Crown paced the palace halls, worrying. Mother mustn’t die. No, she won’t die, and to fear it was absurd. But still, if Mother died … Round and round she went, always ending by shaking herself and then chewing on the heart of the matter: Someone poisoned Mother. I’ll find out who. Never mind Father’s orders, I’ll find out and I’ll kill them.
Round and round and round.
What brought her back to herself was a page’s piping voice. “Your grace?” She blinked. Her guards were eyeing her warily.
“Is that you, young Rob?” she said. He looked exactly like a very small copy of his father Sir Basil. “When did you become a page?”
He blushed up to his eyebrows. “Yes, your grace. I’ve been serving in the palace a fortnight now, your grace. This is for you, your grace.”
She took the sealed paper he held out. No superscription, no stamp marking the red wax seal, but she could guess who had sent it. Yes—at the thought, her cheeks flushed and her heart leaped with pleasure. Crown broke the wax and read, My own, I am well, though still under arrest. The good ambassador says he can arrange that this message is sent. I pray he does not pry under the seal, for I cannot be discreet. I ache for you, my delight, my goad and madness; lay to with your whip of intoxication, I am your drunken slave … She clapped the letter shut, and looked around to see if her halberdiers were close enough to read any of it. Then she opened it again.
Line after line of delirious scandal, the whole page filled. She should burn it right now. No, wrong—she should have burned it before reading it. Nevertheless, it ended almost with restraint, the beautiful copperplate script only slightly roughened: I call you ‘my own’ but the truth is, I’m yours. Then, finally: No other will ever yearn for you as I do.