Going to the Glouster estate ( don’t even know where it is) was definitely not my idea. I was adamantly against it. Aaron had to interfere and persuade (beg) mother and father to make me go with them. Can you even believe it? It was his first time visiting the Glouster estate and he and Alex couldn’t go if I didn’t go.
It seemed the Grand Duke had invited several young people from influential families. By inviting the three siblings together, he has implied that his intention wasn’t inappropriate while also indicating that he was just holding this social gathering to get to know the new generation of people of other families. He was an influential man and nobody even thought about refusing.
“This is a great opportunity for you to decide who you want to invite to your tea party. Wouldn’t it be better to meet them and make acquaintances before inviting them? You will feel more comfortable. There will be ladies your age!”
It seemed my dear mother still harbored hopes of her daughter dabbling in social culture. I reckoned every mother felt that way for their children. For them to make friends, have a life, etc. But I really didn’t want to think about people or tea parties.
I didn’t want to think about the Grand Duke of Glouster either.
At least, I had time to pack some books before I left home. I intended to stay in my room and read. Social life be damned.
“Those who were invited to the Glouster estate must have been hand picked by the Grand Duke himself!” Aaron prattled on with his drivel. “Generation of Grand Dukes of Glouster have avoided any sort of social interactions on their lands. If they ever tried, the royal families would always misunderstand that they were gathering allies to take the throne. This is a great privilege! History in the making!”
“Throughout history, the duration of the Great Dukes of Glouster’s reign was always short, but rumors say they always ruled the lands well. Glouster has always been prosperous and peaceful. The people have loved their ruler and have lived happily.” Aaron spewed information after information not sleeping throughout the journey himself and not letting me take a nap as well. I tried to ignore him.
“But no one said it would be so beautiful,” said Alex.
He was right. A picturesque castle appeared on the blue-tinged hill visible from the carriage window. The three of us watched, transfixed.
Wishburn castle was beautiful too but its beauty was more to do with its grandeur and history. It looked marvelous because of the dark stones and well-maintained surroundings. But the Glouster castle took my breath away. It towered so magnificently that it was almost overwhelming. The castle was used as summer residence for the royal family in the past. It had the delicate color of desert sand and blue roof where the sunlight glinted off making it as though it had walked out of a painting. The glass sparkled on the arched windows and the hanging flowerpots were bursting with colorful flowers. The castle was surrounded by rows and endless rows of trees. The leaves rustled in the light wind. Even the scent of the air felt different, invigorating.
I must say, it was truly wonderful. I had always thought that if the detective had a chance, he would go to some countryside and lead a free and quiet life. No wonder he liked it here.
This is just annoying. At a tender age of fifteen (at least in this world), I have to dwell on the memories of a middle-aged man. I could have any man I wanted. So many had come for a visit, more beautiful and worthy than the last. Why can’t I think of one of them? I am sure I might meet someone at his stupid gathering. They are all the same in the end. They only love talking about themselves.
Even if I am not very inclined for courtship and marriage, I think it would be much healthier for me to think about younger men. While I was lost in thought, the horseman steered the carriage to the entrance of the castle. The guards briefly stopped us. After showing them the invitation card, they ushered us inside.
Several carriages were already parked in the front yard of the spacious castle. Several servants were bustling around carrying the luggage of the guests inside. Aaron extended a hand to me. I took it and descended from the carriage. I stretched a little. Traveling for a long duration in a carriage was always so exhausting.
A man with sharp eyes, a luxurious outfit, and a polite smile approached us. He seemed to be in his twenties.
“My Lords, My Lady,” he bowed, “I am Eugene. The butler of Glouster castle. You must be from the house of Marquess of Wishburn. We are honored to have you here.” He looked far too young to be a butler. He must be very clever if he could hold that position at such a young age.
“Thank you, Eugene,” said Alex.
“The servants will have your luggage transferred shortly. I have had refreshments prepared in your rooms. So, please rest. You must have had a very long and arduous journey. If there is anything you need, any servant on your floor will be honored to serve you. You can explore the castle if you feel like it but the Eastern Wing on the second floor is prohibited, my apologies. The guards will inform you about the area.”
“Does the Grand Duke live there?” asked Alex.
“Oh no, no,” said Eugene. “An important guest is staying there for the moment and has requested their privacy to be respected.”
I almost thought Eugene was going to click his tongue at that sentence, as though he was weary. I glanced at Alex. He raised his eyebrow at me. He had noticed it too. The butler gestured to a passing servant.