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Chapter 39

“You were a very bright child. You were smart, but… Not to the point that you were a scholar. Just that you were a little different from other noble children of your age. Perhaps it’s because Catherine was the one who raised you?”

“You’re acquainted with my mother?”

“Do you remember Catherine?”

“Not quite… No, I don’t remember her at all.”

Missus Deere looked at Carynne with a faraway glance. It was unpleasant how the older woman kept looking at her with her mother in mind.

The fief lord sometimes looked at her with the same gaze as well.

“Lady Nora Catherine Hare. Her maiden name was Enide. Truthfully, Catherine… Right, I apologize—Madam Hare. It was really strange that she became Madam Hare. Frankly speaking, I never imagined that she’d settle down here in the countryside.”

Carynne lifted the teacup to her lips to hide the shudder that ran down her body. This tea didn’t taste familiar. In the end, the older woman took on a bitter tone.

“She had always been surrounded by men. I thought that she’d get married and enter a better household. That is, comparatively—in the materialistic sense, I mean.”

Carynne gave a sidelong glance at Missus Deere, whose face then became beet red.

“She was a strange woman, and she never seemed to listen to others. The first impression one might have on her is that she’s weak, but she was very stubborn.”

These words that didn’t interest Carynne were getting more tedious to hear. She grew impatient little by little. What she’s concerned about here was not about the love story of the parents of 「 Carynne 」. But still, Missus Deere continued to talk about Catherine, who was the mother of 「 Carynne 」.

Oh, how beautiful Catherine had been, how popular she was before, how numerous the suitors she had. The older woman told stories like these, her expression imparting such pride about the fact that she had been there beside Catherine to have witnessed it all.

Carynne soon realized that this woman, rather than giving her the answers she wanted to hear, wasn’t the prophet-like person she was expecting.

She was merely a middle-aged woman who loved to talk someone’s ears off about the glory days.

“You truly, really resemble Catherine. I still have a portrait of her. Over there, on that wall, can you see?”

On that wall hung a portrait of a beautiful woman who looked very much like Carynne.

Even if I die, Nancy would never even let me hang a portrait of my mother on the wall like that. …Ah, wait. If I die, then the novel would be over. So that’s not possible.

What a sight. This middle-aged woman was bragging about the glory days that weren’t her own, and it was getting more and more burdensome.

“I hear that a lot.”

Carynne’s polite smile twitched.

“Besides that, I want to talk more about my memories.”

“Oh, yes.”

Missus Deere awkwardly stopped talking about the current topic.

“You’ve been very precocious since you were a child. You were pretty, and smart… and apart from that, the only child of this region’s noblest family. Then one day, you became very… sick, yes?”

“Deere. Do not interfere any longer. It is none of your business.”

At the memory that came to mind, the look in Missus Deere’s eyes darkened.

* * *

“Then, about the culture of the orient… Carryne, Carynne?”

Deere felt like crying. The little girl she was teaching was trembling again. The intelligent, clever and bubbly personality of the child that Deere had seen before vanished once the child turned seven years old.

Now, the child was just so filled with such terror as she shed tears all day long.

Maids who had good physiques came running and suppressed the writhing little girl. Soon, with some assistance, the evidently ill Catherine approached Carynne.

Today’s lesson crumbled just like that. Far beyond teaching a class, Deere could only stand still, unable to soothe the child. A sense of shame filled her.

“Madam, you can’t do this.”

“……”

Catherine hugged Carynne very tightly. The girl struggled in her mother’s arms.

“It’s alright, Carynne. Momma’s here. It’s alright… Shh… Everything’s going to be alright, okay? Would you like to have some snacks with me?”

Looking straight ahead, the girl clung to her mother and let out a long, raspy cry as she spoke.

“Momma, my, my life… What’s the point of it? If my life is like this, then…”

It was her tenth birthday. Carynne and her relative, Dullan, became engaged.

It was an engagement that no one welcomed. Catherine had become increasingly ill, so she couldn’t conceive another child any longer.

In front of relatives and acquaintances, this was what she said—that she felt increasingly weak day by day and she didn’t think that she’d live long, so she wished to see her daughter get engaged.

Everyone thought that it was a little odd for her to say this. Even so, no one objected to the parents who arranged the engagement. With the adults’ approval, the engagement was then carried out in an informal manner.

When they saw each other, Carynne looked as though she had just chewed on a bug, and similarly, Dullan had a rotten look on his face.

Dullan was eighteen.

Carynne was ten.

“Y-You’re… dead, really…”

“Sure, let’s see.”

Carynne tried to resist this fate. She pushed Dullan into an empty room and closed the door on him. Then, she dragged a chair in front of the knob and sat down on it to prevent Dullan from coming out.

It was strange to think that, had Carynne not been removed from the spot, had the lock not been broken open, and had a servant not opened the door, Dullan would have died right there.

“Carynne, apologize to Dullan properly!”

The incident was grave enough that it couldn’t be dismissed as a simple child’s prank. However, Dullan’s parents were extremely poor and did not want to miss out on the chance at the position of fief lord, where not only Dullan’s school tuition would be paid, but everything else would even be provided.

From then on, Dullan’s parents paid more attention to Carynne, who seemed to have lost her mind, rather than to Dullan, who was their own flesh and blood.

In a family like this, the only one who could play the right role as an adult here was none other than Deere.

She puffed out her chest and strictly put pressure on Carynne. But before she could be dragged away from Dullan’s bed by Deere like that, these were the first words out of Carynne’s lips.

“Hey, couldn’t you just die at that time? Your life’s worth nothing, either.”

“Carynne!”

In her astonishment, Deere covered Carynne’s mouth—but it was already too late.

Dullan glared back at Carynne’s scowl, and he responded.

“…I-If I can’t kill you myself, I’ll at least set your intestines on fire.”

It wasn’t clear whether it was from the shock of this incident or not, but ever since then, Dullan would stutter every time he saw Carynne. And the following year after that, Dullan never visited the fief lord’s mansion.

Deere tried even harder to change Carynne. She expanded her lessons and told stories that might interest the child. But it was only for a moment.

Carynne’s seizures increased, Catherine’s condition worsened, and the fief lord remained silent.

Whatever it was that Deere did, no matter how much she tried, everyone only avoided the matter at hand.

There was nothing else that could be done. Most of the time, rather than a teacher, it was a doctor who’s beside Carynne. There were many days when Deere would just sit there in the study, completely alone.

The housekeeper Helen reduced Deere’s salary while saying that it couldn’t be helped—there was no work for her here. At this, Deere hung her head.

Then, it was that day.

The day that black gypsy woman took Deere’s role and replaced her.

It happened when Carynne was fourteen years old.

t/n: i’m not entirely sure about the spelling of the maiden name of Carynne’s mother, but i just made a wild guess and went for ‘Enide’ because of the titular character in Chrétien de Troyes’ poem, ‘Erec and Enide.’ this may or may not be an intentional reference by the author.

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