My mother’s place was set in the Meissery mansion.
There was a kitchen, backyard field, and balcony rocking chair.
Therefore, I knew that if I avoided these three places, or better yet, holed myself up in my given guest room and wrote a report to be submitted, I would not have to face her until the village head arrived.
After breakfast, Margaret wrote a few words on the palm of my hand with an expression that indicated she admired her poorly made brother but still expected something, and then left for the clinic with Hugh, who had come to pick her up.
She probably remembered the story of that night’s slip of the tongue.
I even felt frustrated at myself seeing how much more so when others saw it.
I didn’t realize that I would find it more of a challenge to keep things together with my mother than with the Congress at the Royal Court.
The two menial workers were doing laundry and cleaning the yard near Buddy, who was playing outside.
There was still time before the village chief arrived… I guess it was now.
My mother was kneading flour dough in the kitchen when I looked in.
I clenched my right hand and called out to her in a matter-of-fact manner.
“…What were you making?”
I was wondering if you would like to join us for lunch.
“Didn’t you also make for Margaret in the morning?”
“That’s for taking to the clinic.
It tastes so much better when it’s freshly made.”
Meals with the eater in mind.
The way she was willing to go to the trouble.
Thinking back, every plate of food served here was my favorite food.
That fact pushed me back.
“I see you still love to cook.”
“Yes, I like it.
I like cooking, working in the fields… I would be disqualified as an aristocrat.
I’m sorry I’m such a terrible mother.”
No, I didn’t want her to say those words, it was not my mother who should apologize.
“…It is I who should apologize.
I don’t expect you to forgive me, but I always wanted to apologize.
I’ve been growing, taking advantage of the fact that Mother didn’t say anything about it.”
My mother, who had stopped moving with her hands buried in the dough she was making, looked up at me with a look of disbelief.
There was a significant height difference between me and my mother.
My mother, who was looking almost directly up at me, did not look away, but called my name as she stood beside me.
“I’ve wanted to apologize for a long time.
I have forced you to live in the capital for years against your will.
That I have tied you to the Countess with my fetters.
The servants in the mansion were not satisfied with the control they were given, and you were made to feel small.
Being willful and dishonest for a long time… My ex-wife.”
It’s not your fault.”
“No, it is my responsibility.
Everything should have been something I could have handled.”
Really, it was pathetic.
How narrow-minded I was to realize that now.
“Ah, you have your own position, don’t you? I’m the one to blame, not you.”
“’Externally, perhaps, but as a family, it is a mistake.
There is nothing wrong with you, mother.”
“…I’m the bad person.
If I could do better, you could…”
Yes, this mother never blamed others.
The degree to which one accepted that everything resulted from one’s own actions was truly aristocratic.
She was not like father or the tutor who was all about the top.
I was so proud of this kind of mother.
After I realized that my mother, not myself, was the one who would reprimand me if I asked to see her as a young child, we rarely saw each other anymore, even though we lived under the same roof.
The distance that had been forcibly opened gradually separated even our hearts.
It was probably my father’s and grandmother’s idea to give me a proper education as the ‘heir to Count Dustin’s family’.
Now that I was an adult and had fulfilled my duties, I did not believe that everything in the past was a mistake.
But there had to be another way.
“…Please accept my apology.
If you say it is unforgivable, I swear I will not bother you again in the future.”
I thought that was a cunning way of putting it.
But I was sure it had to be this good to reach my mother.
What I wanted her to receive was not an apology, but a release.
Please, I hoped it reached her.
Once again, I clenched my right hand.
“I was just like mother.”
“Really, I know you’re a sweet child.”
“That, too, was mother’s doing.”
A glint blurred in her averted eyes.
The tears that spilled out were absorbed into the powder around her hands and disappeared.
“…I accept the apology.
I forgive you, Walter.”
“Thank you very much…Mother.”
My mother, who embraced me from either side without regard to being covered in powder, was still smaller than I remembered.
And it was just as warm as I remembered.
The writing on my right palm from this morning came back to mind.
‘It’s not too late.’
You were right, Margaret.
The dough, soaked with tears, continued to be made and went into the oven.
“I’ll keep it as a memorial.
Things you can’t throw away.”
When I offered to help my mother, who shyly began making the dish again, she curtly rejected my offer.
After taking off my white jacket, I was made to sit in a chair next to the table with a cup of tea in my hand.
“Sit there instead.
Tell me something.”
If she asked to hear my voice, there was no way to refuse.
That being said, I couldn’t think of any topic that would entertain my mother, and the only thing we had in common was Dr.
Daniel and Margaret were the only ones.
“You are very good friends with her.
From the beginning?”
“Margaret? Well, I don’t know why, but that girl didn’t make me feel cautious.
Daniel says we’re like a mother and daughter.”
“It looked that way to me, too.
At least she’s more like your actual child than I am.”
Her hand stopped with a snap.
Ah, don’t get me wrong, that was not what I meant.
This was how the conversation always stopped and that was how we got into that situation.
“No, I’m not being sarcastic or anything.
On the contrary, I was relieved… Well, there was some jealousy.”
She opened her eyes in amazement.
I hadn’t seen a face like this in a long time.
“I’m just glad that you are enjoying your life in Meissery.
Also, you are not alone.
“… Thank you.
You’re being awfully honest, aren’t you?”
“I was blown away by what you just said.
I’ve already spent a lifetime regretting not telling you.”
“Yes…That was the case, huh?”
From her hand that resumed motion, the unmolded dough magically lined up on the baking sheet one after another.
“Margaret will be here for a long time to come, won’t she?”
“Well, I hope she’ll stay until she’s married or something.”
“That’s her plan?”
“I can’t say that she doesn’t.
She is quite popular.
Daniel and Buddy are so guarded that she doesn’t even know it.”
She said pleasantly that it was an illustrious father’s role to delay his daughter’s marriage.
Aside from Dr.
Daniel, Buddy was certainly excellent.
My mother asked me in a deliberately naughty way.
“Are you interested too?”
“…I think she is an attractive woman.
She is not afraid of me, and I feel strangely at home with her.”
“I know what you mean.
I’m the same way.
We’re really like a family that I feel no discomfort with her.”
Family, family, huh… I never did get it.
If the warmth of the table around which we dine here was family, then it definitely was.
I put my mouth on the cup that was still in my hand.
“For my part, I think if that’s going to happen, it’s going to be with Mark or you.”
“…I failed once.”
“It depends on who you are dealing with.
We’ll have to think about succession.”
“You can adopt a child or whatever you want.”
“I guess so, I’ll leave it to you.
Do what you want.”
It was obvious from the sidelines that Mark had feelings for her, but what about Margaret? There was no doubt, though, that she was the next closest person to my mother and Dr.
After all the dough was laid out, my mother washed her hands and cleared the table.
The lean movements were pleasant to watch.
I pictured my mother and Margaret standing in the kitchen side by side.
Laughing and enjoying each other’s company, the two of them deftly prepared and cleaned up one dish after another, complementing each other.
A sight I’d seen many times over the past three days, and if I were to put myself in it…
“…If anything, she feels more like a sister than a wife.”
The stillness of that night, the peace and quiet.
It was surely something that should be called filial love rather than infatuation.
It had been a very long time since I had seen my mother smile with a happy ‘motherly expression’.
The discussion about the village between my mother, the village chief, and the three of us ended easily.
Although the company received reports on income and expenditure and tax collection twice a year and dispatched a family ordinance, there were actually many problems with the land and other matters that had not been seen with their own eyes for some time.
After lunch, I left the mansion in a box carriage with the village chief, leaving my mother behind.
We went around to see the actual locations to determine the order and scale of repairs and areas in need of repair, which I had heard lightly about even on the first day.
It was a good time to finish seeing everything for the day, so I sent the carriage directly to the clinic after parting with the village chief.
Hugh was back in the capital and Buddy was home with my mother.
I wonder what it would be like to let Margaret walk alone….
I was sure Mark would send her off.
Margaret, who was just outside, was surprised to see me come to pick her up unscheduled.
She said they had just seen off the last patient.
“I had just finished my inspection, so I stopped by.
It’s almost over, now we’re going back to the compound, what do you want to do?”
As Margaret wrote on my palm asking if I could wait a moment and returned to the clinic, Mark, who had apparently heard the sound of the carriage, came out.
They were talking a bit at the door, and I noticed that their mood differed from it was yesterday… I see, I was in awe of my mother’s keen eye.
As I watched, Margaret went indoors and Mark came up to me standing by the carriage.
“…You came to pick her up?”
“I’m on the way back.
You shouldn’t be so alarmed.”
He looked at me in surprise, even though it didn’t show on his face.
“The good people of Disraeli” didn’t have time for lovers, apparently.
Some things were more endearing than you might think.
Sure, she’s attractive, but I don’t see her that way.”
“Even so, being Lady Adelaide’s son, you were certainly qualified to be in that position… Frankly, I couldn’t afford it, and it was not pleasant.”
So, it’s mutual.”
Our eyes met.
I couldn’t help but to deflect.
“…Ever since I was a child, I have always wished that the doctor was my real father.
Your position had been a long-time wish of mine.”
The indescribable silence ended when Margaret returned.
I left the escort to Mark and waited for him to get in first.
Margaret got on shortly after and sat diagonally across from me, and the carriage quietly departed.
“…Your face is red.”
I couldn’t help but smile at Margaret, who plopped down on the basket when I pointed it out.
This feeling of not being able to feel jealousy, etc., was certainly not love.
I felt guilty for teasing her, so I confessed from here.
“I talked to mother.”
Instantly, she looked up with a straight face.
The straight stare of her eyes was so painful.
I looked again at her right palm and held it lightly.
“… Thank you, Margaret.”
That was all I needed to get the message across.
No further words were spoken on the way to the mansion, but Margaret’s smile never disappeared.
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