Chapter 18 – A Wounded Palm (6)
Translator: Skye PR: mm1347
Bianca wondered if perhaps she had responded a little too harshly to the maid. Frankly, she should have complimented her instead of berating her. It was thanks to the maid, who had explained the situation to Vincent well, that the whole ordeal had been wrapped up nicely.
Though Bianca lamented her cold-hearted response, she had no idea how she should have responded, as it had been much too long since she last engaged in friendly terms with any maid. The maid was like a boat that had already departed while Bianca was left alone in her room. She chewed on her lips, words resembling excuses lingering in her mouth, and propped her chin on her hand.
The window glass became foggy from Bianca’s breaths. She placed her hand on the cold wall. The chilly draft from the walls cooled the burning heat of her hand.
It wasn’t much later when the same maid came to find Bianca again, but this time with a basin of sloshing water and a clean cloth. She smiled awkwardly, unable to bring herself to approach Bianca any closer.
“Madam, if you do not wish to call for a doctor, please let me treat your hand with herbal water. It’ll alleviate the swelling and heat in your hand,” said the maid, round eyes simple and honest.
She was perhaps around five years older than Bianca, but the maid was still a young and naive woman. She stood while holding the basin, calmly waiting for approval. Bianca blinked and peered at the maid, whose dark brown eyes flickered with concern while adding a quiet, “Please, madam.”
Bianca was rendered speechless, asking herself the same question she had asked herself multiple times before. Just why? She was aware she was cold-hearted without a speck of warmth, and not only was she lazy, failing to uphold any of her duties, but she was also a difficult master to serve. She also knew that was why the servants disliked her.
“…Thank you,” Bianca said after much difficulty. She was confused as to why this maid in front of her now was demonstrating concern and worry for her.
“Of course, madam.”
The maid beamed. She let out an exhale, sweeping a hand over her chest as if in relief before stepping forward with the basin. She kneeled in front of Bianca and dipped the cloth in the water.
Several unidentifiable herbs floated on top of the steaming water, an herbaceous scent filling the air. After wringing the cloth, the maid carefully dabbed Bianca’s palm, but as soon as the cloth touched the stinging area, Bianca automatically winced. The maid continued to lightly dab the wound, careful like she was skimming off the layer of fat on top of milk.
While the maid focused on attending to the injury, Bianca stared at the top of the maid’s head in a daze, feeling an obscure lurch in her chest. The maid’s light brown hair appeared warm and plentiful, like straw under the rays of the sun. Her touch resembled a mother cat’s tongue licking away the protective layer on her newborn kitten. The maid’s warm actions brought on memories of Bianca’s nanny, Jean.
Jean had adored Bianca, following her all the way to Arno Castle, and the latter always believed she would never need anyone else as long as she had her nanny. Jean had taught Bianca many things she needed to know, including what a reserved and elegant lady her mother was, what it meant to be a lady of a house, how to embroider, how to calculate and determine the inventory of candles and number of livestock……
But such an ordinary life could not continue for very long. Jean had succumbed to lung disease when Bianca was 13 years old. Jean had been the only one for Bianca, who not only believed that no one else could replace her, but that she did not want to go through the pain of losing someone she opened up to a second time.
However, the present Bianca was someone who had lived to the age of 38 before returning back in time. Jean’s death became a vague memory, and though Bianca had tried to ignore the pain of death, she came to the realization that was impossible. Her father, her brother, and her husband… They had all died and left her behind.
Bianca was lonely. Not because they had all died and left her alone, but because she had been scared and isolated herself much before their deaths. That was why she had made the foolish mistake of falling for Fernand.
She didn’t want a life like that; she didn’t want to repeat her past life.
Perhaps it was because a person’s values and nature weren’t easily changed after experiencing death, but Bianca had no thought of changing her attitude. She still viewed the maids as tools who followed her orders, and she had no thought of being friendly and intentionally cultivating affection for them.
But, at the very most, something like unlocking the door should be all right?
Bianca had that much courage, at least.
“…What is your name?” she asked, voice faint like the chirp of a small bird.
“My name is Yvonne, madam.”
Yvonne flashed a smile which held neither pretense nor deceit.
The majority of servants in Arno Castle were unhappy with Bianca, so much so that Bianca was aware of it herself. Though there was the public distaste for Bianca enjoying all the privileges of a countess while abandoning all the duties and responsibilities required of one, they also held a personal dislike for Bianca stemming from her sharp, cold-hearted demeanor. They did not question why Bianca treated the people around her so harshly, and they most likely would not sympathize with her even if they knew the reason, simply waving it off as a spoiled lady’s whining.
But Yvonne was not a part of that majority. She had a younger sister who was around Bianca’s age. Her family was far from well-off, and despite Yvonne working as a maid to afford food to send to her family, hunger was still an issue for them. Eventually, her younger sister married a much older carpenter who lived several doors down in order to eliminate one more mouth to feed at the table.
‘Don’t worry, sis. I won’t ever be able to offer a sizeable dowry, so my marriage candidates are limited anyway. At the very least, I won’t starve if I marry him.’
Yvonne’s younger sister had tried to alleviate some of Yvonne’s concern, but it was obvious that her married life would not be exactly happy. But Yvonne could not do anything about it other than pray for her sister’s happiness from far away in her place at Arno Castle.
That was why Bianca weighed more heavily on Yvonne’s heart. Seeing Bianca alone in this huge castle reminded Yvonne of her younger sister, making her feel restless. Moreover, hadn’t Bianca lost her nanny, who was like a mother to her, only three years ago? The times Yvonne had occasionally seen Bianca standing alone in the hallway and looking out the window, there had always been a profound loneliness hanging over the latter’s shoulders.
“All right then, Yvonne. Do you think you’d be able to do this again tomorrow? It definitely seems to have an effect.”
It was said as a suggestion, but to the listener, it felt closer to an irrefusable order. It may have been because of Bianca’s high-handed demeanor which came naturally to her. Her light green eyes were calm, like she was confident Yvonne would accept.
But Yvonne could sense the fear of rejection lurking underneath Bianca’s stubborn, seemingly unyielding tongue. Furthermore, hadn’t Bianca asked her to treat her hands again tomorrow? Bianca never made the same maid do an exclusive task regularly.
Instead of calling for a specific maid to handle specific tasks, Bianca simply gave orders to a new maid whenever she had something that needed to be taken care of. Which was why Bianca was considered a picky, troublesome superior. She didn’t even remember the names of the servants. No, from the start, she never even asked for their names.
Sensing the subtle change in Bianca, Yvonne quickly replied in a cheerful tone, “Of course, madam.”
A small smile graced Bianca’s lips once she heard the maid’s affirmative response. It was a very subtle smile, hard to even tell if the corners of her lips curved upwards or not, but it was enough to elicit a scent resembling blooming violets to circle the air.
Yvonne blinked, witnessing Bianca’s smile for the first time. Her heart swelled, feeling like she was observing a white fox lowering its guard and carefully coming to rub its head against her hand.
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