< — Duchess Vivian — > (2)
TN: This chapter shall be 2 parts~ I suppose we can say it evens out the shortness of the side-story 🙂
Lucia first gave her greetings to the host of the party, the Countess of Jordan.
“Thank you for the invitation, Countess.”
“Thank you for coming. It is really an honor to meet the Duchess. Your beauty puts the rumors to shame.”
The Countess of Jordan was showing an extremely cautious attitude. From the Duchess, she could feel an aura that was somewhat difficult to approach. It was not the feeling of a young lady who was not yet 20 years old like the Countess had expected.
Lucia responded with a smile. Today as well, Antoine had worked hard from early in the morning. According to Antoine, today’s focus was ‘elegance’ and ‘dignity’. As it was her first engagement in social activities as the Duchess and as the one with the highest status, Antoine insisted that she should put pressure on the talkative women.
[Facial expressions are important. You should all kneel before me! That kind of expression.]
Lucia didn’t know much she had laughed as she practiced her expression according to Antoine’s demand. The color of her garments and makeup were ivory and gold. As Antoine had said, the Lucia in the mirror looked haughty and aloof. It was flashy but the image of heavy gold emphasized the dignified gracefulness.
The tea party took place in the yard which could be assessed from going into the mansion and leaving through the back. To set up the venue, posts were set on the field and a wide awning was placed on them to block the sunlight. It was a fairly large venue and a well-kept garden could be seen at one glance.
In a case like today’s, where the number of people were too high to be seated in one place, people would be sat at different tables. There were usually several tables that could seat 5-6 people and the organizer would move from table to table at regular intervals, to talk with the attendees.
Peculiarly, the Countess of Jordan placed a large table that could seat ten people in the middle and the rest of the tables could seat five. The seat of the Duchess was on the table meant for 10 people. Except for the Duchess and the Countess of Jordan, the owners of the other eight seats negotiated under-the-table to be able to seat there today.
The maids busily moved from table to table. The women at tables began to simply introduce themselves to one another. The party venue with dozens of people soon went into a flurry of activity with the voices of people.
“I am Sofia Alvin. The Count of Alvin is my husband.”
Lucia’s eyes shook slightly. It wasn’t just because Sofia was his past woman. Although she was a little surprised when she discovered Sofia, she kept her composure. Lucia was surprised for different reason.
‘Alvin? She got married to the Count of Alvin?’
In her dream, Sofia was a Marchioness(Marquis’ wife). And the noble house of Count Alvin was where Lucia had worked as a maid. While she had worked there, the madam of the House was not Sofia.
The future had changed.
‘Yes. Perhaps it is only natural. I changed my future. The him now would have been unmarried. But I married him. At this time, I would have been in the detached palace.’
Because Lucia married him, her future had stepped in an unpredictable direction. And his future was also the same. It was very possible to influence the future of a person who was even a little bit involved with the two of them.
Lucia had unexpectedly met the Sofia who had now become the Countess of Alvin but her heart did not fluctuate at all. Sofia was a past woman of her husband and he had ended it with her before their marriage. Moreover, hadn’t she witnessed the scene of Sofia getting cut off so coldly? There was no reason for her to worry.
However, this situation was not natural. There was no one named Sofia on the list of attendees sent by the Countess of Jordan, much less listed as the Countess of Alvin. The list of attendees usually changed frequently. Even if one couldn’t argue about that, there was no way a well-known socialite like the Countess of Jordan would not know the rumors about the past of Sofia and the Duke of Taran.
They were intentionally arranged to seat at the same table. Women’s seating arrangement was a sensitive issue. If there was a woman that one didn’t see eye-to-eye with, one would not attend the party at all. If people on bad terms sat at the same table, it was a great disaster.
So, in a world like the capital’s high society where human relationships were complex, parties could not be held by anyone. One had to have an understanding on the relationships between people.
Lucia turned to look at the Countess of Jordan when Sofia introduced herself. The Countess flinched when their eyes met and averted her gaze. Lucia smiled a slightly cold smile. It was a typical high societal approach to induce a situation and see a person’s reactions in order to grasp their personality.
Lucia would not have noticed if she did not know the habitual practice of the high society or know about Sofia. This was a ritual ceremony for the first appearance of the Duchess on the social stage. If Lucia had openly expressed displeasure, showed a sensitive reaction, or ignorantly acted friendly with Sofia, she would have become an great spectacle for the noblewomen that were here today.
They could not be held responsible if she understood the situation too late and was uncomfortable later on. That was the rule. Lucia recalled the time when she first made her debut in high society as the Countess of Matin. At the time, she received a series of embarrassing questions and suffered a loss of face as she was unable to answer.
‘Compared to the questions, this ritual is cuter.’
She hadn’t even known that her seating placement was a test. Even though others were laughing at her from behind, she was the only one that didn’t know. After a considerable amount of time passed, the case itself would fade over so one wouldn’t even know about the case forever.
It was difficult for a novice making their first debut in society to notice subtle problems such as seating arrangement. It was likely that the Countess of Jordan had thought that Lucia would not notice. Since Lucia had sent her a meaningful look, she would be sweating inside.
Lucia did not know much about this issue just from her experience as the Countess of Matin. This was because she didn’t have any experience of personally throwing a party. It was something that she learnt later on while working as a maid and watching her madam have a headache over the seating arrangements as she hosted several parties.
Lucia took her place today, believing in the public reception of the Countess of Jordan. Even when Lucia received a letter asking for her understanding about the tea party’s sudden increase in scale, she had sent back word that it was fine. In her own way, Lucia had shown goodwill to the Countess of Jordan. However, the Countess did not take Lucia’s hand.
‘Is it that one weighed between the Count of Alvin and the Duke of Taran and chose the Count of Alvin?’
Lucia had heard that the Countess of Jordan hated disturbances. Rather than saying that one deliberately induced the situation, one had just accepted the request of the Countess of Alvin. Even if a problem arose, responsibility would be left to the Countess of Alvin. After all, the Countess had only accepted the request of an attendee. And all was fine as long as she maintained that she was ignorant of the rumor. There were many ways for the Countess to save herself.
The Duke of Taran’s political power was close but had not yet fully come to power. The Count of Alvin was an acknowledged economic giant. Money was more stable than power. It was a matter of one’s own choices. There was no grudge. However in the future, the Countess of Jordan would never become a friend.
Lucia wondered what Sofia’s intention was to attend a party that was originally unscheduled and to request a seat at the same table.
‘Is she curious about the woman that is married to her old flame?’
Regardless, this was not wise. If Lucia were harbor a huge grudge over this incident, it would be harmful to the Countess of Alvin. The social matters of women were a problem for women but reality did not necessarily conform to the norm. Mixing up the lines between public and private affairs was a very commonplace error.
“Countess of Alvin is as pretty as ever. I have often heard rumors praising Countess’ beauty. I have heard other rumors as well but I believe you all understand what I mean without saying it.”
Lucia mixed in the common pleasantries that praised one’s appearance and conveyed that she already knew about the rumors and she did not care. There was no one among the seated noblewomen that did not understand the meaning of her words. Everyone briefly displayed strange expressions and little bursts of laughter could be heard here and there.
“You flatter me.”
Sofia’s voice trembled slightly as she replied.