“I’ll be back soon. Keep it a secret from the others, okay?”
As she slowly opened the fence and started to head out, he opened his mouth again. Placing her cane on the ground, she turned around and looked at him.
“Yes, what is it?”
“Mr. Chester bought me a horse. It’s in the stable right now. It has also been to the forest several times.”
The reason why Chester, famous for being stingy, bought Gray a horse was probably to make him work more, but it was a good thing for him anyway. Chloe smiled brightly as it was nice to see him talk a lot for the first time in a long time.
“That’s great. Alice learned how to horseback ride, so she can help drive the horses with you together later. I think I’ll be relieved if you are next to her since she can sometimes be very clumsy.”
“Nothing. Have a safe trip.”
Chloe left the hesitating Gray and headed towards the forest. It was a celebration to hear that he was able to own a horse, but deep down she felt jealous. Having a disabled leg already made walking difficult for her, so riding a horse was out of the question. There were no servants pleased to see her stumble and walk in an unsafe environment. Chloe also didn’t want to bother the servants who were noticeably nervous in case of an accident. The same went for her father. Alice, an active tomboy, had expanded her horizons by visiting relatives’ houses from place to place since she was young, but all Chloe could do was stay quiet in the castle and concentrate on embroidery or piano.
‘…I want to be a person of use.’
After her mother passed away last year, Chloe’s desire grew a little. In fact, the biggest thing she could do for her family as the eldest daughter was to take bridal classes and marry a healthy, wealthy nobleman, but she was unable to fulfill these due to her being handicapped.
Crunch. Crunch. Beads of sweat began to form on her forehead as she moved forward with her cane. Just because her leg was disabled didn’t mean she was unable to do anything. As her tutor, named Wharton, was a doctor, she had also learned a lot about medical treatment. Of course, it was for her mother who had been lying in bed for a long time, but Chloe was happy to think that she could be of help to the soldiers. In the end, she couldn’t help all of them due to her father’s concerns, but still, she wanted to give small gifts to the ones who were leaving tomorrow.
“Oh, there it is”.
She carefully picked out the shiny leaves that were wet by the morning dew and put them in her basket. It was an herb used as a medicine to help calm inflammation through chewing consistently. While looking for herbs for the soldiers, she also picked out wildflowers on her way. After the gardener was sent away when her mother passed away last year, the flower decorations in the castle were a complete mess, making the entire place dry and dull. Thus, Chloe felt better by just putting small fresh wildflowers on the table from time to time.
She got a little thirsty as her basket became half full. And just in time, a small stream hidden in the forest appeared. It was always this place where Chloe rested when taking her secret walks. This mountain was a private property of the Verdier family, so no one could enter; this stream was especially a secret place only she knew. The small stream of water flowing cold shone under the starlight at night and the sun during the day. When Chloe sat still and looked at the water flowing on the rocks, she felt as if her mind was becoming purified as well.
However, the problem was that an unexpected guest, whom she had never expected, had taken her seat first. He stood in the cold spring by himself. The stream itself was not deep, so the water only came up to his shins, but the stream itself was so cold that it made no sense for the man to enter it with no reason.
‘What in the world is he doing?’
Even though she had her back turned toward him, she noticed who he was at one glance. His perfectly organized outfit gave all the clues. Chloe carefully turned around without being caught by the commander. She had a much lower status than him, thus was not in a position where she could casually say hello. In addition to that, she felt like she should not interfere with what he was doing.
‘I’ll go back quietly.’
Chloe concluded and decided to disappear as soon as possible, but she tripped, perhaps because she was in such a hurry. She managed to avoid falling but couldn’t prevent the rustling sound of fallen leaves underneath her feet.
“Who goes there?”