On further acquaintance, Eugene was growing to think highly of Charlotte. She especially liked the way Charlotte treated her without any excessive courtesies. Although Charlotte could come across as arrogant or haughty if she were to take her behavior amiss, she had rather taken fancy to her calm attitude instead.
So, from that afternoon onwards, Eugene expected two companies in her carriage, as the ladies took turns to accompany her during afternoon marches while they rested in their respective carriages in the morning.
Five days have passed since their departure from the capital and their everyday journey was pretty much the same so far. The procession departed after breakfast every day and the march would halt twice at noon and evening for a rest, before they arrived at their prearranged accommodation every night. It was either the official residences or the cottage of the local worthies where they were accommodated by night.
It was indeed a boring yet tranquil journey. Although it was incomparable to the capital, as no kingdom’s territory was a lawless area, there were no sights of fearless bandits who dared to approach the procession which was placed under the stringent escort of fully armed warriors.
Through the carriage’s open window, an insect flew in and settled itself right on General Lester’s wife, Darlin’s skirt. As soon as she saw the insect, her eyes widened with fear as she started to scream. Her hands were tightly clenched in fists as she frantically shook her head.
“Help me, please!”
Eugene quickly took the dragonfly off from her dress and threw it out the window before she closed the window.
“Are you alright?”
“Yes, thank you, Your Majesty.”
Darlin replied while her face was still white with terror.
‘I guess she has some kind of phobia against bugs.’
She didn’t appear to be overreacting after all as her eyes were literally filled with tears. Eugene eyed the two of them as Charlotte comforted Darlin who was whimpering with teary eyes by holding her hand. Today, it was their turn to accompany her in the ride during the late afternoon march.
So far, Eugene had been travelling with the ladies as they took turns to ride with her in her carriage everyday. And as the procession marched on for as long as a few hours except for the resting time, they naturally fell into conversation to keep each other company throughout their long journey. On account of that, it gave her plenty of time to learn their characters as a person.
Needless to say, they all had different personalities and the way they treated her was all different from person to person as well.
Some of the ladies had still found her difficult, hence they were cautious during the whole conversation with her, while the rest of them had already become comfortable around her presence and casually engaged in daily conversations with her during their rides. Both Charlotte and Darlin belonged to the latter group.
Although it wasn’t Eugene’s intention to give special treatment to them just because they were the spouses of the high officials whom the king has his full confidence in, she was especially glad to have them as her company as she couldn’t help but to favor those she was rather comfortable to be around with. When the both of them arrived together at her carriage today, she gladly welcomed them with open arms.
“Pardon me for my foolish act, Your Majesty. Although it was a long time ago, I still can’t get over the fear from my young days as my brother used to pull nasty pranks on me all the time.”
“My, I’m sorry to hear about that. But don’t worry about it as I deeply understand how hard it must be for you to overcome your internal fear. Your ladyship’s brother must have been very mischievous at a young age.”
Darlin, who was looking glum until just now, soon broke into a sheepish grin at Eugene’s word. But as a warm smile crossed on Eugene’s face, she blushed and dropped her eyes from Eugene right away. Darlin’s adoring behavior had made Eugene burst into an involuntary laughter.
‘What a lovely person. Despite being very open-hearted, she never comes across as someone shallow.’
Even inexpressive Charlotte seemed to soften her expression whenever she was with Darlin. Hence, on first acquaintance, Eugene thought they were intimate friends. But as she got to know them more, Charlotte seemed more like a sister than a friend as she clearly adored Darlin like a little sister. And so was Eugene as she started to understand Charlotte’s feelings.
“Have Your Ladyship’s brother apologized for his mischievous behavior to you?”
Darlin had heaved a sigh of resignation before she replied.
“I’m afraid people don’t quite change easily, Your Majesty. I am most certain that my brother will continue to lead his life in the same way until he dies.”
Surprised by her own blunt statement, she instantly apologized for her abruptness. “I beg your pardon, Your Majesty.”
Eugene had tried her best to suppress her snicker as she was very amused by the fact that a brother and sister relationship couldn’t be any different no matter what kind of world you were in.
“You have only said the right words, Your Ladyship. People never change.”
Without thinking, Darlin hastily put in her two cents to Eugene’s remark. “I was indeed a firm believer in that, until recently I saw Your Majesty…”
Upon realization of her carelessness, Darlin quickly buttoned her lips, startled by her own words once again. “My sincere apologies for my imprudent remarks, Your Majesty. Please forgive me for my impertinence…”
All of sudden, the carriage was rife with an awkward atmosphere. But it was Eugene who broke the ice by putting on a genial smile on her face.
“Do you think I’ve changed?” Eugene blithely asked.