Chapter 29. The Changed Relationship
Carefully avoiding the forehead, cheeks, and lips, Lili tried not to listen to the story of Bellmore, who kissed her on the back of her hand, but her ears involuntarily perked up.
“Cecil, what does a handsome man whisper while kissing the back of the hand?”
“Lately, he’s been expressing a desire to have me, but I’m in the process of refusing.”
Bellmore being a handsome man was an unbelievable description. Lili had never seen a man more handsome than the one who occasionally smiled at her, despite being difficult and eccentric.
After the tea party, the ladies paired off and left the room. Rose, seeing Lili standing to tidy up, hurriedly left.
In the space Rose vacated, there was an exquisite fan. It was a luxurious fan with sandalwood handles adorned with silk.
Lili grabbed it and hurriedly ran, not minding if her dress hem became covered in dirt. She barely caught up with Rose just before she boarded the carriage.
Rose didn’t even take the fan Lili offered.
“Don’t pretend you know.”
“I wish people didn’t know I was in the convent.”
Lili couldn’t approach Rose any further. Rose seemed to be trying to shake off Lili’s touch as if it were a contagion.
“I would rather die if people found out I was in the convent…”
“So please, don’t pretend you know.”
Such are the lives of the insignificant. The eagerly awaited moments collide with chaos, and the longed-for ones are not as expected.
Seeing Lili return with the fan after giving it to Rose, Cecil sneered sharply.
“Where did you go, and why are you just coming back now? I’ve been looking for you for a while.”
“Sorry, Miss. Rose, I mean Miss Evans, left the fan and asked me to convey it again.”
Cecil found the maid’s prompt response annoying.
“Rose Evans, huh? What do you think of her? Does she seem like someone who has lived abroad for a long time? She looks a bit strange, doesn’t she?”
Cecil had a habit of finding faults in others and picking at them.
“She seemed dignified and modest, Miss.”
Cecil chuckled at that.
“Rose Evans, huh? How about you? Did a gentleman say he was looking for you? A journalist named Rondinium Tribune or something. Why would a journalist be looking for you?”
Lili felt relieved at those words. He seemed to be trying to restore his position as her trustworthy friend.
“He’s a friend I’ve known since childhood.”
Lili replied openly, feeling reassured. Cecil concentrated again on the frame where she was placing embroidery on a handkerchief. It was an ornament named after the initials of ‘Christopher Archibald Bellmore.’
“So, this friend Timothy, which family is he from?”
“He’s from the Rutland family.”
“Rutland? Is he your follower?”
Cecil referred to Timothy with a disdainful term for a servant who followed a maid.
Cecil had little interest in Timothy Rutland, but she was in a spiteful state.
“Is Elizabeth Gardner here?”
Although phrased politely, asking me about the maid’s whereabouts was quite impolite.
“She’s my maid. Who are you?”
“I’m Timothy Rutland. Could you please give this to Lili?”
“Mr. Rutland. I’m not sure if you’re aware that she’s my maid, but I’ll make sure to convey your message.”
What was the expression on that man’s face? Suppressing a hint of disgust…
“It’s unlikely for a private maid to be in a hotel.”
The sight of the maid receiving immense affection bothered Cecile. Even a common maid received more attention than Bellmore, who never once acknowledged her.
“Elizabeth, Bellmore recently visited Hatton Garden.”
“Don’t you know Hatton Garden? There are many jewellery stores and galleries on that street. Even gems from famous mines end up being sold there.”
Cecile’s voice trembled slightly.
“I’ve never seen actual jewels.”
Lili’s honest confession added to Cecile’s delight.
“I wonder what kind of jewel he chose. Last time, he gave me an emerald necklace. Maybe he’ll give me something even more remarkable when we get married?”
The virtues of the young lady were not in being modest, but she had shed that mask in front of Lili. But that was okay.
The problem was that Lili did not possess the knowledge to envy or desire such boasting.
Cecile wanted to see envy or desire on Lili’s face, but so far, she had not succeeded.
“Do you know how expensive such jewels are? The price can buy two mansions in the affluent area of Rondinium City.”
Only now did Lili’s eyes widen as Cecile laughed.
“Giving such jewels is proof of cherishing a woman.”
Lili was puzzled. By actions alone, Bellmore seemed indifferent rather than cherishing Cecile.
Cecile was lonely, and whenever she could, she asked the steward about Bellmore. Every time, the steward would say Bellmore had gone to Everleigh for business, that he had other engagements.
Was love for the nobility shown through jewels? Wasn’t love like doves, gently pecking each other’s beaks and affectionately touching heads?
Once again, the sensation of that man’s lips inadvertently came to Lili’s mind, and she unknowingly touched her forehead.
Please, don’t think about it, Elizabeth. Thinking about that man means losing.
She hadn’t met that man since that day.
“I’ll be going to the exhibition next week. He suggested the idea, and it’s where it’s being held. Rumour has it that the building is exceptionally beautiful. Since it takes too long by carriage, we’ll take the train.”
Lili snapped back to attention at Cecile’s words. She cut the thread with scissors, and Lili swallowed her saliva. If that sound reached Cecile’s ears, she didn’t show it.
“Don’t like it?”
“No, no, Miss Cecile.”
Cecile’s expression somehow resembled Rose’s. Perhaps high-born ladies were delicate and filled with anxiety.
The exhibition would undoubtedly bring exceptional prosperity to the hotel. Guests who admired the newly constructed Crystal Palace on the outskirts hoped to stay in the state-of-the-art hotel.
Simultaneously, the name ‘Bellmore’ gained more wealth and fame. The social circle of Rondinium was eagerly awaiting the announcement of Cecile and Christopher’s marriage. Pitying this lady, who had everything, was unthinkable.
“During Mr. Bellmore’s presence at the exhibition hall, you’re free to move around.”
Cecile said with a generous tone, though it was merely a manoeuvre to separate the maid so that she could be alone with Bellmore. Nevertheless, she wanted to show generosity in the process.
“Thank you very much, Miss.”
Lili sincerely thanked her. The exhibition was an exciting event for Lili, who had only known convent life.
“You don’t need to wear maid attire. If you have a good outfit, wear it.”
All Lili had was a green dress, but she nodded.
With an improved mood, Cecile turned her gaze back to the frame.
* * *
It had been a long time since Lord Bellmore revealed himself in the city. With the upcoming exhibition, those who had seen him thought he had specially arranged his schedule and came to order the engagement ring for Cecile Hubert. He arrived without his usual companion, Rufus Oliver, and personally drove the carriage. Contrary to people’s expectations, the place he stopped was an art studio.
『Bradford and Worth』
Wearing leather gloves, he pushed the door open and entered. “Lord, it’s been a while. And congratulations!” The studio owner greeted him with congratulations, as it had become customary wherever he went recently. “Thank you.” His brief response puzzled the studio owner. Even if noble marriages were often driven by political purposes, the expression on his face was unpredictable. He seemed to have no intention of feigning joy.
Even if the studio owner didn’t know the details, at least it was evident that Lord Bellmore wasn’t marrying Cecile Hubert out of love.