I handed Mark the basket on his way back to the clinic.
It was filled with an overnight ratatouille, plain petite bread, and a juicy meat sandwich.
It was thinly sliced and sandwiched between thin slices of roast beef-like meat that I had made from the yesterday’s steak.
The size and content were both generous.

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Mark and Hugh had already had their breakfast here, but Dr.
Daniel was probably not ready yet, so I asked him to take some home for lunch if he wanted.

While Lady Adelaide and I were in the kitchen filling the baskets, the three men were talking about something… They were so close.
They were different ages and personalities, but I heard they were all excellent, so I guessed they talked well together.

Well, there was a girl I met through my ex who was said to be well made and had a hard time talking to her classmates when she was in elementary, middle and high school.
She seemed so happy to be in college and meet professors and seniors, and was finally be able to talk to them the way she wanted to.
Here was the ‘senior’ point; she was in college, and her classmates still couldn’t make it.
She cried when she saw that they were senior students, not undergraduates, but above graduate students.

“It’s fun to talk about what you love to keep the conversation going.”

She was the first person to read a technical book on thermodynamics with sparkling eyes, saying that she had never heard of it before….
I believed she was now in a research position at a university in the U.S.
or somewhere.
I wonder if she was okay.
I thought sincerely that it was very difficult to be too different in level.

In my case, it wasn’t a matter of how smart I was, but I didn’t have any friends I could call best friends.

Elementary school friends became estranged as a matter of course after the school district separated in middle school.
As a junior high school student, I was in the unfamiliar position of taking on all the household chores, and I had no time to take care of other things.

We get along well at school, and of course, there were the kids I shared recess and lunch with.
Many of the kids were laid-back because of the countryside, and although I was not bullied or anything, none of them forcefully asked me out after school or on weekends, so I never had a relationship with any of them that I would see after graduation from either junior high or high school.

The reason I didn’t attend the coming-of-age ceremony, even though I wasn’t that far away, was because I couldn’t think of anyone I wanted to see.
At junior college, I was so busy with classes and assignments that I had to work part-time at a family restaurant in between.
The girl I befriended was transferred across the border while she was working for a general company and not on the same hours as me in sales.

I was blessed with people among my seniors and juniors, didn’t have much trouble with relationships, and had workmates with whom I liked to have tea or go shopping when we had time off.
However, I found myself without normal friends, especially those I could call my best friends… Was I a loner? If I wasn’t interacting with people in the hospitality industry, I’d be a loner.

Sir Walter was annoyed when Mr.
Hugh teased him, and Mark interrupted him with a hand gesture.

I had contacts with the women in the village and they were friendly, but there was no one who didn’t know my special position as an ‘Orison’, so I had to take that into account in my dealings with them.

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I felt that Lady Adelaide and Dr.
Daniel saw me as ‘Margaret the individual’ and not as an ‘Orison’.
That was why I thought I loved them more, I guess.

I was still not sure about the two that came in yesterday, but Mark as well… I didn’t think he was very aware of the ‘Orisons’, maybe.
I didn’t feel the thin wall that existed in the beginning, and I didn’t feel it these days.
He was very close to me since he started petting my head.
Was he not from that side of the family?

Tomorrow was the day of being the nanny, so I sent him off with a promise to meet him again at the clinic.
I returned to the kitchen, fixing my slightly disheveled hair after being stroked again, and Lady Adelaide made me a cup of herbal tea.

“I have a meeting of the women’s association today, so I’m going out before noon.
They were told of Margaret’s absence, so there is someone to take care of the house.”

“My, you’re going out?”

“Yeah.
We did not change our plans because we were told to go on with our lives as usual.
I’ll leave Margaret with you, though.”

Yes.
Sir Walter and Mr.
Hugh came to Meissery not only to interview, but also to check out the village where we live, the living environment, and so on.
So, we had been told in advance to live as normally as possible.

At the women’s association meetings, adult women in the village gathered at the meeting place two or three times a month to sew or knit and cook preserved foods together.

They brought their own lunch, and on this day, they were free from household chores and went home refreshed after a lively, yes, that’s right, lively chat.

The difference was that from their hands, which never rested even while chatting, could easily make two or three handkerchief borders or embroideries, or at least the front of a sweater with pattern knitting.
The village women’s handcraft skills, half of them, were not so good.
They sometimes jointly made large items for use in the village.

New recipes spread from the lunches brought in, and some people were quick to inform of the latest trends in the capital, making it a much-anticipated day in a place where entertainment was scarce.

The first time I was able to walk and showed up was not at the village headman’s house, but at a women’s association meeting… If put this way, you could see how important it was in this community.
A group of women should never be enemies, you know.
Instead, I was sure that they were very reliable.

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Many of the women in the Meissery were refreshingly calm, and it was very nice to be able to interact with them in a mature manner without much trouble.

Normally, I would go with them, but that would mean that Sir Walter and Mr.
Hugh, the investigators who were basically obligated to accompany me for the next few days, would also have to come along.

The ironclad rule was that men were not allowed at women’s association gatherings.
The wives said it was a pity that they had lost a chance to admire the two handsome men of the capital up close, but they did not make an exception for the rule-breaking.
As expected.

That was why I stayed home in a daze…I was looking forward to it because Tanya, the blacksmith, was going to show off her new pie today.
If Lady Adelaide had not said that she would get me a slice, I would have locked the two men in the chicken coop and snuck out.

Tanya’s pies were delicious.
That crispy crust! And yet the filling was juicy as could be! Ah, I was drooling.

After cleaning, doing laundry and seeing Lady Adelaide off with her lunch basket and sewing kit, it was time for me to get ready for lunch.
However, the menu was the same as the one I had for Mark, so I just heated up the ratatouille and cut the petite bread in half and lightly toasted it with garlic butter.
Hmmm, it smelled appetizingly good.

The smell of garlic after a meal, which bothered everyone in different parts of the world, was masked by the generous amount of parsley in the salad.
I’d heard that cheese and apples were good to eat and green tea helped, but parsley was the major here.

A little different from the original world, this parsley was less bitter, more fragrant, very easy to eat, and one of my favorites.
There were a few trees planted in a corner of the field behind our house, but they were very fertile, and even though we kept tearing them off and eating them, we always found that they were full of thick, colorful greenery.
If such a thing existed in Japan, I would put a planter on the balcony of my apartment and grow it.

“Ah, it smells so good~.
I haven’t moved this much in a long time and I’m starving.”

“…Smells delicious.”

Look, here comes Mr.
Hungry, dizzy with the delicious smells.
Normally, he should just be watching, but he spent the entire morning with me cleaning and whatnot and helped a lot, thank you very much.
Thanks to his work, even the handrails on the stairs and the tops of the display cabinets, which were usually out of reach, were glowing.

That was great.
Magic was a great way to clean up.
To show my appreciation, I had added more roast beef to the sandwiches.

So, let’s have it with gusto at noon without worrying about the smell.

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**

‘Good morning, Walter.
You could use a little more rest.’

How could I talk to my son in such a normal way after not seeing him for eight years? Thinking back, the last time I was at the residence in the capital, I only greeted him minimally and called him by name less and less.

My son was often busy with work and never came home; and his wife who was only too eager to socialize.
Butlers and housekeepers, who had been there when I married for decades, were polite but not confidantes.

One year after my son and his wife got married and moved in together, I told them that I would retire in Meissery as of that date, which I had decided on my own.

“…It is already a decision in mother’s mind, anyway.
Do as you like.
We’ll take care of the property and other paperwork for you.”

He looked the same as my husband and said the same things.

Indeed, I was only able to be involved in my son’s upbringing for a short time when he was little, even though I gave birth to him through my own gut wrenching experience.
My mother-in-law refused to allow me to hold my son, pet him, or make him tea to drink, saying that I was spoiling him and ruining him.

I could never get it across with all my words or with all my heart.
If I tried to fit in with their style, I was blatantly rejected.
It was as if I was living alone in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language.

I could only catch glimpses of my son, whose face and behavior were becoming more and more like my husband’s from afar.
I didn’t have to tell what happened between my husband and me.
Still, it was the contract between the two families and my will that kept us from getting divorced or separated.

And it was also my intention to make my retreat to Meissery and not in my hometown… I didn’t want to go back to a place that reminded me of happier times.
I was afraid that I might start to envy and hate my loved ones who lived peacefully in their hometowns.

I guessed my son, who grew up with such biased ideas and relationships, but never cursed me when I tried to leave, was a gentle child by nature.
If I had been able to raise him differently, he would have been able to build a warm home for himself, and I felt so sorry for my own lack of strength.

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The moment I left the capital and was well accustomed to life in the village, Daniel regrettably left the royal palace and set up a clinic in Meissery.
This man was also a victim of being pushed around by me and my family, but he always supported me in the shadows.
I had nothing to give back to him and yet he was going to continue to live in the same place… That was enough.

“Ms.
Adelaide, your son is so big.
He looks like your husband.”

“How are you doing?”

“Hugh was a skinny little guy, but he’s grown a lot.”

Hey, hey, how about our niece for your son? What a calm mind to take in the idle chatter.

Was it the years of not seeing each other that did it, or was it the poison of Margaret and Walter’s accompanying company? My son was still a strong and expressive man, but I was surprised to see that his mood had somehow softened.

Back then, I had no idea that he would be able to treat people in such a natural way.

‘Let’s feed them lots of good food and give them lots of welcome.’

How much I was saved by Margaret, who cheerfully declared that if that didn’t work, she would treat them to her special cookies.
This child really brought such a warm light at the end of my life.

‘You live to fight and make up.’

She had lost her parents early in life, and her eyes gazed into the distance.

I kept moving my embroidery needle, thinking strongly that the week my son would spend there would be comparable to the past ten years, and wondered what else he liked to eat, while reeling back the distant memories.

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