PDM Chapter 16
“Why are you avoiding Madam’s hand, Lil?”
Mas was quite surprised and pulled Lil’s hand that was trembling. The sharp eyes that had shown resentment towards me when we first met were nowhere to be seen.
As I approached Lil, Mas let go of her hand and backed away.
“Lil, don’t be scared. Lil and Mas were already punished according to my standards, so I’ve forgiven you,” I said softly, hoping to express that I had no intention of harassing them.
Did she hear my words? Lil slowly raised her head.
Lil’s face was hard to read; I wasn’t sure if she was about to cry. She came closer, biting her lips. Only then did my hand touch Lil’s shoulder.
“Do I look okay? It doesn’t look like something’s missing, does it?”
On the way to the Harden residence, I had already asked more than ten questions, but Laura answered them all without showing any sign of annoyance. I bit my lips and fussed over my clothes. I didn’t want to look shabby in front of the Countess of Harden.
Perhaps because of the heavy mental burden, the tension did not disappear even when I took a deep breath and looked at the scenery passing like a painting through the carriage window.
I should have taken etiquette classes. No, no. I’d be fine if I acted like Lady Zeveren. I’ve seen what she says and does.
Just as I was gathering my thoughts, the carriage gradually slowed down and stopped. Laura looked out her window and nodded to me. “We’re here.”
Let’s not make a mistake. The Countess was also Kyle’s childhood friend. I took a deep breath and exhaled, then nodded at Laura. Ready.
Laura opened the carriage door and stepped out, then reached out her hand to assist me. I got off the carriage slowly, leaning on Laura. When my feet touched the ground, and I looked up, I realized that the Countess had come to meet me.
The Countess refused to marry again and stayed in her territory. Since no one was going to inherit the title of the Harden family, she said she would. When I heard about her decision, it depressed me more than before.
As I passed the front door, I saw a woman waiting for me in the middle of the garden. Pink hair braided to the waist and pink eyes. My season was a humid summer, but her season was a lush spring with newly bloomed flowers.
The Countess of Harden, the woman who would become the Count of Harden, gracefully made her way to me. She was completely different from me. The Countess was an aristocrat that exuded dignity and elegance, even from a distance.
Hari, who walked to the middle of the garden, ran to where I was and hugged me. I couldn’t help but embrace her back at the sudden action.
“Madam.” I saw Laura running towards me over Hari’s shoulder. I raised my hand to stop her.
I awkwardly patted her back, but I didn’t know how to deal with the situation since it was the first time I met her.
After a while, Hari moved away from me and curtsied. “It’s an honor to meet you, Duchess.”
Stepping back, I grabbed the hem of my dress and reciprocated her greeting. “Thank you for inviting–”
“I was worried you would reject it since we had never met in person, but thank you for accepting it.”
Hari suddenly took my hand. Could I skip the greeting? Laura frowned, and the look on her face was enough to confirm that Hari’s behavior was unusual.
Without giving me a chance to formally greet her, Hari fussed over me. “Oh my goodness, your dress is so pretty!”
I finally had a chance to speak. I smoothed down my dress and said, “Oh, this is–”
“Oh no, the sun is strong. Come in,” Hari cut me off as she tried to cover me from the sun with her hands.
Hari grabbed my hand and led me to the mansion. In the end, I couldn’t say a word I had prepared the day before, but I was more surprised than offended.
She was so different from what I expected. Maybe it’s because I only remember the Hari I saw at the funeral. I thought she was quiet and calm, but it was the opposite.
She was like a clumsy aristocrat who grew up in a wealthy family; one often satirized in Imperial plays. On the other hand, her mind seemed unstable like a wooden doll that was not assembled correctly.*
It’s been half a year since Count Louis Harden’s funeral, so it must have been painful. Thinking of her heart made me uncomfortable.
“Welcome to the Harden Mansion, Madam.”
That’s how I entered the mansion.
The mansion’s interior was not much different from the Duke’s, except that the employees gathered to greet me.
Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten used to the duchy. In the past, I would have ooh-ed and aah-ed at the mansion, but not now.
Hari talked the whole way. First, she asked what I wanted to eat and then mentioned it was stunning when the moonlight came into the window at night.
On the other hand, I was not used to this kind of situation and just laughed awkwardly.
We arrived at the drawing room, and I sat on a chair the staff pulled out for me. The Countess rested her chin on her interlaced hands. Then, she looked at me with curious, innocent eyes for a long time.
A moment later, the maids brought tea and said, “Madam, this is a floral tea from abroad.”
Only then did Hari’s gaze slip into the teacup.
I looked at Hari, who was drinking tea and gestured to Laura. Laura brought the box I gave her and handed it to Hari.
“It’s simple, but I couldn’t come empty-handed, so I prepared it.”
Tilting her head, Hari put down the teacup and picked up the box. Her eyes widened when she opened it.
“Oh my gosh.” Hari pulled out the handkerchief from the box, and her eyes went straight to where I had embroidered her name. “What amazing workmanship, Madam.”
I smiled modestly, sweeping my forearm with one hand. “It’s nothing.”
“Madam is humble. Thank you. Did Kyle tell you? That I like embroidery.”
Hari paused to give me time to answer, but I stayed silent. No. Kyle never told me stories about you. And I didn’t want to know either.
Instead of answering, I just smiled bitterly. Hari folded the handkerchief and placed it on the table. Fortunately, she looked pleased as she stroked the cloth.
“You don’t know how surprised I was that Kyle got married.”
Kyle. It sounded strange to hear his name from her lips.
“I was so surprised at the salon. I told him to let me know if he met anyone, but he hid it completely.”
“How could he go out with such a beautiful person in secret? I’m hurt.”
The words Hari spoke conveyed her concern for my feelings, but it only made me feel worse. The reason was simple. It was because she knew things about Kyle that I didn’t.
Did my smile look too forced? Hari suddenly covered her mouth with her hands. “Ah, I’m sorry. I’ve been talking too much about myself.”
Smiling, Hari looked away and said, “I was wondering who married Kyle, so it was nice to meet you like this. More than anything…”
She blinked rapidly to hide her tears but failed.
“I guess I was overjoyed because you were the first person who didn’t pity me.”
Hari, who wiped her tears with the back of her hand, looked up. What should I say? No matter what I said, I wouldn’t dare console her pain. But, no, to be honest, I was relieved that she still hasn’t forgotten Count Louis.
To hide my dark heart, I silently pushed the handkerchief lying on the table to Hari.
Unaware of my feelings, Hari smiled innocently and picked up the handkerchief.
While Hari wiped away her tears, I looked around the drawing room, and a vase with beautiful, colorful flowers by the window caught my eye.
“Oh, Kyle came and gave it to me a while ago.”
“His Grace did?”
At my comment, Hari’s eyes widened, maybe because the way I addressed Kyle seemed distant.
Hari opened her mouth, leaving her surprised feelings behind. She seemed to have judged that his visit could be misleading. “I told him to come with Madam, but he said you don’t like the sun.”
Suddenly, the meaning of her words sank in.
‘Oh no, the sun is strong. Come in.’
Oh, so that’s why you said that.
Hari chuckled. The sight of her wet eyelashes drooping down was so lovely that I wanted to hug her.
I looked down at my outfit. I didn’t want to look shabby in front of her, but I was already shabby the moment I had such a thought.
 Nobles, specifically the British and French, inherit titles by the rules of primogeniture, where the eldest male son of the current head (e.g. Duke, Viscount, Count) inherits the estate and title. If the current head doesn’t have a male heir, the closest male relative inherits the title. Women rarely inherit the title, and usually, if they do, it is granted by the Crown.
*I’m not sure about this whole paragraph. If any reader knows Korean, can you confirm if I got the gist of it?
“내 입으로 말하긴 뭐하지만, 종종 제국민의 연극에서 풍자되는 지체높고 부유한 가문에서 자라 이치에 둔한 귀족 같았다. 한편으로는 조립이 잘못된 목각인형처럼 심리가 불안정해 보이기도 했다.”