what had happened. Perhaps such things occurred on every voyage. He handed her a pewter flask, which she found was filled with strong port wine. She took a long gulp.
âAye. I saw a man swept overboard just last month by a wave when he tried to use the privy,â the captain said. âBest to have a care, mistress. Most ladies keep to their berths for the voyage. Long skirts and velvet slippers are dangerous aboard ship.â
Kate nodded, thinking it best not to point out that she wore breeches under her plain wool skirts and sturdy boots.
âShall I escort you to your cabin, Mademoiselle Haywood?â Monsieur Domville asked. Kate nodded and let him help her to her feet. Her legs shook, and she held on to his arm to keep from falling.
She glanced back over her shoulder at the surging gray waves and shivered.
Monsieur Domville fetched her cloak from where she had dropped it to the deck and carefully wrapped it over her shoulders. She noticed he exchanged a long glance with Toby over her head, and the Englishman hurried away. âThe journey is not long, mademoiselle, but it can be a miserable one. I promise it will be worth it when you see France.â
âI have certainly heard that your country has many charms,â Kate said. She let him guide her to the narrow wooden stairs that led down to the cabins. It was dark there, the air warm and stuffy, smelling of salt and brandy and people. It was strangely reassuring after the open freedom of the dangerous sea. She could see all around her belowdecks.
âIndeed it does. The forests, the palacesÂ .Â .Â .â As he chattered on, leading her along the corridor, Kate was glad of the distraction, the freedom from the need to talk. âThe clothes! No one dresses like a Frenchwomanâor Frenchman.â
They found her cabin, a tiny space she shared with Brigit Berry at the end of the corridor. She opened the door to find their trunks and boxes piled up in every available space, half hiding the narrow berths tucked against the damp wood walls.
Mistress Berry was not there as Kate sat down carefully on her berth, and Monsieur Domville poured her some ale from a pitcher left on the small washstand, which was fastened to the floor. But the maid came rushing in only a moment later.
Mistress Berry was usually so tidy, even on their long journey, but now her gray-streaked brown hair was haphazardly tucked beneath a fine white cap with tendrils escaping. Her short cloak wrapped closely around her, concealing her gown. She set down a basin on the washstand and brushed off her gloved hands.
âMistress Haywood!â she said. âAre you well? We heard you slipped on the deck.â
News did travel fast aboard ship. âIndeed I did. It was most foolish of me, Mistress Berry. I am well enough now, aside from a swollen ankle and a bit of bruising.â Kate surreptitiously glanced at Brigitâs feet. She wore stout, worn boots, carefully polished, and the hem of her black wool skirt was damp. âI see there are no secrets on a ship.â
âI was with Mistress Wrightsman next door. She hears all the news immediately, almost as if she was one of Dr. Deeâs clairvoyants.â Brigit studied Kate carefully, her eyes narrowed, and gave Monsieur Domville a suspicious glare.
âLet me fetch you a better wine, Mademoiselle Haywood,â he said. âThat rough ale will do no one any good. You need a good Alsatian, which restores the spirits remarkably.â
, monsieur. You have been very kind,â Kate said.
He gave her a low bow before he ducked out the narrow doorway. As soon as the creaking door closed behind him, Mistress Berry let out a loud harrumph. âFrenchmen. Such flatterers all.â
Kate bit her lip to keep from laughing. âYou do not approve of Frenchmen, Mistress Berry?â
âThey are well enough, I suppose, in their place.â
âAnd what is their