”
    He added that last almost cautiously as if he’d finally realized the trick.
    “I won’t make you learn if you don’t want to, although it might be easier in the long run. Someday I might be too busy to transcribe a letter for you. But that’s up to you to decide. For now I can write whatever you want.” To prove the point, she dipped her quill in the pot of ink.
    He stared at the words she’d written across the top of the page in a neat hand. “You already have something there.”
    “Well, yes, those are my words, but if you like, we can start a new letter that’s all your own.” She pulled out a second sheet of the precious paper. Well she knew how costly such heavy stock was, but Lindenhurst could dashed well eat the expense if he insisted on his son gaining a proper education. “When we start a letter, we write
dear
and then add the name of the person we’re addressing, like this.”
    She spelled out
Dear Miss Crump
at the top of the page. With his eyes, Jeremy followed every loop and swirl of her pen. Good. If she could capture his curiosity, she might convince him to try it himself.
    “Miss Barton says it’s like a picture,” he said.
    “It’s even more like a code.” Gracious, where had that inspiration come from? If she could turn this into a game, she might hook him. “We’re writing down secret information that will help his majesty’s troops. Now, what would you like to say?”
    “I have a new governess now. Her name is Miss Sanford. She wants me to do lessons, too, but I’d rather pretend we’re finding out the French army’s secrets. So she’s having me write this…message. No, that’s not the right word.”
    “I believe they call them communiqués.”
    “Yes, that’s it. Com…communiqué.” The new term rolled hesitantly off his tongue. “But we must be very careful what we say, because if the other side…in-inter—”
    “Intercepts. And where did you learn such a word?”
    “Miss Crump told me. If the other side intercepts this, we’re all in deep, deep trouble.”
    He opened his mouth, clearly about to rattle on, but she laid a hand on his arm. “Now, let me catch up. You’ve said quite a lot, and I can’t write so quickly.”
    He watched as she formed the last words on the page.
    “Was there anything else?”
    “No, I reckon not.”
    “Since this is an official communiqué, that’s just fine. In regular letters, people tend to ask after the recipient’s health and such things.”
    “I guess you could add that.”
    “How about I add it in my message, and we’ll send them together?” She set the quill aside. “Now, the last step is signing your name. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful surprise for Miss Crump if you learned to do that yourself?”
    She held her breath while waiting for his response, half expecting him to knock over the ink bottle and claim she’d tricked him, after all. But he stared at her for the space of a blink or two, and she held in a smile. She had him.
    “Here, I’ll show you.” She took up the quill and printed the letters of his name on the page, while spelling them out. He followed the flowing ink with his gaze as avidly as if she really were teaching him a secret code.
    “It doesn’t look the same,” he protested.
    “For now, I’m using print letters. They’re easier to start with. Once you’ve learned to write this way, you can move on to a more complicated code.” She was definitely going to have to check Lindenhurst’s library and see if he happened to own any books on ciphers. If she could

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