< — Memories of Mother — > (2)
A few days later, Lucia had lunch with her grandfather. Her grandfather sent her a short letter, saying that he would be going back to the south. Lucia wanted to treat him to a last meal before he left so she arranged a lunch.
On the second meeting between grandparent and grandchild, they was a little more comfortable with each other. Lucia felt at ease as if she had known her grandfather for a very long time.
Was it because they were related by blood? But her father who was closer to her by blood was farther than anyone else. Now, she didn’t even have leftover hate for her father. It seemed like she would have been happier if her mother sent her maternal home instead of the palace.
“So you’re saying I already have a nephew.” (Lucia)
Lucia came to know of her many relatives. Her two uncles were married; her first uncle had two daughters, and her second uncle had two sons. Her first uncle’s two daughters were older than her and his eldest daughter was already a mother. Lucia had two uncles, four cousins and one nephew.
Lucia remembered briefly hearing in her dream that her first uncle had two sons. But she couldn’t ask about her first uncle who had died tragically, and her uncle did not talk about him.
“I believe the boy just began to walk. By the time I return, he would have grown up a lot. I mean, that child grows up in an instant.. (Count)
Her grandfather said that he would send her letters from time to time and give her updates about the house.
“I’m sorry, grandfather. I can’t promise to come and see you.”
Lucia felt guilty to her grandfather for only asking her husband for financial help. She was sorry because even though she could be more helpful, she was being too stingy.
“Even if you said you were coming, I would have stopped you. I have no intention of telling your uncles about you. I’m also keeping the news about your mother to myself.”
Seeing his granddaughter’s eyes widen in surprise, the Count smiled gently.
“I don’t want your uncles to have false hope. Even though we don’t have enough, our family is harmonious. I am blessed with kind-hearted daughter-in-laws. I would simply like it to remain that way. Even if you’re upset, please understand.”
“No, grandfather. What do you mean upset?”
Lucia could tell what her grandfather was thinking; he didn’t want to burden his granddaughter. She felt sorry and thankful to him. Her uncle must have been very bitter to lose such a father. Lucia could fully understand her uncle’s feelings of desperation.
“When do you leave?” (Lucia)
“I’m going back today. I came after saying goodbye to my friend.” (Count)
The Count was indebted to his friend and realized that his friend’s situation was also not very good. After their father died, his elder brother inherited the title along with most of the assets and didn’t seem to treat his friend very well. The Count was glad that he had changed his mind and did not make a difficult request of his friend.
“Then you’re leaving right after the meal? What’s the hurry? You can stay a little longer.” (Lucia)
“Your uncles will be very worried after sending off their old father to the capital. Plus the capital is too busy for an old man like me. Don’t worry about my travel. I’ll be taking the gate. Thanks to my granddaughter’s husband, I’ll be enjoying the luxury of a lifetime.”
Lucia smiled when her grandfather shrugged with an exaggerated attitude.
“Come visit anytime you want. The way here isn’t that far anymore.” (Lucia)
“Alright, alright. Don’t treat me coldly when I come too often.” (Count)
“What do you mean coldly? That won’t happen.”
The Count rose from his seat.
“You and your husband get along very well. He is a good man. He cares for you a lot. Because of that, my mind is at ease.” (Count)
“Yes. He is a good man.”
Lucia was proud that her husband was being praised for being a good man. It was said that the best present for a parent is to see their child living happily. She was really glad that she could show her grandfather that her present self was doing well.
“May I hug you?” (Count)
“I was going to say that.” (Lucia)
They both hugged each other and regretfully said goodbye. They didn’t know when they would see each other again but it wasn’t an eternal parting. So Lucia was able to calmly send off her grandfather.
Antoine visited in the afternoon after Lucia sent off her grandfather. The Antoine who used to come with an entourage of assistants and workers came simply alone. Since her purpose wasn’t a dress fitting, it was natural that she came alone but today, she looked intimated by the majesty of the ducal residence. She looked weak like a disarmed soldier.
‘Is Antoine’s weapon the props that her assistants and workers carry around?’
It was interesting to see the ever confident Antoine looking restless. Lucia controlled her expression. The woman was fundamentally a merchant. She would make a path herself so there was no need to give her a chance to worm her way in.
“What brings you here? Without any notice.” (Lucia)
“I apologize for visiting you suddenly, Duchess. Please forgive my rudeness. I hope I have not interrupted your schedule.” (Antoine)
“It just so happens that there’s nothing special at the moment. Do not do this in the future.” (Lucia)
In the receiving room, the two of them sat facing each other. Unlike Lucia who unhurriedly drank her tea, Antoine kept checking the Duchess’ complexion.
A few days ago, Antoine received a notice that was like a thunderbolt from the sky. The Duke of Taran sent someone to announce that she wasn’t entrusted with making the Duchess’ future dresses anymore. He said that as promised, he would pay the cost of the dress that was already made but that petty change wasn’t the problem here. The problem was that the fortune in front of her had disappeared like a fog.
After a few days of sleepless nights and distress, she came to visit the ducal residence. Sending someone in advance to make an appointment was the correct procedure but if she was rejected, her justification to visit completely disappeared. So she visited recklessly. She thought that the Duchess would meet her a least once and fortunately, her thought proved correct.
“What is the matter?” (Lucia)
“I heard you didn’t need the dress for masquerade ball so I was worried you might be unwell.” (Antoine)
“As you can see, I am healthy and fine. I was tired so I canceled my plans for the day. Is this what you came for?”
Antoine broke out in cold sweat. The Duchess was different from other noblewomen in many ways. She wasn’t someone to beat around the bush nor was she someone that could be easily led in a conversation. The Duchess was strangely experienced for her age. Rather than giving an oversophisticated feeling, she gave a relaxed feeling of dignity. Antoine chose a straightforward attack instead of changing the subject.
“Duchess. To be honest with you, I came because I wanted to know why. Did I make a huge mistake?” (Antoine)
“I don’t know what you mean.” (Lucia)
“Please tell me if I have done anything wrong to you, Duchess.”
“There is no such thing.”
“Then why was I told not to make any dresses for the Duchess in the future? Did you not like the dress?” (Antoine)
Lucia had no idea about this. But she could make a guess. Her husband was unhappy with Antoine’s dress and seemed to have sent a notice of cancelation for their future contract.
Lucia couldn’t stop the giggle that escaped her mouth. She didn’t know what to do with this man of hers that grew increasingly childish. In what noble house under the sky was the husband involved in changing their wife’s dress designer? They were more concerned about their wife’s expenses. The matter of deciding which designer would make the dress was completely left to the woman.
Lucia liked the Antoine’s dresses. Antoine was able to draw designs that enhanced Lucia’s body shape and her charm. Even if she hired someone else, they would likely not be better that Antoine.
However, there was a need to take her husband’s conservative mind into account.
“I like your dresses. But…” (Lucia)
When the Duchess dragged out her words, Antoine swallowed tensely.
“It’s difficult to wear a dress that my husband doesn’t like.” (Lucia)
“Do you mean to say that His Grace the Duke didn’t like the dresses I made? Did he say that?”
“He didn’t say it directly, but he said your dresses are a little… loose.”
What is this bullshit she was hearing? If it was modest, it wasn’t a dress. If you want that, go wear a priest’s robe and button it up to the neck. Antoine had made countless dresses for noblewomen until now but she had never heard anyone make such complaints.
Antoine thought hard about it. And she thought back to all the dresses she had made for the Duchess. She contracted the summer dresses first, and then she renewed the contract with the coronation dresses. It meant that there was no complaint with the first dresses. Then what was different?
‘The first summer dresses were made for light outings so they were casual. The coronation dresses were undoubtedly bold. They were going to be worn to a ball after all.’
Is that it? Antoine came to a realization. And she was speechless. If he didn’t want exposure to that extent then it was a disease. Look at other people’s dresses. Half of their chest was exposed. Compared to those dresses, the dresses she made for the Duchess were very decent.
‘Is it really as they say, that the Duchess living in captivity?’
Antoine entertained doubts in her heart and clasped her hands together with pitiful eyes.
“The foolish me couldn’t fathom how much His Grace the Duke loves the Duchess. In the future, I will try harder to make dresses that please you. Duchess. Frankly speaking, it will be difficult to find a designer of my caliber anywhere.”
“I also agree. Like I said, I am happy with your dresses.” (Lucia)
Antoine’s eyes sparkled as if she had met her savior.
“So make a contract with me.” (Lucia)
“Yes! Duchess.” (Antoine)
“I will say it clearly again. You are making a contract with me.”
“…Yes? Of course…”
“I will not ask what kind of contract you previously had with His Grace the Duke. There will be no such contract in the future. Do you understand?”
The Duchess’ smiling face was water-tight. Antoine inwardly cried bitter tears. The jackpot was gone!
“When I looked into it, I found that it’s usually enough to make two to three dresses per quarter, and one to two ball dresses as needed. I don’t have a lot of dresses already made for me so I will commission five dresses each for the fall and winter.”
Compared to the past where she had sold nineteen outfits in the summer, the plummet was a shame. But Antoine was still very grateful. Even five was something.
The title of exclusive designer of the Duchess of Taran would bring her more value. The river of gold that flowed before Antoine’s eyes had disappeared into thin air but she could pick up the gold dust on the floor. Antoine readily accepted the proposal.