“What day is the party at the mansion of Katharina Biché?”
“The night after tomorrow.”
“Okay, we’re going to get a maid in need of money from the Biché mansion. I know a maid there.”
“What…? You’re going to get a maid, why?”
Henri’s mouth dropped open. Olivier laughed with satisfaction.
“It’s going to be quiet for a year anyway, and if word gets out that I’m courting a maid like an idiot, I’ll look like a fool all over again. And I can avoid the marriage market for as long as possible.”
“Well, your name will be worth shit now, and your reputation will surely suffer…”
“What time does my grandmother leave tomorrow?”
“She’s leaving on the 9:30am ship.”
“Well, heaven help us.”
That very tomorrow, Eleanor Dampierre would be away for a month on a sailing ship bound for the New World.
‘Isn’t it too urgent…? Well, it is an urgent matter, but…’ As Henri rambled on, Olivier snapped his fingers and summoned a servant.
“Prepare a luxurious carriage that will catch people’s attention. Choose the best clothes and prepare a flower bouquet from a florist. It doesn’t have to be too big, she’s not that impressive of a woman.”
“Are you preparing a gift as well? Jewellery?”
Olivier’s eyes narrowed as he thought for a moment. What should he give.
“You don’t have to spend a lot of money. Just prepare a box for the ring.”
As soon as Henri was out the door, Olivier went into the bathroom and haphazardly stripped off the rest of his clothes. Only then did the smug smile return to his smooth face as he regained his usual ease.
Fuck you, Mademoiselle R.
Fuck you, Ezon socialites!
* * *
Since the morning, the Biché servants had been in a half-hearted frenzy. As the day of the social party drew nearer, Katarina’s viciousness was reaching new heights.
The chef, in particular, would blush at the mere mention of her name. It wasn’t enough for her to snatch up every bite of food that was offered as a sample, she would go on a rampage and slap food in the chef’s face.
“Eat it. So you can taste what rubbish you’ve made!”
The chef crawled on all fours to pick up the spilled food and ate it, then came back out and sobbed for the rest of the day.
“It wasn’t as strange as she used to be.”
“It’s probably because she grew up and can’t see anything.”
“Still, it’s too much. Why is she being so vicious?”
The servants huddled in the outbuilding, gossiping about how Katarina had gotten to this point.
Then Denise, returning from her outing, put forward a reasonable suspicion.
“Olivier Dampierre is coming. For the first time to the Biché mansion.”
There was a chorus of ah… and sighs of understanding, but there was still a lingering question that could not be fully answered.
“No, not even close. Honestly, I don’t think our young lady is in Olivier Dampierre’s league…”
“Yes, the Biché is a great lady, but how does she compare to Duke Dampierre?”
As if on cue, Denise drew her shoulders close together and whispered in a low voice.
“Listen. All the socialites in the city of Ezon have their eyes on Katarina Biché right now.”
“I had lunch with the Count of Monceau’s maid earlier, and she told me that he’s very close to the Marquis of Monceau, Olivier Dampierre.”
“That wretch? And then what?”
“That the Count of Monceau has tried time and time again, many, many times, to take the Duke Olivier Dampierre to a social party, and each time the Duke has always turned him down with a knife.”
“Really? I’m surprised.”
“Right? They said he never attended events unless they were absolutely necessary, like sponsorship meetings at salons or something. Anyway, he had never attended for no reason, but suddenly she contacted me out of the blue this time…”
Denise’s eyes sparkled.
“She replied that he was going to ‘Katarina Biché’s party’ – for the first time in years!”
“No wonder the young lady is being a burden.”
“The Count of Monceau has a very cheap mouth. He goes on and on about how Olivier is going to find love at last.”
“What do you mean, he’s in the papers every day.”
Denise snorted and muttered arrogantly when someone asked her a question.
“Even if she didn’t have the heart for it, she must have gone through with it physically. After all, he’s the young master of Dampierre, isn’t he?”
“Well, anyway, everyone’s been dying to know who Olivier Dampierre’s been playing with. I don’t know, maybe even some reporters will sneak in.”
Indeed… it made sense! The servants looked at each other and nodded in agreement. Denise, picking up a cookie and biting into it, gestured to Amélie, who had just entered the dining room.
“Amélie, it’s been a long time. Welcome home!”
Amélie smiled broadly as she stepped into their midst, and the servants moved back a little to make room for her.
““It was hard, you’ve worked hard.”
“It was okay.”
She had just come in from tidying up the mountain of napkins, putting up the tablecloth, and tidying up the manor.
“Amelie, eat this.”
The cook quickly took Amélie’s hand and held out a honeyed sweet that she had snuck away before entering the main house.
“Thank you, Madame Marie.”
The cook had become much more affectionate towards Amélie in recent days, perhaps because of the humiliation they’d suffered together at the hands of Katarina. Denise asked with concern.
“Amélie, aren’t you tired?”
Amélie smiled wryly.
“I’m fine, really. It’s much better to be physically tired than mentally tired. We can take a break together like this.”
“That’s great. Be more careful around Katarina next time. I hear the big lady gave you a good scolding.”
Amélie bit into the cookie as hard as she could, even though she was more concerned about the enormous debt she owed than the persecution from Katarina Biché.
As the other maids patted Amélie’s small shoulders, she heard a continuous stream of ‘Thank goodness, thank goodness.’
The fact that Amelie was able to escape from Katarina’s room for a moment was entirely due to Lady Maxine.
‘It is a great crime for a servant to vomit in the mistress’s room and soil the owner’s clothes,’ she exaggerated the offense and said, ‘It was so outrageous that it stripped away the honor of being the lady’s close aide,’ and with these grand words, she managed to divert attention from Amelie.
“So, what were they talking about?”
“Ah, Amélie. We were talking about Duke Olivier Dampierre, and how he’s coming to a society party for the first time in a very long time. And it’s tomorrow, and that’s why Katarina’s going crazy.”
With that brief summary, Denise laughed, biting into a snack.
At the sound of the name, Amélie’s face immediately darkened. The humiliation she’d felt in the alleyway. The frightening glare that had pushed her up against the wall.
The memory of the day when she was suddenly exposed to the world’s most handsome man threw her head into a mess again.
For him, it was just a momentary misunderstanding, a blip he’d soon forget. But for her, it was a matter of self-esteem.
Clearly, she was the one who had been harrassed on the street, that terrible moment of insult when she had to prove her innocence without receiving a single apology.
All because she was a maid.
Suddenly recalling Olivier Dampierre’s repulsive gaze, Amélie shuddered in disgust.
‘What on earth have you done to get your daughter into so much debt,’ ‘what a bad father to have, sending his daughter to prison’…
Even without speaking with those noble lips, the haughty gaze that looked down on her like a bug says it all.
As she accepted the wad of bills, her hands were shaking uncontrollably. When she finally couldn’t hide her fingers, which looked blackened from the dirty broth of the slums, she showed them…
Amelie snapped out of her reverie. Denise and the other servants were looking at her with concern.
“Are you okay?”
“Uh, uh, yeah. He said he was coming?”
Amélie quickly straightened and smiled.
“Yes, Olivier Dampierre is coming. In search of his love.”
Amidst the giggles, Amélie frowned.
“What nonsense about love.”
“It’ll be interesting to see. I wonder who he’ll hook up with?”
“Maybe a dance.”
“I’ll have to keep sneaking up on him, with my silver tray, and see whose skirt that noble face is peeking out of.”
Denise giggled, biting into a snack.
“Amelie, come with me. We’ll pretend to straighten the tablecloth and look under the table.”
“I haven’t seen him yet, and I’m dying to know how handsome he is.”
“Twice at a distance. He’s not just a person. He glows.”
“He’s so tall, and he’s so glowing, and then there’s all these scrawny nobles next to him, and they’re so ugly. Like pigs with their bellies sticking out…”
She burst out laughing. As the chatter continued, some more explicit statements were made.
“Honestly, I think I would be ecstatic to spend a night with Duke Olivier Dampierre.”
The other maids raised their eyebrows in unison at this bold confession.
“I’ll just have to live with the memory. I did it once with the best man in Ezon! I saw his face once, panting like a dog!”
“Can you see your face?”
Amelie sat up clumsily amidst a roar of laughter.
She kept thinking of those eyes staring down at her, and she wanted to escape to a quiet place.
“Well, it’s Olivier Dampierre, so maybe he’ll have some manners.”
Just then, someone slammed their hand roughly down on the table.
“Don’t talk nonsense!”