Chapter 22: The Servants
After about half a month of swelling on my cheeks had gone down and the yellowish bruises disappeared. The sunlight became stronger, the temperature rose, and more greenery grew in the garden.
My way of doing things didn’t go as Claude feared it would and was generally going well.
Orpheus was puzzled that his wife was following him like a fly. He would frown when I touched his body, and his handsome face would cloud over every time he heard vulgar and worthless scandals.
I don’t know if he disliked women who flirted with him because they were blinded by his beauty like I had heard in the gambling house, but at least he didn’t like my coquetry approach.
If I hadn’t been a woman, if I hadn’t been his wife, and if he hadn’t sympathised with me, ――― he would probably refuse me with a colder and scornful expression, or he would ignore my presence as if I weren’t even there.
However, Orpheus didn’t do that.
I repeatedly invited him to tea and on walks as if I was sneering at him, and even though he refused so much, I had dinner with him, and sat in the study and made him let me help him with work.
I saw him off when he went out and quickly rushed to greet him when he returned. I followed him to his room and kicked out the servants who were trying to help him change and helped him change myself.
Orpheus probably thought of me as a nuisance.
His wife, who he didn’t want to see, continued to pursue him, and she would meddle in things she didn’t need to.
“That’s enough,” he was probably fed up with it a lot.
――― But, it’s still not enough.
He was patient.
I still haven’t done enough.
I don’t feel like I’m going too far, and I feel sorry for Orpheus’s mentality, but I’m going to continue this silly interaction forever until he raises his voice and talks about divorce.
I saw Orpheus off to work as he went to the town hall and walked down the corridor on the first floor that leads to the servants’ workplace, then I suddenly heard pleasant laughter from out of nowhere.
The laughter came from the kitchen where the door was opened, and when I peeked inside, I saw four servants gathered together and chatting noisily.
I thought they were working, but only the large chef and a young maid were moving their hands, the other girls were probably having lunch since they were standing around eating bread that was stuffed with fillings.
“I think the place where your sister works is normal…” The oldest maid had already finished her lunch, and she said this while drinking tea.
“She’s no match for our Madam. I’ve worked at many mansions, and I know that every noble is selfish and does what they want, but I’ve never met anyone as horrible as her.”
I quickly retracted my face from the door and put my ears against the wall next to the entrance.
“Why did Master marry such a woman? I wish he had married Diana-sama instead of selling favour to a countryside noble. They would have had a child right away and would be able to live happily by now.”
“All the servants were against it. I can’t believe that he would choose that lady and deny his relationship with Diana-sama. I think it’s fine even if she’s blind and has lost her parents as long as there’s love.”
“I think so too. Do nobles care about appearances that much?”
“I wonder. If he cared about appearances, then I think he would have divorced Madam a long time ago and kicked her out.”
“Hmm. What is Master thinking? I don’t understand him at all.”
The servants don’t know the real reason why Orpheus didn’t choose Diana.
They gossip that it would look bad if he married Diana, who was blind and had no family to back her up, so he lent money to Marquis Lagerfeld and received his daughter in return.
It was such a funny reason because even if the husband keeps his lover by his side, the wife can’t complain since her position is weak.
Even though Orpheus didn’t do such a thing, the servants, who supported Diana’s relationship with him, probably couldn’t help but get angry and blame him.
Furthermore, the bride, who he had brought with money, had suddenly changed within half a year. She became a selfish and prideful woman, so I can understand why they want to complain.
“But she’ll be going back to her parent’s home soon, right?” A clear voice, probably from the young maid who was moving her hand, said.
I was so surprised that I almost jumped, and I held my chest to calm my beating heart.
“I heard that Madam’s father came to bring her home a while ago.”
I was so nervous that I gulped and almost collapsed when I heard this.
Hope sprung from my chest because Orpheus might finally divorce me at last, but this was merely gossip since it was coming from the mouth of the maids.
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like he’ll divorce her. After all, he’s having the Marquis cut off any relations he has with Madam in exchange for not paying back the money that Master has loaned him. Master really has brought Madam with money.”
“Rita, you didn’t know this?”
“Nope, I didn’t. I thought Madam was getting along well with Master because she didn’t want to get divorced.”
I didn’t just hear one sigh, but many.
The servants also seemed to have noticed the peculiarities in my recent behaviour.
“But, wouldn’t the reason be something like that? If she gets kicked out, then she wouldn’t have anywhere to go, right? Her lover is a painter who is living in a rented apartment, and he can’t keep his livelihood if he doesn’t have Madam’s support. She’s supporting him with master’s money, isn’t she? She won’t be able to live in luxury, and she’ll be troubled if she gets kicked out, so she’s trying to win master’s favour.”
I’m flirting with him because I don’t want to be kicked out, that’s what they think… I see. So, it could be interpreted like that.
Orpheus might also believe this, and that’s why he’s so confused.
“It’s her own fault, isn’t it? She should have just behaved like a good wife from the start.”
“She did behave herself at first, but she couldn’t keep it up for more than six months.”
“I feel sorry for Claire and Renee. They’re always having such a horrible time.”
“Claire and Renee are good at putting up with her.”
I smiled when I heard the servants badmouth me.
Juris had found out that everything I had done had been an act, but the other servants still believe in my lies.
I was worried that my act wasn’t enough, but I was worried for no reason.
And, Claire was still acting like a pitiful maid who was frightened of her selfish mistress.
I was satisfied that the Rosenstein House servants still hated me and released my back from the wall to return to my room.
Then, I heard footsteps approaching, so I quickly walked down the corridor.
The footsteps belonged to Juris and Elza, the head maid, and they were walking side by side as if they were blocking my way.
Judging from their expressions, they had seen that I was eavesdropping on the servants in the kitchen.
I made an effort to remain calm and walked past them from the side as they bowed and made way for me.
Their gazes that pierced at the back of my head stated that they wanted to say something to me, but I quickly went up the stairs and walked towards my room.
“Madam,” the voice came when I reached where the portraits of the Rosenstein family were displayed. I glanced at the beautiful woman with black hair who was the wife of one of the former heads of the family and turned around.
It was Juris who should have been with Elza. He stood there with a puzzled and troubled expression, just like the one Orpheus made when I flirted with him.
I was going to reply curtly like I usually do, but then I considered that he might have a reason to chase after me and stop me, so I looked around to confirm that no one was nearby.
“What is it?”
Juris averted his gaze awkwardly as he stood in front of me. He looked like he was hesitating, and then he finally spoke, “I’m sorry. It’s all my fault that the servants aren’t educated properly. We usually don’t allow them to gossip during work hours, but… no, excuses aren’t needed. I’m sorry for making you feel uncomfortable.”
I was surprised that he had chased after me just to say this.
Juris showed concern for me at random times ever since he confessed his feelings for Diana on that day.
He had remained silent even though he knew my real motives because of his feelings for Diana, and he might have regretted that he continued to act coldly towards me. I want him to remain the same cold Juris.
“At least they should have closed the door. They probably left it open to let the cool wind in, but you never know who might be listening in. But I am relieved to hear that my acting is going well thanks to them.”
“… Has it been bothering you this whole time?”
Juris raised his face. He made sure no one was around again, and spoke, “You still plan on continuing this. I thought you might have changed your mind when I saw you trying to get close to Orpheus-sama… but, you’re still going out like you used to, and I’m curious about what your intentions are.”
“You’ve been watching me anxiously.”
“I’m sorry for doing something unscrupulous.”
“No, it’s fine. As long as Orpheus doesn’t notice you acting like this… Like you said, I still plan on continuing. But it seems like it’ll take a lot of time with the way things were going, so I thought I’ll change my plans a little. Orpheus hates it when women flirt with him, right?”
“That’s… Orpheus-sama certainly doesn’t like women who make eyes at him… but, I don’t think that applies to you, Madam.”
“He seems really troubled, though.”
“Troubled… he might be…”
Juris looked at the air, and then at me as if he was trying to read my expression.
“I wonder if it’s puzzled is the right word to use.”
“Whether to divorce me because he’s had enough of my selfishness or to obey his father’s last request. Is that what he’s puzzled over?”
“No, that’s not it…”
He’s being very inarticulate.
I tilted my head and waited for him to continue, but he continued to look around again, then he stared at a portrait.
That was a portrait of me which had been painted not long after I married into this house.
I was wearing a white dress wedding dress, and my hair was tied up and draped upon one side of my chest. I had a diamond ring on my left ring finger ――― it was the first ring that Orpheus had ever given me ―――, and I had a graceful smile on my face.
Juris cast his eyes down sadly at the horribly beautified portrait and whispered in a small voice that I could finally hear, “Won’t you stop?”
“What?” I asked in return, and Juris looked up as if he had made a decision.
“Orpheus-sama’s will is firm. Stop behaving like this and tell him everything. Start over from the beginning.”
――― Is he still saying this?
I swallowed the sigh that nearly escaped from my mouth and stared straight at Juris.
“The people who will start over are not Orpheus and I, it’s Orpheus and Diana… Why did you say something like that? You want to make Diana happy, don’t you?”
“What will happen to you if you keep on doing this?!” Juris screamed.
He was so loud that his voice echoed in the corridor.
“What will you do after you get divorced and kicked out from this mansion?! Are you going to the painter who you don’t even love and live a poor life?!”
I was stunned that the cool butler had lost his composure and called out his name.
Juris came back to his senses and shut his mouth. Then, he took a few deep breaths and said, “I’m sorry.”
He continued to breathe in and out to control his emotions and clenched his fist tightly.
“You’re already suffering so much. If you break up with the man you love so much that you’re willing to give up everything for him, and that man remarries another woman, then you’ll be suffering even more.”
――― No, I won’t. Orpheus’s happiness is my happiness.
Was what I thought, but I silently listened to Juris.
“You don’t need to be the scapegoat. You didn’t do anything wrong. We’re the ones to blame. It’s Orpheus’s fault for not caring for you, and Diana’s fault for staying in this mansion and saying unreasonable things, and my fault for using your feelings for my own selfish gains. You’ve been living a hard life until now. You should be happier than anyone else. And yet…”
I couldn’t keep silent anymore and denied everything.
It’s not like that.
You guys did nothing wrong.
“It’s my fault. I fell in love with someone I shouldn’t. I had already accepted that I would be a decorated wife and that we would live separate lives, but I fell in love with him. I dug my own grave. Stupidly so.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong. Orpheus loves you,” Juris said quietly.
He looked really lonely and sad.
“Orpheus doesn’t love Diana. Orpheus loves you. He loves you. His way of showing his love is clumsy, and he makes a lot of mistakes, but he still loves you. He can’t let you go no matter what.”
Orpheus loves Diana.
I am the woman who he took in so that he could fulfil the previous head’s last request, and he only pities me.
He doesn’t consider me as a friend or love me like family. He felt pity towards me since I was like him.
“Juris, you’re like Orpheus. You pity me. Pity, and in your case, guilt as well? You pity me, and your conscience is pricking at you, that’s why you’re trying to make me stop.”
“You’re wrong. It’s not like that. Orpheus really loves you…”
“He doesn’t love me.”
Juris tried to persuade me in a silly way, and I glared at him with hatred.
“That man doesn’t love me. He smiles so gently in front of Diana, but he doesn’t do the same when he’s in front of me. He always looks at me with cold eyes. It’s always been this way ever since we first met.”
“You’re misunderstanding things greatly. He’s not looking at you with cold eyes. It’s not that simple, his gaze is more intense and full of yearning…”
“He’s never said, ‘I love you’.” As soon as I finished saying that, pain rushed through my body as if I was being slashed by a sharp blade, and I let out a low groan.
――― Would you believe him if he told you he loved you?
I shook my head and denied it.
I’ve already seen that smile, so I wouldn’t believe him no matter how much he declares his love.
The smile he had directed at Diana told me everything that was in his heart.
“This is pointless. This conversation is pointless,” I said to end this conversation.
“I’ve heard enough. Juris, I don’t want anything from you anymore. I won’t even ask you to help me. Just shut up and watch.”
“You don’t have to worry about me either. You only have to think about Diana’s happiness as you have been… I won’t allow you to use my feelings and give up halfway.”
Juris turned pale at the words which almost sounded like a curse. He tightened his trembling lips and looked down.
I turned around in silence and never looked back.
When I returned to my room, I opened the closet and looked for my jewellery box.
That man… I started selling my dresses and jewellery little by little to turn them into money from the day my father visited. My closet, which had been filled to the brim with barely any space left over until a month ago, was much cleaner now.
I told Renee that I was selling the dresses I didn’t need to buy new ones, but even if my jewellery increased, my dresses hadn’t, so she might be getting suspicious soon.
I found the jewellery box straight away.
I opened the lid, which was delicately crafted from nocturnal luminescence, and jewellery of various colours such as red, blue, green and purple, shone when the light hit them.
I took out a small diamond ring out from the box and quietly closed the lid.
I felt nostalgic when I saw my own portrait and wanted to wear it for the first time in a long time.
I placed the ring on my left ring finger and stared as it glistened silver in the sunlight.
『Do you like it?』
『Yes, very much! It’s a waste on someone like me.』
『That’s not true. It suits you very much.』
The first ring that my beloved gave me glistened like that time.
I’m sure it’ll continue to remain beautiful in the future.
It won’t fade like the memories I had back then and would continue to shine forever.
“I love you.”
――― I’ll love you forever.
I rubbed the cold gem and smiled as if Orpheus was in front of me.
“It’s fine as long as you’re happy. Your happiness is my happiness.”
I repeated this many times to myself.
I closed my eyes and imagined Orpheus’s smile.
――― It’s okay. I’m sure I’ll be fine.
I remembered the feeling of Orpheus’s hand as he gently took my hand as if he was touching something important and placed the ring on it.
Even if I sell all my other dresses and jewellery, I’ll keep this ring.